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Title: America: A history

Author: Robert Mackenzie

Release date: October 18, 2016 [eBook #53314]

Language: English

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Tenth Thousand.

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. A History. By Robert Mackenzie. Crown 8vo, Cloth Antique. Price 7s. 6d.

Presenting in a handy form a history of the great events and movements of the present century, in our own country, throughout the British Empire, on the Continent of Europe, and in America.

THE TIMES.—“A valuable addition to the library.”

THE SCOTSMAN.—“The central idea of the work and the chief aim of the writer is displayed in his very evident design to trace the growth of free institutions in the different States of Europe, and particularly in England.… No more instructive or more useful book could be put into the hands of the rising generation of the present day. The book is written in a terse and pointed style. The movement is rapid throughout; and though the scene frequently changes, its central thought—that of the education of the race in the spirit of freedom—is never lost sight of for a moment.”

DAILY REVIEW.—“Written with rare power and skill; from beginning to end the book is highly interesting and instructive. It is a political guide as well as a history, and a safer guide with a more captivating manner will not easily be found.”




A History.



Spray of flowers (decorative)


[All Rights Reserved.]




VII. AT WAR, 107
V. TEXAS, 170
X. THE WAR OF 1812, 368





Book First.


It was late in the history of the world before Europe and America became known to each other. During the first fifteen centuries of the Christian era Europe was unaware of the vast continent which lay beyond the sea. Asia had ceased to influence her. Africa had not begun. Her history was waiting for the mighty influence which America was to exercise in her affairs through all the future ages.

Men had been slow to establish completely their dominion over the sea. They learned very early to build ships. They availed themselves very early of the surprising power which the helm exerts over the movements of a ship. But, during many ages, they found no surer guidance upon the pathless sea than that which the position of the sun and the stars afforded. When clouds intervened to deprive them of this uncertain direction, they were helpless. They were thus obliged to keep the land in view, and content themselves with creeping timidly along the coast.

But at length there was discovered a stone which the wise[12] Creator had endowed with strange properties. It was observed that a needle brought once into contact with that stone pointed ever afterwards steadfastly to the north. Men saw that with a needle thus influenced they could guide themselves at sea as surely as on land. The Mariners’ Compass untied the bond which held sailors to the coast, and gave them liberty to push out into the sea.

Just when sailors were slowly learning to put confidence in the mariners’ compass, there arose in Europe a vehement desire for the discovery of unknown countries. A sudden interest sprang up in all that was distant and unexplored. The strange fables told by travellers were greedily received. The human mind was beginning to cast off the torpor of the Middle Ages. As intelligence increased, men became increasingly eager to ascertain the form and extent of the world in which they dwelt, and to acquaint themselves with those unknown races who were their fellow-inhabitants.

Portugal and Spain, looking out upon the boundless sea, were powerfully stirred by the new impulse. The Courts of Lisbon and Madrid swarmed with adventurers who had made discoveries, or who wished the means to make them. Conspicuous among these was an enthusiast, who during eighteen years had not ceased to importune incredulous monarchs for ships and men that he might open up the secrets of the sea. He was a tall man, of grave and gentle manners, and noble though saddened look. His eye was gray, “apt to enkindle” when he spoke of those discoveries in the making of which he felt himself to be Heaven’s chosen agent. He had known hardship and sorrow in his youth, and at thirty his hair was white. He was the son of a Genoese wool-comber, and his name was Christopher Columbus. In him the universal passion for discovery rose to the dignity of an inspiration.

No sailor of our time would cross the Atlantic in such ships as were given to Columbus. In size they resembled the smaller[13] of our river and coasting vessels. Only one of them was decked. The others were open, save at the prow and stern, where cabins were built for the crew. The sailors went unwillingly and in much fear—compelled by an order from the King. With such ships and such men Columbus left the land behind him and pushed out into these unknown waters. To him there were no dangers, no difficulties—God, who had chosen him to do this work, would sustain him for its accomplishment. He sailed on the 3rd of August 1492. On the 12th of October, in the dim light of early morning, he gazed out from the deck of his little ship upon the shores of a new world. His victory was gained; his work was done. How great it was he himself never knew. He died in the belief that he had merely discovered a shorter route to India. He never enjoyed that which would have been the best recompense for all his toil—the knowledge that he had added a vast continent to the possessions of civilized men.

The revelation by Columbus of the amazing fact that there were lands beyond the great ocean, inhabited by strange races of human beings, roused to a passionate eagerness the thirst for fresh discoveries. The splendours of the newly-found world were indeed difficult to be resisted. Wealth beyond the wildest dreams of avarice could be had, it was said, for the gathering. The sands of every river sparkled with gold. The very colour of the ground showed that gold was profusely abundant. The meanest of the Indians ornamented himself with gold and jewels. The walls of the houses glittered with pearls. There was a fountain, if one might but find it, whose waters bestowed perpetual youth upon the bather. The wildest romances were greedily received, and the Old World, with its familiar and painful realities, seemed mean and hateful beside the fabled glories of the New.

Europe then enjoyed a season of unusual calm—a short respite from the habitual toil of war—as if to afford men leisure to enter on their new possession. The last of the Moors had taken his[14] last look at Granada, and Spain had rest from her eight centuries of war. In England, the Wars of the Roses had ceased. After thirty years of hard fighting and huge waste of life and property, the fortunate English had been able to determine which branch of a certain old family was to rule over them. Henry VII., with his clear, cold head, and his heavy hand, was guiding his people somewhat forcibly towards the victories of peace. Even France tasted the joy of repose. The Reformation was at hand. While Columbus was holding his uncertain way across the great Atlantic, a boy called Martin Luther was attending school in a small German town. The time was not far off, but as yet the mind of Europe was not engrossed by those religious strifes which were soon to convulse it.

The men whose trade was fighting turned gladly in this idle time to the world where boundless wealth was to be wrung from the grasp of unwarlike barbarians. England and France had missed the splendid prize which Columbus had won for Spain. They hastened now to secure what they could. A merchant of Bristol, John Cabot, obtained permission from the King of England to make discoveries in the northern parts of America. Cabot was to bear all expenses, and the King was to receive one-fifth of the gains of the adventure. Taking with him his son Sebastian, John Cabot sailed straight westward across the Atlantic. 1497 A.D. He reached the American continent, of which he was the undoubted discoverer. The result to him was disappointing. He landed on the coast of Labrador. Being in the same latitude as England, he reasoned that he should find the same genial climate. To his astonishment he came upon a region of intolerable cold, dreary with ice and snow. John Cabot had not heard of the Gulf Stream and its marvellous influences. He did not know that the western shores of northern Europe are rescued from perpetual winter, and warmed up to the enjoyable temperature which they possess, by an enormous river of hot water flowing[15] between banks of cold water eastward from the Gulf of Mexico. The Cabots made many voyages afterwards, and explored the American coast from extreme north to extreme south.

The French turned their attention to the northern parts of the New World. The rich fisheries of Newfoundland attracted them. A Frenchman sailed up the great St. Lawrence river. After some failures a French settlement was established there, and for a century and a half the French peopled Canada, until the English relieved them of the ownership.

Spanish adventurers never rested from their eager search after the treasures of the new continent. An aged warrior called Ponce de Leon fitted out an expedition at his own cost. He had heard of the marvellous fountain whose waters would restore to him the years of his wasted youth. He searched in vain. The fountain would not reveal itself to the foolish old man, and he had to bear without relief the burden of his profitless years. But he found a country hitherto unseen by Europeans, which was clothed with magnificent forests, and seemed to bloom with perpetual flowers. He called it Florida. He attempted to found a colony in the paradise he had discovered. But the natives attacked him, slew many of his men, and drove the rest to their ships, carrying with them their chief, wounded to death by the arrow of an Indian.

Ferdinand de Soto had been with Pizarro in his expedition to Peru, and returned to Spain enriched by his share of the plunder. He did not doubt that in the north were cities as rich and barbarians as confiding. An expedition to discover new regions, and plunder their inhabitants, was fitted out under his command. No one doubted that success equal to that of Cortes and Pizarro would attend this new adventure. The youth of Spain were eager to be permitted to go, and they sold houses and lands to buy them the needful equipment. Six hundred men, in the prime of life, were chosen from the crowd of applicants, and[16] the expedition sailed, high in courage, splendid in aspect, boundless in expectation. 1539 A.D. They landed on the coast of Florida, and began their march into the wilderness. They had fetters for the Indians whom they meant to take captive. They had bloodhounds, lest these captives should escape. The camp swarmed with priests, and as they marched the festivals and processions enjoined by the Church were devoutly observed.

From the outset it was a toilsome and perilous enterprise; but to the Spaniard of that time danger was a joy. The Indians were warlike, and generally hostile. De Soto had pitched battles to fight and heavy losses to bear. Always he was victorious, but he could ill afford the cost of many such victories. The captive Indians amused him with tales of regions where gold abounded. They had learned that ignorance on that subject was very hazardous. De Soto had stimulated their knowledge by burning to death some who denied the existence of gold in that country. The Spaniards wandered slowly northwards. They looked eagerly for some great city, the plunder of whose palaces and temples would enrich them all. They found nothing better than occasionally an Indian town, composed of a few miserable huts. It was all they could do to get needful food. At length they came to a magnificent river. European eyes had seen no such river till now. It was about a mile in breadth, and its mass of water swept downward to the sea with a current of amazing strength. It was the Mississippi. The Spaniards built vessels and ferried themselves to the western bank.

There they resumed their wanderings. De Soto would not yet admit that he had failed. He still hoped that the plunder of a rich city would reward his toils. For many months the Spaniards strayed among the swamps and dense forests of that dreary region. The natives showed at first some disposition to be helpful. But the Spaniards, in their disappointment, were pitiless and savage. They amused themselves by inflicting pain upon the prisoners. They cut off their hands; they hunted[17] them with bloodhounds; they burned them at the stake. The Indians became dangerous. De Soto hoped to awe them by claiming to be one of the gods, but the imposture was too palpable. “How can a man be God when he cannot get bread to eat?” asked a sagacious savage. It was now three years since De Soto had landed in America. The utter failure of the expedition would no longer conceal, and the men wished to return home. Broken in spirit and in frame, De Soto caught fever and died. His soldiers felled a tree and scooped room within its trunk for the body of the ill-fated adventurer. They could not bury their chief on land, lest the Indians should dishonour his remains. In the silence of midnight the rude coffin was sunk in the Mississippi, and the discoverer of the great river slept beneath its waters. The Spaniards promptly resolved now to make their way to Cuba. They had tools, and wood was abundant. They slew their horses for flesh; they plundered the Indians for bread; they struck the fetters from their prisoners to reinforce their scanty supply of iron. They built ships enough to float them down the Mississippi. Three hundred ragged and disheartened men were all that remained of the brilliant company whose hopes had been so high, whose good fortune had been so much envied.



For many years European adventurers continued to resort to the American coast in the hope of finding the way to immediate wealth. Some feeble attempts had been made to colonize. Here and there a few families had been planted, but hunger or the Indians always extinguished those infant settlements. The great idea of colonizing America was slow to take possession of European minds. The Spaniard sought for Indians to plunder. The Englishman believed in gold-mines and the north-west passage to India. It was not till America had been known for a hundred years that men began to think of finding a home beyond the Atlantic.

The courage and endurance of the early voyagers excite our wonder. Few of them sailed in ships so large as a hundred tons burden. The merchant ships of that time were very small. The royal navies of Europe contained large vessels, but commerce was too poor to employ any but the smallest. The commerce of imperial Rome employed ships which even now would be deemed large. St. Paul was wrecked in a ship of over five hundred tons burden. Josephus sailed in a ship of nearly one thousand tons. Europe contented herself, as yet, with vessels of a very different class. A ship of forty or fifty tons was deemed sufficient by the daring adventurers who sought to reach the Land of Promise beyond the great sea.[19] Occasionally toy-ships of twenty or twenty-five tons were used. The brother of Sir Walter Raleigh crossed the Atlantic in such a ship, and perished in it as he attempted to return to England.

It was not a pleasant world which the men and women of Europe had to live in during the sixteenth century. Fighting was the constant occupation of the Kings of that time. A year of peace was a rare and somewhat wearisome exception. Kings habitually, at their own unquestioned pleasure, gathered their subjects together, and marched them off to slay and plunder their neighbours. Civil wars were frequent. In these confused strifes men slew their acquaintances and friends as the only method they knew of deciding who was to fill the throne. Feeble Commerce was crushed under the iron heel of War. No such thing as security for life or property was expected. The fields of the husbandman were trodden down by the march of armies. Disbanded or deserted soldiers wandered as “masterless men” over the country, and robbed and murdered at their will. Highwaymen abounded—although highways could scarcely be said to exist. Epidemic diseases of strange type, the result of insufficient feeding and the poisonous air of undrained lands and filthy streets, desolated all European countries. Under what hardships and miseries the men of the sixteenth century passed their days, it is scarcely possible for us now to conceive.

The English Parliament once reminded James I. of certain “undoubted rights” which they possessed. The King told them, in reply, that he “did not like this style of talking, but would rather hear them say that all their privileges were derived by the grace and permission of the sovereign.” Europe, during the sixteenth century, had no better understanding of the matter than James had. It was not supposed that the King was made for the people; it seemed rather to be thought that the people were made for the King. Here and there some[20] man wiser than ordinary perceived the truth, so familiar to us, that a King is merely a great officer appointed by the people to do certain work for them. There was a Glasgow professor who taught in those dark days that the authority of the King was derived from the people, and ought to be used for their good. Two of his pupils were John Knox the reformer, and George Buchanan the historian, by whom this doctrine, so great and yet so simple, was clearly perceived and firmly maintained. But to the great mass of mankind it seemed that the King had divine authority to dispose of his subjects and their property according to his pleasure. Poor patient humanity still bowed in lowly reverence before its Kings, and bore, without wondering or murmuring, all that it pleased them to inflict. No stranger superstition has ever possessed the human mind than this boundless mediæval veneration for the King—a veneration which follies the most abject, vices the most enormous, were not able to quench.

But as this unhappy century draws towards its close, the elements of a most benign change are plainly seen at work. The Bible has been largely read. The Bible is the book of all ages and of all circumstances. But never, surely, since its first gift to man was it more needful to any age than to that which now welcomed its restoration with wonder and delight. It took deep hold on the minds of men. It exercised a silent influence which gradually changed the aspect of society. The narrative portions of Scripture were especially acceptable to the untutored intellect of that time; and thus the Old Testament was preferred to the New. This preference led to some mistakes. Rules which had been given to an ancient Asiatic people were applied in circumstances for which they were never intended or fitted. It is easy to smile at these mistakes. But it is impossible to over-estimate the social and political good which we now enjoy as a result of this incessant reading of the Bible by the people of the sixteenth century.


In nearly all European countries the King claimed to regulate the religious belief of his subjects. Even in England that power was still claimed. The people were beginning to suspect that they were entitled to think for themselves—a suspicion which grew into an indignant certainty, and widened and deepened till it swept from the throne the unhappy House of Stuart.

A little way into the seventeenth century America became the refuge of those who would not receive their faith at the bidding of the King. The best part of American colonization resulted from the foolish and insolent oppressions of Europe. At the beginning, however, it was not so. It was from an impulse of vagrant blackguardism that the first American colony sprang.



Sir Walter Raleigh spent a large fortune in attempting to colonize Virginia. He succeeded in directing the attention of his countrymen to the region which had kindled his own enthusiasm, but his colonies never prospered. Sometimes the colonists returned home disgusted by the hardships of the wilderness. Once they were massacred by the Indians. When help came from England the infant settlement was in ruins. The bones of unburied men lay about the fields; wild deer strayed among the untenanted houses. Once a colony wholly disappeared. To this day its fate is unknown.

Sir Walter was enduring his long captivity in the Tower, writing his “History of the World,” and moaning piteously over the havoc which prison-damps wrought upon his handsome frame. The time had now come, and his labours were about to bear fruit. The history of Virginia was about to open. It opened with meagre promise. 1606 A.D. A charter from the King established a Company whose function was to colonize—whose privilege was to trade. The Company sent out an expedition which sailed in three small vessels. It consisted of one hundred and five men. Of these one-half were gentlemen of broken fortune; some were tradesmen; others were footmen. Only a very few were farmers, or mechanics, or persons in any way fitted for the life they sought. Morally the[23] aspect of the expedition was even more discouraging. “An hundred dissolute persons” were on board the ships. The respectable portions of the expedition must have gone into very little room.

But, happily for Virginia, there sailed with these reprobate founders of a new empire a man whom Providence had highly gifted with fitness to govern his fellow-men. His name was John Smith. No writer of romance would have given his hero this name; but, in spite of his name, the man was truly heroic. He was still under thirty, a strong-limbed, deep-chested, massively-built man. From boyhood he had been a soldier—roaming over the world in search of adventures, wherever hard blows were being exchanged. He was mighty in single combat. Once, while opposing armies looked on, he vanquished three Turks, and, like David, cut off their heads, and bore them to his tent. Returning to England when the passion for colonizing was at its height, he caught at once the prevailing impulse. He joined the Virginian expedition; ultimately he became its chief. His fitness was so manifest, that no reluctance on his own part, no jealousies on that of his companions, could bar him from the highest place. Men became Kings of old by the same process which now made Smith a chief.

The “dissolute persons” sailed in their ships up the James river. Landing there, they proceeded to construct a little town, which they named Jamestown, in honour of the King. This was the first colony which struck its roots in American soil. The colonists were charmed with the climate and with the luxuriant beauty of the wilderness on whose confines they had settled. But as yet it was only a wilderness. The forest had to be cleared that food might be grown. The exiled gentlemen laboured manfully, but under grievous discouragements. “The axes so oft blistered their tender fingers, that many times every third blow had a loud oath to drown the echo.” Smith was a man upon whose soul there lay a becoming reverence for sacred[24] things. He devised how to have every man’s oaths numbered; “and at night, for every oath, to have a can of water poured down his sleeve.” Under this treatment the evil assuaged.

The emigrants had landed in early spring. Summer came with its burning heat; supplies of food ran low. “Had we been as free from all sins as from gluttony and drunkenness,” Smith wrote, “we might have been canonized as saints.” The colonists sickened and died. From those poor blistered fingers dropped for ever the unaccustomed axe. Before autumn every second man had died. But the hot Virginian sun, which proved so deadly to the settlers, ripened the wheat they had sowed in the spring, and freed the survivors from the pressure of want. Winter brought them a healthier temperature and abundant supplies of wild-fowl and game.

When the welfare of the colony was in some measure secured, Smith set forth with a few companions to explore the interior of the country. He and his followers were captured by the Indians, and the followers were summarily butchered. Smith’s composure did not fail him in the worst extremity. He produced his pocket-compass, and interested the savages by explaining its properties. He wrote a letter in their sight—to their infinite wonder. They spared him, and made a show of him in all the settlements round about. He was to them an unfathomable mystery. He was plainly superhuman. Whether his power would bring to them good or evil, they were not able to determine. After much hesitation they chose the course which prudence seem to counsel. They resolved to extinguish powers so formidable, regarding whose use they could obtain no guarantee. Smith was bound and stretched upon the earth, his head resting upon a great stone. The mighty club was uplifted to dash out his brains. But Smith was a man who won golden opinions of all. The Indian chief had a daughter, Pocahontas, a child of ten or twelve years. She could not bear to see the pleasing Englishman destroyed. As Smith lay waiting[25] the fatal stroke, she caught him in her arms and interposed herself between him and the club. Her intercession prevailed, and Smith was set free.

Five years later, “an honest and discreet” young Englishman called John Rolfe loved this young Indian girl. He had a sore mental struggle about uniting himself with “one of barbarous breeding and of a cursed race.” But love triumphed. He laboured for her conversion, and had the happiness of seeing her baptized in the little church of Jamestown. Then he married her. After a time he took her home to England. Her appearance was pleasing; her mind was acute; her piety was sincere; her manners bore picturesque evidence of her forest upbringing. The English King and Court regarded her with lively interest as the first-fruits of the wilderness. Great hopes were founded on this union of the two races. She is the brightest picture—this young Virginian wife and mother—which the history of the doomed native races presents to us. But she did not live to revisit her native land. Death parted her very early from her husband and her child.

When Smith returned from captivity the colony was on the verge of extinction. Only thirty-eight persons were left, and they were preparing to depart. With Smith, hope returned to the despairing settlers. They resumed their work, confident in the resources of their chief. Fresh arrivals from England cheered them. The character of these reinforcements had not as yet improved. “Vagabond gentlemen” formed still a large majority of the settlers—many of them, we are told, “packed off to escape worse destinies at home.” The colony, thus composed, had already gained a very bad reputation: so bad that some, rather than be sent there, “chose to be hanged, and were.” Over these most undesirable subjects Smith ruled with an authority which no man dared or desired to question. But he was severely injured by an accidental explosion of gunpowder. Surgical aid was not in the colony. Smith required to go to[26] England, and once more hungry ruin settled down upon Virginia. 1610 A.D. In six months the five hundred men whom Smith had left dwindled to sixty. These were already embarked and departing, when they were met by Lord Delaware, the new governor. Once more the colony was saved.

Years of quiet growth succeeded. Emigrants—not wholly now of the dissolute sort—flowed steadily in. Bad people bore rule in England during most of the seventeenth century, and they sold the good people to be slaves in Virginia. The victims of the brutal Judge Jeffreys—the Scotch Covenanters taken at Bothwell Bridge—were shipped off to this profitable market. In 1688 the population of Virginia had increased to 50,000. The little wooden capital swelled out. Other little wooden towns established themselves. Deep in the unfathomed wilderness rose the huts of adventurous settlers, in secluded nooks, by the banks of nameless Virginian streams. A semblance of roads connected the youthful communities. The Indians were relentlessly suppressed. The Virginians bought no land; they took what they required—slaying or expelling the former occupants. Perhaps there were faults on both sides. Once the Indians planned a massacre so cunningly that over three hundred Englishmen perished before the bloody hand of the savages could be stayed.

The early explorers of Virginia found tobacco in extensive use among the Indians. It was the chief medicine of the savages. Its virtues—otherwise unaccountable—were supposed to proceed from a spiritual presence whose home was in the plant. Tobacco was quickly introduced into England, where it rose rapidly into favour. Men who had heretofore smoked only hemp knew how to prize tobacco. King James wrote vehemently against it. He issued a proclamation against trading in an article which was corrupting to mind and body. He taxed it heavily when he could not exclude it. The Pope excommunicated[27] all who smoked in churches. But, in defiance of law and reason, the demand for tobacco continued to increase.

The Virginians found their most profitable occupation in supplying this demand. So eager were they, that tobacco was grown in the squares and streets of Jamestown. In the absence of money tobacco became the Virginian currency. Accounts were kept in tobacco. The salaries of members of Assembly, the stipends of clergymen, were paid in tobacco; offences were punished by fines expressed in tobacco. Absence from church cost the delinquent fifty pounds; refusing to have his child baptized, two thousand pounds; entertaining a Quaker, five thousand pounds. When the stock of tobacco was unduly large, the currency was debased, and much inconvenience resulted. The Virginians corrected this evil in their monetary system by compelling every planter to burn a certain proportion of his stock.

Within a few years of the settlement the Virginians had a written Constitution, according to which they were ruled. They had a Parliament chosen by the burghs, and a Governor sent them from England. The Episcopal Church was established among them, and the colony divided into parishes. A college was erected for the use not only of the English, but also of the most promising young Indians. But they never became an educated people. The population was widely scattered, so that schools were almost impossible. In respect of education, Virginia fell far behind her sisters in the North.



A little more than two centuries ago New England was one vast forest. Here and there a little space was cleared, a little corn was raised; a few Indian families made their temporary abode. The savage occupants of the land spent their profitless lives to no better purpose than in hunting and fighting. The rivers which now give life to so much cheerful industry flowed uselessly to the sea. Providence had prepared a home which a great people might fitly inhabit. Let us see whence and how the men were brought who were the destined possessors of its opulence.

The Reformation had taught that every man is entitled to read his Bible for himself, and guide his life by the light he obtains from it. But the lesson was too high to be soon learned. Protestant princes no more than Popish could permit their subjects to think for themselves. James I. had just ascended the English throne. His were the head of a fool and the heart of a tyrant. He would allow no man to separate himself from the Established Church. He would “harry out of the land” all who attempted such a thing; and he was as good as his word. Men would separate from the Church, and the King stretched out his pitiless hand to crush them.

On the northern border of Nottinghamshire stands the little town of Scrooby. Here there were some grave and well-reputed persons, to whom the idle ceremonies of the Established Church[29] were an offence. They met in secret at the house of one of their number, a gentleman named Brewster. They were ministered to in all scriptural simplicity by the pastor of their choice—Mr. Robinson, a wise and good man. But their secret meetings were betrayed to the authorities, and their lives were made bitter by the persecutions that fell upon them. They resolved to leave their own land and seek among strangers that freedom which was denied them at home.

They embarked with all their goods for Holland. But when the ship was about to sail, soldiers came upon them, plundered them, and drove them on shore. They were marched to the public square of Boston, and there the Fathers of New England endured such indignities as an unbelieving rabble could inflict. After some weeks in prison they were suffered to return home.

Next spring they tried again to escape. This time a good many were on board, and the others were waiting for the return of the boat which would carry them to the ship. Suddenly dragoons were seen spurring across the sands. The shipmaster pulled up his anchor and pushed out to sea with those of his passengers whom he had. The rest were conducted to prison. After a time they were set at liberty, and in little groups they made their way to Holland. Mr. Robinson and his congregation were reunited, and the first stage of the weary pilgrimage from the Old England to the New was at length accomplished.

Eleven quiet and not unprosperous years were spent in Holland. The Pilgrims worked with patient industry at their various handicrafts. 1609 A.D. They quickly gained the reputation of doing honestly and effectively whatever they professed to do, and thus they found abundant employment. Mr. Brewster established a printing-press, and printed books about liberty, which, as he had the satisfaction of knowing, greatly enraged the foolish King James. The little colony received additions from time to time as oppression in England became more intolerable.


The instinct of separation was strong within the Pilgrim heart. They could not bear the thought that their little colony was to mingle with the Dutchmen and lose its independent existence. But already their sons and daughters were forming alliances which threatened this result. The Fathers considered long and anxiously how the danger was to be averted. They determined again to go on pilgrimage. They would seek a home beyond the Atlantic, where they could dwell apart and found a State in which they should be free to think.

1620 A.D. On a sunny morning in July the Pilgrims kneel upon the sea-shore at Delfthaven, while the pastor prays for the success of their journey. Out upon the gleaming sea a little ship lies waiting. Money has not been found to transplant the whole colony, and only a hundred have been sent. The remainder will follow when they can. These hundred depart amid tears and prayers and fond farewells. Mr. Robinson dismissed them with counsels which breathed a pure and high-toned wisdom. He urged them to keep their minds ever open for the reception of new truths. “The Lord,” he said, “has more truth to break forth out of his holy Word. I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the Reformed Churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no further than the instruments of their reformation. Luther and Calvin were great and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God, but, were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received. I beseech you, remember that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written Word of God.”

Sixty-eight years later, another famous departure from the coast of Holland took place. It was that of William, Prince of Orange, coming to deliver England from tyranny, and give a new course to English history. A powerful fleet and army sailed with the prince. The chief men of the country accompanied[31] him to his ships. Public prayers for his safety were offered up in all the churches. Insignificant beside this seems at first sight the unregarded departure of a hundred working-men and women. It was in truth, however, not less, but even more memorable. For these poor people went forth to found a great empire, destined to leave as deep and as enduring a mark upon the world’s history as Rome or even as England has done.

The Mayflower, in which the Pilgrims made their voyage, was a ship of one hundred and sixty tons. The weather proved stormy and cold; the voyage unexpectedly long. It was early in September when they sailed; it was not till the 11th November that the Mayflower dropped her anchor in the waters of Cape Cod Bay.

It was a bleak-looking and discouraging coast which lay before them. Nothing met the eye but low sand-hills, covered with ill-grown wood down to the margin of the sea. The Pilgrims had now to choose a place for their settlement. About this they hesitated so long that the captain threatened to put them all on shore and leave them. Little expeditions were sent to explore. At first no suitable locality could be found. The men had great hardships to endure. The cold was so excessive that the spray froze upon their clothes, and they resembled men cased in armour. At length a spot was fixed upon. The soil appeared to be good, and abounded in “delicate springs” of water. On the 23rd December the Pilgrims landed, stepping ashore upon a huge boulder of granite, which is still reverently preserved by their descendants. Here they resolved to found their settlement, which they agreed to call New Plymouth.

The winter was severe, and the infant colony was brought very near to extinction. They had been badly fed on board the Mayflower, and for some time after going on shore there was very imperfect shelter from the weather. Sickness fell[32] heavily on the worn-out Pilgrims. Every second day a grave had to be dug in the frozen ground. By the time spring came in there were only fifty survivors, and these sadly enfeebled and dispirited.

But all through this dismal winter the Pilgrims laboured at their heavy task. The care of the sick, the burying of the dead, sadly hindered their work; but the building of their little town went on. They found that nineteen houses would contain their diminished numbers. These they built. Then they surrounded them with a palisade. Upon an eminence beside their town they erected a structure which served a double purpose. Above, it was a fort, on which they mounted six cannon; below, it was their church. Hitherto the Indians had been a cause of anxiety, but had done them no harm. Now they felt safe. Indeed there had never been much risk. A recent epidemic had swept off nine-tenths of the Indians who inhabited that region, and the discouraged survivors could ill afford to incur the hostility of their formidable visitors.

The Pilgrims had been careful to provide for themselves a government. They had drawn up and signed, in the cabin of the Mayflower, a document forming themselves into a body politic, and promising obedience to all laws framed for the general good. Under this constitution they appointed John Carver to be their governor. They dutifully acknowledged King James, but they left no very large place for his authority. They were essentially a self-governing people. They knew what despotism was, and they were very sure that democracy could by no possibility be so bad.

The welcome spring came at length, and “the birds sang in the woods most pleasantly.” The health of the colony began somewhat to improve, but there was still much suffering to endure. The summer passed not unprosperously. They had taken possession of the deserted clearings of the Indians, and had no difficulty in providing themselves with food. But in[33] the autumn came a ship with a new company of Pilgrims. This was very encouraging; but unhappily the ship brought no provisions, and the supplies of the colonists were not sufficient for this unexpected addition. For six months there was only half allowance to each. Such straits recurred frequently during the first two or three years. Often the colonists knew not at night “where to have a bit in the morning.” Once or twice the opportune arrival of a ship saved them from famishing. They suffered much, but their cheerful trust in Providence and in their own final triumph never wavered. They faced the difficulties of their position with undaunted hearts. Slowly but surely the little colony struck its roots and began to grow.

The years which followed the coming of the Pilgrims were years through which good men in England found it bitter to live. Charles I. was upon the throne; Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury. Bigotry as blind and almost as cruel as England had ever seen thus sat in her high places. Dissent from the Popish usages, which prevailed more and more in the Church, was at the peril of life. A change was near. John Hampden was farming his lands in Buckinghamshire. A greater than he—his cousin, Oliver Cromwell—was leading his quiet rural life at Huntingdon, not without many anxious and indignant thoughts about the evils of his time. John Milton was peacefully writing his minor poems, and filling his mind with the learning of the ancients. The Men had come, and the Hour was at hand. But as yet King Charles and Archbishop Laud had it all their own way. They fined and imprisoned every man who ventured to think otherwise than they wished him to think: they slit his nose, they cut off his ears, they gave him weary hours in the pillory. They ordered that men should not leave the kingdom without the King’s permission. Eight ships lay in the Thames, with their passengers on board, when that order was given forth. The soldiers cleared the ships, and[34] the poor emigrants were driven back, in poverty and despair, to endure the misery from which they were so eager to escape.

New England was the refuge to which the wearied victims of this senseless tyranny looked. The Pilgrims wrote to their friends at home, and every letter was regarded with the interest due to a “sacred script.” They had hardships to tell of at first; then they had prosperity and comfort; always they had liberty. New England seemed a paradise to men who were denied permission to worship God according to the manner which they deemed right. Every summer a few ships were freighted for the settlements. Many of the silenced ministers came. Many of their congregations came, glad to be free, at whatever sacrifice, from the tyranny which disgraced their native land. The region around New Plymouth became too narrow for the population. From time to time a little party would go forth, with a minister at its head. With wives and children and baggage they crept slowly through the swampy forest. By a week or two of tedious journeying they reached some point which pleased their fancy, or to which they judged that Providence had sent them. There they built their little town, with its wooden huts, its palisade, its fort, on which one or two guns were ultimately mounted. Thus were founded many of the cities of New England.

For some years the difficulties which the colonists encountered were almost overwhelming. There seemed at times even to be danger that death by starvation would end the whole enterprise. But they were a stout-hearted, patient, industrious people, and labour gradually brought comfort. The virgin soil began to yield them abundant harvests. They fished with such success that they manured their fields with the harvest of the sea. They spun and they weaved. They felled the timber of their boundless forests. They built ships, and sent away to foreign countries the timber, the fish, the furs which were not required[35] at home. 1643 A.D. Ere many years a ship built in Massachusetts sailed for London, followed by “many prayers of the churches.” Their infant commerce was not without its troubles. They had little or no coin, and Indian corn was made a legal tender. Bullets were legalized in room of the farthings which, with their other coins, had vanished to pay for foreign goods. But no difficulty could long resist their steady, undismayed labour.

They were a noble people who had thus begun to strike their roots in the great forests of New England. Their peculiarities may indeed amuse us. The Old Testament was their statute-book, and they deemed that the institutions of Moses were the best model for those of New England. They made attendance on public worship compulsory. They christened their children by Old Testament names. They regulated female attire by law. They considered long hair unscriptural, and preached against veils and wigs.

The least wise among us can smile at the mistakes into which the Puritan Fathers of New England fell. But the most wise of all ages will most profoundly reverence the purity, the earnestness, the marvellous enlightenment of these men. From their incessant study of the Bible they drew a love of human liberty unsurpassed in depth and fervour. Coming from under despotic rule, they established at once a government absolutely free. They felt—what Europe has not even yet fully apprehended—that the citizens of a State should be able to guide the affairs of that State without helpless dependence upon a few great families; that the members of a Church ought to guide the affairs of that Church, waiting for the sanction of no patron, however noble and good. It was one of their fundamental laws that all strangers professing the Christian religion and driven from their homes by persecutors, should be succoured at the public charge. The education of children was almost their earliest care. The Pilgrims bore with them across the sea a[36] deep persuasion that their infant State could not thrive without education. Three years after the landing, it was reported of them among the friends they had left in London, that “their children were not catechised, nor taught to read.” The colonists felt keenly this reproach. They utterly denied its justice. They owned, indeed, that they had not yet attained to a school, much as they desired it. But all parents did their best, each in the education of his own children. In a very few years schools began to appear. Such endowment as could be afforded was freely given. Some tolerably qualified brother was fixed upon, and “entreated to become schoolmaster.” And thus gradually the foundations were laid of the noble school system of New England. Soon a law was passed that every town containing fifty householders must have a common school; every town of a hundred householders must have a grammar school. Harvard College was established within fifteen years of the landing.

The founders of New England were men who had known at home the value of letters. Brewster carried with him a library of two hundred and seventy-five volumes, and his was not the largest collection in the colony. The love of knowledge was deep and universal. New England has never swerved from her early loyalty to the cause of education.

Every colonist was necessarily a soldier. The State provided him with arms, if poor; required him to provide himself, if rich. His weapons were sword, pike, and matchlock, with a forked stick on which to rest his artillery in taking aim. The people were carefully trained to the use of arms. In the devout spirit of the time, their drills were frequently opened and closed with prayer.

Twenty-three years after the landing of the Pilgrims the population of New England had grown to twenty-four thousand. Forty-nine little wooden towns, with their wooden churches, wooden forts, and wooden ramparts, were dotted here and there over the land. There were four separate colonies, which[37] hitherto had maintained separate governments. They were Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven. There appeared at first a disposition in the Pilgrim mind to scatter widely, and remain apart in small self-governing communities. For some years every little band which pushed deeper into the wilderness settled itself into an independent State, having no political relations with its neighbours. But this isolation could not continue. The wilderness had other inhabitants, whose presence was a standing menace. Within “striking distance” there were Indians enough to trample out the solitary little English communities. On their frontiers were Frenchmen and Dutchmen—natural enemies, as all men in that time were to each other. 1643 A.D. For mutual defence and encouragement, the four colonies joined themselves into the United Colonies of New England. This was the first confederation in a land where confederations of unprecedented magnitude were hereafter to be established.



The Puritans left their native England and came to the “outside of the world,” as they called it, that they might enjoy liberty to worship God according to the way which they deemed right. They had discovered that they themselves were entitled to toleration. They felt that the restraints laid upon themselves were very unjust and very grievous. But their light as yet led them no further. They had not discovered that people who differed from them were as well entitled to be tolerated as they themselves were. We have no right to blame them for their backwardness. Simple as it seems, men have not all found out, even yet, that every one of them is fully entitled to think for himself.

1631 A.D. And thus it happened that, before the Pilgrims had enjoyed for many years the cheerful liberty of their new home, doctrines raised their heads among them which they felt themselves bound to suppress. One February day there stepped ashore at Boston a young man upon whose coming great issues depended. His name was Roger Williams. He was a clergyman—“godly and zealous”—a man of rare virtue and power. Cromwell admitted him, in later years, to a considerable measure of intimacy. He was the friend of John Milton—in the bright days of the poet’s youth, ere yet “the ever-during dark” surrounded him. From him Milton acquired his knowledge of the Dutch language. He carried with him to[39] the New World certain strange opinions. Long thought had satisfied him that in regard to religious belief and worship man is responsible to God alone. No man, said Williams, is entitled to lay compulsion upon another man in regard to religion. The civil power has to do only with the “bodies and goods and outward estates” of men; in the domain of conscience God is the only ruler. New England was not able to receive these sentiments. Williams became minister at Salem, where he was held in high account. In time his opinions drew down upon him the unfavourable notice of the authorities. The General Court of Massachusetts brought him to trial for the errors of his belief. His townsmen and congregation deserted him. His wife reproached him bitterly with the evil he was bringing upon his family. Mr. Williams could do no otherwise. He must testify with his latest breath, if need be, against the “soul oppression” which he saw around him. The court heard him, discovered error in his opinions, declared him guilty, and pronounced upon him sentence of banishment.

All honour to this good and brave, if somewhat eccentric man. He of all the men of his time saw most clearly the beauty of absolute freedom in matters of conscience. He went forth from Salem. He obtained a grant of land from the Indians, and he founded the State of Rhode Island. Landing one day from a boat in which he explored his new possessions, he climbed a gentle slope, and rested with his companions beside a spring. It seemed to him that the capital of his infant State ought to be here. He laid the foundations of his city, which he named Providence, in grateful recognition of the Power which had guided his uncertain steps. His settlement was to be “a shelter for persons distressed for conscience.” Most notably has it been so. Alone of all the States of Christendom, Rhode Island has no taint of persecution in her statute-book or in her history. Massachusetts continued to drive out her heretics; Rhode Island took them in. They might err in their interpretation of[40] Scripture. Pity for themselves if they did so. But while they obeyed the laws, they might interpret Scripture according to the light they had. Many years after, Mr. Williams became President of the colony which he had founded. The neighbouring States were at that time sharply chastising the Quakers with lash and branding-iron and gibbet. Rhode Island was invited to join in the persecution. Mr. Williams replied that he had no law whereby to punish any for their belief “as to salvation and an eternal condition.” He abhorred the doctrines of the Quakers. In his seventy-third year he rowed thirty miles in an open boat to wage a public debate with some of the advocates of the system. Thus and thus only could he resist the progress of opinions which he deemed pernicious. In beautiful consistency and completeness stands out to the latest hour of his long life this good man’s loyalty to the absolute liberty of the human conscience.

1651 A.D. And thus, too, it happened that when seven or eight men began to deny that infants should be baptized, New England never doubted that she did right in forcibly trampling out their heresy. The heretics had started a meeting of their own, where they might worship God apart from those who baptized their infants. One Sabbath morning the constable invaded their worship and forcibly bore them away to church. Their deportment there was not unsuitable to the manner of their inbringing. They audaciously clapped on their hats while the minister prayed, and made no secret that they deemed it sin to join in the services of those who practised infant baptism. For this “separation of themselves from God’s people” they were put on trial. They were fined, and some of the more obdurate among them were ordered to be “well whipped.” We have no reason to doubt that this order was executed in spirit as well as in letter. And then a law went forth that every man who openly condemned the baptizing of infants should suffer banishment. Thus resolute were the good[41] men of New England that the right which they had come so far to enjoy should not be enjoyed by any one who saw a different meaning from theirs in any portion of the Divine Word.

1656 A.D. Thus, too, when Massachusetts had reason to apprehend the coming of certain followers of the Quaker persuasion, she was smitten with a great fear. A fast-day was proclaimed, that the alarmed people might “seek the face of God in reference to the abounding of errors, especially those of the Ranters and Quakers.” As they fasted, a ship was nearing their shores with certain Quaker women on board. These unwelcome visitors were promptly seized and lodged in prison; their books were burned by the hangman; they themselves were sent away home by the ships which brought them. All ship-masters were strictly forbidden to bring Quakers to the colony. A poor woman, the wife of a London tailor, left her husband and her children, to bring, as she said, a message from the Lord to New England. Her trouble was but poorly bestowed; for they to whom her message came requited her with twenty stripes and instant banishment. The banished Quakers took the earliest opportunity of finding their way back. Laws were passed dooming to death all who ventured to return. A poor fanatic was following his plough in distant Yorkshire, when the word of the Lord came to him saying, “Go to Boston.” He went, and the ungrateful men of Boston hanged him. Four persons in all suffered death. Many were whipped; some had their ears cut off. 1661 A.D. But public opinion, which has always been singularly humane in America, began to condemn these foolish cruelties. And the Quakers had friends at home—friends who had access at Court. There came a letter in the King’s name directing that the authorities of New England should “forbear to proceed further against the Quakers.” That letter came by the hands of a Quaker who was under sentence of death if he dared to return. The authorities could not but receive it—could not but give[42] effect to it. The persecution ceased; and with it may be said to close, in America, all forcible interference with the right of men to think for themselves.

The Quakers, as they are known to us, are of all sects the least offensive. A persecution of this serene, thoughtful, self-restrained people, may well surprise us. But, in justice to New England, it must be told that the first generation of Quakers differed extremely from succeeding generations. They were a fanatical people—extravagant, disorderly, rejecters of lawful authority. A people more intractable, more unendurable by any government, never lived. They were guided by an “inner light,” which habitually placed them at variance with the laws of the country in which they lived, as well as with the most harmless social usages. George Fox declared that “the Lord forbade him to put off his hat to any man.” His followers were inconveniently and provokingly aggressive. They invaded public worship. They openly expressed their contempt for the religion of their neighbours. They perpetually came with “messages from the Lord,” which it was not pleasant to listen to. They appeared in public places very imperfectly attired, thus symbolically to express and to rebuke the spiritual nakedness of the time. After a little, when their zeal allied itself with discretion, they became a most valuable element in American society. But we can scarcely wonder that they created alarm at first. The men of New England took a very simple view of the subject. They had bought and paid for every acre of soil which they occupied. Their country was a homestead from which they might exclude whom they chose. They would not receive men whose object was to overthrow all their institutions, civil and religious. It was a mistake, but a most natural mistake. Long afterwards, when New England saw her error, she nobly made what amends she could, by giving compensation to the representatives of those Quakers who had suffered in the evil times.



When the Pilgrims left their native land, the belief in witchcraft was universal. England, in much fear, busied herself with the slaughter of friendless old women who were suspected of an alliance with Satan. King James had published his book on Demonology a few years before, in which he maintained that to forbear from putting witches to death was an “odious treason against God.” England was no wiser than her King. All during James’s life, and long after he had ceased from invading the kingdom of Satan, the yearly average of executions for witchcraft was somewhere about five hundred.

The Pilgrims carried with them across the Atlantic the universal delusion, which their way of life was fitted to strengthen. They lived on the verge of vast and gloomy forests. The howl of the wolf and the scream of the panther sounded nightly around their cabins. Treacherous savages lurked in the woods watching the time to plunder and to slay. Every circumstance was fitted to increase the susceptibility of the mind to gloomy and superstitious impressions. But for the first quarter of a century, while every ship brought news of witch-killing at home, no Satanic outbreak disturbed the settlers. The sense of brotherhood was yet too strong among them. Men who have braved great dangers and endured great hardships together, do not readily come[44] to look upon each other as the allies and agents of the Evil One.

In 1645 four persons were put to death for witchcraft. During the next half century there occur at intervals solitary cases, when some unhappy wretch falls a victim to the lurking superstition. It was in 1692 that witch-slaying burst forth in its epidemic form, and with a fury which has seldom been witnessed elsewhere.

In the State of Massachusetts there is a little town, then called Salem, sitting pleasantly in a plain between two rivers; and in the town of Salem there dwelt at that time a minister whose name was Paris. In the month of February the daughter and niece of Mr. Paris became ill. It was a dark time for Massachusetts; for the colony was at war with the French and Indians, and was suffering cruelly from their ravages. The doctors sat in solemn conclave on the afflicted girls, and pronounced them bewitched. Mr. Paris, not doubting that it was even so, bestirred himself to find the offenders. Suspicion fell upon three old women, who were at once seized. And then, with marvellous rapidity, the mania spread. The rage and fear of the distracted community swelled high. Every one suspected his neighbour. Children accused their parents; parents accused their children. The prisons could scarcely contain the suspected. The town of Falmouth hanged its minister, a man of intelligence and worth. Some near relations of the Governor were denounced. Even the beasts were not safe. A dog was solemnly put to death for the part he had taken in some satanic festivity.

For more than twelve months this mad panic raged in the New England States. It is just to say that the hideous cruelties which were practised in Europe were not resorted to in the prosecution of American witches. Torture was not inflicted to wring confession from the victim. The American test was more humane, and not more foolish, than the European. Those[45] suspected persons who denied their guilt, were judged guilty and hanged; those who confessed were, for the most part, set free. Many hundreds of innocent persons, who scorned to purchase life by falsehood, perished miserably under the fury of an excited people.

The fire had been kindled in a moment; it was extinguished as suddenly. The Governor of Massachusetts only gave effect to the reaction which had occurred in the public mind, when he abruptly stopped all prosecutions against witches, dismissed all the suspected, pardoned all the condemned. The House of Assembly proclaimed a fast—entreating that God would pardon the errors of his people “in a late tragedy raised by Satan and his instruments.” One of the judges stood up in church in Boston, with bowed down head and sorrowful countenance, while a paper was read, in which he begged the prayers of the congregation, that the innocent blood which he had erringly shed might not be visited on the country or on him. The Salem jury asked forgiveness of God and the community for what they had done under the power of “a strong and general delusion.” Poor Mr. Paris was now at a sad discount. He made public acknowledgment of his error. But at his door lay the origin of all this slaughter of the unoffending. His part in the tragedy could not be forgiven. The people would no longer endure his ministry, and demanded his removal. Mr. Paris resigned his charge, and went forth from Salem a broken man.

If the error of New England was great and most lamentable, her repentance was prompt and deep. Five-and-twenty years after she had clothed herself in sackcloth, old women were still burned to death for witchcraft in Great Britain. The year of blood was never repeated in America.



The great continent on which the Pilgrims had landed was the home of innumerable tribes of Indians. They had no settled abode. The entire nation wandered hither and thither as their fancy or their chances of successful hunting directed. When the wood was burned down in their neighbourhood, or the game became scarce, they abandoned their villages and moved off to a more inviting region. They had their great warriors, their great battles, their brilliant victories, their crushing defeats—all as uninteresting to mankind as the wars of the kites and crows. They were a race of tall, powerful men—copper-coloured, with hazel eye, high cheek-bone, and coarse black hair. In manner they were grave, and not without a measure of dignity. They had courage, but it was of that kind which is greater in suffering than in doing. They were a cunning, treacherous, cruel race, among whom the slaughter of women and children took rank as a great feat of arms. They had almost no laws, and for religious beliefs a few of the most grovelling superstitions. They worshipped the Devil because he was wicked, and might do them an injury. Civilization could lay no hold upon them. They quickly learned to use the white man’s musket; they never learned to use the tools of the white man’s industry. They developed a love for intoxicating drink passionate and irresistible beyond all example. The settlers behaved to them[47] as Christian men should. They took no land from them; what land they required they bought and paid for. Every acre of New England soil was come by with scrupulous honesty. The friendship of the Indians was anxiously cultivated—sometimes from fear, oftener from pity. But nothing could stay their progress towards extinction. Inordinate drunkenness and the gradual limitation of their hunting-grounds told fatally on their numbers. And occasionally the English were forced to march against some tribe which refused to be at peace, and to inflict a defeat which left few survivors.

1646 A.D. Early in the history of New England, efforts were made to win the Indians to the Christian faith. The Governor of Massachusetts appointed ministers to carry the gospel to the savages. Mr. John Eliot, the Apostle of the Indians, was a minister near Boston. Moved by the pitiful condition of the natives, he acquired the language of some of the tribes in his neighbourhood. He went and preached to them in their own tongue. He printed books for them. The savages received his words. Many of them listened to his sermons in tears. Many professed faith in Christ, and were gathered into congregations. He gave them a simple code of laws. It was even attempted to establish a college for training native teachers; but this had to be abandoned. The slothfulness of the Indian youth, and their devouring passion for strong liquors, unfitted them for the ministry. These vices seemed incurable in the Indian character. No persuasion could induce them to labour. They could be taught to rest on the Sabbath; they could not be taught to work on the other six days. And even the best of them would sell all they had for spirits. These were grave hindrances; but, in spite of them, Christianity made considerable progress among the Indians. The hold which it then gained was never altogether lost. And it was observed that in all the misunderstandings which arose between the English and the natives, the converts steadfastly adhered to their new friends.



During the first forty years of its existence, the great city which we call New York was a Dutch settlement, known among men as New Amsterdam. 1609 A.D. That region had been discovered for the Dutch East India Company by Henry Hudson, who was still in search, as Columbus had been, of a shorter route to the East. The Dutch have never displayed any aptitude for colonizing. But they were unsurpassed in mercantile discernment, and they set up trading stations with much judgment. Three or four years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the Dutch West India Company determined to enter into trading relations with the Indians along the line of the Hudson river. They sent out a few families, who planted themselves at the southern extremity of Manhattan Island. A wooden fort was built, around which clustered a few wooden houses—just as in Europe the baron’s castle arose and the huts of the baron’s dependants sheltered beside it. The Indians sold valuable furs for scanty payment in blankets, beads, muskets, and intoxicating drinks. The prudent Dutchmen grew rich, and were becoming numerous. 1643 A.D. But a fierce and prolonged war with the Indians broke out. The Dutch, having taken offence at something done by the savages, expressed their wrath by the massacre of an entire tribe. All the Indians of that region made common cause against the dangerous[49] strangers. All the Dutch villages were burned down. Long Island became a desert. The Dutchmen were driven in to the southern tip of the island on which New York stands. They ran a palisade across the island in the line of what is now Wall Street. To-day, Wall Street is the scene of the largest monetary transactions ever known among men. The hot fever of speculation rages there incessantly, with a fury unknown elsewhere. But then, it was the line within which a disheartened and diminishing band of colonists strove to maintain themselves against a savage foe.

1645 A.D. The war came to an end as wars even then required to do. For twenty years the colony continued to nourish under the government of a sagacious Dutchman called Petrus Stuyvesant. Petrus had been a soldier, and had lost a leg in the wars. He was a brave and true-hearted man, but withal despotic. When his subjects petitioned for some part in the making of laws, he was astonished at their boldness. He took it upon him to inspect the merchants’ books. He persecuted the Lutherans and “the abominable sect of Quakers.”

It cannot be said that his government was faultless. The colony prospered under it, however, and a continued immigration from Europe increased its importance. But in the twentieth year, certain English ships of war sailed up the bay, and, without a word of explanation, anchored near the settlement. Governor Petrus was from home, but they sent for him, and he came with speed. He hastened to the fort and looked out into the bay. There lay the ships—grim, silent, ominously near. Appalled by the presence of his unexpected visitors, the Governor sent to ask wherefore they had come. His alarm was well founded; for Charles II. of England had presented to his brother James of York a vast stretch of territory, including the region which the Dutch had chosen for their settlement. It was not his to give, but that signified nothing either to Charles[50] or to James. These ships had come to take possession in the Duke of York’s name. A good many of the colonists were English, and they were well pleased to be under their own Government. They would not fight. The Dutch remembered the Governor’s tyrannies, and they would not fight. Governor Petrus was prepared to fight single-handed. He had the twenty guns of the fort loaded, and was resolute to fire upon the ships. So at least he professed. But the inhabitants begged him, in mercy to them, to forbear; and he suffered himself to be led by two clergymen away from the loaded guns. It was alleged, to his disparagement, afterwards, that he had “allowed himself to be persuaded by ministers and other chicken-hearted persons.” Be that as it may, King Charles’s errand was done. The little town of fifteen hundred inhabitants, with all the neighbouring settlements, passed quietly under English rule. And the future Empire City was named New York, in honour of one of the meanest tyrants who ever disgraced the English throne. With the settlements on the Hudson there fell also into the hands of the English those of New Jersey, which the Dutch had conquered from the Swedes.



It was not till the year 1682 that the uneventful but quietly prosperous career of Pennsylvania began. The Stuarts were again upon the throne of England. They had learned nothing from their exile; and now, with the hour of their final rejection at hand, they were as wickedly despotic as ever.

William Penn was the son of an admiral who had gained victories for England, and enjoyed the favour of the royal family as well as of the eminent statesmen of his time. The highest honours of the State would in due time have come within the young man’s reach, and the brightest hopes of his future were reasonably entertained by his friends. To the dismay of all, Penn became a Quaker. It was an unspeakable humiliation to the well-connected admiral. He turned his son out of doors, trusting that hunger would subdue his intractable spirit. After a time, however, he relented, and the youthful heretic was restored to favour. His father’s influence could not shield him from persecution. Penn had suffered fine, and had lain in the Tower for his opinions.

Ere long the admiral died, and Penn succeeded to his possessions. It deeply grieved him that his brethren in the faith should endure such wrongs as were continually inflicted upon them. He could do nothing at home to mitigate the severities under which they groaned, therefore he formed the[52] great design of leading them forth to a new world. King Charles owed to the admiral a sum of £16,000, and this doubtful investment had descended from the father to the son. Penn offered to take payment in land, and the King readily bestowed upon him a vast region stretching westward from the river Delaware. Here Penn proposed to found a State free and self-governing. It was his noble ambition “to show men as free and as happy as they can be.” He proclaimed to the people already settled in his new dominions that they should be governed by laws of their own making. “Whatever sober and free men can reasonably desire,” he told them, “for the security and improvement of their own happiness, I shall heartily comply with.” He was as good as his word. The people appointed representatives, by whom a Constitution was framed. Penn confirmed the arrangements which the people chose to adopt.

Penn dealt justly and kindly with the Indians, and they requited him with a reverential love such as they evinced to no other Englishman. The neighbouring colonies waged bloody wars with the Indians who lived around them—now inflicting defeats which were almost exterminating—now sustaining hideous massacres. Penn’s Indians were his children and most loyal subjects. No drop of Quaker blood was ever shed by Indian hand in the Pennsylvanian territory. Soon after Penn’s arrival he invited the chief men of the Indian tribes to a conference. The meeting took place beneath a huge elm-tree. The pathless forest has long given way to the houses and streets of Philadelphia, but a marble monument points out to strangers the scene of this memorable interview. Penn, with a few companions, unarmed, and dressed according to the simple fashion of their sect, met the crowd of formidable savages. They met, he assured them, as brothers “on the broad pathway of good faith and good will.” No advantage was to be taken on either side. All was to be “openness and love;” and Penn meant what he said. Strong in the power of truth and kindness,[53] he bent the fierce savages of the Delaware to his will. They vowed “to live in love with William Penn and his children as long as the moon and the sun shall endure.” They kept their vow. Long years after, they were known to recount to strangers, with deep emotion, the words which Penn had spoken to them under the old elm-tree of Shakamaxon.

The fame of Penn’s settlement went abroad in all lands. Men wearied with the vulgar tyranny of Kings heard gladly that the reign of freedom and tranquillity was established on the banks of the Delaware. An asylum was opened “for the good and oppressed of every nation.” Of these there was no lack. Pennsylvania had nothing to attract such “dissolute persons” as had laid the foundations of Virginia. But grave and God-fearing men from all the Protestant countries sought a home where they might live as conscience taught them. The new colony grew apace. Its natural advantages were tempting. Penn reported it as “a good land, with plentiful springs, the air clear and fresh, and an innumerable quantity of wild-fowl and fish; what Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be well-contented with.” During the first year, twenty-two vessels arrived, bringing two thousand persons. In three years, Philadelphia was a town of six hundred houses. It was half a century from its foundation before New York attained equal dimensions.

When Penn, after a few years, revisited England, he was able truly to relate that “things went on sweetly with Friends in Pennsylvania; that they increased finely in outward things and in wisdom.”



The thirteen States which composed the original Union were, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

1732 A.D. Of these the latest born was Georgia. Only fifty years had passed since Penn established the Quaker State on the banks of the Delaware. But changes greater than centuries have sometimes wrought had taken place. The Revolution had vindicated the liberties of the British people. The tyrant house of Stuart had been cast out, and with its fall the era of despotic government had closed. The real governing power was no longer the King, but the Parliament.

Among the members of Parliament during the rule of Sir Robert Walpole was one almost unknown to us now, but deserving of honour beyond most men of his time. His name was James Oglethorpe. He was a soldier, and had fought against the Turks and in the great Marlborough wars against Louis XIV. In advanced life he became the friend of Samuel Johnson. Dr. Johnson urged him to write some account of his adventures. “I know no one,” he said, “whose life would be more interesting: if I were furnished with materials I should be very glad to write it.” Edmund Burke considered him “a[55] more extraordinary person than any he had ever read of.” John Wesley “blessed God that ever he was born.” Oglethorpe attained the great age of ninety-six, and died in the year 1785. The year before his death he attended the sale of Dr. Johnson’s books, and was there met by Samuel Rogers the poet. “Even then,” says Rogers, “he was the finest figure of a man you ever saw; but very, very old—the flesh of his face like parchment.”

In Oglethorpe’s time it was in the power of a creditor to imprison, according to his pleasure, the man who owed him money and was not able to pay it. It was a common circumstance that a man should be imprisoned during a long series of years for a trifling debt. Oglethorpe had a friend upon whom this hard fate had fallen. His attention was thus painfully called to the cruelties which were inflicted upon the unfortunate and helpless. He appealed to Parliament, and after inquiry a partial remedy was obtained. The benevolent exertions of Oglethorpe procured liberty for multitudes who but for him might have ended their lives in captivity.

This, however, did not content him. Liberty was an incomplete gift to men who had lost, or perhaps had scarcely ever possessed, the faculty of earning their own maintenance. Oglethorpe devised how he might carry these unfortunates to a new world, where, under happier auspices, they might open a fresh career. 1732 A.D. He obtained from King George II. a charter by which the country between the Savannah and the Alatamaha, and stretching westward to the Pacific, was erected into the province of Georgia. It was to be a refuge for the deserving poor, and next to them for Protestants suffering persecution. Parliament voted £10,000 in aid of the humane enterprise, and many benevolent persons were liberal with their gifts. In November the first exodus of the insolvent took place. Oglethorpe sailed with one hundred and twenty emigrants, mainly selected from the prisons—penniless, but of good repute. He surveyed the coasts of Georgia, and chose a[56] site for the capital of his new State. He pitched his tent where Savannah now stands, and at once proceeded to mark out the line of streets and squares.

Next year the colony was joined by about a hundred German Protestants, who were then under persecution for their beliefs. The colonists received this addition to their numbers with joy. A place of residence had been chosen for them which the devout and thankful strangers named Ebenezer. They were charmed with their new abode. The river and the hills, they said, reminded them of home. They applied themselves with steady industry to the cultivation of indigo and silk; and they prospered.

The fame of Oglethorpe’s enterprise spread over Europe. All struggling men against whom the battle of life went hard looked to Georgia as a land of promise. They were the men who most urgently required to emigrate; but they were not always the men best fitted to conquer the difficulties of the immigrant’s life. The progress of the colony was slow. The poor persons of whom it was originally composed were honest but ineffective, and could not in Georgia more than in England find out the way to become self-supporting. Encouragements were given which drew from Germany, from Switzerland, and from the Highlands of Scotland, men of firmer texture of mind—better fitted to subdue the wilderness and bring forth its treasures.

1736 A.D. With Oglethorpe there went out, on his second expedition to Georgia, the two brothers John and Charles Wesley. Charles went as secretary to the Governor. John was even then, although a very young man, a preacher of unusual promise. He burned to spread the gospel among the settlers and their Indian neighbours. He spent two years in Georgia, and these were unsuccessful years. His character was unformed; his zeal out of proportion to his discretion. The people felt that he preached “personal satires” at them. He involved himself in quarrels, and at last had to leave the colony[57] secretly, fearing arrest at the instance of some whom he had offended. He returned to begin his great career in England, with the feeling that his residence in Georgia had been of much value to himself, but of very little to the people whom he sought to benefit.

Just as Wesley reached England, his fellow-labourer George Whitefield sailed for Georgia. There were now little settlements spreading inland, and Whitefield visited these, bearing to them the word of life. He founded an Orphan-House at Savannah, and supported it by contributions—obtained easily from men under the power of his unequalled eloquence. He visited Georgia very frequently, and his love for that colony remained with him to the last.

Slavery was, at the outset, forbidden in Georgia. It was opposed to the gospel, Oglethorpe said, and therefore not to be allowed. He foresaw, besides, what has been so bitterly experienced since, that slavery must degrade the poor white labourer. But soon a desire sprung up among the less scrupulous of the settlers to have the use of slaves. Within seven years from the first landing, slave-ships were discharging their cargoes at Savannah.



In the month of December 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers landed from the Mayflower. Their landing takes rank among our great historical transactions. The rock which first received their footsteps is a sacred spot, to which the citizens of great and powerful States make reverential pilgrimages. And right it should be so; for the vast influence for good which New England exerts, and must ever exert, in the world’s affairs, has risen upon the foundation laid by these sickly and storm-wearied Pilgrims.

A few months previously another landing had taken place, destined in the fulness of time to bear the strangest of fruits. In the month of August a Dutch ship of war sailed up the James river and put twenty negroes ashore upon the Virginian coast. It was a wholly unnoticed proceeding. No name or lineage had these sable strangers. No one cared to know from what tribe they sprang, or how it fared with them in their sorrowful journeying. Yet these men were Pilgrim Fathers too. They were the first negro slaves in a land whose history, during the next century and a half, was to receive a dark, and finally a bloody, colouring from the fact of Negro Slavery.

The negro slave trade was an early result of the discovery of America. To utilize the vast possessions which Columbus had bestowed upon her, Spain deemed that compulsory labour was[59] indispensable. The natives of the country naturally fell the first victims to this necessity. Terrible desolations were wrought among the poor Indians. Proud and melancholy, they could not be reconciled to their bondage. They perished by thousands under the merciless hand of their new task-masters.

1542 A.D. Charles V. heard with remorse of this ruin of the native races. Indian slavery was at once and peremptorily forbidden. But labourers must be obtained, or those splendid possessions would relapse into wilderness. Spanish merchants traded to the coasts of Africa, where they bought gold dust and ivory for beads and ribands and scarlet cloaks. They found there a harmless idle people, whose simple wants were supplied without effort on their part; and who, in the absence of inducement, neither laboured nor fought. The Spaniards bethought them of these men to cultivate their fields, to labour in their mines. They were gentle and tractable; they were heathens, and therefore the proper inheritance of good Catholics; by baptism and instruction in the faith their souls would be saved from destruction. Motives of the most diverse kinds urged the introduction of the negro. At first the traffic extended no further than to criminals. Thieves and murderers, who must otherwise have been put to death, enriched their chiefs by the purchase-money which the Spaniards were eager to pay. But on all that coast no rigour of law could produce offenders in numbers sufficient to meet the demand. Soon the limitation ceased. Unoffending persons were systematically kidnapped and sold. The tribes went to war in the hope of taking prisoners whom they might dispose of to the Spaniards.

England was not engaged in that traffic at its outset. Ere long her hands were as deeply tainted with its guilt as those of any other country. But for a time her intercourse with Africa was for blameless purposes of commerce. And while that continued the English were regarded with confidence by the[60] Africans. 1557 A.D. At length one John Lok, a shipmaster, stole five black men and brought them to London. The next Englishman who visited Africa found that that theft had damaged the good name of his countrymen. His voyage was unprofitable, for the natives feared him. When this was told in London the mercantile world was troubled, for the African trade was a gainful one. The five stolen men were conveyed safely home again.

This was the opening of our African slave-trade. Then, for the first time, did our fathers feel the dark temptation, and thus hesitatingly did they at first yield to its power. The traffic in gold dust and ivory continued. Every Englishman who visited the African coast had occasion to know how actively and how profitably Spain, and Portugal too, traded in slaves. He knew that on all that rich coast there was no merchandise so lucrative as the unfortunate people themselves. It was not an age when such seductions could be long withstood. The English traders of that day were not the men to be held back from a gainful traffic by mere considerations of humanity.

1562 A.D. Sir John Hawkins made the first English venture in slave-trading. He sailed with three vessels to Sierra Leone. There, by purchase or by violence, he possessed himself of three hundred negroes. With this freight he crossed the Atlantic, and at St. Domingo he sold the whole to a great profit. The fame of his gains caused sensation in England, and he was encouraged to undertake a second expedition. Queen Elizabeth and many of her courtiers took shares in the venture. After many difficulties, Hawkins collected five hundred negroes. His voyage was a troublous one. He was beset with calms; water ran short, and it was feared that a portion of the cargo must have been flung overboard. “Almighty God, however,” says this devout man-stealer, “who never suffers his elect to perish,” brought him to the West Indies without loss of a man. But there had arrived before him a rigorous interdict from the[61] King of Spain against the admission of foreign vessels to any of his West Indian ports. Hawkins was too stout-hearted to suffer such frustration of his enterprise. After some useless negotiation, he landed a hundred men with two pieces of cannon; landed and sold his negroes; paid the tax which he himself had fixed; and soon in quiet England divided his gains with his royal and noble patrons. Thus was the slave-trade established in England. Three centuries after, we look with horror and remorse upon the results which have followed.

In most of the colonies there was unquestionably a desire for the introduction of the negro. But ere many years the colonists became aware that they were rapidly involving themselves in grave difficulties. The increase of the coloured population alarmed them. Heavy debts, incurred for the purchase of slaves, disordered their finances. The production of tobacco, indigo, and other articles of Southern growth, exceeded the demand, and prices fell ruinously low. There were occasionally proposals made—although not very favourably entertained—with a view to emancipation. But the opposition of the colonists to the African slave-trade was very decided. Very frequent attempts to limit the traffic were made even in the Southern colonies, where slave labour was most valuable. 1787 A.D. Soon after the Revolution, several Slave-owning States prohibited the importation of slaves. The Constitution provided that Congress might suppress the slave-trade after the lapse of twenty years. But for the resistance of South Carolina and Georgia the prohibition would have been immediate. 1807 A.D. And at length, at the earliest moment when it was possible, Congress gave effect to the general sentiment by enacting “that no slaves be imported into any of the thirteen United Colonies.”

And why had this not been done earlier? If the colonists were sincere in their desire to suppress this base traffic, why did they not suppress it? The reason is not difficult to find.[62] England would not permit them. England forced the slave-trade upon the reluctant colonists. The English Parliament watched with paternal care over the interests of this hideous traffic. During the first half of the eighteenth century Parliament was continually legislating to this effect. Every restraint upon the largest development of the trade was removed with scrupulous care. Everything that diplomacy could do to open new markets was done. When the colonists sought by imposing a tax to check the importation of slaves, that tax was repealed. Land was given free, in the West Indies, on condition that the settler should keep four negroes for every hundred acres. Forts were built on the African coast for the protection of the trade. So recently as the year 1749 an Act was passed bestowing additional encouragements upon slave-traders, and emphatically asserting “the slave-trade is very advantageous to Great Britain.” There are no passages in all our history so humiliating as these.

It is marvellous that such things were done—deliberately, and with all the solemnities of legal sanction—by men not unacquainted with the Christian religion, and humane in all the ordinary relations of life. The Popish Inquisition inflicted no suffering more barbarously cruel than was endured by the victim of the slave-trader. Hundreds of men and women, with chains upon their limbs, were packed closely together into the holds of small vessels. There, during weeks of suffering, they remained, enduring fierce tropical heat, often deprived of water and of food. They were all young and strong, for the fastidious slave-trader rejected men over thirty as uselessly old. But the strength of the strongest sunk under the horrors of this voyage. Often it happened that the greater portion of the cargo had to be flung overboard. Under the most favourable circumstances, it was expected that one slave in every five would perish. In every cargo of five hundred, one hundred would suffer a miserable death. And the public sentiment of England fully[63] sanctioned a traffic of which these horrors were a necessary part.

At one time the idea was prevalent in the colonies that it was contrary to Scripture to hold a baptized person in slavery. The colonists did not on that account liberate their slaves. They escaped the difficulty in the opposite direction. They withheld baptism and religious instruction. England took some pains to put them right on this question. The bishops of the Church and the law-officers of the Crown issued authoritative declarations, asserting the entire lawfulness of owning Christians. The colonial legislatures followed with enactments to the same effect. The colonists, thus reassured, gave consent that the souls of their unhappy dependants should be cared for.

Up to the Revolution it was estimated that three hundred thousand negroes had been brought into the country direct from Africa. The entire coloured population was supposed to amount to nearly half a million.



There was at the outset considerable diversity of pattern among the governments of the colonies. As time wore on, the diversity lessened, and one great type becomes visible in all. There is a Governor appointed by the King. There is a Parliament chosen by the people. Parliament holds the purse-strings. The Governor applies for what moneys the public service seems to him to require. Parliament, as a rule, grants his demands; but not without consideration, and a distinct assertion of its right to refuse should cause appear. As the Revolution drew near, the function of the Governor became gradually circumscribed by the pressure of the Assemblies. When the Governor, as representing the King, fell into variance with the popular will, the representatives of the people assumed the whole business of government. The most loyal of the colonies resolutely defied the encroachments of the King or his Governor. They had a pleasure and a pride in their connection with England; but they were at the same time essentially a self-governing people. From the government which existed before the Revolution it was easy for them to step into a federal union. The colonists had all their interests and all their grievances in common. It was natural for them, when trouble arose, to appoint representatives who should deliberate regarding their affairs. These representatives required an executive to give practical effect to[65] their resolutions. The officer who was appointed for that purpose was called, not King, but President; and was chosen, not for life, but for four years. By this simple and natural process arose the American Government.

At first Virginia was governed by two Councils, one of which was English and the other Colonial. Both were entirely under the King’s control. In a very few years the representative system was introduced, and a popular assembly, over whose proceedings the Governor retained the right of veto, regulated the affairs of the colony. Virginia was the least democratic of the colonies. Her leanings were always towards monarchy. She maintained her loyalty to the Stuarts. Charles II. ruled her in his exile, and was crowned in a robe of Virginian silk, presented by the devoted colonists. The baffled Cavaliers sought refuge in Virginia from the hateful triumph of Republicanism. Virginia refused to acknowledge the Commonwealth, and had to be subjected by force. When the exiled House was restored, her joy knew no bounds.

The New England States were of different temper and different government. While yet on board the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, as we have seen, formed themselves into a body politic, elected their Governor, and bound themselves to submit to his authority, “confiding in his prudence that he would not adventure upon any matter of moment without consent of the rest.” Every church member was an elector. For sixty years this democratic form of government was continued, till the despotic James II. overturned it in the closing years of his unhappy reign. The Pilgrims carried with them from England a bitter feeling of the wrongs which Kings had inflicted on them, and they arrived in America a people fully disposed to govern themselves. They cordially supported Cromwell. Cromwell, on his part, so highly esteemed the people of New England, that he invited them to return to Europe, and offered them settlements in Ireland. They delayed for two years to[66] proclaim Charles II. when he was restored to the English throne. They sheltered the regicides who fled from the King’s vengeance. They hailed the Revolution, by which the Stuarts were expelled and constitutional monarchy set up in England. Of all the American colonies, those of New England were the most democratic, and the most intolerant of royal interference with their liberties.

New York was bestowed upon the Duke of York, who for a time appointed the Governor. Pennsylvania was a grant to Penn, who exercised the same authority. Ultimately, however, in all cases, the appointment of Governor rested with the King, while the representatives were chosen by the people.


Book Second.


In the year 1740 there fell out a great European war. There was some doubt who should fill the Austrian throne. The emperor had just died, leaving no son or brother to inherit his dignities. His daughter, Maria Theresa, stepped into her father’s place, and soon made it apparent that she was strong enough to maintain what she had done. Two or three Kings thought they had a better right than she to the throne. The other Kings ranged themselves on this side or on that. The idea of looking on while foolish neighbours destroyed themselves by senseless war, had not yet been suggested. Every King took part in a great war, and sent his people forth to slay and be slain, quite as a matter of course. So they raised great armies, fought great battles, burned cities, wasted countries, inflicted and endured unutterable miseries, all to settle the question about this lady’s throne. But the lady was of a heroic spirit, well worthy to govern, and she held her own, and lived and died an empress.

During these busy years, a Virginian mother, widowed in early life, was training up her eldest son in the fear of God—all unaware, as she infused the love of goodness and duty into his mind, that she was giving a colour to the history of her[68] country throughout all its coming ages. That boy’s name was George Washington. He was born in 1732. His father—a gentleman of good fortune, with a pedigree which can be traced beyond the Norman Conquest—died when his son was eleven years of age. Upon George’s mother devolved the care of his upbringing. She was a devout woman, of excellent sense and deep affections; but a strict disciplinarian, and of a temper which could brook no shadow of insubordination. Under her rule—gentle, and yet strong—George learned obedience and self-control. In boyhood he gave remarkable promise of those excellences which distinguished his mature years. His schoolmates recognized the calm judicial character of his mind, and he became in all their disputes the arbiter from whose decision there was no appeal. He inherited his mother’s love of command, happily tempered by a lofty disinterestedness and a love of justice, which seemed to render it impossible that he should do or permit aught that was unfair. His person was large and powerful. His face expressed the thoughtfulness and serene strength of his character. He excelled in all athletic exercises. His youthful delight in such pursuits developed his physical capabilities to the utmost, and gave him endurance to bear the hardships which lay before him.

Young gentlemen of Virginia were not educated then so liberally as they have been since. It was presumed that Washington would be a mere Virginian proprietor and farmer, as his father had been; and his education was no higher than that position then demanded. He never learned any language but his own. The teacher of his early years was also the sexton of the parish. And even when he was taken to an institution of a more advanced description, he attempted no higher study than the keeping of accounts and the copying of legal and mercantile papers. A few years later, it was thought he might enter the civil or military service of his country; and he was put to the study of mathematics and land-surveying.


George Washington did nothing by halves. In youth, as in manhood, he did thoroughly what he had to do. His school exercise books are models of neatness and accuracy. His plans and measurements made while he studied land-surveying were as scrupulously exact as if great pecuniary interests depended upon them. In his eighteenth year he was employed by Government as surveyor of public lands. Many of his surveys were recorded in the county offices, and remain to this day. Long experience has established their unvarying accuracy. In all disputes to which they have any relevancy, their evidence is accepted as decisive. During the years which preceded the Revolution he managed his estates, packed and shipped his own tobacco and flour, kept his own books, conducted his own correspondence. His books may still be seen. Perhaps no clearer or more accurate record of business transactions has been kept in America since the Father of American Independence rested from book-keeping. The flour which he shipped to foreign ports came to be known as his, and the Washington brand was habitually exempted from inspection. A most reliable man; his words and his deeds, his professions and his practice, are ever found in most perfect harmony. By some he has been regarded as a stolid, prosaic person, wanting in those features of character which captivate the minds of men. It was not so. In an earlier age George Washington would have been a true knight-errant with an insatiable thirst for adventure and a passionate love of battle. He had in high degree those qualities which make ancient knighthood picturesque. But higher qualities than these bore rule within him. He had wisdom beyond most, giving him deep insight into the wants of his time. He had clear perceptions of the duty which lay to his hand. What he saw to be right, the strongest impulses of his soul constrained him to do. A massive intellect and an iron strength of will were given to him, with a gentle, loving heart, with dauntless courage, with purity and loftiness of aim.[70] He had a work of extraordinary difficulty to perform. History rejoices to recognize in him a revolutionary leader against whom no questionable transaction has ever been alleged.

The history of America presents, in one important feature, a very striking contrast to the history of nearly all older countries. In the old countries, history gathers round some one grand central figure—some judge, or priest, or king—whose biography tells all that has to be told concerning the time in which he lived. That one predominating person—David, Alexander, Cæsar, Napoleon—is among his people what the sun is in the planetary system. All movement originates and terminates in him, and the history of the people is merely a record of what he has chosen to do or caused to be done. In America it has not been so. The American system leaves no room for predominating persons. It affords none of those exhibitions of solitary, all-absorbing grandeur which are so picturesque, and have been so pernicious. Her history is a history of her people, and of no conspicuous individuals. Once only in her career is it otherwise. During the lifetime of George Washington her history clings very closely to him; and the biography of her great chief becomes in a very unusual degree the history of the country.



While Washington’s boyhood was being passed on the banks of the Potomac, a young man, destined to help him in gaining the independence of the country, was toiling hard in the city of Philadelphia to earn an honest livelihood. His name was Benjamin Franklin; his avocations were manifold. He kept a small stationer’s shop; he edited a newspaper; he was a bookbinder; he made ink; he sold rags, soap, and coffee. He was also a printer, employing a journeyman and an apprentice to aid him in his labours. He was a thriving man; but he was not ashamed to convey along the streets, in a wheelbarrow, the paper which he bought for the purposes of his trade. As a boy he had been studious and thoughtful; as a man he was prudent, sagacious, trustworthy. His prudence was, however, somewhat low-toned and earthly. He loved and sought to marry a deserving young woman, who returned his affection. There was in those days a debt of one hundred pounds upon his printing-house. He demanded that the father of the young lady should pay off this debt. The father was unable to do so. Whereupon the worldly Benjamin decisively broke off the contemplated alliance.

When he had earned a moderate competency he ceased to labour at his business. Henceforth he laboured to serve his fellow-men. Philadelphia owes to Franklin her university, her hospital, her fire-brigade, her first and greatest library.


He earned renown as a man of science. It had long been his thought that lightning and electricity were the same; but he found no way to prove the truth of his theory. 1752 A.D. At length he made a kite fitted suitably for his experiment. He stole away from his house during a thunder-storm, having told no one but his son, who accompanied him. The kite was sent up among the stormy clouds, and the anxious philosopher waited. For a time no response to his eager questioning was granted, and Franklin’s countenance fell. But at length he felt the welcome shock, and his heart thrilled with the high consciousness that he had added to the sum of human knowledge.

1766 A.D. When the troubles arose in connection with the Stamp Act, Franklin was sent to England to defend the rights of the colonists. The vigour of his intellect, the matured wisdom of his opinions, gained for him a wonderful supremacy over the men with whom he was brought into contact. He was examined before Parliament. Edmund Burke said that the scene reminded him of a master examined by a parcel of schoolboys, so conspicuously was the witness superior to his interrogators.

1777 A.D. Franklin was an early advocate of independence, and aided in preparing the famous Declaration. In all the councils of that eventful time he bore a leading part. He was the first American Ambassador to France; and the good sense and vivacity of the old printer gained for him high favour in the fashionable world of Paris. He lived to aid in framing the Constitution under which America has enjoyed prosperity so great. 1799 A.D. Soon after he passed away. A few months before his death he wrote to Washington:—“I am now finishing my eighty-fourth year, and probably with it my career in this life; but in whatever state of existence I am placed hereafter, if I retain any memory of what has passed here, I shall with it retain the esteem, respect, and affection with which I have long regarded you.”



The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, which gave a brief repose to Europe, left unsettled the contending claims of France and England upon American territory. 1748 A.D. France had possessions in Canada and also in Louisiana, at the extreme south, many hundreds of miles away. She claimed the entire line of the Mississippi river, with its tributaries; and she had given effect to her pretensions by erecting forts at intervals to connect her settlements in the north with those in the south. Her claim included the Valley of the Ohio. This was a vast and fertile region, whose value had just been discovered by the English. It was yet unpeopled; but its vegetation gave evidence of wealth unknown to the colonists in the eastern settlements. The French, to establish their claim, sent three hundred soldiers into the valley, and nailed upon the trees leaden plates which bore the royal arms of France. They strove by gifts and persuasion to gain over the natives, and expelled the English traders who had made their adventurous way into those recesses. The English, on their part, were not idle. A great trading company was formed, which, in return for certain grants of land, became bound to colonize the valley, to establish trading relations with the Indians, and to maintain a competent military force. This was in the year 1749. In that age there was but one solution of such difficulties. Governments[74] had not learned to reason; they could only fight. Early in 1751 both parties were actively preparing for war. That war went ill with France. When the sword was sheathed in 1759, she had lost not only Ohio, but the whole of Canada.

1754 A.D. When the fighting began it was conducted on the English side wholly by the colonists. Virginia raised a little army. Washington, then a lad of twenty-one, was offered the command, so great was the confidence already felt in his capacity. It was war in miniature as yet. The object of Washington in the campaign was to reach a certain fort on the Ohio, and hold it as a barrier against French encroachment. He had his artillery to carry with him, and to render that possible he had to make a road through the wilderness. He struggled heroically with the difficulties of his position, but he could not advance at any better speed than two miles a-day; and he was not destined to reach the fort on the Ohio. After toiling on as he best might for six weeks, he learned that the French were seeking him with a force far outnumbering his. He halted, and hastily constructed a rude intrenchment, which he called Fort Necessity, because his men had nearly starved while they worked at it. He had three hundred Virginians with him, and some Indians. The Indians deserted so soon as occasion arose for their services. The French attack was not long withheld. Early one summer morning a sentinel came in bleeding from a French bullet. All that day the fight lasted. At night the French summoned Washington to surrender. The garrison were to march out with flag and drum, leaving only their artillery. Washington could do no better, and he surrendered. Thus ended the first campaign in the war which was to drive France from Ohio and Canada. Thus opened the military career of the man who was to drive England from the noblest of her colonial possessions.

But now the English Government awoke to the necessity of vigorous measures to rescue the endangered Valley of the Ohio.[75] A campaign was planned which was to expel the French from Ohio, and wrest from them some portions of their Canadian territory. The execution of this great design was intrusted to General Braddock, with a force which it was deemed would overbear all resistance. Braddock was a veteran who had seen the wars of forty years. Among the fields on which he had gained his knowledge of war was Culloden, where he had borne a part in trampling out the rebellion of the Scotch. He was a brave and experienced soldier, and a likely man, it was thought, to do the work assigned to him. But that proved a sad miscalculation. Braddock had learned the rules of war; but he had no capacity to comprehend its principles. In the pathless forests of America he could do nothing better than strive to give literal effect to those maxims which he had found applicable in the well-trodden battle-grounds of Europe.

The failure of Washington in his first campaign had not deprived him of public confidence. Braddock heard such accounts of his efficiency that he invited him to join his staff. Washington, eager to efface the memory of his defeat, gladly accepted the offer.

1755 A.D. The troops disembarked at Alexandria. The colonists, little used to the presence of regular soldiers, were greatly emboldened by their splendid aspect and faultless discipline, and felt that the hour of final triumph was at hand. After some delay, the army, with such reinforcements as the province afforded, began its march. Braddock’s object was to reach Fort Du Quesne, the great centre of French influence on the Ohio. It was this same fort of which Washington endeavoured so manfully to possess himself in his disastrous campaign of last year.

Fort Du Quesne had been built by the English, and taken from them by the French. It stood at the confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela; which rivers, by their union at this point, form the Ohio. It was a rude piece of fortification, but[76] the circumstances admitted of no better. The fort was built of the trunks of trees; wooden huts for the soldiers surrounded it. A little space had been cleared in the forest, and a few patches of wheat and Indian corn grew luxuriantly in that rich soil. The unbroken forest stretched all around. Three years later the little fort was retaken by the English, and named Fort Pitt. Then in time it grew to be a town, and was called Pittsburg. And men found in its neighbourhood boundless wealth of iron and of coal. To-day a great and fast-growing city stands where, a century ago, the rugged fort with its cluster of rugged huts were the sole occupants. And the rivers, then so lonely, are ploughed by many keels; and the air is dark with the smoke of innumerable furnaces. The judgment of the sagacious Englishmen who deemed this a locality which they would do well to get hold of, has been amply borne out by the experience of posterity.

Braddock had no doubt that the fort would yield to him directly he showed himself before it. Benjamin Franklin looked at the project with his shrewd, cynical eye. He told Braddock that he would assuredly take the fort if he could only reach it; but that the long slender line which his army must form in its march “would be cut like thread into several pieces” by the hostile Indians. Braddock “smiled at his ignorance.” Benjamin offered no further opinion. It was his duty to collect horses and carriages for the use of the expedition, and he did what was required of him in silence.

The expedition crept slowly forward, never achieving more than three or four miles in a day; stopping, as Washington said, “to level every mole-hill, to erect a bridge over every brook.” It left Alexandria on the 20th April. On the 9th July Braddock, with half his army, was near the fort. There was yet no evidence that resistance was intended. No enemy had been seen; the troops marched on as to assured victory. So confident was their chief, that he refused to employ scouts,[77] and did not deign to inquire what enemy might be lurking near.

The march was along a road twelve feet wide, in a ravine, with high ground in front and on both sides. Suddenly the Indian war-whoop burst from the woods. A murderous fire smote down the troops. The provincials, not unused to this description of warfare, sheltered themselves behind trees and fought with steady courage. Braddock, clinging to his old rules, strove to maintain his order of battle on the open ground. A carnage, most grim and lamentable, was the result. His undefended soldiers were shot down by an unseen foe. For three hours the struggle lasted; then the men broke and fled in utter rout and panic. Braddock, vainly fighting, fell mortally wounded, and was carried off the field by some of his soldiers. The poor pedantic man never got over his astonishment at a defeat so inconsistent with the established rules of war. “Who would have thought it?” he murmured, as they bore him from the field. He scarcely spoke again, and died in two or three days. Nearly eight hundred men, killed and wounded, were lost in this disastrous encounter—about one-half of the entire force engaged.

