3 MARCH 1866, Page 5


A MERICA does great things, but is too apt to say small 1-1 and silly ones. This is certainly, we fear, the case with the great oration of Mr. Bancroft before the House of Repre- sentatives on the birthday of the late President,—and it is the more to be regretted because Mr. Lincoln, of all American statesmen, showed the most power of maintaining the dignity and reserve of his country, by reticence of feeling, and lumi- nous impartiality of thought. There was something singu- larly fatuous in celebrating the birth of so simply great and so humorously wise a man as Mr. Lincoln, by bombastic panegyrics on the greatness of America, and thrilling invec- tives against the iniquity of England and France. It is, we know, nearly the unforgivable sin in America to maintain that any part of Mr. Dickens's caricature is founded in truth ; and we are well aware that our able and instructive New York Correspondent will convict us of showing ignorance so gross in what we are about to say, that Mr. Thompson, Itointing to our bewilderitent, may obtain a fresh chance of carrying his point with the University of Cambridge, getting the recent vote rescinded, and a Professorship of American history, literature, and institutions, founded out of hand. Still even with this deep moral conviction of our doom before our eyes, we cannot help saying that Mr. Bancroft has apparently proved Mr. Dickens's "Young Colum- bian " to he a real and not a fictitious person. Was it not he who engaged in an imaginary struggle with the British lion, very much like that in which Mr. Bancroft engaged heart and soul before the House of Representatives and the Senate—the Senatus populusgv,e Aniericanus—of Washington ? "Bring forth that lion," said the Young Columbian ; " I dare that lion, I taunt that lion ; I tell that lion, that Freedom's hand once twisted in his mane he lies a corse before me, and the eagles of the great Republic laugh ha! ha I" Mr. Bancroft was almost as impassioned. He indeed divided his metaphors, and kept the wild laughter of nature for the rebellious Southerners, and the 'come' for the British Constitution. Of the Slaveowners he saidthat they maintained that "the slavery of the black man is good in itself—he shall serve the white man for ever. And nature,—which better understood the quality of fleeting interest and passion,—laughed, as it caught the echo man - and for ever.' " Did Mr. Bancroft's audience laugh when they caught the echo 'man' and for ever?' We fear that Mr. Bancroft understood his audience loo well. But then why do American politicians like rant so very silly as this ? When Mr. Roebuck—the Cassius Clay of 'England, as he has been called—speaks of England driving every American flag from the sea for ever, the House of Commons does laugh as it catches the echo of these tremen- dous words, and Mr. Roebuck is aware that he is esteemed a goose. But let us see the equally impressive language which lir. Bancroft uses of our dead Constitution. After he has fairly got "the mighty winds blowing from every quarter to fan the flame of the sacred and unquenchable fire" of liberty,—a very pinions meteorological phenomenon by the way, by the side of which the spiral hurricanes of the tropics seem devoid of all interest,—Mr. Bancroft artfully introduces England looking coldly on at this curious convergence of the winds. "There was a kingdom," he says, with a grand indefiniteness, "whose people had in an eminent degree attained to freedom of in- dustry and the security of person and property," but a people whose "grasping ambition had dotted the world with military ports, kept watch over our boundaries on the North-East, at the Bermudas,in the West Indies, held the gates of the Pacific, of the Southern and the Indian Ocean, hovered on our North-West atVan- couver, held the whole of the newest continent, and the entrance to the old Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and garrisoned forts all the way from Madras todfthina. That aristocracy" [which we -conclude is the English] 1.‘qia,c1 gazed with terror on the growth of a commonwealth where -freeholds existed by the million, and religion was not in bondage to the State, and now they could not repress their joy at its perils." Then, Lord Russell as Foreign Secretary had spOlien of the "late Union," and this gives our Young Columbian" his opportunity for his grand burst of invective ;--"Iltit it is written, 'Let the dead• bury the dead.' They may not bury the living. Let the dead bury their dead. Let -a Bill of Reform remove the worn-out govern- ment of a class, and infuse new life into the British Constitu- tion by confiding rightful power to the people." It was no doubt well that Mr. Bancroft pointed out the impropriety of the dead burying the living, as the difficult and recondite character of the suggestion itself might otherwise have prevented the gross impropriety involved in that procedure from being clearly seen. "While the vitality of America," as Mr. Bancroft observes, "is indestructible," the hid-timing of burying her would have been frightful, and it is well that the eloquent orator has warned us in time. A country which "had for its allies the river Missis- sippi which would not be divided, or the range of mountains which carried the stronghold of the free through Western Virginia and Kentucky and Tennessee to the highlands of Alabama, and which "invoked the still higher power of immortal jus- tice," would certainly have tested the utmost energies of any dead nation to bury it,—so that we might have been warned off the task by considerations at least as urgent as the moral impropriety of attempting it.

