Page images
PDF
EPUB

Congress of Vienna, in 1815, when the sovereigns of Europe, disregarding the nationalities of race, natural sentiments, traditional remembrances, and popular feeling, partitioned soils and souls, according to their dynastic interests, and swore to sustain each other in the infamous wrong, for ever. A more execrable plot was never conceived, and yet for thirty years it has been executed with an unswerving, relentless, and deadly decision. Italy, Poland, Spain, and Hungary have been sacrificed in succession to its infernal requirements. The rivers of Europe have been made to run with blood for its sake, the prisons of Europe are filled with its victims, thousands of the noblest men in exile curse it in the bitterness of their hearts, and the sighs of orphans, and the groans of widows, bear it to the throne of God for his eternal vengeance.

This, then, is the way they manage to govern the people in Europe. By the skilful use of patronage, of the church, and of education; by the denial of the press, of free-locomotion, and of the rights of trade; by the organization of a ubiquitous police, and by the distribution of standing armies, they bamboozle, delude, suppress, and constrain, until the wretched people, impoverished, ignorant, separated, and set at enmity with each other, are reduced to a slavery from which it seems almost madness for them to hope to escape. Yet, as it is the nature of wrong and malevolence to dig its own grave, their case is not utterly given over to despair, and, in some future paper, therefore, we shall take occasion to show how Thought is subtler than the police, and Truth stronger than the sword.

OUR

THE AMBASSADOR IN SPITE OF HIMSELF.

country bids fair to be known as the Limbo of lost notables. Dethroned monarchs and jail-breakers, usurpers and pickpockets, conspirators against dynasties and fugitives with their friends' wives, outlawed patriots and fraudulent bankrupts, disappear from Europe to find their way here by the over-sea railroad; and the most famous among them sink, after a few days of newspaper notoriety and gossip, to the same forgetfulness as the meanest. The home-keeping American, if he patiently bide his time, may hope to see the actors on the foreign stage, political as well as dramatic, with greater probability than Barnum would promise a succession of shows. The Connecticut Yankee will point you out the cave where the regicide puritan hid himself from the avenger of blood; the New-Yorker, as the locomotive of the Hudson River Railroad is gaining its topmost speed, after leaving the dépôt at 31st-street, sees on a low rocky point the tan vats, where (some say) Talleyrand curried hides, as more recently Garibaldi made candles in Staten Island; on the curving shore of the Delaware lies the princely domain which a Bonaparte enriched with the spoils of Spain, and a few miles above, on the opposite bank, stand the stables of the country-house from which Moreau went back to die on the field in arms against his master and France. Many of us remember Louis Philippe as a 'schoolmaster abroad" among us, rejected by a Philadelphia lady, and looking as like as two pears to Dr. Hare; Louis Napoleon, his now Imperial

66

supplanter, whose boots the representatives of the oldest names of France are eager to lick, was voted by the few who knew him, a worthless, dirty. debauched vagabond; one Murat put up his shingle as an attorney-at-law in Florida, while his fat brother fought cocks among blackguards at Bordentown. The Hungarian demagogue, half-orator, half-prophet, whose oriental eloquence. shook the Continent like an earthquake, after showing, like his types of Greece and Rome, a little white feather, strolls and stars it among our staring democrats for a dollar a head and expenses; nor may the time be far distant, when Pio Nono, again abandoning the City of Martyrs, will sing:

"I've been Rome-ing, I've been roaming," within the classic cloisters of Fordham; and now reigning sovereigns and haughty aristocrats find a safe hedge in our banks and state-funds should the cards be dealt against them at home. Odd, isn't it? that the "insecure and ephemeral republic, which has in its bosom the elements of its own destruction," should be used as the ultimate asylum of life and fortune, when the arsenals and treasurehouses gray with the moss of centuries, crumble before revolutionary fires! and that those who can stir so furiously the caldrons of popular passion, despite of the police and bayonets of strong governments, fail to make on this side of the Atlantic any more fuss than a nine days' wonder!