All the while England and France were nominally at peace. But now war was declared. The other European powers fell into their accustomed places in the strife, and the flames of war spread far and wide. On land and on sea the European people strove to shed blood and destroy property, and thus produce human misery to the largest possible extent. At the outset every fight brought defeat and shame to England. English armies under incapable leaders were sent out to America and ignominiously routed by the French. On the continent of Europe the uniform course of disaster was scarcely broken by a single victory. Even at sea, England seemed to have fallen from her high estate, and her fleets turned back from the presence of an enemy.


The rage of the people knew no bounds. The admiral who had not fought the enemy when he should have done so, was hanged. The Prime Minister began to tremble for his neck. One or two disasters more, and the public indignation might demand a greater victim than an unfortunate admiral. The Ministry resigned, and William Pitt, afterwards Earl of Chatham, came into power.

And then, all at once, the scene changed, and there began a career of triumph more brilliant than even England had ever known. The French fleets were destroyed; French possessions all over the world were seized; French armies were defeated. Every post brought news of victory. For once the English people, greedy as they are of military glory, were satisfied.

1759 A.D. One of the most splendid successes of Pitt’s administration was gained in America. The colonists had begun to lose respect for the English army and the English Government, but Pitt quickly regained their confidence. They raised an army of 50,000 men to help his schemes for the extinction of French power. A strong English force was sent out, and a formidable invasion of Canada was organized.

Most prominent among the strong points held by the French was the city of Quebec. Thither in the month of June came a powerful English fleet, with an army under the command of General Wolfe. Captain James Cook, the famous navigator, who discovered so many of the sunny islands of the Pacific, was master of one of the ships. Quebec stands upon a peninsula formed by the junction of the St. Charles and the St. Lawrence rivers. The lower town was upon the beach; the upper was on the cliffs, which at that point rise precipitously to a height of two hundred feet. Wolfe tried the effect of a bombardment. He laid the lower town in ruins very easily, but the upper town was too remote from his batteries to sustain much injury. It seemed as if the enterprise would prove too much for the English, and the sensitive Wolfe was thrown by disappointment and[79] anxiety into a violent fever. But he was not the man to be baffled. The shore for miles above the town was carefully searched. An opening was found whence a path wound up the cliffs. Here Wolfe would land his men, and lead them to the Heights of Abraham. Once there, they would defeat the French and take Quebec, or die where they stood.

On a starlight night in September the soldiers were embarked in boats which dropped down the river to the chosen landing-place. As the boat which carried Wolfe floated silently down, he recited to his officers Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard,” then newly received from England; and he exclaimed at its close, “I would rather be the author of that poem than take Quebec to-morrow.” He was a man of feeble bodily frame, but he wielded the power which genius in its higher forms confers. Amid the excitements of impending battle he could walk, with the old delight, in the quiet paths of literature.

The soldiers landed and clambered, as they best might, up the rugged pathway. All through the night armed men stepped silently from the boats and silently scaled those formidable cliffs. The sailors contrived to drag up a few guns. When morning came, the whole army stood upon the Heights of Abraham ready for the battle.

1759 A.D. Montcalm, the French commander, was so utterly taken by surprise that he refused at first to believe the presence of the English army. He lost no time in marching forth to meet his unexpected assailants. The conflict which followed was fierce but not prolonged. The French were soon defeated and put to flight; Quebec surrendered. But Montcalm did not make that surrender, nor did Wolfe receive it. Both generals fell in the battle. Wolfe died happy that the victory was gained. Montcalm was thankful that death spared him the humiliation of giving up Quebec. They died as enemies; but the men of a new generation, thinking less of the accidents which made them foes than of the noble courage and[80] devotedness which united them, placed their names together upon the monument which marks out to posterity the scene of this decisive battle.

France did not quietly accept her defeat. Next year she made an attempt to regain Quebec. It was all in vain. In due time the success of the English resulted in a treaty of peace, under which France ceded to England all her claims upon Canada. Spain at the same time relinquished Florida. England had now undisputed possession of the western continent, from the region of perpetual winter to the Gulf of Mexico.



A century and a half had now passed since the first colony had been planted on American soil. The colonists were fast ripening into fitness for independence. They had increased with marvellous rapidity. Europe never ceased to send forth her superfluous and needy thousands. America opened wide her hospitable arms and gave assurance of liberty and comfort to all who came. The thirteen colonies now contained a population of about three million.

They were eminently a trading people, and their foreign commerce was already large and lucrative. New England built ships with the timber of her boundless forests, and sold them to foreign countries. She caught fish and sent them to the West Indies. She killed whales and sent the oil to England. New York and Pennsylvania produced wheat, which Spain and Portugal were willing to buy. Virginia clung to the tobacco-plant, which Europe was not then, any more than she is now, wise enough to dispense with. The swampy regions of Carolina and Georgia produced rice sufficient to supply the European demand. As yet cotton does not take any rank in the list of exports. But the time is near. Even now Richard Arkwright is brooding over improvements in the art of spinning cotton. When these are perfected the growing of cotton will rise quickly to a supremacy over all the industrial pursuits.


England had not learned to recognize the equality of her colonists with her own people. The colonies were understood to exist not for their own good so much as for the good of the mother country. Even the chimney-sweepers, as Lord Chatham asserted, might be heard in the streets of London talking boastfully of their subjects in America. Colonies were settlements “established in distant parts of the world for the benefit of trade.” As such they were most consistently treated. The Americans could not import direct any article of foreign production. Everything must be landed in England and re-shipped thence, that the English merchant might have profit. One exemption only was allowed from the operation of this law—the products of Africa, the unhappy negroes, were conveyed direct to America, and every possible encouragement was given to that traffic. Notwithstanding the illiberal restrictions of the home government, the imports of America before the Revolution had risen almost to the value of three million sterling.

New England had, very early, established her magnificent system of Common Schools. For two or three generations these had been in full operation. The people of New England were now probably the most carefully instructed people in the world. There could not be found a person born in New England unable to read and write. It had always been the practice of the Northern people to settle in townships or villages where education was easily carried to them. In the South it had not been so. There the Common Schools had taken no root. It was impossible among a population so scattered. The educational arrangements of the South have never been adequate to the necessities of the people.

In the early years of America, the foundations were laid of those differences in character and interest which have since produced results of such magnitude. The men who peopled the Eastern States had to contend with a somewhat severe climate and a comparatively sterile soil. These disadvantages imposed[83] upon them habits of industry and frugality. Skilled labour alone could be of use in their circumstances. They were thus mercifully rescued from the curse of slavery—by the absence of temptation, it may be, rather than by superiority of virtue. Their simple purity of manners remained long uncorrupted. The firm texture of mind which upheld them in their early difficulties remained unenfeebled. Their love of liberty was not perverted into a passion for supremacy. Among them labour was not degraded by becoming the function of a despised race. In New England labour has always been honourable. A just-minded, self-relying, self-helping people, vigorous in acting, patient in enduring—it was evident from the outset that they, at least, would not disgrace their ancestry.

The men of the South were very differently circumstanced. Their climate was delicious; their soil was marvellously fertile; their products were welcome in the markets of the world; unskilled labour was applicable in the rearing of all their great staples. Slavery being exceedingly profitable, struck deep roots very early. It was easy to grow rich. The colonists found themselves not the employers merely, but the owners of their labourers. They became aristocratic in feeling and in manners, resembling the picturesque chiefs of old Europe rather than mere prosaic growers of tobacco and rice. They had the virtues of chivalry, and also its vices. They were generous, open-handed, hospitable; but they were haughty and passionate, improvident, devoted to pleasure and amusement more than to work of any description. Living apart, each on his own plantation, the education of children was frequently imperfect, and the planter himself was bereft of that wholesome discipline to mind and to temper which residence among equals confers. The two great divisions of States—those in which slavery was profitable, and those in which it was unprofitable—were unequally yoked together. Their divergence of character and interest continued to increase, till it issued in one of the greatest of recorded wars.


Up to the year 1764, the Americans cherished a deep reverence and affection for the mother country. They were proud of her great place among the nations. They gloried in the splendour of her military achievements; they copied her manners and her fashions. She was in all things their model. They always spoke of England as “home.” To be an Old England man was to be a person of rank and importance among them. They yielded a loving obedience to her laws. They were governed, as Benjamin Franklin stated it, at the expense of a little pen and ink. When money was asked from their Assemblies, it was given without grudge. “They were led by a thread,”—such was their love for the land which gave them birth.

Ten or twelve years came and went. A marvellous change has passed upon the temper of the American people. They have bound themselves by great oaths to use no article of English manufacture—to engage in no transaction which can put a shilling into any English pocket. They have formed “the inconvenient habit of carting,”—that is, of tarring and feathering and dragging through the streets such persons as avow friendship for the English Government. They burn the Acts of the English Parliament by the hands of the common hangman. They slay the King’s soldiers. They refuse every amicable proposal. They cast from them for ever the King’s authority. They hand down a dislike to the English name, of which some traces lingered among them for generations.

By what unhallowed magic has this change been wrought so swiftly? By what process, in so few years, have three million people been taught to abhor the country they so loved?

The ignorance and folly of the English Government wrought this evil. But there is little cause for regret. Under the fuller knowledge of our modern time, colonies are allowed to discontinue their connection with the mother country when it is their wish to do so. Better had America gone in peace. But better[85] she went, even in wrath and bloodshed, than continued in paralyzing dependence upon England.

For many years England had governed her American colonies harshly, and in a spirit of undisguised selfishness. America was ruled, not for her own good, but for the good of English commerce. She was not allowed to export her products except to England. No foreign ship might enter her ports. Woollen goods were not allowed to be sent from one colony to another. At one time the manufacture of hats was forbidden. In a liberal mood Parliament removed that prohibition, but decreed that no maker of hats should employ any negro workman, or any larger number of apprentices than two. Iron-works were forbidden. Up to the latest hour of English rule the Bible was not allowed to be printed in America.

The Americans had long borne the cost of their own government and defence. But in that age of small revenue and profuse expenditure on unmeaning continental wars, it had been often suggested that America should be taxed for the purposes of the home Government. Some one proposed that to Sir Robert Walpole in a time of need. The wise Sir Robert shook his head. It must be a bolder man than he was who would attempt that. A man bolder, because less wise, was found in due time.

1764 A.D. The Seven Years’ War had ended, and England had added a hundred million to her national debt. The country was suffering, as countries always do after great wars, and it was no easy matter to fit the new burdens on to the national shoulder. The hungry eye of Lord Grenville searched where a new tax might be laid. The Americans had begun visibly to prosper. Already their growing wealth was the theme of envious discourse among English merchants. The English officers who had fought in America spoke in glowing terms of the magnificent hospitality which had been extended to them. No more need be said. The House of Commons passed a resolution asserting their right to tax the Americans. No[86] solitary voice was raised against this fatal resolution. Immediately after, an Act was passed imposing certain taxes upon silks, coffee, sugar, and other articles. The Americans remonstrated. They were willing, they said, to vote what moneys the King required of them, but they vehemently denied the right of any Assembly in which they were not represented to take from them any portion of their property. They were the subjects of the King, but they owed no obedience to the English Parliament. Lord Grenville went on his course. He had been told the Americans would complain but submit, and he believed it. Next session an Act was passed imposing Stamp Duties on America. The measure awakened no interest. Edmund Burke said he had never been present at a more languid debate. In the House of Lords there was no debate at all. With so little trouble was a continent rent away from the British Empire.

1765 A.D. Benjamin Franklin told the House of Commons that America would never submit to the Stamp Act, and that no power on earth could enforce it. The Americans made it impossible for Government to mistake their sentiments. Riots, which swelled from day to day into dimensions more “enormous and alarming,” burst forth in the New England States. Everywhere the stamp distributers were compelled to resign their offices. One unfortunate man was led forth to Boston Common, and made to sign his resignation in presence of a vast crowd. Another, in desperate health, was visited in his sick-room and obliged to pledge that if he lived he would resign. A universal resolution was come to that no English goods would be imported till the Stamp Act was repealed. The colonists would “eat nothing, drink nothing, wear nothing that comes from England,” while this great injustice endured. The Act was to come into force on the 1st of November. That day the bells rang out funereal peals, and the colonists wore the aspect of men on whom some heavy calamity has fallen. But the Act never came into force. Not one of Lord Grenville’s[87] stamps was ever bought or sold in America. Some of the stamped paper was burned by the mob; the rest was hidden away to save it from the same fate. Without stamps, marriages were null; mercantile transactions ceased to be binding; suits at law were impossible. Nevertheless the business of human life went on. Men married; they bought, they sold; they went to law;—illegally, because without stamps. But no harm came of it.

England heard with amazement that America refused to obey the law. There were some who demanded that the Stamp Act should be enforced by the sword. But it greatly moved the English merchants that America should cease to import their goods. William Pitt—not yet Earl of Chatham—denounced the Act, and said he was glad America had resisted. 1766 A.D. Pitt and the merchants triumphed, and the Act was repealed. There was illumination in the city that night. The city bells rang for joy; the ships in the Thames displayed all their colours. The saddest heart in all London was that of poor King George, who never ceased to lament “the fatal repeal of the Stamp Act.” All America thrilled with joy and pride when news arrived of the great triumph. They voted Pitt a statue; they set apart a day for public rejoicing; all prisoners for debt were set free. A great deliverance had been granted, and the delight of the gladdened people knew no bounds. The danger is over for the present; but whosoever governs America now has need to walk warily.

It was during the agitation arising out of the Stamp Act that the idea of a General Congress of the States was suggested. A loud cry for union had arisen. “Join or die” was the prevailing sentiment. The Congress met in New York. It did little more than discuss and petition. It is interesting merely as one of the first exhibitions of a tendency towards federal union in a country whose destiny, in all coming time, this tendency was to fix.

The repeal of the Stamp Act delayed only for a little the[88] fast-coming crisis. A new Ministry was formed, with the Earl of Chatham at its head. But soon the great Earl lay sick and helpless, and the burden of government rested on incapable shoulders. Charles Townshend, a clever, captivating, but most indiscreet man, became the virtual Prime Minister. The feeling in the public mind had now become more unfavourable to America. Townshend proposed to levy a variety of taxes from the Americans. The most famous of his taxes was one of threepence per pound on tea. All his proposals became law.

This time the more thoughtful Americans began to despair of justice. The boldest scarcely ventured yet to suggest revolt against England, so powerful and so loved. But the grand final refuge of independence was silently brooded over by many. The mob fell back on their customary solution. Great riots occurred. To quell these disorders English troops encamped on Boston Common. The town swarmed with red-coated men, every one of whom was a humiliation. Their drums beat on Sabbath, and troubled the orderly men of Boston, even in church. At intervals fresh transports dropped in, bearing additional soldiers, till a great force occupied the town. The galled citizens could ill brook to be thus bridled. The ministers prayed to Heaven for deliverance from the presence of the soldiers. The General Court of Massachusetts called vehemently on the Governor to remove them. The Governor had no powers in that matter. He called upon the court to make suitable provision for the King’s troops,—a request which it gave the court infinite pleasure to refuse.

1770 A.D. The universal irritation broke forth in frequent brawls between soldiers and people. One wintry moonlight night in March, when snow and ice lay about the streets of Boston, a more than usually determined attack was made upon a party of soldiers. The mob thought the soldiers dared not fire without the order of a magistrate, and were very bold in the strength of that belief. It proved a mistake. The soldiers did fire, and the blood of eleven slain or[89] wounded persons stained the frozen streets. This was “the Boston Massacre,” which greatly inflamed the patriot antipathy to the mother country.

Two or three unquiet years passed, and no progress towards a settlement of differences had been made. From all the colonies there came, loud and unceasing, the voice of complaint and remonstrance. It fell upon unheeding ears, for England was committed. To her honour be it said, it was not in the end for money that she alienated her children. The tax on tea must be maintained to vindicate the authority of England. But when the tea was shipped, such a drawback was allowed that the price would actually have been lower in America than it was at home.

The Americans had, upon the whole, kept loyally to their purpose of importing no English goods, specially no goods on which duty could be levied. Occasionally, a patriot of the more worldly-minded sort yielded to temptation, and secretly despatched an order to England. He was forgiven, if penitent. If obdurate, his name was published, and a resolution of the citizens to trade no more with a person so unworthy soon brought him to reason. But, in the main, the colonists were true to their bond, and when they could no longer smuggle they ceased to import. The East India Company accumulated vast quantities of unsaleable tea, for which a market must be found. 1773 A.D. Several ships were freighted with tea, and sent out to America.

Cheaper tea was never seen in America; but it bore upon it the abhorred tax which asserted British control over the property of Americans. Will the Americans, long bereaved of the accustomed beverage, yield to the temptation, and barter their honour for cheap tea? The East India Company never doubted it; but the Company knew nothing of the temper of the American people. The ships arrived at New York and Philadelphia. These cities stood firm. The ships were promptly[90] sent home—their hatches unopened—and duly bore their rejected cargoes back to the Thames.

When the ships destined for Boston showed their tall masts in the bay, the citizens ran together to hold council. It was Sabbath, and the men of Boston were strict. But here was an exigency, in presence of which all ordinary rules are suspended. The crisis has come at length. If that tea is landed it will be sold, it will be used, and American liberty will become a byword upon the earth.

Samuel Adams was the true King in Boston at that time. He was a man in middle life, of cultivated mind and stainless reputation—a powerful speaker and writer—a man in whose sagacity and moderation all men trusted. He resembled the old Puritans in his stern love of liberty—his reverence for the Sabbath—his sincere, if somewhat formal, observance of all religious ordinances. He was among the first to see that there was no resting-place in this struggle short of independence. “We are free,” he said, “and want no King.” The men of Boston felt the power of his resolute spirit, and manfully followed where Samuel Adams led.

It was hoped that the agents of the East India Company would have consented to send the ships home; but the agents refused. Several days of excitement and ineffectual negotiation ensued. People flocked in from the neighbouring towns. The time was spent mainly in public meeting; the city resounded with impassioned discourse. But meanwhile the ships lay peacefully at their moorings, and the tide of patriot talk seemed to flow in vain. Other measures were visibly necessary. One day a meeting was held, and the excited people continued in hot debate till the shades of evening fell. No progress was made. At length Samuel Adams stood up in the dimly-lighted church, and announced, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.” With a stern shout the meeting broke up. Fifty men disguised as Indians hurried down to the wharf, each man[91] with a hatchet in his hand. The crowd followed. The ships were boarded; the chests of tea were brought on deck, broken up, and flung into the bay. The approving citizens looked on in silence. It was felt by all that the step was grave and eventful in the highest degree. So still was the crowd that no sound was heard but the stroke of the hatchet and the splash of the shattered chests as they fell into the sea. All questions about the disposal of those cargoes of tea at all events are now solved.

This is what America has done; it is for England to make the next move. Lord North was now at the head of the British Government. It was his lordship’s belief that the troubles in America sprang from a small number of ambitious persons, and could easily, by proper firmness, be suppressed. “The Americans will be lions while we are lambs,” said General Gage. The King believed this, and Lord North believed it. In this deep ignorance he proceeded to deal with the great emergency. He closed Boston as a port for the landing and shipping of goods. He imposed a fine to indemnify the East India Company for their lost teas. He withdrew the Charter of Massachusetts. He authorized the Governor to send political offenders to England for trial. Great voices were raised against these severities. Lord Chatham, old in constitution now, if not in years, and near the close of his career, pled for measures of conciliation. Edmund Burke justified the resistance of the Americans. Their opposition was fruitless. All Lord North’s measures of repression became law; and General Gage, with an additional force of soldiers, was sent to Boston to carry them into effect. Gage was an authority on American affairs. He had fought under Braddock. Among blind men the one-eyed man is king; among the profoundly ignorant, the man with a little knowledge is irresistibly persuasive. “Four regiments sent to Boston,” said the hopeful Gage, “will prevent any disturbance.”[92] He was believed; but, unhappily for his own comfort, he was sent to Boston to secure the fulfilment of his own prophecy. He threw up some fortifications and lay as in a hostile city. The Americans appointed a day of fasting and humiliation. They did more. They formed themselves into military companies; they occupied themselves with drill; they laid up stores of ammunition. Most of them had muskets, and could use them. He who had no musket now got one. They hoped that civil war would be averted, but there was no harm in being ready.

Sept. 5, 1774 A.D. While General Gage was throwing up his fortifications at Boston, there met in Philadelphia a Congress of delegates, sent by the States, to confer in regard to the troubles which were thickening round them. Twelve States were represented. Georgia as yet paused timidly on the brink of the perilous enterprise. They were notable men who met there, and their work is held in enduring honour. “For genuine sagacity, for singular moderation, for solid wisdom,” said the great Earl of Chatham, “the Congress of Philadelphia shines unrivalled.” The low-roofed quaint old room in which their meetings were held, became one of the shrines which Americans delight to visit. George Washington was there, and his massive sense and copious knowledge were a supreme guiding power. Patrick Henry, then a young man, brought to the council a wisdom beyond his years, and a fiery eloquence, which, to some of his hearers, seemed almost more than human. He had already proved his unfitness for farming and for shop-keeping. He was now to prove that he could utter words which swept over a continent, thrilling men’s hearts like the voice of the trumpet, and rousing them to heroic deeds. John Routledge from South Carolina aided him with an eloquence little inferior to his own. Richard Henry Lee, with his Roman aspect, his bewitching voice, his ripe scholarship, his[93] rich stores of historical and political knowledge, would have graced the highest assemblies of the Old World. John Dickenson, the wise farmer from the banks of the Delaware, whose Letters had done so much to form the public sentiment—his enthusiastic love of England overborne by his sense of wrong—took regretful but resolute part in withstanding the tyranny of the English Government.

We have the assurance of Washington that the members of this Congress did not aim at independence. As yet it was their wish to have wrongs redressed and to continue British subjects. Their proceedings give ample evidence of this desire. They drew up a narrative of their wrongs. As a means of obtaining redress, they adopted a resolution that all commercial intercourse with Britain should cease. They addressed the King, imploring his majesty to remove those grievances which endangered their relations with him. They addressed the people of Great Britain, with whom, they said, they deemed a union as their greatest glory and happiness; adding, however, that they would not be hewers of wood and drawers of water to any nation in the world. They appealed to their brother colonists of Canada for support in their peaceful resistance to oppression. But Canada, newly conquered from France, was peopled almost wholly by Frenchmen. A Frenchman of that time was contented to enjoy such an amount of liberty and property as his King was pleased to permit. And so from Canada there came no response of sympathy or help.

Here Congress paused. Some members believed, with Washington, that their remonstrances would be effectual. Others, less sanguine, looked for no settlement but that which the sword might bring. They adjourned, to meet again next May. This is enough for the present. What further steps the new events of that coming summer may call for, we shall be prepared, with God’s help, to take.

England showed no relenting in her treatment of the Americans.[94] The King gave no reply to the address of Congress. The Houses of Lords and of Commons refused even to allow that address to be read in their hearing. The King announced his firm purpose to reduce the refractory colonists to obedience. Parliament gave loyal assurances of support to the blinded monarch. All trade with the colonies was forbidden. All American ships and cargoes might be seized by those who were strong enough to do so. The alternative presented to the American choice was without disguise—the Americans had to fight for their liberty, or forego it. The people of England had, in those days, no control over the government of their country. All this was managed for them by a few great families. Their allotted part was to toil hard, pay their taxes, and be silent. If they had been permitted to speak, their voice would have vindicated the men who asserted the right of self-government—a right which Englishmen themselves were not to enjoy for many a long year.

1775 A.D. General Gage had learned that considerable stores of ammunition were collected at the village of Concord, eighteen miles from Boston. He would seize them in the King’s name. Late one April night eight hundred soldiers set out on this errand. They hoped their coming would be unexpected, as care had been taken to prevent the tidings from being carried out of Boston. But as they marched, the clang of bells and the firing of guns gave warning far and near of their approach. In the early morning they reached Lexington. Some hours before, a body of militia awaited them there. But the morning was chill and the hour untimely, and the patriots were allowed to seek the genial shelter of the tavern, under pledge to appear at beat of drum. Seventy of them did so, mostly, we are told, “in a confused state.” Major Pitcairn commanded them to disperse. The patriots did not at once obey the summons. It was impossible that seventy volunteers[95] could mean to fight eight hundred British soldiers; it is more likely they did not clearly understand what was required of them. Firing ensued. The Americans say that the first shot came from the British. Major Pitcairn always asserted that he himself saw a countryman give the first fire from behind a wall. It can never be certainly known, but there was now firing enough. The British stood and shot, in their steady unconcerned way, at the poor mistaken seventy. The patriots fled fast. Eighteen of their number did not join the flight. These lay in their blood on the village green, dead or wounded men. Thus was the war begun between England and her colonies.

The British pushed on to Concord, and destroyed all the military stores they could find. It was not much, for there had been time to carry off nearly everything. By noon the work was done, and the wearied troops turned their faces towards Boston.

They were not suffered to march alone. All that morning grim-faced yeomen—of the Ironside type, each man with a musket in his hand—had been hurrying into Concord. The British march was mainly on a road cut through dense woods. As they advanced, the vengeful yeomanry hung upon their flanks and rear. On every side there streamed forth an incessant and murderous fire, under which the men fell fast. No effort could dislodge those deadly but almost unseen foes. During all the terrible hours of that return march the fire of the Americans never flagged, and could seldom be returned. It was sunset ere the soldiers, half dead with fatigue, got home to Boston. In killed, wounded, and prisoners, this fatal expedition had cost nearly three hundred men. The blood shed at Lexington had been swiftly and deeply avenged.



The encounters at Lexington and Concord thoroughly aroused the American people. The news rang through the land that blood had been spilt—that already there were martyrs to the great cause. Mounted couriers galloped along all highways. Over the bustle of the market-place—in the stillness of the quiet village church—there broke the startling shout, “The war has begun.” All men felt that the hour had come, and they promptly laid aside their accustomed labour that they might gird themselves for the battle. North Carolina, in her haste, threw off the authority of the King, and formed herself into military companies. Timid Georgia sent gifts of money and of rice, and cheering letters, to confirm the bold purposes of the men of Boston. In aristocratic and loyal Virginia there was a general rush to arms. From every corner of the New England States men hurried to Boston. Down in pleasant Connecticut an old man was ploughing his field one April afternoon. His name was Israel Putnam. He was now a farmer and tavern-keeper—a combination frequent at that time in New England, and not at all inconsistent, we are told, “with a Roman character.” Formerly he had been a warrior. He had fought the Indians, and had narrowly escaped the jeopardies of such warfare. Once he had been bound to a tree, and the savages were beginning to toss their tomahawks at his head, when unhoped-for rescue[97] found him. As rugged old Israel ploughed his field, some one told him of Lexington. That day he ploughed no more. He sent word home that he had gone to Boston. Unyoking his horse from the plough, in a few minutes he was mounted and hastening towards the camp.

Boston and its suburbs stand on certain islets and peninsulas, access to which, from the mainland, is gained by one isthmus which is called Boston Neck, and another isthmus which is called Charlestown Neck. A city thus circumstanced is not difficult to blockade. The American Yeomanry blockaded Boston. There were five thousand soldiers in the town; but the retreat from Concord inclined General Gage to some measure of patient endurance, and he made no attempt to raise the blockade.

The month of May was wearing on, and still General Gage lay inactive. Still patriot Americans poured into the blockading camp. They were utterly undisciplined, and wholly without uniform. The English scorned them as a rabble “with calico frocks and fowling-pieces.” But they were Anglo-Saxons with arms in their hands, and a fixed purpose in their minds. It was very likely that the unwise contempt of their enemies would not be long unrebuked.

On the 25th, several English ships of war dropped their anchors in Boston Bay. It was rumoured that they brought large reinforcements under Howe, Burgoyne, and Clinton—the best generals England possessed. Shortly it became known that Gage now felt himself strong enough to break out upon his rustic besiegers. But the choice of time and place for the encounter was not to be left with General Gage.

On Charlestown peninsula, within easy gun-shot of Boston, there are two low hills, one of which, the higher, is called Bunker Hill, and the other Breed’s Hill. In a council of war the Americans determined to seize and fortify one of these heights, and there abide the onslaught of the English. There[98] was not a moment to lose. It was said that Gage intended to occupy the heights on the night of the 18th June. But Gage was habitually too late. On the 16th, a little before sunset, twelve hundred Americans were mustered on Cambridge Common for special service. Colonel Prescott, a veteran who had fought against the French, was in command. Putnam was with him, to be useful where he could, although without specified duties. Prayers were said; and the men, knowing only that they went to battle, and perhaps to death, set forth upon their march. They marched in silence, for their way led them under the guns of English ships. They reached the hill-top undiscovered by the supine foe. It was a lovely June night—warm and still. Far down lay the English ships—awful, but as yet harmless. Across the Charles river, Boston and her garrison slept the sleep of the unsuspecting. The “All’s well” of the sentinel crept, from time to time, dreamily up the hill. Swift now with spade and mattock, for the hours of this midsummer night are few and precious—swift, but cautious, too, for one ringing stroke of iron upon stone may ruin all!

When General Gage looked out upon the heights next morning, he saw a strong intrenchment and swarms of armed men where the untrodden grass had waved in the summer breeze a few hours before. He looked long through his glass at this unwelcome apparition. A tall figure paced to and fro along the rude parapet. It was Prescott. “Will he fight?” asked Gage eagerly. “Yes, sir,” replied a bystander; “to the last drop of his blood.”

It was indispensable that the works should be taken, and a plan of attack was immediately formed. It was sufficiently simple. No one supposed that the Americans would stand the shock of regular troops. The English were therefore to march straight up the hill and drive the Americans away. Meanwhile reinforcements were sent to the Americans, and supplies of ammunition were distributed. A gill of powder, to be carried[99] in a powder-horn or loose in the pocket, two flints and fifteen balls, were served out to each man. To obtain even the fifteen balls, they had to melt down the organ-pipes of an Episcopal church at Cambridge.

At noon English soldiers to the number of two thousand crossed over from Boston. The men on the hill-top looked out from their intrenchments upon a splendid vision of bright uniforms and bayonets and field-pieces flashing in the sun. They looked with quickened pulse but unshaken purpose. To men of their race it is not given to know fear on the verge of battle.

The English soldiers paused for refreshments when they landed on the Charlestown peninsula. The Americans could hear the murmur of their noisy talk and laughter. They saw the pitchers of grog pass along the ranks. And then they saw the Englishmen rise and stretch themselves to their grim morning’s work. From the steeples and house-tops of Boston—from all the heights which stand round about the city—thousands of Americans watched the progress of the fight.

The soldiers had no easy task before them. The day was “exceeding hot,” the grass was long and thick, the up-hill march was toilsome, the enemy watchful and resolute. As if to render the difficulty greater, the men carried three days’ provision with them in their knapsacks. Each man had a burden which weighed one hundred and twenty pounds in knapsack, musket, and other equipments. Thus laden they began their perilous ascent.

While yet a long way from the enemy they opened a harmless fire of musketry. There was no reply from the American lines. Putnam had directed the men to withhold their fire till they could see the white of the Englishmen’s eyes, and then to aim low. The Englishmen were very near the works when the word was given. Like the left-handed slingers of the tribe of Benjamin, the Americans could shoot to a hairbreadth. Every[100] man took his steady aim, and when they gave forth their volley few bullets sped in vain. The slaughter was enormous. The English recoiled in some confusion, a pitiless rain of bullets following them down the hill. Again they advanced almost to the American works, and again they sustained a bloody repulse. And now, at the hill-foot, they laid down their knapsacks and stripped off their great-coats. They were resolute this time to end the fight by the bayonet. The American ammunition was exhausted, and they could give the enemy only a single volley. The English swarmed over the parapet. The Americans had no bayonets, but for a time they waged unequal war with stones and the butt-ends of their muskets. They were soon driven out, and fled down the hill and across the Neck to Cambridge, the English ships raking them with grape-shot as they ran.

They had done their work. Victory no doubt remained with the English. Their object was to carry the American intrenchments, and they had carried them. Far greater than this was the gain of the Americans. It was proved that, with the help of some slight field-works, it was possible for undisciplined patriots to meet on equal terms the best troops England could send against them. Henceforth the success of the Revolution was assured. “Thank God,” said Washington, when he heard of the battle, “the liberties of the country are safe.” Would that obstinate King George could have been made to see it! But many wives must be widows, and many children fatherless, before those dull eyes will open to the unwelcome truth.

Sixteen hundred men lay, dead or wounded, on that fatal slope. The English had lost nearly eleven hundred; the Americans nearly five hundred. Seldom indeed in any battle has so large a proportion of the combatants fallen.

The Americans, who had thus taken up arms and resisted and slain the King’s troops, were wholly without authority for what they had done. No governing body of any description[101] had employed them or recognized them. What were still more alarming deficiencies, they were without a general, and without adequate supply of food and ammunition. 1775 A.D. Congress now, by a unanimous vote, adopted the army, and elected George Washington Commander-in-Chief of the patriot forces. They took measures to enlist soldiers, and to raise money for their support.

When Washington reached the army before Boston, he found it to consist of fourteen thousand men. They were quite undisciplined, and almost without ammunition. Their stock of powder would afford only nine rounds to each man. They could thus have made no use of their artillery. Their rude intrenchments stretched a distance of eight or nine miles. At any moment the English might burst upon them, piercing their weak lines, and rolling them back in hopeless rout. But the stubborn provincials were, as yet, scarcely soldiers enough to know their danger. Taking counsel only of their own courage, they strengthened their intrenchment, and tenaciously maintained their hold on Boston.

From a convenient hill-top Washington looked at his foe. He saw a British army of ten thousand men, perfect in discipline and equipment. It was a noble engine, but, happily for the world, it was guided by incompetent hands. General Gage tamely endured siege without daring to strike a single blow at the audacious patriots. It was no easy winter in either army. The English suffered from small-pox. Their fleet failed to secure for them an adequate supply of food. They had to pull down houses to obtain wood for fuel, at the risk of being hanged if they were discovered. They were dispirited by long inaction. They knew that in England the feeling entertained about them was one of bitter disappointment. Poor Gage was recalled by an angry Ministry, and quitted in disgrace that Boston where he had hoped for such success. General Howe succeeded to his command, and to his policy of inactivity.


Washington on his side was often in despair. His troops were mainly enlisted for three months only. Their love of country gave way under the hardships of a soldier’s life. Washington was a strict disciplinarian, and many a free-born back was scored by the lash. Patriotism proved a harder service than the men counted for. Fast as their time of service expired they set their faces homeward. Washington plied them with patriotic appeals, and even caused patriot songs to be sung about the camp. Not thus, however, could the self-indulgent men of Massachusetts and Connecticut be taught to scorn delights and live laborious days. “Such dearth of public spirit,” Washington writes, “and such want of virtue, such fertility in all the low arts, I never saw before.” 1776 A.D. When January came he had a new army, much smaller than the old, and the same weary process of drilling began afresh. He knew that Howe was aware of his position. The inactivity of the English general astonished Washington. He could explain it no otherwise than by believing that Providence watched over the liberties of the American people.

In February liberal supplies of arms and ammunition reached him. There came also ten regiments of militia. Washington was now strong enough to take a step.

To the south of Boston city lie the Heights of Dorchester. If the Americans can seize and hold these heights, the English must quit Boston. The night of the 4th of March was fixed for the enterprise. A heavy fire of artillery occupied the attention of the enemy. By the light of an unclouded moon a strong working-party took their way to Dorchester Heights. A long train of waggons accompanied them, laden with hard-pressed bales of hay. These were needed to form a breastwork, as a hard frost bound the earth, and digging alone could not be relied upon. The men worked with such spirit, that by dawn the bales of hay had been fashioned into various redoubts and other defences of most formidable aspect. A thick fog lay along the heights, and[103] the new fortress looked massive and imposing in the haze. “The rebels,” said Howe, “have done more work in one night than my whole army would have done in a month.”

And now the English must fight, or yield up Boston. The English chose to fight. They were in the act of embarking to get at the enemy when a furious east wind began to blow, scattering their transports and compelling the delay of the attack. All next day the storm continued to rage, and the English, eager for battle, lay in unwilling idleness. The vigorous Americans never ceased to dig and build. On the third day the storm abated. But it was now General Howe’s opinion that the American position was impregnable. It may be that he was wisely cautious; it may be that he was merely fearful. But he laid aside his thoughts of battle, and prepared to evacuate Boston. On the 17th the last English soldier was on board, and all New England was finally wrested from King George.



Even yet, after months of fighting, the idea of final separation from Great Britain was distasteful to a large portion of the American people. To the more enlightened it had long been evident that no other course was possible, but very many still clung to the hope of a friendly settlement of differences. Some, who were native Englishmen, loved the land of their birth better than the land of their adoption. The Quakers and Moravians were opposed to war as sinful, and would content themselves with such redress as could be obtained by remonstrance. Some, who deeply resented the oppressions of the home Government, were slow to relinquish the privilege of British citizenship. Some would willingly have fought had there been hope of success, but could not be convinced that America was able to defend herself against the colossal strength of England. The subject was discussed long and keenly. The intelligence of America was in favour of separation. All the writers of the colonies urged incessantly that to this it must come. Endless pamphlets and gazette articles set forth the oppressions of the old country, and the need of independence in order to the welfare of the colonies. Conspicuous among those whose writings aided in convincing the public mind stands the unhonoured name of Thomas Paine the infidel. Paine had been only a few months in the colonies, but his restless mind took a ready interest in the great question[105] of the day. He had a surprising power of direct, forcible argument. He wrote a pamphlet styled “Common Sense,” in which he urged the Americans to be independent. His treatise had, for those days, a vast circulation, and an extraordinary influence.

1776 A.D. The time was now ripe for the consideration by Congress of the great question of Independence. It was a grave and most eventful step, which no thinking man would lightly take, but it could no longer be shunned. On the 7th of June a resolution was introduced, declaring “That the United Colonies are and ought to be free and independent.” The House was not yet prepared for a measure so decisive. Many members still paused on the threshold of that vast change. Pennsylvania and Delaware had expressly enjoined their delegates to oppose it; for the Quakers were loyal to the last. Some other States had given no instructions, and their delegates felt themselves bound, in consequence, to vote against the change. Seven States voted for the resolution; six voted against it. Greater unanimity than this was indispensable. With much prudence it was agreed that the matter should stand over for two or three weeks.

On the 4th of July the Declaration of Independence was adopted, with the unanimous concurrence of all the States. In this famous document the usurpations of the English Government were set forth in unsparing terms. The divinity which doth hedge a King did not protect poor King George from a rougher handling than he ever experienced before. His character, it was said, “was marked by every act which can define a tyrant.” And then it was announced to the world that the Thirteen Colonies had terminated their political connection with Great Britain, and entered upon their career as free and independent States.

The vigorous action of Congress nerved the colonists for their great enterprise. The paralyzing hope of reconciliation was[106] extinguished. The quarrel must now be fought out to the end, and liberty must be gloriously won or shamefully lost. Everywhere the Declaration was hailed with joy. It was read to the army amidst exulting shouts. The soldiers in New York expressed their transference of allegiance by taking down a leaden statue of King George and casting it into bullets to be used against the King’s troops. Next day Washington, in the dignified language which was habitual to him, reminded his troops of their new duties and responsibilities. “The general,” he said, “hopes and trusts that every officer and soldier will endeavour so to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.”



England put forth as much strength as she deemed needful to subdue her rebellious colonists. She prepared a strong fleet and a strong army. She entered into contracts with some of the petty German princes to supply a certain number of soldiers. It was a matter of regular sale and purchase. England supplied money at a fixed rate; the Duke of Brunswick and some others supplied a stipulated number of men, who were to shed their blood in a quarrel of which they knew nothing. Even in a dark age these transactions were a scandal. Frederick of Prussia loudly expressed his contempt for both parties. When any of the hired men passed through any part of his territory he levied on them the toll usually charged for cattle—like which, he said, they had been sold!

So soon as the safety of Boston was secured, Washington moved with his army southwards to New York. Thither, in the month of June, came General Howe. Thither also came his brother, Lord Howe, with the forces which England had provided for this war. These reinforcements raised the British army to twenty-five thousand men. Lord Howe brought with him a commission from King George to pacify the dissatisfied colonists. He invited them to lay down their arms, and he assured them of the King’s pardon. His proposals were singularly[108] inopportune. The Declaration of Independence had just been published, and the Americans had determined to be free. They were not seeking to be forgiven, and they rejected with scorn Lord Howe’s proposals. The sword must now decide between King George and his alienated subjects.

Lord Howe encamped his troops on Staten Island, a few miles from New York. His powerful fleet gave him undisputed command of the bay, and enabled him to choose his point of attack. The Americans expected that he would land upon Long Island, and take possession of the heights near Brooklyn. He would then be separated from New York only by a narrow arm of the sea, and he could with ease lay the city in ruins. Washington sent a strong force to hold the heights, and throw up intrenchments in front of Brooklyn. General Putnam was appointed to the command of this army. Staten Island lies full in view of Brooklyn. The white tents of the English army, and the formidable English ships lying at their anchorage, were watched by many anxious eyes, for the situation was known to be full of peril. Washington himself did not expect success in the coming fight, and hoped for nothing more than that the enemy’s victory would cost him dear.

After a time it was seen that a movement was in progress among the English. One by one the tents disappeared. One by one the ships shook their canvas out to the wind, and moved across the bay. Then the Americans knew that their hour of trial was at hand.

Aug. 27, 1776 A.D. Putnam marched his men out from their lines to meet the English. At daybreak the enemy made his appearance. The right wing of the American army was attacked, and troops were withdrawn from other points to resist what seemed the main attack. Meanwhile a strong English force made its way unseen round the American left, and established itself between the Americans and their intrenchments. This decided the fate of the battle. The Americans[109] made a brave but vain defence. They were driven within their lines after sustaining heavy loss.

Lord Howe could easily have stormed the works, and taken or destroyed the American army. But his lordship felt that his enemy was in his power, and he wished to spare his soldiers the bloodshed which an assault would have caused. He was to reduce the enemy’s works by regular siege. It was no part of Washington’s intention to wait for the issue of these operations. During the night of the 29th he silently withdrew his broken troops, and landed them safely in New York. So skilfully was this movement executed, that the last boat had pushed off from the shore before the British discovered that their enemies had departed.

But now New York had to be abandoned. Washington’s army was utterly demoralized by the defeat at Brooklyn. The men went home, in some instances, by entire regiments. Washington confessed to the President of Congress with deep concern that he had no confidence “in the generality of the troops.” To fight the well-disciplined and victorious British with such men was worse than useless. He marched northwards, and took up a strong position at Haerlem, a village nine miles from New York. But the English ships, sweeping up the Hudson river, showed themselves on his flank and in his rear; the English army approached him in front. There was no choice but retreat. Washington crossed his soldiers over to the Jersey side of the river. The English followed him, after storming a fort in which nearly three thousand men had been left, the whole of whom were made prisoners.

The fortunes of the revolted colonies were now at the very lowest ebb. Washington had only four thousand men under his immediate command. They were in miserable condition—imperfectly armed, poorly fed and clothed, without blankets, or tents, or shoes. An English officer said of them, without extreme exaggeration, “In a whole regiment there is scarce one[110] pair of breeches.” This was the army which was to snatch a continent from the grasp of England! As they marched towards Philadelphia the people looked with derision upon their ragged defenders, and with fear upon the brilliant host of pursuers. Lord Howe renewed his offer of pardon to all who would submit. This time his lordship’s offers commanded some attention. Many of the wealthier patriots took the oath, and made their peace with a Government whose authority there was no longer any hope of throwing off.

Washington made good his retreat to Philadelphia, so hotly pursued that his rear-guard, engaged in pulling down bridges, were often in sight of the British pioneers sent to build them up. When he crossed the Delaware he secured all the boats for a distance of seventy miles along the river-course. Lord Howe was brought to a pause, and he decided to wait upon the eastern bank till the river should be frozen.

Washington knew well the desperate odds against him. He expected to be driven from the Eastern States. It was his thought, in that case, to retire beyond the Alleghanies, and in the wilderness to maintain undying resistance to the English yoke. Meantime he strove like a brave strong man to win back success to the patriot cause. It was only now that he was able to rid himself of the evil of short enlistments. Congress resolved that henceforth men should be enlisted to serve out the war.

Winter came, but Lord Howe remained inactive. He himself was in New York; his army was scattered about among the villages of New Jersey, fearing no evil from the despised Americans. All the time Washington was increasing the number of his troops, and improving their condition. But something was needed to chase away the gloom which paralyzed the country. Ten miles from Philadelphia was the village of Trenton, held by a considerable force of British and Hessians. At sunset on Christmas evening Washington marched out from[111] Philadelphia, having prepared a surprise for the careless garrison of Trenton. The night was dark and tempestuous, and the weather was so intensely cold that two of the soldiers were frozen to death. The march of the barefooted host could be tracked by the blood-marks which they left upon the snow. At daybreak they burst upon the astonished Royalists. The Hessians had drunk deep on the previous day, and they were ill prepared to fight. Their commander was slain as he attempted to bring his men up to the enemy. After his fall the soldiers laid down their arms, and surrendered at discretion.

1777 A.D. A week after this encounter three British regiments spent a night at Princeton, on their way to Trenton to retrieve the disaster which had there befallen their Hessian allies. Washington made another night march, attacked the Englishmen in the early morning, and after a stubborn resistance defeated them, inflicting severe loss.

These exploits, inconsiderable as they seem, raised incalculably the spirits of the American people. When triumphs like these were possible under circumstances so discouraging, there was no need to despair of the Commonwealth. Confidence in Washington had been somewhat shaken by the defeats which he had sustained. Henceforth it was unbounded. Congress invested him with absolute military authority for a period of six months, and public opinion confirmed the trust. The infant Republic was delivered from its most imminent jeopardy by the apparently trivial successes of Trenton and Princeton.



France still felt, with all the bitterness of the vanquished, her defeat at Quebec and her loss of Canada. She had always entertained the hope that the Americans would avenge her by throwing off the English yoke. To help forward its fulfilment, she sent occasionally a secret agent among them, to cultivate their good-will to the utmost. When the troubles began she sent secret assurances of sympathy, and secret offers of commercial advantages. She was not prepared as yet openly to espouse the American cause. But it was always safe to encourage the American dislike to England, and to connive at the fitting out of American privateers, to prey upon English commerce.

The Marquis de Lafayette was at this time serving in the French army. He was a lad of nineteen, of immense wealth, and enjoying a foremost place among the nobility of France. The American revolt had now become a topic at French dinner-tables. Lafayette heard of it first from the Duke of Gloucester, who told the story at a dinner given to him by some French officers. That conversation changed the destiny of the young Frenchman. “He was a man of no ability,” said Napoleon. “There is nothing in his head but the United States,” said Marie Antoinette. These judgments are perhaps not unduly severe. But Lafayette had the deepest sympathies with the cause of human liberty. They may not have been always wise,[113] but they were always generous and true. No sooner had he satisfied himself that the American cause was the cause of liberty than he hastened to ally himself with it. He left his young wife and his great position, and he offered himself to Washington. His military value may not have been great; but his presence was a vast encouragement to a desponding people. He was a visible assurance of sympathy beyond the sea. America is the most grateful of nations; and this good, impulsive, vain man has ever deservedly held a high place in her love. Washington once, with tears of joy in his eyes, presented Lafayette to his troops. Counties are named after him, and cities and streets. Statues and paintings hand down to successive generations of Americans the image of their first and most faithful ally.

Lafayette was the lightning-rod by which the current of republican sentiments was flashed from America to France. He came home when the war was over and America free. He was the hero of the hour. A man who had helped to set up a Republic in America was an unquiet element for old France to receive back into her bosom. With the charm of a great name and boundless popularity to aid him, he everywhere urged that men should be free and self-governing. Before he had been long in France he was busily stirring up the oppressed Protestants of the south to revolt. Happily the advice of Washington, with whom he continued to correspond, arrested a course which might have led the enthusiastic Marquis to the scaffold. Few men of capacity so moderate have been so conspicuous, or have so powerfully influenced the course of human affairs.



Spring-time came—“the time when Kings go out to battle”—but General Howe was not ready. Washington was contented to wait, for he gained by delay. 1777 A.D. Congress sent him word that he was to lose no time in totally subduing the enemy. Washington could now afford to smile at the vain confidence which had so quickly taken the place of despair. Recruits flowed in upon him in a steady, if not a very copious stream. The old soldiers whose terms expired were induced, by bounties and patriotic appeals, to re-enlist for the war. By the middle of June, when Howe opened the campaign, Washington had eight thousand men under his command, tolerably armed and disciplined, and in good fighting spirit. The patriotic sentiment was powerfully reinforced by a thirst to avenge private wrongs. Howe’s German mercenaries had behaved very brutally in New Jersey—plundering and burning without stint. Many of the Americans had witnessed outrages such as turn the coward’s blood to flame.

Howe wished to take Philadelphia, then the political capital of the States. But Washington lay across his path, in a strong position, from which he could not be enticed to descend. Howe marched towards him, but shunned to attack him where he lay. Then he turned back to New York, and embarking his troops, sailed with them to Philadelphia. The army was landed on the[115] 25th August, and Howe was at length ready to begin the summer’s work.

The American army waited for him on the banks of a small river called the Brandywine. The British superiority in numbers enabled them to attack the Americans in front and in flank. The Americans say that their right wing, on which the British attack fell with crushing weight, was badly led. One of the generals of that division was a certain William Alexander—known to himself and the country of his adoption as Lord Stirling—a warrior brave but foolish; “aged, and a little deaf.” The Americans were driven from the field; but they had fought bravely, and were undismayed by their defeat.

A fortnight later a British force, with Lord Cornwallis at its head, marched into Philadelphia. The Royalists were strong in that city of Quakers—specially strong among the Quakers themselves. The city was moved to unwonted cheerfulness. On that September morning, as the loyal inhabitants looked upon the bright uniforms and flashing arms of the King’s troops, and listened to the long-forbidden strains of “God save the King,” they felt as if a great and final deliverance had been vouchsafed to them. The patriots estimated the fall of the city more justly. It was seen that if Howe meant to hold Philadelphia, he had not force enough to do much else. Said the sagacious Benjamin Franklin,—“It is not General Howe that has taken Philadelphia; it is Philadelphia that has taken General Howe.”

The main body of the British were encamped at Germantown, guarding their new conquest. So little were the Americans daunted by their late reverses, that, within a week from the capture of Philadelphia, Washington resolved to attack the enemy. At sunrise on the 4th October the English were unexpectedly greeted by a bayonet-charge from a strong American force. It was a complete surprise, and at first the success was complete. But a dense fog, which had rendered the surprise[116] possible, ultimately frustrated the purpose of the assailants. The onset of the eager Americans carried all before it. But as the darkness, enhanced by the firing, deepened over the combatants, confusion began to arise. Regiments got astray from their officers. Some regiments mistook each other for enemies, and acted on that belief. Confusion swelled to panic, and the Americans fled from the field.

Winter was now at hand, and the British army returned to quarters in Philadelphia. Howe would have fought again, but Washington declined to come down from the strong position to which he had retired. His army had again been suffered to fall into straits which threatened its very existence. A patriot Congress urged him to defeat the English, but could not be persuaded to supply his soldiers with shoes or blankets, or even with food. He was advised to fall back on some convenient town where his soldiers would find the comforts they needed so much. But Washington was resolute to keep near the enemy. He fixed on a position at Valley Forge, among the hills, twenty miles from Philadelphia. Thither through the snow marched his half-naked army. Log-huts were erected with a rapidity of which no soldiers are so capable as Americans. There Washington fixed himself. The enemy was within reach, and he knew that his own strength would grow. The campaign which had now closed had given much encouragement to the patriots. It is true they had been often defeated, but they had learned to place implicit confidence in their commander. They had learned also that in courage they were equal, in activity greatly superior, to their enemies. All they required was discipline and experience, which another campaign would give. There was no longer any reason to look with alarm upon the future.



In the month of June, when Howe was beginning to win his lingering way to Philadelphia, a British army set out from Canada to conquer the northern parts of the revolted territory. 1777 A.D. General Burgoyne was in command. He was resolute to succeed. “This army must not retreat,” he said, when they were about to embark. The army did not retreat. On a fair field general and soldiers would have played a part of which their country would have had no cause to be ashamed. But this was a work beyond their strength.

Burgoyne marched deep into the New England States. But he had to do with men of a different temper from those of New York and Philadelphia. At his approach every man took down his musket from the wall and hurried to the front. Little discipline had they, but a resolute purpose and a sure aim. Difficulties thickened around the fated army. At length Burgoyne found himself at Saratoga. It was now October. Heavy rains fell; provisions were growing scanty; the enemy was in great force, and much emboldened by success. Gradually it became evident that the British were surrounded, and that no hope of fighting their way out remained. Night and day a circle of fire encompassed them. Burgoyne called his officers together. They could find no place for their sorrowful communing beyond reach of the enemy’s musketry, so closely was the net already drawn.[118] There was but one thing to do, and it was done. The British army surrendered. Nearly six thousand brave men, in sorrow and in shame, laid down their arms. The men who took them were mere peasants, no two of whom were dressed alike. The officers wore uncouth wigs, and most of them carried muskets and large powder-horns slung around their shoulders. No humiliation like this had ever befallen the British arms.

These grotesque American warriors behaved to their conquered enemies with true nobility. General Gates, the American commander, kept his men strictly within their lines, that they might not witness the piling of the British arms. No taunt was offered, no look of disrespect was directed against the fallen. “All were mute in astonishment and pity.”

England felt acutely the shame of this great disaster. Her people were used to victory. For many years she had been fighting in Europe, in India, in Canada, and always with brilliant success. Her defeat in America was contrary to all expectation. It was a bitter thing for a high-spirited people to hear that their veteran troops had surrendered to a crowd of half-armed peasantry. Under the depressing influence of this calamity it was determined to redress the wrongs of America. Parliament abandoned all claim to tax the colonies. Every vexatious enactment would be repealed; all would be forgiven, if America would return to her allegiance. Commissioners were sent bearing the olive-branch to Congress. Too late—altogether too late! Never more can America be a dependency of England. With few words Congress peremptorily declined the English overtures. America had chosen her course; for good or for evil she would follow it to the end.



A great war may be very glorious, but it is also very miserable. Twenty thousand Englishmen had already perished in this war. 1778 A.D. Trade languished, and among the working-classes there was want of employment and consequent want of food. American cruisers swarmed upon the sea, and inflicted enormous losses upon English commerce. The debt of the country increased. And for all these evils there was no compensation. There was not even the poor satisfaction of success in our unprofitable undertaking.

If it was any comfort to inflict even greater miseries than she endured, England did not fight in vain. The sufferings of America were very lamentable. The loss of life in battle and by disease, resulting from want and exposure, had been great. The fields in many districts were unsown. Trade was extinct; the trading classes were bankrupt. English cruisers had annihilated the fisheries and seized the greater part of the American merchant ships. Money had well-nigh disappeared from the country. Congress issued paper-money, which proved a very indifferent substitute. The public had so little confidence in the new currency, that Washington declared, “A waggon-load of money will scarcely purchase a waggon-load of provisions.”

But the war went on. It was not for England, with her high place among the nations, to retire defeated from an enterprise[120] on which she had deliberately entered. As for the Americans, after they had declared their resolution to be independent, they could die, but they could not yield.

The surrender of Burgoyne brought an important ally to the American side. The gods help those who help themselves. So soon as America proved that she was likely to conquer in the struggle, France offered to come to her aid. France had always looked with interest on the war; partly because she hated England, and partly because her pulses already throbbed with that new life, whose misdirected energies produced, a few years afterwards, results so lamentable. Even now a people contending for their liberties awakened the sympathies of France. America had sent three Commissioners—one of whom was Benjamin Franklin—to Paris, to cultivate as opportunity offered the friendship of the French Government. For a time they laboured without visible results. But when news came that Burgoyne and his army had surrendered, hesitation was at an end. A treaty was signed by which France and America engaged to make common cause against England. The King opposed this treaty so long as he dared, but he was forced to give way. England, of course, accepted it as a declaration of war.

Spain could not miss the opportunity of avenging herself upon England. Her King desired to live at peace, he said, and to see his neighbours do the same. But he was profoundly interested in the liberties of the young Republic, and he was bound by strong ties to his good brother of France. Above all, England had in various quarters of the world grievously wronged him, by violating his territory and interfering with the trade of his subjects. And so he deemed it proper that he should waste the scanty substance of his people in equipping fleets and armies. When his preparations were complete he joined France and America in the league, and declared war against England.

The fleets of France and Spain appeared in the English[121] Channel, and England had to face the perils of invasion. The spirit of her people rose nobly to meet the impending trial. The southern counties were one great camp. Voluntary contributions from all parts of the country aided Government to equip ships and soldiers. The King was to head his warlike people, should the enemy land, and share their danger and their glory. But the black cloud rolled harmlessly away, and the abounding heroism of the people was not further evoked. The invading admirals quarrelled. One of them wished to land at once; the other wished first to dispose of the English fleet. They could not agree upon a course, and therefore they sailed away home each to his own country, having effected nothing.

The war spread itself over a very wide surface. In the north, Paul Jones with three American ships alarmed the Scotch coast and destroyed much shipping. Spain besieged Gibraltar, but failed to regain that much-coveted prize. On the African coast, the French took Senegal from the English, and the English took Goree from the French. In the West Indies, the French took St. Vincent and Granada. On the American Continent, from New York to Savannah, the same wasteful and bloody labour was ruthlessly pursued.

The remaining years of the war were distinguished by few striking or decisive enterprises. The fleet sent by France sailed hither and thither in a feeble manner, accomplishing nothing. When General Howe was made aware of its approach, he abandoned Philadelphia and retired to New York. Washington followed him on his retreat, but neither then nor for some time afterwards could effect much. Congress and the American people formed sanguine expectations of the French alliance, and ceased to put forth the great efforts which distinguished the earlier period of the war. The English overran Georgia and the Carolinas. The Americans captured two or three forts. The war degenerated into a series of marauding expeditions. Some towns, innumerable farm-houses, were burned by the English.[122] Occasional massacres took place. With increasing frequency, prisoners were, under a variety of pretexts, put to death. On both sides feeling had become intensely bitter. On both sides cruelties of a most savage type were perpetrated.

To the very end Washington’s army was miserably supplied, and endured extreme hardships. Congress was a weak, and, it must be added, a very unwise body. The ablest men were in the army, and Congress was composed of twenty or thirty persons of little character or influence. They had no authority to impose taxes. They tried to borrow money in Europe, and failed. They had only one resource—the issue of paper currency, and this was carried to such a wild excess that latterly a colonel’s pay would not buy oats for his horse. Washington ceased to have the means of purchasing. Reluctantly, and under pressure of extreme necessity, he forcibly exacted supplies of meat and flour from the neighbourhood. Not otherwise could he save his army from dissolution and the country from ruin.

But there was one respect in which the cause grew constantly in strength. Men do not fight for eight years, in a war like this, without learning to hate each other. With a deep and deadly hatred the American people hated the power which ruthlessly inflicted upon them such cruel sufferings. Under the growing influence of this hatred, men became soldiers with increasing alacrity. The hardships of soldier-life no longer daunted them, so long as they had the English to resist. The trouble of short enlistments had ceased, and Washington was at length at the head of an army, often ill fed and always ill clad, but disciplined and invincibly resolved that their country should be free.



The Americans had a strong fortress at West Point, on the Hudson river. It was one of the most important places in the country, and its acquisition was anxiously desired by the English. Possession of West Point would have given them command of the Hudson, up which their ships of war could have sailed for more than a hundred miles. But that fort, sitting impregnably on rocks two hundred feet above the level of the river, was hard to win; and the Americans were careful to garrison effectively a position so vitally important.

In the American army was an officer named Arnold, who had served, not without distinction, from the beginning of the war. He had fought in Canada when the Americans unsuccessfully invaded that province. His courage and skill had been conspicuous in the engagements which led to the surrender of Burgoyne. He was, however, a vain, reckless, unscrupulous person. He had by extravagance in living involved himself in debt, which he aggravated hopelessly by ill-judged mercantile speculations. He had influence with Washington to obtain the command of West Point. There is little doubt that when he sought the appointment it was with the full intention of selling that important fortress to the enemy. He opened negotiations at once with Sir Henry Clinton, then in command of the English army at New York.


Clinton sent Major André to arrange the terms of the contemplated treachery. A mournful interest attaches to the name of this young officer: the fate which befell him was so very sad. He was of French descent—high-spirited, accomplished, affectionate, merry-hearted. It was a service which a high-principled man would scarcely have coveted. But André desired eagerly to have the merit of gaining West Point, and he volunteered for this perilous enterprise.

Sept. 1780 A.D. At midnight Major André landed from the boat of a British ship of war, at a lonely place where Arnold waited him. Their conference lasted so long that it was deemed unsafe for André to return to the ship. He was conducted to a place of concealment within the American lines, to await the return of darkness. He completed his arrangement with Arnold, and received drawings of the betrayed fortress. His mission was now accomplished. The ship from which he had come lay full in view. Would that he could reach her! But difficulties arose, and it was resolved that he must ride to New York, a distance of fifty miles. Disguising himself as he best could, André reluctantly accepted this very doubtful method of escape from his fearful jeopardy.

Within the American lines he had some narrow escapes, but the pass given by Arnold carried him through. He was at length beyond the lines. His danger might now be considered at an end, and he rode cheerfully on his lonely journey. He was crossing a small stream—thick woods on his right hand and his left enhanced the darkness of the night. Three armed men stepped suddenly from among the trees and ordered him to stand. From the dress of one of them, André thought he was among friends. He hastened to tell them he was a British officer, on very special business, and he must not be detained. Alas for poor Major André, they were not friends; and the dress which deceived him had been given to the man who wore it when he was a prisoner with the English,[125] in place of a better garment of which his captors had stripped him.

André was searched; but at first nothing was found. It seemed as if he might yet be allowed to proceed, when one of the three men exclaimed, “Boys, I am not satisfied. His boots must come off.” André’s countenance fell. His boots were searched, and Arnold’s drawings of West Point were discovered. The men knew then that he was a spy. He vainly offered them money; they were incorruptible. He was taken to the nearest military station, and the tidings were at once sent to Washington, who chanced to be then at West Point. Arnold had timely intimation of the disaster, and fled for refuge to a British ship of war.

André was tried by a court formed of officers of the American army. He gave a frank and truthful account of his part in the unhappy transaction—bringing into due prominence the circumstance that he was brought, without intention or knowledge on his part, within the American lines. The court judged him on his own statement, and condemned him to be hanged as a spy.

His capture and sentence caused deep sensation in the English army, and every effort was made to save him. But Washington was resolute that he should die. The danger to the patriot cause had been too great to leave any place for relenting. There were dark intimations of other treasons yet unrevealed. It was needful to give emphatic warning of the perils which waited on such unlawful negotiations. André begged that he might be allowed to die a soldier’s death. Even this poor boon was refused to the unhappy young man. Since the awful lesson must be given, Washington considered that no circumstance fitted to enhance its terrors should be withheld. But this was mercifully concealed from André to the very last.

Ten days after his arrest, André was led forth to die. He was under the impression that his last request had been granted,[126] and that he would die by the bullet. It was a fresh pang when the gibbet, with its ghastly preparations, stood before him. “How hard is my fate,” he said; “but it will soon be over.” He bandaged his own eyes; with his own hands adjusted the noose to his neck. The cart on which he stood moved away, and poor Major André was no longer in the world of living men. Forty years afterwards his remains were brought home to England and laid in Westminster Abbey.



During the later years of the war the English kept possession of the Southern States, which, as we have seen, they had gained so easily. 1781 A.D. When the last campaign opened, Lord Cornwallis with a strong force represented British authority in the South, and did all that he found possible for the suppression of the patriots. But the time was past when any real progress in that direction could be made. A certain vigorous and judicious General Greene, with such rough semblance of an army as he could draw together, gave Lord Cornwallis many rude shocks. The English gained little victories occasionally, but they suffered heavy losses, and the territory over which they held dominion was upon the whole becoming smaller.

About midsummer, the joyous news reached Washington that a powerful French fleet, with an army on board, was about to sail for America. With this reinforcement, Washington had it in his power to deliver a blow which would break the strength of the enemy, and hasten the close of the war. Clinton held New York, and Cornwallis was fortifying himself in Yorktown. The French fleet sailed for the Chesapeake, and Washington decided in consequence that his attack should be made on Lord Cornwallis. With all possible secrecy and speed the American troops were moved southwards to Virginia. They were joined by the French, and they stood before Yorktown[128] a force twelve thousand strong. Cornwallis had not expected them, and he called on Clinton to aid him. But it was too late. He was already in a grasp from which there was no escaping.

Throughout the war, the weakness of his force often obliged Washington to adopt a cautious and defensive policy, which grievously disappointed the expectations of his impatient countrymen. It is not therefore to be imagined that his leadership was wanting in vigour. Within his calm and well-balanced mind there lurked a fiery energy, ready to burst forth when occasion required. The siege of Yorktown was pushed on with extraordinary vehemence. The English, as their wont is, made a stout defence, and strove by desperate sallies to drive the assailants from their works. But in a few days the defences of Yorktown lay in utter ruin, beaten to the ground by the powerful artillery of the Americans. The English guns were silenced; the English shipping was fired by red-hot shot from the French batteries. Ammunition began to grow scarce. The place could not be held much longer, and Clinton still delayed his coming. Lord Cornwallis must either force his way out and escape to the North, or surrender. One night he began to embark his men in order to cross the York river and set out on his desperate march to New York; but a violent storm arose and scattered his boats. The men who had embarked got back with difficulty, under fire from the American batteries. All hope was now at an end. In about a fortnight from the opening of the siege, the British army, eight thousand strong, laid down its arms.

The joy of America over this great crowning success knew no bounds. One highly emotional patriot was said to have expired from mere excess of rapture. Some others lost their reason. In the army, all who were under arrest were at once set at liberty. A day of solemn thanksgiving was proclaimed and devoutly observed throughout the rejoicing States.


1782 A.D. Well might the colonists rejoice, for their long and bitter struggle was now about to close. Stubborn King George would not yield yet. But England and her Parliament were sick of this hopeless and inglorious war. The House of Commons voted that all who should advise the continuance of the war were enemies to the country. A new Ministry was formed, and negotiations with a view to peace were begun. The King had no doubt that if America were allowed to go, the West Indies would go—Ireland would go—all his foreign possessions would go; and discrowned England would sink into weakness and contempt. But too much heed had already been given to the King and his fancies. Jan. 20, 1783 A.D. Peace was concluded with France and Spain, and the independence of America was at length recognized.

Eight years had passed since the first blood was shed at Lexington. Thus long the unyielding English, unused to failure, had striven to regain the lost ascendency. Thus long the colonists had borne the miseries of invasion, not shaken in their faith that the independence which they had undertaken to win was well worth all it cost them. And now they were free, and England was the same to them as all the rest of the world,—“in peace, a friend; in war, a foe.” They had little left them but their liberty and their soil. They had been unutterably devastated by those eight bloody years. Their fields had been wasted; their towns had been burned; commerce was extinct; money had almost disappeared from the country. Their public debt reached the large sum of one hundred and seventy million dollars. The soldiers who had fought out the national independence were not paid till they showed some disposition to compel a settlement. There was nothing which could be called a Government. There were thirteen sovereign States, loosely knit together by a Congress. That body had power to discuss[130] questions affecting the general good; to pass resolutions; to request the several States to give effect to these resolutions. The States might or might not comply with such request. Habitually they did not, especially when money was asked for. Congress had no power to tax. It merely apportioned among the States the amounts required for the public service, and each State was expected to levy a tax for its proportion. But in point of fact it became utterly impossible to get money by this process.

1786 A.D. Great hardships were endured by the labouring population. The impatience of a suffering people expressed itself in occasional sputterings of insurrection. Two thousand men of Massachusetts rose in arms to demand that the collection of debts should be suspended. It was some weeks before that rising could be quelled, as the community generally sympathized with the insurgents. During four or five years the miseries of the ungoverned country seemed to warrant the belief that her war of independence had been a mistake.

But a future of unparalleled magnificence lay before this sorely vexed and discouraged people. The boundless corn-lands of the west, the boundless cotton-fields of the south, waited to yield their wealth. Pennsylvania held unimagined treasures of coal and iron—soon to be evoked by the irresistible spell of patient industry. America was a vast store-house, prepared by the Great Father against the time when his children would have need of it. The men who are the stewards over its opulence have now freed themselves from some entanglements and hindrances which grievously diminished their efficiency, and stand prepared to enter in good earnest upon that high industrial vocation to which Providence has called them.

There had been periods during the war when confidence in Washington’s leadership was shaken. He sustained many reverses. He oftentimes retreated. He adhered tenaciously to a defensive policy, when Congress and people were burning[131] with impatience to inflict crushing defeat upon the foe. The deplorable insufficiency of his resources was overlooked, and the blame of every disaster fell on him. And when at length the cause began to prosper, and hope brightened into triumph, timid people were apt to fear that Washington was growing too powerful. He had become the idol of a great army. He had but to signify his readiness to accept a throne, and his soldiers would have crowned him King. It was usual in the revolutions of the world that a military chief should grasp at supreme power; and so it was feared that Washington was to furnish one example more of that lawless and vulgar lust of power by which human history has been so largely dishonoured.

But Washington sheathed his sword, and returned gladly to his home on the banks of the Potomac. He proposed to spend his days “in cultivating the affections of good men, and in the practice of the domestic virtues.” He hoped “to glide gently down the stream which no human effort can ascend.” He occupied himself with the care of his farm, and had no deeper feeling than thankfulness that he was at length eased of a load of public care. The simple grandeur of his character was now revealed beyond possibility of misconception. The measure of American veneration for this greatest of all Americans was full. Henceforth Mount Vernon was a shrine to which pilgrim feet were ever turned—evoking such boundless love and reverence as never were elsewhere exhibited on American soil.



Washington saw from the beginning that his country was without a government. Congress was a mere name. There were still thirteen sovereign States—in league for the moment, but liable to be placed at variance by the differences which time would surely bring. Washington was satisfied that without a central government they could never be powerful or respected. Such a government, indeed, was necessary in order even to their existence. European powers would, in its absence, introduce dissensions among them. Men’s minds would revert to that form of government with which they were familiar. Some ambitious statesman or soldier would make himself King, and the great experiment, based upon the equality of rights, would prove an ignominious failure.

The more sagacious Americans shared Washington’s belief on this question. Conspicuous among these was Alexander Hamilton—perhaps, next to Washington, the greatest American of that age. Hamilton was a brave and skilful soldier, a brilliant debater, a persuasive writer, a wise statesman. In his nineteenth year he entered the army, at the very beginning of the war. The quick eye of Washington discovered the remarkable promise of the lad. He raised him to high command in the army, and afterwards to high office in the government. It was Hamilton who brought order out of the financial chaos which[133] followed the war. It was Hamilton who suggested the convention to consider the framing of a new Constitution. Often, during the succeeding years, Hamilton’s temperate and sagacious words calmed the storms which marked the infancy of the great Republic. His career had a dark and bloody close. 1804 A.D. In his forty-seventh year he stood face to face, one bright July morning, with a savage politician named Aaron Burr—a grandson of Jonathan Edwards the great divine. Burr had fastened a quarrel upon him, in the hope of murdering him in a duel. Hamilton had resolved not to fire. Burr fired with careful aim, and Hamilton fell, wounded to death. One of the ablest men America has ever possessed was thus lost to her.

1783 A.D. Immediately after the close of the war, Hamilton began to discuss the weakness of the existing form of government. He was deeply convinced that the union of the States, in order to be lasting, must be established on a solid basis; and his writings did much to spread this conviction among his fellow-countrymen. Washington never ceased from his retirement to urge the same views. Gradually the urgent need of a better system was recognized. It indeed soon became too obvious to be denied. Congress found it utterly impossible to get money. Between 1781 and 1786, ten million dollars were called for from the States, but only two million and a half were obtained. The interest on the debt was unpaid; the ordinary expenses of the government were unprovided for. The existing form of government was an acknowledged failure. Something better had to be devised, or the tie which bound the thirteen States would be severed.

1787 A.D. Hamilton obtained the sanction of Congress to his proposal that a convention of delegates from the several States should be held. This convention was to review the whole subject of the governing arrangement, and to recommend such alterations as should be considered adequate to the exigencies of the time. Philadelphia, as usual, was[134] the place of meeting. Thither, in the month of May, came the men who were charged with the weighty task of framing a government under which the thirteen States should become a nation.

Fifty-five men composed this memorable council. Among them were the wisest men of whom America, or perhaps any other country, could boast. Washington himself presided. Benjamin Franklin brought to this—his latest and his greatest task—the ripe experience of eighty-two years. New York sent Hamilton—regarding whom Prince Talleyrand said, long afterwards, that he had known nearly all the leading men of his time, but he had never known one on the whole equal to Hamilton. With these came many others whose names are held in enduring honour. Since the meeting of that first Congress which pointed the way to independence, America had seen no such Assembly.

The convention sat for four months. The great work which occupied it divided the country into two parties. One party feared most the evils which arise from weakness of the governing power, and sought relief from these in a close union of the States under a strong government. Another party dwelt more upon the miserable condition of the over-governed nations of Europe, and feared the creation of a government which might grow into a despotism. The aim of the one was to vest the largest possible measure of power in a central government. Hamilton, indeed—to whom the British Constitution seemed the most perfect on earth—went so far as to desire that the States should be merely great municipalities, attending only, like an English corporation, to their own local concerns. The aim of the other was to circumscribe the powers accorded to the general government—to vindicate the sovereignty of the individual States, and give to it the widest possible scope. These two sets of opinions continued to exist and conflict for three-quarters of a century, till that which assigned an undue dominion to[135] what were called State Rights, perished in the overthrow of the great Rebellion.

Slowly and through endless debate the convention worked out its plan of a government. The scheme was submitted to Congress, and thence sent down to the several States. Months of fiery discussion ensued. Somewhat reluctantly, by narrow majorities, in the face of vehement protests, the Constitution was at length adopted under which the thirteen States were to become so great.

Great Britain has no written Constitution. She has her laws; and it is expected that all future laws shall be in tolerable harmony with the principles on which her past legislation has been founded. But if Parliament were to enact, and the Sovereign to sanction, any law at variance with these principles, there is no help for it. Queen, Lords, and Commons are our supreme authority, from whose decisions there lies no appeal. In America it is different. There the supreme authority is a written Constitution. Congress may unanimously enact, and the President may cordially sanction, a new law. Two or three judges, sitting in the same building where Congress meets, may compare that law with the Constitution. If it is found at variance with the Constitution, it is unceremoniously declared to be no law, and entitled to no man’s obedience. With a few alterations, this Constitution remains in full force now—gathering around it, as it increases in age, the growing reverence of the people. The men who framed it must have been very wise. The people for whom it was framed must possess in high degree the precious Anglo-Saxon veneration for law. Otherwise the American paper Constitution must long ago have shared the fate of the numerous documents of this class under which the French vainly sought rest during their first Revolution.

Each of the thirteen States was sovereign, and the government of America hitherto had been merely a league of independent[136] powers. Now the several States parted with a certain amount of their sovereignty, and vested it in a General Government. The General Government was to levy taxes, to coin money, to regulate commercial relations with foreign countries, to establish post-offices and post-roads, to establish courts of law, to declare war, to raise and maintain armies and navies, to make treaties, to borrow money on the credit of the United States. The individual States expressly relinquished the right to perform these sovereign functions.

These powers were intrusted to two Houses of Legislation and a President. The House of Representatives is composed of two hundred and forty-three members. The members hold their seats for two years, and are paid five thousand dollars annually. Black men and Indians were not allowed to vote; but all white men had a voice in the election of their representatives. To secure perfect equality of representation, members are distributed according to population. Thus, in 1863 a member was given to every 124,000 inhabitants. Every ten years a readjustment takes place, and restores the equality which the growth of the intervening period has disturbed.

The large States send necessarily a much larger number of members to the Lower House than the small States do. Thus New York sends thirty-one, while Rhode Island sends only two, Delaware and Florida only one. The self-love of the smaller States was wounded by an arrangement which resembled absorption into the larger communities. The balance was redressed in the constitution of the Upper Chamber—the Senate. That body is composed of seventy-six members, elected by the legislatures of the States. Every State, large or small, returns two members. The small States were overborne in the Lower House, but in the Senate they enjoyed an importance equal to that of their most populous neighbours. The senators are elected for six years, and are paid at the same rate as the members of the House of Representatives.


The head of the American Government is the President. He holds office for four years. Each State chooses a number of persons equal to the total number of members whom it returns to the Houses of Legislation. These persons elect the President. They elect also a Vice-President, lest the President should be removed by death or otherwise during his term of office. All laws enacted by Congress must be submitted to the President. He may refuse to pass them—sending them back with a statement of his objections. But should both Houses, by a vote of two-thirds of their number, adhere to the rejected measures, they become law in spite of the President’s veto. The President appoints his own Cabinet Ministers, and these have no seats in Congress. Their annual reports upon the affairs of their departments are communicated to Congress by the President, along with his own Message. The President is Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. With concurrence of the Senate, he appoints ambassadors, judges of the Supreme Court, and other public officers.

Every State has a government after the same pattern, composed of two Houses of Legislation and a Governor. These authorities occupy themselves with the management of such affairs as exclusively concern their own State, and have, therefore, not been relinquished to the General Government. They legislate in regard to railway and other public companies. They see to the administration of justice within their own territory, unless in the case of crimes committed against the Government. They pass such laws as are required in regard to private property and rights of succession. Above all, they retained all the powers of which they were ever possessed in regard to slavery. The Constitution gave Congress authority to suppress the importation of slaves after the year 1808. Not otherwise was the slave-question interfered with. That remained wholly under the control of the individual States.

But the men who framed this Constitution, however wise,[138] were liable to err. And if they were found in after years to have erred, what provision—other than a revolution—was made for correcting their mistakes? A very simple and very effective one. When two-thirds of both Houses of Legislation deem it necessary that some amendment of the Constitution should be made, they propose it to the legislatures of the several States. When three-fourths of these judicatories adopt the proposal, it becomes a part of the Constitution. There have been in all fifteen amendments adopted, most of them very soon after the Constitution itself came into existence.

And now the conditions of the great experiment are adjusted. Three million Americans have undertaken to govern themselves. Europe does not believe that any people can prosper in such an undertaking. Europe still clings to the belief that, in every country, a few Heaven-sent families must guide the destinies of the incapable, child-like millions. America—having no faith in Heaven-sent families—believes that the millions are the best and safest guides of their own destinies, and means to act on that belief. On her success great issues wait. If the Americans show that they can govern themselves, all the other nations will gradually put their hands to the same ennobling work.

1789 A.D. The first step to be taken under the new Constitution was to elect a President. There was but one man who was thought of for this high and untried office. George Washington was unanimously chosen. Congress was summoned to meet in New York on the 4th of March. But the members had to travel far on foot, or on horseback. Roads were bad, bridges were few; streams, in that spring-time, were swollen. It was some weeks after the appointed time before business could be commenced.

That Congress had difficult work to do, and it was done patiently, with much plain sense and honesty. As yet there[139] was no revenue, while everywhere there was debt. The General Government had debt, and each of the States had debt. There was the Foreign Debt—due to France, Holland, and Spain. There was the Army Debt—for arrears of pay and pensions. There was the Debt of the Five Great Departments—for supplies obtained during the war. There was a vast issue of paper money to be redeemed. There were huge arrears of interest. And, on the other hand, there was no provision whatever for these enormous obligations.

Washington, with a sigh, asked a friend, “What is to be done about this heavy debt?” “There is but one man in America can tell you,” said his friend, “and that is Alexander Hamilton.” Washington made Hamilton Secretary to the Treasury. The success of his financial measures was immediate and complete. “He smote the rock of the national resources,” said Daniel Webster, “and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the dead corpse of the public credit, and it sprang upon its feet.” All the war debts of the States were assumed by the General Government. Efficient provision was made for the regular payment of interest, and for a sinking fund to liquidate the principal. Duties were imposed on shipping, on goods imported from abroad, and on spirits manufactured at home. The vigour of the Government inspired public confidence, and commerce began to revive. In a few years the American flag was seen on every sea. The simple manufactures of the country resumed their long interrupted activity. A National Bank was established. Courts were set up, and judges were appointed. The salaries of the President and the great functionaries were settled. A home was chosen for the General Government on the banks of the Potomac; where the capital of the Union was to supplant the little wooden village—remote from the agitations which arise in the great centres of population. Innumerable details connected with the establishment of a new government were discussed and fixed. Novel as[140] the circumstances were, little of the work then done has required to be undone. Succeeding generations of Americans have approved the wisdom of their early legislators, and continue unaltered the arrangements which were framed at the outset of the national existence.

Thirty years of peace succeeded the War of Independence. There were, indeed, passing troubles with the Indians, ending always in the sharp chastisement of those disagreeable savages. 1804 A.D. There was an expedition against Tripoli, to avenge certain indignities which the barbarians of that region had offered to American shipping. There was a misunderstanding with the French Directory, which was carried to a somewhat perilous extreme. 1789 A.D. A desperate fight took place between a French frigate and an American frigate, resulting in the surrender of the former. But these trivial agitations did not disturb the profound tranquillity of the nation, or hinder its progress in that career of prosperity on which it had now entered.

Washington was President during the first eight years of the Constitution. 1799 A.D. He survived his withdrawal from public life only three years, dying, after a few hours’ illness, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. His countrymen mourned him with a sorrow sincere and deep. Their reverence for him has not diminished with the progress of the years. Each new generation of Americans catches up the veneration—calm, intelligent, but profound—with which its fathers regarded the blameless Chief. To this day there is an affectionate watchfulness for opportunities to express the honour in which his name is held. To this day the steamers which ply upon the Potomac strike mournful notes upon the bell as they sweep past Mount Vernon, where Washington spent the happiest days of his life, and where he died.



America was well contented during many years to be merely a spectator of the Great European War. In spite of some differences which had arisen, she still cherished a kindly feeling towards France—her friend in the old time of need. She had still a bitter hatred to England, her tyrant, as she deemed, and her cruel foe. But her sympathies did not regulate her policy. She had no call to avenge the dishonour offered to royalty by the people of France. As little was it her business to strengthen France against the indignation of outraged monarchs. Her distance exempted her from taking any part in the bloody politics of Europe, and she was able to look quietly on while the flames of war consumed the nations of the Old World. Her ships enjoyed a monopoly. She traded impartially with all the combatants. The energies of Europe were taxed to the uttermost by a gigantic work of mutual destruction. The Americans conveyed to the people thus unprofitably occupied the foreign articles of which they stood in need, and made great gain of their neighbours’ madness.

1806 A.D. But the time came when France and England were to put forth efforts more gigantic than before, to compass the ruin of each other. England gave out a decree announcing that all the coasts of France and her allies were in a state of blockade, and that any vessels attempting to trade[142] with the blockaded countries were liable to seizure. At that time nearly all the Continent was in alliance with France. Napoleon replied by declaring the British Isles in a state of blockade. These decrees closed Europe against American vessels. Many captures were made, especially by English cruisers. American merchants suffered grievous losses, and loudly expressed their just wrath against the wicked laws which wrought them so much evil.

There was another question out of which mischief arose. England has always maintained that any person who has once been her subject can never cease to be so. He may remove to another country; he may become the citizen of another state. English law recognizes no such transaction. England claims that the man is still an English subject—entitled to the advantages of that relation, and bound by its obligations. America, on the other hand, asserted that men could lay down their original citizenship, and assume another—could transfer their allegiance—could relinquish the privileges and absolve themselves from the obligations which they inherited. The Englishmen who settled on her soil were regarded by her as American citizens and as nothing else.

Circumstances arose which bestowed dangerous importance upon these conflicting doctrines. England at that time obtained sailors by impressment. That is to say, she seized men who were engaged on board merchant vessels, and compelled them to serve on board her ships of war. It was a process second only to the slave-trade in its iniquity. The service to which men were thus introduced could not but be hateful. There was a copious desertion, as opportunity offered, and America was the natural refuge. English ships of war claimed the right to search American vessels for men who had deserted; and also for men who, as born English subjects, were liable to be impressed. It may well be believed that this right was not always exercised with a strict regard to justice. It was not always easy to distinguish[143] an Englishman from an American. Perhaps the English captains were not very scrupulous as to the evidence on which they acted. The Americans asserted that six thousand men, on whom England had no shadow of claim, were ruthlessly carried off to fight under a flag they hated; the English Government admitted the charge to the extent of sixteen hundred men. The American people vehemently resented the intolerable pretension of England. Occasionally an American ship resisted it, and blood was freely shed.

1807 A.D. When England and France decreed the closing of all European ports against commerce, America hastened to show that she could be as unwise as her neighbours. Congress prohibited commerce with the European powers which had so offended. The people, wiser than their rulers, disapproved this measure; but the Government enforced it. The President was empowered to call out militia and employ armed vessels to prevent cargoes of American produce from leaving the country. It was hoped that England and France, thus bereaved of articles which were deemed necessary, would be constrained to repeal their injurious decrees.

Thus for four years commerce was suspended, and grass grew on the idle wharves of New York and Philadelphia. The cotton and tobacco of the Southern States, the grain and timber of the North, were stored up to await the return of reason to the governing powers of the world. Tens of thousands of working people were thrown idle. The irritation of the impoverished nation was fast ripening towards war.

America wanted now the wise leadership which she enjoyed at the period of her revolutionary struggle. Washington had never ceased to urge upon his countrymen the desirableness of being on good terms with England. But Washington was dead, and his words were not remembered. Franklin was dead, Hamilton had fallen by the murdering hand of Aaron Burr. There was a strong party eager for war. The commercial towns[144] on the sea-board dreaded the terrible ships of England, and desired to negotiate for redress of grievances. The people of the interior, having no towns to be bombarded, preferred to try their strength with England in battle. Some attempts at negotiation resulted in failure. June 18, 1812 A.D. At length Congress ended suspense by passing a Bill which declared war against Great Britain.

It was a bolder challenge than America supposed it to be. England, indeed, had her hands full, for the power of her great foe seemed to be irresistible. But even then the axe was laid to its roots. In that same month of June Napoleon crossed the river Niemen and entered Russia upon his fatal march to Moscow. A few weeks before, the Duke of Wellington had wrenched from his grasp the two great frontier fortresses of Spain, and was now beginning to drive the French armies out of the Peninsula. England would soon have leisure for her new assailant; but all this was as yet unseen.

When war was declared, England possessed one thousand ships of war, and America possessed twenty. Their land forces were in like proportion. England had nearly a million of men under arms. America had an army reckoned at twenty-four thousand, many of them imperfectly disciplined and not yet to be relied upon in the field. Her treasury was empty. She was sadly wanting in officers of experience. She had declared war, but it was difficult to see what she could do in the way of giving effect to her hostile purposes.

