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he is a stranger to the pleasure of that process. Were he to plant a tree, it never could become an object of gratification to him, because he could not live to cut it down. He lives only to destroy. He is surrounded by destruction. He does not watch the destiny of what he produces. He does not love the field where he has expended his labor, because his labor is merely fatigue, and has no pleasurable sentiment attached to it.”
Few men born in the Eastern States, especially if they have visited Europe, can fail to realize a certain forlorn remoteness in the sensation experienced, when surrounded by the sparsely inhabited woods and prairies, akin to what Talleyrand describes. The back country of the Upper Mississippi seems more oppressively lonely to such a traveller than the interior of Sicily. The want of that vital and vivid connection between the past and present; the painful sense of newness; the savage triumph, as it were, of nature, however beautiful, over humanity, whose eager steps have only invaded, not ameliorated her domain-seem, for the moment, to leave us in desolate individuality and barren self-depend
But the experience Talleyrand compassionated was and is but a transition state-a brief overture to a future social prosperity, where sentiment as well as enterprise has ample verge.
Count Ségur, the French ambassador to Russia and Prussia, was born in 1753, and his first youth was educated under that chevalresque social luxury that marked the reign of Louis XV. Of noble birth, and commencing life as a courtier, he experienced to an unusual extent, the vicissitudes, the discipline, and the distinction incident to his age and country. He was an accomplished military officer and diplomatist, an author, a politician, a voyageur, and a peer; and, withal, seems to have been an amiable, liberal, and brave gentleman. He came to America in 1783, with despatches to Rochambeau, to whom he was appointed aide, with the rank of colonel; and, after various and provoking delays and priva
tions, joined the French camp and his own regiment on the Hudson River.
The circumstances of his landing were such as to predis. pose a less heroic and gracious nature to take an unfavorable view of the New World; for battle, shipwreck, the loss of his effects, great discomfort, and a series of annoyances and mishaps attended him from the moment his battered ship ran aground in the Delaware, within sight of the enemy's fleet, until he reached his commander's quarters, after a wearisome and exposed journey. Yet few of his gallant countrymen looked upon the novelties of life, manners, and scenery around him with such partial and sympathetic eyes. Perhaps it was by virtue of contrast that the young courtier of Louis conceived a strong attachment for the Quakers of Philadelphia ; and this feeling received a fresh and fond impulse from the charms of the beautiful Polly Lawton, of Newport.
The sight of the American forests inspired him; and the independent character, probity, and frugal contentment of the people was the constant theme of his admiration. "I experienced,” he writes, “two opposite impressions-one produced by the spectacle of the beauties of a wild and savage nature, and the other by the fertility and variety of industrious cultivation of a civilized world. Indigence and brutality were nowhere to be seen ; fertility, comfort, and kindness were everywhere to be found ; and every individual displayed the modest and tranquil pride of an independent man, who feels that he has nothing above him but the laws, and who is a stranger alike to the vanity, to the prejudices, and to the servility of European society. No useful profession is ever ridiculed or despised. Indolence alone would be a subject of reproach."
He was, at first, astonished to find men of all vocations with military titles. The “wild and savage prospect around West Point delighted him. He dined with Washington, and describes the toasts and the company with much zest. He enjoyed a week's furlough at Newport, and, with his brother officers, gave a ball there. Quartered with a family at Providence, he learned to love the simplicity of domestic life in America. One of his general observations on the country has now a prophetic significance :
“ The only dangers which can menace, in the future, this happy republic, consisting in 1780 of three millions, and now (1825) numbering more than ten millions of citizens, is the excessive wealth which is promised by its commerce, and the corrupting luxury which may follow it. Its Southern provinces should foresee and avoid another peril. In the South are to be found a very large class of poor whites, and another of enormously wealthy proprietors; the fortunes of this latter class are created and sustained by the labor of a population of blacks, slaves, which increases largely every year, and who may and must be frequently driven to despair and revolt by the contrast of their servitude with the entire liberty enjoyed by men of the same color in other States of the Union. In a word, this difference of manners and situation between the North and South ; does it not lead us to apprehend in times to come a separation which would enfeeble and perhaps break this happy confederation, which can preserve its power only in being firmly, locked and united together? Such was the sad thought which ended my last conversation with the Chevalier de Chastellux, on the eve of his departure from the army." *
Like so many other visitors, he was struck with the resemblance of Boston to an English town, with the beauty of its women, and with the preaching of Dr. Cooper. In a letter written on embarking for the West Indies, he expresses keen regret at leaving America, dwells with much feeling upon the kindness he had received and the opportunities he had enjoyed there, and descants upon the purity of manners, equality of condition, and manly self-reliance which, combined with the natural advantages of the country and the freedom of its institutions, made America to him a subject of the most interesting speculation and affectionate interest.
