Category Archives: History

Item of the Day: The Works of Sallust (1744)

Full Title: The Works of Sallust, Translated into English. With Political Discourse upon that Author. To which is added, a Translation of Cicero’s Four Orations Against Catiline. London: Printed for T. Woodward, and J. Peele; and sold by J. Osborn, at the Golden Ball in Pater-noster Row, MDCCXLIV. [1744]

 

DISCOURSE I.

Of Faction and Parties.

________________________

SECT. I.

How easily the People are led into Faction, and kept in it, by their own Heat and Prejudices, and the Arts of their Leaders; how hard they are to be cured; and with what Partiality and Injustice each Side treats the other.

SALLUST observes, “That whoever raised Civil Dissentions in the Commonwealth, used plausible Pretences; some seeming to vindicate the Rights of the People; others to exalt the Authority of the Senate; Both Sorts to pursue the public Good; yet all only striving severally to procure Weight and Power to themselves. Neither, in these their Civil Contests, did any of them observe Moderation or Bounds: Whatever Party conquered, still used their Victory with Violence and Inhumanity.” This, I doubt, is true of all Parties in their Pursuits and Success: I have, therefore, thought it pertinent to discourse here at large upon Faction and Parties.

The People are so apt to be drawn into Faction, and blindly to pursue the Steps of their Leaders, generally to their own special Prejudice, Loss, and Disquiet, if not to their utter Ruin, that he who would sincerely serve them, cannot do it more effectually, than by warning them against such ready and implicit Attachment to Names and Notions, however popular and plausible. From this evil Root have sprung many of the sore Calamities that, almost every-where, afflict Mankind. Without it the world had been happily ignorant of Tyranny and Slavery, the Two mighty Plagues that now haunt and devour the most and best Parts of it; together the subordinate and introductory Miseries, of national Discord, Devastation, and Civil War.

People, as well as Princes,  have been often undone by their Favourites. A great Man amongst them, perhaps, happened to be cried up for his fine Actions, or fine Qualities, both often overrated; and became presently their Idol, and they trusted him without Reserve: For their Love, like their Hate, is generally immoderate; not from a Man who has done them, or can do them, much Good, have they any Apprehension of Evil; till some Rival for their Affection appear superior to their first Favourite in Art of Fortune; one who persuades them, that the other has abused them, and seeks their Ruin. Then, it is like, they make a sudden Turn, set up the latter against the former; and, having conceived an immoderate Opinion of HIm, too, put immoderate Confidence in him; not that they are sure that the other had wronged them, or abused his Trust, but take it for granted, and punish him upon Presumption; trusting to the Arts and Accusations of their new Leader, who probably had deceived and inflamed them. . . .

They may possibly commit themselves to the Guidance of a Man, who certainly means them well, and seeks no base Advantage to himself: But such Instances are so rare, that the Experiment is never to be tried. Men, especially Men of Ambition, who are the forwardest to grasp at such an Office, do, chiefly, and in the first Place, consider Themselves; and, whilst guided by Partiality for themselves, cannot judge indifferently. Such a Man, measuring Reason and Justice by his Interest, may think, that it is right, that the People should always be deceived, should always be kept low, and under a severe Yoke, to hinder them from judging for Themselves, and throwing off Him, and to prevent their growing wanton and ungovernable. In short, the Fact is, (almost eternally) That their Leader only finds his Account in leading them, and They never, in being led. They make him considerable; that is, throw him into the Way of Power and Profit: This is his Point and End; and, in Consideration of all this, what does do he he for them? At best, he generally leaves them where he found them. Yet this is tolerable, nay, kind, in comparison of what oftener happens: Probably he has raised Feuds and Animosties amongst them, not to end in an Hundred Years; Fuel for intestine Wars; a Spirit of Licentiousness and Rebellion, or of Folly and Slavery.