But she held to these purposes with unfaltering tenacity. Four days after Congress had resolved to fight, England repealed those blockading decrees which had so justly offended the Americans. There remained now only the question of the right of search. The British Minister at Washington proposed that an attempt should be made to settle peaceably this sole remaining ground of quarrel. The proposal was declined. The American war party would not swerve from its unhappy determination.[145] The first efforts of the Americans were signally unsuccessful. They attacked Canada with an army of two thousand five hundred men. But this force had scarcely got upon Canadian ground when it was driven back. August, 1812 A.D. It was besieged in Fort Detroit by an inferior British army and forced to surrender. The unfortunate General Hull, who commanded, was brought to trial by his angry countrymen and sentenced to be shot. He was pardoned, however, in consideration of former services.

A second invasion followed, closed by a second surrender. During two other campaigns the Americans prosecuted their invasion. Ships were built and launched upon the great lakes which lie between the territories of the combatants. Sea-fights were fought, in one of which the American triumph was so complete that all the British vessels surrendered. Many desperate engagements took place on shore. Some forts were captured; some towns were burned. Many women and children were made homeless; many brave men were slain. But the invaders made no progress. Everywhere the Canadians, with the help of the regular troops, were able to hold their own. It was a coarse method of solving the question which was in dispute between the countries, and it was utterly fruitless.

At sea a strange gleam of good fortune cheered the Americans. It was there England felt herself omnipotent. She, with her thousand ships, might pardonably despise the enemy who came against her with twenty. But it was there disaster overtook her.

1812 A.D. During the autumn months a series of encounters took place between single British and American ships. In every instance victory remained with the Americans. Five English vessels were taken or destroyed. The Americans were in most of these engagements more heavily manned and armed than their enemies. But the startling fact remained. Five British ships of war had been taken in battle by the Americans; five defeats had been sustained by England. Her sovereignty of the sea had received a rude shock.


The loss of a great battle would not have moved England more profoundly than the capture of these five unimportant ships. It seemed to many to foretell the downfall of her maritime supremacy. She had ruled the seas because, heretofore, no other country produced sailors equal to hers. But a new power had now arisen, whose home, equally with that of Britannia herself, was upon the deep. If America could achieve these startling successes while she had only twenty ships, what might she not accomplish with that ampler force which she would hereafter possess? England had many enemies, all of whom rejoiced to see in these defeats the approaching decay of her envied greatness.

Among English sailors there was a burning eagerness to wipe out the unlooked-for disgrace which had fallen upon the flag. A strict blockade of American ports was maintained. On board the English ships which cruised on the American coasts impatient search was made for opportunities of retrieving the honour of the service.

Two English ships lay off Boston in the summer of 1813, under the command of Captain Broke. Within the bay the American frigate Chesapeake had lain for many months. Captain Broke had bestowed especial pains upon the training of his men, and he believed he had made them a match for any equal force. He and they vehemently desired to test their prowess in battle. He sent away one of his ships, retaining only the Shannon, which was slightly inferior to the Chesapeake in guns and in men. And then he stood close in to the shore, and sent to Captain Lawrence of the Chesapeake an invitation to come forth that they might “try the fortune of their respective flags.”

From his mast-head Captain Broke watched anxiously the movements of the hostile ship. Soon he saw her canvas shaken out to the breeze. His challenge was accepted. The stately[147] Chesapeake moved slowly down the bay, attended by many barges and pleasure-boats. To the over-sanguine men of Boston it seemed that Captain Lawrence sailed out to assured victory. They crowded to house-top and hill to witness his success. They prepared a banquet to celebrate his triumphant return.

June 1, 1813 A.D. Slowly and in grim silence the hostile ships drew near. No shot was fired till they were within a stone’s-throw of each other, and the men in either could look into the faces of those they were about to destroy. Then began the horrid carnage of a sea-fight. The well-trained British fired with steady aim, and every shot told. The rigging of their enemy was speedily ruined; her stern was beaten in; her decks were swept by discharges of heavy guns loaded with musket-balls. The American firing was greatly less effective. After a few broadsides, the ships came into contact. The Shannon continued to fire grape-shot from two of her guns. The Chesapeake could now reply feebly, and only with musketry. Captain Broke prepared to board. Over decks heaped with slain and slippery with blood, the Englishmen sprang upon the yielding foe. The American flag was pulled down, and resistance ceased.

The fight lasted but a quarter of an hour. So few minutes ago the two ships, peopled by seven hundred men in the pride of youth and strength, sailed proudly over seas which smiled in the peaceful sunlight of that summer evening. Now their rigging lies in ruins upon the cumbered decks; their sides are riven by shot; seventy-one dead bodies wait to be thrown overboard; one hundred and fifty-seven men lie wounded and in anguish—some of them to die, some to recover and live out cheerless lives, till the grave opens for their mutilated and disfigured forms. Did these men hate each other with a hatred so intense that they could do no less than inflict these evils upon each other? They had no hatred at all. Their Governments differed, and this was their method of ascertaining who was in[148] the right! Surely men will one day be wise enough to adopt some process for the adjustment of differences less wild in its inaccuracy, less brutish in its cruelty than this.

This victory, so quickly won and so decisive, restored the confidence of England in her naval superiority. The war went on with varying fortune. The Americans, awakening to the greatness of the necessity, put forth vigorous efforts to increase both army and navy. Frequent encounters between single ships occurred. Sometimes the American ship captured or destroyed the British; more frequently now the British ship captured or destroyed the American. The superb fighting capabilities of the race were splendidly illustrated, but no results of a more solid character can be enumerated.

1814 A.D. Meanwhile momentous changes had occurred in Europe. Napoleon had been overthrown, and England was enjoying the brief repose which his residence in Elba afforded. She could bestow some attention now upon her American quarrel. Several regiments of Wellington’s soldiers were sent to America, under the command of General Ross, and an attack upon Washington was determined. The force at General Ross’s disposal was only three thousand five hundred men. With means so inconsiderable, it seemed rash to attack the capital of a great nation. But the result proved that General Ross had not under-estimated the difficulties of the enterprise.

The Americans utterly failed in the defence of their capital. They were forewarned of the attack, and had good time to prepare. The militia of Pennsylvania and Virginia had promised their services, but were not found when they were needed. Only seven thousand men could be drawn together to resist the advance of the English. These took post at Bladensburg, where there was a bridge over the Potomac. The English were greatly less numerous, but they were veterans who had fought under Wellington in many battles. To them it was play to rout the undisciplined American levies. They dashed upon the enemy,[149] who, scarcely waiting to fire a shot, broke and fled towards Washington in hopeless confusion.

That same evening the British marched quietly into Washington. General Ross had orders to destroy or hold to ransom all public buildings. He offered to spare the national property, if a certain sum of money were paid to him; but the authorities declined his proposal. Next day a great and most unjustifiable ruin was wrought. The Capitol, the President’s residence, the Government offices, even the bridge over the Potomac—all were destroyed. The Navy-yard and Arsenal, with some ships in course of building, were set on fire by the Americans themselves. The President’s house was pillaged by the soldiers before it was burned. These devastations were effected in obedience to peremptory orders from the British Government, on whom rests the shame of proceedings so reprehensible and so unusual in the annals of civilized war. On the same day the British withdrew from the ruins of the burning capital, and retired towards the coast.

The Americans were becoming weary of this unmeaning war. Hope of success there was none, now that Britain had no other enemy to engage her attention. America had no longer a ship of war to protect her coasts from insult. Her trade was extinct. Her exports, which were fourteen million sterling before the war, had sunk to one-tenth of that amount. Two-thirds of the trading classes were insolvent. Most of the trading ships were taken. The revenue hitherto derived from customs had utterly ceased. The credit of the country was not good, and loans could not be obtained. Taxation became very oppressive, and thus enhanced extremely the unpopularity of the war. Some of the New England States refused to furnish men or money, and indicated a disposition to make peace for themselves, if they could not obtain it otherwise.

Feb. 11, 1815 A.D. Peace was urgently needed, and happily was near at hand. Late one Saturday night a British sloop-of-war arrived[150] at New York bearing a treaty of peace, already ratified by the British Government. The cry of “Peace! peace!” rang through the gladdened streets. The city burst into spontaneous illumination. The news reached Boston on Monday morning, and Boston was almost beside herself with joy. A multitude of idle ships had long lain at her wharves. Before night carpenters were at work making them ready to go to sea. Sailors were engaged; cargoes were being passed on board. Boston returned without an hour’s delay to her natural condition of commercial activity.

British and American Commissioners had met at Ghent, and had agreed upon terms of peace. The fruitlessness of war is a familiar discovery when men have calmness to review its losses and its gains. Both countries had endured much during these three years of hostilities; and now the peace left as they had been before the questions whose settlement was the object of the war.

1814 A.D. The treaty was concluded on the 24th December. Could the news have been flashed by telegraph across the Atlantic, much brave life would have been saved. But seven weeks elapsed before it was known in the southern parts of America that the two countries were at peace. And meanwhile one of the bloodiest fights of the war had been fought.

New Orleans—a town of nearly twenty thousand inhabitants—was then, as it is now, one of the great centres of the cotton trade, and commanded the navigation of the Mississippi. The capture of a city so important could not fail to prove a heavy blow to America. An expedition for this purpose was organized. Just when the Commissioners at Ghent were felicitating themselves upon the peace they had made, the British army, in storm and intolerable cold, was being rowed on shore within a few miles of New Orleans.

Sir Edward Pakenham, one of the heroes of the Peninsula,[151] commanded the English. The defence of New Orleans was intrusted to General Jackson. Jackson had been a soldier from his thirteenth year, and had spent a youth of extraordinary hardship. He was now a strong-willed, experienced, and skilful leader, in whom his soldiers had boundless confidence. Pakenham, fresh from the triumphs of the Peninsula, looked with mistaken contempt upon his formidable enemy.

Jackson’s line of defence was something over half a mile in length. The Mississippi covered his right flank, an impassable swamp and jungle secured his left. Along his front ran a deep broad ditch, topped by a massive wall of earth. In this strong position the Americans waited the coming of the enemy.

1815 A.D. At daybreak on the 8th January the British, six thousand strong, made their attack. The dim morning light revealed to the Americans the swift advance of the red-coated host. A murderous fire of grape and round shot was opened from the guns mounted on the bastion. Brave men fell fast, but the assailants passed on through the storm and reached the American works. It was their design to scale the ramparts, and, once within, to trust to their bayonets, which had never deceived them yet. But at the foot of the ramparts it was found that the fascines and scaling-ladders, which had been prepared for the assault, were now amissing! The men mounted on each other’s shoulders, and thus some of them forced their way into the works, only to be shot down by the American riflemen. All was vain. A deadly fire streamed incessant from that fatal parapet upon the defenceless men below. Sir Edward Pakenham fell mortally wounded. The carnage was frightful, and the enterprise visibly hopeless. The troops were withdrawn in great confusion, having sustained a loss of two thousand men. The Americans had seven men killed and the same number wounded.

Thus closed the war. Both countries look with just pride upon the heroic courage so profusely displayed in battle, and[152] upon the patient endurance with which great sacrifices were submitted to. It is pity these high qualities did not find a more worthy field for their exercise. The war was a gigantic folly and wickedness, such as no future generation, we may venture to hope, will ever repeat.

On the Fourth of July 1826 all America kept holiday. On that day, fifty years before, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and America began her great career as a free country. Better occasion for jubilee the world has seldom known. The Americans must needs do honour to the Fathers of their Independence, most of whom have already passed away; two of whom—John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—died on this very day. They must pause and look back upon this amazing half century. The world had never seen growth so rapid. There were three million of Americans who threw off the British yoke; now there were twelve million. The thirteen States had increased to twenty-four. The territory of the Union had been prodigiously enlarged. 1803 A.D. Louisiana had been sold by France; 1820 A.D. Florida had been ceded by Spain. Time after time tribes of vagrant Indians yielded up their lands and enrolled themselves subjects of the Great Republic. The Gulf of Mexico now bounded the Union on the south, and the lakes which divide her from Canada on the north. From the Atlantic on the east, she already looked out upon the Pacific on the west. Canals had been cut leading from the great lakes to the Hudson, and the grain which grew on the corn-lands of the west, thousands of miles away, was brought easily to New York. Innumerable roads had been made. The debt incurred in the War of Independence had been all paid; and the still heavier debt incurred in the second war with England was being rapidly extinguished. A steady tide of emigration flowed westward. Millions of acres of the fertile wilderness which lay towards the setting sun had been at length made profitable to[153] mankind. Extensive manufactories had been established, in which cotton and woollen fabrics were produced. The foreign trade of the country amounted to forty million sterling.

The Marquis Lafayette, now an old man, came to see once more before he died the country he had helped to save, and took part with wonder in the national rejoicing. The poor colonists, for whose liberties he had fought, had already become a powerful and wealthy nation. Everywhere there had been expansion. Everywhere there were comfort and abundance. Everywhere there were boundless faith in the future, and a vehement, unresting energy, which would surely compel the fulfilment of any expectations, however vast.


Book Third


When Europeans first visited the southern parts of America, they found in abundant growth there a plant destined to such eminence in the future history of the world as no other member of the vegetable family ever attained. It was an unimportant-looking plant, two or three feet in height, studded with pods somewhat larger than a walnut. In the appropriate season these pods opened, revealing a wealth of soft white fibre, embedded in which lay the seeds of the plant. This was Cotton. It was not unknown to the Old World, for the Romans used cotton fabrics before the Christian era. India did so from a still remoter period. But the extent to which its use had been carried was trivial. Men clothed themselves as they best might in linen or woollen cloth, or simply in the skins of the beasts which they slew. The time was now at hand when an ampler provision for their wants was to be disclosed to them. Socially and politically, cotton has deeply influenced the course of human affairs. The mightiest conquerors sink into insignificance in presence of King Cotton.

The English began to cultivate a little cotton very soon after their settlement in America. But it was a difficult crop for[155] them to handle. The plants grew luxuriantly, and when autumn came the opening pods revealed a most satisfying opulence. The quantity of cotton produced excited the wonder of the planters. But the seeds of the plant adhered tenaciously to the fibre. Before the fibre could be used the seeds had to be removed, and this was a slow and therefore a costly process. It was as much as a man could do in a day to separate one pound of cotton from the seeds. Cotton could never be abundant or cheap while this was the case.

But in course of time things came to pass in England which made it indispensable that cotton should be both abundant and cheap. In 1768 Richard Arkwright invented a machine for spinning cotton vastly superior to anything hitherto in use. Next year a greater than he—James Watt—announced a greater invention—his Steam Engine. England was ready now to begin her great work of weaving cotton for the world. But where was the cotton to be found?

Three or four years before Watt patented his Engine, and Arkwright his Spinning-frame, there was born in a New England farm-house a boy whose work was needed to complete theirs. His name was Eli Whitney. Eli was a born mechanic; it was a necessity of his nature to invent and construct. As a mere boy he made nails, pins, and walking-canes by novel processes, and thus earned money to support himself at college. In 1792 he went to Georgia to visit Mrs. Greene, the widow of that General Greene who so troubled Lord Cornwallis in the closing years of the War of Independence. In that primitive society, where few of the comforts of civilized life were yet enjoyed, no visits were so like those of the angels as the visits of a skilful mechanic. Eli constructed marvellous amusements for Mrs. Greene’s children. He overcame all household difficulties by some ingenious contrivance. Mrs. Greene learned to wonder at him, and to believe nothing was impossible for him. One day Mrs. Greene entertained a party of her neighbours.[156] The conversation turned upon the sorrows of the Planter. That unhappy tenacity with which the seeds of cotton adhered to the fibre was elaborately bemoaned. With an urgent demand from England for cotton, with boundless lands which grew nothing so well as cotton, it was hard to be so utterly baffled.

Mrs. Greene had unlimited faith in her friend Eli. She begged him to invent a machine which should separate the seeds of cotton from the fibre. Eli was of Northern upbringing, and had never even seen cotton in seed. He walked to Savannah, and there, with some trouble, obtained a quantity of uncleaned cotton. He shut himself up in his room and brooded over the difficulty which he had undertaken to conquer.

All that winter Eli laboured—devising, hammering, building up, rejecting, beginning afresh. He had no help; he could not even get tools to buy, but had to make them with his own hands. At length his machine was completed—rude-looking, but visibly effective. Mrs. Greene invited the leading men of the State to her house. She conducted them in triumph to the building in which the machine stood. The owners of unprofitable cotton lands looked on with a wild flash of hope lighting up their desponding hearts. Possibilities of untold wealth to each of them lay in that clumsy structure. The machine was put in motion. It was evident to all that it could perform the work of hundreds of men. Eli had gained a great victory for mankind. In that rude log-hut of Georgia, Cotton was crowned King, and a new era opened for America and the world.

Ten years after Whitney’s Cotton-gin was invented, a huge addition was made to the cotton-growing districts of America. In 1803 Europe enjoyed a short respite from the mad Napoleon wars. France had recently acquired from Spain vast regions bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, and stretching far up the valley of the Mississippi, and westward to the Pacific. It was certain that peace in Europe would not last long. It was equally certain that when war was resumed France could not[157] hold these possessions against the fleets of England. America wished to acquire, and was willing to pay for them. It was better to sell to the Americans, and equip soldiers with the price, than wait till England was ready to conquer. Napoleon sold, and America added Louisiana to her vast possessions.

Mark well these two events—the invention of a machine for cheaply separating the seeds of cotton from the fibre, and the purchase of Louisiana from the French. Out of these events flows the American history of the next half century. Not any other event since the War of Independence—not all other events put together, have done so much to shape and determine the career of the American people.



When America gained her independence slavery existed in all the colonies. No State was free from the taint; even the New England Puritans held slaves. At an early period they had learned to enslave their Indian neighbours. The children of the Pilgrims owned Indians, and in due time owned Africans, without remorse. But the number of slaves in the North was always small. At first it was not to the higher principle or clearer intelligence of the Northern men that this limited prevalence of slavery was due. The North was not a region where slave labour could ever be profitable. The climate was harsh, the soil rocky and bleak; and labour required to be directed by intelligence. In that comparatively unproductive land the mindless and heartless toil of the slave would scarcely defray the cost of his support. At the Revolution there were half a million of slaves in the colonies, and of these only thirty to forty thousand were in the North.

It was otherwise in the sunny and luxuriant South. The African was at home there, for the climate was like his own. The rich soil yielded its wealth to labour in the slightest and least intelligent form. The culture of rice, and tobacco, and cotton supplied the very kind of work which a slave was fitted to perform. The South found profitable employment for as many Africans as the slave-traders were able to steal.


And yet at the Revolution slavery enjoyed no great degree of favour. The free spirit enkindled by the war was in violent opposition to the existence of a system of bondage. The presence of the slaves had disabled the South from taking the part she ought in the War of Independence. The white men had to stay at home to watch the black. Virginia, Washington’s State, furnished a reasonable proportion of troops; but the other Southern States were almost worthless. Everywhere in the North slavery was regarded as an objectionable and decaying institution. The leaders of the Revolution, themselves mainly slave-owners, were eagerly desirous that slavery should be abolished. Washington was utterly opposed to the system, and provided in his will for the emancipation of his own slaves. Hamilton was a member of an association for the gradual abolition of slavery. John Adams would never own a slave. Franklin, Patrick Henry, Madison, Munroe, were united in their reprobation of slavery. Jefferson, a Virginian, who prepared the Declaration of Independence, said that in view of slavery “he trembled for his country, when he reflected that God was just.”

In the convention which met to frame a Constitution for America the feeling of antagonism to slavery was supreme. Had the majority followed their own course, provision would have been made then for the gradual extinction of slavery. But there arose here a necessity for one of those compromises by which the history of America has been so sadly marked. When it was proposed to prohibit the importation of slaves, all the Northern and most of the Southern States favoured the proposal. But South Carolina and Georgia were insatiable in their thirst for African labour. They decisively refused to become parties to a Union in which there was to be no importation of slaves. The other States yielded. Instead of an immediate abolition of this hateful traffic, it was agreed merely that after twenty years Congress should be at liberty to abolish[160] the slave-trade if it chose. By the same threat of disunion the Slave States of the extreme South gained other advantages. It was fixed by the Constitution that a slave who fled to a Free State was not therefore to become a free man. He must be given back to his owner. It was yet further conceded that the Slave States should have increased political power in proportion to the number of their slaves. A black man did not count for so much as a white. Every State was to send members to the House of Representatives according to its population, and in reckoning that population five negroes were to be counted as three.

And yet at that time, and for years after, the opinion of the South itself regarded slavery as an evil—thrust upon them by England—difficult to be got rid of—profitable, it might be, but lamentable and temporary. No slave-holder refused to discuss the subject or to admit the evils of the system. No violence was offered to those who denounced it. The clergy might venture to preach against it. Hopeful persons might foretell the approach of liberty to those unhappy captives. Even the lowest of the slave-holding class did not yet resent the expression of such hopes.

But a mighty change was destined to pass upon the tone of Southern opinion. The purchase of Louisiana opened a vast tract of the most fertile land in the world to the growth of cotton; Whitney’s invention made the growth of cotton profitable. Slave-holding became lucrative. It was wealth to own a little plantation and a few negroes; and there was an eager race for the possession of slaves. Importation alone could not supply the demand. Some of the more northerly of the Southern States turned their attention to the breeding of slaves for the Southern markets. Kentucky and Virginia became rich and infamous by this awful commerce.[1] While iniquity[161] was not specially profitable, the Southern States were not very reluctant to be virtuous. When the gains of wickedness became, as they now did, enormous, virtue ceased to have a footing in the South.

During many years the leader of the slave-owners was John C. Calhoun. He was a native of South Carolina—a tall, slender, gipsy-looking man, with an eye whose wondrous depth and power impressed all who came into his presence. Calhoun taught the people of the South that slavery was good for the slave. It was a benign, civilizing agency. The African attained to a measure of intelligence in slavery greatly in advance of that which he had ever reached as a free man. To him, visibly, it was a blessing to be enslaved. From all this it was easy to infer that Providence had appointed slavery for the advantage of both races; that opposition to this Heaven-ordained institution was profane; that abolition was merely an aspect of infidelity. So Calhoun taught; so the South learned to believe. 1850 A.D. Calhoun’s last speech in Congress warned the North that opposition to slavery would destroy the Union. His latest conversation was on this absorbing theme. A few hours after, he had passed where all dimness of vision is removed, and errors of judgment become impossible!

It was very pleasant for the slave-owners to be taught that slavery enjoyed divine sanction. The doctrine had other apostles than Mr. Calhoun. Unhappily it came to form part of the regular pulpit teaching of the Southern churches. It was gravely argued out from the Old Testament that slavery was the proper condition of the negro. Ham was to be the servant of his brethren; hence all the descendants of Ham were the rightful property of white men. The slave who fled from his master was guilty of the crime of theft in one of its most heinous forms. So taught the Southern pulpit. Many books, written by grave divines for the enforcement of these doctrines, remain to awaken the amazement of posterity.


The slave-owners inclined a willing ear to these pleasing assurances. They knew slavery to be profitable; their leaders in Church and State told them it was right. It was little wonder that a fanatical love to slavery possessed their hearts. In the passionate, ill-regulated minds of the slave-owning class it became in course of years almost a madness, which was shared, unhappily, by the great mass of the white population. Discussion could no longer be permitted. It became a fearful risk to express in the South an opinion hostile to slavery. It was a familiar boast that no man who opposed slavery would be suffered to live in a Slave State; and the slave-owners made their word good. Many who were suspected of hostile opinions were tarred and feathered, and turned out of the State. Many were shot; many were hanged; some were burned. The Southern mobs were singularly brutal, and the slave-owners found willing hands to do their fiendish work. The law did not interfere to prevent or punish such atrocities. The churches looked on and held their peace.

As slave property increased in value, a strangely horrible system of laws gathered around it. The slave was regarded, not as a person, but as a thing. He had no civil rights; nay, it was declared by the highest legal authority that a slave had no rights at all which a white man was bound to respect. The most sacred laws of nature were defied. Marriage was a tie which bound the slave only during the master’s pleasure. A slave had no more legal authority over his child “than a cow has over her calf.” It was a grave offence to teach a slave to read. A white man might expiate that offence by fine or imprisonment; to a black man it involved flogging. The owner might not without challenge murder an unoffending slave; but a slave resisting his master’s will might lawfully be slain. A slave who would not stand to be flogged, might be shot as he ran off. The master was blameless if his slave died under the administration of reasonable correction—in other words, if he[163] flogged a slave to death. A fugitive slave might be killed by any means which his owner chose to employ. On the other hand, there was a slender pretext of laws for the protection of the slave. Any master, for instance, who wantonly cut out the tongue or put out the eyes of his slave, was liable to a small fine. But as no slave could give evidence affecting a white man in a court of law, the law had no terrors for the slave-owner.

The practice of the South in regard to her slaves was not unworthy of her laws. Children were habitually torn away from their mothers. Husbands and wives were habitually separated, and forced to contract new marriages. Public whipping-houses became an institution. The hunting of escaped slaves became a regular profession, and dogs were bred and trained for that special work. Slaves who were suspected of an intention to escape were branded with red-hot irons. When the Northern armies forced their way into the South, many of the slaves who fled to them were found to be scarred or mutilated. The burning of a negro who was accused of crime was a familiar occurrence. It was a debated question whether it was more profitable to work the slaves moderately, and so make them last, or to take the greatest possible amount of work from them, even although that would quickly destroy them. Some favoured the plan of overworking, and acted upon it without scruple.

These things were done, and the Christian churches of the South were not ashamed to say that the system out of which they flowed enjoyed the sanction of God! It appeared that men who had spent their lives in the South were themselves so brutalized by their familiarity with the atrocities of slavery, that the standard by which they judged it was no higher than that of the lowest savages.



When the State of Louisiana was received into the Union in 1812, there was left out a large proportion of the original purchase from Napoleon. As yet this region was unpeopled. It lay silent and unprofitable—a vast reserve prepared for the wants of unborn generations. It was traversed by the Missouri river. The great Mississippi was its boundary on the east. It possessed, in all, a navigable river-line of two thousand miles. Enormous mineral wealth was treasured up to enrich the world for centuries to come. There were coal-fields greater than those of all Europe. There was iron piled up in mountains, one of which contained two hundred million tons of ore. There was profusion of copper, of zinc, of lead. There were boundless forests. There was a soil unsurpassed in fertility. The climate was kindly and genial, marred by neither the stern winters of the North nor the fierce heats of the South. The scenery was often of rare beauty and grandeur.

This was the Territory of Missouri. Gradually settlers from the neighbouring States dropped in. Slave-holders came, bringing their chattels with them. They were first in the field, and they took secure possession. The free emigrant turned aside, and the slave-power reigned supreme in Missouri. The wealth and beauty of this glorious land were wedded to the most gigantic system of evil which ever established itself upon the earth.


By the year 1818 there were sixty thousand persons residing in Missouri. The time had come for the admission of this Territory into the Union as a State. It was the first great contest between the Free and the Slave States. The cotton-gin, the acquisition of Louisiana, the teaching of Calhoun, had done their work. The slave-owners were now a great political power—resolute, unscrupulous, intolerant of opposition. The next half century of American history takes its tone very much from their fierce and restless energy. Their policy never wavered. To gain predominance for slavery, with room for its indefinite expansion, these were their aims. American history is filled with their violence on to a certain April morning in 1865, when the slave-power and all its lawless pretensions lay crushed among the ruins of Richmond.

When the application of Missouri for admission into the Union came to be considered in Congress, an attempt was made to shut slavery wholly out of the new State. A struggle ensued which lasted for nearly three years. The question was one of vital importance. At that time the number of Free States and the number of Slave States were exactly equal. Whosoever gained Missouri gained a majority in the Senate. The North was deeply in earnest in desiring to prevent the extension of slavery. The South was equally resolute that no limitation should be imposed. The result was a compromise, proposed by the South. Missouri was to be given over to slavery. But it was agreed that, excepting within the limits of Missouri herself, slavery should not be permitted in any part of the territory purchased from France, north of a line drawn eastward and westward from the southern boundary of that State. Thus far might the waves of this foul tide flow, but no further. So ended the great controversy, in the decisive victory of the South.



The North participated in the gains of slavery. The cotton-planter borrowed money at high interest from the Northern capitalist. He bought his goods in Northern markets; he sent his cotton to the North for sale. The Northern merchants made money at his hands, and were in no haste to overthrow the peculiar institution out of which results so pleasant flowed. They had no occasion, as the planter had, to persuade themselves that slavery enjoyed special divine sanction. But it did become a very general belief in the North that without slave-labour the cultivation of Southern lands was impossible. It was also very generally alleged that the condition of the slave was preferable to that of the free European labourer.

All looked very hopeless for the poor negro. The South claimed to hold him by divine right. She looked to a future of indefinite expansion. The boundless regions which stretched away from her border, untrodden by man, were marked out for slave territory. A powerful sentiment in the North supported her claims. She was able to exercise a controlling influence over the Federal Government. It seemed as if all authority in the Union was pledged to uphold slavery, and assert for ever the right of the white man to hold the black man as an article of merchandise.

But even then the awakening of the Northern conscience[167] had begun. On the 1st of January 1831, a journeyman printer, William Lloyd Garrison, published in Boston the first number of a paper devoted to the abolition of slavery. This is perhaps the earliest prominent incident in the history of Emancipation. It was indeed a humble opening of a noble career. Garrison was young and penniless. He wrote the articles, and he also, with the help of a friend, set the types. He lived mainly on bread and water. Only when a number of the paper sold particularly well, he and his companion indulged in a bowl of milk. The Mayor of Boston was asked by a Southern magistrate to suppress the paper. He replied that it was not worth the trouble. The office of the editor was “an obscure hole; his only visible auxiliary a negro boy; his supporters a few insignificant persons of all colours.” The lordly Southerners need not be uneasy about this obscure editor and his paltry newspaper.

But the fulness of time had come, and every word spoken against slavery found now some willing listener. In the year after Garrison began his paper the American Anti-slavery Society was formed. It was composed of twelve members. Busy hands were scattering the seed abroad, and it sprang quickly. Within three years there were two hundred anti-slavery societies in America; in seven years more these had increased to two thousand. The war against slavery was now begun in earnest.

The slave-owners and their allies in the North regarded with rage unutterable this formidable invasion. Everywhere they opposed violence to the arguments of their opponents. Large rewards were offered for the capture of prominent abolitionists. Many Northern men, who unwarily strayed into Southern States, were murdered on the mere suspicion that they were opposed to slavery. 1835 A.D. President Jackson recommended Congress to forbid the conveyance to the South, by the mails, of anti-slavery publications. In Boston a mob[168] of well-dressed and respectable citizens suppressed a meeting of female abolitionists. While busied about that enterprise, they were fortunate enough to lay hold of Garrison, whose murder they designed, and would have accomplished, had not a timely sally of the constables rescued him from their grasp. 1833 A.D. In Connecticut a young woman was imprisoned for teaching negro children to read. Philadelphia was disgraced by riots in which negroes were killed and their houses burned down. Throughout the Northern States anti-slavery meetings were habitually invaded and broken up by the allies of the slave-owners. The abolitionists were devoured by a zeal which knew no bounds and permitted no rest. The slave-owners met them with a deep, remorseless, murderous hatred, which gradually possessed and corroded their whole nature. In this war, as it soon became evident, there could be no compromise. Peace was impossible otherwise than by the destruction of one or other of the contending parties.

The spirit in which the South defended her cherished institution was fairly exemplified in her treatment of a young clergyman, Mr. Lovejoy, who offended her by his antipathy to slavery. Mr. Lovejoy established himself in Alton, a little town of Illinois, where he conducted a newspaper. Illinois was itself a Free State; but Missouri was near, and the slave-power was supreme in all that region. Mr. Lovejoy declared himself in his newspaper against slavery. He was requested to withdraw from that neighbourhood; but he maintained his right of free speech, and chose to remain. The mob sacked his printing-office, and flung his press into the river. 1837 A.D. Mr. Lovejoy bought another press. The arrival of this new machine highly displeased the ruffianism of the little town of Alton. It was stored for safety in a well-secured building, and two or three well-disposed citizens kept armed watch over it. The mob attacked the warehouse. Shots were exchanged, and some of the rioters were slain. At length the mob succeeded[169] in setting fire to the building. When Mr. Lovejoy showed himself to the crowd he was fired at, and fell pierced by five bullets. The printing-press was broken; the newspaper was silenced; the hostile editor was slaughtered. The offended majesty of the slave-power was becomingly vindicated.



The decaying energies of Spain were sorely wasted by the wars which Napoleon forced upon her. Invaded, conquered, occupied, fought for during years by great armies, Spain issued from the struggle in a state of utter exhaustion. It was impossible that a country so enfeebled could maintain a great colonial dominion. Not long after the Battle of Waterloo all her American dependencies chose to be independent, and Spain could do nothing to prevent it. Among the rest, Mexico won for herself the privilege of self-government, of which she has thus far proved herself so incapable.

Lying between the Mississippi and the Rio Grande was a vast wilderness of undefined extent and uncertain ownership, which America, with some hesitation, recognized as belonging to Mexico. It was called Texas. The climate was genial; the soil was of wondrous fertility. 1829 A.D. America coveted this fair region, and offered to buy it from Mexico. Her offer was declined.

The great natural wealth of Texas, combined with the almost total absence of government, were powerful attractions to the lawless adventurers who abounded in the South-Western States. A tide of vagrant blackguardism streamed into Texas. Safe from the grasp of justice, the murderer, the thief, the fraudulent debtor, opened in Texas a new and more hopeful career.[171] Founded by these conscript fathers, Texan society grew apace. 1836 A.D. In a few years Texas felt herself strong enough to be independent. Her connection with Mexico was declared to be at an end.

The leader in this revolution was Sam Houston, a Virginian of massive frame—energetic, audacious, unscrupulous—in no mean degree fitted to direct the storm he had helped to raise. For Houston was a Southerner, and it was his ambition to gain Texas for the purposes of the slave-owners. Mexico had abolished slavery. Texas could be no home for the possessor of slaves till she was severed from Mexico.

When independence was declared, Texas had to defend her newly-claimed liberties by the sword. General Houston headed the patriot forces, not quite four hundred in number, and imperfectly armed. Santa Anna came against them with an army of five thousand. The Texans retreated, and having nothing to carry, easily distanced their pursuers. At the San Jacinto, Houston was strengthened by the arrival of two field-pieces. He turned like a lion upon the unexpectant Mexicans, whom he caught in the very act of crossing the river. He fired grape-shot into their quaking ranks. His unconquerable Texans clubbed their muskets—they had no bayonets—and rushed upon the foe. The Mexicans fled in helpless rout, and Texas was free. The grateful Texans elected General Houston President of the republic which he had thus saved.

1837 A.D. No sooner was Texas independent than she offered to join herself to the United States. Her proposals were at first declined. But the South warmly espoused her cause and urged her claims. Once more North and South met in fiery debate. Slavery had already a sure footing in Texas. If Texas entered the Union, it was as a Slave State. On that ground avowedly the South urged the annexation; on that ground the North resisted it. “We all see,” said Daniel[172] Webster, “that Texas will be a slave-holding country; and I frankly avow my unwillingness to do anything which shall extend the slavery of the African race on this continent, or add another Slave-holding State to the Union.” “The South,” said the Legislature of Mississippi, speaking of slavery, “does not possess a blessing with which the affections of her people are so closely entwined, and whose value is more highly appreciated. By the annexation of Texas an equipoise of influence in the halls of Congress will be secured, which will furnish us a permanent guarantee of protection.”

It was the battle-ground on which all the recent great battles of American political history have been fought. It ended, as such battles at that time usually did, in Southern victory. In March 1845 Texas was received into the Union. The slave-power gained new votes in Congress, and room for a vast extension of the slave-system.



Mexico was displeased with the annexation of Texas, but did not manifest so quickly as it was hoped she would any disposition to avenge herself. Mr. Polk, a Southern man, was now President, and he governed in the interest of the South. A war with Mexico was a thing to be desired, because Mexico must be beaten, and could then be plundered of territory which the slave-owners would appropriate. 1846 A.D. To provoke Mexico the Unready, an army of four thousand men was sent to the extreme south-western confines of Texas. A Mexican army of six thousand lay near. The Americans, with marvellous audacity, erected a fort within easy range of Matamoras, a city of the Mexicans, and thus the place was in their power. After much hesitation the Mexican army attacked the Americans, and received, as they might well have anticipated, a severe defeat. Thus, without the formality of any declaration, the war was begun.

President Polk hastened to announce to Congress that the Mexicans had “invaded our territory, and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens.” Congress voted men and money for the prosecution of the war, and volunteers offered themselves in multitudes. Their brave little army was in peril—far from help, and surrounded by enemies. The people were eager to support the heroes, of whose victory they were so proud. And yet[174] opinion was much divided. Many deemed the war unjust and disgraceful. Among these was a young lawyer of Illinois, destined in later years to fill a place in the hearts of his countrymen second only to that of Washington. Abraham Lincoln entered Congress while the war was in progress, and his first speech was in condemnation of the course pursued by the Government.

The war was pushed with vigour at first under the command of General Taylor, who was to become the next President; and finally under General Scott, who, as a very young man, had fought against the British at Niagara, and, as a very old man, was Commander-in-Chief of the American Army when the great war between North and South began. Many officers were there whose names became famous in after years. General Lee and General Grant gained here their first experience of war. They were not then known to each other. They met for the first time, twenty years after, in a Virginian cottage, to arrange terms of surrender for the defeated army of the Southern Confederacy!

The Americans resolved to fight their way to the enemy’s capital, and there compel such a peace as would be agreeable to themselves. The task was not without difficulty. The Mexican army was greatly more numerous. They had a splendid cavalry force and an efficient artillery. Their commander, Santa Anna, unscrupulous even for a Mexican, was yet a soldier of some ability. The Americans were mainly volunteers who had never seen war till now. The fighting was severe. At Buena-Vista the American army was attacked by a force which outnumbered it in the proportion of five to one. The battle lasted for ten hours, and the invaders were saved from ruin by their superior artillery. The mountain passes were strongly fortified, and General Scott had to convey his army across chasms and ravines which the Mexicans, deeming them impracticable, had neglected to defend. Strong in the consciousness of their superiority to[175] the people they invaded—the same consciousness which supported Cortes and his Spaniards three centuries before—the Americans pressed on. At length they came in sight of Mexico, at the same spot where Cortes had viewed it. Sept. 14, 1847 A.D. Once more they routed a Mexican army of greatly superior force; and then General Scott marched his little army of six thousand men quietly into the capital. The war was closed, and a treaty of peace was with little delay negotiated.



America exacted mercilessly the penalty which usually attends defeat. Mexico was to receive fifteen million dollars; but she ceded an enormous territory stretching westward from Texas to the Pacific.

One of the provinces which composed this magnificent prize was California. The slave-owners had gone to war with Mexico that they might gain territory which slavery should possess for ever. They sought to introduce California into the Union as a Slave State. But Providence interposed to shield her from a destiny so unhappy.

1848 A.D. Just about the time that California became an American possession, it was discovered that her soil was richly endowed with gold. On one of the tributaries of the Sacramento river an old settler was peacefully digging a trench—caring little, it may be supposed, about the change of citizenship which he had undergone—not dreaming that the next stroke of his spade was to influence the history, not merely of California, but of the world. Among the sand which he lifted were certain shining particles. His wondering eye considered them with attention. They were Gold! Gold was everywhere—in the soil, in the river-sand, in the mountain-rock; gold in dust, gold in pellets, gold in lumps! It was the land of old fairy tale, where wealth could be had by him who chose to stoop down and gather!


Fast as the mails could carry it the bewildering news thrilled the heart of America. To the energetic youth of the Northern States the charm was irresistible. It was now, indeed, a reproach to be poor, when it was so easy to be rich.

The journey to the land of promise was full of toil and danger. There were over two thousand miles of unexplored wilderness to traverse. There were mountain ranges to surmount, lofty and rugged as the Alps themselves. There were great desolate plains, unwatered and without vegetation. Indians, whose dispositions there was reason to question, beset the path. But danger was unconsidered. That season thirty thousand Americans crossed the plains, climbed the mountains, forded the streams, bore without shrinking all that want, exposure, and fatigue could inflict. Cholera broke out among them, and four thousand left their bones in the wilderness. The rest plodded on undismayed. Fifty thousand came by sea. From all countries they came—from quiet English villages, from the crowded cities of China. Before the year was out California had gained an addition of eighty thousand to her population.

These came mainly from the Northern States. They had no thought of suffering in their new home the evil institution of the South. 1850 A.D. They settled easily the constitution of their State, and California was received into the Union free from the taint of slavery.

It was no slight disappointment to the men of the South. They had urged on the war with Mexico in order to gain new Slave States, new votes in Congress, additional room for the spread of slavery. They had gained all the territory they hoped for; but this strange revelation of gold had peopled it from the North, and slavery was shut out for ever. To soothe their irritation, Henry Clay proposed a very black concession, under the disgrace of which America suffered for years in the estimation of all Christian nations. The South was angry, and hinted even then at secession. The North was prosperous. Her[178] merchants were growing rich; her farmers were rapidly overspreading the country and subduing waste lands to the service of man. Every year saw vast accessions to her wealth; and her supreme desire was for quietness. In this frame of mind she assented to the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law. Heretofore it had been lawful for the slave-owner to reclaim his slave who had escaped into a Free State; but although lawful, it was in practice almost impossible. Now the officers of the Government, and all good citizens, were commanded to give to the pursuer all needful help. In certain cases Government was to defray the expense of restoring the slave to the plantation from which he had fled. In any trial arising under this law, the evidence of the slave himself was not to be received; the oath of his pursuer was almost decisive against him. Hundreds of Southern ruffians hastened to take vile advantage of this shameful law. They searched out coloured men in the Free States, and swore that they were escaped slaves. In too many instances they were successful, and many free negroes as well as escaped slaves were borne back to the miseries of slavery. The North erred grievously in consenting to a measure so base. It is just, however, to say, that although Northern politicians upheld it as a wise and necessary compromise, the Northern people in their hearts abhorred it. The law was so unpopular that its execution was resisted in several Northern cities, and it quickly passed into disuse.



The great Louisiana purchase from Napoleon was not yet wholly portioned off into States. Westward and northward of Missouri was an enormous expanse of the richest land in the Union, having as yet few occupants more profitable than the Indians. Two great routes of travel—to the west and to the south-west—traversed it. The eager searcher for gold passed that way on his long walk to California. The Mormon looked with indifference on its luxuriant vegetation as he toiled on to his New Jerusalem by the Great Salt Lake. In the year 1853 it was proposed to organize this region into two Territories, under the names of Kansas and Nebraska. Here once more arose the old question—Shall the Territories be Slave or Free? The Missouri Compromise had settled that slavery should never come here. But the slave-owners were able to cancel this settlement. 1854 A.D. A law was enacted under which the inhabitants were left to choose between slavery and freedom. The vote of a majority would decide the destiny of these magnificent provinces.

And now both parties had to bestir themselves. The early inhabitants of the infant States were to fix for all time whether they would admit or exclude the slave-owner with his victims. Everything depended, therefore, on taking early possession.

The South was first in the field. Missouri was near, and[180] her citizens led the way. Great slave-owners took possession of lands in Kansas, and loudly invited their brethren from other States to come at once, bringing their slaves with them. But their numbers were small, while the need was urgent. The South had no population to spare fitted for the work of colonizing, but she had in large numbers the class of “mean whites.” In the mean white of the Southern States we are permitted to see how low it is possible for our Anglo-Saxon humanity to fall. The mean white is entirely without education. His house is a hovel of the very lowest description. Personally he walks in rags and filth. He cannot stoop to work, because slavery has rendered labour disreputable. He supports himself as savages do—by shooting, by fishing, by the plunder of his industrious neighbours’ fields and folds. The negro, out of the unutterable degradation to which he has been subjected, looks with scorn upon the mean white.

1855 A.D. The mean whites of Missouri were easily marshalled for a raid into Kansas. The time came when elections were to take place—when the great question of Slave or Free was to be answered. Gangs of armed ruffians were marched over from Missouri. Such a party—nearly a thousand strong, accompanied by two pieces of cannon—entered the little town of Lawrence on the morning of the election day. The ballot-boxes were taken possession of, and the peaceful inhabitants were driven away. The invaders cast fictitious votes into the boxes, outnumbering ten or twenty times the lawful roll of voters. A legislature wholly in the interests of slavery was thus elected, and in due time that body began to enact laws. No man whose opinions were opposed to slavery was to be an elector in Kansas. Any man who spoke or wrote against slavery was to suffer imprisonment with hard labour. Death was the penalty for aiding the escape of a slave. All this was done while the enemies of slavery were an actual majority of the inhabitants of Kansas!


And then the Border ruffians overran the country—working their own wicked will wherever they came. The outrages they committed read like the freaks of demons. A man betted that he would scalp an abolitionist. He rode out from the little town of Leavensworth in search of a victim. He met a gentleman driving in a gig, shot him, scalped him, rode back to town, showed his ghastly trophy, and received payment of his bet. Men were gathered up from their work in the fields, ranged in line, and ruthlessly shot to death, because they hated slavery. A lawyer who had protested against frauds at an election was tarred and feathered; thus attired, he was put up to auction and sold to the highest bidder. The town of Lawrence was attacked by eight hundred marauders, who plundered it to their content—bombarding with artillery houses which displeased them—burning and destroying in utter wantonness.

But during all this unhappy time the steady tide of Northern immigration into Kansas flowed on. From the very outset of the strife the North was resolute to win Kansas for freedom. She sought to do this by colonizing Kansas with men who hated slavery. Societies were formed to aid poor emigrants. In single families, in groups of fifty to a hundred persons, the settlers were promptly moved westward. Some of these merely obeyed the impulse which drives so many Americans to leave the settled States of the east and push out into the wilderness. Others went that their votes might prevent the spread of slavery. There was no small measure of patriotism in the movement. Men left their comfortable homes in the east and carried their families into a wilderness, to the natural miseries of which was added the presence of bitter enemies. They did so that Kansas might be a Free State. Cannon were planted on the banks of the Missouri to prevent their entrance into Kansas. Many of them were plundered and turned back. Often their houses were burned and their fields wasted. But they were a self-reliant people, to whom it was no hardship to be obliged to[182] defend themselves. When need arose they banded themselves together and gave battle to the ruffians who troubled them. And all the while they were growing stronger by constant reinforcements from the east. There were building, and clearing, and ploughing, and sowing. In spite of Southern outrage Kansas was fast ripening into a free and orderly community. 1859 A.D. In a few years the party of freedom was able to carry the elections. A constitution was adopted by which slavery was excluded from Kansas. 1861 A.D. And at length, just when the great final struggle between slavery and freedom was commencing, Kansas was received as a Free State. Her admission raised the number of States in the Union to thirty-four.



The conflict deepened as years passed. The Abolitionists became more irrepressible, the Slave-holders more savage. There seemed no hope of the law becoming just. The American people have a deep reverence for law, but here it was overborne by their sense of injustice. The wicked law was habitually set at defiance, and plans were carefully framed for aiding the escape of slaves. It was whispered about among the negroes that at certain points they were sure to find friends, shelter, and safe conveyance to Canada. Around every plantation there stretched dense jungles, swamps, pathless forests. The escaping slave fled to these gloomy solitudes. They hunted him with bloodhounds, and many a poor wretch was dragged back to groan under deeper brutalities than before. If happily undiscovered, he made his way to certain well-known stations, a chain of which passed him safely on to the protection of the British flag. This was the Underground Railway. Now and then its agents were discovered. In that miserable time it was a grave offence to help a slave to escape. The offender was doomed to heavy fine or long imprisonment. Some died in prison of the hardships they endured. But the Underground Railway never wanted agents. No sooner had the unjust law claimed its victim than another stepped into his place. During many years the average number of slaves freed by this agency was considerably over a thousand.


The slave-holders made it unsafe for Northerners of anti-slavery opinions to remain in the South. Acts of brutal violence—very frequently resulting in murder—became very common. 1860 A.D. During one year eight hundred persons were robbed, whipped, tarred and feathered, or murdered for suspected antipathy to slavery. The possession of an anti-slavery newspaper or book involved expulsion from the State; and the circulation of such works could scarcely be expiated by any punishment but death. In Virginia and Maryland it was gravely contemplated to drive the free negroes from their homes, or to sell them into slavery and devote the money thus obtained to the support of the common schools! Arkansas did actually expel her free negroes. The slave-holders were determined that nothing which could remind their victims of liberty should be suffered to remain.

1858 A.D. It was well said by Mr. Seward that they greatly erred who deemed this collision accidental or ephemeral. It was “an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces.” All attempts at compromise would be short-lived and vain.

The most influential advocate of the numerous compromises by which the strife was sought to be calmed, was Henry Clay of Kentucky. Clay was much loved for his genial dispositions, much honoured and trusted in for his commanding ability. For many years of the prolonged struggle he seemed to stand between North and South—wielding authority over both. Although Southern, he hated slavery, and the slave-holders had often to receive from his lips emphatic denunciations of their favourite system. But he hated the doctrines of the abolitionists, too, and believed they were leading towards the dissolution of the Union. He desired gradual emancipation, and along with it the return of the negroes to Africa. His aim was to deliver his country from the taint of slavery; but he would[185] effect that great revolution step by step, as the country could bear it. At every crisis he was ready with a compromise. His proposals soothed the angry passions which were aroused when Missouri sought admission into the Union. 1850 A.D. His, too, was that unhappy compromise, one feature of which was the Fugitive Slave Bill. If compromise could have averted strife, Henry Clay would have saved his country. But the conflict was irrepressible.

The slave-power grew very bold during the later years of its existence. The re-opening of the slave-trade became one of the questions of the day in the Southern States. The Governor of South Carolina expressly recommended this measure. Southern newspapers supported it; Southern ruffians actually accomplished it. Numerous cargoes of slaves were landed in the South in open defiance of law, and the outrage was unrebuked. 1859 A.D. Political conventions voted their approval of the traffic, and associations were formed to promote it. Agricultural societies offered prizes for the best specimens of newly imported live Africans. It was even proposed that a prize should be offered for the best sermon in favour of the slave-trade! Advertisements like this were frequent in Southern newspapers—“For sale, four hundred negroes, lately landed on the coast of Texas.” It was possible to do such things then. A little later—in the days of Abraham Lincoln—a certain ruffianly Captain Gordon made the perilous experiment of bringing a cargo of slaves to New York. He was seized, and promptly hanged, and there was no further attempt to revive the slave-trade. Thus appropriately was this hideous traffic closed.



The hatred of the North to slavery was rapidly growing. In the eyes of some, slavery was an enormous sin, fitted to bring the curse of God upon the land. To others, it was a political evil, marring the unity and hindering the progress of the country. To very many, on the one ground or the other, it was becoming hateful. Politicians sought to delay by concessions the inevitable crisis. Simple men, guiding themselves by their conviction of the wickedness of slavery, were growing ever more vehement in their abhorrence of this evil thing.

John Brown was such a man. The blood of the Pilgrim Fathers flowed in his veins; the old Puritan spirit guided all his actions. From his boyhood he abhorred slavery; and he was constrained by his duty to God and man to spend himself in this cause. There was no hope of advantage in it; no desire for fame; no thought at all for himself or for his children. He saw a huge wrong, and he could not help setting himself to resist it. He was no politician. He was powerless to influence the councils of the nation, but he had the old Puritan aptitude for battle. He went to Kansas with his sons to help in the fight for freedom; and while there was fighting to be done, John Brown was at the front. He was a leader among the free settlers, who felt his military superiority, and followed him with confidence in many a bloody skirmish. He retired[187] habitually into deep solitudes to pray. He had morning and evening prayers, in which all his followers joined. He would allow no man of immoral character in his camp. He believed that God directed him in visions; he was God’s servant, and not man’s. The work given him to do might be bitter to the flesh, but since it was God’s work he dared not shrink from it.

When the triumph of freedom was secured in Kansas, John Brown moved eastward to Virginia. He was now to devote himself in earnest to the overthrow of the accursed institution. The laws of his country sanctioned an enormous wickedness. He declared war against his country, in so far as the national support of slavery was concerned. He prepared a constitution and a semblance of government. He himself was the head of this singular organization. Associated with him were a Secretary of State, a Treasurer, and a Secretary of War. Slavery, he stated, was a barbarous and unjustifiable war, carried on by one section of the community against another. His new government was for the defence of those whom the laws of the country wrongfully left undefended. He was joined by a few enthusiasts like-minded with himself, and he laid up a store of arms. He and his friends hung about plantations, and aided the escape of slaves to Canada. Occasionally the horses and cattle of the slave-owner were laid under contribution to support the costs of the campaign. Brown meditated war upon a somewhat extensive scale, and only waited the reinforcements of which he was assured, that he might proclaim liberty to all the captives in his neighbourhood. But reason appeared for believing that his plans had been betrayed to the enemy, and Brown was hurried into measures which brought swift destruction upon himself and his followers.

Harper’s Ferry was a town of five thousand inhabitants, nestling amid steep and rugged mountains, where the Shenandoah unites its waters with those of the Potomac. The National Armoury was here, and an arsenal in which were[188] laid up enormous stores of arms and ammunition. Brown resolved to seize the arsenal. It was his hope that the slaves would hasten to his standard when the news of his success went abroad. And he seems to have reckoned that he would become strong enough to make terms with the Government, or, at the worst, to secure the escape to Canada of his armed followers.

1859 A.D. One Sunday evening in October he marched into Harper’s Ferry with a little army of twenty-two men—black and white—and easily possessed himself of the arsenal. He cut the telegraph wires; he stopped the trains which here cross the Potomac; he made prisoners of the workmen who came in the morning to resume their labours at the arsenal. His sentinels held the streets and bridges. The surprise was complete, and for a few hours his possession of the Government works was undisputed.

When at length the news of this amazing rebellion was suffered to escape, and America learned that old John Brown had invaded and conquered Harper’s Ferry, the rage and alarm of the slave-owners and their supporters knew no bounds. The Virginians, upon whom the affront fell most heavily, took prompt measures to avenge it. By noon on Monday a force of militiamen surrounded the little town, to prevent the escape of those whom, as yet, they were not strong enough to capture. Before night fifteen hundred men were assembled. All that night Brown held his conquest, till nearly all his men were wounded or slain. His two sons were shot dead. Brown, standing beside their bodies, calmly exhorted his men to be firm, and sell their lives as dearly as possible. On Tuesday morning the soldiers forced an entrance, and Brown, with a sabre-cut in his head, and two bayonet-stabs in his body, was a prisoner. He was tried, and condemned to die. Throughout his imprisonment, and even amid the horrors of the closing scene, his habitual serenity was undisturbed. He “humbly trusted that[189] he had the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, to rule in his heart.”

To the enraged slave-owners John Brown was a detestable rebel. To the abolitionists he was a martyr. To us he is a true, earnest, but most ill-judging man. His actions were unwise, unwarrantable; but his aims were noble, his self-devotion was heroic.



In this year America made her decennial enumeration of her people and their possessions. The industrial greatness which the census revealed was an astonishment, not only to the rest of the world, but even to herself. The slow growth of the old European countries seemed absolute stagnation beside this swift multiplication of men and of beasts, and of wealth in every form.

The three million colonists who had thrown off the British yoke had now increased to thirty-one and a half million! Of these, four million were slaves, owned by three hundred and fifty thousand persons. This great population was assisted in its toils by six million horses and two million working oxen. It owned eight million cows, fifteen million other cattle, twenty-two million sheep, and thirty-three million hogs. The products of the soil were enormous. The cotton crop of this year was close upon one million tons. It had more than doubled within the last ten years. The grain crop was twelve hundred million bushels—figures so large as to pass beyond our comprehension. Tobacco had more than doubled since 1850—until now America actually yielded a supply of five hundred million pounds. There were five thousand miles of canals, and thirty thousand miles of railroad—twenty-two thousand of which were the creation of the preceding ten years. The textile manufactures of the country had reached[191] the annual value of forty million sterling. America had provided for the education of her children by erecting one hundred and thirteen thousand schools and colleges, and employing one hundred and fifty thousand teachers. Her educational institutions enjoyed revenues amounting to nearly seven million sterling, and were attended by five and a half million pupils. Religious instruction was given in fifty-four thousand churches, in which there was accommodation for nineteen million hearers. The daily history of the world was supplied by four thousand newspapers, which circulated annually one thousand million copies.

There belonged to the American people nearly two thousand million acres of land. They had not been able to make any use of the greater part of this enormous heritage. Only four hundred million acres had as yet become in any measure available for the benefit of man. The huge remainder lay unpossessed—its power to give wealth to man growing always greater during the long ages of solitude and neglect. The ownership of this prodigious expanse of fertile land opened to the American people a future of unexampled prosperity. They needed only peace and the exercise of their own vigorous industry. But a sterner task was in store for them.

During the last few years the divisions between North and South had become exceedingly bitter. The North was becoming ever more intolerant of slavery. The unreasoning and passionate South resented with growing fierceness the Northern abhorrence of her favoured institution. In the Senate House one day a member was bending over his desk, busied in writing. His name was Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts. He was well known for the hatred which he bore to slavery, and his power as an orator gave him rank as a leader among those who desired the overthrow of the system. While this senator was occupied with his writing, there walked up to him two men[192] whom South Carolina deemed not unworthy to frame laws for a great people. One of them—a ruffian, although a senator—whose name was Brooks, carried a heavy cane. With this formidable weapon he discharged many blows upon the head of the unsuspecting Sumner, till his victim fell bleeding and senseless to the floor. For this outrage a trifling fine was imposed on Brooks. His admiring constituents eagerly paid the amount. Brooks resigned his seat, and was immediately re-elected. Handsome canes flowed in upon him from all parts of the slave country. The South, in a most deliberate and emphatic manner, recorded its approval of the crime which he had committed.

To such a pass had North and South now come. Sumner vehemently attacking slavery; Brooks vehemently smiting Sumner upon his defenceless head—these men represent with perfect truthfulness the feeling of the two great sections. This cannot last.

A new President fell to be elected in 1860. Never had an election taken place under circumstances so exciting. The North was thoroughly aroused on the slave question. The time for compromises was felt to have passed. It was a death-grapple between the two powers. Each party had to put forth its strength and conquer, or be crushed.

The enemies of slavery announced it as their design to prevent slavery from extending to the Territories. They had no power to interfere in States where the system already existed. But, they said, the Territories belong to the Union. The proper condition of the Union is freedom. The Slave States are merely exceptional. It is contrary to the Constitution to carry this irregularity where it does not already exist.

The Territories, said the South, belong to the Union. All citizens of the Union are free to go there with their property. Slaves are property. Slavery may therefore be established in the Territories, if slave-owners choose to settle there.


On this issue battle was joined. The Northern party nominated Abraham Lincoln as their candidate. The Southerners, with their friends in the North—of whom there were many—divided their votes among three candidates. They were defeated, and Abraham Lincoln became President.

Mr. Lincoln was the son of a small and not very prosperous farmer. He was born in 1809 in the State of Kentucky, but his youth was passed mainly in Indiana. His father had chosen to settle on the farthest verge of civilization. Around him was a dense, illimitable forest, still wandered over by the Indians. Here and there in the wilderness occurred a rude wooden hut like his own, the abode of some rough settler regardless of comfort and greedy of the excitements of pioneering. The next neighbour was two miles away. There were no roads, no bridges, no inns. The traveller swam the rivers he had to cross, and trusted, not in vain, to the hospitality of the settlers for food and shelter. Now and then a clergyman passed that way, and from a hasty platform beneath a tree the gospel was preached to an eagerly-listening audience of rugged woodsmen. Many years after, when he had grown wise and famous, Mr. Lincoln spoke, with tears in his eyes, of a well-remembered sermon which he had heard from a wayfaring preacher in the great Indiana wilderness. Justice was administered under the shade of forest trees. The jury sat upon a log. The same tree which sheltered the court, occasionally served as a gibbet for the criminal.

In this society—rugged, but honest and kindly—the youth of the future President was passed. He had little schooling; indeed there was scarcely a school within reach, and if all the days of his school-time were added together they would scarcely make up one year. His father was poor, and Abraham was needed on the farm. There was timber to fell, there were fences to build, fields to plough, sowing and reaping to be done.[194] Abraham led a busy life, and knew well, while yet a boy, what hard work meant. Like all boys who come to anything great, he had a devouring thirst for knowledge. He borrowed all the books in his neighbourhood, and read them by the blaze of the logs which his own axe had split.

This was his upbringing. When he entered life for himself, it was as clerk in a small store. He served nearly a year there, conducting faithfully and cheerfully the lowly commerce by which the wants of the settlers were supplied. Then he comes before us as a soldier, fighting a not very bloody campaign against the Indians, who had undertaken, rather imprudently, to drive the white men out of that region. Having settled in Illinois, he commenced the study of law, supporting himself by land-surveying during the unprofitable stages of that pursuit. Finally he applied himself to politics, and in 1834 was elected a member of the Legislature of Illinois.

He was now in his twenty-fifth year; of vast stature, somewhat awkwardly fashioned, slender for his height, but uncommonly muscular and enduring. He was of pleasant humour, ready and true insight. After such a boyhood as his, difficulty had no terrors for him, and he was incapable of defeat. His manners were very homely. His lank, ungainly figure, dressed in the native manufacture of the backwoods, would have spread dismay in a European drawing-room. He was smiled at even in the uncourtly Legislature of Illinois. But here, as elsewhere, whoever came into contact with Abraham Lincoln felt that he was a man framed to lead other men. Sagacious, penetrating, full of resource, and withal honest, kindly, conciliatory, his hands might be roughened by toil, his dress and ways might be those of the wilderness, yet was he quickly recognized as a born king of men.

During the next twenty-six years Mr. Lincoln applied himself to the profession of the law. During the greater portion of those years he was in public life. He had part in all the[195] political controversies of his time. Chief among these were the troubles arising out of slavery. From his boyhood Mr. Lincoln was a steady enemy to slavery, as at once foolish and wrong. He would not interfere with it in the old States, for there the Constitution gave him no power; but he would in noway allow its establishment in the Territories. He desired a policy which “looked forward hopefully to the time when slavery, as a wrong, might come to an end.” He gained in a very unusual degree the confidence of his party, who raised him to the presidential chair, as a true and capable representative of their principles in regard to the great slavery question.



South Carolina was the least loyal to the Union of all the States. She estimated very highly her own dignity as a sovereign State. She held in small account the allegiance which she owed to the Federal Government. Twenty-eight years ago Congress had enacted a highly protective tariff. 1832 A.D. South Carolina, disapproving of this measure, decreed that it was not binding upon her. Should the Federal Government attempt to enforce it, South Carolina announced her purpose of quitting the Union and becoming independent. General Jackson, who was then President, made ready to hold South Carolina to her duty by force; but Congress modified the tariff, and so averted the danger. Jackson believed firmly that the men who then held the destiny of South Carolina in their hands wished to secede. “The tariff,” he said, “was but a pretext. The next will be the slavery question.”

1860 A.D. The time predicted had now come, and South Carolina led her sister States into the dark and bloody path. A convention of her people was promptly called, and on the 20th of December an Ordinance was passed dissolving the Union, and declaring South Carolina a free and independent republic. When the Ordinance was passed the bells of Charleston rang for joy, and the streets of the city resounded with the wild exulting shouts of an excited people. Dearly had the joy[197] of those tumultuous hours to be paid for. Four years later, when Sherman quelled the heroic defence of the rebel city, Charleston lay in ruins. Her people, sorely diminished by war and famine, had been long familiar with the miseries which a strict blockade and a merciless bombardment can inflict.

The example of South Carolina was at once followed by other discontented States. Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida hastened to assert their independence, and to league themselves into a new Confederacy. They adopted a Constitution, differing from the old mainly in these respects, that it contained provisions against taxes to protect any branch of industry, and gave effective securities for the permanence and extension of slavery. They elected Mr. Jefferson Davis President for six years. They possessed themselves of the Government property within their own boundaries. It was not yet their opinion that the North would fight, and they bore themselves with a high hand in all the arrangements which their new position seemed to call for.

After the Government was formed, the Confederacy was joined by other Slave States who at first had hesitated. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas, after some delay, gave in their adhesion. The Confederacy in its completed form was composed of eleven States, with a population of nine million; six million of whom were free, and three million were slaves. Twenty-three States remained loyal to the Union. Their population amounted to twenty-two million.

It is not to be supposed that the free population of the seceding States were unanimous in their desire to break up the Union. On the contrary, there is good reason to believe that a majority of the people in most of the seceding States were all the time opposed to secession. In North Carolina the attempt to carry secession was at first defeated by the people. In the end that State left the Union reluctantly, under the belief that not otherwise could it escape becoming the battle-ground of the[198] contending powers. Thus, too, Virginia refused at first by large majorities to secede. In Georgia and Alabama the minorities against secession were large. In Louisiana twenty thousand votes were given for secession, and seventeen thousand against it. In many cases it required much intrigue and dexterity of management to obtain a favourable vote; and the resolution to quit the Union was received in sorrow by very many of the Southern people. But everywhere in the South the idea prevailed that allegiance was due to the State rather than to the Federation. And thus it came to pass that when the authorities of a State resolved to abandon the Union, the citizens of that State felt constrained to secede, even while they mourned the course upon which they were forced to enter.

It has been maintained by some defenders of the seceding States that slavery was not the cause of secession. On that question there can surely be no authority so good as that of the seceding States themselves. A declaration of the reasons which influenced their action was issued by several States, and acquiesced in by the others. South Carolina was the first to give reasons for her conduct. These reasons related wholly to slavery, no other cause of separation being hinted at. The Northern States, it was complained, would not restore runaway slaves. They assumed the right of “deciding on the propriety of our domestic institutions.” They denounced slavery as sinful. They permitted the open establishment of anti-slavery societies. They aided the escape of slaves. They sought to exclude slavery from the Territories. Finally, they had elected to the office of President, Abraham Lincoln, “a man whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.”

Some of the American people had from the beginning held the opinion that any State could leave the Union at her pleasure. That belief was general in the South. The seceding States did not doubt that they had full legal right to take the step which they had taken, and they stated with perfect frankness what[199] was their reason for exercising this right. They believed that slavery was endangered by their continuance in the Union. Strictly speaking, they fought in defence of their right to secede. But they had no other motive for seceding than that slavery should be preserved and extended. The war which ensued was therefore really a war in defence of slavery. But for the Southern love and the Northern antipathy to slavery, no war could have occurred. The men of the South attempted to break up the Union because they thought slavery would be safer if the Slave-owning States stood alone. The men of the North refused to allow the Union to be broken up. They did not go to war to put down slavery. They had no more right to put down slavery in the South than England has to put down slavery in Cuba. The Union which they loved was endangered, and they fought to defend the Union.



Mr. Lincoln was elected, according to usage, early in November, but did not take possession of his office till March. In the interval President Buchanan remained in power. This gentleman was Southern by birth, and, as it has always been believed, by sympathy. He laid no arrest upon the movements of the seceding States; nay, it has been alleged that he rather sought to remove obstacles from their path. During all these winter months the Southern leaders were suffered to push forward their preparations for the approaching conflict. The North still hoped for peace, and Congress busied itself with vain schemes of conciliation. Meetings were held all over the country, at which an anxious desire was expressed to remove causes of offence. The self-willed Southerners would listen to no compromise. They would go apart, peacefully if they might; in storm and bloodshed if they must.

1861 A.D. Early in February Mr. Lincoln left his home in Illinois on his way to Washington. His neighbours accompanied him to the railroad depôt, where he spoke a few parting words to them. “I know not,” he said, “how soon I shall see you again. A duty devolves upon me, which is, perhaps, greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which[201] he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same divine aid which sustained him, and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support; and I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that divine assistance without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain.”

With these grave, devout words, he took his leave, and passed on to the fulfilment of his heavy task. His inauguration took place as usual on the 4th of March. A huge crowd assembled around the Capitol. Mr. Lincoln had thus far kept silence as to the course he meditated in regard to the seceding States. Seldom had a revelation involving issues so momentous been waited for at the lips of any man. The anxious crowd stood so still, that to its utmost verge the words of the speaker were distinctly heard.

He assured the Southerners that their fears were unfounded. He had no lawful right to interfere with slavery in the States where it existed; he had no purpose and no inclination to interfere. He would, on the contrary, maintain them in the enjoyment of all the rights which the Constitution bestowed upon them. But he held that no State could quit the Union at pleasure. In view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union was unbroken. His policy would be framed upon that belief. He would continue to execute the laws within the seceding States, and would continue to possess Federal property there, with all the force at his command. That did not necessarily involve conflict or bloodshed. Government would not assail the discontented States, but would suffer no invasion of its constitutional rights. With the South, therefore, it lay to decide whether there was to be peace or war.

A week or two before Mr. Lincoln’s inauguration Jefferson Davis had entered upon his career as President of the Southern Republic. Mr. Davis was an old politician. He had long advocated[202] the right of an aggrieved State to leave the Union; and he had largely contributed, by speech and by intrigue, to hasten the crisis which had now arrived. He was an accomplished man, a graceful writer, a fluent and persuasive speaker. He was ambitious, resolute, and of ample experience in the management of affairs; but he had many disqualifications for high office. His obstinacy was blind and unreasoning. He had little knowledge of men, and could not distinguish “between an instrument and an obstacle.” His moral tone was low. He taught Mississippi, his native State, to repudiate her just debts. A great English statesman, who made his acquaintance some years before the war broke out, pronounced him one of the ablest and one of the most wicked men in America.

In his Inaugural Address Mr. Davis displayed a prudent reserve. Speaking for the world to hear—a world which, upon the whole, abhorred slavery—he did not name the grievances which rendered secession necessary. He maintained the right of a discontented State to secede. The Union had ceased to answer the ends for which it was established; and in the exercise of an undoubted right they had withdrawn from it. He hoped their late associates would not incur the fearful responsibility of disturbing them in their pursuit of a separate political career. If so, it only remained for them to appeal to arms, and invoke the blessing of Providence on a just cause.

Alexander H. Stephens was the Vice-President of the Confederacy. His health was bad, and the expression of his face indicated habitual suffering. He had nevertheless been a laborious student, and a patient, if not a very wise, thinker on the great questions of his time. In the early days of secession he delivered at Savannah a speech which quickly became famous, and which retains its interest still as the most candid explanation of the motives and the expectations of the South. The old Government, he said, was founded upon sand. It was founded upon the assumption of the equality of races. Its authors[203] entertained the mistaken belief that African slavery was wrong in principle. “Our new Government,” said the Vice-President, “is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man—that slavery is his natural and normal condition.” Why the Creator had made him so could not be told. “It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them.” With this very clear statement by the Vice-President, we are freed from uncertainty as to the designs of the Southern leaders, and filled with thankfulness for the ruin which fell upon their wicked enterprise.

It is a very curious but perfectly authenticated fact, that notwithstanding the pains taken by Southern leaders to show that they seceded merely to preserve and maintain slavery, there were many intelligent men in England who steadfastly maintained that slavery had little or nothing to do with the origin of the Great War.


Book Fourth.


When his Inaugural Address was delivered, Mr. Lincoln was escorted by his predecessor in office back to the White House, where they parted—Buchanan to retire, not with honour, into a kindly oblivion; Lincoln to begin that great work which had devolved upon him. During all that month of March and on to the middle of April the world heard very little of the new President. He was seldom seen in Washington. It was rumoured that intense meditation upon the great problem had made him ill. It was asserted that he endured the pains of indecision. In the Senate attempts were made to draw forth from him a confession of his purposes—if indeed he had any purposes. But the grim silence was unbroken. The South persuaded herself that he was afraid—that the peace-loving, money-making North had no heart for fight. She was even able to believe, in her vain pride, that most of the Northern States would ultimately adopt her doctrines and join themselves to her Government. Even in the North there was a party which wished union with the seceding States, on their own principles. There was a general indisposition to believe in war. The South had so often threatened, and been so often soothed by[205] fresh concessions, it was difficult to believe now that she meant anything more than to establish a position for advantageous negotiation. All over the world men waited in anxious suspense for the revelation of President Lincoln’s policy. Mercantile enterprise languished. Till the occupant of the White House chose to open his lips and say whether it was peace or war, the business of the world must be content to stand still.

Mr. Lincoln’s silence was not the result of irresolution. He had doubt as to what the South would do; he had no doubt as to what he himself would do. He would maintain the Union;—by friendly arrangement and concession, if that were possible; if not, by war fought out to the bitter end.

He nominated the members of his Cabinet—most prominent among whom was William H. Seward, his Secretary of State. Mr. Seward had been during all his public life a determined enemy to slavery. He was in full sympathy with the President as to the course which had to be pursued. His acute and vigorous intellect and great experience in public affairs fitted him for the high duties which he was called to discharge.

So soon as Mr. Lincoln entered upon his office the Southern Government sent ambassadors to him as to a foreign power. These gentlemen formally intimated that the six States had withdrawn from the Union, and now formed an independent nation. They desired to solve peaceably all the questions growing out of this separation, and they desired an interview with the President, that they might enter upon the business to which they had been appointed.

Mr. Seward replied to the communication of the Southern envoys. His letter was framed with much care, as its high importance demanded. It was calm and gentle in its tone, but most clear and decisive. He could not recognize the events which had recently occurred as a rightful and accomplished[206] revolution, but rather as a series of unjustifiable aggressions. He could not recognize the new Government as a government at all. He could not recognize or hold official intercourse with its agents. The President could not receive them or admit them to any communication. Within the unimpassioned words of Mr. Seward there breathed the fixed, unalterable purpose of the Northern people, against which, as many persons even then felt, the impetuous South might indeed dash herself to pieces, but could by no possibility prevail. The baffled ambassadors went home, and the angry South quickened her preparations for war.

Within the bay of Charleston, and intended for the defence of that important city, stood Fort Sumpter, a work of considerable strength, and capable, if adequately garrisoned, of a prolonged defence. It was not so garrisoned, however, when the troubles began. It was held by Major Anderson with a force of seventy men, imperfectly provisioned. The Confederates wished to possess themselves of Fort Sumpter, and hoped at one time to effect their object peaceably. When that hope failed them, they cut off Major Anderson’s supply of provisions, and quietly began to encircle him with batteries. For some time they waited till hunger should compel the surrender of the fort. But word was brought to them that President Lincoln was sending ships with provisions. April 11, 1861 A.D. Fort Sumpter was promptly summoned to surrender. Major Anderson offered to go in three days, if not relieved. In reply he received intimation that in one hour the bombardment would open.

About daybreak on the 12th the stillness of Charleston bay was disturbed by the firing of a large mortar and the shriek of a shell as it rushed through the air. The shell burst over Fort Sumpter, and the war of the Great Rebellion was begun. The other batteries by which the doomed fortress was surrounded[207] quickly followed, and in a few minutes fifty guns of the largest size flung shot and shell into the works. The guns were admirably served, and every shot told. The garrison had neither provisions nor an adequate supply of ammunition. They were seventy, and their assailants were seven thousand. All they could do was to offer such resistance as honour demanded. Hope of success there was none.

The garrison did not reply at first to the hostile fire. They quietly breakfasted in the security of the bomb-proof casemates. Having finished their repast, they opened a comparatively feeble and ineffective fire. All that day and next the Confederate batteries rained shell and red-hot shot into the fort. The wooden barracks caught fire, and the men were nearly suffocated by the smoke. Barrels of gunpowder had to be rolled through the flames into the sea. The last cartridge had been loaded into the guns; the last biscuit had been eaten; huge clefts yawned in the crumbling walls. Enough had been done for honour; to prolong the resistance was uselessly to endanger the lives of brave men. Major Anderson surrendered the ruined fortress, and the garrison marched out with the honours of war. Curiously enough, although heavy firing had continued during thirty-four hours, no man on either side was injured!

It was a natural mistake that South Carolina should deem the capture of Fort Sumpter a glorious victory. The bells of Charleston chimed triumphantly all the day; guns were fired; the citizens were in the streets expressing with many oaths the rapture which this great success inspired, and their confident hope of triumphs equally decisive in time to come; ministers gave thanks; ladies waved handkerchiefs; male patriots quaffed potent draughts to the welfare of the Confederacy. On that bright April Sunday all was enthusiasm and boundless excitement in the city of Charleston. Alas for the vanity of human hopes! There were days near at hand, and many of them too,[208] when these rejoicing citizens should sit in hunger and sorrow and despair among the ruins of their city and the utter wreck of their fortunes and their trade.

By many of the Southern people war was eagerly desired. The Confederacy was already established for some months, and yet it included only six States. There were eight other Slave States, whose sympathies it was believed were with the seceders. These had been expected to join, but there proved to exist within them a loyalty to the Union sufficiently strong to delay their secession. Amid the excitements which war would enkindle, this loyalty, it was hoped, would disappear, and the hesitating States would be constrained to join their fortunes to those of their more resolute sisters. The fall of Fort Sumpter was more than a military triumph. It would more than double the strength of the Confederacy, and raise it at once to the rank of a great power. Everywhere in the South, therefore, there was a wild, exulting joy. And not without reason; for Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas now joined their sisters in secession.

In the North, the hope had been tenaciously clung to that the peace of the country was not to be disturbed. This dream was rudely broken by the siege of Fort Sumpter. The North awakened suddenly to the awful certainty that civil war was begun. There was a deep feeling of indignation at the traitors who were willing to ruin their country that slavery might be secure. There was a full appreciation of the danger, and an instant universal determination that, at whatever cost, the national life must be preserved. Personal sacrifice was unconsidered; individual interests were merged in the general good. Political difference, ordinarily so bitter, was for the time almost effaced. Nothing was of interest but the question how this audacious rebellion was to be suppressed and the[209] American nation upheld in the great place which it claimed among men.

Two days after the fall of Fort Sumpter, Mr. Lincoln intimated, by proclamation, the dishonour done to the laws of the United States, and called out the militia to the extent of seventy-five thousand men. The Free States responded enthusiastically to the call. So prompt was their action, that on the very next day several companies arrived in Washington. Flushed by their easily-won victory, the Southerners talked boastfully of seizing the capital. In a very short space there were fifty thousand loyal men ready to prevent that, and the safety of Washington was secured.

The North pushed forward with boundless energy her warlike preparations. Rich men offered money with so much liberality that in a few days nearly five million sterling had been contributed. The school-teachers of Boston dedicated fixed proportions of their incomes to the support of the Government, while the war should last. All over the country the excited people gathered themselves into crowded meetings, and breathed forth in fervid resolutions their determination to spend fortune and life in defence of the Union. Volunteer companies were rapidly formed. In the cities ladies began to organize themselves for the relief of sick and wounded soldiers. It had been fabled that the North would not fight. With a fiery promptitude unknown before in modern history the people sprang to arms.

Even yet there was on both sides a belief that the war would be a short one. The South, despising an adversary unpractised in war, and vainly trusting that the European powers would interfere in order to secure their wonted supplies of cotton, expected that a few victories more would bring peace. The North still regarded secession as little more than a gigantic riot, which she proposed to extinguish within ninety days.[210] The truth was strangely different from the prevailing belief of the day. A high-spirited people, six million in number, occupying a fertile territory nearly a million square miles in extent, had risen against the Government. The task undertaken by the North was to conquer this people, and by force of arms to bring them and their territory back to the Union. This was not likely to prove a work of easy accomplishment.



When the North addressed herself to her task, her own capital was still threatened by the rebels. Two or three miles down the Potomac, and full in view of Washington, lies the old-fashioned decaying Virginian town of Alexandria, where the unfortunate Braddock had landed his troops a century before. The Confederate flag floated over Alexandria. A rebel force was marching on Harper’s Ferry, forty miles from Washington; and as the Government works there could not be defended, they were burned. Preparations were being made to seize Arlington Heights, from which Washington could be easily shelled. At Manassas Junction, thirty miles away, a rebel army lay encamped. It seemed to many foreign observers that the North might lay aside all thought of attack, and be well pleased if she succeeded in the defence of what was still left to her.

But the Northern people, never doubting either their right or their strength, put their hand boldly to the work. The first thing to be done was to shut the rebels in so that no help could reach them from the world outside. They could grow food enough; but they were a people who could make little. They needed from Europe supplies of arms and ammunition, of clothing, of medicine. They needed money, which they could only get by sending away their cotton. To stop their intercourse[212] with Europe was to inflict a blow which would itself prove almost fatal. Four days after the fall of Fort Sumpter, Mr. Lincoln announced the blockade of all the rebel ports. It was a little time after till he had ships enough to make the blockade effective. But in a few weeks this was done, and every rebel port was closed. The grasp thus established was never relaxed. So long as the war lasted, the South obtained foreign supplies only from vessels which carried on the desperate trade of blockade-running.

Virginia completed her secession on the 23rd April. Next morning Federal troops seized and fortified Alexandria and the Arlington Heights. In the western portions of Virginia the people were so little in favour of secession that they wished to establish themselves as a separate State, loyal to the Union. With no very serious trouble the rebel forces were driven out of this region, and Western Virginia was restored to the Union. Desperate attempts were made by the disloyal Governor of Missouri to carry his State out of the Union, against the wish of a majority of the people. It was found possible to defeat the efforts of the secessionists and retain Missouri. Throughout the war this State was grievously wasted by Southern raids, but she held fast her loyalty.

Thus at the opening of the war substantial advantages had been gained by the North. They were not, however, of a sufficiently brilliant character fully to satisfy the expectations of the excited people. A great battle must be won. Government, unwisely yielding to the pressure, ordered their imperfectly disciplined troops to advance and attack the rebels in their position at Manassas Junction.

General Beauregard lay at Manassas with a rebel force variously estimated at from thirty thousand to forty thousand men. In front of his position ran the little stream of Bull Run, in[213] a narrow, wooded valley—the ground rising on both sides into “bluffs,” crowned with frequent patches of dense wood. General M’Dowell moved to attack him, with an army about equal in strength. July 21, 1861 A.D. It was early Sunday morning when the army set out from its quarters at Centreville. The march was not over ten miles, but the day was hot, and the men not yet inured to hardship. It was ten o’clock when the battle fairly opened. From the heights on the northern bank of the stream the Federal artillery played upon the enemy. The Southern line stretched well nigh ten miles, and M’Dowell hoped, by striking with an overwhelming force at a point on the enemy’s right, to roll back his entire line in confusion. Heavy masses of infantry forded the stream and began the attack. The Southerners fought bravely and skilfully, but at the point of attack they were inferior in number, and they were driven back. The battle spread away far among the woods, and soon every copse held its group of slain and wounded men. By three o’clock the Federals reckoned the battle as good as won, for the enemy, though still fighting, was falling back. But at that hour railway trains ran close up to the field of battle with fifteen thousand Southerners fresh and eager for the fray. This new force was hurried into action. The wearied Federals could not endure the vehemence of the attack; they broke, and fled down the hill-side. With inexperienced troops a measured and orderly retreat is impossible; defeat is quickly followed by panic. The men who had fought so bravely all the day now hurried in wild confusion from the field. The road was choked with a tangled mass of baggage-waggons, artillery, soldiers and civilians frenzied by fear, and cavalry riding wildly through the quaking mob. But the Southerners attempted no pursuit, and the panic passed away. Scarcely an attempt, however, was made to stop the flight. Order was not restored till the worn-out men made their way back to Washington.


This was the first great battle of the war, and its results were of prodigious importance. By the sanguine men of the South it was hailed as decisive of their final success. President Davis counted upon the immediate recognition of the Confederacy by the Great Powers of Europe as now certain. The newspapers accepted it as a settled truth that “one Southerner was equal to five Yankees.” Intrigues began for the succession to the presidential chair—six years hence. A controversy arose among the States as to the location of the Capital. The success of the Confederacy was regarded as a thing beyond doubt. Enlistment languished; it was scarcely worth while to undergo the inconvenience of fighting for a cause which was already triumphant.

The defeat at Manassas taught the people of the North that the task they had undertaken was a heavier task than they supposed, but it did not shake their steady purpose to perform it. On the day after the battle—while the routed army was swarming into Washington—Congress voted five hundred million dollars, and called for half a million of volunteers. A few days later, Congress unanimously resolved that the suppression of the rebellion was a sacred duty, from the performance of which no disaster should discourage; to which they pledged the employment of every resource, national and individual. “Having chosen our course,” said Mr. Lincoln, “without guile, and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and with manly hearts.” The spirit of the North rose as the greatness of the enterprise became apparent. No thought was there of any other issue from the national agony than the overthrow of the national foe. The youth of the country crowded into the ranks. The patriotic impulse possessed rich and poor alike, and the sons of wealthy men shouldered a musket side by side with the penniless children of toil. Once, by some accident, the money which[215] should have paid a New England regiment failed to arrive in time. A private in the regiment gave his cheque for a hundred thousand dollars, and the men were paid. The Christian churches yielded an earnest support to the war. In some western churches the men enlisted almost without exception. Occasionally their ministers accompanied them. Sabbath-school teachers and members of young men’s Christian associations were remarkable for the eagerness with which they obeyed the call of their country. It was no longer a short war and an easy victory which the North anticipated. The gigantic character of the struggle was at length recognized; and the North, chastened, but undismayed, made preparations for a contest on the issue of which her existence depended.



General M’Dowell had led the Northern army to a defeat which naturally shook public confidence in his ability to command. A new general was indispensable. When the war broke out, a young man—George B. M’Clellan by name—was resident in Cincinnati, peacefully occupied with the management of a railroad. He was trained at West Point, and had a high reputation for soldiership. Several years before, Mr. Cobden was told by Jefferson Davis that M’Clellan was one of the best generals the country possessed. He was skilful to construct and organize, but his power to direct successfully the movements of great armies engaged in actual warfare was still unproved.

General M’Clellan was appointed to the command of the army a few days after the defeat at Bull Run, and sanguine hopes were entertained that he was about to give the people victory over their enemies. He addressed himself at once to his task. From every State in the North men hastened to his standard. He disciplined them and perfected their equipment for the field. In October he was at the head of two hundred thousand men—the largest army ever yet seen on the American continent.

The rebel Government, which at first chose for its home the city of Montgomery in Alabama, moved to Richmond so soon[217] as Virginia gave in her reluctant adherence to the secession cause. Richmond, the gay capital of the Old Dominion, sits queen-like upon a lofty plateau, with deep valleys flanking her on east and west, and the James river rushing past far below upon the south—not many miles from the point where the “dissolute” fathers of the colony had established themselves two centuries and a half ago. To Washington the distance is only one hundred and thirty miles. The warring Governments were within a few hours’ journey of each other.

