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close intimacy with the guiding minds of our revolution. It is to him Mr. Jefferson refers when he says, in the advertisement to his valuable notes on Virginia, that they were written in answer to certain queries proposed by a distinguished foreigner. In the course of the French Revolution, M. de Marbois visited the United States a second time, and renewed his acquaintance with our institutions and annals.
The Conspiracy of Arnold seems to have attracted, from the moment of its detection, his particular attention. His official situation and his connexions enabled him to procure the most authentic and ample materials for the history of the transaction. At what time he began with this so evidently a favourite and laboured task, does not appear. But it cannot escape the sagacity of his readers that his work has been, if not recast, at least retouched, since the great revolution of March, 1814, and seasoned with allusions to the state of things in France under thé revived monarchy.
The Preliminary Discourse on the United States bears date in June, 1815. No American can peruse it, without a glow of satisfaction and gratitude. If we are decked in colours somewhat the brighter perhaps, on account of the lessons which the author wished to give his own country and Europe, it is still obvious, that it is not the effect of admonitory contrast which he studies alone or principally; but that he is actuated in his representations by a spirit of justice and enlightened affection. It is delightful to be thus exhibited in the face of the prejudiced world, of the scoffers, and defamers, and bigots of the European school of civilization, by one whose high rank among themselves, whose character of an eye-witness that had examined at leisure and from every point of view, what he describes, and whose taste and ability manifested in his work itself, give irresistible force to his testimony.
In the particulars which he has quoted as detracting from the advantages of our situation, he has described things as they were. --The Yellow Fever has disappeared. The endemic diseases of a new country cease to be formidable as it changes its face under the progress of population and the arts; our climate has become not only more salubrious, but more temperate, probably from the same cause: The settler on the Western frontier has little to fear from the attacks of savages: The Southern states to which our author refers, are less infested with the evil of domestic slavery, and may cherish the hope of being, at no distant day, so far relieved at least, as to be for ever secure from that dreadful vicissitude which he seems to apprehend. He has himself furnished a satisfactory answer to the doubts, which a supposed diversity of interests and views between the states, has awakened concerning the duration of our union. Were he now resident here,
we should have his great authority in support of the assertion, that the idea of any fatal or very serious contrariety of interests is exploded among us, since reflection and experience have made us better acquainted with the true mutual rela.' tions of the states. The aspect of this adolescent empire varies at each moment: new and important features and faculties are almost hourly developed in the process of a growth quick, vigorous, and multifarious beyond all example: The speculative politician finds incessantly matter for fresh caleulations and predictions: The horoscope of yesterday would not serve for to-day, except in two points—the continuance of the union, and the perpetuity of free institutions. Of what is thus prolifically and rapidly evolved something may be of a tendency adverse to the Union; but a friendly and discriminating observer like M. de Marbois could not fail to perceive and acknowledge, that there is more of good than evil portent to this experiment so important for the interests of mankind.
The balance is still greater in favour of the perpetuity of free government in some shape or other among the members of the Confederacy. I could myself maintain this proposition by solid, and, I think, convincing reasons, but I prefer quoting what I find said on the subject, in the Mercure de France, by the eminent French writer who has reviewed, in that excellent journal, the “Conspiracy of Arnold.” Let this philosophical stranger speak for us:
“ The experience of past ages, the recollection of human re“ volutions, excites some disquietude in relation to the fu
ture destinies of the United States. The usual consequences
are apprehended from the movements of private ambition, the “ inequality of fortunes, the love of conquest, &c.—I believe, " that, under the peculiar circumstances in which the United “ States are placed, the past cannot serve as a criterion for the “ future. It is true, that free nations have been lost in despo“tism; but-had those nations a precise idea of their rights “ and duties? Were they acquainted with the tutelary institu“ tions of this day—the independence of the judiciary—the “ trial by jury—the system of representative assemblies and “ self-taxation--the force of public opinion now superior to all
opposition? Among the ancients, liberty was but a feeling; in “our times it is both a feeling and a positive science. We all “ know how liberty is lost; we are all acquainted with the
means of defending and preserving it. The United States “ have now been happy and free for nearly half a century.
Liberty has struck deep root in that country. It is entwined, " there, with the first affections of the heart; it enters into the “ earliest combinations of thought; it is spun into the primitive “ staple of the mental frame of the Americans; it is wrought “ into the very stamina of all their institutions, political and
"social; it thoroughly pervades and perceptibly modifies even " their domestic life; it is protected by religion and the laws; it s is linked with every habit, opinion, and interest; it has, in fine, “ become the common reason and the want of all the American
people. Propose slavery to such a people-talk to them of unity in the head, multiply your sophisms as you please to prove to them the paternity of arbitrary power, they will never
understand you. We must not suppose that the love of con. “ quest, that fatal passion, will master, or lead astray the couns cils of a nation, which, setting out from a line of nearly fifteen “ hundred leagues of coast, may spread the noble and hallowed
empire of industry and the arts, from the shores of the Northern Ocean to those of the Pacific.”
To this just and forcible exposition, I have no desire to add any thing of my own; but, with a view to show how little reliance is to be placed on sinister predictions coming from abroad* relative to the fate of our Union and free institutions, I cannot refrain from going back to some of those which were made to us during our Revolutionary war. I would have the American reader compare with our happy experience, the following passage of an Address of the British Opposition of 1777, to the Colonists in North America, written by Mr. Burke, more justly famed for political foresight, more zealous in our cause, and supposed to be better acquainted with our character and situation, than any other English statesman.
