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THE EDUCATION 
OF HENRY ADAMS 



THE EDUCATION 
OF HENRY ADAMS 

An Autobiography 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 



COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY THE MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

Published September iQi8 



CONTENTS 

EDITOR'S PREFACE. By Henry Cabot Lodge vii 

PREFACE ix 

I. QUINCY (1838-1848) 3 

II. BOSTON (1848-1854) 23 

III. WASHINGTON (1850-1854) 40 

IV. HARVARD COLLEGE (1854-1858) 54 

V. BERLIN (1858-1859) 70 

VI. ROME (1859-1860) 82 

VII. TREASON (1860-1861) 98 

VIII. DIPLOMACY (1861) no 

IX. FOES OR FRIENDS (1862) 128 

X. POLITICAL MORALITY (1862) 145 

XI. THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS (1863) 167 

XII. ECCENTRICITY (1863) 180 

XIII. THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY (1864) . . .194 

XIV. DILETTANTISM (1865-1866) 208 

XV. DARWINISM (1867-1868) 224 

XVI. THE PRESS (1868) 237 

XVII. PRESIDENT GRANT (1869) 255 

XVIII. FREE FIGHT (1869-1870) 268 

XIX. CHAOS (1870) 284 

XX. FAILURE (1871) 299 



vi CONTENTS 



XXI. TWENTY YEARS AFTER (1892) 314 

XXII. CHICAGO (1893) 33 ! 

XXIII. SILENCE (1894-1898) 346 

XXIV. INDIAN SUMMER (1898-1899) 362 

XXV. THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN (1900) . . . .379 

XXVI. TWILIGHT (1901) 391 

XXVII. TEUFELSDROCKH (1901) 403 

XXVIII. THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE (1902) 416 

XXIX. THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE (1902) 426 

XXX. Vis INERTIAE (1903) 436 

XXXI. THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE (1903) 449 

XXXII. Vis NOVA (1903-1904) 462 

XXXIII. A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY (1904) .... 474 

XXXIV. A LAW OF ACCELERATION (1904) 489 

XXXV. NUNC AGE (1905) 499 

INDEX S o 7 



EDITOR'S PREFACE 

THIS volume, written in 1905 as a sequel to the same author's "Mont- 
Saint-Michel and Chartres" was privately printed, to the number of 
one hundred copies, in 1906, and sent to the persons interested, for 
their assent, correction, or suggestion. The idea of the two books was 
thus explained at the end of Chapter XXIX : 

"Any schoolboy could see that man as a force must be measured 
by motion from a fixed point. Psychology helped here by suggesting 
a unit the point of history when man held the highest idea of him- 
self as a unit in a unified universe. Eight or ten years of study had led 
Adams to think he might use the century 1150-1250, expressed in 
Amiens Cathedral and the Works of Thomas Aquinas, as the unit 
from which he might measure motion down to his own time, without 
assuming anything as true or untrue, except relation. The movement 
might be studied at once in philosophy and mechanics. Setting him- 
self to the task, he began a volume which he mentally knew as 'Mont- 
Saint-Michel and Chartres: a Study of Thirteenth-Century Unity.' 
From that point he proposed to fix a position for himself, which he 
could label: ' The Education of Henry Adams: a Study of Twentieth- 
Century Multiplicity? With the help of these two points of relation, 
he hoped to project his lines forward and backward indefinitely, sub- 
ject to correction from any one who should know better" 

The "Chartres" was finished and privately printed in 1904.. The 
"Education" proved to be more difficult. The point on which the 
author failed to please himself, and could get no light from readers or 
friends, was the usual one of literary form. Probably he saw it in 
advance, for he used to say, half in jest, that his great ambition was 
to complete St. Augustine's "Confessions" but that St. Augustine, 
like a great artist, had worked from multiplicity to unity, while he, 
like a small one, had to reverse the method and work back from unity 



viii EDITOR'S PREFACE 

to multiplicity. The scheme became unmanageable as he approached 
his end. 

Probably he was, in fact, trying only to work into it his favorite 
theory of history, which now fills the last three or four chapters of the 
"Education" and he could not satisfy himself with his workmanship. 
At all events, he was still pondering over the problem in IQIO, when 
he tried to deal with it in another way which might be more intelligible 
to students. He printed a small volume called "A Letter to American 
Teachers" which he. sent to his associates in the American Historical 
Association, hoping to provoke some response. Before he could 
satisfy himself even on this minor point, a severe illness in the spring 
of 1912 put an end to his literary activity forever. 

The matter soon passed beyond his control. In 1913 the Institute 
of Architects published the "Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres" 
Already the "Education" had become almost as well known as the 
"Chartres," and was freely quoted by every book whose author re- 
quested it. The author could no longer withdraw either volume; he 
could no longer rewrite either, and he could not publish that which he 
thought unprepared and unfinished, although in his opinion the other 
was historically purposeless without its sequel. In the end, he pre- 
ferred to leave the "Education" unpublished, avowedly incomplete, 
trusting that it might quietly fade from memory. According to his 
theory of history as explained in Chapters XXXIII and XXX IF, the 
teacher was at best helpless, and, in the immediate future, silence next 
to good-temper was the mark of sense. After midsummer, 1914., the 
rule was made absolute. 

The Massachusetts Historical Society now publishes the "Educa- 
tion" as it was printed in 1907, with only such marginal corrections 
as the author made, and it does this, not in opposition to the author's 
judgment, but only to put both volumes equally within reach of stu- 
dents who have occasion to consult them. 

HENRY CABOT LODGE 

September, 1918 



PREFACE 

JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU began his famous "Confessions" by a 
vehement appeal to the Deity: "I have shown myself as I was; con- 
temptible and vile when I was so; good, generous, sublime when I was 
so; I have unveiled my interior such as Thou thyself hast seen it, 
Eternal Father! Collect about me the innumerable swarm of my fel- 
lows; let them hear my confessions; let them groan at my unworthi- 
ness; let them blush at my meannesses! Let each of them discover his 
heart in his turn at the foot of thy throne with the same sincerity; and 
then let any one of them tell thee if he dares: 'I was a better man /' " 

Jean Jacques was a very great educator in the manner of the eight- 
eenth century, and has been commonly thought to have had more in- 
fluence than any other teacher of his time; but his peculiar method of 
improving human nature has not been universally admired. Most 
educators of the nineteenth century have declined to show themselves 
before their scholars as objects more vile or contemptible than neces- 
sary ', and even the humblest teacher hides, if possible, the faults with 
which nature has generously embellished us all, as it did Jean Jacques, 
thinking, as most religious minds are apt to do, that the Eternal 
Father himself may not feel unmixed pleasure at our thrusting under 
his eyes chiefly the least agreeable details of his creation. 

As an unfortunate result the twentieth century finds few recent 
guides to avoid, or to follow. American literature offers scarcely one 
working model for high education. The student must go back, beyond 
Jean Jacques, to Benjamin Franklin, to find a model even of self- 
teaching. Except in the abandoned sphere of the dead languages, no 
one has discussed what part of education has, in his personal expe- 
rience, turned out to be useful, and what not. This volume attempts to 
discuss it. 

As educator, Jean Jacques was, in one respect, easily first; he 



x PREFACE 

erected a monument of warning against the Ego. Since his time, and 
largely thanks to him, the Ego has steadily tended to efface itself, and, 
for purposes of model, to become a manikin on which the toilet of 
education is to be draped in order to show the fit or misfit of the clothes. 
The object of study is the garment, not the figure. The tailor adapts 
the manikin as well as the clothes to his patron 's wants. The tailor's 
object, in this volume, is to fit young men, in universities or else- 
where, to be men of the world, equipped for any emergency; and the 
garment offered to them is meant to show the faults of the patchwork 
fitted on their fathers. 

At the utmost, the active-minded young man should ask of his 
teacher only mastery of his tools. The young man himself, the subject 
of education, is a certain form of energy; the object to be gained is 
economy of his force; the training is partly the clearing away of ob- 
stacles, partly the direct application of effort. Once acquired, the 
tools and models may be thrown away. 