"Nothing that is rich and strange,
But doth suffer a sea-change."

[ocr errors]

Foreigners laugh at our love of a furor; but we hard-working people must have our fun, and we crowd it hard into our few leisure hours, making it out of what we please. Wellington himself, had he come here, could not have been fêted more * than Dickens, who, with all his genius, proved himself a snob; and Victoria might fall behind Jenny Lind. Thackeray is lionized as much as Morpeth, and Mr. G. P. R. (are there any more initials?) James, the Man voluminous, out-tales among us the most Bashaw magnificent of them all. We even meet them on their own ground; Jim Crow and his wife oust Punch and Judy from the puppet-showbox, where their "flag has waved a thousand years;" while Uncle Tom and Topsey carry off the admiration of a Parisian carnival, from "the nephew of my uncle" and his imperial Eugenie. Nay, should the privileged blood run out over there, it will go hard but we can supply them. A few years since (according to certain genealogists), a legitimate Stuart domiciled on Long Island; a legitimate Bonaparte lives a citizen of Maryland; a legitimate Bourbon (tu ipso teste, O Pùtnam!) turns up in a swarthy, self-denying, humble missionary among the Mohawks; you can see by the armorial bearings on the long line of carriages in front of Grace church every fine Sunday, that an heir to every coronet in Britain may be found by searching the cod-fish warehouses of NewYork; or should his ex-democratic majesty during his visit to Europe, find a queen or heiress-apparent anxious for progeny, he may negotiate a marriage on behalf of Prince John, than whom she cannot find a more vigorous or better husband among her royal cousins. We cannot spare him, however, until he has smashed the aldermen, after which he will be up to any amount of emancipation and reform.

-But I beg pardon. I sat down to write a story, and have been wandering in a fit of patriotic ardor. I meant to say, in the beginning, that many a man, who might have been notable elsewhere from facts in his career, is allowed here to remain in obscurity, of which I was going to give an example.

The English, stimulated by their zeal for illuminating the heathen and removing oppression, are now pushing a disinterested crusade over the Burman empire; but is it known to you, patient reader of Putnam, that so far back as the first French Republic, an ambassador from that great nation, and he an American, was received with high honors at the Court of Ava? Nevertheless so it was, and that is the story I have to tell-a true story-not a romance but a veracious narrative of what

actually occurred. I give it as I had it from the lips of a friend, who heard the hero of the adventure relate it himself.

-There lived in a neighboring city a most worthy man, who by a long and honorable prosecution of an extensive trade, had won both large fortune and high reputation. Sometimes, by artful persuasion, he could be induced to give, though reluctantly, an account of a singular passage in his early life. The recital would set the table in a roar, which was no way checked by the grave vexation which he showed over his remembered troubles. Others might laugh at them, but they had no fun for him.

-When I was quite young, he would say, I was placed with the well-known firm of & Co., and at the age of eighteen had gained their confidence so far, as often to be intrusted with important business, which fired my ambition to the highest pitch. About that time the firm resolved to send one of their best .ships with a large cargo of piece goods on a long trading voyage to the East, and to my extreme gratification, I was ap pointed supercargo to act in concert with the captain in the management of the venture. The captain was a most kind and intelligent man, whose society was of great use to me. Our voyage out was speedy, and our operations for some time very successful. I often congratulated myself on my share of the profits, but more on the credit I should have with my principals for discharging so well the duties they had assigned me. This was my constant theme when conversing with the captain, scarcely less delighted than myself. Not all the strange wonders of the eastern world, the magnificent scenery along the shores of continent and island, the voluptuous fragrance of "the spicy breezes," or the clear grandeur of the sparkling heavens, could seduce me from considering, night and day, how I should sell the piece goods, and buy a return cargo to the best advantage. Every evening the invoices with my well worn letter of instructions were spread out on the cabin table, and I went to my berth to dream of balance-sheets and future copartnerships.