In the midst of the Heats, and Zeal, and Divisions, into which they are drawn, for This Man against That, are they ever thoroughly apprised of the Merits and Source of the Dispute? Are they Masters of the real Fact, sufficent for accusing one, or for applauding another? Scarce ever. What Information they have, they have generally no Information at all; but only a few Cant Words, such as will always serve to animate a Mob; “I am for John: He is our Friend, and very honest. I am against Thomas: He is our worst Enemy, and very wicked, and deserves to be punished.” And so say They who have taken a Fancy to Thomas, and are prejudiced against John. When it is likely, that neither John or Thomas have done them much Harm, or much Good; or, perhaps, both John and Thomas study to delude and enthral them. But, when Passion prevails, Reason is not heard . . .

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1740's, Eighteenth century, Government, Greek/Roman Translations, History, Political Commentary, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: A Gloomy Catastrophe (1805)

Found In: A Northern Summer; or Travels round the Baltic, through Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Prussia, and Part of Germany, in the Year 1804. By John Carr, Esq. London: Printed for Richard Phillips, No. 6, Bridge Street, Blackfriars, by T. Gillet, Salisbury square, 1805.

 

CHAP. XIV.

A GLOOMY CATASTROPHE.

IT is with deep regret that I approach the delicate and awful subject of this chapter. Humanity would gladly cover it with the pall of oblivion; but justice to the memory of an unhappy monarch, and to the chief of the august family of Russia, demand a candid though careful developement [sic] of the events which preceded the fall of the last Emperor. The original source of my information is from one who beheld the catastrophe which I am about to relate, whom I can neither name nor doubt; a catastrophe which is too near the period in which I write, not to render an unrestrained disclosure of all the particulars with which I  have been furnished, unfair if not imprudent. The causes that first created those well-known prejudices which Catherine II. cherished against her son, have perished with her; but all the world knows, that, during the many years which rolled away between the Grand Duke’s arrival at the age of maturity and his elevation to the throne, his august mother never admitted him to any participation of power, but kept him in a state of the most abject and mortifying separation from the court, and in almost total ignorance of the affairs of the empire. Although Paul, by his birth, was generalissimo of the armies, he never was permitted to head a regiment; and although, by the same right, grand admiral of the Baltic, he was interdicted from even visiting the fleet at Cronstadt. To these painful privations may be added, that when he was recommended, that is offered, to travel, during his absence Catherine seized and sent to Siberia one of his most cherished friends, because she discoverd that he had informed her son of some inconsiderble state affair. Thus Paul beheld himself not only severed from the being who gave him birth, but from all the ordinary felicities of life. The pressure of his hand excited suspicion; peril was in his attachment, and in his confidence guilt and treason. He could not have a friend, without furnishing a victim.

A gentleman nearly connected with me, now no more, a man of talent and acute observation and veracity, had several years since the honour of spending a short period at the little secluded court of Gatchina, upon which, as the dazzling beams of imperial favour never shone, the observer was left in the tranquillity of the shade, to make a more calm, steady, and undiverted survey. At this time, Paul displayed a mind very elegantly inclined, without being brilliant, highly cultivated, accomplished and informed, frank and generous, brave and magnanimous, a heart tender and affectionate, and a dispositon very sweet, though most acutely and poignantly susceptible: his person was not handsome, but his eye was penetrating, and his manners such as denoted the finished gentleman. In his youth he was seen by the bed-side of the dying Panin, the hoary and able minister of Catherine, and his tutor, kissing and bathing his hand with tears. As an evidence of his intellectual vigour, let the elaborate and able ukase, by which he settled the precedence and provision of the imperial family, unquestionably his own unassisted composition, be referred to. He loved his amiable princess, and his children, with the most ardent, the most indulgent fondness, and it was the labour of their love, as well as of his servants, who were devotedly attached to him, to requite his affections and graciousness, and to endeavour to fill up with every endearing, every studied attention, the gloomy chasm which had been formed by an unnatural and inexplicable neglect; but this chasm was a bottomless abyss, upon the brink of which his wounded spirit was ever wandering! Paul possessed a high martial inclination, and, reflecting that he might one day mount the throne of a military empire, he made the art of war the principal object of his studeis; but neither this pursuit, so copious, so interesting, nor the endearments of those who surrounded him, could expel from his mind the sense of his injuries. He beheld himself, the second personage the the destined ruler of the empire, postponed to the periodical favourite of his mother, the minister of her unbounded voluptiousness, not unfrequently elevated to the presidency of the Hermitage from the ranks, with no other pretensions than vigorous health and a mighty frame; whilst, on the other hand, the bleeding shade of his father was for ever, in his morbid imagination, pointing to his wound, and whispering revenge. Thus exiled from the heart of his mother, is it a matter of surprise that he should exclude her from his own?