The manikin, therefore, has the same value as any other geometri- 
cal figure of three or more dimensions, which is used for the study of 
relation. For that purpose it cannot be spared; it is the only measure 
of motion, of proportion, of human condition; it must have the air of 
reality; must be taken for real; must be treated as though it had life. 
Who knows ? Possibly it had ! 

February 16, 1907 



THE EDUCATION 
OF HENRY ADAMS 



THE EDUCATION 
OF HENRY ADAMS 

CHAPTER I 
QUINCY (1838-1848) 

UNDER the shadow of Boston State House, turning Its 
back on the house of John Hancock, the little passage 
called Hancock Avenue runs, or ran, from Beacon 
Street, skirting the State House grounds, to Mount Vernon Street, 
on the summit of Beacon Hill; and there, in the third house below 
Mount Vernon Place, February 16, 1838, a child was born, and 
christened later by his uncle, the minister of the First Church after 
the tenets of Boston Unitarianism, as Henry Brooks Adams. 

Had he been born in Jerusalem under the shadow of the Temple 
and circumcised in the Synagogue by his uncle the high priest, 
under the name of Israel Cohen, he would scarcely have been 
more distinctly branded, and not much more heavily handicapped 
in the races of the coming century, in running for such stakes as 
the century was to offer; but, on the other hand, the ordinary 
traveller, who does not enter the field of racing, finds advantage in 
being, so to speak, ticketed through life, with the safeguards of 
an old, established traffic. Safeguards are often irksome, but some- 
times convenient, and if one needs them at all, one is apt to need 
them badly. A hundred years earlier, such safeguards as his would 
have secured any young man's success; and although in 1838 their 
value was not very great compared with what they would have 
had in 1738, yet the mere accident of starting a twentieth-century 
career from a nest of associations so colonial so troglodytic 
as the First Church, the Boston State House, Beacon Hill, John 
Hancock and John Adams, Mount Vernon Street and Quincy, all 



4 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

crowding on ten pounds of unconscious babyhood, was so queer 
as to offer a subject of curious speculation to the baby long after 
he had witnessed the solution. What could become of such a 
child of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when he should 
wake up to find himself required to play the game of the twentieth ? 
Had he been consulted, would he have cared to play the game at 
all, holding such cards as he held, and suspecting that the game 
was to be one of which neither he nor any one else back to the 
beginning of time knew the rules or the risks or the stakes? He 
was not consulted and was not responsible, but had he been taken 
into the confidence of his parents, he would certainly have told 
them to change nothing as far as concerned him. He would have 
been astounded by his own luck. Probably no child, born in the 
year, held better cards than he. Whether life was an honest game 
of chance, or whether the cards were marked and forced, he could 
not refuse to play his excellent hand. He could never make the 
usual plea of irresponsibility. He accepted the situation as though 
he had been a party to it, and under the same circumstances would 
do it again, the more readily for knowing the exact values. To his 
life as a whole he was a consenting, contracting party and partner 
from the moment he was born to the moment he died. Only with 
that understanding as a consciously assenting member in full 
partnership with the society of his age had his education an 
interest to himself or to others. 

As it happened, he never got to the point of playing the game 
at all; he lost himself in the study of it, watching the errors of the 
players; but this is the only interest in the story, which otherwise 
has no moral and little incident. A story of education seventy 
years of it the practical value remains to the end in doubt, 
like other values about which men have disputed since the birth 
of Cain and Abel; but the practical value of the universe has never 
been stated in dollars. Although every one cannot be a Gargantua- 
Napoleon-Bismarck and walk off with the great bells of Notre 
Dame, every one must bear his own universe, and most persons are 



QUINCY 5 

moderately interested in learning how their neighbors have man- 
aged to carry theirs. 

This problem of education, started in 1838, went on for three 
years, while the baby grew, like other babies, unconsciously, as 
a vegetable, the outside world working as it never had worked 
before, to get his new universe ready for him. Often in old age 
he puzzled over the question whether, on the doctrine of chances, 
he was at liberty to accept himself or his world as an accident. 
No such accident had ever happened before in human experience. 
For him, alone, the old universe was thrown into the ash-heap and 
a new one created. He and his eighteenth-century, troglodytic 
Boston were suddenly cut apart separated forever in act 
if not in sentiment, by the opening of the Boston and Albany 
Railroad; the appearance of the first Cunard steamers in the bay; 
and the telegraphic messages which carried from Baltimore to 
Washington the news that Henry Clay and James K. Polk were 
nominated for the Presidency. This was in May, 1844; he was 
six years old; his new world was ready for use, and only fragments 
of the old met his eyes. 

Of all this that was being done to complicate his education, he 
knew only the color of yellow. He first found himself sitting on a 
yellow kitchen floor in strong sunlight. He was three years old 
when he took this earliest step in education; a lesson of color. 
The second followed soon; a lesson of taste. On December 3, 
1841, he developed scarlet fever. For several days he was as good 
as dead, reviving only under the careful nursing of his family. 
When he began to recover strength, about January I, 1842, his 
hunger must have been stronger than any other pleasure or pain, 
for while in after life he retained not the faintest recollection of 
his illness, he remembered quite clearly his aunt entering the sick- 
room bearing in her hand a saucer with a baked apple. 

The order of impressions retained by memory might naturally 
be that of color and taste, although one would rather suppose that 
the sense of pain would be first to educate. In fact, the third 



6 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

recollection of the child was that of discomfort. The moment he 
could be removed, he was bundled up in blankets and carried from 
the little house in Hancock Avenue to a larger one which his parents 
were to occupy for the rest of their lives in the neighboring Mount 
Vernon Street. The season was midwinter, January 10, 1842, and 
he never forgot his acute distress for want of air under his blankets, 
or the noises of moving furniture. 

As a means of variation from a normal type, sickness in child- 
hood ought to have a certain value not to be classed under any 
fitness or unfitness of natural selection; and especially scarlet 
fever affected boys seriously, both physically and in character, 
though they might through life puzzle themselves to decide 
whether it had fitted or unfitted them for success; but this fever 
of Henry Adams took greater and greater importance in his eyes, 
from the point of view of education, the longer he lived. At first, 
the effect was physical. He fell behind his brothers two or three 
inches in height, and proportionally in bone and weight. His 
character and processes of mind seemed to share in this fining- 
down process of scale. He was not good in a fight, and his nerves 
were more delicate than boys' nerves ought to be. He exagger- 
ated these weaknesses as he grew older .j The habit of doubt; of 
distrusting his own judgment and of totally rejecting the judgment 
of the world; the tendency to regard every question as open; the 
hesitation to act except as a choice of evils; the shirking of re- 
sponsibility; the love of line, form, quality; the horror of ennui; 
the passion for companionship and the antipathy to society 
all these are well-known qualities of New England character in 
no way peculiar to individuals but in this instance they seemed 
to be stimulated by the fever, and Henry Adams could never 
make up his mind whether, on the whole, the change of character 
was morbid or healthy, good or bad for his purpose. His brothers 
were the type; he was the variation./' 

As far as the boy knew, the sickness did not affect him at all, 
and he grew up in excellent health, bodily and mental, taking 



QUINCY 7 

life as it was given; accepting its local standards without a diffi- 
culty, and enjoying much of it as keenly as any other boy of his 
age. He seemed to himself quite normal, and his companions 
seemed always to think him so. Whatever was peculiar about 
him was education, not character, and came to him, directly and 
indirectly, as the result of that eighteenth-century inheritance 
which he took with his name. 

The atmosphere of education in which he lived was colonial, 
revolutionary, almost Cromwellian, as though he were steeped, 
from his greatest grandmother's birth, in the odor of political 
crime. Resistance to something was the law of New England na- 
ture; the boy looked out on the world with the instinct of resist- 
ance; for numberless generations his predecessors had viewed the 
world chiefly as >a thing to be reformed, filled with evil forces to 
be abolished, and they saw no reason to suppose that they had 
wholly succeeded in the abolition; the duty was unchanged. That 
duty implied not only resistance to evil, but hatred of it. Boys 
naturally look on all force as an enemy, and generally find it so, but 
the New Englander, whether boy or man, in his long struggle with 
a stingy or hostile universe, had learned also to love the pleasure 
of hating; his joys were few. 

Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always 
been the systematic organization of hatreds, and Massachusetts 
politics had been as harsh as the climate. The chief charm of 
New England was harshness of contrasts and extremes of sensi- 
bility a cold that froze the blood, and a heat that boiled it 
so that the pleasure of hating one's self if no better victim 
offered was not its rarest amusement; but the charm was a 
true and natural child of the soil, not a cultivated weed of the 
ancients. The violence of the contrast was real and made the 
strongest motive of education. The double exterior nature gave 
life its relative values. Winter and summer, cold and heat, town 
and country, force and freedom, marked two modes of life and 
thought, balanced like lobes of the brain. Town was winter 



8 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

confinement, school, rule, discipline; straight, gloomy streets, 
piled with six feet of snow in the middle; frosts that made the 
snow sing under wheels or runners; thaws when the streets be- 
came dangerous to cross; society of uncles, aunts, and cousins 
who expected children to behave themselves, and who were not 
always gratified; above all else, winter represented the desire to 
escape and go free. Town was restraint, law, unity. Country, 
only seven miles away, was liberty, diversity, outlawry, the end- 
less delight of mere sense impressions given by nature for no- 
thing, and breathed by boys without knowing it. 

Boys are wild animals, rich in the treasures of sense, but the 
New England boy had a wider range of emotions than boys of 
more equable climates. He felt his nature crudely, as it was 
meant. To the boy Henry Adams, summer was drunken. Among 
senses, smell was the strongest smell of hot pine-woods and 
sweet-fern in the scorching summer noon; of new-mown hay; of 
ploughed earth; of box hedges; of peaches, lilacs, syringas; of 
stables, barns, cow-yards; of salt water and low tide on the 
marshes; nothing came amiss. Next to smell came taste, and the 
children knew the taste of everything they saw or touched, from 
pennyroyal and flagroot to the shell of a pignut and the letters 
of a spelling-book the taste of A-B, AB, suddenly revived on 
the boy's tongue v sixty years afterwards. Light, line, and color 
as sensual pleasures, came later and were as crude as the rest. 
The New England light is glare, and the atmosphere harshens 
color. The boy was a full man before he ever knew what was 
meant by atmosphere; his idea of pleasure in light was the blaze 
of a New England sun. His idea of color was a peony, with the 
dew of early morning on its petals. The intense blue of the sea, 
as he saw it a mile or two away, from the Quincy hills; the cumuli 
in a June afternoon sky; the strong reds and greens and purples 
of colored prints and children's picture-books, as the American 
colors then ran; these were ideals. The opposites or antipathies, 
were the cold grays of November evenings, and the thick, muddy 



QUINCY g 

thaws of Boston winter. With such standards, the Bostonian 
could not but develop a double nature. Life was a double thing. 
After a January blizzard, the boy who could look witTTpleasure 
into the violent snow-glare of the cold white sunshine, with its 
intense light and shade, scarcely knew what was meant by tone. 
He could reach it only by education. 

Winter and summer, then, were two hostile lives, and bred two 
separate natures. Winter was always the effort to live; summer was 
tropical license. Whether the children rolled in the grass, or 
waded in the brook, or swam in the salt ocean, or sailed in the 
bay, or fished for smelts in the creeks, or netted minnows in the 
salt-marshes, or took to the pine-woods and the granite quarries, 
or chased muskrats and hunted snapping-turtles in the swamps, 
or mushrooms or nuts on the autumn hills, summer and country 
were always sensual living, while winter was always compulsory 
learning. Summer was the multiplicity of nature; winter was 
school. 

The bearing of the two seasons on the education of Henry 
Adams was no fancy; it was the most decisive force he ever knew; 
it ran though life, and made the division between its perplexing, 
warring, irreconcilable problems, irreducible opposites, with grow- 
ing emphasis to the last year of study. From earliest childhood the 
boy was accustomed to feel that, for him, life was double. Winter 
and summer, town and country, law and liberty, were hostile, 
and the man who pretended they were not, was in his eyes a 
schoolmaster that is, a man employed to tell lies to little boys. 
Though Quincy was but two hours' walk from Beacon Hill, it 
belonged in a different world. For two hundred years, every 
Adams, from father to son, had lived within sight of State Street, 
and sometimes had lived in it, yet none had ever taken kindly to 
the town, or been taken kindly by it. The boy inherited his 
double nature. He knew as yet nothing about his great-grand- 
father, who had died a dozen years before his own birth : he took 
for granted that any great-grandfather of his must have always 



io THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

been good, and his enemies wicked; but he divined his great-grand- 
father's character from his own. Never for a moment did he con- 
nect the two ideas of Boston and John Adams ; they were separate 
and antagonistic; the idea of John Adams went with Quincy. He 
knew his grandfather John Quincy Adams only as an old man of 
seventy-five or eighty who was friendly and gentle with him, but 
except that he heard his grandfather always called "the Presi- 
dent," and his grandmother "the Madam," he had no reason to 
suppose that his Adams grandfather differed in character from his 
Brooks grandfather who was equally kind and benevolent. He 
liked the Adams side best, but for no other reason than that it 
reminded him of the country, the summer, and the absence of re- 
straint. Yet he felt also that Quincy was in a way inferior to Boston, 
and that socially Boston looked down on Quincy. The reason was 
clear enough even to a five-year old child. Quincy had no Boston 
style. Little enough style had either; a simpler manner of life 
and thought could hardly exist, short of cave-dwelling. The 
flint-and-steel with which his grandfather Adams used to light 
his own fires in the early morning was still on the mantelpiece of 
his study. The idea of a livery or even a dress for servants, or 
of an evening toilette, was next to blasphemy. Bathrooms, water- 
supplies, lighting, heating^ and the whole array of domestic com- 
forts, were unknown at Quincy. Boston had already a bathroom, 
a water-supply, a furnace, and gas. The superiority of Boston 
was evident, but a child liked it no better for that. 

The magnificence of his grandfather Brooks's house in Pearl 
Street or South Street has long ago disappeared, but perhaps his 
country house at Medford may still remain to show what impressed 
the mind of a boy in 1845 with the idea of city splendor. The Presi- 
dent's place at Quincy was the larger and older and far the more 
interesting of the two; but a boy felt at once its inferiority in 
fashion. It showed plainly enough its want of wealth. It smacked 
of colonial age, but not of Boston style or plush curtains. To the 
end of his life he never quite overcame the prejudice thus drawn 



QUINCY 1 1 

in with his childish breath. He never could compel himself to 
care for nineteenth-century style. He was never able to adopt 
it, any more than his father or grandfather or great-grandfather 
had done. Not that he felt it as particularly hostile, for he recon- 
ciled himself to much that was worse; but because, for some remote 
reason, he was born an eighteenth-century child. The old house 
at Quincy was eighteenth century. What style it had was in its 
Queen Anne mahogany panels and its Louis Seize chairs and sofas. 
The panels belonged to an old colonial Vassall who built the house; 
the furniture had been brought back from Paris in 1789 or 1801 
or 1817, along with porcelain and books and much else of old diplo- 
matic remnants; and neither of the two eighteenth-century styles 
neither English Queen Anne nor French Louis Seize was com- 
fortable for a boy, or for any one else. The dark mahogany had 
been painted white to suit daily life in winter gloom. Nothing 
seemed to favor, for a child's objects, the older forms. On the 
contrary, most boys, as well as grown-up people, preferred the 
new, with good reason, and the child felt himself distinctly at a 
disadvantage for the taste. 

Nor had personal preference any share in his bias. The Brooks 
grandfather was as amiable and as sympathetic as the Adams 
grandfather. Both were born in 1767, and both died in 1848. 
Both were kind to children, and both belonged rather to the 
eighteenth than to the nineteenth centuries. The child knew no 
difference between them except that one was associated with 
winter and the other with summer; one with Boston, the other 
with Quincy. Even with Medford, the association was hardly 
easier. Once as a very young boy he was taken to pass a few days 
with his grandfather Brooks under charge of his aunt, but became 
so violently homesick that within twenty-four hours he was brought 
back in disgrace. Yet he could not remember ever being seriously 
homesick again. 

