Page images


quette of his official positions, he was a

companionable soul with those who came John Bigelow was rather the journa- to enjoy his intimate acquaintance; and list than the littérateur in diplomacy. when he retired from the French mission, While he had published a couple of books he was given a farewell dinner by the and numerous literary papers before his American residents in Paris, in the inviappointment to the consulship at Paris, in tation to which the colony generally 1861, his most constant and regular writ- joined. It was a function which hapings had been for the periodical press, es- pened to be, and is so made a matter of pecially for the New York Evening Post record,“ the first of its kind ever paid to an during the free-soil agitation days, with American diplomat at any foreign court.” Bryant. It was after he had sold his interest in the Post to Parke Godwin, Bryant's

JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY son-in-law, and his retirement from the paper, that the appointment came.

Two grim incidents in our diplomatic In Bigelow's case the most notable lit- history form two equally grim episodes erary work was done during and after his in the life of John Lothrop Motley, diplomatic service. This covered the five a man signally equipped, one might supyears between 1861 and 1866, as consul in pose, for coping successfully with matters Paris through the Civil War period, as involving ability, tact and delicacy. PerChargé d'affaires upon the death of Min- haps an impulsive, truth-loving nature ister Dayton in 1865, and as Minister to never attains to absolute discretion, and the close of 1866. Within this period he there is little question that, as between made that valuable contribution to our sincerity and discretion, the latter is the historical literature, the complete autobi- more urgent need in diplomacy. ography of Franklin, through his discov- Motley's method of preparation for the ery and purchase of the original manu- serious work of his life may well give script, which he subsequently published pause to the upholders of system, although with his own introduction and notes in his warmest friends are willing to attribthe volumes constituting the “ Biography ute some of the grave faults of his best of Benjamin Franklin by Himself.” This work to his intellectual capriciousness as alone gives Bigelow an honorable place a youth. He read and studied whatever, , among our men of letters. As a diplo- wherever and whenever he willed, writing matist his services were especially excellent poems, dramas and sketches, now in imiin that timely discovery at a critical period tation of Byron, then of Disraeli, or Bulof the Civil War of the connivance of the wer, or Shakespeare, or Goethe. The ease French Government in a plot to furnish with which he compassed these varying the Confederacy with four first-class iron- forms of expression, his personal beauty clads, and his clever handling of the evi- and his grace of manner, ought to have dence by which the plot was thwarted. made him a popular hero among his colThe story of this adventure told twenty lege friends; but a tendency to arrogance and more years after in his “ France and and sarcasm, both of which were probably the Confederate Navy" is one of his most assumed in part to conceal great shyness, interesting writings in the lighter vein. and a leaning toward Byronic cynicism, His lives of Tilden and of Bryant well strongly tempered the admiration which round out his literary career. While true, he aroused. It must be remembered, sometimes severely so, to the rules of eti- however, that he entered college at thir

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

teen, with a reputation for extraordinary in 1856, at his own expense, he had spent learning, about which he was really very ten years of unstinted toil over the accumodest. Two years in the universities of mulation and arrangement of his material. Berlin and Göttingen followed his course Motley was in England bringing out his at Harvard College, and a life-long friend- “History of the United Netherlands” in ship with Bismarck was one of the results 1860, and did this country an inestimable of these years. He came back to Boston service by sending two strong letters to in 1834 to study law, although he seems the London Times, setting forth the issues never to have practiced a profession for between the North and South and defendwhich his lack of the spirit of compromise ing vigorously the Union cause. He found would have sadly unfitted him.

himself unable to stay away from home at Humiliation came to him in 1839, on this crisis, and returned in 1861, only to the absolute failure of his novel, “Mor- be appointed by Lincoln almost immediton's Hope”—a tale which can be read ately as Minister to Austria, Mr. Burlinto-day with an interest which it could not game's nomination having been unacceptpossibly have had then, as a chapter in the able to that country on account of his psychological development of a historian. expressed sympathy with Hungary and

His Secretaryship of Legation at St. Sardinia. Motley's withdrawal from the Petersburg, under Mr. Todd, began early diplomatic service, when called upon to in the winter of 1841, but the cost of liv- affirm or deny the charges of one unknown ing and the danger of transporting his M'Crackin, may have been ill-advised, but family to so rigorous a climate, caused him it was perfectly characteristic of him; it to resign after a few months of service, would have been quite impossible for him and he came back to embark on new liter- to tolerate an inquiry based on uninvestiary ventures. Between 1845 and 1847 he gated accusations, or to admit that, as a contributed to the North American Re- citizen of the United States, he had no view several able papers of a critico-his- right to express himself on national questorical character, which inspired the con- tions, in an unofficial capacity, to his fidence of his friends, and reversed the friends. The episode added no special opinions of his former critics. Motley lustre to the administration of Andrew could not refrain, however, from one more Johnson. essay in fiction, and in 1849 his second About two years later Motley accepted and last novel, “Merrymount," was an- President Grant's offer of the English nounced. It was a gain over “Morton's

mission--an appointment that would have Hope," but it pointed to no destiny as a given him unmingled pleasure if he could novelist-historical or otherwise. In the have forgotten the mortifying termination meantime the project for a historical of his first ministry. work of great proportions had gathered The relation between his dismissal from strength from the reception of his slighter this second post and the President's fury attempts in this direction; and after ex- over the attitude of Motley's friend, Sumhausting all available sources in this ner, toward the San Domingo treaty, has country, he went to Europe in 1851, to been generally admitted to be that of gather information from original con

effect and cause. No really plausible temporaneous documents in the English, reason, much less a convincing one, has Dutch and Belgian archives.

ever been advanced by the enemies of When he published the “History of the Motley for this act of the governmentRise of the Dutch Republic" in London, an act inevitably disastrous to a high

spirited and sensitive man. Work, however, came to his relief, and in Holland, in spite of failing health, he did his last historical work, “ The Life and Death of John of Barneveld.” The death of his wife in December, 1874, so far diminished his strength as to make further work almost impossible, and until his death, in 1877, his only attempt was to "create small occupations with which to fill the hours of a life which was only valued for his children's sake."