The supreme command of the rebel forces was committed to General Robert E. Lee—one of the greatest of modern soldiers. He was a calm, thoughtful, unpretending man, whose goodness gained for him universal love. He was opposed to secession, but believing, like the rest, that he owed allegiance wholly to his own State, he seceded with Virginia. It was his difficult task to contend nearly always with forces stronger than his own, and to eke out by his own skill and genius the scanty resources of the Confederacy. His consummate ability maintained the war long after all hope of success was gone; and when at length he laid down his arms, even the country against which he had fought was proud of her erring but noble son.

Thomas Jackson—better known as “Stonewall Jackson”—was the most famous of Lee’s generals. In him we have a strange evidence of the influence which slavery exerts upon the best of men. He was of truly heroic mould—brave, generous, devout. His military perception was unerring; his decision swift as lightning. He rose early in the morning to read the Scriptures and pray. He gave a tenth part of his income for religious uses; he taught a Sunday class of negro children; he delivered lectures on the authenticity of Scripture; when he dropped a letter into the post-office, he prayed for a blessing on the person to whom it was addressed. As his soldiers marched past his erect, unmoving figure, to meet the enemy, they saw his lips move, and knew that their leader was praying for them[218] to Him who “covereth the head in the day of battle.” And yet this good man caused his negroes—male and female—to be flogged when he judged that severity needful. And yet he recommended that the South should “take no prisoners”—in other words, that enemies who had ceased to resist should be massacred. To the end of his life he remained of opinion that the rejection of this policy was a mistake. So fatally do the noblest minds become tainted by the associations of slave society.

During the autumn and early winter of 1861 the weather was unusually fine, and the roads were consequently in excellent condition for the march of an army. The rebel forces were scattered about Virginia—some of them within sight of Washington. Around Richmond it was understood there were few troops. It seemed easy for M’Clellan, with his magnificent army, to trample down any slight resistance which could be offered, and march into the rebel capital. For many weeks the people and the Government waited patiently. They had been too hasty before; they would not again urge their general prematurely into battle. But the months of autumn passed, and no blow was struck. Winter was upon them, and still “all was quiet on the Potomac.” M’Clellan, in a series of brilliant reviews, presented his splendid army to the admiration of his countrymen; but he was not yet ready to fight. The country bore the delay for six months. Then it could be endured no longer, and in January Mr. Lincoln issued a peremptory order that a movement against the enemy should be made. M’Clellan now formed a plan of operations, and by the end of March was ready to begin his work.

South-eastward from Richmond the James and the York rivers fall into Chesapeake bay at a distance from each other of some twenty miles. The course of the rivers is nearly parallel,[219] and the region between them is known as the Peninsula. M’Clellan conveyed his army down the Potomac, landed at Fortress Monroe, and prepared to march upon Richmond by way of the Peninsula.

Before him lay the little town of Yorktown—where, eighty years before, the War of Independence was closed by the surrender of the English army. Yorktown was held by eleven thousand rebels. M’Clellan had over one hundred thousand well-disciplined men eager for battle. But he deemed it injudicious to assault the place, and preferred to operate in the way of a formal siege. The rebels waited till he was ready to open his batteries—and then quietly marched away.

M’Clellan moved slowly up the Peninsula. In six weeks he was within a few miles of Richmond, and in front of the forces which the rebels had been actively collecting for the defence of their capital. These forces were now so strong that M’Clellan deemed himself outnumbered, and sought the protection of his gunboats on the James river. The emboldened rebels dashed at his retreating ranks. His march to the James river occupied seven days, and on every day there was a battle. Nearly always the Federals had the advantage in the fight. Always after the fight they resumed their retreat. Once they drove back the enemy, inflicting upon him a crushing defeat. Their hopes rose with success, and they demanded to be led back to Richmond. M’Clellan shunned the great enterprise which opened before him, and never rested from his march till he lay in safety, sheltered by the gunboats on the James river. He had lost fifteen thousand men; but the rebels had suffered even more. It was said that the retreat was skilfully conducted, but the American people were in no humour to appreciate the merits of a chief who was great only in flight. Their disappointment was intense. The Southern leaders devoutly announced “undying gratitude to God” for their great success, and looked forward with increasing confidence to their final[220] triumph over an enemy whose assaults it seemed so easy to repulse.

Nor was this the only success which crowned the rebel arms. The most remarkable battle of the war was fought while M’Clellan was preparing for his advance; and it ended in a rebel victory.

At the very beginning of the war the Confederates bethought them of an iron-clad ship of war. They took hold of an old frigate which the Federals had sunk in the James river. They sheathed her in iron plates; they roofed her with iron rails. At her prow, beneath the water-line, they fitted an iron-clad projection, which might be driven into the side of an adversary. They armed her with ten guns of large size.

The mechanical resources of the Confederacy were defective, and this novel structure was eight months in preparation. 1862 A.D. One morning in March she steamed slowly down the James river, attended by five small vessels of the ordinary sort. A powerful Northern fleet lay guarding the mouth of the river. The Virginia—as the iron-clad had been named—came straight towards the hostile ships. She fired no shot; no man showed himself upon her deck. The Federals assailed her with well-aimed discharges; but the shot bounded harmless from her sides. She steered for the Cumberland, into whose timbers she struck her armed prow. A huge cleft opened in the Cumberland’s side, and the gallant ship went down with a hundred men of her crew on board. The Virginia next attacked the Federal ship Congress. At a distance of two hundred yards she opened her guns upon this ill-fated vessel. The Congress was aground, and could offer no effective resistance. After sustaining heavy loss, she was forced to surrender. Night approached, and the Virginia drew off, intending to resume her work on the morrow.

Early next morning—a bright Sunday morning—she steamed out, and made for the Minnesota—a Federal ship which had[221] been grounded to get beyond her reach. The Minnesota was still aground, and helpless. Beside her, however, as the men on board the Virginia observed, lay a mysterious structure, resembling nothing they had ever seen before. Her deck was scarcely visible above the water, and it supported nothing but an iron turret nine feet high. This was the Monitor, designed by Captain Ericsson;—the first of the class of iron-clad turret-ships. By a singular chance she had arrived thus opportunely. The two iron-clads measured their strength in combat, but their shot produced no impression, and after two hours of heavy but ineffective firing, they separated, and the Virginia retired up the James river.

This fight opened a new era in naval warfare. The Washington Government hastened to build turret-ships. All European Governments, perceiving the worthlessness of ships of the old type, proceeded to reconstruct their navies according to the light which the action of the Virginia and the Monitor afforded them.

The efforts of the North to crush the rebel forces in Virginia had signally failed. But military operations were not confined to Virginia: in this war the battle-field was the continent. Many hundreds of miles from the scene of M’Clellan’s unsuccessful efforts, the banner of the Union was advancing into the revolted territory. The North sought to occupy the Border States, and to repossess the line of the Mississippi, thus severing Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas from the other members of the secession enterprise, and perfecting the blockade which was now effectively maintained on the Atlantic coast. There were troops enough for these vast operations. By the 1st of December 1861, six hundred and forty thousand men had enrolled themselves for the war. The North, thoroughly aroused now, had armed and drilled these enormous hosts. Her foundries worked night and day, moulding cannon and mortars. Her own resources could not produce with sufficient rapidity[222] the gunboats which she needed to assert her supremacy on the western waters, but she obtained help from the building-yards of Europe. All that wealth and energy could do was done. While the Confederates were supinely trusting to the difficulties of the country and the personal prowess of their soldiers, the North massed forces which nothing on the continent could long resist. In the south and west results were achieved not unworthy of these vast preparations.

1861 A.D. During the autumn a strong fleet was sent southward to the Carolina coast. Overcoming with ease the slight resistance which the rebel forts were able to offer, the expedition possessed itself of Port Royal, and thus commanded a large tract of rebel territory. It was a cotton-growing district, worked wholly by slaves. The owners fled, but the slaves remained. The first experiment was made here to prove whether the negro would labour when the lash did not compel, and the results were most encouraging. The negroes worked cheerfully and patiently, and many of them became rich from the easy gains of labour on that rich soil.

In the west the war was pushed vigorously and with success. To General Grant—a strong, tenacious, silent man, destined ere long to be Commander-in-Chief and President—was assigned the work of driving the rebels out of Kentucky and Tennessee. His gunboats ran up the great rivers of these States and took effective part in the battles which were fought. The rebels were forced southward, till in the spring of 1862 the frontier line of rebel territory no longer enclosed Kentucky. Even Tennessee was held with a loosened and uncertain grasp.

March 1862 A.D. In Arkansas, beyond the Mississippi, was fought the Battle of Pea Ridge, which stretched over three days, and in which the rebels received a sharp defeat. Henceforth the rebels had no footing in Missouri or in Arkansas.

New Orleans fell in April. Admiral Farragut with a powerful fleet forced his way past the forts and gunboats which composed[223] the insufficient defence of the city. There was no army to resist him. He landed a small party of marines, who pulled down the Secession flag and restored that of the Union. The people looked on silently, while the city passed thus easily away for ever from Confederate rule.

There was gloom in the rebel capital as the tidings of these disasters came in. But the spirit of the people was unbroken, and the Government was encouraged to adopt measures equal to the emergency. A law was enacted which placed at the disposal of the Government every man between eighteen and thirty-five years of age. Enlistment for short terms was discontinued. Henceforth the business of Southern men must be war, and every man must hold himself at his country’s call. This law yielded for a time an adequate supply of soldiers, and ushered in those splendid successes which cherished the delusive hope that the Slave-power was to establish itself as one of the Great Powers of the world.



The slave question, out of which the rebellion sprang, presented for some time grave difficulties to the Northern Government. As the Northern armies forced their way southwards, escaped slaves flocked to them. These slaves were loyal subjects; their owners were rebels in arms against the Government. Could the Government recognize the right of the rebel to own the loyal man? Again: the labour of the slaves contributed to the support of the rebellion. Was it not a clear necessity of war that Government should deprive the rebellion of this support by freeing all the slaves whom its authority could reach? But, on the other hand, some of the Slave States remained loyal. Over their slaves Government had no power, and much care was needed that no measure should be adopted of which they could justly complain.

The President had been all his life a steady foe to slavery, but he never forgot that, whatever his own feelings might be, he was strictly bound by law. His duty as President was, not to destroy slavery, but to save the Union. When the time came to overthrow this accursed system, he would do it with gladdened heart. Meanwhile he said, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do it.”


From the very beginning of the war escaped slaves crowded within the Federal lines. They were willing to perform any labour, or to fight in a cause which they all knew to be their own. But the North was not yet freed from her habitual tenderness for Southern institutions. The negroes could not yet be armed. Nay, it was permitted to the owners of escaped slaves to enter the Northern lines and forcibly to carry back their property. May 26, 1861 A.D. General M’Clellan pledged himself not only to avoid interference with slaves, but to crush with an iron hand any attempt at insurrection on their part. Aug. 31. General Fremont, commanding in Missouri, issued an order which gave liberty to the slaves of persons who were fighting against the Union. The President, not yet deeming that measure indispensable, disallowed it. A little later it was proposed to arm the blacks, but to that also the President objected. He would do nothing prematurely which might offend the loyal Slave States, and so hinder the restoration of the Union.

But in War opinion ripens fast. Men quickly learned, under that stern teacher, to reason that, as slavery had caused the rebellion, slavery should be extinguished. Congress met in December, with ideas which pointed decisively towards Abolition. Measures were passed which marked a great era in the history of slavery. The slaves of men who were in arms against the Government were declared to be free. Coloured men might be armed and employed as soldiers. Slavery was abolished within the District of Columbia. Slavery was prohibited for ever within all the Territories. Every slave escaping to the Union armies was to be free. Wherever the authority of Congress could reach, slavery was now at an end.

But something yet remained. Public sentiment in the North grew strong in favour of immediate and unconditional emancipation of all slaves within the revolted States. This view was pressed upon Lincoln. He hesitated long; not from reluctance,[226] but because he wished the public mind to be thoroughly made up before he took this decisive step. At length his course was resolved upon. July, 1862 A.D. He drew up a Proclamation, which gave freedom to all the slaves in the rebel States. He called a meeting of his Cabinet, which cordially sanctioned the measure. After New Year’s Day of 1863 all persons held to slavery within the seceded territory were declared to be free. “And upon this act”—thus was the Proclamation closed—“sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favour of Almighty God.”

This—one of the most memorable of all State papers—gave freedom to over three million slaves. It did not touch slavery in the loyal States; for there the President had no authority to interfere. But all men knew that it involved the abolition of slavery in the loyal as well as in the rebellious States. Henceforth slavery became impossible on any portion of American territory.

The deep significance of this great measure was most fully recognized by the Northern people. The churches gave thanks to God for this fulfilment of their long-cherished desire. Congress expressed its cordial approval. Innumerable public meetings resolved that the President’s action deserved the support of the country. Bells pealed joyfully in the great cities and quiet villages of the east, and in the infant settlements of the distant west. Charles Sumner begged from the President the pen with which the Proclamation had been signed. The original draft of the document was afterwards sold for a large sum, at a fair held in Chicago for the benefit of the soldiers.

The South, too, understood this transaction perfectly. It was the triumphant and final expression of that Northern abhorrence to slavery which had provoked the slave-owners to rebel. It made reconciliation impossible. President Davis[227] said to his Congress that it would calm the fears of those who apprehended a restoration of the old Union.

It is a painful reflection that the English Government utterly misunderstood this measure. Its official utterance on the subject was a sneer. Earl Russell, the Foreign Secretary of that day, wrote to our ambassador at Washington that the Proclamation was “a measure of a very questionable kind.” “It professes,” he continued, “to emancipate slaves where the United States cannot make emancipation a reality, but emancipates no one where the decree can be carried into effect.” Thus imperfectly had Earl Russell yet been able to comprehend this memorable page of modern history.



M’Clellan’s ignominious failure disappointed but did not dishearten the Northern people. While M’Clellan was hasting away from Richmond, the Governors of seventeen States assured the President of the readiness of their people to furnish troops. The President issued a call for an additional three hundred thousand men; and his call was promptly obeyed.

M’Clellan lay for two months, secure but inglorious, beside his gunboats on the James river. General Lee, rightly deeming that there was little to fear from an army so feebly led, ranged northwards with a strong force and threatened Washington. The Federal troops around the capital were greatly inferior in number. President Lincoln summoned M’Clellan northwards. M’Clellan was, as usual, unready; and a small Federal army under General Pope was left to cope unaided with the enemy. Pope received a severe defeat at Manassas, and retired to the fortifications of Washington.

Sept. 17, 1862 A.D. General Lee was strong enough now to carry the war into Northern territory. He captured Harper’s Ferry, and passed into Maryland. M’Clellan was at length stimulated to action, and having carried his troops northwards, he attacked Lee at Antietam. The Northern army far outnumbered the enemy. The battle was long and bloody. When darkness sank down upon the wearied combatants[229] no decisive advantage had been gained. M’Clellan’s generals urged a renewal of the attack next morning. But this was not done, and General Lee crossed the Potomac and retired unmolested into Virginia. M’Clellan resumed his customary inactivity. The President ordered him to pursue the enemy and give battle. He even wished him to move on Richmond, which he was able to reach before Lee could possibly be there. In vain. M’Clellan could not move. His horses had sore tongues and sore backs; they were lame; they were broken down by fatigue. Lincoln had already been unduly patient. But the country would endure no more. Nov. 5, 1862 A.D. General M’Clellan was removed from command of that army whose power he had so long been able to neutralize; and his place was taken by General Burnside.

Burnside at once moved his army southwards, for it was not yet too late for a Virginian campaign. He reached the banks of the Rappahannock, beside the little town of Fredericksburg. He had to wait there for many weary days till he obtained means to cross the river. While he lay, impatient, General Lee concentrated all the forces under his command upon the heights which rose steeply from the opposite bank of the stream. He threw up earthworks and strongly intrenched his position. There he waited in calmness for the assault which he knew he could repel.

When Burnside was able to cross the Rappahannock, he lost no time in making his attack. One portion of his force would strike the enemy on his right flank; the rest would push straight up the heights and assault him in front. A slight success in the flanking movement cheered General Burnside. But in the centre his troops advanced to the attack under a heavy fire of artillery which laid many brave men low. The Northern soldiers fought their way with steady courage up the height. They were superior in numbers, but the rebels fought[230] in safety within a position which was impregnable. The battle was no fair trial of skill and courage, but a useless waste of brave lives. Burnside drew off his troops and re-crossed the Rappahannock, with a loss of twelve thousand men—vainly sacrificed in the attempt to perform an impossibility.

In the west there had been no great success to counter-balance the long train of Confederate victories in the east. The year closed darkly upon the hopes of those who strove to preserve the Union. The South counted with certainty that her independence was secure. The prevailing opinion of Europe regarded the enterprise which the North pursued so resolutely, as a wild impossibility. But the Northern people and Government never despaired of the Commonwealth. At the gloomiest period of the contest a Bill was passed for the construction of a railroad to the Pacific. The Homestead Act offered a welcome to immigrants in the form of a free grant of one hundred and sixty acres of land to each. And the Government, as with a quiet and unburdened mind, began to enlarge and adorn its Capitol on a scale worthy of the expected greatness of the reunited country.



Hitherto the men who had fought for the North had been volunteers. They had come when the President called, willing to lay down their lives for their country. Already volunteers had been enrolled to the number of one million and a quarter. But that number had been sadly reduced by wounds, sickness, and captivity, and the Northern armies had not proved themselves strong enough to crush the rebellion. 1863 A.D. A Bill was now passed which subjected the entire male population, between eighteen and forty-five, to military duty when their service was required. Any man of suitable age could now be forced into the ranks.

The blockade of the Southern ports had effected for many months an almost complete isolation of the Confederates from the world outside. Now and then a ship, laden with arms and clothing and medicine, ran past the blockading squadron, and discharged her precious wares in a Southern port. Now and then a ship laden with cotton stole out and got safely to sea. But this perilous and scanty commerce afforded no appreciable relief to the want which had already begun to brood over this doomed people. The Government could find soldiers enough; but it could not find for them arms and clothing. The railroads could not be kept in working condition in the absence of foreign iron. Worst of all, a scarcity of food began to threaten.[232] April 10, 1863 A.D. Jefferson Davis begged his people to lay aside all thought of gain, and devote themselves to the raising of supplies for the army. Even now the army was frequently on half supply of bread. The South could look back with just pride upon a long train of brilliant victories, gained with scanty means, by her own valour and genius. But, even in this hour of triumph, it was evident that her position was desperate.

The North had not yet completely established her supremacy upon the Mississippi. Two rebel strongholds—Vicksburg and Port Hudson—had successfully resisted Federal attack, and maintained communication between the revolted provinces on either side the great river. The reduction of these was indispensable. General Grant was charged with the important enterprise, and proceeded in February to begin his work.

Grant found himself with his army on the wrong side of the city. He was up stream from Vicksburg, and he could not hope to win the place by attacks on that side. Nor could he easily convey his army and siege appliances through the swamps and lakes which stretched away behind the city. It seemed too hazardous to run his transports past the guns of Vicksburg. He attempted to cut a new channel for the river, along which he might convey his army safely. Weeks were spent in the vain attempt, and the country, which had not yet learned to trust in Grant, became impatient of the unproductive toil. Grant, undismayed by the failure of his project, adopted a new and more hopeful scheme. He conveyed his soldiers across to the western bank of the Mississippi, and marched them southward till they were below Vicksburg. There they were ferried across the river; and then they stood within reach of the weakest side of the city. The transports were ordered to run the batteries of Vicksburg and take the chances of that enterprise.

When Grant reached the position he sought, he had a difficult[233] task before him. One large army held Vicksburg; another large army was gathering for the relief of the endangered fortress. Soon Grant lay between two armies which, united, greatly outnumbered his. But he had no intention that they should unite. He attacked them in detail, and in every action he was successful. The Confederates were driven back upon the city, which was then closely invested.

For six weeks Grant pressed the siege with a fiery energy which allowed no rest to the besieged. General Johnston was not far off, mustering an army for the relief of Vicksburg, and there was not an hour to lose. Grant kept a strict blockade upon the scantily-provisioned city. From his gunboats and from his own lines he maintained an almost ceaseless bombardment. The inhabitants crept into caves in the hill to find shelter from the intolerable fire. They slaughtered their mules for food. They patiently endured the inevitable hardships of their position; and their daily newspaper, printed on scraps of such paper as men cover their walls with, continued to the end to make light of their sufferings, and to breathe defiance against General Grant. But all was vain. On the 4th of July—the anniversary of Independence—Vicksburg was surrendered with her garrison of twenty-three thousand men much enfeebled by hunger and fatigue.

The fall of Vicksburg was the heaviest blow which the Confederacy had yet sustained. Nearly one-half of the rebel territory lay beyond the Mississippi. That river was now firmly held by the Federals. The rebel States were cut in two, and no help could pass from one section to the other. There was deep joy in the Northern heart. The President thanked General Grant for “the almost inestimable service” which he had done to the country.

But long before Grant’s triumph at Vicksburg another humiliation had fallen upon the Federal arms in Virginia.


Soon after the disaster at Fredericksburg, the modest Burnside had asked to be relieved of his command. General Hooker took his place. The new chief was familiarly known to his countrymen as “fighting Joe Hooker,”—a title which sufficiently indicated his dashing, reckless character. Hooker entered on his command with high hopes. “By the blessing of God,” he said to the army, “we will contribute something to the renown of our arms and the success of our cause.”

After three months of preparation, General Hooker announced that his army was irresistible. The Northern cry was still, “On to Richmond;” the dearest wish of the Northern people was to possess the rebel capital. Hooker marched southward, nothing doubting that he was to fulfil the long frustrated desire of his countrymen. His confidence seemed not to be unwarranted; for he had under his command a magnificent army, which greatly outnumbered that opposed to him. But, unhappily for Hooker, the hostile forces were led by General Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

On the 1st of May, Hooker was in presence of the enemy on the line of the Rappahannock. Lee was too weak to give or accept battle; but he was able to occupy Hooker with a series of sham attacks. All the while Jackson was hasting to assail his flank. His march was through the Wilderness—a wild country thick with ill-grown oaks and a dense undergrowth—where surprise was easy. Towards evening, on the 2nd, Jackson’s soldiers burst upon the unexpectant Federals. The fury of the attack bore all before it. The Federal line fell back in confusion and with heavy loss.

In the twilight Jackson rode forward with his staff to examine the enemy’s position. As he returned, a North Carolina regiment, seeing a party of horsemen approach, presumed it was a charge of Federal cavalry. They fired, and Jackson fell from his horse, with two bullets in his left arm and one through his right hand. They placed him on a litter[235] to carry him from the field. One of the bearers was shot down by the enemy, and the wounded general fell heavily to the ground. The sound of musketry wakened the Federal artillery, and for some time Jackson lay helpless on ground swept by the cannon of the enemy. When his men learned the situation of their beloved commander, they rushed in and carried him from the danger.

Jackson sunk under his wounds. He bore patiently his great suffering. “If I live, it will be for the best,” he said; “and if I die, it will be for the best. God knows and directs all things for the best.” He died eight days after the battle, to the deep sorrow of his countrymen. He was a great soldier; and although he died fighting for an evil cause, he was a true-hearted Christian man.

During two days after Jackson fell the battle continued at Chancellorsville. Lee’s superior skill in command more than compensated for his inferior numbers. He attacked Hooker, and always at the point of conflict he was found to be stronger. Hooker discovered that he must retreat, lest a worse thing should befall him. After three days’ fighting he crossed the river in a tempest of wind and rain, and along the muddy Virginian roads carried his disheartened troops back to their old positions. He had been baffled by a force certainly not more than one-half his own. The splendid military genius of Lee was perhaps never more conspicuous than in the defeat of that great army which General Hooker himself regarded as invincible.



The Confederate Government had always been eager to carry the contest into Northern territory. It was satisfying to the natural pride of the South, and it was thought that some experience of the evils of war might incline the Northern mind to peace. Lee was ordered to march into Pennsylvania. He gathered all the troops at his disposal, and with seventy-five thousand men he crossed the Potomac, and was once more prepared to face the enemy on his own soil. The rich cities of the North trembled. It was not unlikely that he should possess himself of Baltimore and Philadelphia. Could he once again defeat Hooker’s army, as he had often done before, no further resistance was possible. Pennsylvania and New York were at his mercy.

Lee advanced to the little Pennsylvanian town of Gettysburg. Hooker, after marching his army northwards, had been relieved of the command. A battle was near; and in face of the enemy a new commander had to be chosen. Two days before the hostile armies met, General Meade was appointed. Meade was an experienced soldier, who had filled with honour the various positions assigned to him; but it was seemingly a hopeless task which he was now asked to perform. With an oft-defeated army of sixty thousand to seventy thousand men, to whom he was a stranger, he had to meet Lee with his victorious seventy-five thousand. Meade quietly undertook the work appointed[237] to him, and did it, too, like a brave, prudent, unpretending man.

July 1, 1863 A.D. The battle lasted for three days. On the first day the Confederates had some advantage. Their attack broke and scattered a Federal division with considerable loss. But that night the careful Meade took up a strong position on a crescent-shaped line of heights near the little town. Here he would lie, and the Confederates might drive him from it if they could.

July 2. Next day Lee attempted to dislodge the enemy. The key of the Federal position was Cemetery Hill, and there the utmost strength of the Confederate attack was put forth. Nor was it in vain; for part of the Federal line was broken, and at one point an important position had been taken by the Confederates. Lee might fairly hope that another day’s fighting would complete his success and give him undisputed possession of the wealthiest Northern States. His loss had been small, while the Federals had been seriously weakened.

Perhaps no hours of deeper gloom were ever passed in the North than the hours of that summer evening when the telegraph flashed over the country the news of Lee’s success. The lavish sacrifice of blood and treasure seemed in vain. A million of men were in arms to defend the Union, and yet the northward progress of the rebels could not be withstood. Should Lee be victorious on the morrow, the most hopeful must despond.

July 3. The day on which so much of the destiny of America hung opened bright and warm and still. The morning was occupied by Lee in preparations for a crushing attack upon the centre of the Federal position; by Meade, in carefully strengthening his power of resistance at the point where he was to win or to lose this decisive battle. About noon all was completed. Over both armies there fell a marvellous stillness—the silence of anxious and awful expectation. It was broken by a[238] solitary cannon-shot, and the shriek of a Whitworth shell as it rushed through the air. That was the signal at which one hundred and fifty Confederate guns opened their fire. The Federal artillery replied, and for three hours a prodigious hail of shells fell upon either army. No decisive supremacy was, however, established by the guns on either side, although heavy loss was sustained by both. While the cannonade still continued, Lee sent forth the columns whose errand it was to break the Federal centre. They marched down the low range of heights on which they had stood, and across the little intervening valley. As they moved up the opposite height the friendly shelter of Confederate fire ceased. Terrific discharges of grape and shell smote but did not shake their steady ranks. As the men fell, their comrades stepped into their places, and the undismayed lines moved swiftly on. Up to the low stone wall which sheltered the Federals, up to the very muzzles of guns whose rapid fire cut every instant deep lines in their ranks, the heroic advance was continued.

General Lee from the opposite height watched, as Napoleon did at Waterloo, the progress of his attack. Once the smoke of battle was for a moment blown aside, and the Confederate flag was seen to wave within the enemy’s position. Lee’s generals congratulate him that the victory is gained. Again the cloud gathers around the combatants. When it lifts next, the Confederates are seen broken and fleeing down that fatal slope, where a man can walk now without once putting his foot upon the grass, so thick lie the bodies of the slain. The attack had failed; the battle was lost; the Union was saved.

General Lee’s business was now to save his army. “This has been a sad day for us,” he said to a friend, “a sad day; but we can’t expect always to gain victories.” He rallied his broken troops, expecting to be attacked by the victorious Federals; but Meade did not follow up his success. Next day Lee began his retreat. In perfect order he moved towards[239] the Potomac, and safely crossed the swollen river back into Virginia.

The losses sustained in this battle were terrible. Forty-eight thousand men lay dead or wounded on the field. Lee’s army was weakened by over forty thousand men killed, wounded, and prisoners. Meade lost twenty-three thousand. For miles around, every barn, every cottage contained wounded men. The streets of the little town were all dabbled with blood. Men were for many days engaged in burying the dead, of whom there were nearly eight thousand. The wounded of both armies, who were able to be removed, were at once carried into hospitals and tenderly cared for. There were many so mangled that their removal was impossible. These were ministered to on the field till death relieved them from their pain.

The tidings of the victory at Gettysburg came to the Northern people on the 4th of July, side by side with the tidings of the fall of Vicksburg. The proud old anniversary had perhaps never before been celebrated by the American people with hearts so thankful and so glad. Mr. Lincoln, who had become grave and humble and reverential under the influence of those awful circumstances amid which he lived, proclaimed a solemn day of thanksgiving for the deliverance granted to the nation, and of prayer that God would lead them all, “through the paths of repentance and submission to the divine will, to unity and fraternal peace.”

The deep enthusiasm which, in those anxious days, thrilled the American heart, sought in song that fulness of expression which speech could not afford. Foremost among the favourite poetic utterances of the people was this:—

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His Truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I have read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His Day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel—
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal;”
Let the Hero born of woman crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
Oh! be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet,—
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

These strangely musical verses were sung at all public meetings in the North, the audience ordinarily starting to their feet and joining in the strain, often interrupted by emotion too deeply stirred to be concealed. President Lincoln has been seen listening to the hymn with tears rolling down his face. When the Battle of Gettysburg was fought there were many hundreds of Northern officers captive in the Libby prison—a huge, shapeless structure, once a tobacco factory, standing by the wayside in a suburb of Richmond. A false report was brought to them that the rebels had gained. There were many sleepless eyes and sorrowing hearts that night among the prisoners. But next morning an old negro brought them the true account of the battle. The sudden joy was too deep for words. By one universal impulse the gladdened captives burst into song. Midst weeping and midst laughter the Battle-Hymn of the Republic was caught up until five hundred voices were joining in the strain. There as elsewhere it was felt with unutterable joy and thankfulness that the country was saved.

The victory at Gettysburg lifted a great load from the hearts[241] of the Northern people. There was yet a work—vast and grim—to be accomplished before a solid peace could be attained, but there was now a sure hope of final success. It was remarked by President Lincoln’s friends that his appearance underwent a noticeable change after Gettysburg. His eye grew brighter; his bowed-down form was once more erect. In the winter after the battle part of the battle-ground was consecrated as a cemetery, into which were gathered the remains of the brave men who fell. Lincoln took part in the ceremony, and spoke these memorable words: “It is for us the living to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people—by the people and for the people—shall not perish from the earth.”



Even before the disasters of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and while General Lee was still pursuing a course of dazzling success, it had become evident to many that the cause of the South was hopeless. A strict blockade shut her out from the markets of Europe. Her supplies of arms were running so low, that even if she could have found men in sufficient numbers to resist the North, she could not have equipped them. Food was becoming scarce. Already the pangs of hunger had been experienced in Lee’s army. Elsewhere there was much suffering, even among those who had lately been rich. The soldiers were insufficiently provided with clothing. As winter came on, they deserted and went home in crowds so great that punishment was impossible.

The North had a million men in the field. She had nearly six hundred ships of war, seventy-five of which were iron-clads. She had boundless command of everything which could contribute to the efficiency and comfort of her soldiers. The rolls of the Southern armies showed only four hundred thousand men under arms, and of these it was said that from desertion and other causes seldom more than one-half were in the ranks.

Money was becoming very scarce. The Confederate Government borrowed all the money it could at home, but the supply received was wholly out of proportion to the expenditure. A loan was attempted in England; and there proved to be there a[243] sufficient number of rich but unwise persons to furnish three million sterling—most of which will remain for ever unpaid to the lenders. No other measure remained but to print, as fast as machinery could do it, Government promises to pay at some future time, and to force these upon people to whom the Government owed money. These promises gradually fell in value. In 1862, when the rebellion was young and hopes were high, one dollar and twenty cents in Government money would purchase a dollar in gold. In January 1863 it required three dollars to do that. After Gettysburg it required twenty dollars. Somewhat later it required sixty paper dollars to obtain the one precious golden coin.

It became every day more apparent that the resources of the South were being exhausted. Even if the genius of her generals should continue to gain victories, the South must perish from want of money and want of food. There was a touching weakness in many of her business arrangements. Government appealed to the people for gifts of jewellery and silver plate, and published in the Richmond newspapers lists of the gold rings and silver spoons and teapots which amiable enthusiasts bestowed upon them! When iron-clad ships of war were needed and iron was scarce, an association of ladies was formed to collect old pots and pans for the purpose! The daring of these people and the skill of their leaders might indeed gain them victories; but it was a wild improbability that they should come successfully out of a war in which the powerful and sagacious North was resolute to win.

1864 A.D. The Northern Government, well advised of the failing resources of the South, hoped that one campaign more would close the war. Bitter experience had corrected their early mistakes, and they had at length found a general worthy of his high place. Grant was summoned eastward to direct the last march on Richmond. The spirit of the country was resolute as ever. The soldiers had now the skill of[244] veterans; enormous supplies were provided; everything that boundless resources, wisely administered, could do, was now done to bring the awful contest to a close.

When the campaign opened, Grant with one hundred and twenty thousand men faced Lee, whose force was certainly less by one-half. The little river Rapidan flowed between. The Wilderness—a desolate region of stunted trees and dense undergrowth—stretched for many miles around. At midnight on the 3rd of May, Grant began to cross the river, and before next evening his army stood on the southern side. Lee at once attacked him. During the next eight days there was continuous fighting. The men toiled all day at the work of slaughter, lay down to sleep at night, and rose to resume their bloody labour in the morning, as men do in the ordinary peaceful business of life. Lee directed his scanty force with wondrous skill. It was his habit to throw up intrenchments, within which he maintained himself against the Federal assault. Grant did not allow himself to be hindered in his progress to Richmond. When he failed to force the Confederate position he marched southward round its flank, continually obliging Lee to move forward and take up a new position. His losses were terrible. From the 5th to the 12th of May he had lost thirty thousand men in killed, wounded, and missing. The wounded were sent to Washington, and trains of ambulances miles in length, laden with suffering men, passed continually through the capital, filling all hearts with sadness and gloomy apprehension. The cost was awful, but General Grant knew that the end was being gained. He knew that Lee was weakened irrecoverably by the slaughter of these battles, and he wrote that he would “fight it out on this line, if it should take all summer.”

Grant found that a direct attack on Richmond was as yet hopeless, and he marched southwards past the rebel capital to the little town of Petersburg, twenty-two miles off. His plan was to wear down the rebel army by the continual attack of[245] superior forces, and also to cut the railways by which provisions were brought into Richmond. By the middle of June he was before Petersburg, which he hoped to possess before Lee had time to fortify the place against him. It might have been taken by a vigorous assault; but the attacking force was feebly led, and the opportunity was missed.

And now there began the tedious bloody siege of Petersburg. The armies had chosen their positions for the final conflict. The result was not doubtful. General Lee was of opinion, some time before, that the fortunes of the Confederacy were desperate. The Northern Government and military leaders knew that success was certain. Indeed General Grant stated afterwards that he had been at the front from the very beginning of the war, and that he had never entertained any doubt whatever as to the final success of the North.

All around Petersburg, at such distance that the firing did not very seriously affect the little city, stretched the earthworks of the combatants. Before the end there were forty miles of earthworks. The Confederates established a line of defence. The Federals established a line of attack, and gradually, by superior strength, drove their antagonists back. Lee retired to a new series of defences, where the fight was continued. The Federals had a railway running to City Point, eleven miles away, where their ships brought for them the amplest supplies. Lee depended upon the railways which communicated with distant portions of Confederate territory. These it was the aim of Grant to cut, so that his adversary might be driven by want of food from his position. The outposts of the armies were within talking distance of each other. The men lay in rifle-pits or shallow ditches, watching opportunity to kill. Any foe who incautiously came within range died by their unerring fire. For ten long months the daily occupation of the combatants had been to attack each the positions of the other. The Confederates, by constant sallies, attempted to hinder the advance of[246] their powerful assailant. Grant never relaxed his hold. He “had the rebellion by the throat,” and he steadily tightened his grasp. By City Point he was in easy communication with the boundless resources of the North. Men and stores were supplied as he needed them by an enthusiastic country. On the rebel side the last available man was now in the field. Half the time the army wanted food. Desertions abounded. It was not that the men shunned danger or hardship, but they knew the cause was hopeless. Many of them knew also that their families were starving. They went home to help those who were dearer to them than that desperate enterprise whose ruin was now so manifest. The genius of Lee was the sole remaining buttress of the Confederate cause.

Once the Federals ran an enormous mine under a portion of the enemy’s works. In this mine they piled up twelve thousand pounds of gunpowder. They had a strong column ready to march into the opening which the explosion would cleave. Early one summer morning the mine was fired. A vast mass of earth, mingled with bodies of men, was thrown high into air. The Confederate defence at that point was effaced, and the attacking force moved forward. But from some unexplained reason they paused and sheltered themselves in the huge pit formed by the explosion. The Confederates promptly brought up artillery and rained shells into the pit, where soon fifteen hundred men lay dead. The discomfited Federals retired to their lines.

When Grant began his march to Richmond, he took care that the enemy should be pressed in other quarters of his territory. General Sherman marched from Tennessee down into Georgia. Before him was a strong Confederate army, and a country peculiarly favourable for an army contented to remain on the defensive; but Sherman overcame every obstacle. He defeated his enemy in many battles and bloody skirmishes. His object[247] was to reach Atlanta, the capital of Georgia. Atlanta was of extreme value to the rebels. It commanded railroads which conveyed supplies to their armies; it had great factories where they manufactured cannon and locomotives; great foundries where they laboured incessantly to produce shot and shell. Sherman, by brilliant generalship and hard fighting, overcame all resistance, and entered Atlanta, September 2. It was a great prize, but it was not had cheaply. During those four months he had lost thirty thousand men.

When Sherman had held Atlanta for a few weeks, he resolved to march eastward through Georgia to the sea. He had a magnificent army of sixty thousand men, for whom there was no sufficient occupation where they lay. On the sea-coast there were cities to be taken. And then his army could march northwards to join Grant before Petersburg.

Nov. 15, 1864 A.D. When all was ready Sherman put the torch to the public buildings of Atlanta, telegraphed northwards that all was well, and cut the telegraph wires. Then he started on his march of three hundred miles across a hostile country. For a month nothing was heard of him. When he re-appeared it was before Savannah, of which he quickly possessed himself. His march through Georgia had been unopposed. He severely wasted the country for thirty miles on either side of the line from Atlanta to Savannah. He carried off the supplies he needed; he destroyed what he could not use; he tore up the railroads; he proclaimed liberty to the slaves, many of whom accompanied him eastward. He proved to all the world how hollow a thing was now the Confederacy, and how rapidly its doom was approaching.

At the north, in the valley of the Shenandoah, a strong Confederate army, under the habitually unsuccessful General Early, confronted the Federals under Sheridan. Could Sheridan have been driven away, the war might again have been carried into[248] Pennsylvania or Maryland, and the North humbled in her career of victory. But Sheridan was still triumphant. Oct. 19, 1864 A.D. At length General Early effected a surprise. He burst upon the Federals while they looked not for him. His sudden attack disordered the enemy, who began to retire. Sheridan was not with his army; he had gone to Winchester, twenty miles away. The morning breeze from the south bore to his startled ear the sounds of battle. Sheridan mounted his horse, and rode with the speed of a man who felt that upon his presence hung the destiny of the fight. His army was on the verge of defeat, and already stragglers were hurrying from the field; but when Sheridan galloped among them, the battle was restored. Under Sheridan the army was invincible. The rebels were defeated with heavy loss, and were never again able to renew the war in the valley of the Shenandoah.

The Slave question was not yet completely settled. The Proclamation had made free the slaves of all who were rebels, and nothing remained between them and liberty but those thin lines of gray-coated hungry soldiers, upon whose arms the genius of Lee bestowed an efficacy not naturally their own. But the Proclamation had no power to free the slaves of loyal citizens. In the States which had not revolted, slavery was the same as it had ever been. The feeling deepened rapidly throughout the North that this could not continue. Slavery had borne fruit in the hugest rebellion known to history. It had proclaimed irreconcilable hostility to the Government; it had brought mourning and woe into every house. The Union could not continue half-slave and half-free. The North wisely and nobly resolved that slavery should cease.

Most of the loyal Slave States freed themselves by their own choice of this evil institution. Louisiana, brought back to her allegiance not without some measure of force, led the way. Maryland followed, and Tennessee, and Missouri, and Arkansas.[249] In Missouri, whence the influence issued which murdered Lovejoy because he was an abolitionist—which supplied the Border ruffians in the early days of Kansas—the abolition of slavery was welcomed with devout prayer and thanksgiving, with joyful illuminations and speeches and patriotic songs.

One thing was yet wanting to the complete and final extinction of slavery. The Constitution permitted the existence of the accursed thing. If the Constitution were so amended as to forbid slavery upon American soil, the cause of this huge discord which now convulsed the land would be removed. A Constitutional Amendment to that effect was submitted to the people. In the early months of 1865, while General Lee—worthy to fight in a better cause—was still bravely toiling to avert the coming doom of the Slave Empire, the Northern States joyfully adopted the Amendment. Slavery was now at length extinct. This was what Providence had mercifully brought out of a rebellion whose avowed object it was to establish slavery more firmly and extend it more widely.

But freedom was not enough. Many of the black men had faithfully served the Union. Nearly two hundred thousand of them were in the ranks—fighting manfully in a cause which was specially their own. There were many black men, as Lincoln said, who “could remember that with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they had helped mankind to save liberty in America.” But the coloured people were child-like and helpless. They had to be looked upon as “the wards of the nation.” 1864 A.D. A Freedmen’s Bureau was established, to be the defence of the defenceless blacks. General Howard—a man peculiarly fitted to give wise effect to the kind purposes of the nation—became the head of this department. It was his duty to provide food and shelter for the slaves who were set free by military operations in the revolted States. He settled them, as he could, on confiscated lands. After a time he had to see to the[250] education of their children. In all needful ways he was to keep the negroes from wrong till they were able to keep themselves.

Four years had now passed since Lincoln’s election furnished the slave-owners with a pretext to rebel. Another election had to be made, and Lincoln was again proposed as the Republican candidate. The Democratic party nominated General M’Clellan. The war, said the Democrats, is a failure; let us have a cessation of hostilities, and endeavour to save the Union by peaceful negotiation. Let us put down slavery and rebellion by force, said the Republicans; there is no other way. These were the simple issues on which the election turned. Mr. Lincoln was re-elected by the largest majority ever known. “It is not in my nature,” he said, “to triumph over any one; but I give thanks to Almighty God for this evidence of the people’s resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity.”

March 4, 1865 A.D. He was inaugurated according to the usual form. His Address was brief, but high-toned and solemn, as beseemed the circumstances. Perhaps no State paper ever produced so deep an impression upon the American people. It closed thus:—“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword—as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”


1864-5 A.D. During the winter months it became very plain that the Confederacy was tottering to its fall. These were the bitterest months through which Virginia had ever passed. The army was habitually now on short supply. Occasionally, for a day, there was almost a total absence of food. One day in December Lee telegraphed to Richmond that his army was without meat, and dependent on a little bread. And yet the soldiers were greatly better off than the citizens. Provisions were seized for the army wherever they could be found, and the owners were mercilessly left to starve. The suffering endured among the once cheerful homes of Virginia was terrible.

Every grown man was the property of the Government. It was said the rich men escaped easily, but a poor man could not pass along a street in Richmond without imminent risk of being seized and sent down to the lines at Petersburg. At railroad stations might be constantly seen groups of squalid men on their way to camp—caught up from their homes and hurried off to fight for a cause which they all knew to be desperate—in the service of a Government which they no longer trusted. It was, of course, the earliest care of these men to desert. They went home, or they surrendered to the enemy. The spirit which made the Confederacy formidable no longer survived.

General Lee had long before expressed his belief that without the help of the slaves the war must end disastrously. But all men knew that a slave who had been a soldier could be a slave no longer. The owners were not prepared to free their slaves, and they refused therefore to arm them. In November—with utter ruin impending—a Bill was introduced into the Confederate Congress for arming two hundred thousand negroes. It was debated till the following March. Then a feeble compromise was passed, merely giving the President power to accept such slaves as were offered to him. So inflexibly resolute were the leaders of the South in their hostility to emancipation. It was wholly unimportant. At that time Government[252] could have armed only another five thousand men; and could not feed the men it had.

The finances of the Confederacy were an utter wreck. Government itself sold specie at the rate of one gold dollar for sixty dollars in paper money. Feb. 17, 1864 A.D. Mr. Davis, by a measure of partial repudiation, relieved himself for a short space from some of his embarrassments; but no device could gain public confidence for the currency of a falling power. A loaf of bread cost three dollars. It took a month’s pay to buy the soldier a pair of stockings. The misery of the country was deep, abject, unutterable. President Davis came to be regarded with abhorrence, as the cause of all this wretchedness. Curses, growing ever deeper and louder, were breathed against the unsuccessful chief.

General Grant, well aware of the desperate condition of the Confederates, pressed incessantly upon their enfeebled lines. He had one hundred and sixty thousand men under his command. Sheridan joined him with a magnificent force of cavalry. Sherman with his victorious army was near. Grant began to fear that Lee would take to flight, and keep the rebellion alive on other fields. March 29, 1865 A.D. A general movement of all the forces around Richmond was decided upon. Lee struggled bravely, but in vain, against overwhelming numbers. His right was assailed by Sheridan, and driven back with heavy loss—five thousand hungry and disheartened men laying down their arms. April 1. On that same night Grant opened, from all his guns, a terrific and prolonged bombardment. April 2. At dawn the assault was made. Its strength was directed against one of the Confederate forts. The fight ceased elsewhere, and the armies looked on. There was a steady advance of the blue-coated lines; a murderous volley from the little garrison; wild cheers from the excited spectators. Under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry the soldiers of the Union rush on; they swarm into the ditch[253] and up the sides of the works. Those who first reach the summit fall back slain by musket-shot or bayonet-thrust, but others press fiercely on. Soon their exulting cheers tell that the fort is won. Lee’s army is cut in two, and his position is no longer tenable. He telegraphed at once to President Davis that Richmond must be evacuated.

It was Communion Sunday in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and President Davis was in his pew among the other worshippers. No intelligence from the army had been allowed to reach the public for some days. But the sound of Grant’s guns had been heard, and the reserve of the Government was ominous. Many a keen eye sought to gather from the aspect of the President some forecast of the future; but in vain. That serene self-possessed face had lost nothing of its habitual reticence. In all that congregation there was no worshipper who seemed less encumbered by the world, more absorbed by the sacred employment of the hour, than President Davis. The service proceeded, and the congregation knelt in prayer. As President Davis rose from his knees the sexton handed him a slip of paper. He calmly read it. Then he calmly lifted his prayer-book, and with unmoved face walked softly from the church. It was Lee’s message he had received. Jefferson Davis’s sole concern now was to escape the doom of the traitor and the rebel. He fled at once, by special train, towards the south. Then the work of evacuation commenced. The gunboats on the river were blown up; the bridges were destroyed; the great warehouses in the city were set on fire, and in the flames thus wickedly kindled a third part of the city was consumed. All who had made themselves prominent in the rebellion fled from the anticipated vengeance of the Federals. The soldiers were marched off, plundering as they went. Next morning Richmond was in possession of the Northern troops. Among the first to enter the capital of the rebel slave-owners was a regiment of negro cavalry.


April 4, 1865 A.D. About midnight on Sunday Lee began his retreat from the position which he had kept so well. Grant promptly followed him. On the Tuesday morning Lee reached a point where he had ordered supplies to wait him. By some fatal blunder the cars laden with the food which his men needed so much had been run on to Richmond, and were lost to him. Hungry and weary the men toiled on, hotly pursued by Grant. Soon a hostile force appeared in their front, and it became evident that they were surrounded.

April 7. General Grant wrote to General Lee asking the surrender of his army, to spare the useless effusion of blood. Lee did not at first admit that surrender was necessary, and Grant pressed the pursuit with relentless energy. Lee wrote again to request a meeting, that the terms of surrender might be arranged. April 9. The two leaders met in a wayside cottage. They had never seen each other before, although they had both served in the Mexican War, and Lee mentioned pleasantly that he remembered the name of his antagonist from that time. Grant drew up and presented in writing the terms which he offered. The men were to lay down their arms, and give their pledge that they would not serve against the American Government till regularly exchanged. They were then to return to their homes, with a guarantee that they would not be disturbed by the Government against which they had rebelled. Grant asked if these terms were satisfactory. “Yes,” said Lee, “they are satisfactory. The truth is, I am in such a position that any terms offered to me must be satisfactory.” And then he told how his men had been for two days without food, and begged General Grant to spare them what he could. Grant, generously eager to relieve his fallen enemies, despatched instantly a large drove of oxen and a train of provision waggons. In half an hour there were heard in the Federal camp the cheers with which the hungry rebels welcomed those precious gifts.


Lee rode quietly back to his army, where the surrender was expected. When its details became known, officers and men crowded around their much-loved chief, to assure him of their devotion, and to obtain a parting grasp of his hand. Lee was too deeply moved to say much. “Men,” he said, with his habitual simplicity, “we have fought through the war together, and I have done the best I could for you.” A day or two later the men stacked their arms and went to their homes. The history of the once splendid Army of Northern Virginia had closed.

Lee’s surrender led the way to the surrender of all the Confederate armies. Within a few days there was no organized force of any importance in arms against the Union. The War of the Great Rebellion was at an end.



When the closing operations against Richmond were being arranged, President Lincoln went down to General Grant’s head-quarters at City Point, and remained there till Lee’s surrender. He visited Richmond on the day it was taken, and walked through the streets with his little boy in his hand. The freed slaves crowded to welcome their deliverer. They expressed in a thousand grotesque ways their gratitude to the good “Father Abraham.” There had been dark hints for some time that there were those among the Confederates who would avenge their defeat by the murder of the President. Mr. Lincoln was urged to be on his guard, and his friends were unwilling that he should visit Richmond. He himself cared little, now that the national cause had triumphed.

April 9, 1865 A.D. He returned unharmed to Washington on the evening of Lee’s surrender. The next few days were perhaps the brightest in his whole life. He had guided the nation through the heaviest trial which had ever assailed it. On every side were joy and gladness. Flags waved, bells rang, guns were fired, houses were lighted up; the thanks of innumerable grateful hearts went up to God for this great deliverance. No heart in all the country was more joyful and more thankful than Mr. Lincoln’s. He occupied himself with plans for healing the wounds of his bleeding country, and[257] bringing back the revolted States to a contented occupation of their appointed places in the Union. No thought of severity was in his mind. Now that armed resistance to the Government was crushed, the gentlest measures which would give security in the future were the measures most agreeable to the good President.

On the 14th he held a meeting of his Cabinet, at which General Grant was present. The quiet cheerfulness and hopefulness of the President imparted to the proceedings of the council a tone long remembered by those who were present. After the meeting he drove out with Mrs. Lincoln, to whom he talked of the good days in store. They had had a hard time, he said, since they came to Washington; but now, by God’s blessing, they might hope for quieter and happier years.

In the evening he drove, with Mrs. Lincoln and two or three friends, to a theatre where he knew the people expected his coming. As the play went on the audience were startled by a pistol-shot in the President’s box. A man brandishing a dagger was seen to leap from the box on to the stage, and with a wild cry—“The South is avenged!”—disappeared behind the scenes. The President sat motionless, his head sunk down upon his breast. He was evidently unconscious. When the surgeon came, it was found that a bullet had pierced the brain, inflicting a deadly wound. He was carried to a house close by. His family and the great officers of State, by whom he was dearly loved, sat around the bed of the dying President. He lingered till morning, breathing heavily, but in entire unconsciousness, and then he passed away.

At the same hour the President was murdered a ruffian broke into the sick-room of Mr. Seward, who was suffering from a recent accident, and stabbed him almost to death as he lay in bed. His bloody work was happily interrupted, and Mr. Seward recovered.

The assassin of Mr. Lincoln was an actor called Booth, a[258] fanatical adherent of the fallen Confederacy. His leg was broken in the leap on to the stage, but he was able to reach a horse which stood ready at the theatre door. He rode through the city, crossed the Potomac by a bridge, in the face of the sentinels posted there, and passed safely beyond present pursuit. A week later he was found hid in a barn, and well armed. He refused to surrender, and was preparing to fire, when a soldier ended his miserable existence by a bullet.

The grief of the American people for their murdered President was beyond example deep and bitter. Perhaps for no man were there ever shed so profusely the tears of sorrow. Not in America alone, but in Europe also—where President Lincoln was at length understood and honoured—his loss was deeply mourned. It was resolved that he should be buried beside his old home in Illinois. The embalmed remains were to be conveyed to their distant resting-place by a route which would give to the people of the chief Northern cities a last opportunity to look upon the features of the man they loved so well. The sad procession moved on its long journey of nearly two thousand miles, traversing the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Everywhere, as the funeral train passed, the weeping people sought to give expression to their reverential sorrow. At the great cities the body lay in state, and all business was suspended.

At length Springfield was reached. The body was taken to the State House. His neighbours looked once more upon that well-remembered face, wasted, indeed, by years of anxious toil, but wearing still, as of old, its kind and placid expression.

Four years before, Lincoln said to his neighbours, when he was leaving them, “I know not how soon I shall see you again. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington.” He had nobly accomplished his task; and this was the manner of his home-coming.



The Great Rebellion was at an end. It was not closed by untimely concessions which left a discontented party, with its strength unbroken, ready to renew the contest at a more fitting time. It was fought out to the bitter end. The slave-power might be erring, but it was not weak. The conflict was closed by the utter exhaustion of one of the combatants. Lee did not surrender till his army was surrounded by the enemy and had been two days without food. The great questions which had been appealed to the sword were answered conclusively and for ever.

The cost had been very terrible. On the Northern side, two million seven hundred thousand men bore arms at some period of the war. Of these there died in battle, or in hospital of wounds received in battle, ninety-six thousand men. There died in hospital of disease, one hundred and eighty-four thousand. Many went home wounded, to die among the scenes of their infancy. Many went home stricken with lingering and mortal disease. Of these there is no record but in the sad memories which haunt nearly every Northern home.

The losses on the Southern side have not been accurately ascertained. The white population of the revolted States numbered about a fourth of the loyal Northern population. At the close of the war the North had a full million of men under arms. The Southern armies which surrendered numbered one[260] hundred and seventy-five thousand. When to this is added the number who went home without awaiting the formality of surrender, it appears probable that the Southern armies bore to the Northern the same proportion that the population did. Presumably the loss bore a larger proportion, as the deaths from disease, owing to the greater hardships to be endured, must have been excessive in the rebel army. It must be under the truth to say that one hundred and fifty thousand Southerners perished in the field or in the hospital.

The war cost the North in money seven hundred million sterling. It is impossible to state what was the cost to the South. The Confederate debt was supposed to amount at the close to thirty-five hundred million dollars; but the dollar was of so uncertain value that no one can tell the equivalent in any sound currency. Besides this, there was the destruction of railroads, the burning of houses, the wasting of lands, and, above all, the emancipation of four million slaves, who had been purchased by their owners for three or four hundred million sterling. It has been estimated that the entire cost of the war, on both sides, was not less than eighteen hundred million pounds sterling.

Great wars ordinarily cost much and produce little. What results had the American people to show for their huge expenditure of blood and treasure?

They had freed themselves from the curse of slavery. That unhappy system made them a byword among Christian nations. It hindered the progress of the fairest section of the country. It implanted among the people hatreds which kept them continually on the verge of civil war. Slavery was now extinct.

For three-quarters of a century the belief possessed Southern minds that they owed allegiance to their State rather than to the Union. Each State was sovereign. Having to-day united itself with certain sister sovereignties, it was free to-morrow to withdraw and enter into new combinations. America was in[261] this view no nation, but a mere incoherent concourse of independent powers. This question had been raised when the Constitution was framed, and it had been debated ever since. It was settled now. The blood shed in a hundred battles, from Manassas to Petersburg, expressed the esteem in which the Northern people held their national life. The doctrine of States’ Rights was conclusively refuted by the surrender of Lee’s army, and the right of America to be deemed a nation was established for ever.

It was often said during the war that republican institutions were upon their trial. It was possible for the war to have resulted so that government by the people would ever after have been deemed a failure. It has not been so. The Americans have proved conspicuously the capacity of a free people to guide their own destinies in war as well as in peace. They have shown that the dependence of the many upon the few is as unnecessary as it is humiliating. They have rung the knell of personal government, and given the world encouragement to hope that not the Anglo-Saxon race alone, but all other races of men will yet be found worthy to govern themselves.

Terrible as the cost of the war has been, have not its gains been greater? The men who gave their lives so willingly have not died in vain. America and the world will reap advantage, through many generations, by the blood so freely shed in the great war against the Southern slave-owners.



In all civil strifes, until now, the woe which waits upon the vanquished has been mercilessly inflicted. After resistance has ceased, the grim scaffold is set up, and brave men who have escaped the sword stoop to the fatal axe. It was assumed by many that the Americans would avenge themselves according to the ancient usage. Here, again, it was the privilege of America to present a noble example to other nations. Nearly every Northern man had lost relative or friend, but there was no cry for vengeance; there was no feeling of bitterness. Excepting in battle, no drop of blood was shed by the Northern people. The Great Republic had been not merely strong, resolute, enduring—it was also singularly and nobly humane.

Jefferson Davis fled southward on that memorable Sunday when the sexton of St. Paul’s Church handed to him General Lee’s message. He had need to be diligent, for a party of American cavalry were quickly upon his track. They followed him through gaunt pine wildernesses, across rivers and dreary swamps, past the huts of wondering settlers, until at length they came upon him near a little town in Georgia. May 10, 1865 A.D. They quietly surrounded his party. Davis assumed the garments of his wife, and the soldiers saw at first nothing more formidable than an elderly and not very well-dressed female. But the unfeminine boots which he wore led[263] to closer inspection, and quickly the fallen President stood disclosed to his deriding enemies.

There was at first suspicion that Davis encouraged the assassination of the President. Could that have been proved, he would have died, as reason was, by the hand of the hangman. But it became evident, on due examination being made, that he was not guilty of that crime. For a time the American people regarded Davis with just indignation, as the chief cause of all the bloodshed which had taken place. Gradually their anger relaxed into a kind of grim, contemptuous playfulness. He was to be put upon his trial for treason. Frequently a time was named when the trial would begin; but the time never came. Ultimately Davis was set at liberty.

What were the Americans to do with the million of armed men now in their employment? It was believed in Europe that these men would never return to peaceful labour. Government could not venture to turn them loose upon the country. Military employment must be found for them, and would probably be found in foreign wars.

While yet public writers in Europe occupied themselves with these dark anticipations, the American Government, all unaware of difficulty, ordered its armies to march on Washington. May 23, 24, 1865 A.D. During two days the bronzed veterans who had followed Grant and Sherman in so many bloody fights passed through the city. Vast multitudes from all parts of the Union looked on with a proud but chastened joy. And then, just as quickly as the men could be paid the sums which were due to them, they gave back the arms they had used so bravely, and returned to their homes. It was only six weeks since Richmond fell, and already the work of disbanding was well advanced. The men who had fought this war were, for the most part, citizens who had freely taken up arms to defend the national life. They did not love[264] war, and when their work was done they thankfully resumed their ordinary employments. Very speedily the American army numbered only forty thousand men. Europe, when she grows a little wiser, will follow the American example. The wasteful folly of maintaining huge standing armies in time of peace is not destined to disgrace us for ever.

What was the position of the rebel States when the war closed? Were they provinces conquered by the Union armies, to be dealt with as the conquerors might deem necessary; or were they, in spite of all they had done, still members of the Union, as of old? The rebels themselves had no doubt on the subject. They had tried their utmost to leave the Union. It was impossible to conceal that. But they had not been permitted to leave it, and they had never left it. As they were not out of the Union, it was obvious they were in it. And so they claimed to resume their old rights, and re-occupy their places in Congress, as if no rebellion had occurred.

Mr. Lincoln’s successor was Andrew Johnson, a man whose rough vigour had raised him from the lowly position of tailor to the highest office in the country. He was imperfectly educated, of defective judgment, blindly and violently obstinate. He supported the rebels in their extravagant pretensions. He clung to the strictly logical view that there could be no such thing as secession; that the rebel States had never been out of the Union; that now there was nothing required but that the rebels, having accepted their defeat, should resume their old positions, as if “the late unpleasantness” had not occurred.

The American people were too wise to give heed to the logic of the President and the baffled slave-owners. They had preserved the life of their nation through sacrifices which filled their homes with sorrow and privation, and they would not be tricked out of the advantages which they had bought with so great a price. The slave-owners had imposed upon them a[265] great national peril, which it cost them infinite toil to avert. They would take what securities it was possible to obtain that no such invasion of the national tranquillity should occur again.

It was out of the position so wrongfully assigned to the negro race that this huge disorder had arisen. The North, looking at this with eyes which long and sad experience had enlightened, resolved that the negro should never again divide the sisterhood of States. No root of bitterness should be left in the soil. Citizenship was no longer to be dependent upon colour. The long dishonour offered to the Fathers of Independence was to be cancelled; henceforth American law would present no contradiction to the doctrine that “all men are born equal.” All men now, born or naturalized in America, were to be citizens of the Union and of the State in which they resided. No State might henceforth pass any law which should abridge the privileges of any class of American citizens.

An Amendment of the Constitution was proposed by Congress to give effect to these principles. March 30, 1870 A.D. It was agreed to by the States—not without reluctance on the part of some. The Revolution—so vast and so benign—was now complete. The negro, who so lately had no rights at all which a white man was bound to respect, was now in full possession of every right which the white man himself enjoyed. The successor of Jefferson Davis in the Senate of the United States was a negro!

The task of the North was now to “bind up the nation’s wounds”—the task to which Mr. Lincoln looked forward so joyfully, and which he would have performed so well. Not a moment was lost in entering upon it. No feeling of resentment survived in the Northern mind. The South was utterly exhausted and helpless—without food, without clothing, without resources of any description. The land alone remained. Government provided food—without which provision there[266] would have been in many parts of the country a great mortality from utter want. The proud Southerners, tamed by hunger, were fain to come as suppliants for their daily bread to the Government they had so long striven to overthrow.

With little delay nearly all the rebels received the pardon of the Government, and applied themselves to the work of restoring their broken fortunes. Happily for them the means lay close at hand. Cotton bore still an extravagantly high price. The negroes remained, although no longer as slaves. They had now to be dealt with as free labourers, whose services could not be obtained otherwise than by the inducement of adequate wages. In a revolution so vast, difficulties were inevitable; but, upon the whole, the black men played their part well. It had been said they would not consent to labour when they were free to choose. That prediction was not fulfilled. When kindly treated and justly paid, they showed themselves anxious to work. Very soon it began to dawn upon the planters that slavery had been a mistake. Those of their number who were able to command the use of capital found themselves growing rich with a rapidity unknown before. Under the old and wasteful system, the growing crop of cotton was generally sold to the Northern merchant and paid for to the planter before it was gathered. Now it had become possible to carry on the business of the plantation without being in debt at all. Five years after the close of the war, it is perhaps not too much to say that the men of the South would have undergone the miseries of another war rather than permit the re-imposition of that system which they, erringly, endured so much to preserve.



Wars have been, in general, made by Kings to serve the purposes of their own ambition or revenge. This war was made by the American people, and willingly fought out by their own hands. The men who fought were nearly all Americans, and mainly volunteers. They were regarded with the deepest interest by those who remained at home. Ordinarily, the number of soldiers who die of diseases caused by the hardships they endure is greater than the number of those who die of wounds. The Americans were eager to save their soldiers from the privations which waste so many brave lives. They erected two great societies, called the Sanitary Commission and the Christian Commission. Into the coffers of these societies they poured money and other contributions to the amount of four million sterling. The Sanitary Commission sent medical officers of experience into the armies to guide them in the choice of healthy situations for camps; to see that drainage was not neglected; to watch over the food of the soldiers, and also their clothing; to direct the attention of the Government to every circumstance which threatened evil to the health of the army. Its agents followed the armies with a line of waggons containing all manner of stores. Everything the soldier could desire issued in profusion from those inexhaustible waggons. There were blankets and great-coats and every variety of underclothing. There were crutches for the[268] lame, fans to soothe the wounded in the burning heat of summer, bandages, and sponges, and ice, and even mosquito-netting for the protection of the poor sufferers in hospital. Huge wheeled-caldrons rolled along in the rear, and ever, at the close of battle or toilsome march, dispensed welcome refreshment to the wearied soldiers.

The Christian Commission undertook to watch over the spiritual wants of the soldiers. Its president was George H. Stuart, a merchant of Philadelphia, whose name is held in enduring honour as a symbol of all that is wise and energetic in Christian beneficence. Under the auspices of this society thousands of clergymen left their congregations and went to minister to the soldiers. A copious supply of Bibles, tracts, hymn-books, and similar reading matter was furnished. The agents of the Commission preached to the soldiers, conversed with them, supplied them with books, aided them in communicating with friends at home. But they had sterner duties than these to discharge. They had to seek the wounded on the field and in the hospital; to bind up their wounds; to prepare for them such food or drink as they could use;—in every way possible to soothe the agony of the brave men who were giving their lives that the nation might be saved. Hundreds of ladies were thus engaged tending the wounded and sick, speaking to them about their spiritual interests, cooking for them such dishes as might tempt the languid appetite. The dying soldier was tenderly cared for. The last loving message was conveyed to the friends in the far-off home. Nothing was left undone which could express to the men who gave this costly evidence of their patriotism the gratitude with which the country regarded them.

It resulted from the watchful care of the American Government and people, that the loss of life by disease was singularly small in the Northern army. There never was a war in which the health of the army was so good, and the waste of life by disease so small.


When the war was over, the Americans addressed themselves, sadly and reverently, to the work of gathering into national cemeteries the bones of those who had fallen. The search was long and toilsome, for the battle-ground had been a continent, and men were buried where they died. Every battle-field was searched. Every line by which an army had advanced, or by which the wounded had been removed, was searched. Sometimes a long train of ambulances had carried the wounded to hospitals many miles away. At short intervals, during that sad journey, it was told that a man had died. The train was stopped; the dead man was lifted from beside his dying companions; a shallow grave was dug, and the body, still warm, was laid in it. A soldier cut a branch from a tree, flattened its end with his knife, and wrote upon it the dead man’s name. This was all that marked his lowly resting-place. The honoured dead, scattered thus over the continent, were now piously gathered up. For many miles around Petersburg the ground was full of graves. During several years men were employed in the melancholy search among the ruins of the wide-stretching lines. In some cemeteries lie ten thousand, in others twenty thousand of the men who died for the nation. An iron tablet records the name of the soldier and the battle in which he died. Often, alas! the record is merely that of “Unknown Soldier.” Over the graves floats the flag which those who sleep below loved so well. Nothing in America is more touching than her national cemeteries. So much brave young life given freely, that the nation might be saved! So much grateful remembrance of those who gave this supreme evidence of their devotion!


Book Fifth.


Long ago thoughtful men had foreseen that a permanent union between slave communities and free communities was impossible. Wise Americans knew that their country could not continue “half slave and half free.” Slavery was a fountain out of which strife flowed perpetual. There was an incessant conflict of interests. There was a still more formidable conflict of feeling. The North was humiliated by the censure which she had to share with her erring sisters. The South was imbittered by the knowledge that the Christian world abhorred her most cherished institution. The Southern character became ever more fierce, domineering, unreasoning. Some vast change was known to be near. Slavery must cease in the South, or extend itself into the North. There was no resting-place for the country between that universal liberty which was established in the North, and the favourite doctrine of the South that the capitalist should own the labourer.

The South appealed to the sword, and the decision was against her. She frankly and wisely accepted it. She acknowledged that the labouring-man was now finally proved to be no article of merchandise, but a free and responsible citizen. That[271] acknowledgment closed the era of strife between North and South. There was no longer anything to strive about. There was no longer North or South, in the old hostile sense, but a united nation, with interests and sympathies rapidly becoming identical. It has been foretold that America will yet break up into several nations. What developments may await America in future ages we do not know. But we do know that the only circumstance which threatened disruption among the sisterhood of States has been removed, and that the national existence of America rests upon foundations at least as assured as those which support any nation in the world.

The South had laid aside all thought of armed resistance, and in perfect good faith had acquiesced in the overthrow of slavery. Her leaders did not, however, consent readily to those guarantees of future tranquillity which the North demanded. At the close of the war eleven States were without legal State government; and the North would not permit the restoration of the forfeited privilege until those constitutional changes were accepted by which the political equality of the negro was secured. It had become an easy thing to consent that the negro should be free; it was very hard to consent that he should sit in the State Legislatures, and exercise an influential voice in framing laws for those who had lately owned him. Several States withheld their concurrence from arrangements which humiliated them so deeply, desperately choosing rather to deny themselves for the time the privilege of self-government and to live under a government in whose creation they had no part. Very grave evils resulted from their pertinacious adherence to this unwise choice. Their affairs were necessarily taken charge of by the Federal executive, and President Grant sent them rulers from Washington. Unworthy persons were able by dexterous intrigue to gain positions of control, and hastened southwards, with no purpose to heal the wounds of the war; intent merely to plunder for their own advantage the impoverished and suffering States.[272] The finances of the South were in extreme disorder. Public debt had increased enormously during the war; but the North averted the difficulty which this increase might have caused by insisting that no debt incurred for the purposes of the rebellion should be recognized as a public obligation. The temporary rulers of the South gave prompt attention to the possibility of obtaining loans, ostensibly for the restoration of railroads and other necessary works. It was not yet realized how fatally wasted the South had been, and men hastily concluded that her advantages of soil and climate must secure for her a rapid financial recovery. Cherishing such expectations, capitalists on both sides of the Atlantic were found willing to make loans on the credit of various Southern States. These moneys were applied only in very small measure to the uses of the States in whose name they were obtained; the larger portion was feloniously appropriated by the unscrupulous persons whose position gave them the opportunity of doing so. Afterwards, when the fraud was fully exposed, the defrauded States repudiated the obligation to repay moneys which they had not received, and which, as they averred, had been borrowed by persons who were in no sense their servants. The good name of the South suffered deeply and her recovery was seriously hindered by these unhappy transactions.

The inevitable difficulties of reconstruction were seriously aggravated by the violent conflict of opinion which raged between President Johnson and Congress. The President would not sanction the conditions which Congress considered it necessary to make with the South, and he steadily vetoed all measures which were at variance with his theory that the rebels were entitled to be received without stipulation. His resistance was not practically important, for the country was united, and Congress was able to pass all its measures over the veto of the President. The irritation caused by his opposition to the public wish grew, however, so intense, that it led to his impeachment[273] and trial before the Senate, with a view to his forcible removal from office. His enemies failed to secure a conviction, although they came so near that one additional hostile vote would have brought Mr. Johnson’s presidency to an abrupt close. So smoothly does the constitutional machinery of America now move, that the trial and expected deposition of the head of the government were not felt either by the commercial interests of the country or in the carrying on of public business.

For five years after the end of the war some of the Southern States continued to refuse the terms insisted upon by the inflexible North, and continued to endure the evils of military rule. Gradually, however, as time soothed the bitterness of defeat, they withdrew their refusal and consented to resume their position in the Union on the conditions which were offered to them. In 1870 President Grant was able to announce the completed restoration of the Union which his own leadership had done so much to save.

The industrial recovery of the South was unexpectedly slow. The industrial arrangements of the country were utterly overthrown. Population had diminished; capital had disappeared; cultivation, excepting of articles necessary for food, had ceased; many of the coloured labourers had fled northwards, and the labour of those who remained had to be arranged for on conditions altogether new and unknown. The reconstruction of the shattered fragments of an industrial system was inevitably a tedious and difficult work. But the wholesome pressure of necessity,—laid equally on white men and on black,—obliged both to adapt themselves to the circumstances in which they were placed. The planters drew together as many labourers as they could obtain and were able to pay for, and cultivated such portions of their lands as they could thus overtake. The negroes were always ready to serve any man who paid regular wages; but it very often happened, at the outset, that there was no man with money enough to do that. In such cases the negroes[274] cultivated for their own behoof. The progress made in reconquering the neglected soil was very slow. But in that fertile land no effort of man is suffered to go without a bountiful reward. Every succeeding crop left the cultivator a little richer than he had been before. Every seed-time witnessed a larger area under cultivation, until at length the quantity of cotton produced is as large as it had ever been before the war, and promises steadily to increase. A new and better industrial system gradually arose—less picturesque than that which had been destroyed, but no longer founded in wrong, and therefore more enduring and more beneficial to master as well as to servant.

The rebellion had drawn forth into energetic exercise among the Northern people a patriotic sentiment which nerved them for every measure of self-devotion. But war cherishes also into exceptional strength the evil that is in humanity, and this patriot war exerted an influence not less unhallowed than other wars have done. The fluctuating value of the currency and consequently of all commodities, the unprecedented opportunities of acquiring sudden wealth, fostered widespread corruption in the cities. Reckless personal extravagance, a frantic haste to become rich by whatever means, and a general decay of commercial morality, characterized the years which followed the restoration of peace. Political society, at no time distinguished by its elevation of moral tone, was deeply tainted. Even among the men whom President Grant had chosen as worthy of his fullest confidence there were some who yielded to the prevailing influence, and the President had the mortification of finding that several members of his Cabinet had incurred the shame of corrupt transactions. Habitual embezzlement was practised in the management of the finances of large cities. The municipal government of New York had fallen into hands exceptionally rapacious and base, and the career of the plunderers[275] was not arrested till the city had been robbed of many million dollars.

For several years after the close of the war the industrial interests of America seemed to prosper exceedingly. Her foreign trade increased rapidly. The thriving people purchased freely of the costly luxuries imported from Europe, and the gains of merchants were liberal. New factories arose; villages swelled into towns; emigrants to the number of three hundred and fifty thousand annually hastened to exchange the poverty of Europe for the plenty of this land of promise; a million persons were added every year to the population. New railways were laid down at the rate of five to six thousand miles annually, involving an annual expenditure of thirty to forty million sterling. The confiding capitalists of Europe furnished the means requisite to sustain this perilously rapid increase. The census of 1870 reported that during ten years the wealth of the people had nearly doubled, and that their annual earnings now amounted to two thousand million sterling. It seemed as if, for the first time in history, a prolonged and costly war had been waged without pecuniary disadvantage to the combatants.

But the inevitable retribution was not abandoned; it was only delayed. Sept. 1873 A.D. While the currents of commercial activity still flowed with unwonted swiftness and smoothness, the failure of a large financial house in New York gave the signal for a panic, which speedily assumed an aspect of unprecedented severity. Business stood still; the exchanges were closed; the banks ceased to give out money; the payment of debts became impossible. In a short time the intensity of the excitement passed away, leaving a deep-seated depression, which continued for six years. It was now discovered that men had been deluding themselves with a merely visionary prosperity—that all values had been wildly inflated; and it became the sad and surprising experience of[276] very many that their fancied wealth had, in part or wholly, disappeared. Factories were closed; artisans were unable to obtain employment; wages fell, step by step, till in many industries they had undergone reductions which were not less than forty per cent. All stocks and every description of property sank lamentably in value; railway companies and other borrowers of foreign capital discontinued payment of the promised interest; immigration almost ceased—for who would now seek a home in this afflicted and impoverished land?

America emerged from those miserable years with her vitality undiminished; with her financial position improved; with her industrial system organized, for the first time, upon a basis of rigorous economy; with the views of her people corrected, and their character braced by adversity. The operatives who were unable to find employment in the cities of the east had made their way westward, and were now contributing to the greatness of the nation by cultivating the soil. Personal extravagance ceased, and the imports of foreign commodities fell one-third. On the other hand, the exports increased largely. America had for many years been accustomed to use an amount of foreign goods very much larger than she was able to pay for by her own surplus productions. In settlement of the excess, she endured a drain upon her store of the precious metals, or she neutralized it for the time by the loans which her people obtained abroad. Now all this was changed. America exported so largely of her manufactures and of the products of her soil, and restricted so carefully her purchase of foreign commodities, that now she has to receive from foreigners an annual balance which exceeds fifty million sterling. And during the painful years through which she passed, while nearly all European countries continued to add to their public indebtedness, America continued to reduce hers. Her debt, which at the close of the war amounted to six hundred million sterling, thirteen years later was only four[277] hundred million.[2] And whereas at one period an amount equal to one-half of her present debt was owing to foreigners, it is now, to the extent of five-sixths, owing to her own citizens. Her currency, which had been long at a discount, rose in value, step by step, till it stood at par. After seventeen years of an inconvertible currency specie payments were resumed, without the slightest inconvenience to the commerce of the country.



America looked to England for sympathy when the rebellion began. England had often reproached her, often admonished her, in regard to the question of Slavery. The war which threatened her existence was a war waged by persons who desired to perpetuate slavery, and who feared the growing Northern dislike to the institution. The North expected the countenance of England in her time of trial. It was reasonable to expect that the deep abhorrence of slavery which had long ruled in the mind of the English people would suffice to decide that people against the effort to establish a great independent slave-empire.

Most unfortunately, that expectation was not wholly fulfilled. The working-men of England perceived, as by intuition, the merits of the dispute, and gave their sympathy unhesitatingly to the North. In the cotton-spinning districts grievous suffering was endured, because the Northern ships shut in the cotton of the South and deprived the mills of their accustomed supply. It was often urged that the English Government should take measures to raise the Northern blockade. Hunger persuades men to unwise and evil courses; but hunger itself could never persuade the men of Lancashire to take any part against the North. So genuine and so deep was their conviction that the Northern cause was right.

But among the aristocratic and middle classes of England it[279] was different. Their sympathy was in large measure given to the South. They were misled by certain newspapers, in which they erringly trusted. They were misled by their admiration of a brave people struggling against an enemy of overwhelming strength. They were misled by an unworthy jealousy of the greatness of America. Thus unhappily influenced, they gave their good wishes to the defenders of the slave-system. The North felt deeply the unlooked-for repulse; and a painful alienation of feeling resulted.

A variety of circumstances occurred which strengthened this feeling. A few weeks after the fall of Fort Sumpter, England, having in view that there had been set up in the South a new Government which was exercising the functions of a Government, whether rightfully or otherwise, acknowledged in haste the undoubted fact, and recognized the South as a belligerent power. This the North highly resented; asserting that the action of the South was merely a rebellion, with which foreign countries had nothing to do. A few months later the British mail-steamer Trent was stopped by a rash American captain, and two gentlemen, commissioners to England from the rebel Government, were made prisoners. The captives were released, but the indignity offered to the British flag awakened a strong sentiment of indignation which did not soon pass away. Yet further: there was built in a Liverpool dockyard a steam-ship which it was understood was destined to serve the Confederacy by destroying the merchant shipping of the North. The American Ambassador requested the British Government to detain the vessel. So hesitating was the action of Government, that the vessel sailed before the order for her detention was issued. For two years the Alabama, and some other ships also fitted in English ports, scoured the seas, burning and sinking American ships, and inflicting enormous loss upon American commerce. These circumstances increased the bitter feeling which prevailed.

The American Government held that England had failed to[280] perform the duty imposed upon her by international law, and had therefore made herself responsible for the depredations of the Alabama. English lawyers of eminence expressed the same unacceptable opinion; and a few years after the war closed the English Government wisely determined to seek the settlement of the question. 1869 A.D. There was arranged by the Foreign Secretary and the American Minister a treaty, in terms of which the subject was disposed of by a reference to the arbitration of impartial persons. This treaty was sent to Washington for confirmation, according to the judicious American rule that treaties with foreign powers must receive the sanction of the Senate. But American feeling was not yet prepared for any adjustment of differences which had wounded the nation so deeply. It was not that the terms of the proposed settlement were objected to; it was rather that no immediate settlement was desired. The American people chose that the question should, for the time, remain an open question. Their irritation had not yet subsided, and many of them solaced their angry minds with the purpose that, when England was again involved in some one of those European embarrassments which habitually beset her, this matter of the Alabama should be pressed to a settlement. The Senate gave effect to the general wish by withholding sanction from the treaty, and President Grant instructed his minister at the English Court to abstain from further negotiation.

1871 A.D. But the passage of a little time calmed the irritation of the not implacable Americans. England renewed her proposal to refer the dispute to arbitration, coupling the offer with an expression of regret that injuries so grave had been inflicted upon the shipping of America. She further consented that the arbitrators should guide themselves by a definition of neutral duties so framed that, in effect, it condemned her conduct, and made an adverse decision inevitable. America accepted the proposal, and a dispute which at[281] an earlier period would have brought upon two nations the miseries of a great war was found to come easily within the scope of a peaceful arbitration. The transaction is of high importance, for it is the largest advance which has yet been made towards the settlement of national differences by reason rather than by brute force.

The arbitrators were five persons, named by the Queen, the President, the King of Italy, the President of Switzerland, and the Emperor of Brazil. Their deliberations were conducted in the tranquil city of Geneva, remote from the influence of the disputants. America presented a statement of her wrongs, and of the compensation to which she deemed herself entitled. Her case was stated with much ability, and it produced numerous and painful evidences that the neutrality with which England regarded the conflict had been a neutrality very full of sympathy with the slave-holders. But the claim tabled was extravagantly large. America argued that England should indemnify her for the expenses of the war-ships which were employed to pursue the piratical cruisers. She argued that, since her ship-owners had been compelled to sell their ships to foreigners, England should bear the losses arising from these enforced sales. Above all, she alleged that the prolongation of the war after the battle of Gettysburg was traceable to the influence of the pirate-ships; and she made the huge demand that England should refund to her the cost of nearly two years of fighting. The arbitrators gave judgment that England was responsible for the property destroyed by the Alabama and the other cruisers, and ordained that she should repair the wrong by a payment of three million sterling. The claim for losses arising indirectly out of these unhappy transactions was rejected.

When the claims of sufferers by the piratical vessels were investigated it was found that the arbitrators had over-estimated them. The American Government, having satisfied every authenticated demand, found itself still in possession of[282] about one million of the English money. It was the wish of many Americans that this sum should be restored to England, but Congress did not rise to the height of this generosity.

When the Alabama dispute was closed, there remained no cause of alienation between the two countries. All good men on both sides of the Atlantic desire earnestly that England and America should be fast friends. It was possible for England, by bestowing upon the North that sympathy which we now recognize to have been due, to have bound the two countries inalienably to each other. Unhappily the opportunity was missed, and a needless estrangement was caused. But this was not destined to endure, and it has long ago passed wholly away. England and America now understand each other as they have never done before. The constant intercourse of their citizens is a bond of union already so strong that no folly of Governments could break it. It may fairly be hoped that the irritations which arose during the war have been succeeded by an enduring concord between the two great sections of the Anglo-Saxon family.



The chosen career of the American people is a career of peaceful industry. Wisely shunning the glories and calamities of war, they have devoted themselves to the worthier labour of developing the resources of the continent which is their magnificent heritage. During four years they had been obliged to give their energies to a war, on the successful issue of which the national existence depended. When those sad years were over, and the conflict ceased, they turned with renewed vigour to their accustomed pursuits.

The industrial greatness of America is still, in large measure, agricultural. Nearly one-half of her people live by the cultivation of the soil. Upwards of three-fourths of the commodities which she sells to foreigners are agricultural products. The total value of the crops which she gathered in 1878 was not less than £400,000,000. The strangers who help to build up her power are drawn to her shores by the hope of obtaining easy possession of fertile land. Her progress in the manufacturing arts has been very rapid, but it cannot rival the giant growth of her agriculture.

The agricultural system of America is eminently favourable to cheap production. Unoccupied lands are the property of the nation, and are made over to cultivators on easy terms, and in many cases gratuitously. A rent-paying farmer is practically[284] unknown; the farmer owns the land which he tills. His farm has cost him little, and as the invariable improvement in value cancels even that, it may be said that it has cost him nothing. The average farm of the Western States is one hundred and sixty acres. It is cultivated almost without outlay of money. The farmer and his family perform the work of the farm, with the help of a neighbour at the great eras of sowing and reaping. This help is requited in kind, and therefore costs nothing in money. The rich, deep, virgin soil asks for no manure during many years. The sole burden upon the farm is the maintenance of the farmer and his family, and of the four oxen or mules which share his toils. His local taxation is trivial. His national taxation is less than one-half of that which the English farmer bears.[3] The evil of distance from the great markets of the world is neutralized by the low charge for which his grain is carried on railway or canal.[4] His husbandry is careless, insomuch that two acres of land in the valley of the Mississippi yield no more than one acre yields in England.[5] But if his agriculture is rude it is constantly improving; and, meanwhile, it is so inexpensive that he can send its products to England, four thousand miles away, and undersell the farmer there. A vast revolution, whose results we as yet imperfectly appreciate, is in progress around us. The antiquated, semi-feudal land-system of England totters to its fall, unable to sustain itself in presence of the more free and natural system of the West.

Immigration languished during the earlier years of the war. The distracted condition of the country, and the fears in regard to its future so widely entertained in Europe, formed sufficient[285] reason why men who were in search of a home should avoid America. But when success crowned the efforts of the North, her old attractiveness to the emigrating class resumed its power. It came then to be pressed upon the public mind that the progress of the West was frustrated by want of adequate communication. There was no railway beyond the Missouri river. From that point westward to the Pacific communication depended upon a rude system of stage-coaches, or the waggon of an adventurous pioneer. It was a journey of nearly two thousand miles, across an unpeopled wilderness. The hardship was extreme, and the dangers not inconsiderable; for the way was beset by hostile Indians, and the traveller must be in constant readiness to fight. This vast region, composed mainly of rich prairie land, was practically closed against progress. The resources of the country, as it seemed, could not be developed excepting near the margins of the continent, or by the borders of her great navigable rivers.

It was now determined to construct a railway which should connect the Atlantic with the Pacific, and open for the use of man the vast intervening expanse of fertile soil. Stimulated by liberal grants of national land, two companies began to build—one eastward from San Francisco, the other westward from the Missouri. As the extent of land given was in strict proportion to the length of line laid down, each of the companies pushed its operations to the utmost. The work was done in haste, and, as many then thought, slightly; but experience has proved its sufficiency. 1869 A.D. In due time the lines met; the last rail was laid down, not without emotion, such as befitted the completion of a work so great. By the help of electricity the blows of the hammer which drove home the last spike were made audible in the chief cities of the east. The union of east and west was now complete, and many millions of acres of rich land, hitherto inaccessible, were added to the heritage of man. The savage occupants of these lands[286] were remorselessly pushed aside. The Indians had been dangerously hostile to the workmen who constructed the railway, and they showed some disposition to offer unpleasant interruption to the trains which ran upon it. They were now gathered up and placed in certain “reservations,” which it was well understood would be reserved for Indians only till white men had need of them. When the railroad was newly opened, travellers could occasionally look out from the windows upon a vast plain dark with innumerable multitudes of buffaloes plodding sullenly on their customary migrations. Herds of antelopes were seen fleeing before this new invader of their quiet lives. The prairie-dog, sitting upon his mound of earth, watched with curious eye the unwonted disturbance. All wild creatures were now wantonly slain, or driven far away. A steady tide of emigration flowed to the west. In the neighbourhood of the railway, the little wooden farm-house became frequent; beside stopping-places, villages arose, and swelled out into little towns; the towns of the olden time increased rapidly and prospered. The settlers planted trees of quick growth, and gradually, as the line of settlement stretched westward, the monotony of those dreary plains was brightened with groves, and dwellings, and cultivated fields.