The attachment to Quincy was not altogether sentimental or 
wholly sympathetic. Quincy was not a bed of thornless roses. 



12 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Even there the curse of Cain set its mark. There as elsewhere 
a cruel universe combined to crush a child. As though three or 
four vigorous brothers and sisters, with the best will, were not 
enough to crush any child, every one else conspired towards an 
education which he hated. jFrpm cradle to grave this problem of 
running order through chaos, direction through space, discipline 
through freedom, unity through multiplicity, has always been, 
and must always be, the task of education, as it is the moral of 
religion, philosophy, science, art, politics, and economy; but a 
boy's will is his life, and he dies when it is broken, as the colt dies 
in harness, taking a new nature in becoming tame. Rarely has 
the boy felt kindly towards his tamers. Between him and his mas- 
ter has always been war. Henry Adams never knew a boy of his 
generation to like a master, and the task of remaining on friendly 
terms with one's own family, in such a relation, was never easy. 

All the more singular it seemed afterwards to him that his first 
serious contact with the President should have been a struggle of 
will, In which the old man almost necessarily defeated the boy, 
but instead of leaving, as usual in such defeats, a lifelong sting, 
left rather an impression of as fair treatment as could be expected 
from a natural enemy. The boy met seldom with such restraint. 
He could not have been much more than six years old at the time 
seven at the utmost and his mother had taken him to Quincy 
for a long stay with the President during the summer. What 
became of the rest of the family he quite forgot; but he distinctly 
remembered standing at the house door one summer morning in 
a passionate outburst of rebellion against going to school. Natur- 
ally his mother was the immediate victim of his rage; that is what 
mothers are for, and boys also; but in this case the boy had his 
mother at unfair disadvantage, for she was a guest, and had no 
means of enforcing obedience. Henry showed a certain tactical 
ability by refusing to start, and he met all efforts at compulsion 
by successful, though too vehement protest. He was in fair way 
to win, and was holding his own, with sufficient energy, at the 



QUINCY 1 3 

bottom of the long staircase which led up to the door of the Presi- 
dent's library, when the door opened, and the old man slowly 
came down. Putting on his hat, he took the boy's hand without 
a word, and walked with him, paralyzed by awe, up the road to 
the town. After the first moments of consternation at this inter- 
ference in a domestic dispute, the boy reflected that an old gentle- 
man close on eighty would never trouble himself to walk near a 
mile on a hot summer morning over a shadeless road to take a 
boy to school, and that it would be strange if a lad imbued with the 
passion of freedom could not find a corner to dodge around, some- 
where before reaching the school door. Then and always, the 
boy insisted that this reasoning justified his apparent submission; 
but the old man did not stop, and the boy saw all his strategical 
points turned, one after another, until he found himself seated 
inside the school, and obviously the centre of curious if not malev- 
olent criticism. Not till then did the President release his hand 
and depart. 

The point was that this act, contrary to the inalienable rights of 
boys, and nullifying the social compact, ought to have made him 
dislike his grandfather for life. He could not recall that it had 
this effect even for a moment. With a certain maturity of mind, 
the child must have recognized that the President, though a tool 
of tyranny, had done his disreputable work with a certain intelli- 
gence. He had shown no temper, no irritation, no personal feel- 
ing, and had made no display of force. Above all, he had held his 
tongue. During their long walk he had said nothing; he had 
uttered no syllable of revolting cant about the duty of obedience 
and the wickedness of resistance to law; he had shown no concern 
in the matter; hardly even a consciousness of the boy's existence. 
Probably his mind at that moment was actually troubling itself 
little about his grandson's iniquities, and much about the iniquities 
of President Polk, but the boy could scarcely at that age feel the 
whole satisfaction of thinking that President Polk was to be the 
vicarious victim of his own sins, and he gave his grandfather credit 



14 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

for intelligent silence. For this forbearance he felt instinctive re- 
spect. .He admitted-force as a form of right; he admitted even 
temper, under protest; but the seeds of a moral education would 
at that moment have fallen on the stoniest soil in Quincy, which 
is, as every one knows, the stoniest glacial and tidal drift known 
in any Puritan land. 

Neither party to this momentary disagreement can have felt 
rancor, for during these three or four summers the old President's 
relations with the boy were friendly and almost intimate. Whether 
his older brothers and sisters were still more favored he failed to 
remember, but he was himself admitted to a sort of familiarity 
which, when in his turn he had reached old age, rather shocked 
him, for it must have sometimes tried the President's patience. 
He hung about the library; handled the books; deranged the papers; 
ransacked the drawers; searched the old purses and pocket-books 
for foreign coins; drew the sword-cane; snapped the travelling- 
pistols; upset everything in the corners, and penetrated the 
President's dressing-closet where a row of tumblers, inverted on the 
shelf, covered caterpillars which were supposed to become moths 
or butterflies, but never did. The Madam bore with fortitude the 
loss of the tumblers which her husband purloined for these hatch- 
eries; but she made protest when he carried off her best cut-glass 
bowls to plant with acorns or peachstones that he might see the 
roots grow, but which, she said, he commonly forgot like the 
caterpillars. 

At that time the President rode the hobby of tree-culture, and 
some fine old trees should still remain to witness it, unless they 
have been improved off the ground; but his was a restless mind, 
and although he took his hobbies seriously and would have been 
annoyed had his grandchild asked whether he was bored like an 
English duke, he probably cared more for the processes than for 
the results, so that his grandson was saddened by the sight and 
smell of peaches and pears, the best of their kind, which he brought 
up from the garden to rot on his shelves for seed. With the inher- 



QUINCY 1 5 

ited virtues of his Puritan ancestors, the little boy Henry con- 
scientiously brought up to him in his study the finest peaches 
he found in the garden, and ate only the less perfect. Naturally 
he ate more by way of compensation, but the act showed that he 
bore no grudge. As for his grandfather, it is even possible that 
he may have felt a certain self-reproach for his temporary role of 
schoolmaster seeing that his own career did not offer proof of 
the worldly advantages of docile obedience for there still exists 
somewhere a little volume of critically edited Nursery Rhymes 
with the boy's name in full written in the President's trembling 
hand on the fly-leaf. Of course there was also the Bible, given to 
each child at -birth, with the proper inscription in the President's 
hand on the fly-leaf; while their grandfather Brooks supplied the 
silver mugs. 

So many Bibles and silver mugs had to be supplied, that a new 
house, or cottage, was built to hold them. It was "on the hill," 
five minutes' walk above "the old house," with a far view east- 
ward over Quincy Bay, and northward over Boston. Till his 
twelfth year, the child passed his summers there, and his pleasures 
of childhood mostly centred in it. Of education he had as yet 
little to complain. Country schools were not very serious. Noth- 
ing stuck to the mind except home impressions, and the sharpest 
were those of kindred children; but as influences that warped a 
mind, none compared with the mere effect of the back of the 
President's bald head, as he sat in his pew on Sundays, in line with 
that of President Quincy, who, though some ten years younger, 
seemed to children about the same age. Before railways entered 
the New England town, every parish church showed half-a-dozen 
of these leading citizens, with gray hair, who sat on the main aisle 
in the best pews, and had sat there, or in some equivalent dignity, 
since the time of St. Augustine, if not since the glacial epoch. It 
was unusual for boys to sit behind a President grandfather, and 
to read over his head the tablet in memory of a President great- 
grandfather, who had "pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred 



1 6 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

honor" to secure the independence of his country and so forth; 
but boys naturally supposed, without much reasoning, that other 
boys had the equivalent of President grandfathers, and that 
churches would always go on, with the bald-headed leading citi- 
zens on the main aisle, and Presidents or their equivalents on 
the walls. The Irish gardener once said to the child: " You '11 be 
thinkin' you'll be President too!" The casuality of the remark 
made so strong an impression on his mind that he never forgot it. 
He could not remember ever to have thought on the subject; to 
him, that there should be a doubt of his being President was a 
new idea. What had been would continue to be. He doubted 
neither about Presidents nor about Churches, and no one sug- 
gested at that time a doubt whether a system of society which 
had lasted since Adam would outlast one Adams more. 

