« PreviousContinue »
consent and with the aid of its subject-it should be conceived in a commercial spirit, and should detail enterprises which none but he could communicate: whose motives, connection, and ramifications he only could disentangle and display. Such a book would bear to the history of a great commercial country the same relation that the life of an eminent warrior does to the history of a martial state. It follows, therefore, that as the honour and fame of a nation which grows great by the arts of peace are to those of a military one, so is the merchant individually to the individual warrior, and whoever disparages the species of distinction we are all now striving for, insults us both nationally and individually. Between the histories of war and peace, let the reader judge which is more worthy to be written, which more novel, and which more commonplace, and which casts the stronger light on the yearnings and strivings of the world that now is. For Agamemnon and Napoleon are gathered to the Lernæn hydra and the wild boar of Erymanthus : violence is entombed, and commerce is come forth, the twice blessed, to rule like mercy, giving gifts unto men.
There are yet some strange mists before our eyes, even in this free world, about those ideas of greatness and distinction, though every day, as we grow older, is helping to dispel them. A political puppet, if he happened to be a prime minister, was once a great man, decidedly; so was a military coxcomb, if he could contrive to make himself talked about. Yet the great object of the late remodellings of the world has been to dispense with both these sorts of pre-eminence by means of self-government and peace—and, accordingly, exactly in proportion to the advance of civilization is their decline ; the one to a mere clerk of supplies and appropriations, the other to a simple police officer. For our own country, for the last half century, diplomacy and war have had little to do, and have raised but few sterling and unequivocal reputations. To these, as many as there are, we would yield their deserved respect, and, as few as they are, the peaceful aspect of the times gives promise (for which we thank God) that in future years the harvest will be less. Two of the greatest names our country has produced since it was free, are unquestionably Dewitt Clinton and Fulton, and with what are those names associated ? With the alliance of art and nature, whose plenipotentiaries they were for a certain object, and that object was, in each case, the furtherance of commerce. Dewitt Clinton governed New York because he was made to govern it, and not because he was chosen. That he happened to be a governor was an accident, but God made him for a leader. He saw where our energies stagnated, and he gave them arteries and circulation, and brought the ocean into acquaintance with the lakes. Mr. Astor's enterprise to open a communication
between two oceans, was imagined in a similar spirit, and having imagined it
, he was free from the next difficulty which met the projector of the Grand canal, we mean the necessity of conveying to other minds the views and convictions of his own, and persuading them to co-operate. On the contrary, he used them without consulting them any farther than was necessary to enable each agent to play his part; he said as the Centurion saith, Do this, and he guarantied them that they should be paid, and it was done. Here, then, is the use of wealth, that it can command; it is power, and such use of it is honour and fame.
Mr. Astor has never regarded his fortune as an end, but as a means, as an instrument with which other and greater endó might be wrought out. He has said that in his active days he never had so much money as he really wanted to use, and that his views were always beyond his means. Over what field those views extended, the history of Astoria shows; and the disastrous part of it brings out in strong relief a character whose perfect simplicity and quietness have usually, during a long life, kept its inherent energies aloof from observation. There are enough sordid exanıples in the world for the declaimers against the pursuit of wealth to dilate upon, but the story of Astoria tells the other way. It will live to the honour of its founder; and the most malevolent or bigoted disparager of commercial illustration must confess, at least in this instance, that
“something of the spirit of old Greece Flash'd on his soul a few heroic rays, Such as lit onward to the Golden Fleece
His predecessors in the Colchian days." We are sorry to observe that these volumes are very carelessly printed. Some gross mistakes occur repeatedly-as set for sit (vol. i. pp. 78, 90); would lay for would lie (vol. i. p. 230, vol. ii. p. 168); council, for counsel, appears once (vol. i. p. 37); notions for motives, as it would seem (id. p. 203); and “in his own land," apparently for “with his own hand” (id. p. 226). If this last is not a misprint, it requires a note to explain it. There are also occasional inaccuracies of style—as the importance to keep, for of keeping (id. p. 122); seventh instant, for “seventh of the month (id. p. 168); and a passage where Mr. Irving says all hands were busy about something, while others were employed on something else (id. p. 97). These are trifles, and a second edition will no doubt make them all right.