Iowa, Indiana, Illinois ceased to be regarded as belonging to the west, and took rank as old and fully settled central States. Beyond the Missouri a new career opened for Kansas and Nebraska. Down to the beginning of the war these States had been claimed and fought for by the slave-power. Day by day now the railway brought long trains laden with immigrants—Russian Mennonites fleeing from persecution in Church and despotism in State; Germans escaping from military conscription; Englishmen and Irishmen leaving lands where the ownership of the soil was impossible excepting to a few.

Texas—once the refuge of men seeking exemption from the restraints which criminal law imposes—even Texas prospered,[287] and under the genial influence of prosperity became respectable. Her population has risen in eight years from eight hundred thousand to two million. Much of her vast area[6] still lies untilled; but much of it has been reclaimed for the use of man. Her railways still traverse dreary forests, and great, unpeopled plains; but they also carry the traveller past many smiling villages, and many thriving cities where a prosperous commerce is maintained, where schools and churches abound. They reveal to him well-appointed farm-buildings; fields rich with bountiful crops; jungles where the peach, the orange, the banana, the pomegranate grow luxuriantly under the fostering heat of a semi-tropical sun; vast areas roamed over by myriads of slight, active-looking Texan cattle, the rearing of which yields wealth to the people. In many of the Texan cities two contrasted types of civilization—the old Mexican and the young American—live peaceably side by side. The palace-car meets the ox-team and the donkey with his panniers. The blanketed Indian, the Mexican in poncho and sombrero, the American in his faultless broadcloth, mingle harmoniously in the streets. Handsome mansions such as abound in the suburbs of eastern cities are near neighbours to antique Mexican dwellings, built of adobe, with loopholed battlements, and walls which show still the bullet-marks of forgotten strifes.

As the enormous mineral resources of the Rocky Mountains became more certainly ascertained, crowds were attracted in hope of sudden wealth, and the States which include the richer portions of the range became the home of a large population. In the remote north-west wheat crops of astonishing opulence rewarded the simple husbandry of the settler. The law that cultivated plants are most productive near the northern limit of their growth was illustrated in the happy experience of Dakotah and northern Minnesota, where the growing of wheat has now become one of the most lucrative of industrial occupations.[288] The railways of those States are being extended with all possible rapidity, and each extension is followed by a fresh influx of settlers. Farmers of experience from the older and less productive States are drawn to the north-west by the unrivalled advantages which soil and climate present. During the year 1878 not less than five million acres of land were purchased in northern Minnesota for immediate cultivation.[7]

America has never been satisfied with mere agricultural greatness. The ambition to manufacture was coeval with her origin, and has grown with her growing strength. Twenty years after the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers there were bounties offered in Massachusetts for the encouragement of the manufacture of linen, woollen, and cotton cloths. When the Arkwright spinning machinery was introduced into England, the Americans were eager to possess themselves of an improvement so valuable. But the English law which prohibited the export of machinery was inflexibly administered, and the models prepared in secret for shipment to America were seized and confiscated. But no discouragement repressed the enterprising colonists. The beginnings of their great textile industries were sufficiently humble. The earliest motive-power applied to cotton machinery was the hand; next to it, and as an important advance, came the use of animal-power.[8] But the growth of demand was rapid, and before the close of last century the application of water-power was universal.


The increase of consumption was more rapid in America than the increase of production, and it had to be met by considerable imports of English goods. England, with abundant capital and low-priced labour, was able to produce more cheaply than America, and the struggling native manufacturer had to complain of a competition against which he was not able to support himself. He appealed to the Government for protection, and was influential enough to obtain that which he desired. For many years the subject of the tariff was keenly disputed. The Northern manufacturers were habitually seeking increased protection, which the Southern planters, having no kindred interests to protect, were often unwilling to grant. The rates imposed rose or fell with the strength of the contending parties and the political exigencies of the time. 1861 A.D. At length, immediately after the representatives of the South had quitted Congress, and the friends of protection were absolute, a highly protective tariff was enacted. Duties, the mass of which range from thirty to fifty per cent., with some very much larger, were imposed on nearly all foreign commodities landed at American ports. Under this law, with only slight modification, the foreign commerce of America has been conducted for the last eighteen years, and there has not yet manifested itself any change in American opinion which warrants the expectation of an early return to a more liberal system.

The large protection now enjoyed, and the active demand occasioned by the war, stimulated the increase of productive power. Within twelve years the machinery engaged in cotton-spinning had doubled, rising from five to ten million spindles. The increase in many other industries was equally rapid. Side by side with this undue development there appeared the customary fruits of a protective policy. There was a general disregard of economy, a prevailing wastefulness which seemed to neutralize the advantages enjoyed, and leave the manufacturer[290] still in need of additional protection. But a new competition had now arisen, against which protection could not be gained. It was no longer foreign competition which marred the fortune of the native manufacturer; it was the still more deadly competition which resulted from excessive production at home. Especially when the panic of 1873 diminished so suddenly the purchasing power of the American people, it was seen that even if the manufactures of Europe had been wholly excluded, America could no longer consume the commodities which her machinery was able to produce.

During the years of misery which followed the panic, American manufacturers gained experience of the “sweet uses” of adversity. It was incumbent upon them now above all things to study cheapness. Wages were reduced; improved appliances by which cost might be lessened were eagerly and successfully sought for; economy in every detail was studied with anxious care. The result gained was of high national importance. In a few years the American manufacturers found, in regard to many articles of general consumption, that they were now able to produce as cheaply as their rivals in England, and that they were wholly independent of that legislative protection which hitherto had been regarded as indispensable.

As the skill and care of the native producer increased, the purchases which America required to make from foreigners underwent large diminution. Her imports in 1878 were smaller by one-third than they had been in 1873. She ceased to purchase railroad iron, and diminished by more than eight-tenths her purchases of other descriptions of iron. She almost ceased to use European watches, having signally distanced us in that branch of industry. She diminished by nearly one-half her use of foreign books and other publications. Where formerly she had required the earthen and glass wares of Europe to the value of thirteen million dollars, seven million now sufficed. Her use of foreign carpets fell to one-tenth; of foreign cottons[291] and woollens to one-half; of manufactures of wood to one-third; of manufactures of steel to a little over one-third. April, 1879 A.D. And in explanation of this record of decay our Secretary of Legation at Washington contributes the ominous suggestion:—“The decreased importation of the articles referred to has been due in a great measure to the substitution in the markets of this country of articles of American manufacture.”

But the Americans were not contented with this limitation of their purchases from foreign producers. A desire to become themselves exporters of manufactured articles sprang up during the years of depression which followed the panic. Under the pure democracy of America a general desire translates itself very quickly into Government action. 1877 A.D. The Secretary of State addressed to his consuls in all parts of the world a request that they would collect for him all information fitted to be useful to American manufacturers who sought markets for their wares in foreign countries. The answers have put him in possession of a mass of information such as no Government ever before took the trouble to gather regarding the conditions of foreign markets, and the openings which existed or might be created in each for American manufactures. The growth of this trade has thus far been steady, but not rapid, and even now it has reached only moderate dimensions. In 1870 American manufactures were exported to the value of fifteen million sterling, while in 1878 the value had risen to twenty-seven million. Chief among the articles which make up this respectable aggregate are cotton cloths, manufactures of wood, of leather, of iron and steel, including machinery, tools, and agricultural implements. America sells to foolish nations which have not yet grown out of their fighting period, fire-arms, cartridges, gunpowder, and shell, to the extent of nearly a million and a half sterling. The multiplicity of articles which leave her ports show how keenly her foreign[292] trade is being prosecuted. She sends household furniture, made by machinery, and sells it at prices which to the British cabinet-maker seem to be ruinous. She sends cutlery and tools of finish and price which fill the men of Sheffield with dismay, but do not apparently stimulate them to improvement. She sends watches manufactured by processes so superior to those still practised in Europe that the Swiss manufacturers have explicitly acknowledged hopeless defeat. She sends medicines, combs, perfumery, soap, spirits, writing-paper, musical instruments, glass-ware, carriages. All these are articles for which, but a few years ago, she herself was indebted to Europe. Now she supplies her own requirements, and has an increasing surplus for which she seeks markets abroad. Her policy of protection has been costly beyond all calculation; but those who upheld it now point with reasonable pride to the splendid place which America has taken among the manufacturing nations of the Earth.



The Pilgrim Fathers carried with them to New England a deep persuasion that the people of the State which they went to found must be universally educated. Not otherwise could the enduring success of their great enterprise be hoped for. It was their care from the very outset to provide in such manner as circumstances enabled them for the education of their children. The germ of a free-school system is to be found in each of their youthful settlements. The records of the European countries of the time would be searched in vain for evidence of a sentiment so deeply seated, so widely prevalent, so enlightened as the New England desire that all children should be educated. Its sincerity was proved by the willingness of the people to submit to taxation in the cause. In the early days of Connecticut one-fourth of the revenues of the colony was applied to the support of schools. Long before the revolution, schools maintained by public funds and free of charge to the pupils had extended widely over the New England States. This love of education has never cooled. When the colonists gained their independence and established themselves as an association of freemen, conducting their own public affairs, a new urgency was added to the necessity that all should be educated. It was clearly seen, even then, that while ignorant men might be serviceable subjects of a despotism, only[294] educated citizens were capable of self-government. Northern America sought to build the fabric of republican institutions upon the solid and durable foundation of universal enlightenment.

In the Southern States the aristocratic tendencies which the slave-system fostered were adverse to the education of the poor. The slave-owners desired submission; their property was not improved in value, but the reverse, by education. While America was still a dependency, a question was put to the Governor of Virginia by the English Commissioners for Foreign Plantations. “I thank God,” replied the Governor, “there are no free schools or printing-presses, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years.” The Governor’s hope was more than fulfilled. The common-school system was almost unknown in the South while slavery existed. It became criminal to teach a slave to read; the poor white had no desire to learn, and no one sought to teach him. At the close of the rebellion the mass of the Southern population were as little educated as the Russian peasants are to-day. But peace was no sooner restored than the eager desire of the negroes for education was met by the generous efforts of the North. Northern teachers were quickly at work among the negro children. So soon as the means of the ruined States permitted, the common-school system of the North was set up. It entailed burdens which they were then ill able to bear. But these burdens have been borne with a willingness which is evidence that the South now recognizes her need of education. Notwithstanding their poverty, some of the States yield for school purposes a rate of taxation larger for each member of the population than is that of England.

The American people manifest a profound and, as recent reports indicate, an increasing interest in their system of common schools. It is not merely or chiefly the personal advantage of the individual citizen which concerns them. It is the greatness[295] and permanence of the State.[9] “Free education for all is the prime necessity of republics.” Institutions which rest altogether upon popular support demand, as essential to their safety, the support of an instructed people. It was the same conviction which impressed itself upon Great Britain when, having conceded household suffrage, she hastened to set up a compulsory and universal system of education, that the dangers likely to arise from the ignorance of the new electors might be averted. Moreover, the Americans believe firmly that without educated labour eminence in the industrial arts is not attainable. According to an estimate which has grown out of the experience of employers, the educated labourer is more valuable by twenty-five per cent. than his ignorant rival. Here is a source of national wealth which no wise State will disregard. It is the American theory that the State—the associated citizens—has a proprietary interest in each of its members. For the good of the community, it is entitled to insist that every citizen shall become as effective as it is possible to make him; to expend public funds in order to that result is therefore a warrantable and remunerative outlay.

Looking thus upon the value of public instruction, the American people have borne willingly the heavy costs of the common school. They suffer taxation ungrudgingly at a rate which, for the smaller population of England and Wales, would amount to nine million sterling instead of the four million actually expended. Nor is this the easy product of lands set apart for educational purposes at a time when land was valueless. Many of the States wisely set apart one-sixteenth of their land to uphold their schools. But in many of the old States the appropriation was not respected; too often, especially in the South, the endowment was applied to other uses. The revenue derived now from any description of endowment does[296] not exceed five per cent. of the whole; the remainder comes from State or local taxation. At one time, in some of the States, fees were charged from the pupils. But the opinion came to be widely entertained that this charge impaired in many ways the efficiency of the system. Six or eight years ago fees were discontinued, and now the schools of the nation are free to all. The Americans witness with approbation the increase of their expenditure on education. During the ten years which preceded the rebellion this expenditure was doubled; again, during the ten years which followed it was trebled. It has now grown to nearly eighteen million sterling—a sum larger than all the nations of Europe unitedly expend for the same purpose. Large as it is, however, it is equal to no more than two-thirds of the sum which Britain still expends upon her military and naval preparations.

The common school is used by all classes of the American people. At one time there existed among the rich a disposition to have their children educated with others of their own social position, and many private schools sprang up to meet their demand. As the common schools have increased in efficiency, and consequently in public favour, this disposition has weakened, and private schools have decayed. Their number is much smaller now than it was ten years ago, and continues to diminish. With one unhappy exception, the common school satisfies the requirements of the American people. The leaders of the Roman Catholic body perceive that its influences are adverse to the growth of their tenets, and do not cease to demand the means of educating their children apart from the children of those who hold religious beliefs differing from theirs. But their proposals meet with no favour beyond the limits of their own denomination, and even there only partial support is given. The American Roman Catholic is more apt than his brethren in Europe to fall into the disloyal practice of independent judgment.[297] It has not been found possible to alienate him wholly from the common school.

It is of interest to inquire in what measure the American people have been requited by the success of their common-school system for the vast sums which they expend on its maintenance. At first sight the statistics of the subject seem to return a discouraging reply to such an inquiry. When the census of 1870 was taken it disclosed a high percentage of illiteracy. Seventeen adult males and twenty-three adult females in every hundred were wholly uneducated—numbers almost as high as those of England at the same period. But the special circumstances of the country explain these figures in a manner which relieves the common school of all blame. The larger portion of this illiteracy had its home in the Southern States and among the coloured population, whose ignorance had been carefully preserved by wicked laws and a corrupted public feeling. Again, America had received during the ten years which preceded the census an immigration of four and a half million persons. The educational condition of those strangers was low, and their presence therefore bore injuriously upon the averages which were reported. The common school must be judged in the Northern States and among the native white population, for there only has it had full opportunity to act. And there it has achieved magnificent success. In the New England States there is not more than one uneducated native of ten years and upwards in every hundred. In the other Northern States the average is scarcely so favourable. The uneducated number from two up to four in every hundred.

It thus appears that the common school has banished illiteracy from the North. The native American of the Northern States is almost invariably a person who has received, at the lowest, a sound primary education. The efforts by which this result has been reached began with the foundation of each State, and have been continued uninterruptedly throughout its whole history.[298] In the rising industrial competition of the time, it must count for much that American artisans are not only educated men and women, but are the descendants of educated parents. A nation which expends upon education a sum larger than all the nations of Europe unitedly expend; which contents itself with an army of twenty-five thousand soldiers; whose citizens are exempt from the curse of idle years laid by the governments of Continental Europe upon their young men,—such a nation cannot fail to secure a victorious position in the great industrial struggle which all civilized States are now compelled to wage for existence.



From the very dawn of her history, America has been a powerful factor in the solution of many great European problems. In the early days of her settlement she offered a welcome refuge from the oppression and poverty of the Old World. Her assertion of independence inflamed the impulses which were preparing the French Revolution with all its unforeseen and incalculable consequences, and hastened the coming of that tremendous occurrence. Throughout the half century of struggle by which Europe vindicated her freedom, it was a constant stimulus to patriot effort to know that, beyond the sea, there was a country where men were at liberty to prosecute their own welfare unimpeded by the restraints which despotism imposes. A constant light was thrown by American experience upon the questions which agitated Europe. Men accustomed to be told that they were unfit to bear any part in the government of their country, saw men such as they themselves were enjoying political privileges in America, and governing a continent to the general advantage. Men accustomed to be told that State support was indispensable to the existence of the Church, saw religion becomingly upheld in America by the spontaneous offerings of the people. Methods of government altogether unlike those of Europe were practised in America; and Europe had constant opportunity of judging how far these methods surpassed or fell[300] short of her own. Europe lived under a system of government which scarcely regarded individual rights, and cared supremely for the interests of the State—meaning ordinarily by that the interests or caprices of a very few persons. In America the State was an organization whose purpose was mainly the protection of individual rights. On the eastern shores of the Atlantic the belief still prevailed that in every nation the Almighty had conveyed to some one man the right to deal as he pleased with the lives and property of all the others. On the western shores of the Atlantic a great nation acted on the theory that national interests were merely the interests which the aggregated individual citizens had in common,[10] and that government was nothing more than an association of persons whose duty it was to guide those interests in conformity with the public desire. The American doctrine extended into Europe, and contributed in no inconsiderable degree to the growth of liberal ideas and the overthrow of despotism. The sustained exhibition upon a scale so vast of freedom in thought and action, with its happy results in contentment and prosperity, could not fail to impress deeply the oppressed nations of Europe. Here were a people who made their own laws, who obeyed no authority which was not of their own appointment, to whom decrees, and ukases, and all the hateful utterances of despotism were unknown. Here were millions of men enjoying perfect equality of opportunity to seek their own welfare; here was life free from the burden of a class inaccessibly superior to the great mass of the people. The daily influences of American life sapped the fabric of privilege, and helped the European people to vindicate the rights of which they had been deprived.

The influence which America exerts upon the currents of European history must continue to increase in power. Her population, reinforced as it is by emigration from less happily[301] circumstanced countries, grows more rapidly than any European population. Her artisans are better educated than those of any other country, and they are therefore more effective for industrial purposes. They are free from the burden of military service, which in Continental Europe absorbs those years of a young man’s life when the hands gain expertness and the mind forms habits of industry. In the capacity of mechanical invention—the breath of life to an industrial nation—they are manifestly superior to Europe. The competition of this intelligent, ingenious, rapidly increasing people, fired by an ambition to become great as a manufacturing nation, cannot fail to influence directly and powerfully the industrial future of the European nations.

As the population and the wealth of America increase, the testimony which her example bears in favour of individual right and absolute freedom of thought will become more conspicuous and influential. The rebuke which her attitude of universal peace and her inconsiderable military expenditure administer to the diseased suspicions and measureless waste of Europe will become more emphatic, perhaps even in some degree more effective, than it has yet proved to be. Thus far, the teaching of America in regard to the maintenance of huge armies in time of peace has been rejected as inapplicable to the existing circumstances of Europe. But it may fairly be hoped that in course of years the industrial competition of a great people who have freed themselves from heavy burdens which their competitors still bear will enforce upon Europe economies of which neither governments nor people are as yet sufficiently educated to perceive the necessity.

America has still something to learn from the riper experience and more patient thinking of England. But it has been her privilege to teach to England and the world one of the grandest of lessons. She has asserted the political rights of the masses.[302] She has proved to us that it is safe and wise to trust the people. She has taught that the government of the people should be “by the people and for the people.”

Let our last word here be a thankful acknowledgment of the inestimable service which she has thus rendered to mankind.



The reconstruction of the Union was completed during General Grant’s term of office. The Presidentship of his successor, Mr. Rutherford B. Hayes, was uneventful. It was not on that account the less fruitful in good results. The complete amalgamation of the North and the South could only be the work of time. President Hayes helped forward this useful work. He visited the South in his first year of office, and was everywhere well received.

The Census of 1880 showed the population of the United States to be upwards of fifty million. The increase during the previous ten years had been eleven million and a half, or at the extraordinary rate of more than a million a year.

During Mr. Hayes’ Presidentship, two questions became prominent, and sharply divided political parties. These were, the resumption of cash payments, and the reform of the Civil Service.

1878 A.D. The Currency Controversy is remarkable for having brought the President into conflict with Congress. The Bland Silver Bill, making the silver dollar a legal tender, was passed by large majorities both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. President Hayes had no faith in the doctrine of bi-metallism, and he vetoed the Bill. The Bill[304] was re-passed in both Houses by a two-thirds majority, and became law in spite of the presidential veto. The conflict subjected the Constitution to a severe strain. But the crisis passed quietly, showing how well-grounded is the faith of the Americans in the fitness of their Constitution to meet all exigencies.

The demand for a reform in the Civil Service had been growing for years. The revelations of electoral corruption filled men of independent spirit with shame and confusion. The evil practices were not confined to a particular party. Republicans and Democrats were equally unscrupulous. It was proved by strict inquiry that in two States the majority for President Hayes himself had been obtained by fraudulent means. The constitutional custom which makes every office in the Civil Service, from the highest to the lowest, change hands whenever power is transferred from one party to another, was felt to be the root of the evil.

1881 A.D. When President James Garfield assumed office in March 1881, he announced his intention of dealing firmly and earnestly with the question of administrative reform. Garfield’s election to the dignity of President was unexpected. The chief Republican candidates were General Grant, who had previously held the office for two terms, Secretary Sherman, and Senator Blaine. In the Republican convention held at Chicago for the selection of a candidate, General Garfield acted as manager of the party which supported Sherman. When he was first proposed he declined to become a candidate. It was only when Sherman’s success was seen to be impossible, and when all the parties opposed to Grant coalesced in favour of Garfield, that his name came to the front. He was ultimately chosen unanimously as the Republican candidate, on the ground that he divided the party the least. In the election itself, which was mainly determined by the vote of New York State, Garfield defeated his Democratic opponent General Hancock by 219 votes to 185.


Comparatively little was known about the new President before he was elected. Even in America his selection was a surprise. The chief fact that was known about him was that he had risen, like Abraham Lincoln, from the humblest origin. He had been born in a log-hut in the forest of Ohio. He had begun life on the tow-path as a driver of mules which dragged a canal boat between Cleveland and Pittsburg. By his own energy alone he had risen. He had been a professor, a preacher, a successful soldier, a practical lawyer, a bold and ready party leader. Throughout life he had been noted for fearless honesty. In his public career, no taint of corruption was found attaching to any part of his conduct. The man who should undertake to reform the abuses in the official system of America must himself have clean hands, and Garfield’s hands were clean.

General Garfield’s election was held to be a great triumph for the Republican party, but especially for that section of it which advocated Civil Service reform. He had made no secret of his opinions on that subject. In the outline of his political creed which he issued soon after his selection as Republican candidate he expressed his agreement with those who urged the necessity of “placing the Civil Service on a better basis.” The remedy to which he pointed was that “Congress should devise a method that will determine the tenure of office.” In his inaugural address on assuming office, he intimated his intention of taking steps to apply this remedy. Two objects, he said, must be aimed at. The one was to protect the executive against “the waste of time and the obstruction to public business caused by the inordinate pressure for place.” The other was to protect the holders of office “against intrigue and wrong.” To effect both objects, he would “at the proper time ask Congress to fix the tenure of the minor offices of several executive departments, and prescribe grounds upon which removals shall be made.” Further, he announced his purpose “to demand rigid economy in all expenditures of the Government, and to require honest and[306] faithful service of all the executive officers, remembering that their offices were created, not for the benefit of the incumbents or their supporters, but for the service of the Government.”

These declarations did not give unmixed satisfaction to the Republican party. The anti-reform section of it, which still holds by President Jackson’s maxim, “The spoils to the victors,” regarded them as in some sense a declaration of war. It is certain that to the hopes of place-hunters they were a serious blow. For his honest desire to rid the public offices of these pests, and at the same time to purify the Government, the President was made to pay a terrible penalty. Within the railway station at Washington he was shot in the back by a man named Charles Guiteau, who for several days had been importuning the authorities at White House for place.

The useless and utterly wanton crime sent a thrill of horror through America, through England, through the civilized world. The shot did not at once prove fatal; but that only made the cruelty of the deed the more intense. For eleven weeks through the heat of summer (July 2 till September 19) the President’s life trembled in the balance. He bore his sufferings with marvellous patience and fortitude. The calamity brought out the manly strength and the simple beauty of his character with the brilliancy of sunset.

“In the reproof of chance
Lies the true proof of men.”

Seldom if ever before has there been so striking an instance of misfortune raising a good man to world-wide renown. Hardly less beautiful than the President’s cheerful endurance was the heroic devotion of his wife. “It is no exaggeration to say,” said Mr. James Russell Lowell, the American Minister in London, “that the recent profoundly-touching spectacle of womanly devotedness, in its simplicity, its constancy, and its dignity, has moved the heart of mankind in a manner without any precedent in living memory.”


During the whole of these “eleven agonizing weeks” the bed of the dying President was the centre of interest to men and women of all ranks in both hemispheres. “The whole civilized world,” said Mr. Lowell, “gathered about it; and in the breathless suspense of anxious solicitude listened to the difficult breathing, counted the fluttering pulse, was cheered by the momentary rally, and saddened by the inevitable relapse.”

At length the end came with startling suddenness. It was followed by a universal wail. All humanity mourned, as if it had lost a brother. The sentiment pervaded all classes, from crowned heads to humble peasants. The Queen of England was foremost in her offers of sympathy, not only with the sorrowing widow and mother, but also with the bereaved nation; and stanch Republicans were fain to acknowledge “how true a woman’s heart may beat under the royal purple.” The English Court was ordered to go into mourning, as for one of royal blood and ancient lineage. The act was as graceful and as wise as it was unprecedented. The head of the young Republic was, by the spontaneous act of the head of the ancient Kingdom, recognized in his due place as one of the community of monarchs and princes. A hundred years ago, who could have anticipated such an event?

It would be a mistake to suppose that the death of President Garfield created the warm feelings of sympathy between England and America which the event revealed. It is true, however, that the event opened at once the hearts and the eyes of both peoples, and brought to light the depth and the strength of their brotherhood, in a way that nothing else could have done. The brotherly feelings on the part of England were heartily and even touchingly reciprocated in America. After the coffin of the deceased President had been closed, only one wreath was allowed to rest on it; and that was the wreath sent by the Queen of England. To the world this was a token of peace and good-will firmly established between England and[308] America—of the oneness of the English-speaking race, in their common homage to President and to Queen. If the result shall be to strengthen permanently the bond between the kindred peoples—to root out jealousies and smooth over asperities, to produce generosity in the midst of rivalry and co-operation in good works—President Garfield will not have died in vain.

“He was no common man,” said Mr. Lowell, in his graceful and eloquent panegyric, “who could call forth, and justly call forth, an emotion so universal, an interest so sincere and so human.” And that is no common country which can produce such a man, and give him the opportunity of achieving greatness. Garfield’s career teaches many lessons; but it shows nothing more clearly than the great possibilities which his country opens up to honesty and persevering labour. “The poor lad who at thirteen could not read, dies at fifty the tenant of an office second in dignity to none on earth; and the world mourns his loss as that of a personal relative.”

“The soil out of which such men as he were made is good to be born on, good to live on, good to die for and to be buried in.”

The peace and naturalness with which Vice-President Arthur at once succeeded to the presidential functions, without shock to the political system and without detriment to the national honour, justifies the pride of the Americans in the stability of their institutions.


[1] During the ten years, from 1840 to 1850, the annual export of slaves from the Border States to the South averaged 23,500. These, at an average value of £150, amounted to three million and a quarter sterling!

[2] The local indebtedness of America has increased largely since the war, and is now equal to one-half of the Federal debt. In many of the States the Constitution now prohibits the State Legislature from contracting debt excepting for war and other urgent purposes. There is a growing opinion that this wise restriction should be universally adopted.

[3] State and county taxation in the west ranges from five to twenty-five cents per acre—2½d. to 12½d. National taxation is in America 20s., and in Britain 47s. 2d., for each of the population.

[4] Wheat is now carried from Chicago to New York by lake and canal for 2s. 6d. per quarter, and by rail for 4s. From the northern parts of Minnesota carriage to New York is 8s. per quarter.

[5] The American average is fourteen bushels of wheat per acre; the English average is twenty-eight bushels; the Scotch average, under high farming, is thirty-four bushels.

[6] Equal to three times the area of Great Britain.

[7] To the north of Minnesota and across the Canadian frontier lies the province of Manitoba, a section of the North-West Territories recently acquired by the Canadian Government from the Hudson Bay Company. In the capability of a large portion of its soil to produce wheat Manitoba is unsurpassed, perhaps unequalled, by any part of the world. An active immigration is in progress: during the year 1879, when navigation was open, the daily arrivals numbered four hundred. When communication by rail and river is more adequate, Manitoba may be expected to take the highest place as a wheat-producing country.

[8] The use of animal-power was not confined to America. In England the earliest of Cartwright’s power-looms are said to have owed their movement to the labour of a bull.

[9] “We regard [the education of the people] as a wise and liberal system of police by which property and life and the peace of society are secured.”—Daniel Webster.

[10] “This country with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it.”—President Lincoln.

[11] This short chapter has been added since the author’s death, by another hand.






The dazzling success which had crowned the efforts of Columbus awakened in Europe an eager desire to make fresh discoveries. Henry VII. of England had consented to equip Columbus for his voyage; but the consent was withheld too long, and given only when it was too late. Lamenting now the great mischance by which the glory and the profit of these marvellous discoveries passed away from him, Henry lost no time in seeking to possess himself of such advantage as Spain had not yet appropriated. There was living then in Bristol a Venetian merchant named John Cabot. This man and his son Sebastian shared their great countryman’s love of maritime adventure. 1496 A.D. Under the patronage of the King, who claimed one-fifth of the gains of their enterprise, they fitted out, at their own charge, a fleet of six ships, and sailed westward into the ocean whose terrors Columbus had so effectually tamed. They struck a northerly course, and reached Newfoundland. 1497 A.D. Still bending northwards, they coasted Labrador, hoping as Columbus did to gain an easy passage to the[312] East. They pierced deeper into the unknown north than any European had done before. But day by day, as they sailed and searched, the cold became more intense; the floating masses of ice became more frequent and more threatening; the wished-for opening which was to conduct them to Cathay did not reveal itself. Cabot, repulsed by unendurable cold, turned and sought the more genial south. He steered his course between the island of Newfoundland and the mainland, and explored with care the gulf afterwards called by the name of St. Lawrence. Still moving southwards, he passed bleak and desolate coasts which to-day are the home of powerful communities, the seat of great and famous cities. He had looked at the vast sea-board which stretches from Labrador to Florida. He had taken no formal possession; his foot had scarcely touched American soil. But when he reported to Henry what he had seen, the King at once claimed the whole as an English possession.

Many years passed before the claim of England was heard of any more. The stormy life of Henry came to its close. His son, around whose throne there surged the disturbing influences of the Reformation, and who was obliged in this anxious time to readjust the ecclesiastical relations of himself and of his people, had no thought to spare for those distant and unknown regions. The fierce Mary was absorbed in the congenial employment of trampling out Protestantism by the slaughter of its followers. The America upon which John Cabot—now an almost forgotten name—had looked fourscore years before, was nearly as much forgotten as its discoverer. But during the more tranquil reign of Elizabeth there began that search for a north-west route to the East which Europe has prosecuted from that time till now with marvellous persistence and intrepidity. 1576 A.D. Martin Frobisher, going forth on this quest, pierced further into the north than any previous explorer had done. He looked again upon the bleak, ice-bound[313] coasts of Labrador and of southern Greenland. 1583 A.D. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, acting under the Queen’s authority, visited Newfoundland, and planted there an inconsiderable and unenduring settlement. Another generation passed before England began to concern herself about the shadowy and well-nigh forgotten claim which she had founded upon the discoveries of John Cabot. It was indeed a shadowy claim; but, even with so slender a basis of right, the power and determination of England proved ultimately sufficient to establish and maintain it against the world. The Pope had long ago bestowed upon the Kings of Spain and Portugal the whole of the New World, with all its “cities and fortifications;” but England gave no heed to the enormous pretension which even France refused to acknowledge.[12]

Meanwhile, disregarding the dormant claims of England, France had made some progress in establishing herself upon the new continent. She too had in her service a mariner on whose visit to the West a claim was founded. Thirty years after Cabot’s first voyage, John Verazzani—an Italian, like most of the explorers—sailed from North Carolina to Newfoundland; scenting, or believing that he scented, far out at sea the fragrance of southern forests; welcomed by the simple natives of Virginia and Maryland, who had not yet learned to dread the terrible strangers who brought destruction to their race; visiting the Bay of New York, and finding it thronged with the rude and slender canoes of the natives; looking with unpleased eye upon the rugged shores of Massachusetts and Maine, and not turning eastward till he had passed for many miles along the coast of Newfoundland. When Verazzani reported what he had done, France assumed, too hastily as the event proved, that the regions thus explored were rightfully hers.


But her claim obtained a more substantial support than the hasty visit of Verazzani was able to bestow upon it. 1534 A.D. Ten years later, Jacques Cartier, a famous sea-captain, sailed on a bright and warm July day into the gulf which lies between Newfoundland and the mainland. He saw a great river flowing into the gulf with a width of estuary not less than one hundred miles. It was the day of St. Lawrence, and he opened a new prospect of immortality for that saint by giving his name to river and to gulf. He erected a large cross, thirty feet high, on which were imprinted the insignia of France; and thus he took formal possession of the country in the King’s name. He sailed for many days up the river, between silent and pathless forests; past great chasms down which there rolled the waters of tributary streams; under the gloomy shadow of huge precipices; past fertile meadow-lands and sheltered islands where the wild vine flourished. The Indians in their canoes swarmed around the ships, giving the strangers welcome, receiving hospitable entertainment of bread and wine. At length they came where a vast rocky promontory, three hundred feet in height, stretched far into the river. Here the chief had his home; here, on a site worthy to bear the capital of a great State, arose Quebec; here, in later days, England and France fought for supremacy, and it was decided by the sword that the Anglo-Saxon race was to guide the destinies of the American continent.

Cartier learned from the Indians that, much higher up the river, there was a large city, the capital of a great country; and the enterprising Frenchman lost no time in making his way thither. Standing in the midst of fields of Indian corn, he found a circular enclosure, strongly palisaded, within which were fifty large huts, each the abode of several families. This was Hochelaga, in reality the capital of an extensive territory. Hochelaga was soon swept away; and in its place, a century later, Jesuit enthusiasts established a centre of missionary operations[315] under the protection of the Holy Virgin. It too passed away, to be succeeded by the city of Montreal, the seat of government of an Anglo-Saxon nation.

The natives entertained Cartier hospitably, and were displeased that he would not remain longer among them. He returned to Quebec to winter there. Great hardships overtook him. The winter was unusually severe; his men were unprovided with suitable food and clothing. Many died; all were grievously weakened by exposure and insufficient nourishment; and when their condition was at the lowest, Cartier was led to suspect that the natives meditated treachery. So soon as the warmth of spring thawed the frozen river, Cartier sailed for France, lawlessly bearing with him, as a present to the King, the chief and three natives of meaner rank.

The results of Carrier’s visits disappointed France. A country which lies buried under deep snow for half the year had no attractions for men accustomed to the short and ordinarily mild winters of France. The King expected gold and silver mines and precious stones; but Cartier brought home only a few savages and his own diminished and diseased band of followers. There were some, however, to whom the lucrative trade in furs was an object of desire; there were others, in that season of high-wrought religious zeal, who were powerfully moved to bear the Cross among the heathens of the West. Under the influence of these motives, feeble efforts at colonization were from time to time made. The fishermen of Normandy and Brittany resorted to the shores of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and plied their calling there with success such as had not rewarded their efforts in European waters. The persecuted Calvinists sought to give effect to a proposal made by Admiral Coligny, and find rest from the malignity of their enemies among the forests of Canada. But the French have little aptitude for colonizing. Down far beyond the close of the century France had failed to establish[316] any permanent footing on the American continent. A few mean huts at Quebec, at Montreal, and at two or three other points, were all that remained to represent the efforts and the sufferings of nearly a hundred years. There is evidence that in the year 1629 “a single vessel” was expected to take on board “all the French” in Canada; and the vessels of those days were not large.



The fierce strifes which raged between Catholic and Protestant during the latter half of the sixteenth century engrossed the mind of France to the exclusion of all that concerned her remote and discouraging possession. But while the strong hand of Henry IV. held the reins of government, these strifes were calmed. The hatred remained, ready to break forth when circumstances allowed; but meantime the authority of the King imposed salutary restraint upon the combatants, and the country had rest. During this exceptional quiet the project of founding a New France on the gulf and river of St. Lawrence again received attention.

Among the favourite servants of the King was Samuel de Champlain. This man was a sailor from his youth, which had been passed on the shores of the Bay of Biscay. He had fought for his King on sea and on land. He was brave, resolute, of high ability, of pure and lofty impulses, combining the courage with the gentleness and courtesy of the true knight-errant. In him there survived the passionate love of exploring strange lands which prevailed so widely among the men of a previous generation. He foresaw a great destiny for Canada, and he was eager to preserve for France the neglected but magnificent heritage. Above all, he desired to send the saving light of faith to the red men of the Canadian forests; for although a bigoted[318] Catholic, he was a sincere Christian. “The salvation of one soul,” he was accustomed to say, “is of more value than the conquest of an empire.”

This man was the founder of Canada. During thirty years he toiled incessantly to plant and foster settlements, to send out missionaries, to repel the inroads of the English, to protect the rights of France in the fur-trade and in the fisheries of Newfoundland. The immediate success which attended his labours was inconsiderable. His settlements refused to make progress; the savage tribes for whose souls he cared were extirpated by enemies whose hostility he had helped to incur; the English destroyed ships which were bringing him supplies; they besieged and captured Quebec itself. He died without seeing the greatness of the colony which he loved, but which, nevertheless, owed the beginnings of its greatness to him.

One of the earliest concerns of Champlain was to choose a site for the capital of the French empire in the West. As Cartier had done three-quarters of a century before, he chose the magnificent headland of Quebec. 1608 A.D. At the foot of the rock he erected a square of buildings, enclosing a court, surrounded by a wall and a moat, and defended by a few pieces of cannon. This rude fort became the centre of French influence in Canada during the next hundred and fifty years, till the English relieved France of responsibility and influence on the American continent.

Champlain received cordial welcome from the Huron Indians, who were his neighbours. These savages were overmatched by their ancient enemies the Iroquois, and they besought the Frenchmen to lend them the help of their formidable arms. Champlain consented—moved in part by his love of battle, in part by his desire to explore an unknown country. He and some of his men accompanied his new allies on their march. The Iroquois warriors met them confidently, expecting the customary victory. They were received with a volley of musketry, which[319] stretched some on the ground, and caused panic and flight of the whole force. But Champlain had reason to regret the foreign policy which he had adopted. The Hurons took many prisoners, whom, as their practice was, they proceeded to torture to death. In a subsequent expedition the allies were defeated, and Champlain himself was wounded—circumstances which, for a time, sensibly diminished his authority. And the hostility of the Iroquois, thus unwisely provoked, resulted in the utter destruction of the Hurons, and involved the yet unstable colony in serious jeopardy.

Champlain enjoyed the support of King Henry IV., who listened to his glowing accounts of the country in which he was so profoundly interested, who praised the wisdom of his government, and encouraged him to persevere. But despite of royal favour, his task was a heavy one. There were in his company both Romanists and Calvinists, who bore with them into the forest the discords which then made France miserable. Champlain tells that he has seen a Protestant minister and a curé attempting to settle with blows of the fist their controversial differences. Such occurrences, he points out, were not likely to yield fruit to the glory of God among the infidels whom he desired to convert. At home his prerogatives were the playthings of political parties. To-day he obtained vast powers and rich grants of land; to-morrow some court intrigue swept these all away. There was an “Association of Merchants” who had received a valuable trading monopoly under pledge that they would send out men to colonize and priests to instruct. But the faithless merchants sought only to purchase furs at low prices from the Indians. It was to their advantage that the Indian and the wild creatures which he pursued should continue to occupy the continent, undisturbed by the coming in of strangers. And thus they thwarted to the utmost all Champlain’s efforts. In defiance of authority, they paid in fire-arms and brandy for the furs which were brought to them; and the[320] red men, whose souls Champlain so earnestly desired to save, were being corrupted and destroyed by the greed of his countrymen.

Some years after Champlain’s first expedition, a few Englishmen landed in mid-winter on the coast of Massachusetts, and, without help of kings or nobles, began to grow strong by their own inherent energy and the constant accession to their number of persons dissatisfied at home. It was not so with the French settlements on the St. Lawrence. Champlain was continually returning to France to entreat the King for help; to seek a new patron among the nobles; to compel the merchants to fulfill their compact by sending out a few colonists. No Frenchman was desirous to find a home beyond the sea; all bore in quietness a despotism worse than that from which the more impatient Englishmen had fled. The natural inaptitude of France for the work of colonizing was vividly illustrated in the early history of Canada.

1629 A.D. Near the close of Champlain’s life the capital of the State which he had founded was torn away from him. An English ship, commissioned by Charles I. and commanded by a piratical Scotchman, appeared before the great rock of Quebec, and summoned the city to surrender. Champlain, powerless to resist, yielded to fate and gave up his capital. When the conquerors landed to seek the plunder for which they had come, they found a few old muskets and cannon and fifty poorly-fed men. The growth of twenty years had done no more for Quebec than this.

The loss of Canada caused no regret in France. There were public men who regarded that loss as in reality a gain, and advised that France should make no effort to regain her troublesome dependency. But Champlain urged upon the Government the great value of the fur trade and fisheries; he showed that the difficulties of the settlement were now overcome, and that progress in the future must be more rapid than in the past; he pled that the savages who were beginning to receive the light[321] of the true faith should not be given over to heretics. 1632 A.D. His urgency prevailed; and England, not more solicitous to keep than France was to regain this unappreciated continent, readily consented that it should be restored to its former owners.

Three years afterwards Champlain died. He saw nothing of the greatness for which he had prepared the way. The colonists numbered yet only a few hundreds. The feeble existence of the settlement depended upon the good-will of the Englishmen who were their neighbours on the south, and of the fierce savages who lived in the forests around them. But Champlain was able to estimate, in some measure, the results of the work which he had done. He sustained himself to the end with the hope that the Canada which he loved would one day be prosperous and strong—peopled by good Catholics from France, and by savages rescued from destruction by baptism and the exhibition of the cross.

The Canada of Champlain’s day was a region stretching thirteen hundred miles northward from the frontier line of the New England settlements, and seven hundred miles westward from the mouth of the St. Lawrence. Besides Canada, France possessed Newfoundland and Nova Scotia; and she claimed all the unknown territory to the north, the character and extent of which were veiled from human knowledge by cold so intense that men had not yet dared to encounter it. The great river with its tributaries, and the vast lakes out of which it flows, opened convenient access into the heart of the country, and made commerce easy. On the high lands were dense forests of oak and pine and maple; beech, chestnut, and elm. In the plains were great areas of rich agricultural land capable of supporting a large population, but useless as yet; for the Indians deemed agriculture effeminate, and chose to live mainly by the chase. The climate is severe and the winter long, especially[322] towards the mouth of the St. Lawrence, where at certain seasons the cold becomes greater than the human frame can endure. Everywhere the heat of summer is great, and the transition from the fierce extreme of cold to the warmth of the delightful Canadian spring is sudden. The desolate woods burst into rich green foliage; the valleys clothe themselves as by magic with grass and flowers. The great heat of summer follows with equal suddenness, and the harvest of grain or of fruits ripens as quickly as it sprang.

The cold of the Canadian winter was greatly more influential than the heat of the Canadian summer in fixing the character and pursuits of the savages who occupied the country. In a climate where frost rends asunder rocks and trees, and gives to iron power to burn as if it were red hot, life could not be sustained without a special defence against the intolerable severity. Nature had amply provided for the welfare of the wild creatures which she had called into being. The buffalo and musk ox which wandered over the plains were endowed with masses of shaggy hair which defied the cold even of a Canadian winter. The bear which prepared for himself a resting-place in the hollow trunk of an old tree, where he could sleep out the tedious months of frost, was clothed suitably to his circumstances. The beaver which built his house in the centre of Canadian streams was wrapped in rich, warm, glossy fur. The fox, the wolverine, the squirrel, and many others, enjoyed the same effective protection. The Indians needed the skins of these creatures for clothing, their flesh for food. And thus it came to pass that the French found in Canada only wild things, which walked the forests in coverings of beautiful and valuable fur; and human beings, but one degree higher in intelligence, who lived by slaying them. One of the strongest impulses which drew Europeans to Canada was not her rich soil, nor the timber of her inexhaustible forests, nor her treasures of copper and of iron, but the skins of the beasts which frequented her valleys and her woods.


Numerous tribes of savages inhabited the Canadian wilderness. They ordinarily lived in villages built of logs, and strongly palisaded to resist the attack of enemies. They were robust and enduring, as the climate required; daring in war, friendly and docile in peace. The torture of an enemy was their highest form of enjoyment: when the victim bore his sufferings bravely, the youth of the village ate his heart in order that they might become possessed of his virtues. They had orators, politicians, chiefs skilled to lead in their rude wars. Most of their weapons were of flint. They felled the great pines of their forests with stone axes supplemented by the use of fire. Their canoes were made of the bark of birch or elm. They wore breastplates of twigs. It was their habit to occupy large houses, in some of which as many as twenty families lived together without any separation. Licentiousness was universal and excessive. Their religion was a series of grovelling superstitions. There was not in any Indian language a word to express the idea of God: their heaven was one vast banqueting-hall where men feasted perpetually.

The origin of the American savage awakened at one time much controversy among the learned. Had there been a plurality of creative acts? Had Europeans at some remote period been driven by contrary winds across the great sea? If not, where did the red man arise, and by what means did he reach the continent where white men found him? When these questions were debated, it was not known how closely Asia and America approach each other at the extreme north. A narrow strait divides the two continents, and the Asiatic savage of the far north-east crosses it easily. The red men are Asiatics, who, by a short voyage without terrors to them, reached the north-western coasts of America, and gradually pushed their way over the continent. The great secret which Columbus revealed to Europe had been for ages known to the Asiatic tribes of the extreme north.



The Reformation had made so large progress in France that at the beginning of the seventeenth century the Protestants were able to regard themselves as forming one-half of the nation. They had accomplished this progress in the face of terrible difficulties. The false maxim prevailed in France, as in other countries, that as there was but one king and one government, there should be but one faith. Vast efforts were made to regain this lost uniformity. The vain pursuit cost France thirty-five years of civil war, and two million French lives. At its close half her towns were in ashes; her industries had perished; her fields were desolated. The law gave no protection to Protestants: a Catholic noble riding with his followers past a Protestant meeting-place occasionally paused to slaughter the little congregation, and then resumed his journey, not doubting that he had done to God and to the State an acceptable service. The Protestants undertook their own armed defence; made laws for themselves; maintained in so far as it was possible a government distinct from that of their persecutors. There were two nations of not extremely unequal strength living on the soil of France, with fierce mutual hatred raging in their hearts, and finding expression in incessant war, assassination, massacre. 1598 A.D. At length these horrors were allayed by the Edict of Nantes, which conceded full liberty of conscience.[325] The Pope cursed this hateful concession; but the strong arm of Henry IV. maintained it. For a time the ferocity of religious strife was mitigated, and the adherents of the new faith enjoyed unwonted calm.

The sword was no longer a weapon of theological war; the deep and irrepressible antagonism of the old and the new beliefs found now its inadequate expression by pen and by speech. The interest which prevailed regarding disputed ecclesiastical questions became exceptionally strong. Theological dogmas filled an influential place in the politics of the time. The Protestant Synod adopted in its Confession of Faith an article which charged the Pope with being Antichrist. His Holiness manifested “a grand irritation;” the King declared that this article threatened to destroy the peace of the kingdom. For four years a fierce contest raged, till another Synod withdrew the offending article by express order of the King, after having with unanimous voice declared that the charge was true. Philippe de Mornay, one of the King’s most trusted advisers, and a devoted adherent of Protestantism, had written a treatise against the Real Presence, supporting his argument by five or six thousand quotations, which he had laboriously gathered from the writings of the early Fathers. One of the bishops impugned his accuracy, and Mornay challenged him to a public discussion. The meeting-place was the grand hall of the palace of Fontainebleau. The combatants debated in presence of the King, before a brilliant audience of great officers of State, of lords and ladies who formed the royal court, of all great dignitaries of the kingdom. So effectively, for the time, had the Reformation and its consequences dispelled the religious apathy of France.

It had, indeed, left unaffected the manners of a large portion of French society. The great lords retained professional assassins among their followers. It was as easy then to get the address of a stabber or a poisoner as it is now to get that of a hotel. In[326] the highest places licentiousness was unconcealed and unrebuked. Crime associated itself with superstition, and the courtiers made wax figures of their enemies, which they transfixed with pins, hoping thus to destroy those whom the figures represented. The religious zeal which burned in every heart and retained its vigour amidst this enormous wickedness was nowhere stronger than among the members of the Society of Jesus. It moulded into very dissimilar forms, and guided into widely different lines of action, those sworn servants of the Church. For the most part it revealed itself in nothing higher than a readiness to serve the purposes of the Church, however unworthy, by any conduct, however criminal. But among the Jesuits too there were men of pure and noble nature, whose religious zeal found its sole gratification in toil and danger and self-sacrifice to promote the glory of God and save perishing heathen souls.

Champlain had never ceased to press upon the spiritual chiefs of France the claims of those savages for whose welfare he himself cared so deeply. For many years he spoke almost in vain, and his toilsome and frustrated career had nearly reached its close before the Jesuits entered in good earnest upon the work of Indian conversion. 1632 A.D. Six priests and two lay-brothers, sworn to have no will but that of their superiors, laid the foundation of the great enterprise. Under the shadow of the rock on which Quebec stands arose a one-story building of planks and mud, thatched with grass, and affording but poor shelter from rain and wind. This was the residence of Our Lady of the Angels—the cradle of the influence which was to change the savage red men of Canada into followers of the Cross. The Father Superior of the Mission was Paul le Jeune, a man devoted in every fibre of mind and heart to the work on which he had come. He utterly scorned difficulty and pain. He had received the order to depart for Canada “with inexpressible joy at the prospect of a living or dying martyrdom.” Among his companions was Jean de Brébœuf, a[327] man noble in birth and aspect, of strong intellect and will, of zeal which knew no limit, and recognized no obstacle in the path of duty.

The winter was unusually severe. The snow-drift stood higher than the roof of the humble Residence; the fathers, sitting by their log-fire, heard the forest trees crack with loud report under the power of intense frost. Le Jeune’s earliest care was to gain some knowledge of the savage tongue spoken by the tribes around him. He was commended, for the prosecution of that design, to a withered old squaw, who regaled him with smoked eels while they conversed. After a time, he obtained the services of an interpreter, a young Indian known as Pierre, who could speak both languages. Pierre had been converted and baptized; but the power of good influences within him was not abiding, and his frequent backslidings grieved the Father Superior. A band of savages invited Le Jeune to accompany them on a winter hunting expedition; and he did so, moved by the hope that he might gain their hearts as well as acquire their language. Among the supplies which his friends persuaded him to carry, was a small keg of wine. Scarcely had the expedition set out when the apostate Pierre found opportunity to tap the keg, and appeared in the camp hopelessly and furiously intoxicated. The sufferings of the good father from hunger and from cold were excessive.[13] His success in instructing the savages was not considerable. He endured much from Pierre’s brother, who followed the occupation of sorcerer. This deceptive person, being employed to assist Le Jeune in preparing addresses, constantly palmed off upon him very foul words, which provoked the noisy mirth of the assembled wigwam and grievously diminished the efficacy of his teaching. The missionary regained his home at Quebec after five months of painful wandering. He had accomplished[328] little; but he had learned to believe that his labour was wasted among these scanty wandering tribes, and that it was necessary to find access to one of the larger and more stable communities into which the Indians were divided.

Far in the west, beside a great lake of which the Jesuits had vaguely heard, dwelt the Hurons, a powerful nation with many kindred tribes over which they exercised influence. The Jesuits resolved to found a mission among the Hurons. Once in every year a fleet of canoes came down the great river, bearing six or seven hundred Huron warriors, who visited Quebec to dispose of their furs, to gamble and to steal. 1634 A.D. Brébœuf and two companions took passage with the returning fleet, and set out for the dreary scene of their new apostolate. The way was very long—scarcely less than a thousand miles; it occupied thirty toilsome days. The priests journeyed separately, and were able to hold no conversation with one another or with their Indian companions. They were barefooted, as the use of shoes would have endangered the frail bark canoe. Their food was a little Indian corn crushed between two stones and mixed with water. At each of the numerous rapids or falls which stopped their way, the voyagers shouldered the canoe and the baggage and marched painfully through the forest till they had passed the obstacle. The Indians were often spent with fatigue, and Brébœuf feared that his strong frame would sink under the excessive toil.

The Hurons received with hospitable welcome the black-robed strangers. The priests were able to repay the kindness with services of high value. They taught more effective methods of fortifying the town in which they lived. They promised the help of a few French musketeers against an impending attack by the Iroquois. They cured diseases; they bound up wounds. They gave simple instruction to the young, and gained the hearts of their pupils by gifts of beads and raisins. The elders of the people came to have the faith explained[329] to them: they readily owned that it was a good faith for the French, but they could not be persuaded that it was suitable for the red man. The fathers laboured in hope, and the savages learned to love them. Their gentleness, their courage, their disinterestedness, won respect and confidence, and they had many invitations from chiefs of distant villages to come and live with them. It was feared that the savages regarded them merely as sorcerers of unusual power; and they were constantly applied to for spells, now to give victory in battle, now to destroy grasshoppers. They were held answerable for the weather; they had the credit or the blame of what good or evil fortune befell the tribe. They laboured in deep earnestness; for to them heaven and hell were very real, and very near. The unseen world lay close around them, mingling at every point with the affairs of earth. They were visited by angels; they were withstood by manifest troops of demons. St. Joseph, their patron, held occasional communication with them; even the Virgin herself did not disdain to visit and cheer her servants. Once, as Brébœuf walked cast down in spirit by threatened war, he saw in the sky, slowly advancing towards the Huron territory, a huge cross, which told him of coming and inevitable doom.

Some of their methods of conversion were exceedingly rude. A letter from Father Garnier has been preserved in which pictures are ordered from France for the spiritual improvement of the Indians. Many representations of souls in perdition are required, with appropriate accompaniment of flames and triumphant demons tearing them with pincers. One picture of saved souls would suffice, and “a picture of Christ without beard.”[14] They were consumed by a zeal for the baptism of little children. At the outset the Indians welcomed this ceremonial, believing that it was a charm to avert sickness and[330] death. But when epidemics wasted them they charged the calamity against the mysterious operations of the fathers, and refused now to permit baptism. The fathers recognized the hand of Satan in this prohibition, and refused to submit to it. They baptized by stealth. A priest visited the hut where a sick child lay—the mother watching lest he should perform the fatal rite. He would give the child a little sugared water. Slyly and unseen he dips his finger in the water, touches the poor wasted face, mutters the sacramental words, and soon “the little savage is changed into a little angel.”

The missionaries were subjected to hardship such as the human frame could not long endure. They were men accustomed to the comforts and refinements of civilized life; they had tasted the charms of French society in its highest forms. Their associations now were with men sunk till humanity could fall no lower. They followed the tribes in their long winter wanderings in quest of food. They were in perils, often from hunger, from cold, from sudden attack of enemies, from the superstitious fears of those whom they sought to save. They slept on the frozen ground, or, still worse, in a crowded tent, half suffocated by smoke, deafened by noise, sickened by filth. Self-sacrifice more absolute the world has never seen. A love of perishing heathen souls was the impulse which animated them; a deep and solemn enthusiasm upheld them under trials as great as humanity has ever endured. That they were themselves the victims of erring religious belief is most certain; but none the less do their sublime faith, their noble devotedness, and patience and gentleness claim our admiration and our love.

1640 A.D. The Huron Mission had now been established for five years. During those painful years the missionaries had laboured with burning zeal and absolute forgetfulness of self; but they had not achieved any considerable success. The children whom they baptized either died or they grew up in heathenism.[331] There were some adult converts, one or two of whom were of high promise; but the majority were eminently disappointing. Once the infant church suffered a grievous rent by the withdrawal of converts who feared a heaven in which, as they were informed, tobacco would be denied to them. The manners of the nation had experienced no amelioration. No limitation in the number of wives had been conceded to the earnest remonstrances of the missionaries. Captive enemies were still tortured and eaten by the assembled nation. In time, the patient, self-denying labour of the fathers might have won those discouraging savages to the Cross; but a fatal interruption was at hand. A powerful and relentless enemy, bent on extermination, was about to sweep over the Huron territory, involving the savages and their teachers in one common ruin.

Thirty-two years had passed since those ill-judged expeditions in which Champlain had given help to the Hurons against the Iroquois. The unforgiving savages had never forgotten the wrong. A new generation inherited the feud, and was at length prepared to exact the fitting vengeance. The Iroquois had trading relations with the Dutchmen of Albany on the Hudson, who had supplied them with fire-arms. About one-half of their warriors were now armed with muskets, and were able to use them. 1642 A.D. They overran the country of the Hurons; they infested the neighbourhood of the French settlements. Boundless forests stretched all around; on the great river forest trees on both sides dipped their branches in the stream. When Frenchmen travelled in the woods for a little distance from their homes, they were set upon by the lurking savages and often slain; when they sailed on the river, hostile canoes shot out from ambush. No man now could safely hunt or fish or till his ground. The Iroquois attacked in overwhelming force the towns of their Huron enemies; forced the inadequate defences; burned the palisades and wooden huts; slaughtered with indescribable tortures the wretched inhabitants.[332] In one of these towns they found Brébœuf and one of his companions. They bound the ill-fated missionaries to stakes; they hung around their necks collars of red-hot iron; they poured boiling water on their heads; they cut stripes of flesh from their quivering limbs and ate them in their sight. To the last Brébœuf cheered with hopes of heaven the native converts who shared his agony. And thus was gained the crown of martyrdom for which, in the fervour of their enthusiasm, these good men had long yearned.

In a few years the Huron nation was extinct; famine and small-pox swept off those whom the Iroquois spared. The Huron Mission was closed by the extirpation of the race for whom it was founded. Many of the missionaries perished; some returned to France. Their labour seemed to have been in vain; their years of toil and suffering had left no trace. It was their design to change the savages of Canada into good Catholics, industrious farmers, loyal subjects of France. If they had been successful, Canada would have attracted a more copious immigration, and a New France might have been solidly established on the American continent. The feudal system would have cumbered the earth for generations longer; Catholicism, the irreconcilable enemy to freedom of thought and to human progress, would have overspread and blighted the valley of the St. Lawrence. For once the fierce Iroquois were the allies and vindicators of liberty. Their cruel arms gave a new course to Canadian history. They frustrated plans whose success would have wedded Northern America to despotism in Church and in State. They prepared a way for the conquest of New France by the English, and thus helped, influentially, to establish free institutions over those vast regions which lie to the northward of the Great Lakes.



The discovery of the Mississippi by Ferdinand de Soto was not immediately productive of benefit. For nearly a century and a half after this ill-fated explorer slept beneath the waters which he had been the first to cross, the “Father of Rivers” continued to flow through unpeopled solitudes, unvisited by civilized men. The French possessed the valley of the St. Lawrence. The English had thriving settlements on the Atlantic sea-board; but the Alleghany Mountains, which shut them in on the west, allowed room for the growth of many years, and there was yet therefore no reason to seek wider limits. The valley of the Mississippi remained a hunting-ground for the savages who had long possessed it.

In course of years it became evident that England and France must settle by conflict their claims upon the American continent. The English still maintained their right, originating in discovery, to all the territory occupied by the French; and from time to time they sent out expeditions to re-assert by invasion the dormant claim. To the French, magnificent possibilities offered themselves. The whole enormous line of the Mississippi and its tributaries, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, could be seized and held; a military settlement could secure the mouth of the river; the English could be hemmed in between the Alleghanies and the ocean, and the increase of their settlements frustrated.


1671 A.D. Nicholas Perrot, a French officer, met, on the King’s business, a gathering of Indian delegates, at a point near the northern extremity of Lake Michigan. There he was told of a vast river, called by some Mechasepé, by others Mississippi. In what direction it flowed the savages could not tell, but they were sure it did not flow either to the north or to the east. The acute Frenchman readily perceived that this mysterious stream must discharge its waters into the Pacific or into the Gulf of Mexico, and that in either case its control must be of high value to France.

1673 A.D. An exploring party, composed of six men and furnished with two slight bark canoes, undertook the search. They ascended the Fox River from the point where it enters Lake Michigan; they crossed a narrow isthmus; and launching upon the River Wisconsin, they floated easily downwards till they came out upon the magnificent waters of the Mississippi. Their joy was great: the banks of the river seemed to their gladdened eyes rich and beautiful; the trees were taller than they had ever seen before; wild cattle in vast herds roamed over the flowery meadows of this romantic land. For many days the adventurers followed the course of the river. They came where the Missouri joins its waters to those of the Mississippi. They passed the Ohio and the Arkansas, and looked with wonder upon the vast torrents which reinforced the mighty river. They satisfied themselves that the Mississippi fell into the Gulf of Mexico; and then, mistrusting the good-will of the Spaniards, they turned back and toilsomely reascended the stream.

1680 A.D. Some years later, a young and energetic Frenchman—Sieur de la Salle—completed the work which these explorers had begun. The hope entertained by Columbus, that he would discover a better route to the East, had only now, after two hundred years of disappointment, begun to fade out of the hearts of his followers, and it was still eagerly[335] cherished by La Salle. He traversed the Mississippi from the mouth of the Illinois River to the Gulf. He saw the vast and dreary swamps which lie around the outlet of the Mississippi. He erected a shield bearing the arms of France; he claimed the enormous region from the Alleghany Mountains to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, as the possession of the French King.

For a full half century France took no action to secure the vast possession which she claimed. The later years of Louis XIV. were full of disaster. England, persuaded by King William that French ambition was a standing menace to Europe, waged wars which brought France to the verge of ruin. Her colonial possessions could receive little care when France was fighting for existence in Europe. 1746 A.D. A wise Governor of Canada—the Compte de la Galissonnière—perceived the rapid growth of the English settlements and the growing danger to France which their superior strength involved. He proposed that the line of the Mississippi should be fortified, and that ten thousand peasants should be sent out to form settlements on the banks of the great lakes and rivers. In time, the growing strength of these settlements would give to France secure possession of the valley of the Mississippi; while the English colonists, confined within the narrow region eastward of the Alleghany Mountains, must lie exposed to the damaging assault of their more powerful neighbours. So reasoned the Governor; but his words gained no attention from the pre-occupied Government of France. To the utmost of his means he sought to carry out the policy which would preserve for France her vast American possessions. He endeavoured to exclude English traders, and to persuade the Indians to adopt a similar course. He marked out the confines of French territory by leaden plates bearing the arms of France, sunk in the earth or nailed upon trees. He brought a few settlers from Nova Scotia. But all his efforts were in vain.[336] The Anglo-Saxons were the appointed rulers of the American continent; and the time was near when, brushing aside the obstruction offered by Frenchmen and by Indians, they were to enter into full possession of their magnificent heritage.



The first English settlement which became permanent in Virginia was founded in 1606. Seven years later—while the settlement was still struggling for existence—the colonists began to form purposes of aggression against their still feebler neighbours in the far north. It was their custom to send annually to the great banks of Newfoundland a fleet of fishing-boats under convoy of an armed ship. Once the commander of this escort was a warlike person named Samuel Argall, whose lofty aims could not be restricted to the narrow sphere which had been assigned to him. While the boats which were his charge industriously plied their calling, Argall turned his thoughts to the larger pursuit of national aggrandizement. 1613 A.D. He affirmed the right of England to all the lands in his neighbourhood. The French had an armed vessel on the coast: Argall attacked and captured her. The French had formed a very feeble settlement on Penobscot Bay: Argall landed and laid in ruins the few buildings which composed it. He crammed seventeen of his prisoners into an open boat and turned them adrift at sea. The others were carried to Jamestown, where they came near to being hanged as pirates.

Thus early and thus lawlessly opened the strife which was to close, a century and a half later, with the victory of the English on the Heights of Abraham and the expulsion of French[338] rule from the American continent. During the greater portion of that time England and France were at war, and the infant settlements of Acadie and Canada formed a natural prey to English adventurers. 1628 A.D. King James bestowed Acadie upon a countryman whom he befriended, and this new proprietor sent out a fleet to establish his claims. The lawless commander of this expedition did not scruple, in a time of peace, to possess himself of Quebec. Three times the English took Acadie: once they held it jointly with France for eleven years; then they restored it. 1713 A.D. Finally, it became theirs by the Treaty of Utrecht, and was henceforth known as Nova Scotia. As the New England colonies increased in strength they waged independent war with Canada. 1664 A.D. A little farther on the English conquered New York, and gradually extended their occupation northward to the Great Lakes. The Frenchmen of the St. Lawrence were their natural enemies. The English sought to possess themselves of the Canadian fur trade, and to that end made alliance with the Iroquois Indians, who were then a controlling power in the valley of the Hudson. There were perpetual border wars—cruel and wasteful. Often the Englishmen of New York attacked the Frenchmen of Canada; still more frequently they stimulated the Indians to hostility. Always there was strife, which made the colonies weak, and often threatened their extinction. It was not at first that England cared to possess Canada; it was rather that she could not witness the undisturbed possession by France of any territory which France seemed to prize.

As years passed and the enormous value to European Powers of the American continent was more fully discovered, the inevitable conflict awakened fiercer passions and called forth more energetic effort. The English were resolute to frequent the valley of the Ohio for trading purposes; the French were resolute to prevent them. Governors of the English colonies,[339] scorning the authority of France, granted licences to traders; when traders bearing such licences appeared on the banks of the Ohio, they were arrested and their goods were confiscated. The English highly resented these injuries. Attempts were made to reach a pacific adjustment of disputes, and commissioners met for that purpose. But the temper of both nations was adverse to negotiation; the questions which divided them were too momentous. It was the destiny of a continent which the rival powers now debated. Men have not even yet found that the peaceable settlement of such questions is possible.

The English colonies had increased rapidly, and now contained a population upwards of a million. From France there had been almost no voluntary emigration, and the valley of the St. Lawrence was peopled to the extent of only sixty-five thousand. The English were strong enough to trample out their rivals. But they were scattered at vast distances, and conflicting opinions hindered them from uniting their strength. 1754 A.D. And France, at this time, began to send out copious military stores and reinforcements, as if in preparation for immediate aggression. The two countries were still at peace, but the inevitable conflict was seen to be at hand. The English Governors begged earnestly for the help of regular soldiers, in whose prowess they had unbounded confidence. Two regiments were granted to their prayers, and they themselves provided a strong body of bold but imperfectly disciplined troops. They were too powerful to wait for the coming of the enemy. A campaign was designed whose success would have shaken the foundations of French authority on the continent. One army under General Braddock was to cross the Alleghany Mountains and destroy Fort du Quesne, the centre of French power on the Ohio. Two armies would operate against the French forts on the Great Lakes; yet another force moved against the French settlements in the Bay of Fundy. To crown the whole, a[340] British fleet cruised off the banks of Newfoundland watching the proceedings of a rival force.

1755 A.D. Ruin, speedy and complete, overwhelmed the unwisely-guided armament which followed General Braddock through the Virginian forests.[15] In the north there were fought desperate and bloody battles. The English forced on board their ships three thousand French peasants—peaceful inhabitants of Nova Scotia—and scattered them among the southern colonies. The Indian allies of the French surprised many lonely hamlets, slaughtered many women and children, tortured to death many fighting-men. The English fleet captured two French ships. But no decisive advantage was gained on either side. The problem of American destiny was solving itself according to the customary methods—by the desolation of the land, by the slaughter and the anguish of its inhabitants; but the results of this bloody campaign did not perceptibly hasten the solution after which men so painfully groped.

During the next two years success was mainly with the French. The English were without competent leadership. An experienced and skilled officer—the Marquis de Montcalm—commanded the French, and gained important advantage over his adversaries. He took Fort William Henry, and his allies massacred the garrison. He took and destroyed two English forts on Lake Ontario. He made for himself at Ticonderoga a position which barred the English from access to the western lakes. The war had lasted for nearly three years; and Canada not merely kept her own, but, with greatly inferior resources, was able to hold her powerful enemy on the defensive.

But now the impatient English shook off the imbecile Government under which this shame had been incurred, and the strong hand of William Pitt assumed direction of the war. 1757 A.D. When[341] England took up in earnest the work of conquest, France could offer but feeble resistance. The Canadians were few in number, and weakened by discontent and dissension. Their defensive power lay in a few inconsiderable forts, a few thousand French soldiers, and five ships of war. The insignificance of their resources had been concealed by the skilful leadership of Montcalm.

Pitt proposed, as the work of the first campaign, to take Louisburg—the only harbour which France possessed on the Atlantic; to take Fort du Quesne, in the valley of the Ohio; and Ticonderoga, in the north. He was able to accomplish more than he hoped. Louisburg was taken; Cape Breton and the island of St. John became English ground. Communication between France and her endangered colony was henceforth impossible. The French ships were captured or destroyed, and the flag of France disappeared from the Canadian coast. Fort du Quesne fell into English hands, and assumed the English name of Pittsburg, under which it has become famous as a centre of peaceful industry. France had no longer a footing in the Mississippi valley. 1758 A.D. At Ticonderoga, incapable generalship caused shameful miscarriage: the English attack failed, and a lamentable slaughter was sustained. But the progress which had been made afforded ground to expect that one campaign more would terminate the dominion of France on the American continent.

The spirit of the British nation rose with the return of that success to which they had long been strangers. Pitt laid his plans with the view of immediate conquest. Parliament expressed strongly its approbation of his policy and his management, and voted liberal sums to confirm the zeal of the colonists. The people gave enthusiastic support to the war. Their supreme concern for the time was to humble France by seizing all her American possessions. The men of New England and New York lent their eager help to a cause which was peculiarly[342] their own. The internal condition of Canada prepared an easy way for a resolute invader. The harvest had been scanty; no supply could now be hoped for from abroad, for the English ships maintained strict blockade; food was scarce; a corrupt and unpopular Government seized, under pretence of public necessity, grain which was needed to keep in life the families of the unhappy colonists. There were no more than fifteen thousand men fit to bear arms in the colony, and these were for the most part undisciplined and reluctant to fight. The Governor vainly endeavoured to stimulate their valour by fiery proclamations. The gloom and apathy of approaching overthrow already filled their hearts.

1759 A.D. It was the design of Pitt to attack simultaneously all the remaining strongholds of France. An army of eleven thousand men, moving northward from New York by the valley of the Hudson, took with ease the forts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point; and the fair region which lies around Lake Champlain and Lake George passed for ever away from the dominion of France. A smaller force attacked Fort Niagara, the sole representative now of French authority on Lake Ontario. This stronghold fell, and France had no longer a footing on the shores of the Great Lakes.

In the east the progress of the British arms was less rapid. Montcalm held Quebec, strongly fortified, but insufficiently provided with food. He had a force of twelve thousand men under his command—heartless and ill-armed, and swarms of allied Indians lurked in the woods, waiting their opportunity. Before Quebec there lay a powerful British fleet, and a British army of eight thousand men. Pitt knew that here lay the chief difficulty of the campaign; that here its crowning success must be gained. He found among his older officers no man to whom he could intrust the momentous task. Casting aside the routine which has brought ruin upon so many fair enterprises, he promoted to the chief command a young soldier of feeble health,[343] gentle, sensitive, modest, in whom his unerring perception discovered the qualities he required. That young soldier was James Wolfe, who had already in subordinate command evinced courage and high military genius. To him Pitt intrusted the forces whose arms were now to fix the destiny of a continent.

The long winter of Lower Canada delayed the opening of the campaign, and June had nearly closed before the British ships dropped their anchors off the Isle of Orleans, and Wolfe was able to look at the fortress which he had come to subdue. His survey was not encouraging. The French flag waved defiantly over tremendous and inaccessible heights, crowned with formidable works, which stretched far into the woods and barred every way of approach. Wolfe forced a landing, and established batteries within reach of the city. For some weeks he bombarded both the upper and the lower town, and laid both in ruins. But the defensive power of Quebec was unimpaired. The misery of the inhabitants was extreme. “We are without hope and without food,” wrote one: “God has forsaken us.” Regardless of their sufferings, the French general maintained his resolute defence.

The brief summer was passing, and Wolfe perceived that no real progress had been made. He knew the hopes which his countrymen entertained; and he felt deeply that the exceptional confidence which had been reposed in him called for a return of exceptional service. July 31, 1759 A.D. He resolved to carry his men across the river and force the French intrenchments. But disaster fell, at every point, on the too hazardous attempt. His transports grounded; the French shot pierced and sunk some of his boats; a heavy rain-storm damped the ammunition of the troops; some of his best regiments, fired by the wild enthusiasm of battle, dashed themselves against impregnable defences and were destroyed. The assault was a complete failure, and the baffled assailants withdrew, weakened by heavy loss.


The agony of mind which resulted from this disaster bore with crushing weight upon Wolfe’s enfeebled frame, and for weeks he lay fevered and helpless. During his convalescence he invited his officers to meet for consultation in regard to the most hopeful method of attack. One of the officers suggested, and the others recommended, a scheme full of danger, but with possibilities of decisive success. It was proposed that the army should be placed upon the high ground to the westward of the upper town and receive there the battle which the French would be forced to offer. The assailants were largely outnumbered by the garrison; escape was impossible, and defeat involved ruin. But Wolfe did not fear that the French could inflict defeat on the army which he led. The enterprise had an irresistible attraction to his daring mind. He trusted his soldiers, and he determined to stake the fortune of the campaign upon their power to hold the position to which he would conduct them.

The Heights of Abraham stretch westward for three miles from the defences of the upper town, and form a portion of a lofty table-land which extends to a distance from the city of nine miles. They are from two to three hundred feet above the level of the river. Their river-side is well-nigh perpendicular and wholly inaccessible, save where a narrow footpath leads to the summit. It was by this path—on which two men could not walk abreast—that Wolfe intended to approach the enemy. The French had a few men guarding the upper end of the path; but the guard was a weak one, for they apprehended no attack here. Scarcely ever before had an army advanced to battle by a track so difficult.

Sept. 12, 1759 A.D. The troops were all received on board the ships, which sailed for a few miles up stream. During the night the men re-embarked in a flotilla of boats and dropped down with the receding tide. They were instructed to be silent. No sound of oar was heard, or of voice,[345] excepting that of Wolfe, who in a low tone repeated to his officers the touching, and in his own case prophetic, verses of Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.” Quickly the landing-place was reached, and the men stepped silently on shore. One by one they climbed the narrow woodland path. As they neared the summit the guard, in panic, fired their muskets down the cliff and fled. The ships had now dropped down the river, and the boats plied incessantly between them and the landing-place. All night long the landing proceeded. The first rays of the morning sun shone upon an army of nearly five thousand veteran British soldiers solidly arrayed upon the Heights of Abraham, eager for battle and confident of victory. Wolfe marched them forward till his front was within a mile of the city, and there he waited the attack of the French.

Montcalm had been wholly deceived as to the purposes of the British, and was unprepared for their unwelcome appearance on the Heights. He had always shunned battle; for the larger portion of his troops were Canadian militia, on whom little reliance could be placed. He held them therefore within his intrenchments, and trusted that the approaching winter would drive away the assailants and save Canada. Even now he might have sheltered himself behind his defences, and delayed the impending catastrophe. But his store of provisions and of ammunition approached exhaustion; and as the English ships rode unopposed in the river, he had no ray of hope from without. Montcalm elected that the great controversy should be decided by battle and at once.

He marched out to the attack with seven thousand five hundred men, of whom less than one-half were regular soldiers, besides a swarm of Indians, almost worthless for fighting such as this. The French advanced firing, and inflicted considerable loss upon their enemy. The British stood immovable, unless when they silently closed the ghastly openings which the bullets of the French created. At length the hostile lines fronted each[346] other at a distance of forty yards, and Wolfe gave the command to fire. From the levelled muskets of the British lines there burst a well-aimed and deadly volley. That fatal discharge gained the battle, gained the city of Quebec—gained dominion of a continent. The Canadian militia broke and fled. Montcalm’s heroic presence held for a moment the soldiers to their duty; but the British, flushed with victory, swept forward on the broken and fainting enemy: Montcalm fell pierced by a mortal wound; the French army in hopeless rout sought shelter within the ramparts of Quebec.

Both generals fell. Wolfe was thrice struck by bullets, and died upon the field, with his latest breath giving God thanks for this crowning success. Montcalm died on the following day, pleased that his eyes were not to witness the surrender of Quebec. The battle lasted only for a few minutes; and having in view the vast issues which depended on it, the loss was inconsiderable. Only fifty-five British were killed and six hundred wounded; the loss of the French was twofold that of their enemies.

A few days after the battle, Quebec was surrendered into the hands of the conquerors. But the French did not at once recognize absolute defeat. 1760 A.D. In the spring of the following year a French army of ten thousand men gained a victory over the British garrison of Quebec on the Heights of Abraham, and laid siege to the city. But this appearance of reviving vigour was delusive. The speedy approach of a few British ships broke up the siege and compelled a hasty retreat. Before the season closed, a British army, which the French had no power to resist, arrived before Montreal and received the immediate surrender of the defenceless city. Great Britain received, besides this, the surrender of all the possessions of France in Canada from the St. Lawrence to the unknown regions of the north and the west. The militia and the Indians were allowed to return unmolested to their homes. The[347] soldiers were carried back to France in British ships. All civil officers were invited to gather up their papers and other paraphernalia of government and take shipping homewards. For French rule in Canada had ceased, and the Anglo-Saxon reigned supreme from Florida to the utmost northern limit of the continent.



A century and a half had elapsed since Champlain laid the foundations of French empire among the forests of the St. Lawrence valley. During those years the nations of Western Europe were possessed by an eager desire to extend their authority over the territories which recent discovery had opened. On the shores of the Northern Atlantic there were a New France, a New Scotland, a New England, a New Netherlands, a New Sweden. Southwards stretched the vast domain for whose future the occupation by Spain had already prepared deadly and enduring blight. France and England contended for possession of the great Indian peninsula. Holland and Portugal, with a vigour which their later years do not exhibit, founded settlements alike in Eastern and in Western seas, gaining thus expanded trade and vast increase of wealth.

France had shared the prevailing impulse, and put forth her strength to establish in Canada a dominion worthy to bear her name. The wise minister Colbert perceived the greatness of the opportunity, and spared neither labour nor outlay to foster the growth of colonies which would secure to France a firm hold of this magnificent territory. Successive Kings lent aid in every form. Well-chosen Governors brought to the colony every advantage which honest and able guidance could afford. Soldiers were furnished for defence; food was supplied in[349] seasons of scarcity. A fertile soil and trading opportunities which were not surpassed in any part of the continent, offered inducements fitted to attract crowds of the enterprising and the needy. But under every encouragement New France remained feeble and unprogressive. When she passed under British rule, her population was scarcely over sixty thousand, and had been for several years actually diminishing. Quebec, her chief city, had barely seven thousand inhabitants; Montreal had only four thousand. The rest of the people cultivated, thriftlessly, patches of land along the shores of the great river and its affluents; or found, like the savages around them, a rude and precarious subsistence by the chase. The revenue of the colony was no more than £14,000—a sum insufficient to meet the expenditure. Its exports were only £115,000.

While France was striving thus vainly to plant in Canada colonies which should bear her name and reinforce her greatness, some Englishmen who were dissatisfied with the conditions of their life at home, began to settle a few hundred miles away on the shores of the same great continent. They had no encouragement from Kings or statesmen; the only boon they gained, and even that with difficulty, was permission to be gone. When famine came upon them, they suffered its pains without relief; their own brave hearts and strong arms were their sufficient defence. But their rise to strength and greatness was rapid. Within a period of ten years twenty thousand Englishmen had found homes in the American settlements. Before the seventeenth century closed, Virginia alone contained a population larger than that of all Canada. When the final struggle opened, the thirteen English colonies contained a population of between two and three million to contrast with the poor sixty thousand Frenchmen who were their neighbours on the north. The greatness of the colonies can be best measured by a comparison with the mother country. England was then[350] a country of less than six million; Scotland of one million; Ireland of two million.

The explanation of this vast difference of result between the efforts of the English and those of the French to colonize the American continent is to be found mainly in the widely different quality of the two nations. England, in the words of Adam Smith, “bred and formed men capable of achieving such great actions and laying the foundation of so great an empire.” France bred no such men; or if she did so, they remained at home unconcerned with the founding of empires abroad. The Englishman who took up the work of colonizing, came of his own free choice to make for himself a home; he brought with him a free and bold spirit; a purpose and capacity to direct his own public affairs. The Frenchman came reluctantly, thrust forth from the home he preferred, and to which he hoped to return. He came, submissive to the tyranny which he had not learned to hate. He was part of the following of a great lord, to whom he owed absolute obedience. He did not care to till the ground: he would hunt or traffic with the Indians in furs till the happy day when he was permitted to go back to France. Great empires are not founded with materials such as these.

But France was unfortunate in her system no less than in her men. Feudalism was still in its unbroken strength. The soil of France was still parcelled out among great lords, who rendered military service to the King; and was still cultivated by peasants, who rendered military service to the great lord. Feudalism was now carried into the Canadian wilderness. Vast tracts of land were bestowed upon persons of influence, who undertook to provide settlers. The seigneur established his own abode in a strong, defensible position, and settled his peasantry around him. They paid a small rent and were bound to follow him to such wars as he thought good to wage, whether against the Indians or the English. He reserved for his own[351] benefit, or sold to any who would purchase, the right to fish and to trade in furs; he ground the corn of his tenantry at rates which he himself fixed. He administered justice and punished all crimes excepting treason and murder. When the feudal system was about to enter on its period of decay in Europe, France began to lay upon that unstable basis the foundation of her colonial empire.

The infant commerce of the colony was strangled by monopolies. Great trading companies purchased at court, or favourites obtained gratuitously, exclusive right to buy furs from the Indians and to import all foreign goods used in the colonies—fixing at their own discretion the prices which they were to pay and to receive. Occasionally in a hard season they bought up the crops and sold them at famine prices. The violation of these monopolies by unlicensed persons was punishable by death. The colonists had no thought of self-government; they were a light-hearted, submissive race, who were contented with what the King was pleased to send them. Their officials plundered them, and with base avarice wasted their scanty stores. The people had no power for their own protection, and their cry of suffering was slow to gain from the distant King that justice which they were not able to enforce.

The priest came with his people to guard their orthodoxy in this new land—to preserve that profound ignorance in which lay the roots of their devotion. Government discouraged the printing-press; scarcely any of the peasantry could so much as read. At a time when Connecticut expended one-fourth of its revenues upon the common school, the Canadian peasant was wholly uninstructed. In Quebec there had been, almost from the days of Champlain, a college for the training of priests. There and at Montreal were Jesuit seminaries, in which children of the well-to-do classes received a little instruction. A feeble attempt had been made to educate the children of the Indians; but for the children of the ordinary working[352] Frenchmen settled in Canada no provision whatever had been made.

The influences which surrounded the infancy of the English colonies were eminently favourable to robust growth. Coming of their own free choice, the colonists brought with them none of the injurious restraints which in the Old World still impeded human progress. The burdensome observances of feudalism were not admitted within the new empire. Every colonist was a landowner. In some States the settlers divided among themselves the lands which they found unoccupied, waiting no consent of King or of noble. In others, they received, for prices which were almost nominal, grants of land from persons—as William Penn, who had received large territorial rights from the sovereign. In all cases, whether by purchase or by appropriation, they became the independent owners of the lands which they tilled. At the beginning, they were too insignificant to be regarded by the Government at home: favoured by this beneficent neglect, they were allowed to conduct in peace their own public affairs. As their importance increased, the Crown asserted its right of control; but their exercise of the privilege of self-government was scarcely ever interfered with. The men who founded the New England States carried with them into the wilderness a deep conviction that universal education was indispensable to the success of their enterprise. While the French Canadian, despising agriculture, roamed the forest in pursuit of game, ignorant himself, and the father of ignorant children, the thoughtful New England farmer was helping with all his might to build up a system of common schools by which every child born on that free soil should be effectively taught. Thus widely dissimilar were the methods according to which France and England sought to colonize the lately-discovered continent. An equally wide dissimilarity of result was inevitable.

It was in the closing years of the great experiment that France devised the bold conception of establishing a line of[353] military settlements on the Mississippi as well as on the St. Lawrence,[16] and thus confining the English between the Alleghany Mountains and the sea. In view of the extreme inferiority of her strength, the project seems extravagant. It was utterly impossible to restrain, by any forces which France could command, the expansive energy of the English colonies. There were sixty thousand Frenchmen proposing to imprison on the sea-coast two million Englishmen. But the constitution of the French settlements, while it enfeebled them and unfitted them to cope with their rivals in peaceful growth, made them formidable beyond their real strength for purposes of aggression. Canada was a military settlement; every Canadian was a soldier, bound to follow to the field his feudal lord. The English colonists were peaceful farmers or traders; they were widely scattered, and living as they did under many independent governments, their combination for any common warlike purpose was almost impossible. That they should ultimately overthrow the dominion of their rivals was inevitable; but if the French King had been able to reinforce more liberally the arms of his Canadian subjects, the contest must have been prolonged and bloody. Happily, his resources were taxed to the utmost by the complications which surrounded him at home. The question as to which race should be supreme on the American continent was helped to a speedy solution on the battle-fields of the Seven Years’ War.



The condition of the Canadian people at the time of the conquest by the English was exceedingly miserable. Every man was in the ranks, and the fields on which their maintenance depended lay untilled. The lucrative fur trade had ceased, for the Indian hunter and the French trader were fighting against the English. The scanty revenues of the colony no longer yielded support to the officers of the Government, who plundered the wretched people without restraint of pity or of shame. Famine prevailed, and found many victims among the women and children, who were now the occupants of the neglected clearings along the river-banks.