[ocr errors]

-But a sad disaster came over our hopes. One of those frequent storms which are experienced only in those latitudes, suddenly fell upon us. For many hours we drifted on in utter darkness except when the lightning kindled the foaming waves to flames. Every thing that human skill and daring could do was done by our noble captain and his hardy crew; but the elements were too much for us. Spar after spar was shivered, the

tiller ropes parted and the rudder unshipped. When thus crippled and at the mercy of winds and waves, a terrible cry came aft of "Breakers ahead!" and before a word could be spoken, the ship was lifted high on a rolling sea, and flung bodily on an outlying reef. The shock threw some overboard, and for a few moments stupefied the rest. Death stared us fiercely in the face-I was little more than a boy, and life was dear to me-I thought of home and those I loved-I tried to think of eternity-but amidst all I could not help thinking of the piece goods-what would become of them when the vessel broke up? would they sink among the astonished fishes, or be strewed along the shores to be picked up by the natives? What would our House at home think of us? Would they ever find out how well we had managed, and how much we had made for them before the wreck?-All these and a thousand more such thoughts passed through my mind with incredible quickness, and notwithstanding most vigorous efforts to turn it on religious things, the piece goods would struggle to be uppermost. I have heard that Napoleon's last words were, "Tête d'armée!" mine, had I perished then, would have been, "Piece goods!"

But we were saved. When at our utmost extremity, there came a calm as sudden as the storm. The breakers were still dashing over us, but as the morning sun broke through the clouds, they subsided rapidly, and we were able to judge of our situation. The ship was clearly lost to us, though her hull, perched upon rocks bare at low water, was as yet but little broken, and I saw that the piece goods were for the most part undamaged. Some boats from the coast came off to us, and we managed to learn that we were a few leagues from the town of Rangoon, at the principal mouth of the river Irrawaddy.

To our still greater satisfaction, two English trading brigs, on hearing of a vessel being cast away, ran down to us, and as they were nearly empty, we were able to transfer a large, and the best part of the cargo (which, being piece goods, could be more easily handled) from our stranded vessel into theirs. More intent upon saving the piece goods, we had taken nothing from the cabin but the ship's papers and the captain's instruments, before a change in the tide filled it with water, leaving us only the clothes we stood in. The chief men of the town permitted us to land and store our piece goods, and we intended, if possible, to purchase some vessel in which to prosecute our voyage. The captains of the English brigs, and some other English who hap

pened to be there, treated us with great kindness, but none more so than a Colonel Symes, who sent us all the clothing we stood in need of from his own wardrobe, besides many other attentions. This Col. Symes was an eminently sensible gentleman, who had been sent there by the British East India Company to negotiate preliminaries for a commercial treaty with the king of the country; but he told us that although he had been several weeks waiting for it, he had not yet received permission to go up the river to Ava, where the court was held. Although treated in every other respect with great distinction and hospitable provision for his comforts, he was quite chafed by the delay; yet the importance of his mission compelled him to endure as a diplomat what he fretted at as a soldier. He was fond of talking his troubles over with me, mainly, I suppose, because the modesty of my youth made me a deferential listener. You will judge from this how much we owed to our English friends, and how loath we would have been willingly to be of any hindrance to them, Colonel Symes particularly.