Catherine more than once observed, that her son would not long occupy the throne after her decease; and it has been the fashion to say, that her alienation from him was justified by the events which succeeded her death. With this prophetic spirit, she devoted all her care to the education of her grandsons, Alexander and Constantine, and exercised all the powers she possessed towards the consummation of her prediciton. She foretold that the flower which she had planted would wither early: she shook it till every blossom fell, and shaded it so, that the dew of Heaven should never visit it more: she pressed and pierced the delicate and ardent mind of her son until she subverted it. Was it then a proof of inspiration, to prognosticate the brevity of his reign over an empire, the history of which has too often and fatally proved, that however despotic its government, and there is not one under heaven more absolute, a cautious and dexterous cultivation of the interest, feelings, prejudices, and affections of the people is inseparable from the safety of the ruler? . . .

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Europe, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Ramsay’s History of the American Revolution (1791)

Full Title: The History of the American Revolution. By David Ramsay, M.D. of South Carolina. Vol. II. London: Soldy by J. Johnson and J. Stockdale, M.DCC.XCI. [1791]

 

APPENDIX, NO. III.

Of the treatment of prisoners, and of the distresses of the Inhabitants.

 MANY circumstances concurred to make the American war particurlary calamitous. It was originally a civil war in the estimation of both parties, and a rebellion to its termination, in the opinion of one of them. Unfortunately for mankind doubts have been entertained of the obligatory force of the law of nations in such cases. The refinement of modern ages has stripped war of half of its horrors, but the systems of some illiberal men have tended to re-produce the barbarism of Gothic times, by withholding the benefits of that refinement from those who are effecting revolutions. An enlightened philanthropist embraces the whole human race and enquires, not whether an object of distress is or is not an unit of an acknowledged nation. It is sufficient that he is a child of the same common parent, and capable of happiness or misery. The prevalence of such a temper would have greatly lessened the calamities of the American war, but while from contracted policy, unfortunate captives were considered as not entitled to the treatment of prisoners, they were often doomed without being guilty, to suffer the punishment due to criminals.

The first American prisoners were taken on the 17th of June 1775. These were thrown indiscriminately into the jail at Boston, without any consideration of their rank. Gen. Washington wrote to Gen. Gage on this subject, to which the latter answered by asserting that the prisoners had been treated with care and kindess, though indiscriminately “as he acknowledged no rank that was not derived from the King.” To which Gen. Washington replied “You affect, Sir, to despise all rank not derived from the same source with your own; I cannot conceive one mroe honorable, than that which flows from the uncorrupted choice of a brave and free people, the purest sourse and original fountal of all power.”

Gen. Carlton during his command conducted towards the American prisoners with a degree of humanity, that reflected the greatest honor on his character. Before he commenced his operations on the lakes in 1776, he shipped off those of them who were officers for New-Enlgand, but previously supplied them with every thing requisite to make their voyage comfortable. The other prisoners, amounting to 800, were sent home by a flag after exacting an oath from them, not to serve during the war unless exchanged. Many of these being almost naked were comfortably cloathed by his orders, previously to their being sent off.