The Madam was a little more remote than the President, but 
more decorative. She stayed much in her own room with the 
Dutch tiles, looking out on her garden with the box walks, and 
seemed a fragile creature to a boy who sometimes brought her a 
note or a message, and took distinct pleasure in looking at her 
delicate face under what seemed to him very becoming caps. He 
liked her refined figure; her gentle voice and manner; her vague 
effect of not belonging there, but to Washington or to Europe, 
like her furniture, and writing-desk with little glass doors above 
and little eighteenth-century volumes in old binding, labelled 
"Peregrine Pickle" or "Tom Jones" or "Hannah More." Try 
as she might, the Madam could never be Bostonian, and it was 
her cross in life, but to the boy it was her charm. Even at that 
age, he felt drawn to it. The Madam's life had been in truth far 
from Boston. She was born in London in 1775, daughter of Joshua 
Johnson, an American merchant, brother of Governor Thomas 
Johnson of Maryland; and Catherine Nuth, of an English family 
in London. Driven from England by the Revolutionary War, 
Joshua Johnson took his family to Nantes, where they remained 
till the peace. The girl Louisa Catherine was nearly ten years 



QUINCY 1 7 

old when brought back to London, and her sense of nationality 
must have been confused; but the influence of the Johnsons and 
the services of Joshua obtained for him from President Washing- 
ton the appointment of Consul in London on the organization of 
the Government in 1790. In 1794 President Washington appointed 
John Quincy Adams Minister to The Hague. He was twenty- 
seven years old when he returned to London, and found the Con- 
sul's house a very agreeable haunt. Louisa was then twenty. 

At that time, and long afterwards, the Consul's house, far more 
than the Minister's, was the centre of contact for travelling Amer- 
icans, either official or other. The Legation was a shifting point, 
between 1785 and 1815; but the Consulate, far down in the City, 
near the Tower, was convenient and inviting; so inviting that it 
proved fatal to young Adams. Louisa was charming, like a Rom- 
ney portrait, but among her many charms that of being a New 
England woman was not one. The defect was serious. Her future 
mother-in-law, Abigail, a famous New England woman whose 
authority over her turbulent husband, the second President, was 
hardly so great as that which she exercised over her son, the sixth 
to be, was troubled by the fear that Louisa might not be made of 
stuff stern enough, or brought up in conditions severe enough, 
to suit a New England climate, or to make an efficient wife for 
her paragon son, and Abigail was right on that point, as on most 
others where sound judgment was involved; but sound judg- 
ment is sometimes a source of weakness rather than of force, and 
John Quincy already had reason to think that his mother held 
sound judgments on the subject of daughters-in-law which human 
nature, since the fall of Eve, made Adams helpless to realize. 
Being three thousand miles away from his mother, and equally 
far in love, he married Louisa in London, July 26, 1797, and took 
her to Berlin to be the head of the United States Legation. 
During three or four exciting years, the young bride lived in 
Berlin; whether she was happy or not, whether she was content 
or not, whether she was socially successful or not, her descend- 



1 8 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ants did not surely know; but in any case she could by no chance 
have become educated there for a life in Quincy or Boston. In 
1801 the overthrow of the Federalist Party drove her and her 
husband to America, and she became at last a member of the 
Quincy household, but by that time her children needed all her 
attention, and she remained there with occasional winters in 
Boston and Washington, till 1809. Her husband was made Sen- 
ator in 1803, and in 1809 was appointed Minister to Russia. She 
went with him to St. Petersburg, taking her baby, Charles Francis, 
born in 1807; but broken-hearted at having to leave her two older 
boys behind. The life at St. Petersburg was hardly gay for her; 
they were far too poor to shine in that extravagant society; but she 
survived it, though her little girl baby did not, and in the winter 
of 1814-15, alone with the boy of seven years old, crossed Europe 
from St. Petersburg to Paris, in her travelling-carriage, passing 
through the armies, and reaching Paris in the Cent Jours after 
Napoleon's return from Elba. Her husband next went to England 
as Minister, and she was for two years at the Court of the Regent. 
In 1817 her husband came home to be Secretary of State, and she 
lived for eight years in F Street, doing her work of entertainer for 
President Monroe's administration. Next she lived four miser- 
able years in the White House. When that chapter was closed in 
1829, she had earned the right to be tired and delicate, but she 
still had fifteen years to serve as wife of a Member of the House, 
after her husband went back to Congress in 1833. Then it was 
that the little Henry, her grandson, first remembered her, from 
1843 to 1848, sitting in her panelled room, at breakfast, with her 
heavy silver teapot and sugar-bowl and cream-jug, which still 
exist somewhere as an heirloom of the modern safety-vault. By 
that time she was seventy years old or more, and thoroughly weary 
of being beaten about a stormy world. To the boy she seemed 
singularly peaceful, a vision of silver gray, presiding over her old 
President and her Queen Anne mahogany; an exotic, like her 
Sevres china; an object of deference to every one, and of great 



QUINCY 



affection to her son Charles; but hardly more Bostonian than she 
had been fifty years before, on her wedding-day, in the shadow 
of the Tower of London. 

Such a figure was even less fitted than that of her old husband, 
the President, to impress on a boy's mind, the standards of the 
coming century. She was Louis Seize, like the furniture. The 
boy knew nothing of her interior life, which had been, as the ven- 
erable Abigail, long since at peace, foresaw, one of severe stress and 
little pure satisfaction. He never dreamed that from her might 
come some of those doubts and self-questionings, those hesitations, 
those rebellions against law and discipline, which marked more 
than one of her descendants; but he might even then have felt 
some vague instinctive suspicion that he was to inherit from her 
the seeds of the primal sin, the fall from grace, the curse of Abel, 
that he was not of pure New England stock, but half exotic. As 
a child of Quincy he was not a true Bostonian, but even as a 
child of Quincy he inherited a quarter taint of Maryland blood. 
Charles Francis, half Marylander by birth, had hardly seen Bos- 
ton till he was ten years old, when his parents left him there at 
school in 1817, and he never forgot the experience. He was to be 
nearly as old as his mother had been in 1845, before he quite ac- 
cepted Boston, or Boston quite accepted him. 

A boy who began his education in these surroundings, with 
physical strength inferior to that of his brothers, and with a certain 
delicacy of mind and bone, ought rightly to have felt at home in 
the eighteenth century and should, in proper self-respect, have 
rebelled against the standards of the nineteenth. The atmos- 
phere of his first ten years must have been very like that of his 
grandfather at the same age, from 1767 till 1776, barring the battle 
of Bunker Hill, and even as late as 1846, the battle of Bunker Hill 
remained actual. The tone of Boston society was colonial. The 
true Bostonian always knelt in self-abasement before the majesty 
of English standards; far from concealing it as a weakness, he 
was proud of it as his strength. The eighteenth century ruled 



2O THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

society long after 1850. Perhaps the boy began to shake it off 
rather earlier than most of his mates. 

Indeed this prehistoric stage of education ended rather abruptly 
with his tenth year. One winter morning he was conscious of a 
certain confusion in the house in Mount Vernon Street, and 
gathered, from such words as he could catch, that the President, 
who happened to be then staying there, on his way to Washing- 
ton, had fallen and hurt himself. Then he heard the word paralysis. 
After that day he came to associate the word with the figure of 
his grandfather, in a tall-backed, invalid armchair, on one side 
of the spare bedroom fireplace, and one of his old friends, Dr. 
Parkman or P. P. F. Degrand, on the other side, both dozing. 