Things went on in this way for several weeks, the captain and myself lodging together, and listlessly waiting for some vessel to come in, which we might purchase or charter; when one morning, as we were over our breakfast, we heard a great noise of music, or what the people there mean for music-blowing of horns, beating of tom-toms, and gongs, and other horrid things. It came nearer and nearer, and halted before the door of our humble house. On going to the window we saw, to our astonishment, the street for a considerable distance crowded with military, horse and foot. A superbly dressed officer, whom they seemed to be escorting, dismounted amidst another grand flourish of the music, and, leaving his richly caparisoned horse in the care of a servant, bowed his head under the low portal, and entered the house. That he came to visit us we had not the slightest idea, until he flung open the door and salaamed us to the ground. Even so respectful a gesture failed to allay the alarm the captain and I felt for our lives, and the piece goods, which were stowed in the rear of the dwelling; but, while we were alternately exchanging looks with each other and staring at our remarkable visitor, a meeklooking native stole to his side and made signs that he would act as interpreter, which he afterwards did in very broken English.

"My lord," said he, "who is a very great man and brave general, has been sent by the most mighty king, at whose

[blocks in formation]

The Republic of France! The King of the Republic of France! What do you mean, Mr. Interpreter? We know nothing about France: neither of us were ever there in our lives. We're Yankees, not Frenchmen, thank God! However, you must be a little green, mister, to talk about Kings of a Republic. Our country is a Republic, free and independent, and we have none of your kings there, I guess. But tell the gentleman he is mistaken in thinking we are Frenchmen; though if he or his Majesty want to buy any piece goods, we are ready for a dicker."

The captain had taken a fresh quid, shut his jack-knife with a valorous slap, and was as much of a live Yankee as five feet eight in height and four feet round the chest could make him.

After another interchange of their gibberish, the little man said again :

..

My lord begs that he may be informed which of you most excellent gentlemen is his great excellency the Ambassador of the vast and glorious Republic of France, that he may give him especially the salutation of his sublime Majesty, our most mighty king."

"Tell him, I tell you, you blundering lubber, that we ain't neither of us Frenchmen, nor ambassadors either. We don't represent nothing but our owners, and a cargo of piece goods. Why don't you tell the gentlemen so, and be done with your humbugging!"

"My lord begs to say to your excellencies, that he cannot be mistaken; one of you must be the ambassador of the vast and glorious Republic of France, and he

entreats your amiable excellencies to tell him which of you it is."

"I tell you again, neither of us. We can't speak a word of parley voo, and don't want to. We're a couple of Yankees from the States."

"My lord says, your honorable excellencies, that he has had his orders from our mighty king to come here and find his eminence the ambassador from the vast and glorious Republic of France, and escort him up the river to Ava, that he may communicate with his ever-to-beworshipped majesty the wishes of his government. A thousand troops are waiting to guard him to the river, where the boats are ready. My lord does not care which of you is the ambassador; that you may settle between yourselves; but one of you must go with him as the high and noble-born ambassador of the vast and glorious Republic of France."

Finding the thing becoming serious and our military visitor determined to execute his orders, right or wrong, we proposed to send for Col. Symes, that he might explain the mistake; but this the General would not hear of, declaring that one of us must set off with him at once. Farther resistance was impossible, and the captain and I consulted which should go. Whether the one who went would ever return, or if he did, how long he would be kept, we could not tell. I could sell the piece goods, but could not sail a ship if one were got the captain could do both without me; so we decided that, as it would not be right to abandon the piece goods, I should give myself up to our captor, for he acted like one. I then told him again that it was all a mistake, as he would find out when we reached Ava; but if he insisted upon taking one of us, I was his man. Whereupon he salaamed me to the ground, and begged to set out with me at once. The captain and I had a brief conference about the piece goods, which I reluctantly gave over to his single control. I shook his hands with tears in my eyes, for I was but a boy and feared that I should never see him or home again, and stood ready to go. The General called in servants with rich dresses, and preventing me from putting up any of the clothes I had borrowed of Col. Symes, enveloped me in several sumptuous cloaks and shawls, putting a sort of cap on my head, and preceded me down stairs, with many tokens of respect. On reaching the door, the band made a grand crash of horns, and cymbals, and drums, to salute me, a splendidly caparisoned horse was led up, which I was told to mount, and surrounded by the troops, we went in triumph through the town. As

we passed Col. Symes' quarters, I saw him looking out of his door with great astonishment, and tried to speak to him, but the guard closed up around me, and I could only wave a sad farewell as we passed on.