The capture of Gen. Lee proved calamitous to several individuals. Six Hessian field officers were offered in exchange for him but this was refused. It was said by the British, that Lee was a deserter from their service, and as such could not expect the indulgences usually given to prisoners of war. The Americans replied, that as he resigned his British commission previously to his acepting one from the Americans, he could not be considered as a deserter. He was nevetheless confined, watched, and guarded. Congress thereupon resolved, that Gen. Washington be directed to inform Gen. Howe, that should the proffered exchange of Gen. Lee for six field officers not be accepted, and the treatment of him as above mentioned be continued, the principles of retaliation should occasion five of the said Hessian field officers, together with Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell to be detained, in order that the said treatment which Gen. Lee received, should be exactly inflicted on their persons. The Campbell thus designated as the subject of retaliation, was a human man, and a meritorious officer, who had been captured by some of the Massachusett’s privateers near Boston, which, from the want of information, he was proceeding soon after the British had evacuated it. The above act of Congress was forwarded to Massachusetts with a request that they would detain Lt. Col. Compbell and keep him in safe custody till the further order of Congress. The council of Massachusett’s exceeded this request, and sent him to Concord jail, where he was lodged in a gloomy dungeon of twelve or thirteen feet square. The attendance of a single servant on his person was denied him, and every visit from a friend refused.

The prisoners captured by Sir William Howe in 1776, amounted to many hundreds. The officers were admitted to parole, and has some waste houses assigned to them as quarters; but the privates were shut up in the coldest season of the year in churches, sugar houses, and such like the open buildings. The severity of the weather, and the rigor of their treatment, occasioned the death of many hundreds of these unfortunate men. The filth of the places of their confinement, in consequence of fluxes which prevailed among them, was both offensive and dangerous. Seven dead bodies have been seen in one building, at one time, and all lying in a situation shocking to humanity. The provisions served out to them were deficient in quantity, and of an unwholsome quality. These suffering prisoners were generally pressed to enter into the British service, but hundreds submitted to death, rather than procure a melioration of their circumstances by enlisting with the enemies of their country. After Gen. Washington’s successes at Trenton and Princeton, the American prisoners fared somewhat better. Those who survived were offered to be sent out for exchange, but some of them fell down dead in the streets, while attempting to walk to the vessels. Others were so emaciated that their appearance was horrible. A speedy death closed the scene with many.

The American board of war, after conferring with Mr. Boudinot the commissary-general of prisoners, and examining evidences produced by him, reported among other things, “That there were 900 privates and 300 officers of the American army, prisoners in the city of New-York, and about 500 privates and 50 officers prisoners in Philadelphia. That since the beginning of October all these prisoners, both officers and privates, had been confined in prison ships or the Provost: That from the best evidence the subject could admit of, the general allowance of prisoners, at most did not exceed four ounces of meat per day, and often so damaged as not to be eatable: That it had been a common practice with the British, on a prisoner’s being first captured, to keep him three, four or five days without a morsel of meat, and then to tempt him to enlist to save his life: That there were numerous instances of prisoners of war, perishing in all the agonies of hunger.”  . . .

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, 1780's, American Revolution, Culture, Eighteenth century, History, Military, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Prisoners

Item of the Day: The History of the American Revolution (1791)

Full Title: The History of the American Revolution. By David Ramsay, M.D., of South Carolina. Vol. I. London: sold by J. Johnson and J. Stockdale, M.DCC.XCI. [1791]

 

ADVERTISMEMENT,

BY AN

ENGLISH FRIEND.

THE particulars of the American Revolution may by many be thought to be sufficiently known; but, if we deduct from our first accounts all that was false or that is by this time forgotten, and add all that is true which has since been discovered, the history, now presented to the English reader, may be esteemed in a great measure new. It is new even among the Americans; and in any event it must produce a new effect upon the judgment and feelings of every one, as being digested out of scattered materials. There are few indeed to whom the work will be more interesting than to those who have borne a share in the events which it records; and there is no portion of modern, or perhaps antient, history, more worthy as respecting politics, war, or the human character.

Should the perusal of it revive some of the regrets of Englishmen, the contemplation of our past misfortunes may at least prove a lesson for avoiding the like in future; especially in the present eventful age, when no political course can long be safe which is not framed upon principles, and suited both the the temper and interests of mankind.