At length the conquest was accomplished, and those sad years of bloodshed closed. The French soldiers, the rapacious officials, were sent home to France, where some of the worst offenders, it is gratifying to know, found their way quickly to the Bastile. The colonists laid down their arms, and returned gladly to their long-disused industries. At first the simple people feared the severities of the new authority into whose power they had fallen. Some of them went home to France; but these were chiefly the colonial aristocracy, whose presence had always been a misfortune. The apprehensions of the settlers were soon allayed. They had been accustomed to arbitrary and cruel government. The rack was in regular use. Accused persons were habitually subjected to torture. Trials were conducted in[355] secret, and without opportunity of defence. The personal liberty of every man depended upon the pleasure of his superiors. English rule brought at once the termination of these wrongs, and bestowed upon the submissive Canadians the unexpected blessings of peace, security of person and property, and a pure administration of justice. It had been feared that the great mass of the population would leave the province and return to France. But the leniency of the Government, and the open-handed kindness with which the urgent necessities of the poor were relieved, averted any such calamity; and the Frenchmen accepted, without repining, the new sovereignty which the sword had imposed upon them.

The English Government naturally desired to foster the settlement of an English population in Canada. It was not, at first, without hesitation that Britain made up her mind to retain the territory for whose possession she had fought so stoutly. The opinion was widely entertained, especially among the trading class, that united North America would quickly become too powerful to continue in dependence on the mother country; that the subjection of our existing colonies would be guaranteed by the wholesome presence of a rival and hostile power on their northern frontier. But wiser views prevailed, and Britain resolved to keep the splendid prize which she had won. Every effort was made to introduce a British element which should envelop and ultimately absorb the unprogressive French. Large inducements were offered to traders, and to the fighting men whose services were no longer required. Many of these accepted the lands which were offered to them, and made their homes in Canada. The novelty of the acquisition, and the interest which attached to the conquest, brought a considerable number of settlers from the old country. The years immediately succeeding the conquest were years of more rapid growth than Canada had experienced under French rule. In twelve years the population had increased to one hundred[356] thousand. The clearings along the shores of the St. Lawrence increased in number and in area, and stretched backward from the river into the forest. The influx of merchants caused a notable increase of the towns. Thus far no printing-press had been permitted on Canadian soil; for despotism here, as well as elsewhere, demanded popular ignorance as a condition of its existence. But scarcely had the French officials departed when two enterprising men of Philadelphia arrived in Quebec with a printing-press, and began the publication of a newspaper.

The war in Europe continued for upwards of three years after the expulsion of the French from Canada. Wearied at length with the brutal strife, the exhausted nations desired peace. France had suffered enormous territorial losses. The disasters which had fallen on Spain humbled her haughty spirit, and hastened the decay which was already in progress. Austria and Prussia desired rest from a wasteful contest, in the advantages of which they scarcely participated. The enormous gains which Britain had secured satisfied for the time the ambition of her people, and she was contented now that the sword should be sheathed. 1763 A.D. Peace was concluded. Britain added to her dominions several islands of the West Indies, the Floridas, Louisiana to the Mississippi, Canada, and the islands in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, as well as Senegal. “Never,” said the lately-crowned George III., “did England, nor, I believe, any other power in Europe, sign such a peace.”

While the war still lasted, a military Government ruled Canada, and justice was administered by councils of officers. When peace was restored, and the transference of Canada was formally complete, arrangements of a more permanent character became necessary. The situation was full of difficulty. The colony was substantially French and Roman Catholic; only a small minority of its people were English and Protestant. These, however, looked with the pride of conquerors upon the old settlers, and claimed that the institutions of the colony[357] should be framed wholly on English models. Wise statesmanship in this eventful hour would have averted enfeebling divisions, wasteful strifes, discontents swelling at length into rebellion. But wise statesmanship was denied to Canada. October, 1763 A.D. There came a Proclamation in the King’s name, promising to the people self-government such as the Americans enjoyed, so soon as the circumstances of the colony permitted; briefly intimating that for the present the laws of England were the laws of Canada. It was a revolution scarcely surpassed in its violence and injustice; and in its results it delayed for generations the progress of the colony. At one stroke the laws which had been in force for a century and a half were swept away. A new code of laws, entirely new methods of judicial procedure, of which the people knew nothing, were now administered in a language which scarcely any one understood. In their haste the Government did not pause to consider that the laws which they had thus suddenly imposed upon this Roman Catholic colony included severe penal statutes against Catholics. It was desired that the laws, the language and the customs of England should displace those of France, and that the French settlers should become absorbed in the mass of anticipated English immigration. In course of years, by wise and conciliatory treatment, these results would have been gained; but the unredeemed injustice of this assault upon the rights of the colonists postponed for generations the hope of the desirable reconciliation. The French took up at once the position of an oppressed people—holding themselves studiously separate from their oppressors, cherishing feelings of jealousy and antagonism. To uphold French customs, to reject the English tongue, and if possible the English law—these were now the evidences of true patriotism. Henceforth, and for many long and unquiet years, there were two distinct and hostile nations dwelling side by side in the valley of the St. Lawrence.

It was one of the unhappy results of these ill-considered[358] arrangements that no Frenchman could fill any public office, in consequence of his ignorance of the language in which public business was conducted. All such offices were therefore occupied by Englishmen. For the most part the appointments were made in London, with small regard to the fitness of the persons who received them. Men came out to administer the affairs of Canada in absolute ignorance of the country, of the habits of the people, even of the language which they spoke. These officials received no salaries, but were suffered to indemnify themselves by fees, which they exacted rapaciously and ruthlessly. They treated the old inhabitants with harshness and irritating contempt. 1766 A.D. There were even darker charges than these preferred against them, warranting the assertion of the good General Murray, who was then Governor, that “they were the most immoral collection of men he ever knew.” The conduct of these officials aggravated the alienation of the French settlers, and helped to prepare the unquiet future through which the colony was to pass.

But the French Canadians were a submissive people, and although they perceived that they were wronged, they did not on that account turn aside from the path of peaceful industry which opened before them. Trade was prosperous, and steadily increasing; many persons who had left the colony returned to it; agriculture extended; gradually the deep wounds which years of war had inflicted were healed. The people remained long profoundly ignorant. When Volney, the French traveller, visited them towards the close of the century, he found that they knew almost nothing of figures, and were incapable of the simplest calculation. They indicated short distances by telling how many pipes a man could smoke while he walked; a longer distance was that which a man could or could not traverse between sunrise and sunset. But ignorance did not prevent that patient, incessant toil, which year by year added to their possessions and improved their condition.


In course of time a desire for representative institutions sprang up among the English settlers. During all these years they had lived under the despotic sway of a Governor and Council appointed by the Crown. They alone among Englishmen were without part in their own government, and they wished the odious distinction to cease. 1773 A.D. They petitioned for the House of Assembly which the King had promised them ten years before, and for the permanent establishment of English law among them. The French were not sufficiently instructed to care for representative government, but they earnestly desired the restoration of the laws which had been so hastily abolished after the conquest.

It was during a season of anxiety and apprehension that these conflicting opinions were pressed upon the attention of the British Government. The differences which had arisen between England and her American colonies were evidently now incapable of settlement otherwise than by the sword. The men of Boston had already thrown into their harbour the cargoes of taxed tea which England sought to force upon them. All over New England men were hastening to obtain muskets and to accomplish themselves in military drill. A strong English force, which was being steadily increased, held Boston, and waited for the expected strife. In view of impending war, it was the desire of the English Government to satisfy Canada, and gain such support as she was able to afford. The great mass of the Canadians were Frenchmen and Roman Catholics.[17] It was not doubted that in course of years men who were English and Protestant would form the population of Canada. But the danger was present and urgent, and it must be met by conciliating the men who now formed that population. 1774 A.D. An Act was passed by which the Proclamation of 1763 was repealed. The Roman Catholic religion was set free[360] from legal disability, and reinstated in its right to exact tithes and other dues from all persons who owned its sway. French civil law was reimposed, but the barbarous criminal code of England was set up in preference to the milder system of France. The House of Assembly was still denied, and the province—extended now to the Ohio and the Mississippi—was to be ruled by a Governor and Council appointed by the Crown, one-third of the Council being composed of French Canadians. This was the Quebec Act, under which Canada was governed for the next seventeen years. It inflicted many evils upon the colony, but it served well the immediate purpose for which it was intended. It satisfied the old settlers, and held them firmly to the side of England during the years of war which England vainly waged against her alienated children.

Thus far the affairs of the colonies had been administered by the Board of Trade. The administration had been negligent; for the greatness of the colonies was recent, and the importance of the interests involved was not yet fully appreciated. But the variance which was to cost England the greatest of her colonial possessions had already revealed itself. England was impressively reminded of the imperfections of her management, and of the urgent need of a better system. She set up a new but not a better system. 1774 A.D. A Colonial department of Government was created; a Colonial Secretary was appointed; an official regulation of colonial interests began, based upon imperfect knowledge—formal, restrictive, often unreasonable and irritating. For many years, until the growing strength of the colonies enabled them first to modify and then to overthrow it, this strict official government continued to discourage and impede settlements whose prime necessity was wide freedom of action.



The Quebec Act roused much indignation among the American colonists. From Pennsylvania and Virginia twenty thousand persons had already settled in the valley of the Ohio. These suddenly found themselves disjoined from the colonies of which they regarded themselves members, and subjected to the despotic rule which was imposed upon Canada. The American patriots enrolled the new arrangements among their grievances, and hoped that their fellow-sufferers the Canadians would be of the same opinion. 1774 A.D. The Congress which met at Philadelphia opened communication with the Canadians, to whom they addressed a forcible exposition of their mutual wrongs, coupled with the proposal that their neighbours should take some part in the steps which they were meditating in order to obtain redress. The handful of English Canadians sympathized with the complaints of their countrymen, and were not reluctant to have given help had that been possible; but they were an inconsiderable number, living among a population which did not share their views. The French settlers were unaccustomed to self-government, which they did not understand and did not desire. Their own laws had been restored to them, the Government was not oppressive, they were suffered to cultivate their fields in peace, and they were without motive to enter upon that stormy path to which their more heroic[362] neighbours invited them. The American proposals did not disturb for one moment the profound political apathy which reigned in the valley of the St. Lawrence.

1775 A.D. When the war began, the Americans lost no time in taking hostile measures against Canada. They were able, by the superior energy of their movements, to possess themselves of the fortresses of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which had not yet been prepared to offer resistance. Governor Carleton was taken at a disadvantage by this spirited invasion, for he had been left without an army. For the defence of the vast territory over which his sway extended, he had no more than eight hundred soldiers. He fell back upon the privileges of the feudal law, and summoned the colonists to render to the King that military service which they owed. But the colonists, from whose minds there had not yet passed the memory of the disastrous war which preceded the conquest, decisively repudiated feudal obligations, and maintained that the various seignorial dues which they paid were the full equivalent of the advantages which they enjoyed. The embarrassed Governor invoked the help of the clergy, who exhorted the people to take up arms in defence of their country. But neither could the authority of the priests rouse those unwarlike spirits. The Frenchmen would fight when their own homes were invaded. Meanwhile they had no quarrel with any one, and they would not incur the miseries of war so long as it was possible for them to remain at peace.

The Americans still believed that there existed among the Canadians a feeling of sympathy with their cause. To embolden their secret allies, and give opportunity for the avowal of friendly sentiment, they now despatched two expeditions, one of which was to seize Montreal, and then descend upon Quebec, where it would be joined by the other, approaching by way of the river Kennebec. One wing of the expedition was successful. Montreal fell; the larger portion of the British[363] troops became prisoners; the Governor escaped with some difficulty, and fled to Quebec. In the east the fortune of war was against the invaders. They besieged Quebec, maintaining their attack under severe hardships, imperfectly supplied with food, and cruelly wasted by epidemic disease. After months of this vain suffering, a British frigate appeared one morning at Quebec, and proceeded to land a body of troops. The siege was quickly raised, and the assailants, in much distress, effected a disorderly retreat. Reinforcements soon began to arrive from England, and the continued occupation of Montreal by the Americans was found to be impossible. The invasion of Canada served no good purpose. It was obvious that no help was to be afforded to the party of revolution by the uncomplaining people of Canada. It was possible to hold certain positions on Lake Champlain and elsewhere. But that could be of no service to the American cause; on the contrary, it withdrew useful men from the work for which they were urgently required—the defence of New York and Pennsylvania against the overwhelming strength of the English attack. The invasion of Canada ceased, leaving the Canadians better contented with the Government under which they lived, and less disposed to form relationships with the colonists by whom the authority of that Government had been cast off.



In course of years the English Government fought out its quarrel with the revolted American colonists and was defeated. 1783 A.D. A treaty of peace was concluded, and the independence which America had proved herself able to maintain was now acknowledged. At the opening of the war England had borrowed a suggestion from France, and sought, by attaching the valley of the Mississippi to Canada, to shut in the Americans on the west as on the north by Canadian settlements breathing the spirit of loyalty and submissiveness. The Americans would endure no such restriction. The southern boundary of Canada was now the St. Lawrence river and the great lakes out of which it flows. The vast western region with its boundless capability was made over to the victorious colonists. England held only the north. The two branches of the Anglo-Saxon family had divided in nearly equal proportions the whole enormous area of the North American continent.

As one of the results of the revolutionary war, Canada gained a large accession to her population and her prosperity. There were among the Americans a considerable number of persons who did not sympathize with the aims of the majority, and who had given good wishes and occasionally active support to the royal cause. Congress had given to the British Government a promise that it would endeavour to mitigate the discomforts[365] which the unpopularity of the cause those persons had clung to now entailed. But the victors did not at once forgive those who resisted the national desire, and the position of the royalists became intolerable. It was resolved to make provision for them in Canada, where they could still enjoy those relations with the English monarchy their love for which had cost them so dear.

Western Canada was still almost wholly unpeopled. There were a few soldiers at Niagara, and some inconsiderable French settlements near Detroit. Kingston had been abandoned; the settlers at Toronto had been chased away during the troubles which preceded the conquest, and the traces which they left had been long covered by the luxuriant growth of the fertile wilderness. The vast expanse of rich land which lies along the upper waters of the St. Lawrence and the northern shores of Lake Ontario still waited the coming of the husbandman.

Here was the home chosen for the men who had incurred the hatred of their neighbours by seeking to perpetuate English rule over the American colonies. The English Government honestly desired to requite those unfortunate supporters. It desired also to plant them far away from the colonists who were of French origin and sentiment. For England mistrusted now her own children who lived within range of American influences, and it was her aim to preserve unimpaired the submissive loyalty of her French subjects. Therefore she chose that while the Frenchmen prospered and increased in the lower valley of the St. Lawrence, those Englishmen who were fleeing from triumphant republicanism, but who had probably not altogether escaped its taint, should open their new career on the shores of Lake Ontario. They came in such numbers, that within a year there were ten thousand settlers in the new colony. They came so miserably poor, that for a time England required to feed and clothe them. But they bore stout hearts, and hands not unaccustomed to wield the axe and guide the plough. The country[366] was one vast forest, and the labour of clearing was great. Every man received, free of charge, a grant of two hundred acres; and for each child of those who had borne arms a like endowment was reserved. The settlers worked with good-will. In a short time each man’s lands were ready for the plough, and the landscape was lighted up with corn-fields and the dwellings of man.

During the course of peaceful years which she now enjoyed Canada increased steadily. Emigrants were drawn from England by the inducement of free lands in the western province; in the east there were constant additions both to the French and to the English section of the population. Shortly after the close of the American War it was found that in the whole colony there were not fewer than one hundred and fifty thousand souls. Canada had doubled her population in the twenty years which had elapsed since she became an English possession.

Her government was still administered according to the pleasure of the English Crown, without any concession being made to the wishes of the people. But events now occurred in Europe which quickened, for a space, the democratic tendency, and disposed governments to listen to the wishes of their subjects. The French Revolution had vindicated the right of a nation to guide its own destiny. The influences of that great change were keenly felt in Canada. The English colonists, who had long been dissatisfied with the system under which they lived, earnestly desired a representative government. Many of the Frenchmen, who had hitherto been indifferent to the privilege, partook of the same desire, in sympathy with the revolution which their countrymen had effected. The English Government, wiser now than when it undertook to deal with the discontents of the American colonies, listened with favour to the prayer of the Canadians. 1791 A.D. A Bill was introduced by Mr. Pitt to confer upon the colonists the long-withheld privilege of self-government. It was not the desire of England that the Canadians should grow strong in the enjoyment[367] of a union which might result in their independence. It seemed prudent that the Frenchmen, who cared little for liberty, should form a separate colony with power to bridle the more democratic Englishmen. Therefore Canada was divided into two provinces, which were named Upper and Lower Canada, the boundary line being for the greater part of the distance the Ottawa river. Each of the colonies received from the King a Governor, an Executive Council to act as his advisers, a Legislative Council, and a Legislative Assembly elected once in four years by a somewhat restricted suffrage. The Roman Catholic clergy were already endowed, and a similar provision was now made for Protestants. One-seventh of all Crown lands which were being settled was reserved for the teachers of Protestantism—a reservation which proved in the coming years a source of infinite vexation and strife. The criminal law of England was set up in both provinces; but in all civil laws and usages Upper Canada became wholly English; Lower Canada remained wholly French. The English settlers opposed with all their might this ill-advised separation. They foresaw the enfeebling divisions which it must produce: living as they did far in the interior, they felt that they were wronged when the river, by which alone their products could reach the sea, was placed under control of neighbours who must be rivals and might be enemies. But their opposition was unheeded. The Bill became law, and continued during fifty unquiet years to foster strife between the provinces and hinder their growth.


THE WAR OF 1812.

Canada was now, for a space of two and a half years, to be involved in war, and subjected to the miseries of invasion. It was a war with which she had no proper concern. The measures adopted by England and France in order to accomplish the ruin of each other fell injuriously upon American commerce, and the American people were reasonably displeased that their occupations and those of the world should be interrupted by the strifes of two unwisely guided nations. Certain high-handed proceedings of British ships[18] so aggravated this irritation, that America declared war against Great Britain. She had no quarrel with the Canadians, but she could not elsewhere express the hostile impulses by which she was now animated. An invasion of Canada was instantly resolved upon, and an easy victory was expected. The country was almost undefended, for England at that time was putting forth her utmost strength in the effort to overthrow Napoleon, and she required, for the bloody battle-fields of Spain, every soldier of whom she could possess herself. In all Canada there were only four thousand regular troops and two thousand militiamen. Many weeks must elapse before help could come from England. Canada had grown steadily during forty years of peace, and had now a population of three hundred thousand. But the progress of the United States had been[369] greatly more rapid, and Canada had now to encounter a hostile nation of eight million. The expectation that the Americans would subdue and possess the valley of the St. Lawrence seemed easy of fulfilment.

Many Americans clung to the belief that the Canadians were dissatisfied with their government, and would be found ready to avail themselves of an opportunity to adopt republican institutions. But no trace of any such disposition manifested itself. The colonists were tenaciously loyal, and were no more moved by the blandishments than they were by the arms of their republican invaders.

July, 1812 A.D. Soon after the declaration of war, an American army of two thousand five hundred men set out to conquer Western Canada. The commander of this force was General Hull, who announced to the Canadians that he had come to bring them “peace, liberty, and security,” and was able to overbear with ease any resistance which it was in their power to offer. But victory did not attach herself to the standards of General Hull. The English commander, General Brock, was able to hold the Americans in check, and to furnish General Hull with reasons for withdrawing his troops from Canada and taking up position at Detroit. Thither he was quickly followed by the daring Englishman, leading a force of seven hundred soldiers and militia and six hundred Indians. He was proceeding to attack General Hull, but that irresolute warrior averted the danger by an ignominious capitulation.

October. A little later a second invasion was attempted, the aim of which was to possess Queenstown. It was equally unsuccessful, and reached a similar termination—the surrender of the invading force. Still further, an attempt to seize Montreal resulted in failure. Thus closed the first campaign of this lamentable war. Everywhere the American invaders had been foiled by greatly inferior forces of militia, supported by a handful of regular troops. The war had been always distasteful to[370] a large portion of the American people. On the day when the tidings of its declaration were received in Boston, flags were hung out half-mast high in token of general mourning. The New England States refused to contribute troops to fight in a cause which they condemned. The shameful defeats which had been sustained in Canada encouraged the friends of peace, and the policy of invasion was loudly denounced as unwise and unjust. But the disposition to fight still inspired the larger number, and although there was no longer any hope of assistance from disaffected Canadians, a fresh campaign was planned and new miseries prepared for the unoffending colonists.

During the next campaign the Americans gained some important advantages. Both combatants had exerted themselves to build and equip fleets on Lake Erie—the command of the lake being of high importance for the defence or the attack of Western Canada. Sept. 1813 A.D. The hostile fleets met and fought near the western shores of the lake. The battle was fiercely contested, and ended in the complete defeat of the British and the capture of their entire fleet—one-third of the crews of which were killed or wounded. Soon after this decisive victory a small force of British and Indians was encountered and nearly annihilated, and the conquest of Western Canada seemed complete. An attempt to seize Montreal was, however, baffled by a small body of Canadians. Nothing further of importance was effected on either side. But during these many months of alternating victory and defeat the combatants had learned to hate each other with the wild, unreasoning hatred which war often inspires. The Americans, in utter wantonness, burned down a large Canadian village: the Canadians avenged themselves by giving to the flames the town of Buffalo and several American villages. When the campaign closed much loss and suffering had been inflicted upon peaceful inhabitants on both sides of the border; America held some positions in[371] the extreme west, but no real progress had been made towards the conquest of Canada.

1814 A.D. During the third campaign the Americans persisted in their ill-judged efforts to subdue Canada. Much desultory and indecisive fighting occurred. The British Government, during the pause in European strife which occurred while Napoleon occupied the island of Elba, was able to send several regiments to Canada. The militia on both sides had gained the experience of veterans. Larger forces were now afoot, and were handled with increased skill. The fighting was growing ever more obstinate, as the mutual hatred of those engaged in it became more intense. The most protracted and bloody of all the battles of the war occurred near the close. A British officer, having sixteen hundred men under his command, took up position on a little eminence at Lundy’s Lane, hard by the Falls of Niagara. Here, about five o’clock of a July afternoon, this force was attacked by five thousand Americans. The assailants charged fiercely their outnumbered enemies, but were met by a destructive fire from a few well-placed and well-served pieces of artillery. Night fell, and the moon shone over the field where men of the same race strove to slaughter one another in a worthless quarrel. After some hours of battle a short pause occurred, during which the groans of the many wounded men who lay in agony on the slope where the British fought, mingled with the dull roar of the neighbouring cataract. The battle was resumed: the assailants pushed forward their artillery till the muzzles of the guns almost met; furious charges were met and repelled by the bayonets of the unyielding British. Not till midnight did the Americans desist from the attack and draw back their baffled forces. The killed and wounded of the Americans in this pitiless slaughter were nearly a thousand men; the British suffered a loss almost as heavy.

Many other engagements occurred, worthless in respect[372] of result, having no claim on the notice of men, excepting for the vain heroism and the wasted lives of those who took part in them. Dec. 1814 A.D. At length Britain and America accomplished a settlement of their quarrel, and Canada had rest from war.



During the ten or twelve years which succeeded the war with America, Canada increased more rapidly than at any previous period. The English Government offered free conveyance and a liberal grant of land to any person of good character who consented to accept a home in the Upper Province. Emigration from Great Britain was very inconsiderable during the Napoleon wars; but when peace was restored, and employment became scarce and inadequately paid, men sought refuge beyond the Atlantic from the misery which had fallen so heavily on their native land. In 1815 only two thousand persons emigrated; next year the number was twelve thousand; three years later it had risen to thirty-five thousand. Many of these found their way to Canada. Ten years from the close of the war the population of the Lower Province numbered four hundred and twenty thousand; that of the Upper Province was one hundred and twenty thousand. In fourteen years the population had almost doubled.

Immediately after the war the British people turned their minds to the defects of their Government, and the agitation began which gained its difficult and long-delayed triumph in the Reform Bill of 1832. The influences of the same reforming spirit extended themselves to Canada. The measure of political authority enjoyed by the colonists was still extremely limited, and contrasted unfavourably with that of their American neighbours.[374] It is true they had the appointment of the Lower Chamber; but the Executive was not responsible to the legislative bodies, and was therefore practically despotic. The Governor was the representative of the Sovereign; the Upper Chamber drew its origin from the same source. The Governor answered to no one for the course which he chose to follow; the members of the Legislative Council ordinarily supported him without reserve, because they expected favours from him. They desired the increase of his power, because thus he would be able more bountifully to reward his friends. The sympathies of the Assembly were with constitutional freedom, purity, and economy of administration. At a very early period it was found that the men who were chosen by the people were at variance on every question of importance with the men who were nominated by the King.

In truth, the kind of government assigned to the Canadian people was in most respects unsuitable for them. The French colonists did not desire the popular institutions which they received: they preferred a mild despotism. The English colonists desired more complete liberty, and were continually displeased by the arbitrary acts of the Executive. A still more fatal error was the separation of the provinces, and the provision thus made for perpetuating the French language and laws, the gradual extinction of which was urgently desirable. The time had now arrived when these errors were to bear their proper fruit in jealousy and strife and mutual frustration.

The people of Lower Canada remained almost devoid of education, and they bestowed no care upon the cure of that evil. It was quite usual to have members of the Legislature who were unable to write. 1828 A.D. Once the people were so sorely displeased with the conduct of the Governor that they determined to lay their grievances before the King. Eighty-seven thousand citizens concurred in a statement of wrongs; but of these only nine thousand possessed the accomplishment[375] of being able to write their own names—the remainder did not rise above the ignominy of expressing their approval by a mark. In the Upper Province the education of the people received some attention. 1816 A.D. The foundations were laid of the present common-school system of Canada, although as yet an annual grant of £600 formed the inadequate provision which the Legislature was able to supply.

The mutual antipathies of the French and the English colonists colour all the history of the Lower Province at this period. The French increased more rapidly than the English. The Council was mainly British; the Assembly was almost entirely French. The French, emboldened by their growing numbers, began to dream of forming themselves into a separate nation. The British did not conceal that they regarded the French as a conquered people; and they deemed it a wrong that they, the conquerors, should have no larger influence on the legislation of the colony. Obscure strifes raged perpetually among the several branches of the Legislature. Every shilling of Government expenditure was eagerly scrutinized by the Assembly. The House wrangled over the amounts and also over the forms and methods of expenditure. Occasionally it disallowed certain charges, which the Governor calmly continued to pay on his own responsibility. A Receiver-General defaulted, and much fiery debate was expended in fixing the blame of this occurrence on the Governor. 1822 A.D. The English minority sought the extinction of French law and language, and supported a scheme of union which would have secured that result. The French, alarmed and indignant, loudly expressed in public meeting and by huge petitions their opposition to the proposal. Influential persons continually obtained large gifts of land on unfair terms, and kept their possessions lying waste, waiting speculatively for an advance in price, to the inconvenience of honest settlers. Not contented with the rich crop of grievances which sprang luxuriantly around them, the House[376] revived the troubles of past years, and vainly impeached certain judges who were supposed to have been the authors of forgotten oppressions. Even the House was at war with the Governor: not infrequently that high-handed official freed himself from the irksome restraint by sending the members to their homes, and conducting the government of the colony without their help.

Upper Canada had its own special troubles. A military spirit had gone abroad among the people. When the lavish expenditure of the war ceased, and the colonists were constrained to return in poverty to their prosaic, everyday occupations, restlessness and discontent spread over the land. 1817 A.D. When the legislative bodies met, the Assembly, instead of applying itself to its proper business, proceeded angrily to inquire into the condition of the province. The Governor would permit no such investigation, and abruptly dismissed the House. It was complained that a small group of influential persons—named with abhorrence the Family Compact—monopolized all positions of trust and power, and ruled the province despotically. The Government connived at the shutting up of large masses of land, of which speculators had been allowed improperly to possess themselves. Emigration from the United States into Canada was forbidden, to the injury of the colony, lest the political opinions of the colonists should be tainted by association with republicans. But the ecclesiastical grievance of Upper Canada surpassed all others in its power to implant mutual hatred in the minds of the people. An Act passed many years ago (1791) had set apart one-seventh of all lands granted by Government, “for the support of a Protestant clergy.” The Church of England set up the monstrous claim that there were no Protestant clergymen but hers. The Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Baptists claimed an equal right to the appellation and to a share in the inheritance. The Roman Catholics proposed that the “Clergy Reserves,” now extending to three million acres, should[377] be sold, and the proceeds applied in the interests of religion and education. No question could have been imagined more amply fitted to break up the colony into discordant factions. In actual fact the question of the Clergy Reserves was for upwards of half a century a perennial source of bitter sectarian strife.

1817 A.D. While the Canadians were thus dissatisfied with the political arrangements under which they lived, there arrived among them one Robert Gourlay, an energetic, restless, erratic Scotchman, inspired by an intense hatred to despotism, and a passionate intolerance of abuses. Mr. Gourlay began at once to investigate the causes which retarded the progress of the colony. He found many evils which were distinctly traceable to the corruption of the governing power, and these he mercilessly exposed. The Government replied by a prosecution for libel, and succeeded after a time in shutting up their assailant in prison, and ultimately sending him from the country. These arbitrary proceedings greatly incensed the people, and deepened the prevailing discord.

In addition to these internal variances, the provinces had a standing dispute on a question of revenue. Of the duties levied on goods which passed up the St. Lawrence river, only one-fifth was paid to Upper Canada. As the commerce of the province increased, the unfairness of this distribution was more loudly complained of. The men of the East were slow to perceive the justice of the complaint, and maintained their hold upon the revenue despite the exasperation of their brethren in the West.

But although these now obscure strifes have been regarded as composing the history of Canada, they were happily not its life. The increase of its people and of their intelligence and comfort; the growth of order and of industry; the unrecorded spread of cultivation along the banks of the great river and far up its tributary valleys—these silent operations of natural causes were the life of the provinces. Their shores were sought by crowds of emigrants. New settlements were being continually[378] formed. 1821 A.D. Steamships began to ply on the river and on the great lakes, and the improved facilities of communication quickened the industrial development of the country. The navigation of the river was grievously impeded by rapids and waterfalls—the portages of the olden time, at which the red man was accustomed to draw his canoe from the water and carry it toilsomely through the forest till he had rounded the obstacle. Canals were now formed at such points, and ships were enabled to continue their voyages without interruption. The revenue steadily increased, and every class was fairly prosperous. Banks had been established in all leading towns. Agriculture was still exceedingly rude. All agricultural implements were in insufficient supply; the poor farmers could not obtain so much as the ploughs they needed, and they were fain to draw out the wealth of the fertile soil with no better means than manual labour afforded.

But these evils were in due course of years surmounted, and in the year 1831, when an estimate of the possessions of the Canadians was made, the result disclosed an amount of successful industry for which the world had not given them credit. During the seventy years which had elapsed since England conquered the valley of the St. Lawrence, the population had increased from sixty thousand to nearly nine hundred thousand. With the addition of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the smaller colonies, the American subjects of England numbered now a million and a quarter. The lands which their toil had redeemed from wilderness were now valued at seventeen million sterling. Their cattle and horses were worth seven million; their dwellings and public buildings had cost them fifteen million; they had two million invested in the machinery by which the timber of their boundless forests was prepared for market; in their great cod and seal fisheries they had a fixed capital of a million and a half. Eight hundred ships annually visited their ports from Great Britain; in all the branches of their maritime[379] industry two thousand five hundred arrivals were registered. They received every year foreign or colonial goods to the value of two million; and they exported to a somewhat larger extent. They built ships, and sold them to England; they sent many cargoes of timber, and much valuable fur; already they produced food beyond their own consumption, and they sent to Europe wheat and flour and oats and salted provisions. They shipped fish and fish oils. They burned down masses of their abundant timber, and having obtained the salts which combustion set free, they manufactured them into pot and pearl ashes, and shipped them to Europe for service in bleaching and other operations. They supplied themselves with sugar from the sap of their maple trees. They brewed much excellent cider and beer; they distilled from rye, potatoes, apples, much whisky which was not excellent.

Quebec and Montreal had grown up into considerable towns, each with a population of nearly forty thousand, the vast majority of whom were French. In the bay where Wolfe’s boats stole unobserved and in silence to the shore, there lay now a fleet of merchant-vessels ministering to a large and growing commerce. The lower town which the English guns had destroyed was a bustling, thriving sea-port. Far above, where Montcalm and Wolfe fought, was now a well-built city, bright with towers and spires; with its impregnable Citadel; with its Parliament House, said to be more imposing than that in which the Commons of Great Britain then assembled; with its Palace for the Governor-General, and its aspect and tone of metropolitan dignity; with college and schools; with newspapers and banks, and libraries and charitable societies; with ship-building, manufacturing, and all the busy marketing which beseems one of the great haunts of commerce. Those seventy years of English rule had raised Quebec from the rank of little more than a village to that of an important city; and had seen the valley of the St. Lawrence pass out of the condition of wilderness and become the home of a numerous and prospering population.



The progress of years did not allay, but, on the contrary, steadily enhanced the fever of political discontent which now pervaded the colonies. The measure of representation which they enjoyed had seemed, when the Act of Pitt conferred it upon them, fairly satisfactory; but after the close of the great European war political opinion ripened fast, and the freedom which had seemed ample in 1791 was intolerably insufficient forty years later. The colonists perceived that they were living under a despotism. Their Executive and one of their legislative chambers were appointed by the Crown, without regard to the popular wish. Only the Lower Chamber was chosen by the people, and its action was constantly frustrated by the Governor, the aristocratic advisers by whom his policy was guided, and his ally the Council. On their southern border lay the territories of a great nation, whose people enjoyed complete political freedom and appointed all their rulers. The United States had so prospered that their population was now tenfold that of Canada; and their more rapid growth was traced, in the general belief, to the larger freedom of their institutions. In England the engrossing occupation of the people had been, for many years, the extending of their liberties, the rescue of political power from the hands by which it had been irregularly appropriated. The Englishmen of Canada could not remain unmoved by the things[381] which had come to pass among the Englishmen of America and of England.

1820 A.D. When the Canadians of the Upper Province were awakening to a perception of the evils under which they suffered, there arrived among them an adventurous young Scotchman destined to leave deep traces on their political history. His name was William Lyon Mackenzie. He had already played many parts in various Scotch and English towns, with but indifferent success. In Canada he resumed his quest of a livelihood; but finding nothing at first to meet his requirements, he devoted himself to political reform, and set up a newspaper. His love of reform and his hatred of abuses were genuine and deep; his mind was acute and energetic; but his temperament was too impulsive to permit sufficient consideration of the course which he intended to pursue. The very first number of his paper awakened the sensibilities of all who profited by corruption. He continued his unwelcome diligence in the investigation and exposure of abuses, and in rousing the public mind to demand an enlargement of political privilege.

There were many grounds of difference between the party of Reform and the governing power. Justice, it was said, was impurely administered; the Governor persisted in refusing to yield to the Assembly control over certain important branches of the public revenue, and continued to administer these at his own pleasure. The Governors fell into the hands of the small influential party known as the Family Compact, which filled all public offices with its own adherents. The grievances of which the Assembly complained were debated in a spirit of intense bitterness. On one occasion the Assembly censured the Governor, and was in turn rebuked for its want of courtesy. Mackenzie was five times expelled from the House, and was as often elected. On one occasion the Assembly refused to grant supplies to the Governor, and the Governor avenged himself by rejecting the Bill which members had passed for payment of their own salaries.[382] But gradually, with growing enlightenment, all these trivial discontents consolidated into one loud and urgent demand for responsible government. It was perceived that with a Ministry responsible to the Assembly an adequate measure of constitutional liberty would be secured.

The politics of the Lower Province were more complex. There was a British Reform party, having aims identical with those of their brethren in the west: the overthrow of the despotic Family Compact, full control of revenue by the Assembly, better administration of justice, improved management of Crown lands—all summed up in the demand for responsible government. There was also a French party, greatly more numerous than the other, and seeming to concur with it in many of its opinions. But the real aims of the Frenchmen were wholly at variance with those of the British. They desired to increase the power of the Assembly, because they themselves composed seven-eighths of that body. It was still their hope to establish a French nation on the banks of the St. Lawrence; to preserve old French law and custom; to shut out British immigrants, and possess the soil for their own people.

The British Government was bewildered by the complicated strife in which it was constantly importuned to interfere. There were petitions full of grievances; on one occasion there were ninety-two resolutions, which were laid before King and Parliament by the French party, and copiously answered by the British; there were constant and querulous statements of wrongs presented to the Governor. Out of doors a bitter and uncompromising strife raged. The British were denounced as tyrants, usurpers, foreigners. The French were scorned as a subjugated race, and reprobated as ungrateful rebels who had been treated too leniently. The British Government manifested an anxious desire to understand and to heal those pernicious strifes. It decreed Committees of Inquiry; it sent Commissions to investigate on[383] the spot; it appointed conciliatory Governors; it made numerous small concessions, in the vain hope of appeasing the entangled and inexplicable discontents of its distant subjects.

The disaffected Frenchmen were ruled, during their unhappy progress towards rebellion, by Louis Joseph Papineau, a man whose years should have brought him wisdom, for he was now in middle-life; ambitious, restless, eloquent, with power to lead his ignorant countrymen at his pleasure, and without prudence to direct his authority to good ends.

1837 A.D. This mischievous person occupied himself in persuading the peasants of the Montreal district to throw off the British yoke and establish themselves as an independent nation. His efforts were not wholly without success. The peasantry began to arm and to drill. The symbols of French dominion, the tri-coloured flag and the eagle, were constantly displayed; the revolutionary songs of France were sung by turbulent mobs in the streets of Montreal. These evidences of inflamed feeling pointed decisively to violence. The Roman Catholic clergy took part with the Government, and sought to hold the excited people to their duty by threatening disturbers of the peace with the extreme penalties of ecclesiastical law. Many persons were restrained by the terrors thus announced, and the dimensions of the rebellious movement were lessened. But no considerations, sacred or secular, sufficed to restrain Papineau and his deluded followers from a series of violent proceedings, which have been dignified by the name of rebellion, but which were really nothing more than serious riots. Bands of armed peasantry ranged the country around Montreal; the well-affected inhabitants sought shelter in the city, and their homesteads were ravaged by the invaders. At several points a few hundred men drew together to withstand the Government forces and were defeated. One such body, unable to abide the conflict which they had provoked, threw down their arms and[384] implored pardon. During a period of five or six weeks these disorders continued, but the firm action of the Governor restored tranquillity. Papineau, the unworthy instigator of the disturbances, fled so soon as fighting began, and sought inglorious security beyond the frontier. A little later, some bodies of American marauders appeared in the Montreal district, hoping to renew the disturbance; but they too were quickly dispersed. The Governor acted with much leniency towards those rebels who became his prisoners. With few exceptions they were set at liberty; and even those who were detained for a time were discharged on giving security for future good behaviour. Of the foreigners who were captured in arms, several were put to death, and many suffered lengthened captivity.

The disorders of the Lower Province had scarcely been quelled, when Mackenzie, followed by the more extreme and injudicious advocates of reform, precipitated in Upper Canada a movement equally insignificant and unsuccessful. These persons went to war avowedly to secure complete responsibility of government to the people. This was undeniably the prevailing desire of the province; but it was found that while many desired this excellent reform, few were prepared to incur for its sake the evils which rebellion must necessarily bring. Fifteen hundred men enrolled themselves under the banner of Mackenzie. An attack upon Toronto was devised, and was defeated with ease. Dec. 1837 A.D. Mackenzie fled to the United States, where he was able to organize some bands of lawless men for a marauding expedition into Canada. They, too, were routed, and order was easily restored.

These wretched disturbances served a purpose which peaceful agitation had thus far failed to accomplish—they compelled the earnest attention of the British Parliament to the wishes of the colonists. On the eve of the rebellion, Government had explicitly refused to grant the boon of ministerial responsibility, and carried an Act by which powers were given to the Governor[385] to make certain payments which the Assembly had for some years refused to make. The British Government of the day was a Liberal Government. Lord John Russell was one of its members, a man who for many years had devoted himself to the cause of reform at home. It was Lord John Russell who now led the House of Commons in its denial to the colonies of that popular control over government which was deemed essential for England. No perception of the glaring inconsistency disturbed the minds of the most genuine reformers, for an erring theory of the true position and rights of colonists still prevailed. Even the Liberal party had not yet learned to recognize an Englishman who had taken up his abode in the valley of the St. Lawrence as the equal in political right of the Englishman who remained at home. A colony was still an association of persons who had established themselves on some distant portion of national territory, and whose affairs were to be administered with reference chiefly to the interests of the mother country. Colonists were not allowed to trade freely where they chose. They must purchase from England all the goods which they might require; all their surplus productions must be sent home for sale. Their attempts to manufacture were sternly repressed. It was expected of them that they should cultivate that portion of the national soil which had been assigned to them, reserving for the mother country the profitable supply of all their wants, the profitable disposal of all their productions. The ships of strangers were rigorously excluded; no foreign keel had ploughed the waters of the St. Lawrence since French ships bore home to Europe the men whom Wolfe defeated.

No less clear was the political inferiority of the colonist. A colony was still regarded as a subordinate and dependent portion of the empire, whose position rendered impossible its admission to equality of privilege. It could not be intrusted with the unqualified control of its own destinies; it must needs accept also the guidance of the Colonial Office. This was the[386] tie which bound the colony to the mother country; but for this Canada would certainly yield to the influences of prosperous republicanism in its neighbourhood, and cast off the authority of the Crown. So reasoned the Whig statesmen of forty years ago; and their reasoning was replied to by widespread discontent, the depth of which was revealed by lurid and ominous flashes of rebellion. It became necessary to revise the traditional estimate of colonial right.

October, 1839 A.D. The progress of ministerial opinion made itself apparent in the despatches of Lord John Russell. His Lordship would not yet explicitly acknowledge the responsibility of the Executive to the representatives of the people. But he assured the colonists that Her Majesty would in future look to their “affectionate attachment” as the best security for permanent dominion, and that she would not maintain among them any policy which opinion condemned. The friends of responsible government perceived that their hour of triumph was near.

Many evils had flowed from the separation of the provinces effected by Pitt fifty years before. It still suited the interests of the unreforming party in the Upper Province and the French Canadians in the Lower to maintain the separation. But it was clear to all men who sought merely the public good that existing arrangements had become unendurable. The position of both colonies called urgently for measures of reconstruction. The constitution of Lower Canada had been suspended during the rebellion, and had not yet been restored. The finances of the Upper Province were in disorder; public works were discontinued; business was paralyzed; immigration had ceased. It was widely felt that industrial progress was fatally impeded by separation; that the only remedy for the evils under which Canada suffered was the legislative union of the two provinces.

The British Government was known to favour this measure; the Liberals in both provinces were eager in its support; the[387] Conservatives of the Upper Province ceased from resistance under loyal impulses; the French Canadians had by their attitude during the late disturbances forfeited their claim to consideration. July, 1840 A.D. The Union Bill was passed by the Legislatures of both provinces and by the Imperial Parliament, and the enfeebling separation which the jealousies of an earlier time had imposed was finally cancelled.

Canada was henceforth to be ruled by a Governor, a Legislative Council, and a Legislative Assembly. The Governor and Council were appointed by the Crown; the Assembly was chosen by the people. The representation was shared equally by the provinces—ten members of Council, and forty-two members of Assembly being assigned to each. The Assembly had control of all branches of the public revenue. The Governor was advised by an Executive Council of eight members, who, if they were members of Assembly, required re-election when they accepted a place in the Council. When the Council no longer commanded a majority in the Assembly it ceased to hold office. The long-desired boon of responsible government was thus at length secured; the traditional inferiority of the colonist was cancelled; it was recognized that an Englishman who bore his part in building up new empires in distant places did not therefore forfeit the rights of a free-born English subject. To insure and hasten the use of this new method of colonial government, a command came to the Governor-General, in the Queen’s name, to the effect that he should rule in accordance with the feelings and opinions of the people, as these were expressed by the popular representatives. For a few years there was an imperfect application of a principle hitherto unknown in Canadian history; but gradually the people learned to enforce and the Government to recognize the newly conferred privilege. The great revolution which raised the Canadians to the rank of a fully self-governing people was complete.


The foundations were now laid upon which the colonists could peacefully build themselves up into a great industrial nation. But the antipathies of race which had hitherto vexed and frustrated them were not immediately allayed. The united British population of the two provinces now outnumbered the French, and was able to give law to the colony. The French element was surrounded by a British element of superior strength, of superior intelligence and energy, attracting continually reinforcements from the mother country. The hope of erecting a French power in the valley of the St. Lawrence was now extinct, and the Frenchmen had no longer any higher prospect than that of peaceful citizenship under the rule of men whom they regarded as foreigners. They remained apart, following their own customs, cherishing their own prejudices, refusing to intermingle with the British population among whom they lived.

Political animosity was for some years exceptionally bitter. Soon after the union it was roused to unwonted fury by a proposal to compensate those persons in Lower Canada who had suffered destruction of their property during the rebellion. The British Conservative party offered a discreditable resistance to this proposal. It was not intended that any persons engaged in the rebellion should participate in the benefits of the measure. But the unreasonable British asserted that they, the loyal men, were being taxed for the advantage of rebels. 1849 A.D. When the Bill was passed, the rabble of Montreal pelted with stones Lord Elgin, who was then Governor-General; they threatened, in their unbridled rage, to annex themselves with the United States; they invaded and dispersed the Assembly; they burned to the ground the building in which their Parliament held its sittings. From that day Montreal ceased to be the seat of Government. For a few years Parliament alternated between Quebec and Toronto. That system having been found inconvenient, the Queen was requested[389] to select a permanent home for the Government of the colony. 1858 A.D. Her Majesty’s choice fell upon Bytown, a thriving little city, occupying a situation of romantic beauty, on the river which divided the provinces. The capital of the Dominion received a name more fully in keeping with its metropolitan dignity, and was henceforth styled Ottawa.

The course of prosperous years soothed the bitterness of party hatred, and the Canadian Legislature applied itself to measures of internal amelioration and development. Thus far the inestimable advantage of municipal institutions had not been enjoyed in Canada. The Legislature regulated all local concerns;—took upon itself the charge of roads, bridges, and schools; of the poor; of such sanitary arrangements as existed; and the people contracted the enfeebling habit of leaving their local affairs to be administered by the Government. 1849 A.D. This grave evil was now corrected; the Legislature was relieved of unnecessary burdens; and the people learned to exercise an intelligent interest in the conduct of their own local business.

Canada had now to accept the perfect freedom of trade which the mother country had at length adopted for herself. 1846-50 A.D. All restraints were now withdrawn; all duties which bestowed upon the colonist advantages over his foreign rival ceased. The Canadians might now buy and sell where they chose. Foreign ships were now free to sail the long-forbidden waters of the St. Lawrence. The change was not, in the outset, a welcome one. The Canadians were not fully prepared for an open competition with their neighbours of the United States. For a time trade languished, and there was a loud and bitter cry that the mother country disregarded the interests of her dependency. But the wholesome discipline of necessity taught the Canadians self-reliance. The adoption of a policy of unaided and unrestricted commerce[390] inaugurated for the Canadians a period of enterprise and development such as they had not previously known.

After some years of steadily growing commerce, the Canadians bethought them of the mutual benefits which would result from freedom of trade between themselves and their neighbours of the United States. 1854 A.D. Lord Elgin, who was then Governor-General, was able to arrange a treaty by which this end was gained. The products of each country were admitted, without duty, to the other. The Americans gained free access to the great fisheries of Canada, to the rivers St. Lawrence and St. John, and all the canals by which navigation was facilitated. For eleven years this treaty remained in force, to the advantage of both the contracting powers. But the idea of protection had gained during those years increased hold upon the minds of the American people. 1866 A.D. The American Government now resolved to terminate the treaty. Grave inconveniences resulted to many classes of Americans. The New England States missed the supplies of cheap food which their manufacturing population received from Canada. The brewers of New York and Philadelphia had to find elsewhere, and at higher prices, the barley which Canada was accustomed to send. Woollen manufacturers could not obtain the serviceable varieties of raw material which the flocks of their northern neighbours supplied. Railway companies experienced the sudden loss of a large and lucrative traffic. Canada did not suffer materially by the termination of the Reciprocity Treaty. She found new outlets for her products, and the growth of her commerce was not appreciably interrupted.

The progress of education had in the Upper Province kept pace with the increase of population. But the common school was yet very insufficiently established in Lower Canada. The polite, genial, industrious French habitant was almost wholly uninstructed, and suffered his children to grow up in the[391] blind ignorance of which he himself had not even discovered the evils. 1850 A.D. There was now set up an educational system adapted to his special requirements, but of which he was not swift to avail himself.

The question of the Clergy Reserves had been for generations a perennial source of vexation. The Episcopalians persisted in asserting themselves as the only Protestant Church; the Presbyterians and Methodists rejected with indignation and scorn the audacious pretension. In all countries where religious divisions prevail, the exaltation of any one sect above the others is obviously unjust, and must in its results disturb the harmony of the nation. Especially is this true of a colony where the notion of equality is indigenous, and men do not so easily, as in an old country, reconcile themselves to the assumption of superiority by a favoured class. The existence of a State Church became intolerable to the Canadian people. 1854 A.D. An Act was passed which severed the connection of Church and State. All life-interests—Episcopalian and Presbyterian—having been provided for, the lands and funds which remained were divided among the several municipalities on the basis of the population which they possessed. No important question of an ecclesiastical nature has since that time disturbed the tranquillity of the colony, if we except the demand of the Roman Catholics for a system of education apart from that of the common school.

The feudal tenure of lands still prevailed among the Frenchmen of the Lower Province. The seigneurs to whose ancestors Louis XIV. had granted large tracts of land, in the hope of building up a Canadian aristocracy, still levied their dues; still enforced their right to grind, at oppressive rates of charge, all the corn grown upon their land; still imposed upon the Canadians those cruel exactions which Frenchmen of seventy years ago had been unable to endure. The system was long complained against as a grievance which held the French population[392] in a position of inferiority to the British. 1859 A.D. The rights of the seigneurs were now purchased by the province for a payment of one million dollars, and this antiquated and barbarous method of holding ceased to press upon the interests of the colony.

For some years after the union of the provinces there had been a sudden influx of settlers attracted from the old country by the improving prospects of the colony. In the quarter century which followed the battle of Waterloo, half a million of emigrants left Britain for Canada. But in the two years of 1846-47, the number was a quarter of a million, and the average for ten years had been nearly sixty thousand. Means were now used to stimulate these enriching currents. Hitherto the emigrant had been unregarded. He was suffered to take his passage in ships which were not seaworthy, and which were fatally overcrowded. When he arrived, often poor and ignorant, sometimes plague-stricken, he was uncared for. Now he was welcomed as a stranger who came to contribute to the wealth and greatness of the Dominion. Officers were appointed to protect him from the plunderers who lay in wait for him. His urgent wants were supplied; information was given him by which his future course might safely be guided.

The passion for constructing railways, which raged in England in the year 1845, sent its influences into Canada. The colonists began to discuss arrangements for connecting the great cities of their extended Dominion. But the need in Canada was less urgent than elsewhere, and the difficulties were greater. The inhabited region lay for the most part on the shores of the Great Lakes, or of the St. Lawrence and its tributaries, where easy communication by steam-boat was enjoyed. On the other hand, distances were great, population was scanty; capital for the construction of railways and traffic for their support were alike awanting. For years Canada was unable to pass beyond the initial stage of surveys and reports and meetings to[393] discuss, and vain attempts to obtain help from the imperial exchequer. 1852 A.D. After seven years thus passed, a railway mania burst out in Canada. In one session of Parliament fifteen railway Bills were passed, and the number rose to twenty-eight in the following session. The most notable of the projects thus authorized was the Grand Trunk Railway—a gigantic enterprise, which proposed to connect Montreal with Toronto, and Quebec with Rivière du Loup. So urgent was now the desire for railways, that the Legislature incurred liabilities on account of this undertaking to the enormous amount of nearly five million sterling; to which extent the colonial exchequer is and will probably always remain a loser.

The financial position of Canada had been hitherto satisfactory. Her entire debt was four million and a half; an expenditure of £600,000 met all her requirements, and her revenue largely exceeded this sum; her securities bore a premium on the Stock Exchanges of England. 1852 A.D. But now Canada, in her eagerness for more rapid development, began with liberal hand to offer aid to industrial undertakings. She contributed freely to the making of railways. She encouraged the municipalities to borrow upon her security for the construction of roads and bridges, and for other necessary public works. The municipalities, with responsive alacrity, borrowed and expended; a genial activity pervaded all industries; and the development of Canada advanced with more rapid step than at any previous period. But the country was providing for wants which had not yet arisen, and the premature expenditure brought upon her unwelcome and oppressive burdens of debt and of taxation.[19]



The political system which existed in British America before the union of the two provinces was in a high degree inconvenient. There were, in all, six colonies—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and the two Canadas. They were the subjects of the same Monarch, but they possessed no other bond of union. Their interests were often in conflict; their laws and customs differed widely; each had its own currency; each maintained its own custom-house, to tax or to exclude the products of the others. They were without any bond of union, excepting that which the common sovereignty of England supplied; and they were habitually moved by jealousies and antipathies, which were more powerful to divide than this was to unite. Along their frontiers lay the territory of prosperous States, living under a political system which bound them together by community of interest, while it adequately preserved and guaranteed the free individual action of each. The success of confederation, as seen on the vast arena of the United States, silently educated the British settlements for the adoption of that political system which alone met the necessities of their position.

The union of Upper and Lower Canada was the largest progress then possible in the direction of removing the evils which[395] prevailed. This union closed some of the most injurious of existing divisions, and allowed a more rapid development of the national resources than had been previously experienced. But the permanent form of Canadian government had not yet been reached. The difference of race and interest still operated to mar the harmonious action of the united Legislature. The childish jealousy of the imperfectly reconciled sections led, among other evils, to wasteful expenditure; for no grant of money could be voted for necessary public works to either section without an equal grant being made needlessly to the other. At the time of the union, an equality in number of representatives was accepted as just to both provinces. But Upper Canada increased more rapidly than the sister province, and in ten years contained a larger population. 1857 A.D. A demand arose for representation according to population, and without regard to the division of provinces. This proposal was keenly opposed in Lower Canada, as a violation of the terms of union. It was as keenly pressed in the western province; it became the theme of much fervid eloquence, and for a time the rallying cry at elections. The leader of this movement was George Brown—a Scotchman and Presbyterian, a man of great ability and energy, and an earnest reformer of abuses. It was the hope of Mr. Brown and his followers, that by gaining the parliamentary majority, to which Upper Canada was now by her numbers entitled, they would frustrate the demand for sectarian schools, and would equip completely a common-school system for the whole of both provinces. Still further, Upper Canada would control the revenue, and by useful public works would develop the resources of the great North-West.

The controversy was bitter and exasperating, and resulted in nothing more than a deepened feeling that some important modification of existing arrangements had become indispensable. 1860 A.D. Mr. Brown gave expression to the opinion now widely entertained in Upper Canada, in two resolutions,[396] which he invited the Legislature to accept. These asserted that the union, from difference of origin, local interest, and other causes, had proved a failure; and suggested, as the only remedy, the formation of local governments for the care of sectional interests, and the erection of a joint authority for the regulation of concerns which were common to all. In this form the proposal of a confederated government, following as closely as possible the model of the United States, was placed before the country. The idea was not new. 1822 1839 A.D. Once it had been recommended by the Colonial Office; once by Lord Durham, during his rule as Governor-General. Often in seasons of political difficulty it had been the hope of embarrassed statesmen. But the time had not yet come, and Mr. Brown’s resolutions were rejected by large majorities.

The succeeding years were unquiet and even alarming. Political passion rose to an extreme degree of violence. The mutual hatred of parties was vehement and unreasoning. Every question with which the Legislature had to deal was the arena on which a furious battle must needs be waged. The opposing parties met in fiery conflict over the construction of railways, over the tariff, over the defence of the colony against a possible invasion by the Americans, over the proposed confederation, over every detail of the policy of Government. The public interests suffered; the natural progress of the colony was frustrated by these unseemly dissensions. At length the leaders of the contending factions became weary of strife. 1864 A.D. George Brown, on behalf of the reforming party, wisely offered terms of peace to his opponents. A coalition Government was formed, with the express design of carrying out a confederation of the two Canadas, with a provision for the reception of the other provinces and of the North-West Territory. The new Cabinet entered promptly upon the task which it had undertaken. October, 1864 A.D. Within a few weeks there met in Quebec for conference on this momentous question thirty-three men, representing[397] the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. They met in private, and discussed for seventeen days the details of a union which should harmonize and promote the interests of all. The desired reconciliation was not easily attained; for each province estimated with natural exaggeration the advantages which it brought into the confederation, and sought a higher position than the others were willing to concede. But in the end a scheme of union was framed, and the various Governments pledged themselves that they would spare no effort to secure its adoption by the Legislatures. A party of resistance arose, and years of debate ensued. But time fought on the side of union. The evils of the existing political system became increasingly apparent in the light thrown by incessant discussion. The separated provinces were weak for purposes of defence; their commerce was strangled by the restrictive duties which they imposed on one another. United, they would form a great nation, possessing a magnificent territory, inhabited by an intelligent and industrious people; formidable to assailants; commanding a measure of respect to which they had hitherto been strangers; with boundless capabilities of increase opening to all their industrial interests.

1866 A.D. Under the growing influence of views such as these, the confederation of the provinces was at length resolved on by the Legislatures of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick; and in the following year a Royal Proclamation announced the union of these provinces into one Dominion, which was styled Canada. A little later, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island were received into the union. Newfoundland refused to join her sister States, and still maintains her independent existence.

Under the constitution which the Dominion now received, executive power is vested in the Queen, and administered by her representative, the Governor-General. This officer is aided[398] and advised by a Privy Council, composed of the heads of the various great departments of State. The Senate is composed of seventy-eight members appointed by the Crown, and holding office for life. The House of Commons consists of two hundred and six members. These are chosen by the votes of citizens possessing a property qualification, the amount of which varies in the different provinces. Canada gives the franchise to those persons in towns who pay a yearly rent of £6, and to those not in towns who pay £4; New Brunswick demands the possession of real estate valued at £20, or an annual income of £80; and Nova Scotia is almost identical in her requirements. The duration of Parliament is limited to five years, and its members receive payment. The Parliament of the Dominion regulates the interests which are common to all the provinces; each province has a Lieutenant-Governor and a Legislature for the guidance of its own local affairs. Entire freedom of trade was henceforth to exist between the provinces which composed the Canadian nation.



On the outer margin of the great bay into which the waters of the St. Lawrence discharge themselves, there lie certain British provinces which had till now maintained their colonial existence apart from the sister States of the interior. The oldest and most famous of these was Nova Scotia—the Acadie of the French period—within whose limits the Province of New Brunswick had been included. Northwards, across the entrance to the bay, was the island of Newfoundland. The Gulf Stream, moving northwards its vast currents of heated water, meets here an ice-cold stream descending from the Arctic Sea, and is turned eastward towards the coasts of Europe. The St. Lawrence deposits here the accumulations of silt which its waters have disengaged in their lengthened course, and forms great banks which stretch for many hundreds of miles out into the ocean. These banks are the haunt of icebergs escaping from the frozen North; perpetual fogs clothe them in gloom. But they offer to man wealth such as he cannot elsewhere win from the sea. The fisheries of the Newfoundland Banks were the earliest inducement which led Europeans to frequent those seemingly inhospitable shores. The Maritime Provinces were more easily accessible than Canada, for they abounded in commodious inlets where ships could enter and lie secure. They were placed at the difficult entrance to the St. Lawrence valley, and their[400] value was more immediately apparent. Their possession was keenly contended for, at a time when England had not made up her mind to seek, and France scarcely cared to retain, the interior of the northern continent.

The Cabots were the first Europeans who looked upon the rugged shores of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and England therefore claimed those regions as her own. But France actually took possession of the Acadian peninsula. Small settlements were founded here and there, and a profitable trade in furs was carried on with the Indians, who came from great distances on the mainland to acquire the attractive wares which the white men offered. During its first century Acadie had an unquiet life. England would allow the poor colonists no repose. During those periods—and they constantly recurred—when the two great European powers were at war, the roving ships of England were sure to visit the feeble Acadian settlements, bringing ruin, sudden and deep. The colonists of Massachusetts or of distant Virginia, now grown strong, did not wait for the pretext of war, but freely invaded Acadie even during the intervals of peace. The French incautiously provoked the resentment of their Indian neighbours, and the treacherous savages exacted bloody vengeance for their wrongs. And as if foreign hostility were not sufficient, civil wars raged among the Acadians. At one unhappy time there were rival governors in Acadie, with battles, sieges, massacres of Frenchmen by French hands. But even these miseries did not prevent some measure of growth. Before Acadie finally passed away from France, there were twenty thousand Frenchmen engaged in its fisheries and its fur trade.

1713 A.D. A hundred years after the first French settlement on the Acadian peninsula, there came to a close, in the reign of Queen Anne, the desolating war against Louis XIV., which King William had deemed essential to the welfare of Europe. England, as was her practice at such seasons, had[401] possessed herself of Acadie. Hitherto she had been accustomed to restore Acadie at the close of each war. Now she determined to retain it; and exhausted France submitted, by the treaty of Utrecht, to the loss. Acadie became Nova Scotia; Port Royal became Annapolis, in honour of the English Queen. Cape Breton, an island adjoining Acadie on the north, was suffered to remain a French possession; and here France hastened, at vast expense, to build and fortify Louisburg, for the protection of her American trade. Thirty years later, the English besieged and took Louisburg. France strove hard, but vainly, to regain a fortress the loss of which shook her hold of all her American possessions. A great fleet sailed from France to achieve this conquest. But evil fortune attended it from the outset. The English captured some of the ships; tempest wrecked or scattered the others. Fresh efforts invited new disasters; the attempt to repossess Louisburg was closed by the destruction or capture of an entire French fleet. But France had fought more successfully in India, and when the terms of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle came to be adjusted, she received back Louisburg in exchange for Madras. 1748 A.D. It remained in her possession for ten years more, and then passed finally away from her, along with all the rest of her American territory.

The first care of England, when Nova Scotia became decisively hers, was to provide herself with a fortified harbour and naval station adequate to the wants of her extended dominion. Her ships in large numbers frequented those Western waters, intent upon the protection of her own interests and the overthrow of the interests of France. Some well-defended and easily-accessible position was required, where fleets could rendezvous, where ships could refit, from which the possessions of France in the north and of Spain in the south could be menaced. A site was chosen on the eastern shore of the island, where a magnificent natural harbour opens to the sea. Here,[402] on a lofty slope, arose the town of Halifax, the great centre of British naval influence on the American coast. 1749 A.D. Four thousand adventurers arrived from England, tempted by liberal offers of land. During the months of one brief summer, houses were built, and defences were erected against unfriendly neighbours. The forest trees of that lovely hill-side disappeared, and in their place arose a busy English town.

The Indians of Nova Scotia did not look with approval upon the occupation of their territory by the English. They lurked in the woods around Halifax, or they stole silently along by night in their light canoes, and as they found fitting opportunity they plundered and slew. Once they burst upon the sleeping crews of two vessels lying in the harbour, murdering some, and carrying away others to be sold to the French at Louisburg. England held the Frenchmen of the province responsible for these outrages. The Acadians were a simple, light-hearted people, living contentedly in the rude comfort which the harvest of sea and of land yielded to them. But they did not at once assent to the revolution which handed them over to a foreign power, and they refused to swear allegiance to the English King. The Governor dealt very sternly with these reluctant subjects. 1755 A.D. He gathered up as many as he could find, and having crowded them on board his ships, he scattered them among the southern English colonies. He burned their houses, he confiscated their goods. Nearly one-half of the Acadians were thus sent forcibly away from homes which were rightfully their own. Of the others, some escaped into the woods, and finally into Canada. Many perished under this cruel treatment, and nearly all fell from comparative ease and comfort into extreme wretchedness.

For some years Nova Scotia was without any semblance of representative government, contenting herself with the mild despotism of the Governor. At length, when this arrangement ceased to give satisfaction, an Assembly chosen by the[403] people met in Halifax. Henceforth Nova Scotia enjoyed the privilege of self-government, and her political history runs for the most part parallel with that of Canada. 1758 A.D. She had the same prolonged conflict with the Governor in regard to control of the revenue, the same grievance of a despotic family compact, the same determination that the advisers of the Governor should be responsible to the Assembly. The population was mixed and inharmonious. There were Germans and Dutchmen; there were some remnants of the Acadians who had been permitted to return; there were American loyalists fleeing before triumphant republicanism; there were the English who founded Halifax. Soon, however, the preponderance of the English element was decisive, and Nova Scotia was spared those envenomed dissensions which difference of race originated in the Canadian provinces. At the close of her separate existence Nova Scotia did not embrace with entire cordiality the project of confederation. A strong minority opposed union. But wiser counsels in the end prevailed, and this province, although not without hesitation, cast in her lot with the others.

Nova Scotia has an area equal to rather more than one-half that of Scotland, with a population of four hundred thousand persons; and as nearly all of these are natives of the province, it does not appear that many strangers have recently sought homes upon her soil. The country is beautifully diversified with valley and with hill, and bright with river and with lake. Much of the land is abundantly fertile, and a careful and intelligent system of cultivation is practised. Near the sea-board are vast treasures of coal and iron, of copper and tin. No equal length of coast in any part of the world has been more abundantly supplied with convenient harbours. In a distance of one hundred miles there are no fewer than twelve harbours capable of receiving the largest vessels in the British navy. The salmon rivers of Acadie are second only to those of[404] Scotland. The ocean-fishings are so productive that Nova Scotia exports products of the sea to the annual value of one million sterling.

New Brunswick is the latest born of the American settlements. For many years after the conquest her fertile soil lay almost uncultivated, and her population was nothing more than a few hundred fishermen. It was at the close of the American War of Independence that the era of progress in New Brunswick began. Across the frontier, in the New England States, were many persons who had fought in the British ranks, to perpetuate a system of government which their neighbours had agreed to reject as tyrannical and injurious. These men were now regarded with aversion, as traitors to the great cause. Finding life intolerable amid surroundings so uncongenial, they shook from their feet the dust of the revolted provinces, and moved northwards with their families in quest of lands which were still ruled by monarchy. Five thousand came in one year. They came so hastily, and with so little provision for their own wants, that they must have perished, but for the timely aid of the Government. 1785 A.D. But their presence added largely to the importance of New Brunswick, which was now dissociated from Nova Scotia, and erected into a separate province. At this time, when she attained the dignity of an administration specially her own, her population was only six thousand, scattered over an area nearly equal to that of Scotland. But her soil was fertile; she abounded in coal and in timber; her fisheries were inexhaustibly productive. Her progress was not unworthy of the advantages with which Nature had endowed her. In twenty years her inhabitants had doubled. In half a century the struggling six thousand had increased to one hundred and fifty thousand. To-day the population of New Brunswick exceeds three hundred thousand. This rate of increase, although the numbers dealt with are not large, is greatly higher than that of the United States themselves.[405] In the treaty by which England recognized the independence of her thirteen colonies, the boundary of New Brunswick and of Maine was fixed carelessly and unskilfully. It was defined to be, on the extreme east, a certain river St. Croix. Westward from the source of that river it was a line drawn thence to the highlands, dividing the waters which flow to the Atlantic from those which flow to the St. Lawrence. The records even of diplomacy would be searched in vain for an agreement more fertile in misunderstanding. The negotiators were absolutely ignorant of the country whose limits they were appointed to fix. Especially were they unaware that the devout Frenchmen who first settled there were accustomed to set up numerous crosses along the coast, and that the name La Croix was in consequence given to many rivers. In a few years it was found that the contracting powers differed as to the identity of the river St. Croix. The Americans applied the name to one stream, the British to another. That portion of the controversy was settled in favour of Britain. But a more serious difficulty now rose to view. The powers differed as to the locality of the “highlands” designated by the treaty, and a “disputed territory” of twelve thousand square miles lay between the competing boundary-lines. For sixty years angry debate raged over this territory, and the strife at one period came to the perilous verge of actual war. The people of New Brunswick exercised the privilege of felling timber on the disputed territory. 1839 A.D. The Governor of Maine sent an armed force to expel the intruders, and called out ten thousand militiamen to assert the rights of America. The Governor of New Brunswick replied by sending two regiments, with a competent artillery. Nova Scotia voted money and troops. But the time had passed when it was possible for England and America to fight in so light a quarrel as this. Lord Ashburton was sent out by England; Daniel Webster, on the part of America, was appointed to meet him. 1842 A.D.[406] The dispute was easily settled by assigning seven thousand square miles to America and five thousand to New Brunswick.

Newfoundland was the earliest of the British settlements on the northern shores of America, and it was also, down to a late period, the most imperfectly known. Even from the time of its discovery by Cabot the value of its fisheries was perceived. English fishing-vessels followed their calling on the Newfoundland coast during the reign of Henry VIII., and the trade then begun was never interrupted. England had always asserted proprietary rights over the island; but she did not at first attempt to enforce exclusive possession of its shores, and the ships of all European nations were at liberty to fish without obstruction. But the vast importance of those fisheries became more and more apparent. It was not merely or chiefly the liberal gain which the traffic yielded. Of yet greater account was the circumstance that the fisheries were a nursery in which was trained a race of hardy and enterprising sailors, capable of upholding the honour of the English flag. A century after Cabot’s voyage, the sovereignty of Newfoundland and the exclusive right to fish on its shores were claimed for England; and the claim was enforced by the confiscation of certain foreign ships, which were peacefully returning home, laden with the gains of a successful season.

About the middle of the seventeenth century there were upon the island three hundred and fifty families, scattered in fifteen or sixteen petty settlements. By this time the persons who resorted to the fisheries had become sensitively alive to the preservation of the trade, and looked with disfavour upon the increase of a permanent population. They were able to obtain from the reckless Government of Charles II. an order that the settlers should depart from the island; and the barbarous edict was enforced by burning down the houses and wasting the fields of the inhabitants.


It was not England alone to which the fisheries of Newfoundland were of value. France was equally in earnest in her desire to gain control of the coveted territory. 1696 A.D. She had one or two small settlements, and she had been able by one happy stroke to gain possession of the whole island. The triumph, however, was not enduring, for England speedily reclaimed all that she had lost. 1713 A.D. By the treaty of Utrecht, when Louis XIV. was reduced by the victorious arms of Marlborough to the last extremity of exhaustion, France ceded to England all her claims upon Newfoundland; preserving still, however, her right to participate in the fisheries.

Down almost to the close of last century Newfoundland was without any proper government or administration of justice. England would not recognize the island as a colony, but persisted in regarding it as a mere fishery. The substitute for government was probably the rudest device which has ever been adopted by any civilized country. 1690 A.D. The master of the fishing-vessel which arrived first on the coast was the “Admiral” for the season, charged with the duty of maintaining order among the crews of the other ships, governing the island from the deck of his vessel. The great industry of Newfoundland—her fisheries—was always prosperous, and yielded large gains to the mother-country. But her infant settlements struggled up to strength and importance in the face of many discouragements, which were negligently or wilfully inflicted.

The area of Newfoundland is equal to two-thirds that of England and Wales, and her population is one hundred and fifty thousand. For three hundred and fifty years after Cabot’s discovery the interior of the island had never been explored by Europeans, and was wholly unknown, excepting to a few Indian hunters. Only so recently as 1822 an adventurous traveller accomplished for the first time a journey across the island.[408] The enterprise was attended with much difficulty and some danger. The country was found to be rugged and broken. Innumerable lakes and marshes opposed the traveller’s progress, and imposed tedious deviations from his course. The journey occupied two months, during which the traveller and his Indian companions were obliged to subsist by the chase. No traces of cultivation were discovered, and no inhabitants. The natives of Newfoundland were the only race of American savages who persistently refused to enter into relations with the white men. They maintained to the end a hostile attitude, and were shot down and finally exterminated as opportunity offered.

Newfoundland has on her western coast, and along the valleys through which her rivers flow, some tracts of rich land on which grain might be grown. She has, too, much good pasturage; and although her winters are long and severe, her brief summer has heat enough to ripen many varieties of fruit and vegetables. She has coal, iron, and limestone. Her savage inhabitants fed on the flesh of deer, which wandered in vast herds in the woods; and they clothed themselves in the rich furs of bears, wolves, beavers, and other wild creatures. The first settlers found the noble Newfoundland dog living in a very debased condition—hunting in packs, and manifesting tendencies not superior to those of the wolf. But his higher nature made him amenable to civilizing influences, and he quickly rose to be the trusted companion and friend of man.



The boundary-line which marks the southern limit of British territory divides the continent into two not very unequal portions. On one side stretches out the vast area covered by the United States—the home of fifty million people—the seat of the manifold industries which their energy has called into existence. On the other side there lies a yet wider expanse of territory, whose development is still in the future. Northward and westward of the original line of settlement in the valley of the St. Lawrence the possessions of Great Britain are nearly equal in extent to the whole of Europe. Towards the Atlantic vast pine-forests cover the ground. Towards the Pacific are great mountain-ranges, rich with mineral treasures, destined to yield wealth to the men of future generations. The central portion of the continent is a vast expanse of rich farm-land, where the slightest efforts of the husbandman yield lavish increase.[20] Great navigable[410] rivers, which take their origin in the Rocky Mountains, traverse the continent, and wait, silent and unused, to bear the traffic which coming years must bring. The Saskatchewan, after a course of thirteen hundred miles, and the Red River, whose sources are very near those of the Mississippi, after flowing nearly seven hundred miles, pour their ample floods into Lake Winnipeg—a vast sheet of water, covering an area equal to one-third that of Scotland. The Nelson River carries the waters of Lake Winnipeg into Hudson Bay by a course of three hundred miles, which could easily be rendered navigable for ships of large burden.

Lake Winnipeg is in the latitude of England; but the genial influences of the Gulf Stream do not visit those stern coasts, whose temperature is largely governed by the ice-cold currents of the Arctic Ocean. The climate is severe, the winter is long. During five or six months of the year the country lies under a covering of snow; river and lake are fast bound by frost; the thermometer occasionally sinks to fifty degrees below zero. This stern dominion does not pass gradually away; it ceases almost suddenly. The snow disappears as if by magic; the streams resume their interrupted flow; trees clothe themselves with foliage; the plains are gay with grass and flower. At one stride comes the summer, with its fierce heat, with its intolerable opulence of insect life, with its swift growth and ripening of wild fruits, and of the seeds which the sower has scattered over the fertile soil.

At the coming of Europeans into America this magnificent region was possessed by numerous tribes of Indians, who gained their food and clothing almost wholly by the chase. In course of years the white man found that the Indian would sell, for trivial payment, rich furs which were eagerly desired in Europe. The Indian came to understand that he could exchange his easily obtained furs for the musket which the strangers brought and taught him to use, for the beads with which he[411] loved to ornament himself, for the seductive liquors which quickly asserted a destructive mastery over his savage nature. Out of these experiences there arose trading relations between the Indians of the North-West and the adventurous Europeans who from time to time made their way into those mysterious regions. A sagacious Frenchman perceived the advantage which was to be gained by an organized and systematic prosecution of this lucrative commerce. 1668 A.D. He proposed the enterprise to his countrymen, but it failed to command their support. The baffled projector made his way to England, and obtained access to Prince Rupert, to whom he unfolded his scheme. A quarter of a century had passed since the fierce charges of Rupert’s cavalry swept down the troops of the Parliament at Naseby and Newark, since he himself had been chased from Marston Moor by the stern Ironsides of Cromwell. The prince was now a sedate man of fifty. The vehemence of his youth had mellowed itself down to a love of commercial adventure. He lent a willing ear to the ingenious Frenchman. His influence with the public procured the formation of a company, whose paid-up capital was £10,500. His influence with his cousin, King Charles, sufficed to obtain a charter. 1670 A.D. The liberal monarch bestowed half a continent upon these speculators, on no more burdensome terms than that they should pay two elks and two black beavers to the sovereign whensoever he visited their territory. “The Governor and Company of Adventurers trading into Hudson Bay” were endowed by this liberal monarch with “all countries which lie within the entrance of Hudson’s Straits, in whatever latitude they may be, so far as not possessed by other Christian States.” Thus largely privileged, the adventurers entered upon a career of unusual success. In a few years they paid a dividend at the rate of fifty per cent.; a little later they trebled their capital out of profits, and paid to shareholders twenty-five per cent. upon the increased amount;[412] still later the capital was once more trebled from the same source, without diminution of the rate of dividend.

The fur trade was one of the most lucrative of which merchants had any experience. The savages who overthrew the Roman empire had introduced to Southern Europe the beautiful furs of the north. Henceforth the article was in urgent demand. Great ladies sought eagerly, for purposes of ornament, such furs as those with which the northern savage clothed himself and his children—sought eagerly, but often unsuccessfully, for demand outstripped supply. It was certain that Europe would purchase at liberal prices all the furs which the adventurers were able to bring.

The Hudson Bay Company entered with vigour upon this inviting field. They established a fort near the coast, and made it known among the Indians that they were prepared to trade. With as little delay as possible they pushed their settlement far into the interior. Scattered at great intervals across the continent arose the little trading-stations. They were composed of a few wooden huts, with a strong surrounding palisade or wall; with well-barred gates; with loop-holes, from which, in case of need, the uncertain clients of the Company could be controlled by musketry. These posts were ordinarily established near rivers, accessible to the savages by canoe or by sledge. Their loneliness was extreme. For hundreds of miles on every side stretched the dense forest or the boundless prairie, untrodden by man. At fixed seasons—once or twice in the year—the natives appeared, bearing the spoils of the chase—skins, oil, the tusk of the walrus, feathers, dried fish. Ordinarily the entire tribe come on this great mission. They encamp before the fort. An officer goes forth, and the gate is jealously barred behind him. Gifts are exchanged and speeches effusively affectionate and confiding. Within the fort are stores filled with wares, which the Company has brought from afar,—blankets, beads, scalping-knives, fish-hooks, muskets, ammunition,[413] tea, sugar, red and yellow paints for purposes of personal adornment. These strange traders enter in groups of three or four, for they cannot be trusted in larger numbers. They deposit the articles which they offer; the Company’s servants put a value upon these, and hand over an equivalent, according to the choice of their customer. Money, until lately, would have been worthless to the Indian, and none was offered. At one time spirits were supplied, with frightful results in uproar and violence; but this evil practice has been discontinued or carefully restricted. When the negotiation is concluded, the Indians withdraw and resume their wanderings.

The Company supplied such government as the unpeopled continent required. They had many rivals in the lucrative commerce which they carried on, and it was often needful for them to defend by arms their coveted monopoly. The French strove during many years to drive out the English and possess the fur trade. French ships of war appeared in the bay; French soldiers attacked the posts of the Company. Scarcely had those angry debates been silenced by the victory of Wolfe, when a yet more formidable competition arose. 1784 A.D. Some enterprising Canadians founded a rival Company, and traded so prosperously that in a few years they had established numerous stations, and possessed themselves of much of the trade which had hitherto been enjoyed by the older Company. Perpetual strife raged between the servants of the rival institutions. Battles were fought; much blood was shed; the revenues of the Hudson Bay Company decayed; its rich dividends wholly ceased. 1816 A.D. At length a union of the Companies closed these wasteful feuds, and restored the almost forgotten era of prosperity.

For a century and a half from the formation of the Company there was no attempt to colonize the vast region over which its dominion extended. The Englishmen and Scotchmen who occupied the trading-stations were the only civilized inhabitants[414] of the North-West. The stations were in number about one hundred; the entire white population did not exceed one or two thousand. There were stations on the Mackenzie River, within the Arctic circle, where the cold was so intense that hatchets of ordinary temper shivered like glass at the first blow. There were stations on the Labrador coast, and twenty-five hundred miles away from these there were stations on the Pacific. The Company did not desire to carry civilization into this wilderness. The interests of the fur trade are not promoted by civilization. That industry cannot live within sound of the settler’s axe, or where the yellow corn waves in the soft winds of autumn. It prospers only where the silence of the forest is unbroken; where the fertile glebe lies undisturbed by the plough. The Company gave no encouragement to the coming in of human beings, in presence of whom the more profitable occupancy of beaver and bison and silver fox must cease. At length, and for the only time, the traditional policy was departed from. 1812 A.D. While the struggle with the rival Company still raged, Lord Selkirk, who was then chairman of the Hudson Bay Company, bethought him of sending out a number of Scotch Highlanders to found a permanent settlement, and thus give preponderance to the interests of which he was the guardian. At that time the Duke of Sutherland was in process of removing small farmers from his estates in Sutherlandshire, in order that he might give effect to modern ideas on the subject of sheep-farming. Lord Selkirk collected a band of these dispossessed Highlanders, and settled them in the solitudes of the Winnipeg valley. The point which he selected was near the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine, and forty miles from the lake into which these rivers fall. It was many hundred miles from a human habitation; this lonely colony was the only seat of population on all the northern portion of a vast continent. But the soil possessed remarkable fertility; and the Scotchmen were robust and industrious.[415] Gradually they were joined by other adventurers to whom the severity of the climate was without terrors. Ejected Highland crofters, soldiers disbanded after Waterloo, sought in little groups this remote and dimly-known region. The retired servants of the Company came to spend the evening of their days in the settlement. A line of block houses and of cultivated farms stretched for many miles up the valleys of the Assiniboine and Red River. A cluster of wooden huts received the name of Winnipeg, and started upon its career as a prairie town at a rate of progress so leisurely that in 1871 it held no more than four hundred inhabitants. Fort Garry, the chief seat of the Company’s authority, added to the dignity of the colony, which soon became the recognized metropolis of all the north-western region. Its growth has not been rapid, but it has been steady; and the population, if we accept the mean of very diverse estimates, is probably now about fifteen thousand souls. These are largely Scotch; but there are also French and Indians, and there has been a copious admixture of the European and native races. There are Scotch half-breeds and French half-breeds, in whom the aspect and the qualities of both races are combined, and many of whom are not inferior in intelligence and education to their European parentage.

In course of years political government by trading companies became utterly discredited in England. The government of the East India Company had long been regarded with disapproval; after the great mutiny of 1857 occurred, it was felt to be intolerable. No voice of authority was raised in favour of its longer continuance, and the political functions of the Company were extinguished as inconsistent with the general welfare. The Hudson Bay Company was not more fortunate in its rule than the great sister Company had been. Latterly it had failed to maintain order among the scanty population over which it presided. Occasionally, when its officers pronounced an unacceptable sentence, the friends of the offender forced the prison-doors,[416] and set the prisoner free. The Company was willing to be relieved from the burden of an authority which it was no longer able to exercise. The new Dominion of Canada desired to add to its possessions the vast domain of the Hudson Bay Company. 1869 A.D. A transfer which was sought for on both sides was not difficult to arrange. The Company received the sum of £300,000 and certain portions of land around its trading-stations. All besides passed into the hands of the Canadian Government.

The authorities who negotiated this transaction seem to have thought mainly of the land, and very little of the people who dwelt upon it. The people now claimed to express themselves, and they did so by methods which were rude and inconvenient. The French and French half-breed population refused to concur in a transfer which they regarded as injurious to their rights. They were sensitive on the subject of their title to the properties which they occupied; and with reason, for many of them had no claim excepting that which occupancy may be supposed to confer. It was rumoured among them that their new rulers intended to eject them from their holdings; and the entrance upon the scene of various surveying-parties was accepted as evidence of this purpose. 1869 A.D. The excited people took up arms, and formed a provisional government. Their leader in the rebellion by which they hoped to throw off the authority of Canada and Great Britain, and establish themselves as an independent nation, was Louis Riel, an ambitious but reckless young French Canadian. Riel became President of the new Republic, and gathered an armed force of six hundred men to uphold the national dignity. He turned back at the frontier the newly-appointed Governor; he seized Fort Garry, in which were ample stores of arms and provisions; he imprisoned all who offered active opposition to his rule. The distant Canadian Government looked on at first as amused with this diminutive rebellion. They did not think of employing[417] force to restore order; they sought the desired end by persuasion. The Roman Catholic archbishop of the district was then in Rome, occupied in solving the problem of papal infallibility. He was invited to desist from the absorbing pursuit; to return to the Red River and incline his erring flock to thoughts of peace. He made the sacrifice; he left Rome, and arrived in Canada. But while he was still toiling homewards across the snowy wilderness, events occurred which fatally complicated the position and rendered an amicable solution impossible.

A party of loyal inhabitants made a hasty and ill-prepared rising against the authority of the provisional government. They were easily beaten back by the superior forces under Riel’s command, and some of them were taken prisoners. Among these was a Canadian named Scott, who had distinguished himself by his obstinate hostility to the rule of the usurpers. Riel determined to overawe his enemies, and compel the adherence of his friends by an act of conspicuous and unpardonable severity. March, 1870 A.D. Poor Scott was subjected to the trial of a mock tribunal, whose judgment sent him to death. An hour later he was led forth beyond the gate of the fort. Kneeling, with bandaged eyes, among the snow, he was shot by a firing-party of intoxicated half-breeds almost before he had time to realize the cruel fate which had befallen him.

This shameful murder invested the Red River rebellion with a gravity of aspect which it had not hitherto worn. There arose in Canada a vehement demand that the criminals should be punished and the royal authority restored. The despatch of a military force sufficiently strong to overbear the resistance of the insurgent Frenchmen was at once resolved upon.

Unusual difficulty attended this enterprise. Fort Garry was twelve hundred miles distant from Toronto. One-half of this distance could be accomplished easily by railway and by steam-boat;[418] but beyond the northern extremity of Lake Superior there were six hundred miles of dense and pathless forest traversed by a chain of rivers and of lakes. On these waters, broken by dangerous rapids and impassable falls, no vessel but the light birch canoe of the Indian had ever floated. By this seemingly impracticable route it was now proposed that an army carrying with it the elaborate equipment of modern war should make its way to the valley of the Winnipeg.

Happily there was at that time in Canada an officer endowed with rare power in the department of military organization. To this officer, now well known as Sir Garnet Wolseley, was intrusted the task of preparing and commanding the expedition. No laurels were gained by the forces which Colonel Wolseley led out into the wilderness; for the enemy did not abide their coming, and their modest achievements were unnoticed amid the absorbing interest with which men watched the tremendous occurrences of the war then raging between Germany and France. Nevertheless the Red River expedition claims an eminent place in the record of military transactions. It is probably the solitary example of an army advancing by a lengthened and almost impracticable route, accomplishing its task, and returning home without the loss of a single life either in battle or by disease. And the wise forethought which provided so effectively for all the exigencies of that unknown journey is more admirable than the generalship which has sufficed to gain bloody victories in many of our recent wars.

May 21, 1870 A.D. In little more than two months from the commission of the crime which it went to avenge, the army set forth. It was composed of twelve hundred fighting men, of whom two-thirds were Canadian volunteers, and the remainder British regulars. Two hundred boats, a few pieces of light artillery, and provisions for sixty days, formed part of its equipment. The expedition passed easily along Lake Huron and Lake Superior, and disembarked in Thunder Bay. From[419] this point to the little Lake Shebandowan was a distance of fifty miles. There was a half-formed road for part of the way, and a river scarcely navigable. So toilsome was this stage of the journey that six weeks passed before those fifty miles were traversed. At length the boats floated on the tranquil waters of Lake Shebandowan. In an evening of rare loveliness the fleet moved from the place of embarkation, and the forest rung to the rejoicing cheers of the rowers.

