Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ور

member one day was speaking, and reading documents from all the colonies, to prove that the public opinion, the general sense of all, was in favor of the measure, when he came to North Carolina, and produced letters and public proceedings which demonstrated that the majority of that colony were in favor of it, Mr. Hewes, who had hitherto constantly voted against it, started suddenly upright, and lifting up both his hands to Heaven, as if he had been in a trance, cried out, “It is done, and I will abide by it!' I would give more for a perfect painting of the terror and horror upon the faces of the old majority, at that critical moment, than for the best piece of Raphael."

So said John Adams, and so say we all. That is a picture for the Old North State, and one which would do more than all her Mecklenburgh pretensions, be they ever so well founded, to identify her with that glorious Declaration, of which Adams himself was the Colossus on the floor of Congress.

Certainly, my friends, no more graphic and inspiring libretto for a great work of art was ever composed, than may be found in these familiar letters of old John Adams. Too many of our American artists seem to think that there is nothing worthy of their notice on their own soil, that the first secret of all success is to expatriate themselves, - to go abroad and stay abroad to study the great models of Greece and Rome. Rogers, the poet, who knew what Italy is, and who has so helped us all to know it, and whose walls were covered with so many gems of the old masters, once told me that in his judgment nobody need go twenty miles out of London to see as fine works of art as the world afforded, referring particularly to the Elgin marbles in the British Museum and the Cartoons of Raphael at Hampton Court. But it is not too late for American artists to learn that they need not go twenty miles out of Boston to find as good subjects, certainly, as the world can afford; that it may be as well for some of them at least, to stay at home, or certainly to return home, and to study the history of their own land. They will find models and characters there, which can be but poorly supplied by the false gods and fabulous heroes of an idolatrous antiquity. And there will be no danger that their statues will go down to decorate the hall of Neptune or the caves of the mermaids, as those of Webster and of John Adams himself did, not long ago. There is no consideration which affords me more satisfaction in performing this humble labor of love for the artists of Boston, than that it is for the advancement of their patriotic purpose of securing an equestrian statue of Washington, designed and moulded by a native artist, and cast by native mechanics, and wholly to be completed, like yonder Franklin, on our own soil.

I cannot forget that a scene was witnessed at Washington, a little more than eleven years ago, which will one day or other furnish the subject of another of our great historical pictures. The Representatives of the people are assembled in the Hall which has so recently been abandoned. The customary acknowledgment of the God of nations has been made, and his blessing invoked on the day's labors and duties. The Speaker has assumed the chair, and the clerk has just finished the reading of the journal. A venerable figure is seen rising to address the House. Associated with the longest and most varied public service, commencing under the Presidency of Washington, and by no means ending rather beginning again — at the close of his own Presidency ; associated, too, with the purest integrity and the highest ability and accomplishments; -- all eyes are riveted upon that figure as it rises. A paper is seen in the outstretched hand. A voice is heard, in broken accents, from those aged lips, trembling, but not with fear. But hand, voice, figure are at once perceived to be sinking under the effort. Affectionate colleagues, skilful physicians, and friends from his own State and from other States, hasten to his support. The still-breathing form is borne out into the rotundo, followed in silence by a House impatient of any prescribed ceremonies of adjournment. Illustrious Senators meet them from the other wing of the Capitol. The birthday of Washington intervenes, and Providence still averts a blow which might associate that day with any thing but the gladness and gratitude which must ever belong to it. In the Speaker's private room the last struggle is witnessed, not many days after, and the noblest hearts of South Carolina and Virginia are soon found mingling their sympathies with those of Massachusetts, over one whose enviable privilege it was to fall in the discharge of his duties, and to die beneath the very roof of the Capitol ! Can any American

painter desire a grander subject for his pencil ? One would have thought that it would have been seized upon ere now, before the traditions of that scene should have grown fainter, and the living witnesses of it fewer. An American painter, as we are proud to remember (the father of the venerable Lord Lyndhurst), won his richest reputation by immortalizing a kindred theme. But the death of Chatham was not more august than that of John Quincy Adams. The men who surrounded Chatham, though decked in ermine and decorated with orders, were not more worthy of illustration than our own Clays and Calhouns and Berriens and Bentonis and Websters, all of whom would be included in such a group.

But not New-England history or New-England men alone have furnished materials for historical commemoration. In singling out the Adamses as at once the suggesters and the subjects of American art, we have literally but commenced with the first letter of the Alphabet of Patriotism. We might follow down that Alphabet, letter competing with letter to its very close, -as far down as W, certainly, the initial not only of our Webster, but of a name above every name in the annals of human liberty, and find scarce a consonant or a vowel without its corresponding and manifold title to commemoration. Every colony, every State, every county, every city, almost every village, has its great names and its glorious associations. And I need not say, that there are some names and some associations which belong everywhere, which are the property of nothing less than the whole nation, and the commemoration of which can never be confined to any territorial localities, nor exhausted by any number of repetitions.