Now this sort of nonsense would have been worthy of no attention, however transient, if it had been uttered at a common meeting on a common occasion. If Mr. Bancroft had spoken in Faneuil Hall, or Tammany Hall, or any other of the great party meeting-places, we should have thought just as little and just as much about it as we should of a lunatic speech from Mr. Roebuck to his constituents at Sheffield, or an oration from Mr. Beresford Hope on the glories of slavery. But when an orator is selected by public or by official choice, and speaks in the presence of Congress and the representatives of foreign nations on a great State occasion, the first qualities that we look for are dignity and reticence, and the power of suppressing idle irritation ; and if he does not possess these qualities, some of the discredit attach- ing to his folly and his weakness is necessarily inflicted on the officials who chose and the public who applauded him. We do not deny,—indeed we have often maintained, and shall often have to maintain again,—that England gave grave cause for offence to a great friendly people, by the needless and wilful injustice of her prejudice with regard to a quarrel, in which, by all our antecedents and principles, we were bound to have taken the other side. We were heartily ashamed of the public tone of England then, and we are not going to apologize for it now. We believe that no American could have spoken of Mr. Lincoln's noble career, and the many and grave difficulties which he had to encounter, without a feeling of quiet but grave displeasure at the temper of the dominant class in Eng- land which caused him so many of those difficulties. But on public and. official occasions, and in the presence of those who, while they have no power to reply, still represent the nation assailed, grave displeasure, if expressed at all, should be expressed negatively, by weighty and impressive allusion. A man who feels he has grave cause of offence against another may, if he meets him at another's table, ignore his acquaintance, or recognize it by the coldest of bows,—but what should we think of his dignity and self-respect if he began a regular assault upon him in the presence of others, and a pompous enumeration of his grievances ? The Americans are puzzled why we are so unjust to them. Cannot Mr. Bancroft teach them the true cause ? The true reason is that in England few are aware of the significance of the silent qualities of Americans—their indo- mitable energy and tenacity, their kindliness of temper, their love of freedom, their profoundly patriotic feeling. But many hear their noisy folly, and interpret its significance at something far above what it deserves. How is it possible to read such an oration as Mr. Bancroft's,—the selected orator of a State ceremony,—and not feel something like scorn What would not Mr. Gladstone have said on any similar occasion as the spokesman of the English nation! What did he not say on one far less important only yesterday week, when pressed to declare whether we had applied to the Government of the United States to suppress the Fenian preparations in that country? Was his not language self-restrained, digni- fied, weighty, and calculated to fill his audience with self- restraint and dignity also ? Did he not tell us how poor and unworthy a figure England would make, if she went whin- ing to the United States about their not doing for her what she had been, in her own case, so unable if not reluctant to do for them As to the comparative public conduct, of England and the United States as nations, there may of course be very different opinions. It is natural and right that an American should believe that his own nation has far excelled ours, and even the most prejudiced of Englishmen may concede that we have made blunders, and been guilty of injustice which an American could not overlook. But as to the comparative public language adopted by the two countries, it is impossible to feel any doubt. Mr. Seward himself, while wise in action, has been boastful and vulgar upon paper. And now here is the official spokesman of a great occasion actually decoying, as it were, the Ambassadors of foreign countries to come and hear themselves denounced with all the insulting geationlution et a rhetorician making points for the galleries. Nor is this sort oi thing exceptional in the United States. There public men's mode of expressing themselves seems to be habitually so wanting in dignity and retioence, that it was long before the world began to believe that people who could talk so big, were capable of the greatness in action which they have since shown. Mx. Bancroft is supposed to stand to the Malted States in something of the same relation in which Mr.

Hallam once stood to England. And what would English society have thought of such an attack on a public occasion by Mr. Hallam, on the foreign countries whose Ministers had been invited expressly to hear him speak of the achievements 9f a, great English statesman If Mr. Thompson's proposal to found a lectureship of American history at Cambridge had not been already rejected, this folly on the part of one of the men who had been spoken of as possible nominees for the lectureship, would probably have put a final end to the chances of the proposal. If the graver historians of America can shriek criticism of this sort on foreign countries when they are sup- riled to be teaching the history of their own, foreigners will scarcely be likely to profit much by their lessons. Cam- bridge nndergra,duates might not improbably indeed attend the lectures of 'A Young Columbian' in sufficient masses. It would be great ftin to them to hear him challenging the British lion to come forth at once to the contest:—" 'Here,' said the Young Columbian, on this native altar,—here,' said the Young Columbian, idealizing the dining-table, on ances- 4les., cemented with the blood poured forth like water on our native plains of Chickabiddy Lick." But the instruc- tion derived from such lectures would be in6nitesima1, and the 'larks' to which they would give rise would distract the authorities.

gow is it that Americans, with all their wonderful qualities, —relit* in which, as we quite admit, they often far surpass their English cousins,—cannot see the necessity of bridling their tongues a little, if only in order to give weight to what they do say How could any one hear Mr. Ba,ncroft's rubbish, and not feel rather more than before that American talk is a little of the nature of wind? Sir Frederick Bruce, with notice, to some extent, of the assault to be made on him, quietly and wisely, we think, attended and sat out the nonsense, and we wish he had net thought it necessary, as we see he is reported to have done, to have refused to meet Mr. Bancroft subsequently in private. For our part, we should as soon have thought, of refusing to meet a jester. The mischief of these fiascoes is not in any immediate effect which is nil, but in the false impression they produce of the emptiness and vanity of one of the greatest and most earnest nations on the face of the earth. The erroneous European prejudice that braggadocio and a noble earnestness of purpose can never go together is so strongly rooted, that a few official displays of Young Colo.mbianism do almost as much to eradicate the impres- sion produced by the great actions of the great men of silence, like Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman, as if they were displays of unstable national purpose, instead of mere symptoms of gas on the brain.' Some of us know how false and injurious that notion is, but it obtains nevertheless, and it would do more to give America her true place among the nations, that her tongue should become a little less glib and her language a little less grandiloquent, than even that her actions should grow rapidly in magnitude, and her substantial statesmanship in wisdom.