“ That very liberty which you prize above all things, “ originated here, in England; and it may be very doubtful “ whether, without being constantly fed from the original foun“tain, it can be at all perpetuated or preserved in its native “purity and perfection. None but England can communicate to you
the benefits of a free constitution. We apprehend that you are not now, nor for ages are likely to be, capable of that “ form of constitution (a limited monarchy) in an independent
state. Besides, let us suggest to your apprehensions, that your present union cannot always subsist without the authority and
weight of this great and long respected body, to equipoise, " and to preserve you among yourselves in a just and fair equa"lity. It may not even be impossible that a long course of war
See the Abbé de Pradt's work on Colonies, ch. xxx. title " What will be the fate of the United States.?” The speculations of the author on this head are idle and fanciful, as he is without the knowledge of details necessary for the construction of a sound theory. Almost every page of his work abounds with errors, particularly of fact; and it is evident throughout, that he is pretty indifferent about accuracy of any sort, or even the confirmation of his theories, provided they are bought, read and admired.
“ with the administration of this country, may be but a prelude “ to a series of wars and contentions among yourselves, &c."
It must be confessed that our conduct in relation to the successful candidates for public office, and the laws regularly enacted among us, has not been always such as M. de Marbois describes it in his Preliminary Discourse. We have not always treated the former with marks of veneration, or obeyed the latter without a murmur. But our most censurable lapses from this rule of republican reason,-too nice, perhaps, for human nature,
are to be traced to excitements from abroad which can never be again felt, at least in any thing like the same degree or spirit. We were kindled into a ferment and betrayed into excesses not natural to our character, or imputable to our institutions. The war in which we engaged had, from the same and other causes, an anomalous nature and influence: it was more inflammatory for our passions, and trying for our Union, than any iņ which we can be hereafter involved.
The French Revolution, the subsequent elaborate action upon us of the governments of France and England, and the late war, have, I conceive, reached and put to the test the vulnerable parts of our political system and social character; they plunged us into a premature struggle with all our infirmities, more than is likely will ever again co-exist; they roused into the utmost possible activity all the unruly passions of our democracy, and the anti-federal principles upon which our foreign assailants calculated. We know the happy result, and may draw confidence from it for the future.
In proof of our natural moderation, and aptitude to realize the picture which M. de Marbois gives of our patriotic ductility, we may cite what is now passing under our eyes, in the tour of the new President of the United States. I should rejoice in this laudable undertaking, if it had no other feature of usefulness, than its tendency to convince foreign nations with what cheerfulness and ease, we raliy to the standard of a national feeling when left to ourselves. They may learn, by the reception of Mr. Munroe, wherever he has appeared, and particularly at Boston, how little stress they should lay upon the efficacy of the past, or any future party divisions among us, to promote the hostile designs which they may cherish. When M. de Marbois shall read the details with which our newspapers are filled on this subject, he will find, if he have attended to the history of our domestic feuds, the most complete and edifying verification of his statement, which could fall within the compass of his wishes as an author or a philanthropist.
The loftiest encomiums are passed upon this “History of the Conspiracy of Arnold,” in all the French Journals of any authority. It is pronounced to be a chef d'auvre in some, placed,
in others, on a level with St. Reals' Conjuration de Vénise, and universally applauded for the perfection of the literary execution. I have never wilfully forsaken the sense of the author, and have approached as near as possible to his modes of expression and the general character of his style. He must appear to disadvantage in any translation; and particularly in one, to which the time necessary for a correspondent refinement of diction, could not be allotted. I have omitted no part of the text, except a long letter from an emissary of Sir Henry Clinton, supposed to have been found among the papers of Arnold, and which contains an enumeration of the most plausible motives to defection from the American cause. I have not been able to discover elsewhere any trace of such a letter; and I wished to introduce none of the documents which purport to be versions from the English, otherwise than in the original dress. It has, moreover, no material connexion with the narrative, nor any great intrinsic interest. The interpolation into a professed history of speeches or letters—however apposite they may be in the tenor, or eloquent in the fabrication--although conformable to the practice of the ancients, is still a reprehensible license. It has found more indulgence upon the continent than in England.
The author has chosen to treat his subject as a conspiracy not only against the United States, but against General Washington; and has ascribed the design upon the person of the illustrious commander to Major André. We must presume, that he has sufficient authority for this imputation. It is a serious one; because, although the project might redound to the credit of André's intrepidity, it must detract from the so much emblazoned hardship of his fate. Our sympathies and regrets can no longer be the same. We must regard him not as the victim, but as even more than the accomplice of Arnold, and much of the dramatic effect of the finely wrought catastrophe of our author, is lost by the intrusion of this idea. Hamilton is silent in his Narrative, as to any plan for the capture of General Washington. It might, however, very naturally have engaged the attention of the conspirators. There is something on this point which deserves notice in the following extract from a private letter of Washington, of October 18th, 1780, quoted by Gordon, in the 3d Vol. of his History of the American Revolution. “In no instance since the commencement of the war, has "the interposition of Providence appeared more remarkably “conspicuous than in the rescue of the post and garrison of “ West-Point. How far Arnold meant to involve me in the ca
tastrophe of this place does not appear by any indubitable evi“dence, and I am rather inclined to think he did not wish to “hazard the more important object, by attempting to com“bine two events, the lesser of which might have marred the "greater."