As I passed along the streets of Baltimore, a few days since, I saw in a niche constructed for the purpose, on the front of a new and noble store, a really beautiful full-length statue of Washington, in pure white marble, recently erected by a successful trader of that city, wholly at his own expense, and executed among the latest works of the accomplished and lamented Bartholomew. The “ Monumental City" has long had a statue of Washington, surmounting a magnificent column, of which it may well be proud ;— but nobody in Baltimore dreams that there can be too many Washingtons.

I commenced this address, my friends, with a memorable saying of a distinguished British statesman in his dialogue with Quincy. Let me conclude it by a no less memorable and far more discriminating utterance from a young and gallant French soldier, - the Marquis de Chastellux,- who served so bravely with our army of Independence for two years, - a grandson of the great Chancellor D’Aguesseau, - to whom Washington paid the tribute, so unusual with him, of saying in a letter of farewell, “ I can truly say, that never in my life have I parted with a man to whom my soul clave more sincerely than it did to you,” — to whom he paid the still more unusual and unique tribute of writing a humorous letter to him on occasion of his marriage six years afterwards. I wish I had time to make a parenthesis here and read you a part of this letter; a very funny one it is, and exhibits Washington most gracefully and felicitously unbending from his constitutional and habitual gravity ; - but you will find it in the admirable collection of Dr. Sparks.

This gallant soldier of France, as you may all remember, wrote an account of his travels in America, which has been published both in French and in English, in two octavo volumes. In one of these volumes, he included, also, a letter of his own, addressed " to Mr. Madison,* Professor of Philosophy in the University of Williamsburgh ” (Virginia), a friend and near relative, I believe, of the illustrious James Madison. The letter was dated on board the Frigate L'Emeraude, in the Bay of Chesapeake, on the 12th of January, 1783, and contained the following remarkable, and I ad almost said exquisite, passage:

“ Henceforward, sir, let us enlarge our views; the Fine Arts are adapted to America: They have already made some progress there, they will eventually make much greater; no obstacle, no reasonable objection, can stop them in their career; these are points at least on which we are agreed. Let us now see to what purposes they may be converted by the public, the State, and the government. Here a vast field opens to our speculation, but as it is exposed to every eye, I shall fix mine on the object with which it has been most forcibly struck. Recollect, sir, what I have said above, relative to officers and public dignities. I have remarked that a jealousy, possibly well founded in itself, but pushed to the extreme, had made honors too rare, and rewards too moderate amongst you. Call in the Fine Arts to the aid of a timid legislation; the latter confers neither rank nor permanent distinction ; let her bestow statues, monuments, and medals. Astonished Europe, in admiring a Washington, a Warren, a Greene, and a Montgomery, demands what recompense can repay their services ; behold that recompense, worthy of them and of you. Let all the great towns in America present statues of Washington with this inscription : - PATER, LIBERATOR, DEFENSOR PATRIÆ ; let us see, also, those of Hancock and of Adams, with only two words, Primi Proscripti ; that of Franklin, with the Latin verse inscribed in France below his portrait -- (Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis). What glory would not this reflect upon America! It would be found that she has already more heroes than she could procure marble and artists, - and your public Halls, your Curiæ, why should they not offer in relief and paintings, the battles of Bunker's Hill, of Saratoga, of Trenton, of Princeton, of Monmouth, of Cowpens, of Eutaw Springs. Thus would you perpetuate the memory of these glorious deeds ; thus would you maintain, even through a long peace, that national pride, so necessary to the preservation of liberty; and you might, without alarming even that liberty, lavish rewards equal to the sacrifices she has received."

* Afterwards Bishop Madison, the first Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia, and President of William and Mary's College.

The gallant Marquis did not live to see any part of his suggestion acco

complished. Our country was not in a condition, at that period of its history, to spare any of its time or its means for the commemoration of its heroes or patriots. Boston did, indeed, as early as 1790, set up on Beacon Hill a simple Doric column, surmounted by our then newly adopted national emblem — the Eagle - in commemoration of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States and of the great Revolutionary events by which it was preceded. But Beacon Hill itself was long ago removed into the midst of the sea, and the shaft reduced to its original elements of brick and stone. The old tablets, however, are still to be seen in the Doric Hall of the State House, and I have sometimes wished that the whole column might be set up again, in its pri

« ZurückWeiter »