The discovery of the distress which the Americans suffered at the close of the war, must not lead us to lament the peace which followed; for the distress experienced was certainly mutual. But had it even been in our power for the moment to subjugate America, either terms must have been granted to her equivalent to independence, or else a perpetual cause of war would have remained; which in the case of a spirited and increasing people, must always have proved burthensome on our side, and sooner or later have terminated in their favor. At present, none can doubt, that a more beneficial connection with America is open to us, than any which could have procured by force.

The particular history before us, is at once short and full, as well as judicious, authentic, and impartial, and is clearly the best extant on the subject.

Some allowances nevertheless are requisite in favor of the present work, which from several passages in it, appears not to have received the author’s last corrections. Various inaccuracies also, especially in the first volume, have crept into it, from errors either of the transcriber or of the press. A table of these is formed wherever they are of moment. —Some peculiarities of style will still be found remaining, a part of which belong to the author, and the rest to the country to which he belongs.

It is a curious fact, that there is perhaps no one portion of the British empire, in which two or three millions of persons are to be found, who speak their mother-tongue with greater purity, or a truer pronuciation, than the white inhabitants of the United States. This was attributed, by a pentrating observer, to the number of British subjects assembled in America from various quarters, who, in consequence of their intercourse and intermarriages, soon dropped the peculiarities of their several provincial idioms, retaining only what was fundamental and common to them all; a process, which the requency or rather the universality of school-learning in North America; must naturally have assisted. —At the same time there are few natives of the United States, who are altogether free from what may be called Americanisms, both in their speech and their writing. In the case of words of rarer use, they have framed their own models of pronunciation, as having little access to those established among the people from whom they have derived their language; and hence they are sometimes at variance with us in their speech, (to say nothing of the peculiar tones of voice which prevail in some parts of the United States.) But their familiarity with our best writers has in general left them ingnorant of nothing which regards our phraseology; and hence their chief difference in writing consists in their having added a few words to our language, in consequence of the influence of some local authority or of their peculiar situation. Some of these additions we have ourselves received, as in the case of the words “organize and organization,” when applied to political bodies; others we have listened to without as yet adopting, as in the case of the words “the legislative and the executive,” when used as subtantives; but others again we have altogether declined to countenance, as the words, “to advocate and to loan,” which appear to be verbs invented without any apparent reason. The author before us will furnish several examples of what is here alluded to, where the solitary authority of a few Englsih writers, if such are to be found in his favor, cannot be considered as of force enough to be opposed to the general habit of our nation. —Happily, however, these criticisms are of little practical use; for, no terms can become current in either of the two countries, which will not easily be understood in both of them. —It is thus that the new circumstances of the French have brought various words into use with that nation, which were before unkown to it; but they are all of them immediately intelligible, whether they are borrowed from us, or from America, or, like the words “civisme and incivisme,” have originated among themselves. . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Great Britain, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: A Letter from King Charles II regarding Nathaniel Bacon (1676)

Full Title: A Letter from his Majesty Charles 2d, for the apprehension of Nathaniel Bacon, the instigator and head of a Rebellion in Virginia

Found In: Letters from the English Kings and Queens Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne, George II, &c. To the governors of the Colony of Connecticut, together with the Answers  thereto, from 1635 to 1749; and Other Original, Ancient, Literary and Curious Documents, Compiled from Files and Records in the Office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut. By R. R. Hinman, A. M. Secretary of the State of Connecticut. Hartford: John D. Eldredge, Printer, 1836. [pp. 99-100]

[The following letter has been transcribed as it appears in the above text. No changes or corrections have been made to the spelling of the words in the document.] 

CHARLES R.