Reaching the river side, I found the array on the water even more imposing than that on the land. There could not have been less than fifty boats, each of them forty feet long, broad and shallow, and filled with oarsmen. First in one went the General and his officers, then in another the horrible band; then I followed, the only passenger, in the most highly decorated of them all; then another boat with my cooks and their apparatus; then boats laden deep with provisions, boats with my wardrobe, from which several times a day changes of dress were brought me, and, as far as I could see, boats filled with soldiers and attendants. Every night (and we were several days on the voyage) we went ashore, and they built me a house, which was pulled down the next morning, according to their custom, which does not allow an inferior person to live in a house which had once been occupied by one of my supposed rank. Every luxury they could procure was spread on my table. I had no reason to complain of my living, though the dishes were strange to me, and I had to eat them without knife or fork. There was no end to the distant honors they paid me, but I was very lonely with none to talk to, and no one to understand a word I said when any one came near enough. My thoughts were very sad, and my apprehensions of danger constant. I felt like a gayly dressed beast going to a slaughter-house; and not a little of my trouble rose from anxiety about the piece goods.

In this way we pulled up the river until we arrived at the city, where thousands of troops, with yet more dissonant and louder music, awaited my landing. A splendid horse was brought for me, which, after putting on the finest of the dresses, making me look more like a woman than a man, I mounted. The whole population were in the streets gazing on the splendid procession, which conducted me to a house as grand as a palace in the middle of the town. There scores of servants anticipated all my wants, and a bed like one of our own, only more showily decorated, awaited my repose. That night, overcome by fatigue of mind and body, I slept soundly, forgetting my utter loneliness among thousands who were as ignorant of my language as I was of theirs.

The next morning, after my solitary breakfast, an officer of the court present

ed himself, with an interpreter, bearing a message of welcome from the king to his excellency the ambassador from the vast and glorious Republic of France. I lost no time in assuring the officer, through the interpreter, that there must have been an unaccountable blunder in taking me for an ambassador from France, as I was not even a Frenchman, and begging him to tell the king so, that I might go back to the cargo of piece goods which had been intrusted to my care. The only answer I got was that the king hoped the most honorable ambassador would find himself satisfied with the arrangements made for his comfort during his stay in the city. Another weary day, and another, and another, when the officer again came to say that the king hoped in a short time to have a conference with the ambassador respecting a commercial treaty. which his majesty was glad to hear the Republic of France wished to make with him. More earnestly than ever I entreated the interpreter, who spoke English quite well, to let the king know how much I was embarrassed by the mistaken notion that I was any thing else than a supercargo of a large venture in piece goods, and that the interests of my principals might suffer severely from my involuntary absence. A low salaam as the officer left me was his only reply. Every morning the same was repeated, I becoming each time more urgent for an interview, that the vexatious blunder might be put an end to, but in vain. My quarters were good, my table well supplied with their curious dishes and a profusion of French wines. If I intimated a wish to go out, my horse came immediately to the door; but I could go nowhere without a close guard of cavalry about me. On one of those excursions I saw my friend Col. Symes in a sort of balcony, who recognized me, changed as my appearance was, yet could not get near enough to speak to him, for my escort hurried on, with loud shouts of "Honor to the illustrious ambassador of the vast and glorious Republic of France!" the language of which, by this time, I had learned only too well.

Three months and more passed on in this way, when at last the officer announced that his majesty had been pleased to appoint the next day for the appearance at Court of the ambassador of the Republic of France. Now, thought I, my troubles will be at an end, for the king will certainly see that a smooth-chinned lad of nineteen, who cannot speak any language but English, could never be the ambassador of the French republic.

Accordingly, at the hour, robed in the ceremonial garments they brought me, I

« PreviousContinue »