We have taken up this book as we found it, and have penned these remarks upon it with pleasure, zeal, and interest; but, in dismissing the subject, there remains a dissatisfaction, an incompleteness, a curiosity which we suppose cannot be ministered to nor removed. We should have wished to see the adventures of the subordinate agents thrown more into the background,
and the projector of the enterprise brought more into relief; we should have wished to be made acquainted with him—to be told of his views, his hopes, his fears, and the details of what he did and attempted in this matter, and of the springs he brought into play at home and abroad, and the causes that impeded their operation; we should have wished to see him figure as the hero of a great commercial epic, so to speak, and the first one perhaps purely commercial, for which the world has furnished the material, since Jason. But to all this there were insuperable obstacles in the characters of all the parties concerned ; and much development of fact, beyond what has been given, might have been made, but for interests still existing which such disclosures might have injured. Had they been made they would only have shown a greater extent of the same energy, and perseverance, and moral courage, for which all we have already seen is so remarkable.
There is one subject on which we shall say a few words here, to contradict a rumour that this work had been ordered by Mr. Astor from Mr. Irving, executed as a job, and paid for with a stipulated price. We have taken some pains to enquire into this, and we have information which enables us to state positively that Mr. Irving has received no compensation nor pecuniary favours of any sort from Mr. Astor, directly or indirectly. As a friend of Mr. Astor, Mr. Irving could not but know something of this story; it interested his curiosity; he talked often with Mr. Astor about it, and chose it himself as a subject for his pen, brought it out at his own risk and expense, and as yet it has been by no means profitable compared with most of his other works.' That Mr. Astor would have aided its execution, and willingly, no one can doubt; but, from a delicacy easily to be appreciated, Mr. Irving would not allow the shadow of such an interference to fall on the performance.
We shall conclude with an extract chosen from many we had marked to show Mr. Irving at home in the wilderness, and dealing, with bis congenial humour, with its adventures. It is an onslaught of the Indians upon a party who were bearing despatches to Mr. Astor, the loss of which of course made it necessary for the bearer to go back to the fort for more; and the unlucky fantasy which possessed the Indians in relation to them was one more link in the chain of Astorian fatalities.
"The worthies of Wish-ram, however, were not disposed to part so easily with their visiters. Their cupidity had been quickened by the plunder which they had already taken, and their confidence increased by the impunity with which their outrage had passed. They resolved, therefore, to take further toll of the travellers, and, if possible, to capture the tin case of despatches; which, shining conspicuously from afar, and being guarded by John Reed with such especial care, must, as they supposed, be 'a great medicine.'
“Accordingly, Mr. Stuart and his comrades had not proceeded far in the canoes, when they beheld the whole rabble of Wish-ram stringing in groups along the bank, whooping and yelling, and gibbering in their wild jargon; and when they landed below the falls, they were surrounded by upwards of four hundred of these river ruffians, armed with bows and arrows, war clubs, and other savage weapons. These now pressed forward, with offers to carry the canoes and effects up the portage. Mr. Stuart declined forwarding the goods, alleging the lateness of the hour; but, to keep them in good humour, informed them that, if they conducted themselves well, their offered services might probably be accepted in the morning; in the mean while, he suggested that they might carry up the canoes. They accordingly set off with the two canoes on their shoulders, accompanied by a guard of eight men well armed.
“When arrived at the head of the falls, the mischievous spirit of the savages broke out, and they were on the point of destroying the canoes -doubtless with a view to impede the white men from carrying forward their goods, and laying them open to further pilfering. They were with some difficulty prevented from committing this outrage by ihe interference of an old man, who appeared to have authority among them; and, in consequence of his harangue, the whole of the hostile band, with the exception of about fifty, crossed to the north side of the river, where they lay in wait, ready for further mischief.