Trusty and well beloved, wee greet you well, wee doubt not but you have heard of the disorders in our Colony of Virginia, raised and continued by Nathaniell Bacon the younger, who hath made himself the head and leader of a rebellion there, to the great detriment of that Colony, and the danger of others, near adjoyning  thereunto, having confidence therefore in your loyalty, and that you abhor such desperate and treasonable actions, and to prevent the contagion of so bad an example in other Colonies upon that tract belonging to our Crowne; wee have thought fitt to signifie our pleasure unto you, and hereby to require that if the said Nathaniel Bacon, or any of his accomplices in that rebellion, shall for their safety or otherwise, retreat, or resort into that Province of our Colony of New England, under your jurisdiction, or any part thereof, you cause him, them, and every of them, to be forthwith seized and secured, and then give immediate notice thereof, to the Governour or Commander in chief in Virginia, to the end such further course may be taken with them as shall be agreeable to law. And wee doe further require you to issue forth proclamation streightly, forbidding all and every the planters or inhabitants of your said Province to joyne with the said rebells, or to afford them any arms, ammunition, provisions, or assistance of any kind whatsoever, but contrarily enjoyning those under your jurisdiction to oppose the said rebells in all things as there shall be occasion–and so wee bid farewell. Given at our Court in White Hall, the 3d day of November, 1675, in the eight and twentieth year of our Reigne.

By his Majesties command.

H. COVENTRY

To our trusty and well beloved, the governour and Councill of the Colony of Connecticut, in New England.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1670'S, Charles II, Colonial America, Connecticut, Government, Great Britain, History, New England, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Letters from the English Kings and Queens (1836)

Full Title: Letters from the English Kings and Queens Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne, George II, &c. To the governors of the Colony of Connecticut, together with the Answers thereto, from 1635 to 1749; and Other Original, Ancient, Literary and Curious Documents, Compiled from Files and Records in the Office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut. By R. R. Hinman, A. M. Secretary of the State of Connecticut. Hartford: John D. Eldredge, Printer, 1836.

 

PREFACE.

THE Author, or rather Compiler of the following work, publishes it as an act due the State, for the purpose of transmitting to posterity, a correct history of facts and events, which transpired in the early settlement of Connecticut–commencing, even before the falling of the first tree in the forest, by any white man in the Colony.

It is a compilation of a correspondence of the Kings and Qeens [sic] of England, with the different Governors of the Colony–from the first settlement in Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield, in 1635, for the term of more than one hundred years–embracing letters from the Lords of the Council of trade and foreign plantations; a correct copy of the old patent of Connecticut; letters from the Hon. the Commissioners of his Majesties customs in England; and answeres by the Governors, &c. Also letters to apprehend Capt. Kidd, as a pirate, and many other interesting, curious literary communications–among which are twenty-seven questions sent to this Colony by the Lords of the Council of trade in 1679, with the answers of Gov. Leet–which answers are probably as correct early history of this Colony as is extant, and will be highly interesting to all readers. Indeed they are a succinct history of the Colony at that period, as to its navigations, productions, shipping, populations, state of society, Indian wars, religion, title of lands, trade and manufactures, &c. And when we contemplate that these answeres were written by a Governor of this State, when a Colony, nearly two hundred years since, upon this ground, then occupied by the sturdy trees of the forest, but now covered with stores, banks, public buildings and the splendid private dwellings of the refined population of the City of Hartford–and this, the first publication of most of them, they cannot fail to be interesting to the most inattentive observer of past events.

The orthography of the original letters and documents is strictly and carefully preserved.

The signatures of the Kings and Queens are uniformly placed at the commencement of the communications, and not at the close as is usual for other persons; the large, elegant and expensive seals attached to each letter, are yet in a perfect state of preservation. The idea tha the delicate hands of Queen Mary and Queen Anne of England have been upon the same sheets, which I have copied for this book, and nearly two centuries since, satisfies the mind that these events are indeed ancient, and appears rather as a dream, than a reality. The reader will occasionally observe, that answers to letters from England, are some few of them missing, not having been preserved by the writers as they should have been, not only for the benefit of the Colony at the time, but also for the advantage of future historians and the honor of the country.

This work is not published by the compiler expecting even a compensation for his labor, but solely to transmit to posterity, the important historical events which it contains, emanating from the pens of the Kings and Queens of England, and the Governors of this Colony, verified by their own signatutes and Seals, the last of whom have been gathered to their fathers nearly a century ago. . . .

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1700's, Colonial America, Connecticut, Eighteenth century, Great Britain, History, New England, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: A Tale of St. Domingo (1834)

Excerpted from a collection of short stories found in: The Romantic Historian; A Series of Lights and Shadows, Elucidating American Annals. Philadelphia: Published by Hogan & Thompson, No. 139 Market Street, 1834.

