Abbildungen der Seite

ciples,) he approaches more nearly to those of Mr. Calhoun than of any other public man, with the exception of Free Trade, which, I grieve to write, is the sole free thing which my Guardian does not patronize; and this not from disapprobation of the doctrine, but from an idea that the application of it is not at present adapted to the commercial circumstances of the United States, and particularly to those of Pennsylvania. In his support of the Mexican war, the Chairman certainly differed most widely from the great Apostle of the South.

In religious principles, Mr. Ingersoll is an adherent of the Presbyterian Church ; but his toleration and charity are extended to all; he is a strenuous admirer of the eminent properties of Dr. Hughes, the Catholic Bishop of New York, who for several years was his near neighbour in the city of Philadelphia.

His talents are quick; he is fond of argument, but equally good humoured whether he wins or loses ; he has much imagination, and his very nonsense hath its pleasant mood; he is always amusing and instructive, for his fancies are elegant and original, and his acquirements solid.

Il'it may be regarded as the attribute of nations long accustomed to their existence and position, and habitually acquainted with their government and laws, their social state, and national character. These preliminaries being settled, a people acquire time and leisure for less important, though equally interesting, matters; and literature, attended by knowledge, fancy, humour, and last of all by wit, begins to claim a portion of their time and thoughts. The American People, still engaged in the important considerations which are to decide their place and station, their future peace and power, have not had time, as yet, fully to develope and ascertain their literary capacities and attributes. Neither must it be forgotten that the Americans do not possess the advantages of those extensive and classical libraries which have been for centuries accumulating in Europe. In the profound Sciences and the inventive Arts, the Americans in various ways already excel the Europeans; but we retain our pre-eminence in the Drama, in Poetry, Painting, and in Music, as well as in polite literature; in fancy literature also, the puerile, tawdry, and corrupt taste of this reading age, we still possess

an unenviable superiority. I may observe, incidentally, that learning and knowledge are far more generally disseminated in the United States. than in England; probably the number of professed, accomplished, exclusive literary men, in fact, of scholars known only as such, is less with them than with us, but the amount of knowledge and of education is greater. To return, however, to my original remarks; it would therefore seem that wit is rare among the Americans, in part because they have not yet had time to exercise it ; they have not had leisure, like Falstaff, to be either witty themselves, or to be the cause of the wit that is in other men: and in part, because their society being on an equality, does not exhibit the differences of character, distinctions of rank, distances in fortune, and comparisons of good and evil, displayed in ours; all of which are the genuine food of wit.

I have been led into this digression by remembering the sparkling sallies of Ingersoll. He is the only witty man that I have conversed with in America. His mots will, doubtless, lose by translation; but still I shall try how they will read :

At a ball, after keeping him at least an hour, during which time nobody asked me to dance, I observed, “that for his sake I was sorry that I had had no offers.” “Madam,” rejoined he, “I should instantly have repudiated them.” It must be remarked that the witty Member is the Representative of Pennsylvania.

“Do tell me," said I, “what you think of Slavery?” “As I think of musquitoes, and other visitations of Providence,” said he, “the less said about them the better; besides, they are always the most intolerable in the hottest places.”

I received a letter from Mr. Smith, the Attorney General of the Canadas, dated Montreal, in the middle of January, 1845; the snow was then fifteen feet deep at Quebec.

Ingersoll was present when I received the letter, and I read it aloud to him, as the most suitable person to give a reply.

“When," said Mr. Smith, “when are the Americans coming to take Canada ?” “Whenever it's thawed,” carelessly returned the Chairman of Foreign Relations, taking up his hat and gloves to go away, as if for the purpose.

A somewhat singular circumstance took place on the evening of Mr. Buchanan's State Ball, about a week after I had arrived in Washington. I was accompanied by Mr. Ingersoll; we had been in the room about half an hour, when Mr. Pakenham, the British Minister, came up and addressed to me the courtesies usual on such occasions. He remained near me some minutes, speaking of the Ladies, their dress and beauty, the room, &c.; during this time he never once looked at Mr. Ingersoll, who, on his side, never looked at Mr. Pakenham ; I was somewhat perplexed and embarrassed at being thus addressed by two gentlemen at the same moment, who did not appear to recognize each other. Presently I began to think of introducing them, but was checked by the absurdity of such a step, mentally ejaculating, the Minister from England, and the Chairman of Foreign Relations in the House, must certainly know each other. Still they continued to look askance, and my position became one of such excessive and ludicrous awkwardness, that I proceeded formally to present them to each other; they bowed, (I do not remember if they shook

« ZurückWeiter »