Another Frenchman, whose name and fame are far more illustriously identified with the political vicissitudes and influential literature of his times, saw somewhat of America, and reported his impressions with characteristic latitude and sentiment. The scene of his best romance is laid in one of the Southern States; but the description of nature and perception of Indian character are far removed from scientific precision. Yet over all that Chateaubriand wrote, however warped by égotism or rendered melodramatic by exaggeration, there breathes an atmosphere of sentiment, whereby a certain humanity and eloquence make significant what would otherwise often seem unreal and meretricious. He loved nature, and, by virtue of a vivid imagination and intense consciousness, connected all he saw with his own life and thought. His visit to our shores forms an interesting episode in his “Mémoires d'outre Tombe. After crossing the Atlantic, he was becalmed off the shores of Maryland and Virginia, and had leisure to appreciate the beautiful skies; imprudently bathed in waters infested with sharks; traversed woods of balsam trees and cedars, where he observed with infinite pleasure the cardinal and mocking birds, the gray squirrels, and a “negro girl of extraordinary beauty.” The contrast between these wild charms and the cities was most uncongenial to the poetical emigré. He “ felt the architectural deformity” of the latter, and declares, sadly, that “nothing is old in America excepting the woods.” But his chief disappointment consisted in the discovery that the modes of life and tone of manners were so far removed from what he had fondly imagined of the ideal republic. “A man," he writes in 1791, “landing, like myself, in the United States, full of enthusiasm for the ancients a Cato, seeking, wherever he goes, the austerity of the primitive manners of Rome-must be exceedingly scandalized to find everywhere elegance in dress, luxury in equipages, frivolity in conversation, inequality of fortunes, the immorality of gaming houses, and the noise of balls and theatres. In Philadelphia I could have fancied myself in an English town. There was nothing to indicate that I had passed from a monarchy to a republic.” Reasoning from historical facts and analogy, one would imagine that a foreign visitor could only expect to find Anglo-Saxon traits, local and social, in those · American communities directly founded by English emigrants. Yet Dickens expressed the same disappointment in Boston, at the similarity of the place and people to what was familiar to him at home, that Chateaubriand confesses, half à century previous, in the city of Brotherly Love. The allusion to Roman names and manners, so common with French writers in their political criticisms, would strike us as extremely artificial, were it not that the drama and the academic talk in France, at that time, continually adopted the characters and history of Greece and Rome as the standard and nomenclature of an era in every respect essentially different-a pedantic tendency akin to the Arcadian terms and tastes which so long formalized the degenerate muse in Italy. It is not, indeed, surprising that the republican enthusiasts of the Old World should have been disenchanted in the New, when they found what is called “society” but a tame reflection of that from which they had fled as the result of an effete civilization. But the complaint was as unreasonable as unjust; for, in all large and prosperous communities, an identical social, conventional system prevails. In America, however, this sphere was very limited, and, at the dawn of the republic, embraced remarkable exceptions to the usual hollowness and vapid display; while, in the vast domain beyond, the rights, the abilities, and the self-respect of human beings found an expression and a scope which, however different from Roman development, and however unsatisfactory to a modern Cato, offered a most refreshing contrast to and auspicious innovation upon the crushing, hopeless routine of European feudalism. The political disappointment of the author of Atala induced him to write against the Quakers. He found Washington was “not Cincinnatus, for he passed in a coach and four;” but when he called on the President with a letter of introduction, he recognized in his surroundings “the simplicity of an old Roman-no guards, not even a footman.” Chateaubriand's object was to promote an expedition, set on foot in his own
*« Mémoires,” &c., par M. le Comte de Ségur, tom. i, pp. 412, 413, Paris, 1825.