The end of this first, or ancestral and Revolutionary, chapter 
came on February 21, 1848 and the month of February brought 
life and death as a family habit when the eighteenth century, 
as an actual and living companion, vanished. If the scene on the 
floor of the House, when the old President fell, struck the still 
simple-minded American public with a sensation unusually drama- 
tic, its effect on a ten-year-old boy, whose boy-life was fading away 
with the life of his grandfather, could not be slight. One had to 
pay for Revolutionary patriots; grandfathers and grandmothers; 
Presidents; diplomats; Queen Anne mahogany and Louis Seize 
chairs, as well as for Stuart portraits. Such things warp young life. 
Americans commonly believed that they ruined it, and perhaps the 
practical common-sense of the American mind judged right. 
Many a boy might be ruined by much less than the emotions of 
the funeral service in the Quincy church, with its surroundings of 
national respect and family pride. By another dramatic chance 
it happened that the clergyman of the parish, Dr. Lunt, was an 
unusual pulpit orator, the ideal of a somewhat austere intellectual 
type, such as the school of Buckminster and Channing inherited 
from the old Congregational clergy. His extraordinarily refined 
appearance, his dignity of manner, his deeply cadenced voice, his 
remarkable English and his fine appreciation, gave to the funeral 



QUINCY 2 1 

service a character that left an overwhelming impression on the 
boy's mind. He was to see many great functions funerals and 
festivals in after-life, till his only thought was to see no more, 
but he never again witnessed anything nearly so impressive to 
him as the last services at Quincy over the body of one President 
and the ashes of another. 

The effect of the Quincy service was deepened by the official 
ceremony which afterwards took place in Faneuil Hall, when the 
boy was taken to hear his uncle, Edward Everett, deliver a Eulogy. 
Like all Mr. Everett's orations, it was an admirable piece of ora- 
tory, such as only an admirable orator and scholar could create; 
too good for a ten-year-old boy to appreciate at its value; but al- 
ready the boy knew that the dead President could not be in it, and 
had even learned why he would have been out of place there; for 
knowledge was beginning to come fast. The shadow of the War of 
1812 still hung over State Street; the shadow of the Civil War to 
come had already begun to darken Faneuil Hall. No rhetoric 
could have reconciled Mr. Everett's audience to his subject. How 
could he say there, to an assemblage of Bostonians in the heart of 
mercantile Boston, that the only distinctive mark of all the 
Adamses, since old Sam Adams's father a hundred and fifty years 
before, had been their inherited quarrel with State Street, which 
had again and again broken out into riot, bloodshed, personal feuds, 
foreign and civil war, wholesale banishments and confiscations, 
until the history of Florence was hardly more turbulent than that of 
Boston? How could he whisper the word Hartford Convention 
before the men who had made it? What would have been said had 
he suggested the chance of Secession and Civil War? 

Thus already, at ten years old, the boy found himself standing 
face to face with a dilemma that might have puzzled an early 
Christian. What was he ? where was he going ? IJyen then he felt 
that something was wrong, but he concluded that it must be Bos- 
ton. Quincy had always been right, for Quincy represented a 
moral principle the principle of resistance to Boston. His 



22 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Adams ancestors must have been right, since they were always 
hostile to State Street. If State Street was wrong, Quincy must be 
right! Turn the dilemma as he pleased, he still came back on the 
eighteenth century and the law of Resistance; of Truth; of Duty, 
and of Freedom. He was a ten-year-old priest and politician. He 
could under no circumstances have guessed what the next fifty 
years had in store, and no one could teach him; but sometimes, in 
his old age, he wondered and could never decide whether 
the most clear and certain knowledge would have helped him. 
Supposing he had seen a New York stock-list of 1900, and had 
studied the statistics of railways, telegraphs, coal, and steel 
would he have quitted his eighteenth-century, his ancestral pre- 
judices, his abstract ideals, his semi-clerical training, and the rest, 
in order to perform an expiatory pilgrimage to State Street, and 
ask for the fatted calf of his grandfather Brooks and a clerkship 
in the Suffolk Bank? 

Sixty years afterwards he was still unable to make up his mind. 
Each course had its advantages, but the material advantages, 
looking back, seemed to lie wholly in State Street. 



CHAPTER II 

BOSTON (1848-1854) 

PETER CHARDON BROOKS, the other grandfather, died 
January I, 1849, bequeathing what was supposed to be 
the largest estate in Boston, about two million dollars, 
to his seven surviving children : four sons Edward, Peter 
Chardon, Gorham, and Sydney; three daughters Charlotte, 
married to Edward Everett; Ann, married to Nathaniel Frothing- 
ham, minister of the First Church; and Abigail Brown, born April 
25, 1808, married September 3, 1829, to Charles Francis Adams, 
hardly a year older than herself. Their first child, born in 1830, 
was a daughter, named Louisa Catherine, after her Johnson grand- 
mother; the second was a son, named John Quincy, after his 
President grandfather; the third took his father's name, Charles 
Francis; while the fourth, being of less account, was in a way given 
to his mother, who named him Henry Brooks, after a favorite 
brother just lost. More followed, but these, being younger, had 
nothing to do with the arduous process of educating. 

The Adams connection was singularly small in Boston, but 
the family of Brooks was singularly large and even brilliant, and 
almost wholly of clerical New England stock. One might have 
sought long in much larger and older societies for three brothers- 
in-law more distinguished or more scholarly than Edward Everett, 
Dr. Frothingham, and Mr. Adams. One might have sought equally 
long for seven brothers-in-law more unlike. No doubt they all 
bore more or less the stamp of Boston, or at least of Massachusetts 
Bay, but the shades of difference amounted to contrasts. Mr. 
Everett belonged to Boston hardly more than Mr. Adams. One 
of the most ambitious of Bostonians, he had broken bounds early 
in life by leaving the Unitarian pulpit to take a seat in Congress 
where he had given valuable support to J. Q. Adams's adminis- 



24 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

tration; support which, as a social consequence, led to the mar- 
riage of the President's son, Charles Francis, with Mr. Everett's 
youngest sister-in-law, Abigail Brooks. The wreck of parties which 
marked the reign of Andrew Jackson had interfered with many 
promising careers, that of Edward Everett among the rest, but 
he had risen with the Whig Party to power, had gone as Minister 
to England, and had returned to America with the halo of a Eu- 
ropean reputation, and undisputed rank second only to Daniel 
Webster as the orator and representative figure of Boston. The 
other brother-in-law, Dr. Frothingham, belonged to the same 
clerical school, though in manner rather the less clerical of the 
two. Neither of them had much in common with Mr. Adams, who 
was a younger man, greatly biassed by his father, and by the in- 
herited feud between Quincy and State Street; but personal rela- 
tions were friendly as far as a boy could see, and the innumerable 
cousins went regularly to the First Church every Sunday in win- 
ter, and slept through their uncle's sermons, without once think- 
ing to ask what the sermons were supposed to mean for them. 
For two hundred years the First Church had seen the same little 
boys, sleeping more or less soundly under the same or similar con- 
ditions, and dimly conscious of the same feuds; but the feuds had 
never ceased, and the boys had always grown up to inherit them. 
Those of the generation of 1812 had mostly disappeared in 1850; 
death had cleared that score; the quarrels of John Adams, and 
those of John Quincy Adams were no longer acutely personal; 
the game was considered as drawn; and Charles Francis Adams 
might then have taken his inherited rights of political leadership 
in succession to Mr. Webster and Mr. Everett, his seniors. Be- 
tween him and State Street the relation was more natural than 
between Edward Everett and State Street; but instead of doing 
so, Charles Francis Adams drew himself aloof and renewed the 
old war which had already lasted since 1700. He could not help 
it. With the record of J. Q. Adams fresh in the popular memory, 
his son and his only representative could not make terms with 



BOSTON 25 

the slave-power, and the slave-power overshadowed all the great 
Boston interests. No doubt Mr. Adams had principles of his 
own, as well as inherited, but even his children, who as yet had 
no principles, could equally little follow the lead of Mr. Webster 
or even of Mr. Seward. They would have lost in consideration 
more than they would have gained in patronage. They were 
anti-slavery by birth, as their name was Adams and their home 
was Quincy. No matter how much they had wished to enter State 
Street, they felt that State Street never would trust them, or they 
it. Had State Street been Paradise, they must hunger for it in 
vain, and it hardly needed Daniel Webster to act as archangel 
with the flaming sword, to order them away from the door. 