Much that is painful in Motley's career can plainly be attributed to the wellknown hatred of the average man for the learning, refinement, nobility of bearing and of character which seem to reproach him for his own lack of them.

[graphic][merged small]


It is with some hesitation that the name call him selfish ; he was straightforward of Cushing is here included, because he and honorable enough, but his desire to was best known as a publicist and jurist, attain left him without the niceness to although he wrote somewhat in a dis- discern when it was wise to remain motinctly literary, if unimaginative vein, and mentarily in the background. was of high scholarly attainment. Per- At twenty-five he was the author of a haps it would be fair to say that he was a history of Newburyport, where he had better scholar than writer, since greatness gone to practice law three years earlier. of acquisition often precludes freedom of Soon he published “The Practical Prinexpression. Even when a child his desire ciples of Political Economy," and wrote

learning was insatiable, and his capa frequently for the North American Review city boundless. It is told of him that on on subjects ranging from the “Decamhis appointment to the Supreme Bench of eron” to Bigelow's “ Florula BostonienMassachusetts, he scoured the rust off his sis.” A year or so of observant travel enlegal training by carefully going over the abled him to put forth two works, each in Reports of that State at the rate of three two volumes, the one on “Reminiscences volumes a day, until in nineteen days be in Spain,” the other a “Review of the late had finished the task. The chin and Revolution in France." Then followed lower jaw of his powerful, yet handsome busy years in politics and legal practice, face, gave indication of his aggressive, until in 1843, rejected as Secretary of the persistent nature. To other strong qual- Treasury under Tyler, he was made a ities must be added a prodigious memory commissioner to China, and in the followand a limitless ambition; and through this ing year negotiated the first treaty beambition, sometimes clumsily exercised, tween that country and this. Cushing's career fell short of its great- Forty years after the appearance of est possibilities. It would be stupid to those books which stood for the result of

his European experience, he published country's courses. He seemed devoid of another on the Treaty of Washington, a moral enthusiasm. natural sequence of his services at Geneva and of his adverse opinion of Lord Cock

BAYARD TAYLOR burn, one of the British arbitrators. Swift upon this came his appointment, in 1873, His first experience in diplomacy ended to Spain, which he accepted with some in disappointment to Bayard Taylor; his reluctance. Cushing had been president second and more important mission was of the Charleston Convention of 1860, yet an almost unalloyed satisfaction to him, in a little more than a decade, with loy- though it brought him to his death. Like alty to the dominant party still running Boker, he was serviceable to the cause of high, he was nominated by Grant to the the Union, and reward came to him more Chief Justiceship of the United States. quickly than to the other Pennsylvanian, In spite of the great services which he in the shape of an appointment as Secrehad rendered the country, especially dur- tary of Legation to Russia. To secure ing the Geneva arbitration, public protest material for future writing was one unobliged a withdrawal of his name. There disguised motive for his acceptance of the was, however, no lack of admiration for secretaryship under Simon Cameron. His Cushing's great knowledge of external astonishing facility for languages stood affairs, and of international law. As & by him, and four days after his arrival in publicist he was much respected, and his St. Petersburg he was making bargains in appointment as Minister to Spain met Russian. With the Camerons he was in with approval.

happy relation, and he seemed to enjoy Cushing's normal career was political, the exactions of imperial society without and what little ambition for literature he feeling obliged to confess himself bored may have cherished was laid aside after he by undemocratic splendor. The secret had passed beyond the academic impres- hope of every secretary is that his minis-, sions received at Harvard College, from ter will develop an impelling need of rest which he was graduated in 1817. Though, and travel. Diplomatic relaxation of this from lack of imaginative force, and from sort is apt to mean that the Secretary in the pressure of a busy life, he had left the the interim is Chargé d'affaires. This ranks of letters before his political and good fortune came not unexpectedly to diplomatic successes came to him, he re- Taylor by the return of Mr. Cameron to tained one form of scholarly ability-an this country. Something less than a extraordinary skill and accuracy in lan- promise, but more than a hope, had led guages. It was long remembered, with the Chargé to believe that he would be national pride, that his argument in Ge- finally appointed to the full rank and neva was made in admirable French. dignity of Minister. While not a politiEven when Attorney-General under cian, he understood his work, and was Pierce, from 1853 to 1857, he was able to altogether in Russia that "pleasing persustain conversation with the foreign min- son" by whom diplomacy sets so much isters in their own tongues. There is no store. In spite of a lack of influence biography of Caleb Cushing; there prob- outside the friendly words of literary ably never will be a need for such a work; companions, he dared to hope; but at for in a great national crisis he was not to last, realizing the futility of his aspirabe found among those who, at much per- tions, he began to lose what little political sonal sacrifice, tried wisely to shape the ambition he had begun to cherish. “I

« PreviousContinue »