Thus far the troops had been toiling up steep ascents. Now they had reached the high land forming the water-shed, from which some streams depart for Hudson Bay, others for Lake Superior and the St. Lawrence. For many days their route led them along a chain of small lakes, on which they rowed easily and pleasantly. But at the transition from lake to lake, there ordinarily presented itself a portage—a name of fear to the soldiers. At the portage all disembarked. The innumerable barrels which held their supplies, the artillery, the ammunition, the boats themselves, were taken on shore, and carried on men’s shoulders or dragged across the land which divided them from the next lake. Forty-seven times during the progress to Lake Winnipeg was this heavy labour undergone. But in the face of all difficulties the progress was rapid. The health of the men was perfect, their spirits were high, and their carrying power so increased by exercise that they were soon able to carry double the load which they could have faced at the outset. No spirituous liquors were served out, and perfect order reigned in the camp. The heat was often oppressive; the attacks of mosquitoes and similar insects were intolerable. But the forethought of the general had provided for each man a veil which protected his face, and each boat carried a jar of mosquito oil to fortify the hands. In the early days of August the boats passed along Rainy Lake, a beautiful sheet of water fifty miles in length, and entered the river of the same name. Rainy River is a noble stream, eighty miles in length, and three to[420] four hundred yards in width. The scenery through which it flows is of great beauty. Oak-trees of large growth, open glades stretching far into the forest, luxuriant grass, flowers in endless variety and rich profusion, all suggested to the men the parks which surround great houses in England. Helped by the current, Rainy River was traversed at the rate of five or six miles an hour, and the expedition reached the Lake of the Woods. Issuing thence, it entered the Winnipeg River.

Here the difficulties of the expedition thickened. The Winnipeg is a magnificent stream, one hundred and sixty-three miles in length—broad and deep, flowing with a rapid current, often between lofty cliffs of granite. In its course, however, there are numerous falls in which boats cannot live. Twenty-five times the stores were unshipped, and the boats drawn on shore. Frequent rapids occurred, down which the boats were guided, not without danger, by the skilful hands of the Indian boatmen. No loss was sustained, and after five days of this toilsome and exciting work the boats entered Lake Winnipeg. For one day they steered across the south-eastern portion of the lake; for one day more they held their course up Red River. They left their boats at two miles’ distance from Fort Garry, and under rain falling in torrents, and by roads ankle-deep with tenacious mud, they advanced to seek the enemy.

Colonel Wolseley had used precautions to prevent any knowledge of his approach from being carried to the fort. He was unable to learn what Riel intended to do, and the men marched forward in the eager hope that the enemy would abide their coming. As they neared the fort, the gates were seen to be shut, and cannon looked out from the bastions and over the gateways. But on a closer view it was noticed that no men were beside the guns, and the hopes of the assailants fell. A moment later, and the fort was known to be abandoned; men were seen at a little distance in rapid flight. Riel, it appeared, had meditated resistance, if he could induce his followers to fight. He[421] had been able to build some hope, too, upon the six hundred miles of almost impassable country which lay between him and Lake Superior. Aug. 24, 1870 A.D. Soothing his anxieties by this dream, the President of the Red River Republic breakfasted tranquilly on this closing day of his career. But just as his repast was ended there were seen from the windows of the fort, at a distance of a few hundred yards, and marching with swift step towards him, the twelve hundred men who had come so far to accomplish his overthrow. The blood of Scott was upon his guilty hands. The wretched man saddled a horse and galloped for life; and the victors did not seek to interrupt his flight. The Red River rebellion was suppressed, and British authority was restored in the valley of the Winnipeg.

Until very recently the vast wheat-field of the North-West was almost worthless to man; even now its development has only begun. It is difficult to over-estimate the influence on the future course of human affairs which this lonely and inaccessible region is destined to exert. In the valleys of Lake Winnipeg and its tributary streams two hundred million acres of land, unsurpassed in fertility, wait the coming of the husbandman. Its average production of wheat may be stated at thirty bushels per acre—more than double that of the valley of the Mississippi, and rather more than can be gained from the soil of England by careful and expensive cultivation.[21] Great Britain imports annually one hundred million bushels of wheat—scarcely more than one-sixtieth part of the production of the Winnipeg valley were its enormous capability fully drawn out. The soil is of surpassing richness, and yields its ample fruits so easily that in an ordinary season the cost of producing a quarter of wheat is on an average no more than thirteen shillings. Port Nelson on the Hudson Bay—the natural shipping point of all this region—is[422] eighty miles nearer than New York is to Liverpool and the markets of England.

The valley of the Winnipeg has been hitherto practically inaccessible. The Red River expedition spent three months on the journey. Many of the settlers had required even longer time to reach the secluded paradise which they sought. To a vast majority of the British people the existence of this territory is still unknown. The boats of the Hudson Bay Company formed its only medium of communication with the outside world. Until the Winnipeg valley has been opened by railway or by steam-boat, it must remain valueless for any better use than as a preserve for the wild creatures which yield fur, and as a home for the Indians who pursue them.

But the needful facility of transport is now being gained; the distance which has shut out the human family from this splendid domain is now in course of being abridged. Winnipeg, now grown into a town of about twelve thousand inhabitants, and rapidly increasing, has a direct railway connection with St. Paul, the chief city of Minnesota. The Northern Pacific—a line whose progress was delayed for years by financial disaster—is now advancing westward from its starting-point on Lake Superior, and will soon be opened through to the western ocean. The Canadian Pacific, largely subsidized by Government, is pushing its way westward towards Columbia and the ocean. The obstacles to navigation in the Nelson river have been carefully examined with a view to their removal, so that vessels of large size may pass from Lake Winnipeg to Europe.

These increased facilities of transport have produced their expected result. A large inflow of settlers began two or three years ago, and continues year by year to increase. Many thousand immigrants came to the Winnipeg valley in 1877-78. Up to the present time over four million acres of rich wheat-lands have been taken up—an area capable of adding to the supply of human food a quantity almost equal to the entire British import[423] of wheat. The new settlers are, for the most part, experienced farmers, who have been attracted hither by the superior advantages of the soil. Some of them come from Europe, but a larger number come from the old Canadian provinces and from those States of the Union which lie near the frontier. Most of them are men who have sold the lands which they formerly owned, and come with capital sufficient to provide the most approved agricultural appliances. The price for which land can be obtained is inconsiderable; and while the average holding does not exceed two hundred acres, many persons have acquired large tracts.

The rapid settlement of this central territory of Canada is one of the great social and political factors of the future for Canada and for Europe. The development of the vast resources of Manitoba must hasten the progress of the Dominion to wealth and consideration. To the growers of food on the limited and highly-rented fields of Europe it furnishes reasonable occasion for anxiety. To those who are not producers, but only consumers, it gives, in stronger terms than it has ever previously been given, the acceptable assurance that the era of famine lies far behind—that the human family, for many generations to come, will enjoy the blessing of abundant and low-priced food.

Between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific there lies a vast tract of fertile land, possessing an area equal to six times that of England and Wales. This is British Columbia—the latest-born member of the confederation, which it entered only in 1871. The waters of the Pacific exert upon its climate the same softening influence which is carried by the Gulf Stream to corresponding latitudes in Europe, and the average temperature of Columbia does not differ materially from that of England. Gold is found in the sands of the rivers which flow down from the Rocky Mountains; coal in abundance lies near the surface;[424] large tracts are covered with pine forests, whose trees attain unusual size;[22] many islands stud the placid waters which wash the western shores of the province; many navigable inlets sweep far into the interior—deep into forests, for the transport of whose timber they provide ample convenience. In the streams and on the coasts there is an extraordinary abundance of fish; on the banks of the Fraser River the English miner and the Indian fisherman may be seen side by side pursuing their avocations with success. The wealth of Columbia secures for her a prosperous future; but as yet her development has only begun. Her population is about twelve thousand, besides thirty thousand Indians. Her great pine forests have yet scarcely heard the sound of the axe; her rich valleys lie untilled; her coal and iron wait the coming of the strong arms which are to draw forth their treasures; even her tempting gold-fields are cultivated but slightly. Columbia must become the home of a numerous and thriving population, but in the meantime her progress is delayed by her remoteness and her inaccessibility.

Columbia herself feels deeply this temporary frustration of her destiny. Her recent political history has been in large measure the history of a grievance. 1871 A.D. When she entered the Confederation, the Dominion Government engaged that in two years there should be commenced, and in ten years there should be completed, the construction of a railway to connect the sea-board of Columbia with the railway system of Canada. In that time of universal inflation such engagements were contracted lightly. A little later, when cool reflection supervened, it was perceived that the undertaking was too vast for the time allowed. Canada took no action beyond the ordering of surveys; Columbia, in her isolation, complained loudly of the faithlessness of her sisters. The impracticable contract was reviewed, and a fresh engagement was given to the effect that[425] the work should begin so soon as surveys could be made, and should reach completion in sixteen years. 1874 A.D. The work is now in progress; and Columbia, not without impatience and some feeling of wrong, has consented to postpone the opening of that era of prosperity which she full surely knows to be in store.

1881 A.D. [With a view to the prospective development of the Hudson Bay route, a charter was recently obtained for the construction of a railway, to follow the line of the Nelson River, from Norway House on Lake Winnipeg to York Factory on Hudson Bay, thus connecting the over-sea navigation available from the latter point with steam-boat lines plying inland from the former. There would still, however, seem to be considerable diversity of opinion among people on the spot, as to whether the route in question can successfully compete, at least for a good many years to come, with the facilities which will soon be offered by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The line now being built by that enterprising body of capitalists has already been carried about 250 miles west of Winnipeg, and is expected, by the close of next year, to have reached the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. At present, there is an outlet from Manitoba, by rail, to Duluth on Lake Superior and to Chicago on Lake Michigan; but the opening, which cannot now be long delayed, of the Canadian Pacific line between Winnipeg and the west end of the former lake, in conjunction with the enlargement of the Welland Canal, so as to enable large vessels to pass the Falls of Niagara, will provide a new rail and water route to Montreal, by which, it is believed, wheat may be carried that distance for something less than the nine shillings and sixpence per quarter which it now costs by Duluth. The construction of the railway along the north side of Lake Superior, which the Canadian Pacific Company is taken bound to complete within ten years, will ultimately afford all-rail communication right through to the eastern sea-board: and it remains to be seen whether, with such means of transit at command, any considerable proportion of traffic will follow a route which, it is alleged, can only be depended upon for three months in the year, and which, in the opinion of some seafaring men, may occasionally be found difficult to work even during that period from the presence of ice in Hudson Strait. On the other hand, there comes, of course, the consideration that, if the development of the north-west should answer the expectations generally entertained, there may by-and-by be sufficient surplus produce for exportation to keep a Hudson Bay railway and steam-boat line, as well as all the other practicable outlets of that vast region, in remunerative operation.—Ed.]



Canada is, in respect of extent, the noblest colonial possession over which any nation has ever exercised dominion. It covers an area of three million three hundred and thirty thousand square miles. Our great Indian Empire is scarcely larger than one-fourth of its size. Europe is larger by only half a million square miles; the United States is smaller to nearly the same extent. The distances with which men have to deal in Canada are enormous. From Ottawa to Winnipeg is fourteen hundred miles—a journey equal to that which separates Paris from Constantinople: the adventurous traveller, who would push his way from Winnipeg to the extreme north-west, has a farther distance of two thousand miles to traverse. The representatives of Vancouver Island must travel two thousand five hundred miles in order to reach the seat of Government. The journey from London to the Ural Mountains is not greater in distance, and is not by any means so difficult. From Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, to New Westminster, the capital of British Columbia, there is a distance of four thousand miles—about the distance as that which intervenes between London and Chicago, or between London and the sources of the Nile.

The people on whom has devolved this vast heritage are in number about four million. It is greatly beyond their powers, as yet, to subdue and possess the continent upon whose fringes[427] they have settled. Nevertheless, their progress is now so rapid in numbers and industrial development, and the wealth which lies around them is so great, that year by year they must fill a larger place in the world’s regard, and exercise a wider influence upon the course of human affairs. At the beginning of the century they numbered scarcely a quarter of a million—the slow growth of two hundred years of misgovernment and strife. Twenty-five years thereafter their numbers had more than doubled; in the following quarter of a century they had trebled. During the ten years from 1851 to 1861 the annual increase was one hundred and twenty thousand; in the following decade it was at the rate of sixty thousand, of which less than one-half was by immigration. The increase is mainly rural; there are no very powerful influences favouring the growth of great cities. Montreal has a population of one hundred and seven thousand; Quebec, of sixty thousand; Toronto has grown to fifty thousand; Halifax to thirty thousand. All European nations are represented on Canadian soil. Of English, Scotch, and Irish there are over two million; of Frenchmen over one million. Germans, Russians, Dutchmen, Swiss make up the remainder. The fusion of races has yet made imperfect progress; the characteristic aspect and habits of each nationality remain with little modification.

The Canadian people maintain a large and growing commerce, one-half of which is with the mother country. Their exports are £18,000,000; their imports are £26,000,000. They purchase iron largely in England, the time having not yet come when their own abundant stores of this article can be made available. They import annually four million tons of coal; but the approaching close of this traffic is already foreshadowed by the circumstance that they also export the product of their own mines to the extent of four hundred thousand tons. Textile manufactures are steadily gaining importance in Canada; but as yet the people clothe themselves to a large extent in the woollen and cotton fabrics of the old country.


Canada sells annually the produce of her forests to the extent of five million sterling, and of her fields to the extent of four million. The harvest of the sea yields a value of over two million, of which one-half is sent abroad; the furs which her hunters collect bear a value of half a million. She extracts from the maple-tree sugar to the annual value of four million; her frugal cottagers gather annually two million pounds of honey from the labours of the bee.

The lumber trade is the most characteristic of Canadian industries. On the eastern portion of the Dominion, stretching northwards towards the Arctic regions, illimitable forests clothe the ground. For the most part these are yet undisturbed by man. But in the valleys of streams which flow into the St. Lawrence, notably in the valley of the picturesque Ottawa, the lumber trade is prosecuted with energy. Year by year as autumn draws towards its close numerous bands of woodsmen set out for the scene of their invigorating labours. A convenient locality is chosen near a river, whose waters give motion to a saw-mill, and will in due time bear the felled timber down to the port of shipment. A hut is hastily erected to form the home of the men during the winter months. The best trees in the neighbourhood are selected, and fall in thousands under the practised axe of the lumberman. When the warmth of approaching summer sets free the waters of the frozen stream, the trees are floated to the saw-mill, and cut there into manageable lengths. They are then formed into great rafts, on which villages of huts are built for the accommodation of the returning woodsmen. The winter months are spent in cutting down the timber; the whole of the summer is often spent in conducting to Quebec or the Hudson the logs and planks which have been secured. The forests of Canada are a source of great and enduring wealth. They form also the nursery of a hardy, an enduring, and withal a temperate population; for the lumberman ordinarily dispenses with[429] the treacherous support of alcohol, and is content to recruit his energies by the copious use of strong tea and of salted pork.

The occupation of about one-half of the Canadian people is agriculture. In the old provinces there are nearly five hundred thousand persons who occupy agricultural lands. Of these, nine-tenths own the soil which they till; only one-tenth pay rent for their lands, and they do so for the most part only until they have gained enough to become purchasers. The agricultural labourer—a class so numerous and so little to be envied in England—is almost unknown in Canada. No more than two thousand persons occupy this position, which is to them merely a step in the progress towards speedy ownership. Land is easily acquired; for the Government, recognizing that the grand need of Canada is population, offers land to every man who will occupy and cultivate, or sells at prices which are little more than nominal. The old provinces are filling up steadily if not with rapidity. During the ten years from 1851 to 1861 the land under cultivation had become greater by about one-half. During the following decade the increase was in the same proportion. Schools of agriculture and model farms have been established by Government, and the rude methods by which cultivation was formerly carried on have experienced vast ameliorations. Agriculture has become less wasteful and more productive. Much attention is given to the products of the dairy. Much care has been successfully bestowed upon the improvement of horses and cattle. The manufacture and use of agricultural implements has largely increased. The short Canadian summer lays upon the farmer the pressing necessity of swift harvesting, and renders the help of machinery specially valuable. In the St. Lawrence valley the growing of fruit is assiduously prosecuted; and the apples, pears, plums, peaches, and grapes of that region enjoy high reputation. Success almost invariably rewards the industrious Canadian farmer. The rich[430] fields, the well-fed cattle, the comfortable farm-houses, all tell of prosperity and contentment.

The fisheries of the Dominion form one of its valuable industries. The eastern coasts are resorted to by myriads of fishes, most prominent among which is the cod-fish, whose preference for low temperatures restrains its further progress southward. Sixty thousand men and twenty-five thousand boats find profitable occupation in reaping this abundant harvest. A Minister of Fisheries watches over this great industry. Seven national institutions devote themselves to the culture of fish, especially of the salmon, and prosecute experiments in regard to the introduction of new varieties.

The Mercantile Navy of the Dominion is larger than that of France. It comprises seven thousand ships, of the aggregate tonnage of one million and a quarter; while the tonnage of Great Britain is six million. Canada has invested in her shipping a capital of seven and a half million sterling. She uses the timber of her forests in building ships for herself and for other countries. The annual product of her building-yards is considerably over a million sterling.

The burden laid by taxation upon the Canadians is not oppressive. Taxation is raised almost entirely in the form of custom and excise duties, and amounts to four million sterling. This is an average rate of one pound for each of the population; not differing appreciably from the rate of taxation in the United States, but being considerably less than one-half of that which now prevails in Great Britain.

Canada trusts for her defence against foreign enemies to her militia and volunteers, of whom she has nominally a large force. But only a handful of these are annually called out for a few days of drill, and the Dominion spends no more than £200,000 upon her military preparations. Her fleet is equally modest, and consists of a few small steamers which serve on the lakes and rivers, and mount in all about twenty guns.


Besides the outlays incurred in carrying on the ordinary business of Government, large sums, raised by loan, are annually expended on public works. Navigation on the great rivers of Canada is interrupted by numerous rapids and falls. Unless these obstructions be overcome, the magnificent water-way with which Canada is endowed will be of imperfect usefulness. At many points on the rivers and lakes canals have been constructed. The formidable impediment which the great Fall of Niagara offers to navigation is surmounted by the Welland Canal, twenty-seven miles in length, and on which, with its branches, two and a half million sterling have been expended. Much care is bestowed, too, upon the deepening of rivers and the removal of rocks and other obstructions to navigation. The vast distances of Canada render railways indispensable to her development. The Canadian Government and people have duly appreciated this necessity. They have already constructed seven thousand miles of railway, and are proceeding rapidly with further extension. The cost of railways already made amounts to eighty million sterling, of which Government has provided one-fourth. Very soon Canada will have a length of railway equal to one-half that of Great Britain. But the disposition to travel has not kept pace with the increased facilities which have been provided. The average number of journeys performed annually by each Englishman is seventeen, while the Canadian average is not quite two.

There still remain in the various provinces of the Dominion about ninety thousand Indians, to represent the races who possessed the continent when the white man found it. Two-thirds of these are in the unpeopled wastes of Manitoba and British Columbia; the remainder are settled in the old provinces. The Indian policy of Canada has been from the beginning just and kind, and it has borne appropriate fruits. The Governments of the United States have signally failed in their management of their Indian population. Faith has not been kept with[432] the savages. Treaties have again and again been made by the Government and violated by the people. Lands have been assigned to the Indians, and forcibly taken from them so soon as possession was desired by any considerable number of white men. Large grants of food and clothing have been given by the Government, and shamelessly intercepted by dishonest traders. Out of transactions such as these have sprung bitter hatreds, ruthless massacres, inflicted now by the red man, now by the white, and a state of feeling under which a Western American will, on slight provocation, shoot down an Indian with as little remorse as he would slay a stag. Canada has dealt in perfect fairness with her Indians. She has recognized always the right of the original occupants of the land. She has fulfilled with inflexible faith every treaty into which she has entered. The lands allotted to the Indians have been secured to them as effectively as those of the white settler, or have been acquired from them by fair process of sale and purchase. The Indians have requited with constant loyalty the Government which has treated them with justice. While the French ruled Canada there was perpetual strife with the Indians, as there is to-day in the United States. Canada under the British has never been disturbed by an Indian war.

The Indians of the older provinces have adopted settled habits and betaken themselves to agriculture. In Ontario they are steadily increasing in numbers and intelligence. Drunkenness diminishes; education is eagerly sought; hunting gives place to farming; the descendants of the barbarous Iroquois have been transformed into industrious and prosperous citizens. In Quebec there is also progress, but it is less rapid, and the old drunken habits of the people have not yielded so completely to the influences which surround them. The Indians of British Columbia are still very drunken and debased, and their numbers diminish rapidly. In Manitoba and the whole North-West the condition of the Indians is very hopeful. Drunkenness is[433] almost unknown; crime is very rare; the demand for schools and for persons who can teach how to build houses and till the soil is universal and urgent. The buffalo has been the support of the North-Western Indian. Its flesh was his food, its skin was his clothing, the harness of his horse, the property by whose sale all his remaining wants were supplied. The innumerable multitudes of buffalo which frequented the plains maintained in the Indian camp a rude affluence. But the buffalo gives place before advancing civilization, and the Indians in alarm hasten to find new means of subsistence.

The problem which savage occupants present to the civilized men who settle on their lands has been solved in Canada by the simple but rare device of friendly and perfectly fair dealing. The red men of Canada live contentedly under the rule of the strangers, and prove that they are able to uphold themselves by the white man’s industries. They adopt his language, often to the disuse of their own, his dress, his customs, his religion. Not only do the two races live in concord; their blood has been largely mixed. The native race is probably doomed to disappear, but this will not be the result of violence or even of neglect. The history of the Indian race in Canada will close with its peaceful absorption by the European races which possess the continent.

Thirty years ago the Canadians, borrowing largely from their neighbours of the United States, perfected their common-school system. Schools adequate to the wants of the population are provided. A Board chosen by the people conducts the school business of the district. The costs are defrayed by a local tax, supplemented by a grant from the treasury of the province. In general, no fees are charged; primary education is absolutely free. The French Canadians manifest less anxiety for education than their British neighbours, and have not yet emerged from the ignorance which they brought with them from Europe, and in which they were suffered for generations to remain. In[434] Toronto and the maritime provinces the means of education are ample, and are very generally taken advantage of by the colonists.

A noble heritage has been bestowed upon the Canadian people. Treasures of the sea and of the soil, of forest and of mine, are theirs in lavish abundance. Their climate, stern but also kindly, favours the growth of physical and mental energy. They enjoy freedom in its utmost completeness. Their peaceable surroundings exempt them from the blight of war and the evils of costly defensive preparation. For generations these inestimable advantages were in large measure neutralized by the enfeebling rivalries which divided the provinces. But internal dissension has been silenced by confederation, and Canada has begun to consolidate into a nation. Differences of religion and of race still hold a place among the forces which are shaping out her future, but the antipathies which they once inspired have almost passed away. The distinctions of Catholic and Protestant, Englishman and Frenchman, are being merged in the common designation of Canadian, which all are proud to bear. The welfare of Canada, her greatness in the years of the future, are assured not merely by the vastness of her material resources, but still more by the spirit which animates her people. The destiny towards which the Canadian people are hastening is fittingly indicated by the eloquent words of one of the ablest of their Governor-Generals. 1875 A.D. “However captivating,” said Lord Dufferin, “may be the sights of beauty prepared by the hands of Nature, they are infinitely enhanced by the contemplation of all that man is doing to turn to their best advantage the gifts thus placed within his reach. In every direction you see human industry and human energy digging deep the foundations, spreading out the lines, and marking the inviolable boundaries upon and within which one of the most intelligent and happiest offsets of the English race is destined[435] to develop into a proud and great nation. The very atmosphere seems impregnated with the exhilarating spirit of enterprise, contentment, and hope. The sights and sounds which caressed the senses of the Trojan wanderer in Dido’s Carthage are repeated and multiplied in a thousand different localities in Canada, where flourishing cities, towns, and villages are rising in every direction with the rapidity of a fairy tale. And better still, pari passu with the development of these material evidences of wealth and happiness is to be observed the growth of political wisdom, experience, and ability, perfectly capable of coping with the difficult problems which are presented in a country where new conditions, foreign to European experience, and complications arising out of ethnological and geographical circumstances, are constantly requiring the application of a statesmanship of the highest order.”



[12] Francis I. said that he “would fain see the article in Adam’s will which bequeathed the vast inheritance” to the Kings of Spain and Portugal.

[13] “One must be ready,” wrote this devout priest, full of faith, “to abandon life and all he has; contenting himself, as his only riches, with a cross—very large and very heavy.”

[14] The fathers were wise in their generation. The Indians hated beards, and extirpated their own. It was judicious to omit this distasteful feature from all sacred representations.

[15] See page 77.

[16] Towards the close of her dominion in Canada, France expended about one million sterling on her unprofitable colony, mainly in building forts along the enormous line from Quebec to New Orleans, in order to shut in the English colonists.

[17] According to the best estimates, the population of Canada at this time was composed of 100,000 Catholics and 400 Protestants.

[18] See page 145.

[19] In three years the debt had nearly doubled—rising from twenty-one to thirty-eight million dollars. In 1859 it had further risen to fifty-four million.

[20] “It was here that Canada, emerging from her woods and forests, first gazed upon her rolling prairies and unexplored North-West, and learned, as by an unexpected revelation, that her historical territories of the Canadas—her eastern sea-boards of New Brunswick, Labrador, and Nova Scotia; her Lawrentian lakes and valleys, corn-lands and pastures—though themselves more extensive than half-a-dozen European kingdoms, were but the vestibules and ante-chambers to that till then undreamt-of Dominion, whose illimitable dimensions alike confound the arithmetic of the surveyor and the verification of the explorer. It was hence that, counting her past achievements as but the preface and prelude to her future exertions and expanding destinies, she took a fresh departure, received the afflatus of a more imperial inspiration, and felt herself no longer a mere settler along the banks of a single river, but the owner of half a continent; and, in the magnitude of her possession, in the wealth of her resources, in the sinews of her material might, the peer of any power on the earth.”—Lord Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada. Speech in the City Hall, Winnipeg, September 1877.

[21] With careful husbandry much better results are obtained. A yield of forty to fifty bushels is common, and a prize was recently awarded to a farmer whose land yielded one hundred and five bushels!

[22] In presence of Lord Dufferin a pine tree was felled whose height was two hundred and fifty feet, and whose rings gave evidence of an age which dated from the reign of Edward IV.






Columbus prosecuted, down to the close of life, the great work of discovery to which, as he never ceased to feel, God had set him apart. He occupied himself almost entirely among those lovely islands to which Providence had guided his uncertain way; seeing almost nothing of the vast continents, on the right hand and on the left, which he had gained for the use of civilized man. Once, near the island of Trinidad, he was suffered to look for the only time upon the glorious mainland, so lavishly endowed with beauty and with wealth. Once again he sailed along the coasts of the isthmus and landed upon its soil. But he scarcely passed, in his researches, beyond the multitudinous islands which lay around him on every side. He sailed among them with a heart full, at the outset, of deep, solemn joy, over the unparalleled victory which had been vouchsafed to him; full, towards the close, with a bitter sense of ingratitude and perfidy. He had made his first landing on the little island of San Salvador. Voyaging thence he quickly found Cuba, “the most beautiful island that eyes ever beheld, full of excellent ports and profound[440] rivers.” Then he discovered Hispaniola and Jamaica, and a multitude of smaller islands. Thirteen years of life were still left to him, and Columbus was content to expend them among the sights and sounds which had caressed his delighted senses at his first coming into this enchanted world.

But there were other adventurers, allured by the success which had crowned the efforts of Columbus, and hastening now to widen the scope of his inquiry. Five years from the first landing of Columbus, John Cabot had explored the northern continent from Labrador to Florida. Many navigators who had sailed with Columbus in his early voyages now fitted out small expeditions, in order to make fresh discoveries on the southern continent. Successive adventurers traversed its entire northern coasts. One discovered the great River of the Amazons; another passed southwards along the coasts of Brazil. Before the century closed, almost the whole of the northern and eastern shores of South America had been visited and explored.

Ten or twelve years after Columbus had discovered the mainland, there was a Spanish settlement at the town of Darien on the isthmus. Prominent among the adventurers who prosecuted, from this centre of operations, the Spaniard’s eager and ruthless search for gold was Vasco Nuñez de Balboa—a man cruel and unscrupulous as the others, but giving evidence of wider views and larger powers of mind than almost any of his fellows. Vasco Nuñez visited one day a friendly chief, from whom he received in gift a large amount of gold. The Spaniards had certain rules which guided them in the distribution of the spoils, but in the application of these rules disputes continually fell out. It so happened on this occasion that a noisy altercation arose. A young Indian prince, regarding with unconcealed contempt the clamour of the greedy strangers, told them that, since they prized gold so highly, he would show them a country where they might have it in abundance. Southward, beyond the mountains, was a great sea; on the coasts of that sea there[441] was a land of vast wealth, where the people ate and drank from vessels of gold. This was the first intimation which Europeans received of the Pacific Ocean and the land of Peru on the western shore of the continent. Vasco Nuñez resolved to be the discoverer of that unknown sea. Among his followers was Francisco Pizarro, who became, a few years later, the discoverer and destroyer of Peru.

1513 A.D. Vasco Nuñez gathered about two hundred well-armed men, and a number of dogs, who were potent allies in his Indian wars. He climbed with much toil the mountain ridge which traverses the isthmus. After twenty-five days of difficult journeying, his Indians told him that he was almost in view of the ocean. He chose that he should look for the first time on that great sight alone. Sept. 25. He made his men remain behind, while he, unattended, looked down upon the Sea of the South, and drank the delight of this memorable success. Upon his knees he gave thanks to God, and joined with his followers in devoutly singing the Te Deum. He made his way down to the coast. Wading into the tranquil waters, he called his men to witness that he took possession for the Kings of Castile of the sea and all that it contained—a large claim, assuredly, for the Pacific covers more than one-half the surface of the globe.

Many of the adventurers realized large gains in gold and pearls, from their trading with the natives. But the hunger of the Spaniards for gold was still utterly unsatisfied. No considerable quantity of gold had been found in the islands; but the constant report of the natives pointed to regions in the interior where the precious metals abounded. On the mainland, beside the Gulf of Paria, the early voyagers were able to obtain more ample supplies. When Columbus explored the Mosquito country and Costa Rica, he found the natives in possession of massive ornaments of gold, on which they did not seem to place very special value. Still the natives spoke of a country[442] far away among the mountains where gold and precious stones were profusely abundant. The Spaniards continued to advance in the direction to which these rumours pointed. As they approached the northern portions of Central America, evidences of higher civilization and greater wealth multiplied around them. The natives lived in houses solidly built of stone and lime, their temples were highly ornamented, the soil was more carefully cultivated here than elsewhere; above all, there was much gold, which could be obtained in exchange for the worthless trinkets offered by the strangers. 1518 A.D. At length the Spaniards arrived on the borders of Mexico, and held intercourse with the chief who ruled over the region to which they had come.

When the Spanish Governor of Cuba heard of the tempting wealth of Mexico, he determined to send out an expedition sufficiently strong to effect the conquest of the country. Hernando Cortes, then a young man of thirty-three, was intrusted with the guidance of this arduous enterprise. Cortes was a man of middle height and slender figure, with pale complexion and large dark eyes; of grave aspect, and with an air of command which secured prompt obedience; of resolution which no danger could shake; inexhaustibly fertile of resource, and eminently fitted, therefore, to lead men who were about to encounter unknown perils. Cortes having placed his fleet under the protection of St. Peter, and having kindled the enthusiasm of his men by assurances of glory and wealth and divine favour, sailed for the coast of Yucatan. Feb 18, 1519 A.D. His forces numbered seven hundred Europeans and two hundred Indians. He had fourteen pieces of artillery. His enemies had not yet seen the horse, and Cortes sought anxiously to have the means of overawing them by the sudden attack of cavalry. But horses were scarce, for they had still to be brought from Europe; and only sixteen mounted men rode in his ranks. These diminutive forces were embarked in eleven little ships,[443] the largest of which did not exceed one hundred tons burden.

Cortes disembarked his army on a wide sandy plain where now stands the city of Vera Cruz, the chief sea-port of Mexico. He was within rather less than two hundred miles of the capital of the country, and he sent to demand access to the presence of the King. Pictures, which represented the ships and the cannon and the horses of the Spaniards, had been forwarded to Montezuma, who pondered with his councillors those symbols of mysterious and terrible power. The council failed to ascertain the true character of the strangers, and remained in doubt whether they were supernatural beings or merely the envoys of some distant sovereign. Montezuma came to the conclusion that in any case they should be persuaded to depart and leave his country in peace. He sent an embassy to point out the dangers of the journey, and request his unwelcome visitors to return to their own land. But, by a fatal indiscretion, the ambassadors supported the King’s request by rich gifts:—a helmet filled to the brim with gold; two circular plates of gold and silver “as large as carriage-wheels;” a multitude of ornamental articles of costly material and beautiful workmanship. The greedy eyes of the Spaniards glistened with delight as the treasures of the simple monarch were spread before them. From that moment the ruin of Montezuma was sealed.

Cortes prepared for his advance upon the Mexican capital by destroying all the ships of his fleet with one solitary exception. There were faint hearts among his men, and fears which counselled early return to Cuba. Cortes had accepted for himself the alternative of success or utter ruin, and he purposed that his men should have no other. When the enfeebling possibility of escape was withdrawn, he roused their courage by appeals to the complex motives which swayed the Spaniards of that day. The desire to plant the cross on the temples of the heathen, the craving for glory and for gain, nerved the[444] hearts of the warriors, who now, trusting to the skill of their leader and the protecting care of Divine Providence, went forth to the conquest of a great empire.

Their way led at first across plains sodden and rendered almost impassable by the summer rain. Aug. 16, 1519 A.D. Soon they left the plain and began to climb the long ascent of the Cordilleras, up towards the great table-land where the city of Mexico stands. They left, too, the warmth of the coast, and traversed a dreary mountain-region, swept by cold winds and tempests of sleet and snow. They passed under the shadow of volcanic mountains whose fires had been long extinguished; they looked down the sheer depths of dizzy precipices, and saw, far below, the luxuriant vegetation which a tropical heat drew forth. At length they came within the fertile and populous territory of the Tlascalans—a bold republican people who maintained with difficulty their independence against the superior strength of Montezuma. Cortes sought the alliance of this people; but they unwisely rejected his overtures and attacked his army. It was not till the close of two days of fighting that Cortes routed his assailants. The bold savages endured the dreaded attack of Spanish horsemen, the murderous discharge of Spanish artillery; they offered their defenceless bodies to the Spanish sword and lance, and were slaughtered in thousands, while their feeble arms scarcely harmed the invaders. The humbled Tlascalans hastened to conclude peace, and a great fear of the irresistible strangers spread far and wide among the population of the plateau. Montezuma once more sent large gifts of the gold which the Spaniards loved, and vainly begged them to forbear from coming to his capital.

Fifteen miles from Tlascala stood the city of Cholula, which Cortes now received an invitation to visit. Cortes found Cholula “a more beautiful city than any in Spain,” lying in a well-tilled plain, with many lofty towers, and with a dense population. Montezuma had enticed the Spaniards hither that he might[445] destroy them; and to that end he had prepared an ambuscade of twenty thousand Mexican troops. But Cortes detected the plot, and having drawn a large assemblage of the chiefs and their followers into the great square, he gave the signal for an indiscriminate and unsparing massacre. The defenceless people fell in thousands; and Cortes, satisfied with the fearful lesson he had taught, erected an altar and cross, addressed the priests and chiefs on the excellences of the Christian religion, and resumed his advance on Mexico.

For a few leagues the way led up the steep side of a great volcanic mountain, then in a state of eruption, although its fires are now extinguished. A dense forest for a time impeded their march; then, as they ascended, vegetation ceased, and they passed within the line of everlasting snow. At length, rounding a shoulder of the mountain, the great valley of Mexico, seen afar in that clear air, spread itself before them, in all its glory of lake and city, of garden and forest and cultivated plain. There were Spaniards who looked with fear upon the evidences of a vast population, and demanded to be led back to the security of the coast; but for the most part the soldiers, trusting to the skill of their leader and the favour of Heaven, thought joyfully of the vast plunder which lay before them, and hastened down the mountain-side.

The city of Mexico contained then a population which the Spaniards estimated at three hundred thousand souls. It was built in a shallow salt-water lake, and was approached by many broad and massive causeways, on some of which eight horsemen could ride abreast. The streets were sometimes wholly of water; sometimes they were of water flanked by solid foot-paths. There were numerous temples; the royal palaces excelled those of Europe in magnificence; the market-place accommodated fifty thousand persons, and the murmur of their bargaining spread far over the city; the dwellings and the aspect of the common people spoke of comfort and contentment.


Nov. 8, 1519 A.D. Montezuma received his unwelcome visitors with munificent although reluctant hospitality, and assigned one of his palaces as their place of residence while it should please them to remain. Cortes, whose desire to convert the heathen was of equal urgency with his desire to plunder them, took an early opportunity to acquaint Montezuma with the leading doctrines of the Christian faith, and to assure him that the gods of the Mexicans were not gods at all, but “evil things which are called devils.” But the unconvinced heathen refused his doctrine, and expressed himself satisfied with his gods such as they were.

For several days Cortes lived peaceably as the guest of Montezuma, pondering deeply the next step which he must take in this marvellous career. He perceived the full danger of his position. A handful of invaders had thrust themselves among a vast population, whose early feelings of wonder and fear were rapidly passing into hatred, and who would probably, ere long, attempt their destruction. Against this danger no guarantee was so immediately available as possession of the King’s person. With the calm decision in which lay much of his strength, Cortes rode down to the palace, attended by a competent escort, and brought the astonished but unresisting Montezuma home to the Spanish quarters. The Mexicans revered their sovereign with honours scarcely less than divine, and Cortes felt that while he possessed the King he was able to command the people. In a few days more Montezuma and his great lords professed themselves vassals of the King of Spain.

For six months Cortes ruled Mexico. He dethroned the Mexican gods, and he suppressed the human sacrifices which the Mexican priests offered profusely to their hideous idols. He built ships for defence; he sowed maize for food: he gave attention to mining, that he might have gold to satisfy the needs of the King of Spain. While he was thus occupied, he[447] learned that eighteen ships had arrived near his little settlement of Vera Cruz. They carried a force of eighty horsemen, fourteen hundred foot soldiers, and twenty pieces of cannon, sent by the Governor of Cuba, who was jealous of his success, with instructions to arrest Cortes and his companions. It was a threatening interruption to a victorious career. Cortes devolved his government upon Alvarado, a rugged soldier in whom he had confidence, and with only seventy men hastened to encounter his new foes. By skill and daring he achieved decisive success, and within a few weeks from the day he quitted Mexico he was ready to return, strengthened by the arms of those whom he had subdued, and whom he now gained over to his cause.

But during those weeks events of grave import had occurred in Mexico. The absence of Cortes resulted in a visible diminution of the meek submission with which the Mexicans had hitherto demeaned themselves towards their conquerors. Rumours arose that a revolt was in contemplation. Alvarado resolved to anticipate the expected treachery. The time of the annual religious festival had come, and the great lords of Mexico were engaged in the sacred dance which formed the closing ceremonial. Suddenly a strong force of armed Spaniards attacked the undefended worshippers, six hundred of whom were slaughtered. The outraged city instantly rose against its murderous tyrants. The Spaniards endured at the hands of their despised assailants a blockade which must have quickly ended in ruin unless Cortes had hastened to their relief.

Cortes returned in time at the head of thirteen hundred soldiers, of whom one hundred were horsemen. He found the city wholly turned against him. June 24, 1520 A.D. The next day, a formidable attack was made. The streets and terraced roofs of the houses could not be seen, so densely were they covered by assailants; stones were thrown in such numbers that it seemed as if it rained stones; the arrows shot by the Mexicans so covered the courts of the[448] fortress that it became difficult to move about. The Indians attempted almost successfully to scale the walls, offering their undefended bosoms, with reckless disregard of life, to the musketry and artillery, whose discharge swept them down by hundreds. Their feeble weapons wounded, but scarcely ever killed; but at the close of each day Cortes found his fighting strength diminished by the loss of sixty or eighty men. Food could scarcely be obtained, for the people withheld supplies. To such a measure of intensity had the cruelty of their oppressors kindled the hatred of the Indians, that they were willing to spend thousands of their own lives, if by the costly sacrifice they might compass the death of one Spaniard. It was necessary for Cortes to be gone. First, however, he would endeavour to conjure his assailants into submission by the voice of their King. The unhappy Montezuma came forth upon a balcony and besought the infuriated people to cease from resistance. But the spell had lost its power, and the fallen monarch was struck down and fatally injured by a shower of arrows and of stones. Cortes left the city that night. July 1, 1520 A.D. His stealthy retreat was discovered, and the vengeful savages caught him at fearful disadvantage. They swarmed in their canoes around the broken bridges where the Spaniards had to pass. In the darkness the retreat speedily became a hopeless and bloody rout. Four hundred and fifty Spaniards perished, with a large number of their Indian allies and one-half of the horses. The artillery was wholly lost. It is said that when Cortes became aware of the ruin which had been wrought, he sat down upon a great stone in a Mexican village and wept bitterly.[23]

Cortes withdrew to Tlascala, where his allies, unacquainted[449] with the practice of civilized life, adhered with unswerving loyalty to a fallen cause. Many of his soldiers were eager to quit the scene of their crushing defeat. Cortes resolved to maintain his hold upon the country he had won. He united many states in a great league for the overthrow of Mexico. He sent ships to Hispaniola for horses, men, and arms. He ordered brigantines to be built at Tlascala. Six months after his defeat he was again before Mexico with a force of nearly a thousand Spaniards and a hundred thousand native allies—with horsemen, and musketeers, and a fleet of brigantines, to command the lake and the approaches to the city. It was not till May, however, that active operations were commenced.

The siege lasted for almost three months. During many days Cortes forced his way constantly into the city, retiring at nightfall to his camps in the outskirts. Always he inflicted fearful slaughter upon the Indians, sparing neither age nor sex: occasionally the brave savages had their revenge, and the Spaniards, looking up to the summit of the great temple, witnessed in horror comrades offered in sacrifice to the Mexican gods. Unwonted horrors attended this cruel siege. The Indian allies of Cortes frequently banqueted upon the bodies of their slain enemies, and frequently supplied the materials for a like ghastly feast. Famine and disease pressed heavily on the doomed city; but no suffering or danger quelled the heroic resistance of the despairing people. At length Cortes resolved to destroy the beautiful city, step by step as he gained it. The houses were pulled down and their materials thrown into the lake. The Mexicans refused to yield; they desired only to die. Enfeebled by hunger they ceased to fight, and the siege became little more than a ruthless slaughter of unresisting wretches. Aug. 13, 1520 A.D. At length the new King was taken, and all opposition was at an end. The great mass of the population had perished. The lake and the houses and the streets were full of dead bodies. Palaces and[450] temples and private dwellings had fallen. The Spanish historian,[24] who was present, and who in his time had witnessed many horrors, “does not know how he may describe” these. He had read the awful story of the destruction of Jerusalem, but he doubts whether its terrors equalled those which attended the fall of Mexico.

The fame of this appalling success spread far and wide in Central America. From great distances southward embassies sought the conqueror, to conciliate his favour, to offer submission to the great monarch whose servants had beaten to the ground the power of the Aztec tyrants. A thousand miles away Cortes had allies and vassals. Still farther to the south was the rich province of Guatemala, with great and well-built cities, the home of a people whose progress in the arts of civilized life was not inconsiderable. Regarding these people reports were carried to Cortes that they had lately manifested to his allies dispositions less cordial than had heretofore existed. Three years had now passed since the conquest of Mexico, and Cortes and his followers were ready for new enterprises. An expedition, composed of two hundred and eighty men, with four cannon, with “much ammunition and powder,” was sent forth under Pedro de Alvarado to ascertain the truth of those statements which had been reported to Cortes. Dec. 1523 A.D. Alvarado, a gallant but ruthless warrior, forced his way into the fertile valleys of Guatemala. He fought many battles against great native armies, and inflicted vast slaughter—himself almost unharmed. He slew the King; he overthrew cities; he gathered together the chiefs of a certain province, “and as it was for the good and pacification of this country he burned them.” The people were given over as slaves to Spaniards who desired them. While busied with these awful arrangements the devout[451] Alvarado did not fail to entreat that Cortes would appoint a solemn procession of Mexican clergy, to the effect that Our Lady might procure for him the succour of Heaven against the urgent perils of his enterprise. Under such auspices Guatemala became a Spanish possession.

Among the followers of Vasco Nuñez there was a middle-aged Spanish warrior, slow, silent, but gifted with a terrible pertinacity in following out his purposes. His name was Francisco Pizarro. He probably heard the young Indian tell of the wealth of Peru.[25] He was beside Vasco Nuñez when that eager discoverer waded into the waters of the Pacific. A little later he arrested his chief and led him to a death of violence. He had taken part in an expedition in which the Spaniards, pursued by overwhelming forces, stabbed their prisoners as they retreated, and left them dying on the way, in order to hinder the pursuit. He was wholly without education, and was unable even to sign his own name. At this time he was living near Panama, on certain lands which he had obtained, along with the customary allotment of Indian labourers. Here he applied himself to cattle-farming; and his labours and his gains were shared with two partners—Almagro, the son of a labouring man, and De Luque, a schoolmaster. The associates prospered in their industry, and it seemed probable that they would live in obscurity, and die wealthy country gentlemen. But Pizarro had never ceased to brood over the assurances which he had heard ten years before, that there were in the south regions whose wealth surpassed all that the Spaniards had yet discovered. He wished to find a shorter path to greatness than cattle-farming supplied, and he was able to inspire his associates with the same ambition. The scope of the copartnery was strangely widened. The rearing of cattle was abandoned, and a formal contract[452] was entered into for the discovery and conquest of Peru. Pizarro was to conduct the enterprise; Almagro was to bring to him reinforcements and needful stores; De Luque was to procure funds. The profits resulting from their efforts were to be equally divided. They were ridiculed in Panama as madmen; but the courage and tenacity of Pizarro sufficed to crown with terrible success purposes which in their origin seemed wholly irrational.

Nov. 1524 A.D. The early history of the expedition was disastrous. Pizarro sailed from Panama on his career of conquest, attended by eighty men and four horses. He crept down the coast; landing occasionally to find only a rugged and barren country. Hunger fell on his followers, and many died. The Indians assailed them with poisoned arrows, and slew some. The forests were impenetrably dense; the climate was unwholesome. Almagro brought a small reinforcement; but the employment became intolerable, and the men, losing heart, returned to Panama. Pizarro, with only fourteen followers, sought shelter on an uninhabited island, “which those who have seen it compare to the infernal regions.” Here they spent three wretched months, living on shell-fish and what else the sharpened eye of hunger could discover. 1527 A.D. Strengthened by supplies which Almagro was able to send, they set forth once more and moved southward along the coast. And now they found the region of which they had dreamed so long. They landed in the northern part of Peru. Gold was everywhere. They found a temple whose walls were lined with plates of gold; a palace where every vessel, for use or for ornament, was formed of gold. The people were gentle, and received them hospitably. But Pizarro had no more than fourteen men with him—a force wholly inadequate for purposes of conquest. 1528 A.D. He returned to Panama, and thence to Spain, bearing to the King the thrilling story of his marvellous discovery. The[453] King bestowed large rights of government upon the successful adventurer; and as the conversion of the natives was an end steadily prosecuted by the Spanish Government, a bishopric in the newly-found territory was assigned to his partner De Luque. But Pizarro had omitted to obtain honours or advantages for Almagro—an omission which drew in its train a long series of destructive strifes among the conquerors.

Dec. 1530 A.D. Once more Pizarro set forth to conquer the great kingdom of which he now claimed to be governor. His forces consisted of one hundred and eighty-three men and thirty-seven horses. He found it necessary to wait for additional strength; and he encamped in an unhealthy locality, where his men suffered severely. At length he was joined by a reinforcement of fifty-six men, one-half of whom were mounted. He had incurred a delay of seven months; but the time was well spent. While he waited the Peruvians lightened his task by a civil war, in which multitudes perished. To secure retreat, in event of disaster, Pizarro resolved to found a city. He chose a convenient site, and erected several strong buildings, among which were a church, a court-house, and a fortress. He left fifty men to garrison his settlement, to which he gave the name of San Miguel, in recognition of services rendered to him by that saint in a recent battle. He divided the neighbouring lands among his citizens, and assigned to each a certain number of Indians—an arrangement which, as he was assured, was not merely indispensable to the comfort of the settlers, but “would serve the cause of religion and tend greatly to the spiritual welfare” of the savages thus provided for.

And now his simple preparations were completed. He had learned that at the distance of twelve days’ journey eastward beyond the great mountain barrier of the Cordilleras the Peruvian monarch was encamped with a powerful army, flushed with victory in the civil war which had just closed.[454] It seemed a wild adventure to go forth with a hundred and eighty men against an enemy computed at fifty thousand. But Pizarro knew what Cortes had accomplished with means apparently as inadequate; he trusted in the well-proved courage of his men, the vast superiority of their arms, and the favour of the saints. He had placed himself where hesitation must draw in its train inevitable ruin. But there was no hesitation in the steady purpose of the resolute, tenacious Pizarro. He determined to encounter the victorious Inca. Sept. 24, 1532 A.D. He marched forth from the gates of his little town, eastward towards the mountains and the unknown perils which lay beyond.

For several days the march of the Spaniards led them across the rich plains which lay between the mountains and the sea. Their progress was easy and pleasant, and they passed several well-built and apparently prosperous towns, whose inhabitants hospitably supplied their wants. At length the vast heights of the Andes cast their shadows on the little army, and the toilsome ascent was begun. The path was so steep that the cavalry dismounted and with difficulty led their horses upward; so narrow that there was barely room for a horse to walk; in many places it overhung abysses thousands of feet in depth, into which men and horses looked with fear. As they rose, the opulent vegetation of the tropics was left behind, and they passed through dreary forests of stunted pine-wood. The piercing cold was keenly felt by men and horses long accustomed to the sultry temperature of the plains. But the summit was reached in safety, and the descent of the eastern slope begun. As they followed the downward path, each step disclosed some new scene of grandeur or of beauty.

On the seventh day, the hungry eyes of the adventurers looked down on a fertile valley. A broad stream flowed through its well-cultivated meadows; the white walls of a little city glittered in the evening sun; far as the eye could[455] reach there stretched along the slopes of the surrounding hills the tents which sheltered the Peruvian army. The Spaniards had reached their destination. They had reached the city of Cassamarca, and they were almost in presence of the Inca Atahualpa, whom they had come to subdue and destroy. In the stoutest heart of that little party there was for the moment “confusion, and even fear.” But no retreat was possible now. Pizarro formed his men in order of battle, and with unmoved countenance strode towards the city.

Nov. 15, 1532 A.D. The Inca knew of the coming of his visitors, and had made some preparations for their reception. Quarters were assigned to them in a range of buildings which opened upon a vast square. It was evening when they arrived; but Pizarro lost no time in sending one of his brothers, with Fernando de Soto and a small troop of horsemen, to wait upon the Inca and ascertain his dispositions. The ambassadors were admitted to the royal presence and informed that next morning the monarch with his chieftains would visit Pizarro. Riding back to their quarters, the men thought gloomily of the overwhelming force into whose presence they had rashly thrust themselves. Their comrades shared the foreboding which the visit to the Peruvian camp had inspired. When night came on they looked out almost hopelessly upon the watch-fires of the Peruvians, which seemed to them “as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

Happily for the desponding warriors, the courage of their chief was unshaken by the dangers which surrounded him. Pizarro did not conceal from himself the jeopardy in which he stood. He saw clearly that ruin was imminent. But he saw, too, how by a measure of desperate boldness he might not only save his army from destruction, but make himself master of the kingdom. He would seize the Inca in presence of his army. Once in possession of the sacred person he could make his own terms. He could wait for[456] the reinforcements which his success was sure to bring; at the worst, he could purchase a safe retreat to the coast. He informed the soldiers of his purpose, and roused their sinking courage by assurances of divine favour and protection.

Nov. 16, 1532 A.D. At sunrise next morning Pizarro began to make his preparations. In the halls which formed the ground-floor of the buildings beside the grand square he disposed his horsemen and footmen. His two pieces of artillery were planted on the fortress which looked down on the square. The arms of the men were carefully examined, and the chief made himself sure that swords were sharp and arquebusses loaded. Then mass was said, and the men, who stood ready to commit one of the foulest crimes in history, joined devoutly in the chant, “Rise, O Lord, and judge thine own cause.” About noon the sentinel on the fortress reported that the Inca had set out from his camp. He himself, seated on a throne of massive gold, was borne aloft on the shoulders of his principal nobles; before him moved a crowd of attendants whose duty it was to sweep every impurity from the path about to be honoured by the advance of royalty; on either hand his soldiers gathered towards the road to guard their King. At a little distance from the city, Atahualpa paused, in seeming doubt as to the measure he was adopting, and sent word to Pizarro that he would defer his visit till the morrow. Pizarro dreaded to hold his soldiers longer under the strain which approaching danger laid upon them. He sent to entreat the Inca to resume his journey, and the Inca complied with the treacherous request.

About sunset the procession reached the gates of the square. The servants, drawing aside, opened an avenue along which the monarch was borne. After him a multitude of Peruvians of all ranks crowded into the square, till five or six thousand men were present. No Spaniard had yet been seen; for Pizarro apparently shunned to look in the face of the man whom he[457] had betrayed. At length his chaplain advanced and began to explain to the astonished monarch the leading doctrines of the Christian religion. As his exposition proceeded, it was noticed that the Peruvian troops were drawing closer to the city. Pizarro hastened now to strike the blow which he had prepared. A gun was fired from the fortress. At this appointed signal the Spaniards rushed from their hiding-places. The musketeers plied their deadly weapons. The cavalry spurred fiercely among the unarmed crowd. High overhead flashed the swords of the pitiless assailants. The ground was quickly heaped with dead, and even flight was impossible until a portion of the wall which bounded the square yielded under the pressure of the crowd and permitted many to gain the open country. Around the Inca a fierce battle raged,—such a battle as can be fought between armed and steel-clad men and others without arms, offering their defenceless bosoms to the steel of the slayer in the vain hope that thus they might purchase the safety of their master. The bearers of the Inca were struck down, and he himself was taken prisoner and instantly secured. The cavalry, giving full scope to the fierce passions which the fight aroused, urged the pursuit of the fugitives far beyond the limits of the city. The Peruvian army, panic-stricken by these appalling circumstances, broke and fled. Less than an hour ago Atahualpa was a great monarch, whose wish was the law of a nation; the possessor of vast treasures; the commander of a powerful army. Now his throne was overturned; his army had disappeared; he himself was a captive in the hands of strangers, regarding whom he knew only that their strength was irresistible and their hearts fierce and cruel.

The fallen monarch, perceiving the insatiable greed of gold which inspired his captors, sought to regain his liberty by offers whose magnitude bewildered the Spaniards. He offered to fill with gold, up to a height of nine feet, a room whose area was seventeen feet in breadth and twenty-two feet in length. A[458] room of smaller dimensions was to be twice filled with silver; and he asked only two months to collect this enormous ransom. The offer was accepted, and the Inca sent messengers to all his cities commanding that temples and palaces should be stripped of their ornaments. In a few weeks Indian bearers began to arrive at Cassamarca, laden to their utmost capacity with silver and gold. Day by day they poured in, bearing great golden vessels, which had been used in the palaces; great plates of gold, which had lined the walls and roofs of temples; crowns and collars and bracelets of gold, which the chieftains gave up in the hope that they would procure the liberty of their master. At length the room was filled up to the red line which Pizarro had drawn upon the wall as his record of this extraordinary bargain. When it was acknowledged that the Inca had completely fulfilled his stipulation,[26] Pizarro executed an Act in presence of a notary, and proclaimed it to the sound of the trumpet in the great square of Cassamarca. By this document he certified that the Inca had paid the stipulated ransom, and was now in consequence liberated. But he did not, in actual fact, set the captive monarch free. On the contrary, he informed him that until a larger number of Spaniards arrived to hold the country, it was necessary for the service of the King of Spain that Atahualpa should continue a prisoner.

Meanwhile rumours became current in the camp that Atahualpa had ordered a great rising of his people to destroy the invaders. The Spaniards had been recently joined by Almagro with important reinforcements; but still they were no more than four hundred men, and they were in possession of treasure which exposed them to apprehensions unfelt by the penniless adventurer. It was asserted that a vast army was gathering only a hundred miles away; at length the imaginary force was reported[459] to be within ten miles. The cry arose that the Inca should be brought to trial for his treasonable practices. A court was formed, with Pizarro and Almagro as presiding judges; counsel were named to prosecute and defend; charges were framed,[27] and the unhappy Inca was placed at the bar. The evidence taken reached the court through the doubtful channel of an Indian interpreter, who, it was believed, sought the destruction of the prisoner. The judges occupied themselves with discussion, not of the guilt of the accused, but of the results which his execution might be expected to produce. Their judgment was death by burning, as befitted an idolater. Aug. 29, 1533 A.D. The whole army claimed a voice in the great decision. A few condemned the proceedings, and urged that the Inca should be sent to Spain to wait the pleasure of the King. But the voice of the larger number confirmed the sentence of the court, and it was intimated to Atahualpa that he must prepare for immediate death. The fallen monarch lost, for a moment, the habitual calmness with which an Indian warrior is accustomed to meet death. With many tears he besought Pizarro to spare him. Even the stern conqueror was moved in view of misery so deep; but he was without power to reverse the doom which his army had spoken. Two hours after sunset, Atahualpa was led forth, with chains on hand and foot. The great square was lighted up by torches, and the Spanish soldiers gathered around the closing scene in the ruin which they had wrought. The Inca was bound to the stake, and rude hands piled high the fagots around him. A friar who had instructed him in Christian doctrine besought him to accept the faith, promising in that event the leniency of death by the cord instead of the flame. Atahualpa accepted the offered grace, and abjured his idolatry. He was instantly baptized under the name of Juan, in honour of John the Baptist, on whose day this conversion[460] was achieved. With his latest breath he implored Pizarro to have pity on his little children. While he spoke, the string of a cross-bow was tightened around his neck, and, with the rugged soldiers muttering “credos” for the repose of his soul, the last of the Incas submitted to death in its most ignominious form. Next morning they gave him Christian burial in the little wooden church which they had already erected in Cassamarca. His great lords, as we are assured, “received much satisfaction” from the honour thus bestowed upon their unhappy prince.[28]

Sept. 1533 A.D. Almost immediately after these occurrences Pizarro marched southward and possessed himself easily of the Peruvian capital—“the great and holy city of Cusco.” Although the capital had parted with much of its treasure in obedience to the requisition of its captive monarch, there still remained a vast spoil to enrich the plunderers. In especial, mention is made of ten or twelve statues of female figures, of life size, made wholly of fine gold, “beautiful and well-formed as if they had been alive.” The Spaniards appropriated these and much besides. The great Temple of the Sun was speedily rifled; for the piety of the conquerors conspired with their avarice to hasten the downfall of idolatrous edifices. In this temple the embalmed bodies of former Incas, richly adorned, sat on golden thrones beside the golden image of the Sun. The venerated mummies were now stripped and cast aside. The image of the Sun became the prize of a common soldier, by whom it was quickly lost in gambling. Pizarro claimed the land for the Church as well as for the King. He overthrew temples; he cast down idols; he set up crosses on all highways; he erected a Christian place of worship in Cusco.

Cusco was the worthy capital of a great empire. It was of vast extent, and contained a population variously estimated at[461] from two to four hundred thousand persons. The streets crossed regularly at right angles; the houses were built mainly of stone, with light thatched roofs. The numerous palaces[29] were of great size, and splendid beyond anything the conquerors had seen in Europe. A mighty fortress, built upon a lofty rock, looked down on the city. It was formed of enormous blocks of stone, fitted with such care that the point of junction could not be discovered. Two streams descending from the mountains flowed through the city in channels lined with masonry. This noble city was the pride of all Peruvians. It was to them all that Jerusalem was to the ancient Jews or Rome to the Romans.

The natives offered no considerable resistance to the entrance of the conquerors. Vast multitudes had gathered out of the neighbouring country. They looked with wonder and with awe upon the terrible strangers who had slain their monarch, who were now marching at their ease through the land, claiming as their own whatever they desired. They heard the heavy tramp of the war-horse and the strange thrilling notes of the trumpet. They saw the mysterious arms before whose destructive power so many of their countrymen had fallen, and the bright mail within whose shelter the Spaniard could slay in safety the undefended Indian. They may well have regarded the fierce bearded warriors as beings of supernatural strength and supernatural wickedness.

But the time came when they could no longer endure the measureless wrongs which had been heaped upon them; when they were impelled to dash themselves against the mailed host of their conquerors and perish under their blows if they could not destroy them. No injury which it was possible for man to inflict upon his fellows had been omitted in their bitter experience. Their King had been betrayed and ignominiously slain; their temples had been profaned and plundered; their[462] possessions had been seized or destroyed; dishonour had been laid upon them in their domestic relations; they themselves had been subjected to compulsory service so ruthlessly enforced that many of them died under the unaccustomed toil. They were now to make one supreme effort to cast off this oppression, which had already gone far to destroy the life of their nation.

Jan. 1535 A.D. Pizarro—raised to the dignity of Marquis—had retired to the coast, where he occupied himself in founding and embellishing the city of Lima. His brother Fernando—a stout-hearted and skilful captain—was left in charge of Cusco. Danger was not apprehended, and the garrison of Cusco was no more than two hundred Spaniards and a thousand native auxiliaries. While the Spaniards enjoyed their lordly repose in the splendid palaces of the fallen monarchy, the Peruvian chiefs organized a formidable revolt. From all the provinces of the empire multitudes of armed natives gathered around Cusco, and took up position on hills where they were safe from the attack of Spanish horsemen. Many of them were armed with lances or axes of copper tempered so that they were scarcely less effective than steel. Every man in all those dusky ranks was prepared to spend his life in the effort to rescue the sacred city from this abhorred invasion. Feb. 1536 A.D. They set fire to the city; they forced their way into the streets, and fought hand to hand with the Spaniards in desperate disregard of the inequality of their arms. They fell slaughtered in thousands; but in six days’ fighting they had gained the fortress and nearly all of the city which the flames had spared. The Spaniards held only the great square and a few of the surrounding houses. Some despaired, and began to urge that they should mount and ride for the coast, forcing their way through the lines of the besiegers. But the stout heart of Fernando Pizarro quailed not in presence of the tremendous danger. In his mind, he told them, there was not and there had not been any fear. If he[463] were left alone he would maintain the defence till he died, rather than have it said that another gained the city and he lost it. The Spaniard of that day was unsurpassed in courage, and his spirit rose to the highest pitch of daring in response to the appeal of a trusted leader. The men laid aside all thought of flight, and addressed themselves to the capture of the great fortress. This strong position was fiercely attacked, and defended with unavailing heroism. Many Spaniards were slain, among whom was Juan, one of the Pizarro brothers, on whose undefended head a great stone inflicted fatal injury. The slaughter of Indians was very great. At length their ammunition failed them—the stones and javelins and arrows with which they maintained the defence were exhausted. Their leader had compelled the admiration of the Spaniards by his heroic bearing throughout the fight. When he had struck his last blow for his ruined country he flung his club among the besiegers, and, casting himself down from the height of the battlement, perished in the fall. “There is not written of any Roman such a deed as he did,” says the Spanish chronicler. May, 1536 A.D. The defence now ceased; the Spaniards forced their way into the fortress, and slaughtered without mercy the fifteen hundred men whom they found there.

For several weeks longer the Indians blockaded Cusco, and the Spaniards were occasionally straitened in regard to supplies; but always at the time of new moon the Indians withdrew for the performance of certain religious ceremonies, and the Spaniards were able then to replenish their exhausted granaries. The siege languished, and finally ceased, but not till the Spaniards had practised for some time the cruel measure of putting to death every Indian woman whom they seized.

But now misery in a new form came upon this unhappy country. Fierce strifes arose among the conquerors themselves. Pizarro had gained higher honours and ampler plunder than[464] had fallen to the share of his partner Almagro, and it does not seem that he was scrupulous in his fulfilment of the contract by whose terms an equal division of spoil was fixed. Almagro appeared on the scene with an overwhelming force, to assert his own rights. For ten or twelve years from this time the history of Peru represents to us a country ungoverned and in confusion; a native population given over to slavery, and wasting under the exactions of ruthless task-masters; fierce wars between the conquerors devastating the land. 1537 A.D. Tranquillity was not restored till a large portion of the native population had perished, and till all the chiefs of this marvellous conquest had died as miserably as the Indians they had destroyed. Almagro entered Cusco, and made prisoners of the two brothers Fernando and Gonzalo Pizarro; whom, however, he soon liberated. 1538 A.D. He, in turn, fell into the hands of Fernando, by whose orders he was brought for trial before a tribunal set up for that occasion in Cusco. He was condemned to die;—partly for his “notorious crimes;” partly because, as the council deemed, his death “would prevent many other deaths.” On the same day the old man, feeble, decrepit, and begging piteously for life, was strangled in prison and afterwards beheaded. Immediately after this occurrence Fernando Pizarro sailed for Spain, where his enemies had gained the ear of the King. Fernando was imprisoned, and was not released for twenty-three years, till his long life of a hundred years was near its close. 1541 A.D. Three years after the death of Almagro, the Marquis Pizarro, now a man of seventy, was set upon in his own house in Lima and murdered by a band of soldiers dissatisfied with the portion of spoil which had fallen to their share. The close of that marvellous career was in strange contrast to its brilliant course. After a stout defence against overwhelming force, a fatal wound in the throat prostrated the brave old man. He asked for a confessor, and received for answer a blow on the face. With his finger he[465] traced the figure of a cross on the ground, and pressed his dying lips on the hallowed symbol. Thus passed the stern conqueror and destroyer of the Peruvian nation. 1548 A.D. A few years after the assassination of the Marquis, his brother Gonzalo was beheaded for having resisted the authority of Spain; and he died so poor, as he himself stated on the scaffold, that even the garments he wore belonged to the executioner who was to cut off his head. The partnership which was formed at Panama a quarter of a century before, had brought wealth and fame, but it conducted those who were chiefly concerned in it to misery and shameful death.

From Peru the tide of Spanish conquest flowed southward to Chili. The river Plate was explored; Buenos Ayres was founded; and communication was opened from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Forty years after the landing of Columbus, the margins of the continent bordering on the sea had been subdued and possessed, and some progress had been made in gaining knowledge of the interior. There had been added to the dominions of Spain vast regions, whose coast-line on the west stretched from Mexico southward for the distance of six thousand miles—regions equal in length to the whole of Africa, and largely exceeding in breadth the whole of the Russian Empire. It has now to be shown how ill-prepared was Spain for this sudden and enormous addition to her responsibilities—how huge have been the evils which her possession of the new continent inflicted upon mankind.



The native populations with which the Spaniards were brought into contact differed widely, in respect of the degree of civilization to which they had attained, from the Indians of the Northern Continent. The first colonists of Virginia, Massachusetts, and the St. Lawrence valley found the soil possessed by fierce tribes, wholly without knowledge of the arts of civilized life. The savages of the north supported themselves almost entirely by the chase, regarding agriculture with contempt; their dwellings were miserable huts; their clothing was the skins of the beasts which they slew; they were without fixed places of abode, and wandered hither and thither in the forest as their hopes of success in hunting directed. They left no traces of their presence on the land which they inhabited—no cleared forest, nor cultivated field, nor fragment of building. They were still savage and debased in a degree almost as extreme as humanity has ever been known to reach.

The inhabitants of the islands where Columbus first landed were the least civilized of the southern races. But the genial conditions of climate under which they lived, and the abundance with which nature surrounded them, seemed to have softened their dispositions and made them gentle and inoffensive and kind. They were scarcely clothed at all, but they lived in well-built villages and cultivated the ground. Their wants[467] were few; and as the spontaneous bounty of nature for the most part supplied these, they spent their days in simple, harmless indolence. Land among them was “as common as the sun and water.” They gave willingly, and without hope of recompense, any of their possessions which visitors desired to obtain. To the pleased eye of Columbus they seemed “to live in the golden world without toil; living in open gardens, not intrenched with dikes, divided by hedges, or defended with walls.”

The natives of Central America were of a fiercer character and more accustomed to war than those of the islands. They had also made greater progress in the arts; and the ornaments of gold which the Spaniards received from them evidenced considerable skill in working the precious metals. They wore mantles of cotton cloth, and must, therefore, have mastered the arts of spinning and weaving. Their achievements in architecture and sculpture still remain to excite the wonder of the antiquary. Here and there, wrapped almost impenetrably in the profuse vegetation of the forest, there have been found ruined cities, once of vast extent. These cities must have been protected by great walls—lofty, massive, skilfully built. They contained temples, carefully plastered and painted; and numerous altars and images, whose rich sculptures still attest the skill of the barbarian artist.

It was, however, in the ancient monarchies of Mexico and Peru that American civilization reached its highest development. The Mexican people lived under a despotic Government; but their rights were secured by a gradation of courts, with judges appointed by the Crown, or in certain cases elected by the people themselves, and holding their offices for life. Evidence was given on oath, and the proceedings of the courts were regularly recorded. A judge who accepted bribes was put to death. The marriage ceremony was surrounded with the sanctions of religion, and divorce was granted only as the[468] result of careful investigation by a tribunal set up for that special business. Slavery existed; but it was not hereditary, and all Mexicans were born free. Taxation was imposed according to fixed rates, and regular accounts were kept by an officer appointed to that service. The Mexicans had made no inconsiderable progress in manufactures. They wove cotton cloths of exceedingly fine texture, and adorned them with an embroidery of feather-work marvellously beautiful. They produced paper from the leaf of the Mexican aloe; they extracted sugar from the stalk of the Indian corn. They made and beautifully embellished vessels of gold and silver; they produced in abundance vessels of crystal and earthenware for domestic use. They had not attained to the use of iron; but they understood how to harden copper with an alloy of tin till it was fitted both for arms and for mechanical tools. Agriculture was their most honourable employment, and was followed by the whole population excepting the nobles and the soldiers. It was prosecuted with reasonable skill—irrigation being practised, land being suffered to lie fallow for the recovery of its exhausted energies; laws being enacted to prevent the destruction of the woods. The better class of dwellings in cities were well-built houses of stone and lime; the streets were solidly paved; public order was maintained by an effective police. Europe was indebted to the Mexicans for its knowledge of the cochineal insect, whose rich crimson was much used for dyeing fine cotton cloths. The Mexicans were without knowledge of the alphabet till the Spaniards brought it; but they practised with much skill an ingenious system of hieroglyphic painting, which served them fairly well for the transmission of intelligence. Montezuma was informed of the coming of the Spaniards by paintings which represented their ships and horses and armour.

Notwithstanding the industrial progress of this remarkable people, their social condition was, in some respects, inexpressibly[469] debased. It was their custom to offer to their gods multitudes of human sacrifices. Their most powerful motive in going to war was to obtain prisoners for this purpose; and the prowess of a warrior was judged by the number of victims whom he had secured and brought to the sacrificing priest. Wealthy Mexicans were accustomed to give banquets, from which they sought to gain social distinction by the culinary skill exercised and the large variety of delicacies presented. One of the dishes on which the cook put forth all his powers was the flesh of a slave slaughtered for the occasion.[30] The civilization of the Mexicans was fatally obstructed by their religion. The priesthood was numerous, and possessed of commanding authority. The people regarded the voice of the priest as that of the deity to which he ministered, and they lived under the power of a bloody and degrading superstition. Here, as it has been elsewhere, a religion which in its origin was merely a reflection of the good and the evil existing in the character of the people, stamped divine sanction upon their errors, and thus rendered progress impossible.

For two or three centuries before her fall, Peru had constantly extended her dominion over her less civilized neighbours. Her supremacy was widely recognized, and many of the surrounding tribes were persuaded to accept peacefully the advantages which her strong and mild government afforded. It was her wise policy to admit her new subjects, whether they were gained by negotiation or by force, to an equality of privilege with the rest of the people, and to present inducements which led quickly to the adoption of her own religion and language. By measures such as these the empire was consolidated while it was extended, and its tranquillity was seldom marred by internal discontent. When the Peruvian empire received its sudden death-blow from the Spanish conquerors, it was doing[470] the useful work which England has done in India, and Russia in Central Asia—subjugating the savage nations whose territories lay around and imparting to them the benefits of a civilization higher than their own.

Peru was governed according to the principles of Communism. A portion of land was set apart for the Sun—the national deity—and its revenues were expended in the support of temples and a priesthood. A second portion belonged to the Inca—the child and representative of the Sun. The remainder was divided annually among the people. All shared equally. When a young man married he received a fixed addition; when children were born to him further increase was granted. He might not sell his land or purchase that of his neighbour; he could not improve his condition and become rich. But neither could he suffer from want; for the Government provided for his support if he could not provide for it himself, and poverty was unknown. It was equally impossible to be idle, for the Government enforced the exercise of industrious habits.

Agriculture was the national employment. To illustrate its dignity, the Inca was wont on great public occasions to put his own divine hand to the plough and reveal himself to his people in the act of turning over the fruitful sod. The Peruvians were acquainted with the virtues of the guano, which was piled in mountains upon the islands lying along their coasts, and were careful to protect by stern laws the sea-fowl to which they were indebted for the precious deposit. Between the sea and the mountains there stretched a level expanse on which rain never fell. This otherwise profitless region was nourished into high fertility by an elaborate system of irrigation. On the mountains the solid rock was hewn into terraces and covered with soil laboriously carried up from below. In the valleys flourished the tropical banana and cassava tree. On the lower ranges of the mountains grew the maize. At a greater height appeared the American aloe, the tobacco plant,[471] and the coca, the favourite narcotic of the Indian. Yet further up the mountain-side Europeans first saw the potato, then largely cultivated in Peru, and destined at a later time to attain vast social and even political significance in the Old World.

The public works of Peru furnish striking evidence of the industry of the people and the enlightened views of their rulers. Two great roads traversed the country from north to south. One of these, whose length is estimated at fifteen hundred miles, ascended the mountains and passed along the plateau, at a height occasionally of twelve thousand feet; the other ran parallel in the plain which was bordered by the sea. The construction of the upper road was necessarily a work of prodigious difficulty. Vast ravines had to be filled with solid masonry; lofty masses of rock had to be pierced by galleries or surmounted by a long succession of steps; bridges formed of osiers twisted into huge cables had to be hung across rivers. The roadway was formed of massive paving-stones and of concrete; and although no wheeled vehicle or beast of burden other than the llama passed over it, the Spaniards remarked with grateful surprise on its perfect smoothness. There was no road in Europe so well built and so well maintained. Since the conquest it has been suffered to fall into ruin; but here and there, where mountain-torrents have washed the soil from underneath, massive fragments of this ancient work are still to be seen hanging in air, so tenacious were the materials used, so indestructible was the structure produced.

The Peruvians had gained no inconsiderable skill in textile manufacture. Cotton grew abundantly on the sultry plains. Large supplies of wool of extreme fineness were obtained from the Peruvian sheep. Two varieties of these—the llama and the alpaca—were domesticated and carefully watched over by Government officers. Two other varieties roamed wild upon the mountains. But once in the year a great hunt was organized under royal[472] authority; the wanderers were caught and shorn; and the wool thus obtained was carried to the royal store-house. Thence it was given out to the people, to be woven into garments for themselves and for the Inca. The beauty of the fabrics which were produced awakened the admiration of the Spaniards, as greatly superior to the finest products of European looms.

The sons of the great nobles were instructed in the simple learning of the country, in seminaries erected for that purpose; beyond the narrow circle of the aristocracy education did not pass. Some of these youths were to be priests, and they were taught the complicated ritual of the national religion. Some would have to do with the administration of public affairs, and these were required to acquaint themselves with the laws. Many would become subordinate officers of Government, having charge of revenues; recording births and deaths—for the registration system of the Peruvians was painstaking and accurate; taking account of the stores received and given out at the royal magazines. These were instructed in the Peruvian method of keeping records—by means of knots tied upon a collection of threads of different colours. The education of the nobles did not extend further, for little more was known; and as the Peruvian intellect was devoid of energy and the power to originate, the boundaries of knowledge were not extending. The masses of the people lived in contented ignorance; pleased with the Government which directed all their actions and supplied all their wants; enjoying a fulness of comfort such as has seldom been enjoyed by any population; without ambition, without progress, but also without repining; wholly satisfied with the position in which they were born and in which they lived; experiencing no rise and no fall from one generation to another.

Such were the people upon whom there now fell, with awful suddenness, the blight of Spanish conquest. Their numbers[473] cannot be told with any approach to accuracy, for the estimates left by the conquerors are widely diverse. The population of the city of Mexico is set down by some writers at sixty thousand; by others, with equal opportunity for observation, at six hundred thousand; and a divergence equally baffling attends most of the statements which have been supplied to us. There is, however, abundant evidence that the Southern Continent was the home of a very numerous population. The means of subsistence were easily obtained; in Peru marriage was compulsory; the duration of life and the increase of population were not restrained, as in Northern America, by severity of climate and the toil necessarily undergone in the effort to procure food. Cortes, on his way to Mexico, came to a valley where for a distance of twelve miles there was a continuous line of houses. Everywhere near the coast the Spaniards found large villages, and often towns of considerable size. Peru was undoubtedly a populous State; and the great plateau over which Mexico ruled contained many tributary cities of importance. One Spanish writer estimates that forty million of Indians had perished within half a century after the conquest;—beyond doubt an extravagant estimate, but the use of such figures by an intelligent observer is in itself evidence that the continent was inhabited by a vast multitude of human beings.

The power of resistance of this great population was wholly insignificant. The men were not wanting in courage; the Peruvians, at least, were not without a rude military discipline: but they were inferior in physical strength to their assailants; they were without horses and without iron; their solitary hope lay in their overwhelming numbers. They were powerfully reinforced by the diseases which struck down the invaders; but their own poor efforts at defence, heroic and self-devoted as these were, sufficed to inflict only trivial injury upon their well-defended conquerors. A vast continent, with many[474] millions of men ready to die in defence of their homes, fell before the assault of enemies who never at any point numbered over a few hundreds.

The invaders claimed the continent and all that it held as the property of the Spanish Sovereign, upon whom these great possessions had been liberally bestowed by the Pope. The grant of his Holiness conveyed not only the lands but also the infidels by whom they were inhabited; and the Spaniards assumed without hesitation that the Indians belonged to them, and were rightfully applicable to any of their purposes. Upon this doctrine their early relations with the natives were based. The demand for native labour was immediate and urgent. There was gold to be found in the rivers and mountains of the islands, and the natives were compelled to labour in mining—a description of work unknown to them before. There was no beast of burden on all the continent, excepting the llama, which the Peruvians had trained to carry a weight of about a hundred pounds; but the Spaniards had much transport work to do. When an army moved, its heavy stores had to be carried for great distances, and frequently by ways which a profuse tropical vegetation rendered almost impassable. Occasionally it happened that the materials for vessels were shaped out far from the waters on which they were to sail. Very often it pleased the lordly humour of the conquerors to be borne in litters on men’s shoulders when they travelled. The Indian became the beast of burden of the Spaniard. Every little army was accompanied by its complement of Indian bearers, governed by the lash held in brutal hands. When Cortes prepared at Tlascala the materials of the fleet with which he besieged Mexico—when Vasco Nuñez prepared on the Atlantic the materials of ships which were to be launched on the Pacific, the deadly work of transport was performed by Indians. The native allies were compelled to rebuild the city of Mexico, carrying or dragging the stones and timber from a distance, suffering all the while the miseries of[475] famine. Indians might often have been seen bearing on bleeding shoulders the litter of a Spaniard—some ruffian, it might well happen, fresh from the jails of Castile.

The Indians—especially those of the islands, feeble in constitution and unaccustomed to labour—perished in multitudes under these toils. The transport of Vasco Nuñez’s ships across the isthmus cost five hundred Indian lives. Food became scarce, and the wretched slaves who worked in the mines of Hispaniola were insufficiently fed. The waste of life among the miners was enormous. All around the great mines unburied bodies polluted the air. Many sought refuge in suicide from lives of intolerable misery. Mothers destroyed their children to save them from the suffering which they themselves endured.

Nor was it only excessive labour which wasted the native population. The slightest outrage by Indians was avenged by indiscriminate massacre. Constant expeditions went out from Spanish settlements to plunder little Indian towns. When resistance was offered, the inhabitants were slaughtered. If the people gave up their gold and their slender store of provisions, many of them were subjected to torture in order to compel further disclosures. Vasco Nuñez, who was deemed a humane man, wrote that on one expedition he had hanged thirty chiefs, and would hang as many as he could seize: the Spaniards, he argued, being so few, they had no other means of securing their own safety. Columbus himself, conscious that the gold he had been able to send fell short of the expectation entertained in Spain, remitted to the King five hundred Indians, whom he directed to be sold as slaves and their price devoted to the cost of his majesty’s wars. Yet further: there came in the train of the conquerors the scourge of small-pox, which swept down the desponding and enfeebled natives in multitudes whose number it is impossible to estimate. The number of Indian orphans furnished terrible evidence of the rigour of the Spaniards.[476] “They are numerous,” writes one merciful Spaniard, “as the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea.” And yet the conquerors often slew children and parents together.

It was on the islanders that these appalling calamities first fell. They fell with a crushing power which speedily amounted to extermination. When Columbus first looked upon the luxuriant beauty of Hispaniola, and received the hospitality of its gentle and docile people, that ill-fated island contained a population of at least a million. Fifteen years later the number had fallen to sixty thousand. The inhabitants of other islands were kidnapped and carried to Hispaniola, to take up the labours of her unhappy people, and to perish as they had done. In thirty years more there were only two hundred Indians left on this island. It fared no better with many of the others. At a later period, when most of these possessions fell into the hands of the English, no trace of the original population was left. On the mainland, too, enormous waste of life occurred. No estimate lower than ten million has ever been offered of the destruction of natives by the Spanish conquest, and this number is probably far within the appalling truth. Human history, dishonoured as it has ever been by the record of blood causelessly and wantonly shed, has no page so dreadful as this.

But although there prevailed among the conquerors a terrible unanimity in this barbarous treatment of the natives, there were some who stood forward with noble courage and persistency in defence of the perishing races. 1502 A.D. Most prominent among these was Bartholomew de Las Casas, a young priest, who came to the island of Hispaniola ten years after Columbus had landed there. He was a man of eager, fervid nature, but wise and good—self-sacrificing, eloquent, bold to attack the evils which surrounded him, nobly tenacious in his life-long efforts to protect the helpless nations whom his countrymen were destroying. He came to Hispaniola at a[477] time when the island was being rapidly depopulated, and he witnessed the methods by which this result was accomplished. 1511 A.D. Some years later he was sent for to assist in the pacification of Cuba. In the discharge of this task he travelled much in the island, baptizing the children. One morning he and his escort of a hundred men halted for breakfast in the dry bed of a stream. The men sharpened their swords upon stones which abounded there suitable for that purpose. A crowd of harmless natives had come out from a neighbouring town to gaze upon the horses and arms of the strangers. Suddenly a soldier, influenced, as it was believed, by the devil, drew his sword and cut down one of the Indians. In an instant the diabolic suggestion communicated itself to the whole force, and a hundred newly-sharpened swords were hewing at the half-naked savages. Before Las Casas could stay this mad slaughter the ground was cumbered with heaps of dead bodies. The good priest knew the full horrors of Spanish conquest.

When the work of pacification in Cuba was supposed to be complete, Las Casas received from the Governor certain lands, with a suitable allotment of Indians. He owns that at that time he did not greatly concern himself about the spiritual condition of his slaves, but sought, as others did, to make profit by their labour. It was his duty, however, occasionally to say mass and to preach. 1514 A.D. Once, while preparing his discourse, he came upon certain passages in the book of Ecclesiasticus in which the claims of the poor are spoken of, and the guilt of the man who wrongs the helpless. Years before, he had heard similar views enforced by a Dominican monk, whose words rose up in his memory now. He stood, self-convicted, a defrauder of the poor. He yielded a prompt obedience to the new convictions which possessed him, and gave up his slaves; he laboured to persuade his countrymen that they endangered their souls by holding Indians in slavery. His remonstrances[478] availed nothing, and he resolved to carry the wrongs of the Indians to Spain and lay them before the King. 1515 A.D. Ferdinand—old and feeble, and now within a few weeks of the grave—heard him with deep attention as he told how the Indians were perishing in multitudes, without the faith and without the sacraments; how the country was being ruined; how the revenue was being diminished. The King would have tried to redress these vast wrongs, and fixed a time when he would listen to a fuller statement; but he died before a second interview could be held.

The wise Cardinal Ximenes, who became Regent of the kingdom at Ferdinand’s death, entered warmly into the views of Las Casas. He asserted that the Indians were free, and he framed regulations which were intended to secure their freedom and provide for their instruction in the faith. He chose three Jeronymite fathers to administer these regulations; for the best friends of the Indians were to be found among the monks and clergy. He sent out Las Casas with large authority, and named him “Protector of the Indians.” 1516 A.D. But in a few months the Cardinal lay upon his death-bed, and when Las Casas returned to complain of obstructions which he encountered, this powerful friend of the Indians was almost unable to listen to the tale of their wrongs. The young King Charles assumed the reins of government, and became absorbed in large, incessant, desolating European wars. The home interests of the Empire were urgent; the colonies were remote; the settlers were powerful and obstinate in maintaining their right to deal according to their own pleasure with the Indians. For another twenty-five years the evils of the American colonies lay unremedied; the cruelty under which the natives were destroyed suffered no effective restraint.



