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and violent not to produce temporary evil. ations will settle this matter, and when France is fit to be free, the subdivision of estates will not prevent her being so; nor will it, we think, greatly retard the approach of that happy day, if indeed it do not hasten it. Strangely enough, in contradiction to his general opinions and arguments on this subject, he depicts Tyrol as almost an Elysium; dwells with enthusiasm on the religion, morality, substantial freedom, inflexible loyalty, and rustic plenty of the inhabitants; and doubtless his encomiums are well deserved, for he has in person minutely examined that country. But, almost in the same breath, he informs his readers that in the Tyrol a state of almost absolute equality exists; there are few large proprietors, and the land is minutely subdivided !
For the anecdotes which Alison has interspersed through his work concerning Napoleon and his Generals, he has manifestly often no other authority than mere gossip. The best French authorities have exploded, long since, some of the very romantic and very absurd stories, which he notwithstanding gravely relates as matters of history. And sometimes, too, where the tale has some foundation in truth, the time and scene are so changed by the author of this “ History,” as utterly to confound the reader. He makes Napoleon utter at Dresden, in 1813, a reproach to his Generals and Marshals for their lukewarmness, which in fact was spoken in Poland, in 1812, when, with nearly half a million of men, he was on the point of invading Russia. And worse still, he makes Napoleon address Rapp, who was in fact, as we are elsewhere informed, at that moment shut up in Dantzic, hundreds of miles away. Undoubtedly, these errors are to be charged to carelessness, not to ignorance. But when he comes to deal in the affairs of America, we are obliged to suppose that both causes have combined to produce that Comedy of Errors'
his chapter on the United States.
Numerous as are the anachronisms, slips of the pen, and typographical errors, in that portion of the work devoted to European affairs, they are as nothing, compared with the blunders contained in his chapter on America and the American war.
It seems to us that Mr. Alison is better fitted for a party politician, a warrior, or a poet, than for
a historian, or, as he often assumes to be, a preacher of religion and morality. He seems to have a tolerably correct eye with regard to military affairs, the reader is left in no doubt with regard to his political partisanship, and no one who has perused his remarks on America will hesitate to award him high rank among the prose poets of the nineteenth century. He is so given to idealizing, that the reality is often entirely lost sight of. The following extract is a favorable specimen of his style of poetical description. With a few touches of his pen our author has entirely annihilated those scourges of the mariner in the Gulf of Mexico, the tempestuous “northers” of winter and the devastating hurricanes of summer. But, to compensate for this, he bestows the West-India Islands upon the Gulf of Mexico, and makes grapes very convenient to sailors. Doubtless Jack will be very grateful for the change.
“In the Gulf of Mexico the extraordinary clearness of the water reveals to the astonished mariner the magnitude of its abysses, and discloses, even at the depth of thirty fathoms, the gigantic vegetation which, even so far beneath the surface, is drawn forth by the attraction of a vertical sun. In the midst of these glassy waves, rarely disturbed by a ruder breath than the zephyrs of spring, an archipelago of perfumed islands is placed, which repose, like baskets of flowers, on the tranquil surface of the ocean. Everything in those enchanted abodes appears to have been prepared for the wants and enjoyments of man. Nature seems to have superseded the ordinary necessity for labor. The verdure of the groves, and the colors of the flowers and blossoms, derive additional vividness from the transparent purity of the air and the deep serenity of the azure heavens. Many of the trees are loaded with fruits, which descend by their own weight to invite the indolent hand of the gatherer, and are perpetually renewed under the influence of an ever balmy air, Others, which yield no nourishment, fascinate the eye by the luxuriant variety of their form or the gorgeous brilliancy of their colors. Amidst a forest of perfumed citron-trees, spreading bananas, graceful palms, of wild-figs, of round-leaved myrtles, of fragrant acacias, and gigantic arbutus, are to be seen every variety of creepers, with scarlet or purple blossoms, which entwine themselves round every stem, and hang in festoons from tree to tree. The trees are of a magnitude unknown in northern climes; the luxuriant vines, as they clamber up the loftiest cedars, form graceful festoons; grapes are so plenty upon every
shrub, that the surge of the ocean, as it lazily rolls in upon the shore with the quiet winds of summer, dashes its spray upon the clusters; and natural arbors form an impervious shade, that not a ray of the sun of July can penetrate." - Vol. x. p. 553, first edition.
In describing the United States geographically, (for which the reader may judge, from the foregoing specimen, how well our author is qualified, he represents the Alleghany mountains as being covered, among other trees, with “the majestic palm” “and verdant evergreen oak.” The inhabitants of that region will be greatly astonished at this information, and doubtless will appreciate the importance of the discovery that evergreens are verdant.