In the mean time, Mr. Stuart, who had remained at the foot of the falls with the goods, and who knew that the proffered assistance of the savages was only for the purpose of having an opportunity to plunder, determined, if possible, to steal a march upon them, and defeat their machinations. In the dead of the night, therefore, about one o'clock, the moon shining brightly, he roused his party, and proposed that they should endeavour to transport the goods themselves above the falls, before the sleeping savages could be aware of their operations. All hands sprang to the work with zeal, and hurried it on in the hope of getting all over before daylight. Mr. Stuart went forward with the first loads, and took his station at the head of the portage, while Mr. Reed and Mr. MʻLellan remained at the foot to forward the remainder.
“The day dawned before the transportation was completed. Some of the fifty Indians who had remained on the south side of the river perceived what was going on, and, feeling themselves too weak for an attack, gave the alarm to those on the opposite side, upwards of a hundred of whum embarked in several large canoes. Two loads of goods yet remained to be brought up. Mr. Stuart despatched some of the people for one of the loads, with a request to Mr. Reed to retain with him as many men as he thought necessary to guard the remaining load, as he suspected hostile intentions on the part of the Indians. Mr. Reed, however, refused to retain any of them, saying that M'Lellan and himself were sufficient to protect the small quantity that remained. The men accordingly departed with the load, while Reed and M‘Lellan continued to mount guard over the residue. By this time a number of the canoes had arrived from the opposite side. As they approached the shore, the unlucky tin box of John Reed, shining afar like the brilliant helmet of Euryalus, caught their eyes. No sooner did the canoes touch the shore, than they leaped forward on the rocks, set up a war-whoop, and sprang forward to secure the glittering prize. Mr. MʻLellan, who was at the river bank, advanced to guard the goods, when one of the savages attempted to hoodwink him with his buffalo robe with one hand, VOL. XXI.-NO. 41.
and to stab him with the other. MʻLellan sprang back just far enough to avoid the blow, and, raising his rifle, shot the ruffian through the heart.
“In the mean time, Reed—who, with the want of forethought of an Irishman, had neglected to remove the leathern cover from the lock of his rifle-was fumbling at the fastenings, when he received a blow on the head with a war club that laid him senseless on the ground. In a twinkling he was stripped of his rifle and pistols, and the tin box, the cause of all this onslaught, was borne off in triumph.” Vol. II. pp. 96--98.
ART. V.-Memoirs of Aaron Burr, with Miscellaneous Selec
tions from his Correspondence. By MATTHEW L. Davis. In two volumes. Vol. I.
Vol. I. New York: 1836. pp. 436.
This volume has, no doubt, in one respect been a very successful literary enterprise. It has sold well. The subject was one of adventure and peculiar interest, and public curiosity, stimulated as well by the ominous seclusion to which the hero of the narrative had for a long period condemned himself, as by a thousand and one hints of new disclosures and unsuspected revelations, was directed with singular intensity to this biography. Besides the interest of the theme itself, resort had very fairly been had to the artifices which the book-making and book-selling community so well understand, to make the world believe that something more than ordinary was coming. The author, too, Mr. Matthew L. Davis, is, if we mistake not, an accredited contributor to the daily press, having thus great facilities to herald the coming biography, and was regarded as an individual who not only had the advantage of intimate personal association with the hero of his story, but who, from his habits of life, was supposed eminently to possess the talent of close and minute observation, and to deserve all confidence for accuracy and impartiality. The result, as to mere dollars and cents, has been just what might be anticipated. The volume has been very cheap to its proprietor and very dear to the public, and we believe we do not misrepresent public opinion, (we are sure we describe sound critical judgment,) when we say that in precise proportion to the avidity with which the book was sought on its first appearance has been the disappointment its perusal has occasioned. Mr. Davis tells us on his title page, that he comes “to bury Cæsar, not to praise him," and literally does he, in one sense, comply with his promise, for if ever the ashes of the dead were hurried ingloriously to their resting place, they have