Time and experience, which alter all perspectives, altered this 
among the rest, and taught the boy gentler judgment, but even 
when only ten years old, his face was already fixed, and his heart 
was stone, against State Street; his education was warped beyond 
recovery in the direction of Puritan politics. Between him and 
his patriot grandfather at the same age, the conditions had changed 
little. The year 1848 was like enough to the year 1776 to make a 
fair parallel. The parallel, as concerned bias of education, was com- 
plete when, a few months after the death of John Quincy Adams, 
a convention of anti-slavery delegates met at Buffalo to organize 
a new party and named candidates for the general election in 
November: for President, Martin Van Buren; for Vice-P resident, 
Charles Francis Adams. 

For any American boy the fact that his father was running for 
office would have dwarfed for the time every other excitement, 
but even apart from personal bias, the year 1848, for a boy's road 
through life, was decisive for twenty years to come. There was 
never a side-path of escape. The stamp of 1848 was almost as 
indelible as the stamp of 1776, but in the eighteenth or any earlier 
century, the stamp mattered less because it was standard, and 
every one bore it; while men whose lives were to fall in the genera- 
tion between 1865 and 1900 had, first of all, to get rid of it, and 



26 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

take the stamp that belonged to their time. This was their educa- 
tion. To outsiders, immigrants, adventurers, it was easy, but the 
old Puritan nature rebelled against change. The reason it gave was 
forcible. The Puritan thought his thought higher and his moral 
standards better than those of his successors. So they were. He 
could not be convinced that moral standards had nothing to do 
with it, and that utilitarian morality was good enough for him, 
as it was for the graceless. Nature had given to the boy Henry a 
character that, in any previous century, would have led him into 
the Church; he inherited dogma and a priori thought from the 
beginning of time; and he scarcely needed a violent reaction like 
anti-slavery politics to sweep him back into Puritanism with a 
violence as great as that of a religious war. 

Thus far he had nothing to do with it; his education was chiefly 
inheritance, and during the next five or six years, his father alone 
counted for much. If he were to worry successfully through life's 
quicksands, he must depend chiefly on his father's pilotage; but, 
for his father, the channel lay clear, while for himself an unknown 
ocean lay beyond. His father's business in life was to get past the 
dangers of the slave-power, or to fix its bounds at least. The task 
done, he might be content to let his sons pay for the pilotage; and 
it mattered little ta his success whether they paid it with their 
lives wasted on battle-fields or in misdirected energies and lost 
opportunity. The generation that lived from 1840 to 1870 could 
do very well with the old forms of education; that which had its 
work to do between 1870 and 1900 needed something quite new. 

His father's character was therefore the larger part of his educa- 
tion, as far as any single person affected it, and for that reason, if 
for no other, the son was always a much interested critic of his 
father's mind and temper. Long after his death as an old man of 
eighty, his sons continued to discuss this subject with a good 
deal of difference in their points of view. To his son Henry, the 
quality that distinguished his father from all the other figures 
in the family group, was that, in his opinion, Charles Francis 



BOSTON 27 

Adams possessed the only perfectly balanced mind that ever 
existed in the^name. For a hundred years, every newspaper 
scfiBBlerTTad, with more or less obvious excuse, derided or abused 
the older Adamses for want of judgment. They abused Charles 
Francis for his judgment. Naturally they never attempted to 
assign values to either; that was the children's affair; but the 
traits were real. Charles Francis Adams was singular for men- 
tal poise absence of self-assertion or self-consciousness the 
faculty of standing apart without seeming aware that he was 
alone a balance of mind and temper that neither challenged 
nor avoided notice, nor admitted question of superiority or in- 
feriority, of jealousy, of personal motives, from any source, even 
under great pressure. This unusual poise of judgment and temper, 
ripened by age, became the more striking to his son Henry as he 
learned to measure the mental faculties themselves, which were 
in no way exceptional either for depth or range. Charles Francis 
Adams's memory was hardly above the average; his mind was not 
bold like his grandfather's or restless like his father's, or imagina- 
tive or oratorical still less mathematical; but it worked with 
singular perfection, admirable self-restraint, and instinctive mas- 
tery of form. Within its range it was a model. 

The standards of Boston were high, much affected by the 
old clerical self-respect which gave the Unitarian clergy unusual 
social charm. Dr. Channing, Mr. Everett, Dr. Frothingham, 
Dr. Palfrey, President Walker, R. W. Emerson, and other Bos- 
ton ministers of the same school, would have commanded dis- 
tinction in any society; but the Adamses had little or no affinity 
with the pulpit, and still less with its eccentric offshoots, like 
Theodore Parker, or Brook Farm, or the philosophy of Concord. 
Besides its clergy, Boston showed a literary group, led by Tick- 
nor, Prescott, Longfellow, Motley, O. W. Holmes; but Mr. 
Adams was not one of them; as a rule they were much too Web- 
sterian. Even in science Boston could claim a certain eminence, 
especially in medicine, but Mr. Adams cared very little for science. 



28 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

He stood alone. He had no master hardly even his father. He 
had no scholars hardly even his sons. 

Almost alone among his Boston contemporaries, he was not 
English in feeling or in sympathies. Perhaps a hundred years of 
acute hostility to England had something to do with this family 
trait; but in his case it went further and became indifference to 
social distinction. Never once in forty years of intimacy did his 
son notice in him a trace of snobbishness. He was one of the 
exceedingly small number of Americans to whom an English duke 
or duchess seemed to be indifferent, and royalty itself nothing 
more than a slightly inconvenient presence. This was, it is true, 
rather the tone of English society in his time, but Americans were 
largely responsible for changing it, and Mr. Adams had every 
possible reason for affecting the manner of a courtier even if he 
did not feel the sentiment. Never did his son see him flatter or 
vilify, or show a sign of envy or jealousy; never a shade of vanity 
or self-conceit. Never a tone of arrogance! Never a gesture of 
pride ! 

The same thing might perhaps have been said of John Quincy 
Adams, but in him his associates averred that it was accompanied 
by mental restlessness and often by lamentable want of judgment. 
No one ever charged Charles Francis Adams with this fault. The 
critics charged him with just the opposite defect. They called him 
cold. No doubt, such perfect poise such intuitive self-adjust- 
ment was not maintained by nature without a sacrifice of the 
qualities which would have upset it. No doubt, too, that even 
his restless-minded, introspective, self-conscious children who 
knew him best were much too ignorant of the world and of human 
nature to suspect how rare and complete was the model before 
their eyes. A coarser instrument would have impressed them more. 
Average human nature is very coarse, and its ideals must neces- 
sarily be average. The world never loved perfect poise. _ What 
the world does love is commonly absence of poise, for it has to be 
amused. Napoleons and Andrew Jacksons amuse it, but it is not 



BOSTON 29 

amused by perfect balance. Had Mr. Adams's nature been cold, 
he would have followed Mr. Webster, Mr. Everett, Mr. Seward, 
and Mr. Winthrop in the lines of party discipline and self-interest. 
Had it been less balanced than it was, he would have gone with 
Mr. Garrison, Mr. Wendell Phillips, Mr. Edmund Quincy, and 
Theodore Parker, into secession. Between the two paths he found 
an intermediate one, distinctive and characteristic he set up 
a party of his own. 

This political party became a chief influence in the education 
of the boy Henry in the six years 1848 to 1854, and violently 
affected his character v at the moment when character is plastic. 
The group of men with whom Mr. Adams associated himself, and 
whose social centre was the house in Mount Vernon Street, num- 
bered only three: Dr. John G. Palfrey, Richard H. Dana, and 
Charles Sumner. Dr. Palfrey was the oldest, and in spite of his 
clerical education, was to a boy often the most agreeable, for his 
talk was lighter and his range wider than that of the others; he 
had wit, or humor, and the give-and-take of dinner-table exchange. 
Born to be a man of the world, he forced himself to be clergyman, 
professor, or statesman, while, like every other true Bostonian, 
he yearned for the ease of the Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall or the 
Combination Room at Trinity. Dana at first suggested the oppo- 
site; he affected to be still before the mast, a direct, rather bluff, 
vigorous seaman, and only as one got to know him better one 
found the man of rather excessive refinement trying with success 
to work like a day-laborer, deliberately hardening his skin to the 
burden, as though he were still carrying hides at Monterey. Un- 
doubtedly he succeeded, for his mind and will were robust, but 
he might have said what his lifelong friend William M. Evarts 
used to say: "I pride myself on my success in doing not the things 
I like to do, but the things I don't like to do." Dana's ideal of 
life was to be a great Englishman, with a seat on the front benches 
of the House of Commons until he should be promoted to the 
woolsack; beyond all, with a social status that should place him 



30 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

above the scuffle of provincial and unprofessional annoyances; but 
he forced himself to take life as it came, and he suffocated his 
longings with grim self-discipline, by mere force of will. Of the 
four men, Dana was the most marked. Without dogmatism or 
self-assertion, he seemed always to be fully in sight, a figure that 
completely filled a well-defined space. He, too, talked well, and 
his mind worked close to its subject, as a lawyer's should; but 
disguise and silence it as he liked, it was aristocratic to the tenth 
generation. 