We have always thought that, as the Missouri is the main branch of the Mississippi, the two should be considered as one river, and spoken of under one name. But, until the change is made by competent authority, we must continue to use the received geographical nomenclature. Mr. Alison makes no protest against the use of the customary terms, and is, therefore, entirely inexcusable in jumbling together, in such inextricable confusion, the names of our two great rivers. He makes the Missouri empty into the Gulf of Mexico, and represents the Mississippi to be one of its branches ; in company with “the Ohio, the Tennessee, the Arkansas, the White River, the Kansas and the Red River;" which three latter rivers, as well as the four former,) he says, “ have given their names to the mighty States which already are settled on their shores."
He speaks repeatedly of New England as a State, thus : “the two States of New England and Massachusetts.” He seems to think that Louisiana is in Virginia; for, after describing the new-made lands at the mouth of the Mississippi, he observes, “and at length, on the scene of former desolation, the magnificent riches of the Virginian forest are reared.” He might as well have said, “the Mexican forest.'
A striking instance of the recklessness with which Mr. Alison often makes assertions, and of the unphilosophical manner in which he frequently establishes a general rule from an exception, is found in the following extract.
“The law allows any rate of interest agreed on by the parties to be taken, and it is often excessive; one per cent. a month is
an usual, three per cent. a month no uncommon occurrence.” Vol. x. p. 580.
Now the first portion of this allegation is wholly false, and the second is true only of a short period. If Mr. Alison were writing at the present time, he might with equal truth declare, as a general rule, that, “in the United States interest is very low; four-and-one-half per cent. per annum is an usual, three per cent. no uncommon occurrence.'
A certain portion of our population will be glad to learn that, in this country “a widow with eight children is sought after and married as an heiress ;” and all will be astounded at the credulity or mendacity of the soi-disant historian who declares that in America - even family portraits, pictures of beloved parents, are often not framed, as it is well understood that at the death of the head of the family they will be sold and turned into dollars, to be divided among the children.” And this is history!
Our “common sailors" will be happy to learn that their wages are raised to "four or five pounds a-month ;” and our democrats surprised to hear that "it is generally made an indispensable pledge, with every representative on the [democratic] side, that he is to support the system of
repudiation, and relieve the people of the disagreeable burden of paying their debts.” The election for President, he says, takes place on the 4th of March ; and he seems to have strange notions with regard to the Veto power; for he declares that, “ the President can refuse his sanction to the laws, but by a singular anomaly, though that prevents their execution, it does not prevent them from being laws, and carried into effect when a more pliant Chief of the Republic is elected.” It is impossible to make anything but nonsense of this passage ; if he means as he has written, then he has put forth an absurdity; if he means that, at a future time, under a new President, Congress may repass a rejected act, and the new Executive may approve it and put it in force, then he errs in calling that an “anomaly," which may take place in England or France at any time after a change in the Ministry. Our President occupies a position in some respects similar to that of the English Premier, and all the incumbents of the Executive chair are not bound to “ follow in the footsteps of their illustrious
predecessors," although Mr. Alison seems to think it an anomaly that they are not. Equally without foundation in truth is our author's assertion, that "that noblest of spectacles, which is so often exhibited in England, of a resolute minority, strong in the conviction and intrepid in the assertion of truth, firmly maintaining its opinions in the midst of the insurgent waves of an overwhelming majority, is unknown on the other side of the Atlantic." With what propriety is the term,“ insurgent waves," applied to a legally ruling majority? And if the Americans do, in a political sense, so “ crouch to numbers” and “ feign acquiescence," as Mr. Alison represents, then how is it that our frequent political changes, State and National, are brought about? The former question indicates a ruling propensity in Mr. Alison to use high-sounding words without regard to their meaning, and the latter points out another instance of his recklessness in assertion, and his wholesale mode of generalization. The scenes presented in the halls of Congress are sufficiently disgraceful, and we blush for our country when we think of them, but our author never lets a good piece of national slander pass from his pen without additions and corrections. According to him, “murders and assassinations in open day are not unfrequent among the members of Congress themselves ; and the guilty parties, if strong in the support of the majority, openly walk about, and set all attempts to prosecute them at defiance.” Now, unless our memory fails us, the author cannot find a solitary instance of the crimes which he declares to be so frequent. “ All the State judges, from the highest to the lowest, are elected by the people,” says Mr. Alison; another sweeping assertion, which we hope may not prove prophetic.
Concerning American manners Mr. Alison remarks, very judiciously:
“ The manners of the Americans are the manners of Great Britain, minus the aristocracy, the landowners, the army, and the Established Church.”
They are vain on all national subjects, and excessively sensitive to censure however slight, and most of all to ridicule."
“The Americans have already done great things; when they have continued a century longer in the same career, they will, like the English, be a proud, and cease to be a vain people.” – Vol. x. pp. 628, 629.
This is all true, and Alison is doubtless correct when he