The ruin which fell on the native population of the New World was at no time promoted by the rulers of Spain; it was the spontaneous result of the unhappy circumstances which the conquest produced. In early life Columbus had been familiarized with the African slave-trade; and he carried with him to the world which he discovered the conviction that not only the lands he found, but all the heathens who inhabited them, became the absolute property of the Spanish Sovereigns. 1495 A.D. He had not been long in Hispaniola till he imposed upon all Indians over fourteen years of age a tribute in gold or in cotton. But it was found impossible to collect this tribute; and Columbus, desisting from the attempt to levy taxes upon his subjects, ordained that, instead, they should render personal service on the fields and in the mines of the Spaniards. 1496 A.D. Columbus had authority from his Government to reward his followers with grants of lands, but he had yet no authority to include in his gift those who dwelt upon the lands. But of what avail was it to give land if no labour could be obtained? Columbus, on his own responsibility, made to his followers such grants of Indians as he deemed reasonable. He intended that these grants should be only temporary, till the condition of the country should be more settled; but the time never came when those who received consented to relinquish them.


A few years later, when the Indians had gained some experience of the ways of the Spaniards, they began to shun the presence of their new masters. They shunned them, wrote Las Casas, “as naturally as the bird shuns the hawk.” It was reported by the Governor, Ovando, that this policy interfered with the spread of the faith as well as with the prosperity of the settlements. 1503 A.D. He received from the Spanish Monarchs authority to compel the Indians to work for such wages as he chose to appoint, and also to attend mass and receive instruction. The liberty of the Indians was asserted; but in presence of the conditions under which they were now to live, liberty was impossible. Ovando lost no time in acting on his instructions. He distributed large numbers of Indians, with no other obligation imposed upon those who received them than that the savages should be taught the holy Catholic faith.

Nov. 1504 A.D. Next year the good Queen Isabella died. She had loved the Indians, and her influence sufficed to restrain the evils which were ready to burst upon them. Her death greatly emboldened the colonists in their oppressive treatment of their unhappy servants. The search for gold had become eminently successful, and there arose a vehement demand for labourers. King Ferdinand was a reasonably humane man, but the welfare of his Indian subjects did not specially concern him. There were many men who had done him service which called for acknowledgment. The King had little money to spare, but a grant of Indians was an acceptable reward. That was the coin in which the claims of expectants were now satisfied. The King soothed his conscience by declaring that such grants were not permanent, but might be revoked at his pleasure. Meantime the population of the islands wasted with terrible rapidity.

In course of time the colonists desired that their rights should be placed upon a more stable footing, and they sent[481] messengers to the King to request that their Indians should be given to them in perpetuity, or at least for two or three generations. 1512 A.D. Their prayer was not granted; but the King summoned a Junta, and the Indians became, for the first time, the subjects of formal legislation. The legality of the system under which they were forced to labour was now clearly established. In other respects the laws were intended, for the most part, to ameliorate the condition of the labourers. But it was only at a few points the new regulations could be enforced. By most of the colonists they were disregarded.

Thirty miserable years passed, during which, although the incessant labours of Las Casas gained occasional successes, the colonists exercised their cruel pleasure upon the native population. The islands were almost depopulated, and negroes were being imported from Africa to take the place of the labourers who had been destroyed. Mexico had fallen, with a slaughter which has been estimated by millions. Of the numerous cities which Cortes passed on his way to Mexico, “nothing,” says a report addressed to the King, “is now remaining but the sites.” In Peru it was asserted by an eye-witness that one-half or two-thirds of men and cattle had been destroyed. The survivors of these unparalleled calamities had fallen into a condition of apathy and indifference from which it was impossible to arouse them. The conquerors had not yet penetrated deeply into the heart of the continent; but they had visited its coasts, and wherever they had gone desolation attended their steps.

1542 A.D. The Spanish Government had made many efforts to curb the lawless greed and cruelty of the conquerors. Now a Junta was summoned and a new code of laws enacted. Again the freedom of the Indians was asserted, and any attempt to enslave them forbidden. The colonists had assumed that the allotments of Indians made to them were not subject to recall. But it was now declared that all such allotments[482] were only for the single life of the original possessor; at his death they reverted to the Crown. Yet further: compulsory service was abolished, and a fixed tribute took its place.

Official persons were sent to enforce these laws in Mexico and Peru. But the Junta had not sufficiently considered the temper of the provinces. It was found that Mexico would not receive the new laws, which were therefore referred to the Government for reconsideration. The Viceroy, who carried the laws to Peru, after bringing the country to the verge of rebellion, was taken prisoner by the local authorities and shipped homewards to Spain. The laws which the high-handed conquerors thus decisively rejected were soon after annulled by an order of the King.

The Spanish Government was thus baffled in its efforts to terminate the ruinous control which Spanish colonists exercised over the natives. The duration of that control was gradually extended. In seventeen years it crept up to three lives. Fifty years later, after many years of agitation, the fourth life was gained. Twenty years after, the still unsatisfied heirs of the conquerors demanded that a fifth life should be included in the grant; but here they were obliged to accept a compromise. The system continued in force for two hundred and fifty years, and was not abolished till near the close of the eighteenth century.

But although the Government yielded to the clamour of its turbulent subjects, in so far as the prolongation of Spanish control was concerned, it was inflexible in its determination to modify the quality of that control. The prohibition of compulsory labour was firmly adhered to. The legal right of the conquerors was restricted to the exaction of a fixed tribute from their subject Indians. This tribute must be paid in money or in some product of the soil, but not compounded for by personal service. The Indians might hire themselves as labourers, under certain regulations and for certain specified wages, but this must[483] be their own voluntary act. For many years the Spaniards yielded a most imperfect obedience to these salutary restrictions, but gradually, as the machinery of administration spread itself over the continent, the law was more strictly enforced.

The Spanish Government is entitled to the praise of having done its utmost to protect the native populations. In the early days of the conquest, Queen Isabella watched over their interests with a special concern for their conversion to the true faith. As years passed, and the gigantic dimensions of the evil which had fallen on the Indians became apparent, her successors attempted, by incessant legislation, to stay the progress of the ruin which was desolating a continent. None of the other European Powers manifested so sincere a purpose to promote the welfare of a conquered people. The rulers of Spain were continually enacting laws which erred only in being more just and wise than the country in its disordered condition was able to receive. They continually sought to protect the Indians by regulations extending to the minutest detail, and conceived in a spirit of thoughtful and even tender kindness.[31] In all that the Government did or endeavoured to do it received eager support from the Church, whose record throughout this terrible history is full of wise foresight and noble courage in warning and rebuking powerful evil-doers. The Popes themselves interposed their authority to save the Indians. Las Casas, when he became a bishop, ordered his clergy to withhold absolution from men who held Indians as slaves. 1520 A.D. Once the King’s Preachers, of whom there were eight, presented themselves suddenly before the Council of the Indies and sternly denounced the wrongs inflicted upon the natives, whereby, said they, the Christian religion was defamed and the Crown disgraced.[484] Gradually efforts such as these sufficed to mitigate the sorrows of the Indians; but for many years their influence was scarcely perceived. The spirit of the conquerors was too high for submission to any limitation of prerogatives which they had gained through perils so great; their hearts were too fierce, their orthodoxy too strict to admit any concern for the sufferings of unbelievers. They were followed by swarms of adventurers—brave, greedy, lawless. Success—unlooked for and dazzling—attended the search for gold. Conquest followed conquest with a rapidity which left hopelessly in arrear the efforts of Spain to supply government for the enormous dependencies suddenly thrown upon her care. Every little native community was given over to the tender mercies of a man who regarded human suffering with unconcern; who was animated by a consuming hunger for gold, and who knew that Indian labour would procure for him the gold which he sought. In course of years, the persistent efforts of the Government and the Church bridled the measureless and merciless rapacity of the Spanish colonists. But this restraint was not established till ruin which could never be retrieved had fallen on the Indians; till millions had perished, and the spirit of the survivors was utterly broken.

When the English began to colonize the northern continent of America, their infant settlements enjoyed at the hands of the mother country a beneficent neglect.[32] The early colonists came out in little groups—obscure men fleeing from oppression, or seeking in a new world an enlargement of the meagre fortune which they had been able to find at home. They gained their scanty livelihood by cultivating the soil. The native population lived mainly by the chase, and possessed nothing of which[485] they could be plundered. The insignificance of these communities sufficed to avert from them the notice of the monarchs whose dominions they had quitted. And thus they escaped the calamity of institutions imposed upon them by ignorance and selfishness; they secured the inestimable advantage of institutions which grew out of their own requirements and were moulded according to their own character and habits.

In the unhappy experience of Spanish America all these conditions were reversed. There were countries in which the precious metals abounded, and many of whose products could be procured without labour and converted readily into money. There was a vast native population in whose hands much gold and silver had accumulated, and from whom, therefore, a rich spoil could be easily wrung. There were powerful monarchies, the romantic circumstances of whose conquest drew the attention of the civilized world. Spain, marvelling much at her own good fortune, hastened to bind these magnificent possessions closely and inseparably to herself.

The territories which England gained in America were regarded as the property of the English nation, for whose advantage they were administered. Spanish America was the property of the Spanish Crown. The gift of the Pope was a gift, not to the Spanish nation, but to Ferdinand and Isabella and their successors. The Government of England never attempted to make gain of her colonies; on the contrary, large sums were lavished on these possessions, and the Government sought no advantage but the gain which colonial trade yielded to the nation. The Sovereigns of Spain sought direct and immediate profit from their colonies. The lands and all the people who inhabited them were their own; theirs necessarily were the products of these lands. No Spaniard might set foot on American soil without a license from the House of Trade. No foreigner was suffered to go, on any terms whatever. Even Spanish subjects of Jewish or Moorish blood were excluded.[486] The Sovereigns claimed as their own two-thirds[33] of all the gold and silver which were obtained, and one-tenth of all other commodities. They established an absolute monopoly in pearls and dye-woods. They levied heavy duties on all articles which were imported into the colonies. They levied a tax on pulque—the intoxicant from which the Indians drew a feeble solace for their miseries. They sold for a good price a Papal Bull, which conveyed the right to eat meat on days when ecclesiastical law restricted the faithful to meaner fare. Acting rigorously according to financial methods such as these, the Spanish Crown drew from the colonies a revenue which largely exceeded the expenses of the colonial administration.

The results of the first two voyages of Columbus disappointed public expectation, and the interest which his discovery had awakened almost ceased. But when the admiral, after his third voyage, sent home pearls and gold and glowing accounts of the treasures which he had at last found, boundless possibilities of sudden wealth presented themselves, and the adventurous youth of Spain hastened to embrace the unprecedented opportunity. The old and rich fitted out ships and loaded them with the inexpensive trifles which savages love; the young and poor sought, under any conditions, the boon of conveyance to the golden world where wealth could be gained without labour: the King granted licenses to such adventurers, and without sharing in their risks and outlays secured to himself a large portion of their profits. So great was the emigration, that in a few years Spain could with difficulty obtain men to supply the waste of her European wars, and found herself in possession of enormous territories and a numerous population for which methods of government and of trade had to be provided.

The government which was established had the simplicity of a pure despotism. 1511 A.D. The King established a Council which exercised[487] absolute authority over the new possessions, and continued in its functions so long as South America accepted government from Spain. This body framed all the laws and regulations according to which the affairs of the colonies were guided; nominated to all offices; controlled the proceedings of all officials. Two Viceroys[34] were appointed, who maintained regal state, and wielded the supreme authority with which the King invested them.

The early colonial policy of all European nations was based on the idea that foreign settlements existed, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the nation to which they belonged. Under this belief, colonists were fettered with numerous restrictions which hindered their own prosperity in order to promote that of the mother country. Spain carried this mistaken and injurious policy to an extreme of which there is nowhere else any example. The colonies were jealously limited in regard to their dealings with one another, and were absolutely forbidden to have commercial intercourse with foreign nations. All the surplus products of their soil and of their mines must be sent to Spain; their clothing, their furniture, their arms, their ornaments must be supplied wholly by Spain. No ship of their own might share in the gains of this lucrative traffic, which was strictly reserved for the ships of Spain. Ship-building was discouraged, lest the colonists should aspire to the possession of a fleet. If a foreign vessel presumed to enter a colonial port, the disloyal colonist who traded with her incurred the penalties of death and confiscation of goods. The colonists were not suffered to cultivate any product which it suited the mother country to supply. The olive and the vine flourished in Peru; Puerto Rico yielded pepper; in Chili there was abundance of hemp and flax. All these were suppressed that the Spanish growers might escape competition. That the trade[488] of the colonies might be more carefully guarded and its revenues more completely gathered in, it was confined to one Spanish port. No ship trading with the colonies might enter or depart elsewhere than at Seville, and afterwards at Cadiz. For two centuries the interests of the colonies and of Spain herself languished under this senseless tyranny.

Those cities which were endowed with a monopoly of colonial trade enjoyed an exceptional prosperity. Seville attracted to herself a large mercantile community and a flourishing manufacture of such articles as the colonists required. She became populous and rich, and her merchants affected a princely splendour. And well they might. The internal communications of Spain were, as they always have been, extremely defective, and the gains of the new traffic were necessarily reaped in an eminent degree by the districts which lay around the shipping port.

Once in the year, for nearly two hundred years, there sailed from the harbour of Seville or of Cadiz the fleets which maintained the commercial relations of Spain with her American dependencies. One was destined for the southern colonies, the other for Mexico and the north. They were guarded by a great force of war-ships. Every detail as to cargo and time of sailing was regulated by Government authority; no space was left in this sadly over-governed country for free individual action. In no year did the tonnage of the merchant-ships exceed twenty-seven thousand tons. The traffic was thus inconsiderable in amount; but it was of high importance in respect of the enormous profits which the merchants were enabled by their monopoly to exact. The southern branch of the expedition steered for Carthagena, and thence to Puerto Bello; the ships destined for the north sought Vera Cruz. To the points at which they were expected to call there converged, by mountain-track and by river, innumerable mules and boats laden with the products of the country. A fair was opened, and for a period of forty days an energetic exchange of commodities went on. When all was concluded,[489] the colonial purchasers carried into the interior the European articles which they had acquired. The gold and silver and pearls, and whatever else the colonies supplied, having been embarked, the ships met at the Havana and took their homeward voyage, under the jealous watch of the armed vessels which escorted them hither.

The treasure-ships of Spain carried vast amounts of gold and silver; and when Spain was involved in war, they were eagerly sought after by her enemies. Many a bloody sea-fight has been fought around these precious vessels; and many a galleon whose freight was urgently required in impoverished Spain found in the Thames an unwelcome termination to her voyage. 1804 A.D. On one occasion England, in her haste not waiting even to declare war, possessed herself of three ships containing gold and silver to the value of two million sterling, the property of a nation with which she was still at peace.

But her hostile neighbours were not the only foes who lay in wait to seize the remittances of Spain. During the seventeenth century, European adventurers—English, French, and Dutch—flocked to the West Indies. At first they meditated nothing worse than smuggling; but they quickly gave preference to piracy, as an occupation more lucrative and more fully in accord with the spirit of adventure which animated them. They sailed in swift ships, strongly manned and armed; they recreated themselves by hunting wild cattle, whose flesh they smoked over their boucanes or wood-fires—drawing from this practice the name of Buccaneer, under which they made themselves so terrible. They lurked in thousands among the intricacies of the West India islands, ready to spring upon Spanish ships; they landed occasionally to besiege a fortified or to plunder and burn a defenceless Spanish town. In time, the European Governments, which once encouraged, now sought to suppress them. This proved a task of so much difficulty that it is scarcely sixty years since the last of the dreaded West India pirates was hanged.


Spain sought to preserve the dependence of her American possessions by the studied promotion of disunion among her subjects. The Spaniard who went out from the mother country was taught to stand apart from the Spaniard who had been born in the colonies. To the former nearly all official positions were assigned. The dependencies were governed by Old Spaniards; all lucrative offices in the Church were occupied by the same class. They looked with some measure of contempt upon Spaniards who were not born in Spain; and they were requited with the jealousy and dislike of their injured brethren. There were laws carefully framed to hold the negro and the Indian races apart from each other. The unwise Sovereigns of Spain regarded with approval the deep alienations which their policy created, and rejoiced to have rendered impossible any extensive combination against their authority.

The supreme desire which animated Spain in all her dealings with her colonies was the acquisition of gold and silver, and there fell on her in a short time the curse of granted prayers. The foundations of her colonial history were laid in a destruction of innocent human life wholly without parallel; influences originating with the colonies hastened the decline of her power and the debasement of her people. But gold and silver were gained in amounts of which the world had never dreamed before. The mines of Hispaniola were speedily exhausted and abandoned. But soon after the conquest the vast mineral wealth of Peru was disclosed. An Indian hurrying up a mountain in pursuit of a strayed llama, caught hold of a bush to save himself from falling. The bush yielded to his grasp, and he found attached to its roots a mass of silver. All around, the mountains were rich in silver. The rumoured wealth of Potosi attracted multitudes of the adventurous and the poor, and the lonely mountain became quickly the home of a large population. A city which numbered ultimately one hundred and fifty thousand souls arose at an elevation of thirteen thousand feet above[491] sea-level: several thousand mines were opened by the eager crowds who hastened to the spot. A little later the yet more wonderful opulence of Mexico was discovered. During the whole period of Spanish dominion over the New World the production of the precious metals, especially of silver, continued to increase, until at length it reached the large annual aggregate of ten million sterling. Two centuries and a half passed in the interval between the discovery of the Western mines and the overthrow of Spanish authority. During that period there was drawn from the mines of the New World a value of fifteen hundred or two thousand million sterling.

When this flood of wealth began to pour in upon the country, Spain stood at the highest pitch of her strength. The divisions which for many centuries had enfeebled her were now removed, and Spain was united under one strong monarchy. Her people, trained for many generations in perpetual war with their Moorish invaders, were robust, patient, enduring, regardless of danger. Their industrial condition was scarcely inferior to that of any country in Europe. Barcelona produced manufactures of steel and glass which rivalled those of Venice. The looms of Toledo, occupied with silk and woollen fabrics, gave employment to ten thousand workmen; Granada and Valencia sent forth silks and velvets; Segovia manufactured arms and fine cloths; around Seville, while she was still the only port of shipment for the New World, there were sixteen thousand looms. So active was the demand which Spanish manufacturers enjoyed, that at one time the orders held by them could not have been executed under a period of six years. Spain had a thousand merchant ships—certainly the largest mercantile marine in Europe. Her soil was carefully cultivated, and many districts which are now arid and barren wastes yielded then luxuriant harvests.

But Spain proved herself unworthy of the unparalleled opportunities which had been granted to her. Her Kings turned the national attention to military glory, and consumed the lives[492] and the substance of the people in aggressive wars upon neighbouring States. Her Church suppressed freedom of thought, and thus, step by step, weakened and debased the national intellect. 1492 A.D. The Jews were expelled from Spain, and the country never recovered from the wound which the loss of her most industrious citizens inflicted. The easily-gained treasure of the New World fired the minds of the people with a restless ambition, which did not harmonize with patient industry. The waste of life in war, and the eager rush to the marvellous gold-fields of America, left Spain insufficiently supplied with population to maintain the industrial position which she had reached. Her manufactures began to decay, until early in the seventeenth century the sixteen thousand looms of Seville had sunk to four hundred. Agriculture shared the fall of the sister industries; and ere long Spain was able with difficulty to support her own diminished population. Her navy, once the terror of Europe, was ruined. Her merchant ships became the prey of enemies whose strength had grown as hers had decayed. The traders of England and Holland, setting at defiance the laws which she was no longer able to enforce, supplied her colonies with manufactures which she in her decline was no longer able to produce.

The North American possessions of England became an inestimable blessing to England and to the human family, because they were the slow gains of patient industry. Their ownership was secured not by the sword, but by the plough. Nothing was done for them by fortune; the history of their growth is a record of labour, undismayed, unwearied, incessant. Every new settler, every acre redeemed from the wilderness, contributed to the vast aggregate of wealth and power which has been built up slowly, but upon foundations which are indestructible.

The success of Spain was the demoralizing success of the fortunate gambler. Within the lifetime of a single generation[493] ten or twelve million of Spaniards came into possession of advantages such as had never before been bestowed upon any people. A vast region, ten times larger than their own country, glowing with the opulence of tropical vegetation, fell easily into their hands. Products of field and of forest which were eagerly desired in Europe were at their call in boundless quantity. A constant and lucrative market was opened for their own productions. Millions of submissive labourers spared them the necessity of personal effort. All that nations strive for as their chief good—territorial greatness, power, wealth, ample scope for commercial enterprise—became suddenly the coveted possession of Spain. But these splendours served only to illustrate her incapacity, to hasten her ruin, to shed a light by which the world could watch her swift descent to the nether gloom of idleness, depopulation, insolvency, contempt.



For three hundred years Spain governed the rich possessions which she had so easily won. At the close of that period the population was about sixteen million—a number very much smaller than the conquerors found on island and continent. The increase of three centuries had not repaired the waste of thirty years. Of the sixteen million two were Spaniards; the remainder were Indians, negroes, or persons of mixed descent.

Spain ruled in a spirit of blind selfishness. Her aim was to wring from her tributary provinces the largest possible advantage to herself. Her administration was conducted by men sent out from Spain for that purpose, and no man was eligible for office unless he could prove his descent from ancestors of unblemished orthodoxy. It was held that men circumstanced as these were must remain for ever true to the pleasant system of which they formed part, and were in no danger of becoming tainted with colonial sympathies. This expectation was not disappointed. During all the years of her sordid and unintelligent rule, the servants of Spain were scarcely ever tempted, by any concern for the welfare of the colonists, to deviate from the traditional policy of the parent State. Corruption fostered by a system of government which inculcated the wisdom of a rapid fortune and an early return to Spain was excessive and audacious. Those Spaniards who had made their home in the colonies[495] were admitted to no share in the administration. Many of them had amassed great wealth; but yielding to the influences of an enervating climate and a repressive Government, they had become a luxurious, languid class, devoid of enterprise or intelligence.

In course of years the poor remnants of the native population which had been bestowed, for a certain number of lives, upon the conquerors, reverted to the Crown, and their annual tribute formed a considerable branch of revenue.[35] The Indians had been long recognized by the law as freemen, but they were still in the remoter districts subjected to compulsory service on the fields and in the mines. They were no longer, however, exposed to the unrestrained brutality of a race which they were too feeble to resist. Officers were appointed in every district to inquire into their grievances and protect them from wrong. In their villages they were governed by their own chiefs, who were salaried by the Spanish Government; and they lived in tolerable contentment, avoiding, so far as that was possible, the unequal companionship which had brought misery so great upon their race.

In the early years of the conquest, negroes were imported from Africa on the suggestion of Las Casas,[36] and for the purpose of staying the destruction of the native population. Negro labour was soon found to be indispensable, and the importation of slaves became a lucrative trade. The demand was large and constant; for the negroes perished so rapidly in their merciless bondage that in some of the islands one negro in every six died annually. France enjoyed for many years the advantage of supplying these victims. 1713 A.D. But England having been victorious over Spain in a great war, wrung from her[496] the guilty privilege of procuring for her the slaves who were to toil and die in her cruel service. After the Treaty of Utrecht, the Spanish colonists were forbidden to purchase negroes excepting from English vessels.

Down to the period of the conquest the Indians had utterly failed to establish dominion over the lower animals. Excepting in Peru, there was almost no attempt made to domesticate, and in Peru it extended no higher than to the sheep. There was no horse on the continent; there were no cattle. It was the fatal disadvantage of being without mounted soldiers which made the subjugation of the Indians so easy. The Spaniards introduced the horse as the chief instrument of their success in war. From time to time as riders were killed in battle, or died smitten by disease, their neglected horses escaped into the wilderness. 1548 A.D. Fifty years after the discovery of the New World a Spaniard introduced cattle. On the boundless plains of the southern continent the increase of both races was enormous. In course of years countless millions of horses and of cattle wandered masterless among the luxuriant vegetation of the pampas. Their presence introduced an element which was wanting before in the population. The pastoral natives of the pampas, to whose ancestors the horse was unknown, have become the best horsemen in the world. They may almost be said to live in the saddle. They support themselves mainly by hunting and slaughtering wild cattle. The submissiveness of their fathers has passed away. They are rude, passionate, fierce; and, as the Spaniards found to their cost, they furnish an effective and formidable cavalry for the purposes of war. A few thousands of such horsemen would have rendered Spanish conquest impossible, and given a widely different course to the history of the continent.

In spite of the indolence of the colonial Spaniards and the mischievous restrictions imposed by the mother country, the trade of the colonies had largely increased. Especially was[497] this the case when certain ameliorations, which even Spain could no longer withhold, were introduced. 1748 A.D. The annual fleet was discontinued; single trading ships registered for that purpose sailed as their owners found encouragement to send them. 1765 A.D. By successive steps the trade of the islands was opened to all Spaniards trading from the principal Spanish ports; the continental colonies were permitted to trade freely with one another, and 1774 A.D. a few years later they were permitted to trade with the islands. These tardy concessions to the growing enlightenment of mankind resulted in immediate expansion, and increased the colonial traffic to dimensions of vast importance. 1809 A.D. At the time when the colonies raised the standard of revolt their annual purchases from Spain amounted to fifteen million sterling, and the annual exports of their own products amounted to eighteen million. The colonial revenue was in a position so flourishing that, after providing for all expenses on a scale of profuse and corrupt extravagance, Spain found that her American colonies yielded her a net annual profit of two million sterling.

The Spaniards, although, as one of the results of their prolonged religious war against the Moorish invaders, they had fallen under a debasing subserviency to their priests, cherished a hereditary love of civil liberty. The Visigoths, from whom they sprang, brought with them into Spain an elective monarchy, a large measure of personal freedom, and even the germs of a representative system. During the war of independence the cities enjoyed the privilege of self-government, and were represented in the national councils. 1504 A.D. Queen Isabella, in her will, spoke of “the free consent of the people” as being essential to the lawfulness of taxation. A few years afterwards, the King’s Preachers, in their noble pleading for the Indians, assert that “a King’s title depends upon his rendering service to his people, or being chosen by them.” Three centuries[498] later, the Spaniards gave unexpected evidence that their inherited love of democracy had not been extinguished by ages of blind superstition and despotism. 1812 A.D. While Europe still accepted the practice and even the theory of personal government, there issued from the Spanish people a democratic constitution, which served as a rallying cry to the nations of Southern Europe in their early struggles for liberty and representation.

The successful assertion of their independence by the thirteen English colonies of the northern continent appealed to the slumbering democracy of the Spanish colonists, and increased the general discontent with the political system under which they lived. 1780 A.D. A revolt in Peru gave to Spain a warning which she was not sufficiently wise to understand. The revolt was suppressed. Its leader, after he had been compelled to witness the death by burning of his wife and children, was himself torn to pieces by wild horses in the great square of Lima. The Spanish Government, satisfied with its triumph, made no effort to remove the grievances which estranged its subjects and threatened the overthrow of its colonial empire.

For thirty years more, although discontent continued to increase, the languid tranquillity of the Spanish colonies was undisturbed. But there had now arisen in Europe a power which was destined to shatter the decaying political systems of the Old World, and whose influences, undiminished by distance, were to introduce changes equally vast upon the institutions of the New World. Napoleon had cast greedy eyes upon the colonial dominion of Spain, and coveted, for the lavish expenditure which he maintained, the treasure yielded by the mines of Peru and Mexico. 1808 A.D. He placed his brother on the throne of Spain; he attempted to gain over the Viceroys to his side. Spain was now a dependency of France. The colonists might have continued for many years longer in[499] subjection to Spain, but they utterly refused to transfer their allegiance to her conqueror. With one accord they rejected the authority of France; and, having no rightful monarch to serve, they set up government for themselves. At first they did not claim to be independent, but continued to avow loyalty to the dethroned King, and even sent money to strengthen the patriot cause. But meantime they tasted the sweetness of liberty. Four years later the usurpers were cast out, and the old King was brought back to Madrid. Spain sought to replace her yoke upon the emancipated colonies, making it plain that she had no thought of lightening their burdens or widening their liberties. The time had passed when it was possible for Spanish despotism to regain its footing on American soil. Many of the provinces had already claimed their independence, and the others were prepared for the same decisive step. The ascendency of Europe over the American continent had ceased. But Spain followed England in her attempt to compel the allegiance of subjects whose affection she had forfeited. In her deep poverty and exhaustion she entered upon a costly war, which, after inflicting for sixteen years vast evils on both the Old World and the New, terminated in her ignominious defeat.

The provinces which bordered on the Gulf of Mexico had a larger intercourse with Europe than their sister States, and were the first to become imbued with the liberal ideas which were now gaining prevalence among the European people. They had constant communication with the West India islands, on one of which they had long been familiar with the mild rule of England, while on another they had seen a free Negro State arise and vindicate its liberties against the power of France. 1797 A.D. The island of Trinidad, lying near their shores, had been conquered by England, who used her new possession as a centre from which revolutionary impulses could be conveniently diffused among the subjects of her enemy. Bordering thus upon territories where freedom was enjoyed, the[500] Colombian provinces learned more quickly than the remoter colonies to hate the despotism of Spain, and were first to enter the path which led to independence.

1810 A.D. Seven of these northern provinces formed themselves into a union, which they styled the Confederation of Venezuela. They did not yet assert independence of Spain. But they abolished the tax which had been levied from the Indians; they declared commerce to be free; they gathered up the Spanish Governor and his councillors, and, having put them on board ship, sent them decisively out of the country. Only one step remained, and it was speedily taken. Next year Venezuela declared her independence, and prepared as she best might to assert it in arms against the forces of Spain.

One of the fathers of South American independence was Francis Miranda. He was a native of Caraccas, and now a man in middle life. In his youth he had fought under the French for the independence of the English colonies on the Northern Continent. When he had seen the victorious close of that war he returned to Venezuela, carrying with him sympathies which made it impossible to bear in quietness the despotism of Spain. A few years later Miranda offered his sword to the young French republic, and took part in some of her battles. But he lost the favour of the new rulers of France, and betook himself to England, where he sought to gain English countenance to the efforts of the Venezuelan patriots. He mustered a force of five hundred English and Americans, and he expected that his countrymen would flock to his standard. But his countrymen were not yet prepared for action so decisive, and his efforts proved for the time abortive. It was this man who laid the foundations of independence, but he himself was not permitted to see the triumph of the great cause. 1812 A.D. The patriot arms had made some progress, and high hopes were entertained; but the province was smitten by an earthquake, which overthrew[501] several towns and destroyed twenty thousand lives. The priests interpreted this calamity as the judgment of Heaven upon rebellion, and the credulous people accepted their teaching. The cause of independence, thus supernaturally discredited, was for the time abandoned. Miranda himself fell into the hands of his enemies, and perished in a Spanish dungeon.

His lieutenant, Don Simon Bolivar, was the destined vindicator of the liberties of the South American Continent. Bolivar was still a young man; his birth was noble; his disposition was ardent and enterprising; among military leaders he claims a high place. His love of liberty, enkindled by the great deliverance which the United States and France had lately achieved, was the grand animating impulse of his life. But his heart was unsoftened by civilizing influences. Under his savage guidance, the story of the war of independence becomes a record not only of battles ably and bravely fought, but of ruthless massacres habitually perpetrated.

For ten years the war, with varying fortune, held on its destructive course. Spain, blindly tenacious of the rich possessions which were passing from her grasp, continued to squander the substance of her people in vain efforts to reconquer the empire with which Columbus and Cortes and Pizarro had crowned her, and which her own incapacity had destroyed. She was utterly wasted by the prolonged war which Napoleon had forced upon her. She was miserably poor. Her unpaid soldiers, inspired by revolutionary sympathies, rose in mutiny against the service to which they were destined. But still Spain maintained the hopeless and desolating strife.

When the terrors of the earthquake had passed away, the patriots threw themselves once more into the contest, with energy which made their final success sure. On both sides a savage and ferocious cruelty was constantly practised. The Royalists slaughtered as rebels the prisoners who fell into their hands. Bolivar announced that “the chief purpose of[502] the war was to destroy in Venezuela the cursed race of Spaniards.” Soldiers who presented a certain number of Spanish heads were raised to the rank of officers. The decree of extirpation was enforced against multitudes of unoffending Spaniards—even against men in helpless age, so infirm that they could not stand to receive the fatal bullet, and were therefore placed in chairs and thus executed. In South America, as in France, the revolt against the cruel despotism of ages was itself without restraint of pity or remorse. The severity which despotism calmly imposes, under due form of law, is in the fulness of time responded to by the passionate and savage outburst of the sufferers’ rage. It is lamentable that it should be so; but while tyrant and victim remain, Nature’s stern method of deliverance must be accepted.

When Miranda first sought the help of England, he received a certain amount of encouragement. Englishmen served in the ranks of his first army, and English money contributed to their equipment. 1810 A.D. A little later England was in league with Spain for the overthrow of Napoleon, and her Government frowned upon “any attempt to dismember the Spanish monarchy.” But when the purposes of this union were served, the inalienable sympathy of the British people with men struggling for liberty asserted itself openly and energetically. 1819-20 A.D. Ample loans were made to the insurgent Governments; recruiting stations were established in the chief towns of England; many veterans who had fought under Wellington offered to the patriot cause the invaluable aid of their disciplined and experienced courage.

Thus reinforced, Bolivar was able to press hard upon the discouraged Royalists. The protracted struggle was about to close. June, 1821 A.D. Four thousand Spaniards, unable now to meet their enemies in the field, lay in a strong position near Carabobo. Bolivar with a force of eight thousand watched during many days for an opportunity to[503] attack. Of his troops twelve hundred were British veterans. Bolivar succeeded at length in placing his forces on the flank of the enemy and compelling him to accept battle. The Spaniards at the outset gained important advantage, and broke the first line of the assailants. Unaware of the presence of British auxiliaries, they advanced as to assured victory. But when they saw, through the smoke of battle, the advancing ranks and levelled bayonets of the British, and heard the loud and defiant cheers of men confident in their own superior prowess, their hearts failed them and they fled. The victory of Carabobo closed the war in the northern provinces. Henceforth the liberty of Venezuela was secure.

The revolutionary movement which originated on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico extended itself quickly into all the continental possessions of Spanish America. The overthrow of government in Spain imposed upon every province the necessity of determining for itself the political system under which its affairs should be conducted. The course pursued in all was substantially identical. There came first the establishment of a native government, administered in the King’s name. Gradually this insincere acceptance of an abhorred yoke was discarded, and the colonies were unanimous in their resolution to become independent. In each there was a Royalist element which struggled bravely and bitterly to uphold the ancient rule of the mother country, with all its pleasant abuses and unfathomable evils. In each it was the care of Spain to strengthen the Royalists and maintain the contest. During many years Spanish America was the theatre of universal civil war. Evils of appalling magnitude flowed from the prolonged and envenomed strife. Population sunk in many localities to little more than one-half of what it had formerly been. The scanty agriculture of the continent became yet more insignificant. Commerce lost more than one-half its accustomed volume.[504] The supply of gold and silver well-nigh ceased. In some years it fell to one-tenth, and during the whole revolutionary period it was less than one-third of what it had been in quieter times. Never before had war inflicted greater miseries upon its victims or extended its devastations over a wider field.

Peru was the last stronghold of Spanish authority. Spain put forth her utmost effort to maintain her hold upon the mineral treasures which were almost essential to her existence. The desire for independence was less enthusiastic here than in the other provinces; the insurrectionary movement was more fitful and more easily suppressed. When independence had triumphed everywhere besides, the Peruvian republic was struggling, hopelessly, for existence. The Spaniards had possessed themselves of the capital; a reactionary impulse had spread itself among the soldiers, and numerous desertions had weakened and discouraged the patriot ranks. The cause of liberty seemed almost lost in Peru; the old despotism which had been cast out of the other provinces seemed to regain its power over the land of the Incas, and threatened to establish itself there as a standing menace to the liberty and peace of the continent.

1820 A.D. But at this juncture circumstances occurred in Europe whose influences reinforced the patriot cause and led to its early and decisive victory. A revolutionary movement had broken out in Spain, and attained strength so formidable that the Bourbon King was forced to accept universal suffrage. The restored monarchy of France sent an army into Spain to suppress these disorders and re-establish the accustomed despotism. The expedition, led by a French prince, achieved a success which was regarded as brilliant, and which naturally gained for France a large increase of influence in the affairs of the Peninsula. England, not delivered even by Waterloo from her hereditary jealousy of France, regarded this gain with displeasure. Mr. Canning, who then directed the foreign policy of England, resolved[505] that since France now predominated over Spain, it should be over Spain shorn of her American possessions. As he grandly boasted, he “called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old.” 1823 A.D. In simple prose, he acknowledged the independence of the revolted Spanish provinces, and entered into relations with them by means of consuls. As a consequence of this recognition, large supplies of money and of arms were received by the insurgents, and many veteran British and French soldiers joined their ranks.

1823 A.D. These reinforcements made it possible for Bolivar to equip a strong force and hasten to the support of the sinking republic of Peru. He arrived at Lima with an army of ten thousand men, many of whom had gained their knowledge of war under Napoleon and Wellington. Here he made his preparations for the arduous undertaking of carrying his army across the Andes. When Pizarro entered upon the same enterprise, he marched across a plain made fertile by the industry of the people; among the mountains his progress was aided by the great roads of the barbarians and the frequent magazines and places of shelter which they had providently erected. But three centuries of Spanish dominion had effaced the works of the Incas, and had carried the land, by great strides, back towards desolation. The roads and the canals for irrigation had fallen into decay; the fruitful plain was now an arid and sterile wilderness. Bolivar had to make roads, to build sheds, to lay up stores of food along his line of march, before he could venture to set out. The toil of the ascent was extreme, and the men suffered much from the cold into which they advanced. The Royalists did not wait for their descent, but met them among the mountains at an elevation of twelve thousand feet above sea-level. During many months there was fighting without decisive result. At length the armies met for a conflict which it was now perceived must be final. Dec. 9, 1824 A.D. On the[506] plain of Ayacucho, twelve thousand Royalists encountered the Republican army, numbering now scarcely more than one-half the opposing forces. The outnumbered Independents fought bravely, but the fortune of war seemed to declare against them, and they were being driven from the field with a defeat which must soon have become a rout. At that perilous moment an English general commanding the Republican cavalry struck with all his force on the flank of the victorious but disordered Spaniards. The charge could not be resisted. The Spaniards fled from the field, leaving their artillery and many prisoners, among whom was the Viceroy. A final and decisive victory had been gained. The war ceased; Peru and Chili were given over by treaty to the friends of liberty, and the authority which Spain had so vilely abused had no longer a foothold on the soil of the great South American Continent.

The process by which Spain was stripped of her American possessions, and of which we have now seen the close, had begun within a hundred years after the conquest. When she ceased to obtain gold and silver from the islands of the Gulf of Mexico, Spain ceased to concern herself about these portions of her empire. The other nations of Europe, guided by a wiser estimate, sought to possess themselves of the neglected islands. Soon after the death of Queen Elizabeth, the English established themselves on Barbadoes, and began industriously to cultivate tobacco, indigo, and the sugar-cane. A little later, the French formed settlements on Martinique and Guadaloupe, as the English did on St. Christopher, and held them against all the efforts of Spain. Oliver Cromwell seized Jamaica, and peopled the island with “idle and disaffected” persons, who were sent out with slight regard to their own wishes.[37] The buccaneers formed many settlements, which[507] were assailed but could not be extirpated. 1665 to 1671 A.D. One of these, on the island of St. Domingo, was taken under the protection of France. The Danes possessed themselves of St. Thomas. During the ceaseless wars of the eighteenth century France and England competed keenly for dominion in the Gulf of Mexico, and the maritime supremacy of England gave her decisive advantage in the contest. Few wars closed without a new cession of colonial lands by France or by Spain to England. 1763 A.D. On the Northern Continent, Florida was added to the English possessions. The vast territory known as Mississippi passed into the hands of the United States. The revolutionary movement of the nineteenth century wrenched from Spain all the rich provinces which she owned on the Southern Continent, and the battle of Ayacucho left her with only an inconsiderable fragment of those boundless possessions which, by a strange fortune, had fallen into her unworthy hands.

Only Cuba and Puerto Rico remain, to preserve the humiliating memory of a magnificent colonial dominion gained and held without difficulty; governed in shameless selfishness; lost by utter incapacity. Puerto Rico is an inconsiderable island, scarcely larger than the largest of our English counties, lying off the northern shores of the continent. It holds a population of six or seven hundred thousand persons, one-half of whom are slaves.[38] Its people occupy themselves in the cultivation of sugar and tobacco, and are still governed by Spain according to the traditions which guided her policy during the darkest period of her colonial history.

Cuba is the noblest of all the islands which Columbus found in the West. It lies in the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, where Yucatan on the Southern Continent draws towards[508] Florida on the Northern to form the seaward boundaries of the Gulf. Its area is about one-half that of Great Britain. Its population is one million four hundred thousand,[39] of whom one-fourth are slaves. The rich soil yields two and even three crops of corn annually; the perpetual summer of its genial climate clothes in blossom throughout the whole year the aromatic plants and trees which beautify its plains. The sugar-cane, whose cultivation is the leading industry of the island, is a source of vast wealth. To the extent of one-half its area the island is covered with dense forests of valuable timber still untouched by the axe. The orange tree, the citron, the pomegranate yield, spontaneously, their rich harvest of precious fruits.

But the bounty of Nature has been neutralized by the unworthiness of man. The blight of Spanish government has fallen heavily on this lovely island. When the other American possessions of Spain threw aside the yoke, the leading Cubans assembled and swore solemnly to maintain for ever the authority of the parent State. They still plume themselves on their loyalty, and speak fondly of Cuba as “the ever-faithful isle.” But neither the obedience of Cuba nor the rebellion of the other colonies moved the blind rulers of Spain to mitigate the evils which their authority inflicted. The ancient system was enforced on Cuba when she became the sole care of Spain precisely as it had been when she was still a member of a great colonial dominion. All offices were still occupied by natives of Spain; all Spaniards born in Cuba were still regarded with contempt by their haughty countrymen from beyond the sea. Governors still exercised a purely despotic authority; the home Government still claimed a large gain from the colonial revenue; all religions but one were still excluded. The loss of a continent had taught no lesson to incapable Spain.


After the successful assertion of independence by the continental States, frequent insurrections testified to the presence of a liberal spirit in Cuba. These were suppressed without difficulty, but not without much needless cruelty. 1868 A.D. At length there burst out an insurrection which surpassed all the others in dimensions and duration. It continued to rage during eight years; it cost Spain one hundred and fifty thousand of her best soldiers; nearly one-half the sugar plantations of the island were destroyed; population decreased; trade decayed; poverty and famine scourged the unhappy island.

1876 A.D. Spain was able at length to crush out the rebellion and maintain her grasp over this poor remnant of her American empire. Cuba emerged from those miserable years in a state of utter exhaustion. Many of her people had perished by famine or by the sword; many others had fled from a land blighted by a government which they were not able either to reject or to endure. Spain sought to make Cuba defray the costs of her own subjugation, and taxation became enormous. The expenditure of Cuba is at the rate of fifteen pounds for each of the population, or six times the rate of that of Great Britain. Only three-fourths of the total sum can be wrung from the impoverished people, even by a severity of taxation which is steadily crushing out the agriculture of the island; and a large annual deficit is rapidly increasing the public debt.[40] Already that debt has been trebled by the rebellion and its consequences. None of the devices to which distressed States are accustomed to resort have been omitted, and an inconvertible currency, so large as to be hopelessly unmanageable, presses heavily upon the sinking industries of Cuba.[41]

Spain is the largest producer and the smallest consumer of[510] sugar. A Spaniard uses only one-sixth of the quantity of sugar which is used by an Englishman. Spain has made the article high-priced, in utter disregard of colonial interests, for the purpose of cherishing her home production. The sugar of Cuba, loaded with heavy taxes before shipment, and further discouraged in the markets of Spain by excessive import duties, is unable to support those iniquitously imposed burdens, and this great industry is falling into ruin.

There are sixteen thousand Government servants in Cuba—nearly all Spaniards; all underpaid; all permitted to make livings or fortunes by such means as present themselves. They maintain themselves, and many of them grow rich, by corruption, which there is no public opinion to rebuke. The ignorance of the people is unsurpassed—not more than one-tenth of their number having received any education at all. A few poor newspapers, living under a strict censorship, supply the literary wants of Havana, a city of two hundred and thirty thousand souls. No religious teaching, excepting that which the Church of Rome supplies, is permitted within the island. Justice is administered according to the irresponsible pleasure of ignorant Spanish officials, incessantly eager to be bribed. Slavery lingers in Cuba after its rejection by all American and European States, and is here characterized by special brutalities. Recent English travellers have witnessed the flogging of young slave-women, from whose arms lately-born children were removed in order that the torture might be inflicted.

The States of the Spanish mainland suffered deeply in their struggle against the power of the mother country, but they gained the ample compensation of independence. Unhappy Cuba endured miseries no less extreme, but she found no deliverance. The solace of freedom has been withheld; the abhorred and withering despotism survives to blight the years that are to come as it has blighted those that are past.



When the thirteen English colonies of the Northern Continent gained their independence, they entered upon a political condition for which their qualities of mind and their experience amply fitted them. They were reasonably well educated; indeed there was scarcely any other population which, in this respect, enjoyed advantages so great. They were men of a race which had for centuries been accustomed to exercise authority in the direction of its own public affairs. Since they became colonists they and their fathers had enjoyed in an eminent degree the privilege of self-government. The transition by which they passed into sovereign States demanded no fitness beyond that which they inherited from many generations of ancestors and developed in the ordinary conduct of their municipal and national interests.

With the Spanish settlements on the Southern Continent it was altogether different. The people were entirely without education; the printing-press was not to be found anywhere on the continent excepting in two or three large cities. They were of many and hostile races. There were Spaniards—European and native. There were Indians, classed as civilized, half-civilized, and wild. There were Negroes; there were races formed by the union of the others. The European Spaniards alone had any experience in the art of government, and they were driven from the continent with all possible speed. The[512] others were wholly unpractised in the management of their own national concerns. Spanish officials supplied, according to their own despotic pleasure, the regulation which they deemed needful; and the colonists had not even the opportunity of watching and discussing the measures which were adopted.

No people ever took up the work of self-government under a heavier burden of disadvantage and disqualification. It is not surprising that their success thus far has been so imperfect. Nor is their future to be despaired of because their past is so full of wasted effort, of incessant revolution, of blood lavishly shed in civil strife which seemed to have no rational object and no solid result. Mankind must be satisfied if, beneath these confusions and miseries, there can be traced some evidences of progress towards that better political and industrial condition which self-government has never ultimately failed to gain.

The early legislation of the South American States expressed genuine sympathy with the cause of liberty, and an unselfish desire that its blessings should be enjoyed by all. Slavery was abolished, and for many years the absence of that evil institution from the emancipated Spanish settlements was a standing rebuke to the unscrupulous greed which still maintained it among the more enlightened inhabitants of the Northern Continent. Constitutions were adopted which evinced a just regard to the rights of all, combined, unhappily, with an utter disregard to the fitness of the population for the exercise of these rights.[42] Universal suffrage and equal electoral districts were established, and votes were taken by the ballot. Orders of nobility were abolished, and some unjust laws which still retain their place in the statute-book of England, as the laws of entail and primogeniture. Entire religious liberty was decreed, and[513] it was not long till the interference of the Pope in such ecclesiastical concerns as the appointment of bishops was resented and repelled. The punishment of death for political offences was abolished. In course of time an educational system, free and compulsory, was set up in some of the States. The people of South America had been animated in their pursuit of independence by the example of the United States and of France, and they sought to frame their political institutions according to the models which these countries supplied.

The institutions which were then set up remain in their great outlines unchanged. But the wisdom and moderation which are essential to self-government are not suddenly bestowed by Heaven; they are the slowly accumulated gains of long experience. There did not exist among the South Americans that reverential submission to majorities which self-governing nations gradually acquire. Here, as elsewhere, two opposing parties speedily revealed themselves. One was zealously liberal and reforming—seeking progress and desiring in each country a federation of States as opposed to a strong centralized Government; the other preferred centralization and a maintenance of existing conditions. Among a people so utterly unpractised in political life no method of settling these differences other than the sword suggested itself. During half a century the continent has been devastated by perpetual wars around questions which, among nations of larger experience, would have merely formed the theme of peaceful controversy. And in a large number of instances the original grounds of contest were forgotten—exchanged for an ignoble personal struggle to gain or to hold the advantages of power.

The South American States perceived the desirableness of a popularly chosen Legislature, but their political knowledge carried them no further. They consented to an autocratic Executive. They placed Dictators in supreme authority. Theirs was the idea which Napoleon in modern times originated and[514] which his nephew developed—the idea of a despotism based on universal suffrage. They intrusted their liberties to a selfish oligarchy. When the struggle for independence was victoriously closed, they had still to conquer their freedom, and the contest has been more prolonged and bloody than that which they waged against the tyranny of Spain.

The three northern States of Venezuela, New Granada, and Ecuador began their independent career by forming themselves into a great federal Republic. Their possessions extended over an area six times larger than that of France; thinly peopled by men of diverse races; severed by mountains well-nigh impassable, without connection of road or navigated river. The task of government under these circumstances was manifestly desperate. But hopes were high in that early morning of liberty. 1821 A.D. With a constitution closely resembling that of the United States, and with Bolivar the liberator of a continent as President, the Republic of Colombia entered proudly upon the fulfilment of its destiny. Five years after, the union which had been found impossible was dissolved. Bolivar, the great and patriotic soldier, proved himself an incapable and despotic statesman. He became Dictator of New Granada, which he ruled according to his arbitrary pleasure. 1830 A.D. The outraged people delivered themselves by a bloody but successful revolt from a yoke scarcely more tolerable than that of Spain; and the man to whom the continent owed its independence died broken-hearted, by what seemed to him the ingratitude of his countrymen.

Incessant strife now raged between the party of the priests and soldiers on the one hand and that of the people on the other. During a period of seventeen years the country endured a government of clerical ascendency and brute force. But during these years the numbers and political influence of the artisan class in towns had largely increased; and the far-reaching[515] influences of the revolutions in Europe roused the energies of the people. 1848 A.D. They were able to wring from the Government large promises of reform, and a decree for the expulsion of the Jesuits. Some years followed, darkened by incessant revolts and the alternating victory and defeat of the opposing parties. 1854 A.D. At length the Liberals took the field with a “regenerating army” of twenty thousand men, and were utterly defeated. The Conservatives were now in the ascendant. But the tenacious Liberals, refusing to accept defeat, maintained for seven years a war in which, after a hundred battles, they were at length decisively victorious. 1861 A.D. There have been revolutions since that time, and short-lived Conservative triumphs, but the Liberal ascendency has never been very seriously shaken.

1826 to 1847 A.D. Venezuela spent twenty tranquil years under the military despotism of General Paez—one of Bolivar’s companions-in-arms. But at the end of that period there arose a cry for reform. Even the Indians and the men of mixed race sought eagerly for the correction of the abuses which the ruling party maintained. 1849 A.D. General Paez was banished from the country. 1863 1868 1870 A.D. For some years he troubled the Republic by armed attempts to regain his lost authority, but the power of Liberalism could not be shaken. Once a sudden Conservative uprising gained a short-lived triumph. But a spirited Liberal—Guzman Blanco—drove the enemy forth and became President of the Republic—an office which he held for eight years. During the period of his rule there was no more than one revolutionary movement of importance. 1872 A.D. That revolt was closed by a desperate battle, in which the strength of the Conservative party was utterly broken.[43]


Under the judicious rule of President Blanco, Venezuela has enjoyed what to a South American Republic must seem profound tranquillity. Priestly power has received great discouragement. The convents and monasteries have been suppressed; civil marriage has been established; subjection to Rome has been disavowed.[44] A compulsory system of national education has been established—not too soon, for only one Venezuelan in ten can read or write. Some beginning has been made in developing the vast mineral resources of the country. Numerous roads, canals, and aqueducts have been constructed. Population has increased, and the trade of the republic, although not yet considerable, grows from year to year. The industrious habits of the people draw no reinforcement from necessity; for in that rich soil and genial climate the labour of a single month will maintain a family in comfort for a whole year. Nevertheless, the people are fairly industrious; and they are honest, cheerful, and hospitable. The tendency to redress political wrongs by violence seems to lose its power as these wrongs diminish in number and intensity; and the prospect of a peaceful future, with growing intelligence and increase of industrial well-being, steadily improves.

1822 A.D. When the Mexicans gained their independence, they raised to the throne a popular young officer, whom they styled the Emperor Augustine First. They were then a people utterly priest-ridden and fanatical; and the clergy whom[517] they superstitiously revered were a corrupt and debased class. The reformers had avowed the opinion that the Church was the origin of most of the evils which afflicted the country. The Emperor, while he offered equal civil rights to all the inhabitants of Mexico, sought to gain the clergy to his cause by guaranteeing the existence of the Catholic Church. But a monarchy proved to be impossible, and in less than a year a republican uprising, headed by Santa Anna, forced the Emperor to resign. 1824 A.D. A Federal Republic was then organized, with a constitution based on that of the great Republic whose territories adjoined those of Mexico.

For the next thirty years Santa Anna is the prominent figure in Mexican politics. He was a tall thin man, with sun-browned face, black curling hair, and dark vehement eye. He possessed no statesmanship, and his generalship never justified the confidence with which it was regarded by his countrymen. But he was full of reckless bravery and dash, and if his leading was faulty, his personal bearing in all his numerous battles was irreproachable. His popularity ebbed and flowed with the exigencies of the time. 1828-39 A.D. He repelled an invasion by Spain and an invasion by France, and these triumphs raised him to the highest pinnacle of public favour. Then his power decayed, and he was forced to flee from the country. When new dangers threatened the unstable nation, he was recalled from his banishment, and placed in supreme command. At one period one of his legs, which had been shattered in battle, was interred with solemn funeral service and glowing patriot oratory. A little later the ill-fated limb was disinterred, and kicked about the streets of Mexico with every contumelious accompaniment. His public life was closed by a hasty flight to Havana—the second movement of that description which it was his lot to execute.

Santa Anna sought the favour of the people by the grant of extremely democratic constitutions, but throughout his whole[518] career he remained the willing tool of the clerical party. The Mexican clergy were possessed of vast wealth and vast influence. Fully one-half the land of the country belonged to them, and a large portion of the remainder was mortgaged to them. Their spiritual prerogatives were held to exempt them from taxation, and thus the whole weight of national burden fell upon the smaller division of national property. It was the concern of this powerful interest to maintain its own unjust privileges and to repress the growth of liberal sentiments among the people. So long as they were able to command the service of Santa Anna, they were able to frustrate the general wish, and guide the policy of the country according to their ignorant and tyrannical pleasure.

But they had not been able to shut out from the democracy of the towns, or from the Indians in their country villages, the political ideas to which the French Revolution of 1848 gave so large prevalence in Europe. The influence of the United States, which the ruling party strove to exclude, continued to gain in power. A radical party arose which assailed the privileges of the clergy. In course of years the growing demand for reform overcame the stubborn priestly defence of abuses, and the Mexicans took a large step towards the vindication of their liberties.

The leader in this revolution was Benito Juarez, a Toltec Indian; one of that despised race which the Aztecs subdued centuries before the Spanish invasion. This man had imbibed the liberal and progressive ideas which now prevailed in all civilized countries; and his personal ability and skill in the management of affairs gained for him the opportunity of conferring upon Mexico the fullest measure of political blessing which she had ever received. 1855 A.D. The Liberals were now a majority in Congress, and the gigantic work of reformation began. The first step was to declare the subjection of the clergy to civil law. Two years later came the abolition[519] of clerical privileges, liberty of religion, a free press, a reduced tariff, the opening of the country to immigration, the beginning of commercial relations with the United States. The Pope, with hearty good-will, cursed all who favoured such legislation; the Archbishop of Mexico added his excommunication of all who rendered obedience to it. What was still more to the purpose, the clerical party rose in civil war to crush this aggressive liberalism, or, in their own language, to “regenerate” Mexico. Juarez and his Government were driven for a time from the capital, and withdrew to Vera Cruz. But this retreat did not arrest the flow of Liberal measures. 1859 A.D. From Vera Cruz, Juarez was able to promulgate his Laws of Reform, suppressing monastic orders, establishing civil marriage, claiming for the nation the monstrously overgrown possessions of the Church,[45] giving fuller scope to many of the reforming laws enacted two years before. Next year the Liberals triumphed over their enemies, and the Government returned to its proper home, in the city of Mexico.

But the resources of the defeated Clericals were not yet exhausted. Their aims concurred with an ambition which at that time animated the restless mind of the Emperor Napoleon III. The Emperor claimed to be the head of the Latin races, whose position on the American Continent seemed to be endangered by their own dissensions, as well as by the rapid expansion of the Anglo-Saxons. The Mexican clergy, supported by the Court of Rome, gave encouragement to his idle dream. An expedition was prepared, in which England and Spain took reluctant and hesitating part, and from which they quickly withdrew.

1863 A.D. A French army entered the capital of Mexico. Juarez and his Government withdrew to maintain a patriot war, in which the mass of the people zealously upheld them. An Austrian prince sat upon the throne of Mexico without support, excepting that which the clerical[520] party of Mexico and the bayonets of France supplied. A few years earlier or later these things dared not have been done; but when the French troops entered Mexican territory, the United States waged, not yet with clear prospect of success, a struggle on the results of which depended their own existence as a nation. They had no thought to give to the concerns of other American States, and they wisely suffered the Empire of Mexico to run its sad and foolish course. 1865 A.D. But now the Southern revolt was quelled, and the Government of Washington, having at its call a million of veteran soldiers, intimated to Napoleon that the further stay of his troops on the American Continent had become impossible. The Emperor waited no second summons. 1866 A.D. When the French were gone, the patriot armies swept over the country, and this deplorable attempt to set up imperialism came to an ignominious close. 1867 A.D. The Emperor Maximilian fell into the hands of his enemies, and was put to death according to the terms of a decree which his own Government had framed.

Juarez was again elected President, and returned with his Congress to the city of Mexico. During his whole term of office he had to maintain the Liberal cause in arms against the tenacious priesthood and its followers. 1872 A.D. When he died, a Liberal President was chosen to succeed him. The war has never ceased, and the clerical party has occasionally gained important advantages. It is evident, however, that its power is being gradually exhausted, and that the final triumph of Liberalism is not now remote. For sixty years Mexico has been the opprobrium of Christendom. It is possible now to entertain the hope that ere many years pass, this unhappy country, purged of those clerical and military elements which have been her curse, will begin to take her fitting place among peaceable, industrious, and prosperous States.

The area of Mexico is six times larger than that of Great[521] Britain and Ireland. Her population is between nine and ten million. Two-thirds of these are pure Indians, the descendants of the men on whom the thunderbolt of Spanish invasion fell nearly four hundred years ago. Two and a half million are of mixed origin; five hundred thousand are pure European. At the time of the conquest there were among the Mexicans thirty different races and languages, and these distinctions still survive. The Indians have regained the cheerfulness which was crushed out of their dispositions by Spanish cruelty, and under due superintendence they make excellent artisans and servants. The work of the country is performed by them; and as their ambition has not been awakened and their wants are few, labour is cheap. It is only recently that anything at all has been done for their education, and they are still profoundly ignorant.[46] But they furnish abundant evidence of high capability. The race from which President Juarez sprang may reasonably hope that, after all its miseries, a creditable future is in store.

The whites are the aristocracy of the country; the mixed breeds are its turbulent element. They are ordinarily quiet and indolent, but they are easily inflamed to revolt. To a large extent the constant revolutionary movements which waste the country have been sustained by them.

The reforming laws of Juarez have been well enforced in the great centres of population. No monk or nun, nor any Jesuit is tolerated; no priest is to be seen in the streets in the garb of his office; reformatories and schools are being established; the youth of Mexico are being rescued from the priest, and made over to the schoolmaster. In the remote provinces the execution of the law is extremely imperfect. There the clerical party is still powerful, and forbidden taxes are still levied in defiance of law. The subordinate officers of Government are inordinately corrupt. Import duties are excessive, and the temptations to[522] evasion are irresistible. The officers of the custom-house habitually conspire with merchants to defraud the revenue, and share with them the unlawful gain. The financial condition of the country is lamentable. Only a small portion of the public debt is recognized by the Government, and upon that portion no interest is paid. Expenditure constantly exceeds revenue. Ordinarily the cost of civil war absorbs more than one-half the national income; frequently it absorbs the whole.

The country is surpassingly rich, but its progress is hindered by insufficient means of communication. The most urgent requirement of this inland region was that it should be brought within easy reach of the sea-coast. The pressure of this necessity led, so long ago as in 1852, to the attempted construction of a railway from the city of Mexico to Vera Cruz. But the works were stopped by the habitual national convulsions; and when Maximilian ascended the throne, he found nothing accomplished excepting a few miles at either end of the projected line. While he reigned, the works were carried on, and they were stopped when his fall drew near. They were resumed by the Liberal Government, but the progress of any useful work is slow in a country tormented by incessant revolution. It was seven years more till the railway was completed for the whole distance of two hundred and sixty-three miles. Besides this line, there are no more than three or four hundred miles of railway yet opened in Mexico.

The silver-mines of Mexico, which ceased to produce during the war of independence, have resumed their former importance. They now yield silver to the annual value of three million sterling. Besides the export of this commodity, Mexico exports two million annually of cochineal, indigo, hides, and mahogany. Her entire imports do not amount to more than five and a half million. Her foreign commerce, to the extent of two-thirds its value, is transacted with her once hated neighbour the United States.


If Mexico has been the least fortunate of all the Spanish provinces of America, Chili furnishes the best example of a well-ordered, settled, and prosperous State. Its area is only one-fifth and its population one-fourth that of Mexico, but its foreign commerce is nearly one-half larger.[47] For this commerce its situation is peculiarly favourable. Chili, a long and narrow country, lies on the Pacific, with which it communicates by upwards of fifty sea-ports. It is therefore only in small measure dependent for its progress upon railways and navigable rivers.

For sixteen years after throwing off the Spanish yoke,[48] Chili was governed, despotically, without a constitution. During those years constant disorders prevailed. At length the general wish of the nation was gratified. 1833 A.D. A constitution was promulgated, under which the franchise was bestowed on every married man of twenty-one years, and on every unmarried man of twenty-five who was able to read and write. With this constitution the people have been satisfied. The government has been throughout in the hands of a moderate Conservative party, which has directed public affairs with firmness and wisdom, and has manifested zeal in the correction of abuses. Opposing parties have not in Chili, as in the neighbouring States, wasted the country by their fierce contentions for ascendency. In the exercise of a wise but rare moderation, the views of either party have been modified by those of the other. A method of government has thus been reached which men of all shades of opinion have been able to accept, and under which the prosperous development of the country has advanced with surprising rapidity.


During the last thirty years the population of Chili has quadrupled, and her revenue has increased still more largely. Immigration from Europe, especially from Germany, has been successfully promoted. Formerly almost all land was held by large owners. This pernicious system has been in great measure destroyed. Estates have been subdivided, and the system of small proprietorship is now widely prevalent. The public debt of Chili is twelve million sterling; but as she, unlike her sister republics, meets her obligations punctually, her name stands high on the Stock Exchanges of Europe. The education of her people receives a fair measure of attention. Of her revenue of three and a half million, she expends a quarter million upon schools—a proportion not equalled in Europe. But this liberal expenditure is recent, and has not yet had time to produce its proper results. Only one in twenty-four of the population attends school; only one in seven can read. Even in the cities the proportion is no greater than one in four.

The neighbouring State of Peru has an area four times that of Chili, but her population is scarcely larger. And while Chili has a very inconsiderable proportion of Indians, it is estimated that fifty-seven per cent. of the Peruvian population are of the aboriginal races, and twenty-three per cent. are of mixed origin. The remainder are native Spaniards, Negroes, Chinese, with a very few Germans and Italians. From a nation so composed, a wise management of public affairs can scarcely be hoped for. The government of Peru has been, since the era of independence, a reproach to humanity. Elsewhere on the continent there has been the hopeful spectacle of a people imperfectly enlightened, but animated by a sincere love of liberty, and struggling against tremendous obstacles towards a happier political situation. The incessant strifes which have devastated Peru have no such justification. They have no political significance at all; they do not originate in any regard to national interests. Turbulent military[525] chiefs have, in constant succession and with shameless selfishness, contended for power and plunder. A debased and slothful people, wholly devoid of political intelligence, have become the senseless weapons with which these ignoble strifes have been waged. The vast wealth with which Nature has endowed the land has lain undeveloped; the labour, with which the country is so inadequately supplied, has been absorbed by the wars of a vulgar and profligate ambition: Peru remains almost worthless to the human family.

Spain took courage, from the disorders of Peru, to meditate the restoration of her lost colonial empire. She attacked Peru; but her fleet was utterly defeated, after a severe engagement. 1866 A.D. This victory roused the spirit of the Peruvian people, and for a short space it seemed as if impulses had been communicated which would open an era of progress. For some years real industrial advance was made. But the fair prospect was quickly marred. Two Presidents, who manifested a patriotic desire to begin the work of reform, were murdered. An insane war against Chili was begun. Chili had imposed certain duties on products imported from Bolivia; and Peru, disapproving of these duties, went to war to avenge or annul the proceeding. The fortune of that war has been decisively against the aggressor. Chili has proved not merely equal to the task of holding her own; she has defeated her enemy in many battles; she has seized portions of her territory; she has captured her most powerful iron-clad ship of war. The progress of Peru has utterly ceased. 1880 A.D. Her finances are in the wildest disorder. Her paper currency is worth no more than one-tenth its nominal value. Her ports are blockaded; her commerce is well-nigh abolished. But her misguided rulers will listen to no suggestion of peace, and seem resolved to maintain this discreditable contest to the extremity of prostration and misery.

Peru is believed to extract silver from her mines to the[526] annual value of a million sterling; an amount somewhat smaller than these mines yielded down to the war of independence. Peru exports chiefly articles which can be obtained without labour or thought. The guano, heaped in millions of tons on the islands which stud her coasts, was sold to European speculators, and carried away by European ships. But these vast stores seem to approach exhaustion. Fortunately for this spendthrift Government, discovery was made some years ago of large deposits of nitrate of soda, from the sale of which an important revenue is gained.

For Peru, lying chiefly between lofty mountain ranges remote from the sea, railway communication is of prime importance. In the time of one of her best Presidents there was devised a scheme of singular boldness; and by the help of borrowed money, on which no interest is paid, it has been partially executed. A railway line, setting out from Lima, on the Pacific, crosses the barren plain which adjoins the coast, climbs the western range of the Andes to a height of nearly sixteen thousand feet, and traverses the table-land which lies between the great lines of mountain. When completed, it will reach some of the tributaries of the Amazon, at points where these become navigable—thus connecting the Pacific with the Atlantic where the continent is at the broadest. There are, in all, about fourteen hundred miles of railway open for traffic in Peru, three-fourths of which are Government works.

1811 A.D. Paraguay, a State with an area nearly twice that of England, and a population of a million and a half, had the good fortune to assume her independence without any resistance from the mother country, and therefore without requiring to undergo the sacrifices of war. For nearly thirty years she was ruled by a despotism not less absolute than that of Spain. Dr. Francia became Dictator for life. He had been educated as a theologian, and was a silent, stern, relentless[527] man, who inspired his people with such fear that even after his death they scarcely ventured to pronounce his name. Francia did something to develop the resources of the State. But progress was slow, for the Dictator permitted no intercourse with other nations. Paraguay was to supply all her own wants—depending for nothing on the outside world. Whosoever came within her borders must remain; he who obtained permission to go out might not return. 1840 A.D. When this strange ruler died his power fell to Carlos Lopez, who maintained for twenty-two years a despotism not less absolute, but guided by a policy greatly more enlightened. He encouraged intercourse with foreigners; he constructed roads and railways; he cared for education; he created defences and a revenue. 1862 A.D. Before he died he bequeathed his authority to his son.

This new ruler had been sent, when a young man, to Europe to acquire the ideas which animated the enlightened Powers of the Old World. He arrived at the time of the Crimean War, to find a love of glory and of empire occupying the public mind of England and of France. He was not able to withstand the malign influence. He went home resolved to emulate the career of the Emperor Napoleon. He, too, would become a conqueror; he, too, would found an empire. He occupied himself in forming a large army, in accumulating military stores. 1865 A.D. When the death of his father raised him to absolute authority, he lost no time in attacking Brazil, which he had marked as his first victim. The Argentine Republic and Uruguay made common cause with Brazil against a disturber of the peace, in whose ambition they recognized a common danger.

The war continued for five years. It brought upon Paraguay calamities more appalling than have fallen in modern times on any State. Her territory was occupied by a victorious foe, and one-half of it was taken away from her for ever. Her[528] debt had swelled to an amount which utterly precluded hope of payment.[49] Her population had sunk from a million and a half to two hundred and twenty thousand. Of these it was estimated that four-fifths were females. War and its attendant miseries had almost annihilated the adult male population.[50] Paraguay yielded herself as the base instrument of an insane ambition, and she was destroyed.

Buenos Ayres, a city founded during the early years of the conquest, was the seat of one of the vice-royalties by which the Spaniards conducted the government of the continent. It stands on the right bank of the river Plate, not far from the ocean. The Plate and its tributary rivers flow through vast treeless plains, where myriads of horses and cattle roam at will among grass which attains a height equal to their own. When the dominion of Spain ceased, Buenos Ayres naturally assumed a preponderating influence in the new Government. The provinces which had composed the old vice-royalty formed themselves into a Confederation, with a constitution modelled on that of the United States. Buenos Ayres was the only port of shipment for the inland provinces. Her commercial importance as well as her metropolitan dignity soon aroused jealousies which could not be allayed. Within a few years the Confederation was repudiated by nearly all its members, and for some time each of the provinces governed itself independently of the others.

1821 A.D. The next experiment was a representative Republic under President-General Rivadavia, with Buenos Ayres as the seat of Government. Rivadavia was a man of enlightened views. He encouraged immigration, established liberty of religion, took some steps to educate the people, entered into commercial treaties with foreign powers. 1827 A.D.[529] But his liberal policy was regarded unfavourably by a people not sufficiently wise to comprehend it; and he resigned his office after having held it for six years.

The influence of Buenos Ayres now waned, and the provinces of the interior gained what the capital lost. These provinces were occupied by a half-savage race of mixed origin, who lived by the capture and slaughter of wild cattle. These fierce hunters were trained to the saddle almost from infancy, and lived on horseback. Excellence in horsemanship was a sufficient passport to their favour. 1829 A.D. The government of the country now fell into the hands of General Rosas, a Gaucho chief, whose feats in the saddle have probably never been equalled by the most accomplished of circus-riders.[51] For twenty-three years this man—cruel, treacherous, but full of rugged vigour—maintained over the fourteen provinces a despotism which soon lapsed into an absolute reign of terror. One of the methods of this wretched man’s government was the systematic employment of a gang of assassins, who murdered according to his orders, and under whose knives many thousands of innocent persons perished. His troops overran the neighbouring province of Uruguay; but Monte Video, the capital of that State, was successfully held against him, chiefly by the skill and courage of Garibaldi. France and England declared war against the tyrant, and for several years vainly blockaded the city of Buenos Ayres. At length (1848) a determined rebellion broke out and raged for four years. 1852 A.D. A great battle was fought; the army of Rosas was scattered; the capital, wild with joy, received the thrilling news that the tyrant had fled[52] and that the country was free.


The twenty-three years of despotism had done nothing to solve the political problems which still demanded solution at the hands of the Argentine people. The tedious and painful work had now to be resumed. The province of Buenos Ayres declared itself out of the Confederation, and entered upon a separate career. The single State was wisely governed, and made rapid progress in all the elements of prosperity. In especial it copied the New England common-school system. The thirteen States from which it had severed itself strove to repress or to rival its increasing greatness. But their utmost efforts could scarcely avert decay. 1859 A.D. They declared war, in the barbarous hope of crushing their too prosperous neighbour. Buenos Ayres was strong enough to inflict defeat upon her assailants. 1861 A.D. She now, on her own terms, reëntered the Confederation, of which her chief city became once more the capital.

1865 A.D. The career of the reconstructed Confederation has not been, thus far, a wholly peaceful one. There has been a lengthened war with Paraguay. There was a Gaucho revolt, which it was not hard to suppress. 1870-72 A.D. The important province of Entre Rios rose in arms, and was brought back to her duty after two years of war. Still later (1874) a rebellion broke out on the election of a new President. But the energy which formerly inspired revolutionary movements seems to decay, and this latest disorder was trampled out in a campaign of no greater duration than seventy-six days. A milder temper now prevails, especially in the cities of the Confederation. There are still divisions of opinion. One party is eager to promote a consolidated and effectively national life; another would maintain and enhance provincial separations; a third—the party of disorder, whose strength is being sapped by the growing prosperity of the country—seeks to foment revolutionary movements in the hope of advantage, or in sheer restlessness of spirit. But these antagonisms have in[531] large measure lost the envenomed character which they once bore. The only habitual disturbers of the national tranquillity are the Indians, who are suffered to hold possession of almost one-half the Argentine territory, and against whom murderous frontier wars are incessantly waged.

It is, however, obvious that the union of the fourteen provinces rests upon no satisfactory or permanent basis, and that the final adjustment can scarcely be effected otherwise than by the customary method of force. The province of Buenos Ayres, although it contains only one-fourth of the population, contains three-fourths of the wealth,[53] and bears fully nine-tenths of the taxation of the confederate provinces. The other thirteen provinces have absolute control over the government; and the expenditure has largely increased, as it needs must when the persons who enjoy the privilege of expending funds are exempt from the burden of providing them. This arrangement is highly and not unreasonably displeasing to the rich province of Buenos Ayres; and it seems probable that the people of this province will sooner or later force their way out of a Confederation whose burdens and whose advantages are so unequally distributed.

The fourteen provinces of the Argentine Confederation cover an area of 515,700 square miles, and are thus almost equal to six countries as large as Great Britain. The population which occupies this huge territory numbers only two million. Every variety of temperature prevails within their borders. In South Patagonia the cold is nearly as intense as that of Labrador. Southern Buenos Ayres has the climate of England; farther north the delicious climate of the south of France and the north of Italy is enjoyed. Yet farther north comes the fierce heat of the tropics. Westward, on the slopes of the[532] Andes, little rain falls; eastward, toward the sea, the rainfall is excessive.

The Argentine States have promoted immigration so successfully that they have received in some years accessions to their numbers of from sixty to ninety thousand persons—British, Italian, French, German, and Swiss. They have thus the presence of a large European element, which gives energy to every liberal and progressive impulse. The great city of Buenos Ayres is, to the extent of half its population (of 220,000), a city of Europeans. In most of the other cities this European element is present and influential. Far in the interior are many little colonies composed of Europeans, settled on lands bestowed by Government, engaged in sheep or cattle farming, growing rich by the rapid increase of their herds on that fertile soil. Full religious liberty is enjoyed, and all the various shades of Protestantism are represented in the chapels of Buenos Ayres or in the rural colonies of the interior. Two thousand five hundred miles of railway are in operation; direct telegraphic communication with England is enjoyed; the provinces are being drawn more closely together by the construction of roads and bridges; the vast river systems of the Confederation are traversed by multitudes of steamers. The people have entered, seemingly, with earnestness on the task of developing the illimitable resources of the great territory which Providence has committed to their care.

Our survey of South American history since the era of Independence discloses much that is lamentable. It discloses nothing, however, that is fitted to surprise, and little that is fitted to discourage. We see priest-directed and therefore utterly ignorant people throwing aside the yoke of an abhorred tyranny. We see them assume the function of self-government without a single qualification for the task. We see them become the prey of lawless and turbulent chiefs, of a selfish[533] military and priestly oligarchy. We watch their struggles as they grope in blind fury, but still under the guidance of a healthy instinct, after the freedom of which they have been defrauded. At length we are permitted to mark, with rejoicing, that they begin to emerge from the unprecedented difficulties by which they have been beset. The path by which they must gain the position of orderly and prosperous States is yet long and toilsome. It is now, however, at least possible to believe that they have entered upon it.

[The disturbed condition of the Western States continues without abatement, and without prospect of settlement. Both Peru and Bolivia are practically at the mercy of Chili. The war is over, but peace is made impossible by the anarchy that prevails in the vanquished States. The President of Peru is a fugitive. The President of Bolivia has absconded. There is no settled government in either country with which the Chilians can safely make terms. What seems most certain is, that the provinces which yield most abundantly that nitrate of soda about the export of which the war originated will be permanently annexed to Chili. Indeed, these districts are now administered by Chilian functionaries.

The Conservative counter-revolution in Mexico, under Diaz, lasted till 1880, when General Gonzalez was elected President. An insurrection in the capital had to be suppressed before his installation could take place.

In Buenos Ayres, nationalism has had a further struggle with provincialism, and another triumph over it. In August 1880 the national troops forcibly entered the Provincial Assembly, and ejected the deputies at the point of the sword. A few days afterwards, General Roca, the new President, entered the capital.—Ed.]



At the time when the discovery and possession of the New World occupied the Spaniards, the Church of Rome exercised over that people an influence which had no parallel elsewhere in all her wide dominion. A religious war of nearly eight centuries had at length closed victoriously. Twenty generations of Spaniards had spent their lives under the power of a burning desire to expel unbelievers from the soil of Spain, and win triumphs for the true faith. The ministers of that religion, for which they were willing to lay down their lives, gained their boundless reverence. To the ordinary Spaniard religion had yet no association with morals; it exercised no control over conduct. It was a collection of beliefs; above all it was an unreasoning loyalty to a certain ecclesiastical organization. To extend the authority of the Church, and, if it had been possible, to exterminate all her enemies, formed now the grand animating motives of the Spanish nation.

No Spaniard of them all was more powerfully influenced by these motives than the good Queen Isabella. At the bidding of her confessor she set up the Inquisition, for the destruction of heretics; she consented to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and the virtual confiscation of their property. She gave encouragement to the enterprise of Columbus, in the hope of extending the empire of the Church over benighted nations.[535] The King himself stated, in later years, that the conversion of Indians was the chief purpose of the conquest. The Queen sent missionaries to begin this great work so soon as she heard of the discovery. In all her official correspondence her chief concern is avowedly for the spiritual interests of her new subjects. Columbus tells, in regard to his second voyage, that he was sent “to see the way that should be taken to convert the Indians to our holy faith.” He was instructed “to labour in all possible ways to bring the dwellers in the Indies to a knowledge of the holy Catholic faith.” Twelve ecclesiastics were sent with him to share in these pious toils. A little later, when the overthrow of Columbus was sought by his enemies, one of their most deadly weapons was the charge that he did not baptize Indians, because he desired slaves rather than Christians.

Favoured thus by the general sentiment of the mother country, the Church quickly overspread the colonies and appropriated no inconsiderable share of their wealth. Within four years there were monasteries already established.[54] Within one hundred years there were twelve hundred nunneries and monasteries. There was a full equipment of patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, prebends, abbots, chaplains, as well as parish priests. There were monks of every variety—Franciscans, Dominicans, Jeronymites, Fathers of Mercy, Augustines, Jesuits. In Lima it was alleged that the convents covered more ground than all the rest of the city. 1644 A.D. From Mexico there came a petition to the King praying that no new monasteries should be allowed, as these institutions, if suffered to increase, would soon absorb the whole property of[536] the country. Wherever the Spaniards went they hastened to erect churches. While the conquest of Peru was yet incomplete, there was a church in Caxamalco to which the devout Spaniards assigned a liberal share of the gold of which they so villanously plundered the unhappy Inca. The magnificence of churches and convents became in course of years so dazzling that the European mind, it was said, could form no conception of it. The tithes, which had been vested in the Crown, were almost wholly made over to the Church. The free-will offerings of a superstitious people, with an exceptionally large volume of personal iniquity to expiate, swelled out to a huge aggregate. The wealth of the Church continued to grow till, as we have seen, in Mexico she possessed one-half of all the land in the province.

Among the multitudes of ecclesiastics who hastened to these new fields of enterprise and emolument there were very many whose characters were debased, whose lives were scandalous. Very soon after the settlement the profligacy of churchmen attracted general remark. Living often in secluded positions without the control or observation of superiors, they gave free scope to evil dispositions, and occupied themselves with the pursuits of avarice or of licentiousness.

But we should grievously wrong the Church of Rome were we to suppose that all her ministers in the New World were of this unworthy description. The sudden knowledge of many millions of heathens, whose existence had been previously unsuspected, awakened in the monasteries of Spain a strong impulse towards missionary effort. To men who were lingering out their idle days in the profitless repose of a religious seclusion there opened now boundless possibilities of ennobling usefulness. Among them were many whose singleness of purpose, whose utter crucifixion of self, whose heroic daring and endurance would have done honour to the purest Church. Especially was this true concerning the Jesuits. This dreaded and upon the[537] whole pernicious Order was distinguished, in its earlier days, as well for the sagacity and administrative ability of its members as for their absorbing devotion to the interests of the faith.

The Indians accepted with perfect readiness the new religion which their conquerors offered. The monks who went among them speedily acquired commanding influence. The Franciscans who went out on the invitation of Cortes reported that they found the Mexicans a gentle people, given somewhat to lying and drunkenness and needing restraint, but well disposed to religion, and confessing so well that it was not necessary to ask them questions. The children about the monastery already knew much, and taught others who were less happily circumstanced; they sang well and accompanied the organ competently.

This gentle people loved the holy men who, clothed plainly and living on the humblest fare, laboured without ceasing to do them good. They willingly submitted to baptism to please their teachers. Indeed, the only limit to the increase of baptized persons was the physical capability of the missionaries. One father baptized till he was unable any longer to lift his arms. Of another it was asserted that he had administered this sacrament to four hundred thousand converts. 1531 A.D. Ten years after the fall of Mexico, the bishop reported that in his diocese there were now a million of baptized persons; that five hundred temples and twenty thousand idols had been destroyed; that in their room were now churches, oratories, and hermitages; that whereas there were formerly offered up every year to idols twenty thousand hearts of young men and young women, the hearts of Mexican youth were now offered up with innumerable sacrifices of praise to the Most High God.

Among many races of Indians there had existed from time immemorial a marvellous fondness for the confession of sin. Under all grave attacks of illness they hastened to confess old sins to any one who would listen to their tale. When they[538] encountered a panther in the wilderness, they began, under the influence of some unexplained superstition, to disclose their iniquities to the savage beast. A people so inclined welcomed a religion which offered them free access to the enjoyment of their cherished privilege. They manifested, in regard to this ordinance of the Church, “a dove-like simplicity, an incredible fervour.” Oral confession was to these simple souls an insufficient relief. They brought to the confessor a pictorial representation of the special transgressions which burdened them. Later, when many of them had learned to write, they bore with them elaborate catalogues of their evil doings.

The monks attempted to bestow upon the children under their care the elements of a simple education. To each monastery a school was attached. Peter of Ghent, a Flemish lay-brother of noble devotedness, caused the erection of a large building, in which he taught six hundred Mexican children to read, to write, and to sing.[55] This good man knew the Mexican language well, and could preach when need was. He spent fifty toilsome years in labours for the instruction of the conquered people; and there were many of his brethren equally diligent.

But among the teeming millions of South America, these efforts, so admirable in quality, were wholly insignificant in amount. They were thwarted, too, by the murderous cruelty which the Spaniards exercised, and the people remained utterly uninstructed. The conversion of the country made progress so rapid that in a few years the native religions disappeared, and the Indians seemed universally to have accepted Christianity. But the change rested in large measure upon fear of their tyrants, or love to their teachers, or the authority of chiefs who had deemed it expedient to adopt the faith of men who were always victorious in battle. It was only in a few instances the result of intelligent conviction. The priests baptized readily[539] all natives who would permit the ceremony, because that was a sure provision for their eternal welfare. But the opinion was entertained from an early period that the natives were incapable of comprehending the first principles of the faith. Acting under this belief, a council of Lima decreed their exclusion from the sacrament of the Eucharist. Down to the close of Spanish dominion few Indians were allowed to communicate, or to become members of any religious order, or to be ordained as priests. Underneath the profession of Christianity the Indians have always retained a secret love for the pagan faith of their fathers, and still secretly practise its rites.[56]

The monks were throughout the warm friends and protectors of the Indians. At a very early period the Dominicans preached against Indian slavery “with very piercing and terrible words.” They refused to confess men who were cruel to Indians—a privation which was severely felt; for to the Spaniard of that day, with his over-burdened conscience, confession was a necessary of life. 1537 A.D. The Pope himself pronounced the doom of excommunication against all who reduced Indians to slavery or deprived them of their goods. We have seen how nobly and how vainly the good Las Casas interposed in defence of the Indians. The efforts of the well-meaning fathers were, in almost every direction, unsuccessful. But this failure resulted from no deficiency either in zeal or in discretion. The record of the Church of Rome is darkened by manifold offences against the welfare of the human family; but she is able to recall with just pride the heroic efforts which her sons put forth on behalf of the deeply-wronged native races.

The servants of the Church enjoyed, on two memorable occasions, the opportunity of exhibiting their capacity for[540] government in striking contrast to that of the civil rulers whom the mother country supplied.

Bordering on the province of Guatemala was a tract of forest and mountain, inhabited by an Indian nation of exceptional fierceness. Thrice the Spaniards had attempted the subjugation of this people, and thrice they were driven back. They hesitated to renew an invasion which had brought only defeat and loss, and the brave savages continued to enjoy a precarious independence. 1537 A.D. Las Casas made offer to the Governor that he would place this territory under the King of Spain, on condition that it should not be given over to any Spaniard, and that, indeed, no Spaniard, excepting the Governor himself, should for the space of five years be suffered to enter it. The offer was accepted, and the brave monk, confident in the power of truth and kindness, made himself ready to fulfil his contract.

Having devoted several days to prayer and fasting, Las Casas and his companions proceeded to draw up a statement of the great doctrines of the Christian religion. They told of the creation of the world, of the fall of man, of his expulsion from the pleasant garden in which he had been placed. Then they told of his restoration, of the death and resurrection of Christ, and of judgment to come. They closed with emphatic denunciation of idols and of human sacrifices. The work was in verse, and in the language of the people for whom it was destined. The fathers next obtained the co-operation of four native merchants who were accustomed for commercial reasons to visit the country of the warlike savages. These friendly traders were taught first to repeat the verses and then to sing them to the accompaniment of Indian instruments.

The merchants were received by the chief into his own house; and they requited his hospitality and gained his favour by offering to him certain gifts of scissors, knives, looking-glasses, and similar matters with which the thoughtful fathers had provided[541] them. When they had finished a day of trading, they borrowed musical instruments and proceeded to sing their message to the crowds by whom they were surrounded. They commanded the immediate and rapt attention of the savages, who hailed them as the ambassadors of new gods. Every day of the next seven the song was repeated by desire of the chief, and every repetition seemed to deepen the effect produced. Then the merchants told of the good fathers by whom they were sent—of their dress, of their manner of life, of their love for the Indians, of their indifference to that gold which other Spaniards worshipped. An embassy wa