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I have another object in addressing you thus in my capacity of author. It is, to witness,-in opposition to the false relations of the British travellers,—that the native American is not backward in recognizing and honouring the estimable qualities and just pretensions of a fellow citizen of foreign birth. We make no distinctions and have no reserved feelings, where respect and confidence are abstractly due: if, blended and compounded as we are, the case could be otherwise, it would not certainly be so in reference to Irishmen. With them, the process of assimilation in all respects, is more easy and natural than with any other people. America owes them much. She cannot but sympathize deeply in the wrongs they have suffered at home. In the same nation in which they have always found a tyrannical mistress, she, throughout her colonial existence, found a jealous step-mother, and now finds a malevolent scold.
I am, dear sir,
ROBERT WALSH, JR. PHILADELPHIA, SEPT. 1819.
OF THE AUTHOR.
1. About the end of the month of January last, I undertook to prepare for the press, a Survey of the institutions and resources of the American republic; and of the real character and condition of the American people. A work of this kind, wrought from authentic information, appeared to me to constitute the best refutation of the slanders, which are incessantly heaped upon us by the British writers. In assuming the task, I expected to be able to complete it in the course of the present summer; and accordingly set on foot such enquiries in the several divisions of the Union, as the design prescribed. After pursuing my first arrangements for a couple of months, I discovered that I had not duly measured the delays incident to the collection of facts, over so extensive a surface, and through the agency of gentlemen engrossed, for the most part, by professional affairs. Finding that I must allow a longer term than was at first proposed, for the accumulation of materials, I fell upon the plan of making up, in the interval, a preliminary volume, which should embrace a review of the dispositions and conduct of Great Britain towards this country, from the earliest period; and a collateral retaliation for her continued injustice and invective.
What I now submit to the public, is the fruit of the plan just mentioned. It is not offered as a digested book; but
as a series of Notes and Illustrations; and it could not be other, from the shortness of the time within which it has been composed. The immediate object required, indeed, nothing more. I have to apologize rather for the bulk of the volume, which exceeds my own expectation; and is owing to the impression under which I proceeded, that the quotations, instructive in themselves, and useful towards elucidation and proof, should not be curtailed for the sake of economizing a certain number of pages. As respects diction, I have aimed at clearness and significancy alone. What has been instantly transferred from the desk to the press, must necessarily be liable to the reproach of diffusion and roughness. It is not a model of style or of epitome that is wanting on such an occasion as the British writers have created, for the exertion of our faculties of literary defence, whatever these may be; but an aggregation of facts pointedly told, and the production in detail of whatever tends to rectify perverse, or propagate just opinions.
My purpose in this undertaking generally, is not merely to assert the merits of this calumniated country; I wish to repel actively, and, if possible, to arrest, the war which is waged without stint or intermission, upon our national reputation. This, it now appears to me, cannot be done without combating on the offensive; without making inroads into the quarters of the restless enemy.
I had long indulged the hope, in common with those Americans who were best affected towards Great Britain, that the false and contumelious language of the higher class at least, of her literary censors, would be corrected by the strong relief, in which our real condition and character were daily placing themselves before the world. We expected that another tone more conformable to truth and sound policy would be adopted, when we had on our side the degree of notoriety as to those points, which usually overawes and represses any degree of assurance in the spirit of envy and arrogance.
But the disappointment is complete, for every American who has paid attention to the tenor of the late British writings and speeches, in which reference is made to these
United States. The Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, have, within the twelvemonth past, by the excesses of obloquy into which they have given from the most unworthy apprehensions, put beyond question the insufficiency of any amount of evidence, and of all the admitted laws of probability and reasoning, to work the reformation to which I have alluded.
It was, too, believed by many, that the British writers would assign some bounds to their attacks, as long as we forbore to recriminate; and it was thought harsh and uncharitable to touch the sores and blotches of the British nation, on account of the malevolence and folly of a few individuals, or of a party, within her bosom. The whole is proved to be mere illusion. There is no intemperance of provocation, which could have excited more rancour, and led to fiercer and wider defamation, than we find in the two articles of the forty first number of the Quarterly Review, which treat of American affairs. The whig journals have begun to rail in the same strain: the Opposition have joined, with the ministerial party, even on the floor of parliament, in a hue and cry against “American ambition and cruelty;" and in affecting to credit the coarse inventions of Englishmen who have either visited us for the express purpose of manufacturing libels, or betaken themselves to this expedient on their return home, as a profitable speculation. It is enough, that the desire of emigrating to the United States should spread among the population of England, in an extent deemed invidious, or burtful; that the territorial security of the Americans on one side should appear about being rendered complete, with some possible danger to the stability of the British empire in the West Indies, to throw the British politicians of every rank, and denomination, into paroxysms of despite and jealousy, and to enlist them in a common scheme of misrepresentation which may inspire the British farmer and artisan with a horror of republican America, and the nations of the world with a distrust of the spirit of her government.
We cannot defeat their purpose as far as their country
men are concerned; but we may guard the better against the effects of the hatred and contempt which they labour to inculcate, by acquainting ourselves thoroughly with the true nature and scope of their designs. If we have, as I verily believe, a band of implacable and indefatigable foes, in those who direct the public affairs, and mould the public mind, of Great Britain, we should be fully alive to the fact, and alert in using the means in our power, of restraining the effusions of their malice. National antipathies are to be deprecated in themselves; to excite them wantonly, is an offence against humanity and religion; but we are not censurable, if they are produced incidentally, by the course which self-defence may require of us to pursue. It is the English writer who becomes doubly culpable, if his pertinacity in defaming the United States, be such as to leave to the American, whose right it is to check this as well as every other form of hostility, no resource for the purpose, but the exhibition of what is odious and despicable in the character, conduct, and composition of the British nation.
There is much truth in the old maxim of the schools retorquere non est respondere: to retort is not to reply. The present case forms an exception, however; for the British writers and orators never throw out their reproaches against the United States, without putting Great Britain in glorious contrast; it is the excellence, the purity, and the liberty, and the comfort, which they see at home, that, they would fain have us believe, quicken their sensibility, and embitter the expression of their hate, to the evils and abuses abounding on this side the water. Thus, to expose their real spirit and aims, and to fortify the confidence in our relative merit, necessary to us in this struggle with systematic detraction, we are compelled to investigate and set forth the misery and turpitude by which they are surrounded, and the wrongs and insults of which we have had constantly to complain. This is not mere recrimination; it is resistance to degrading comparisons and injurious pretensions; we tear off one of the many disguises which our enemies assume to facilitate