 

A TALE OF ST. DOMINGO.

There seems to me to be a striking resemblance between slave-holding and volcanic countries. Though the inhabitants may be blessed with every enjoyment depending upon soil and climate, yet in the very bowels of the land there are constantly the elements of destruction. Even while we are most happy and secure, the volcano may be upon the point of bursting forth with overwhelming ruin, which no foresight can anticipate, and no prudence avert. Such was the state of St. Domingo, at the opening of my tale; on the eve of that fearful insurrection which consigned so many unsuspecting beings to premature death, or drove them from their homes and kindred, to struggle with want in the loneliness of a foreign land.

The hot glaring day had passed, and was succeeded by the soft splendor of a West Indian evening. Monsieur L ___, a large proprietor of land and slaves, was sitting at a table in his saloon, looking over some newspapers, which he had just received from a neighboring town. At the other end of the table his wife was engaged in preparations for the evening meal. Before an open window in the same apartment, sat their only daughter, Theresa, with her cousin and accepted lover, Eugene M ___.

Eugene was an orphan. At the very beginning of his course through life, he had encountered misfortunes and difficulties, which only his own talents and energy had enabled him to surmount. He had met with wrongs and treachery enough from the world to make him prize, at their full value, the purity and single-minded love of Theresa. Young as he was, he had seen much of mankind. With an ardent disposition and a heart formed for universal love, the fraud and ingratitude of all whom he had trusted had changed his naturally frank bearing to one of haughty coldness. But to Theresa he looked as the only being whom he might love, without danger and reserve. His eyes were now fixed upon hers, with a mixture of pride and affection which was not very far removed from idolatry. The window at which they were seated, was covered with a luxuriant vine, trained under Theresa’s direction. The checquered moonlight streamed through it, and the evening breeze rustled among its leaves. With all the congenial beauties of a tropical night around them, the lovers were enjoying that interchange of romantic feeling, which it is so much the fashion to ridicule in this matter of fact country of ours; but which I consider the single green spot, and single sparkling fountain, in the dreary waste of a sordid and selfish world. What they were talking of heaven only knows. Chance has once or twice made me an unintentional listener to the conversation of lovers. Much as I was interested at the time, I could not afterwards recollect a word that had passed. And I am inclined to think that their intercourse consists in the exchange of kind words and tones rather than ideas.

The opening of a door, and the entrance of a tall athletic negro, belonging to M. L ___, drew for a moment the attention of all parties. The circumstance in itself was of little importance. It was usual for the negroes after their daily taks was completed, to go to the dwelling house of their masters, and complain of any petty grievance, or ask for little privileges. There was, however, about this man an air of apprehansion and uncertainty, which had just fixed Eugene’s attention, when he rushed upon his master and buried in his bosom a large knife, which he had held unobserved in his hand. The unhappy L ___ fell from his chair without a groan, and the next instant Eugene was standing over his body. With his right hand he had caught a knife from the table, and in his left he held a chair, with which he parried a blow aimed at him by the slave. Afraid to contend singly against such resistance, and confounded perhaps by his own success in the attempt upon his master’s life the negro turned and retreated through the door at which he had entered. A single glance into the portico showed Eugene that it was filled with negroes, and the truth flashed at once upon his mind. To lock and barricade the door, to snatch a candle from the table, and hurry his aunt and cousin up the staircase which ascended from the saloon, was to Eugene but the work of a moment. There was a small closet at the heard [sic] of the stairs, which Mons. L ___. had devoted to his collection of arms, for which he had a singular fondness. It was not time to search for keys. With the wild energy of despair, Eugene threw himself against the door. It gave way, and he was precipitated headlong into the closet among the rattling pistols and fowling pieces, and flasks and bags of amunition. He selected two double barrel guns, and a musket, which, by its large calibre, was peculiarly fitted for his purpose. He loaded them heavily with swan shot, and took a positon from which he could command a view of the whole stairs. . . .

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1830's, Fiction, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Slavery