In that respect, and in that only, Charles Sumner was like 
him, but Sumner, in almost every other quality, was quite dif- 
ferent from his three associates altogether out of line. He, too, 
adored English standards, but his ambition led him to rival the 
career of Edmund Burke. No young Bostonian of his time had 
made so brilliant a start, but rather in the steps of Edward Ever- 
ett than of Daniel Webster. As an orator he had achieved a 
triumph by his oration against war; but Boston admired him 
chiefly for his social success in England and on the Continent; 
success that gave to every Bostonian who enjoyed it a halo never 
acquired by domestic sanctity. Mr. Sumner, both by interest and 
instinct, felt the value of his English connection, and cultivated 
it the more as he became socially an outcast from Boston society 
by the passions of politics. He was rarely without a pocket-full 
of letters from duchesses or noblemen in England. Having sac- 
rificed to principle his social position in America, he clung the 
more closely to his foreign attachments. The Free Soil Party 
fared ill in Beacon Street. The social arbiters of Boston George 
Ticknor and the rest had to admit, however unwillingly, that 
the Free Soil leaders could not mingle with the friends and fol- 
lowers of Mr. Webster. Sumner was socially ostracized, and so, 
for that matter, were Palfrey, Dana, Russell, Adams, and all the 
other avowed anti-slavery leaders, but for them it mattered less, 
because they had houses and families of their own ; while Sumner 
had neither wife nor household, and, though the most socially 



BOSTON 3 1 

ambitious of all, and the most hungry for what used to be called 
polite society, he could enter hardly half-a-dozen houses in Bos- 
ton. Longfellow stood by him in Cambridge, and even in Beacon 
Street he could always take refuge in the house of Mr. Lodge, but 
few days passed when he did not pass some time in Mount Ver- 
non Street. Even with that, his solitude was glacial, and reacted 
on his character. He had nothing but himself to think about. 
His superiority was, indeed, real and incontestable; he was the 
classical ornament of the anti-slavery party; their pride in him 
was unbounded, and their admiration outspoken. 

The boy Henry worshipped him, and if he ever regarded any 
older man as a personal friend, it was Mr. Sumner. The relation 
of Mr. Sumner in the household was far closer than any relation 
of blood. None of the uncles approached such intimacy. Sum- 
ner was the boy's ideal of greatness; the highest product of na- 
ture and art. The only fault of such a model was its superiority 
which defied imitation. To the twelve-year-old boy, his father, 
Dr. Palfrey, Mr. Dana, were men, more or less like what he him- 
self might become; but Mr. Sumner was a different order 
heroic. 

As the boy grew up to be ten or twelve years old, his father gave 
him a writing-table in one of the alcoves of his Boston library, 
and there, winter after winter, Henry worked over his Latin 
Grammar and listened to these four gentlemen discussing the 
course of anti-slavery politics. The discussions were always seri- 
ous; the Free Soil Party took itself quite seriously; and they were 
habitual because Mr. Adams had undertaken to edit a news- 
paper as the organ of these gentlemen, who came to discuss its 
policy and expression. At the same time Mr. Adams was edit- 
ing the " Works " of his grandfather John Adams, and made the 
boy read texts for proof-correction. In after years his father 
sometimes complained that, as a reader of Novanglus and Massa- 
chusettensis, Henry had shown very little consciousness of punc- 
tuation; but the boy regarded this part of school life only as a 



32 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

warning, if he ever grew up to write dull discussions in the news- 
papers, to try to be dull in some different way from that of his 
great-grandfather. Yet the discussions in the Boston Whig were 
carried on in much the same style as those of John Adams and 
his opponent, and appealed to much the same society and the 
same habit of mind. The boy got as little education, fitting him 
for his own time, from the one as from the other, and he got no 
more from his contact with the gentlemen themselves who were 
all types of the past. 

Down to 1850, and even later, New England society was still 
directed by the professions. Lawyers, physicians, professors, 
merchants were classes, and acted not as individuals, but as 
though they were clergymen and each profession were a church. 
In politics the system required competent expression; it was the 
old Ciceronian idea of government by the best that produced the 
long line of New England statesmen. They chose men to repre- 
sent them because they wanted to be well represented, and they 
chose the best they had. Thus Boston chose Daniel Webster, and 
Webster took, not as pay, but as honorarium, the cheques raised 
for him by Peter Harvey from the Appletons, Perkinses, Amorys, 
Searses, Brookses, Lawrences, and so on, who begged him to 
represent them. Edward Everett held the rank in regular suc- 
cession to Webster. Robert C. Winthrop claimed succession to 
Everett. Charles Sumner aspired to break the succession, but 
not the system. The Adamses had never been, for any length of 
time, a part of this State succession; they had preferred the 
national service, and had won all their distinction outside the 
State, but they too had required State support and had com- 
monly received it. The little group of men in Mount Vernon 
Street were an offshoot of this system; they were statesmen, not 
politicians; they guided public opinion, but were little guided by 
it. 

The boy naturally learned only one lesson from his saturation 
in such air. He took for granted that this sort of world, more or 



BOSTON 3 3 

less the same that had always existed in Boston and Massachu- 
setts Bay, was the world which he was to fit. Had he known 
Europe he would have learned no better. The Paris of Louis Phi- 
lippe, Guizot, and de Tocqueville, as well as the London of Rob- 
ert Peel, Macaulay, and John Stuart Mill, were but varieties of 
the same upper-class bourgeoisie that felt instinctive cousinship 
with the Boston of Ticknor, Prescott, and Motley. Even the 
typical grumbler Carlyle, who cast doubts on the real capacity 
of the middle class, and who at times thought himself eccentric, 
found friendship and alliances in Boston still more in Con- 
cord. The system had proved so successful that even Germany 
wanted to try it, and Italy yearned for it. England's middle-class 
government was the ideal of human progress. 

Even the violent reaction after 1848, and the return of all 
Europe to military practices, never for a moment shook the true 
faith. No one, except Karl Marx, foresaw radical change. What 
announced it? The world was producing sixty or seventy mil- 
lion tons of coal, and might be using nearly a million steam-horse- 
power, just beginning to make itself felt. All experience since the 
creation of man, all divine revelation or human science, con- 
spired to deceive and betray a twelve-year-old boy who took for 
granted that his ideas, which were alone respectable, would be 
alone respected. 

Viewed from Mount Vernon Street, the problem of life was as 
simple as it was classic. Politics offered no difficulties, for there 
the moral law was a sure guide. Social perfection was also sure, 
because human nature worked for Good, and three instruments 
were all she asked Suffrage, Common Schools, and Press. On 
these points doubt was forbidden. Education was divine, and 
man needed only a correct knowledge of facts to reach perfection: 

" Were half the power that fills the world with terror, 

Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts, 
Given to redeem the human mind from error, 
There were no need of arsenals nor forts." 



34 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Nothing quieted doubt so completely as the mental calm of the 
Unitarian clergy. In uniform excellence of life and character, 
moral and intellectual, the score of Unitarian clergymen about 
Boston, who controlled society and Harvard College, were never 
excelled. They proclaimed as their merit that they insisted on 
no doctrine, but taught, or tried to teach, the means of leading 
a yirtuous^useful, unselfish lif^ to be sufficient 

for salvation. For them, difficulties might be ignored; doubts 
were waste of thought; nothing exacted solution. Boston had 
solved the universe; or had offered and realized the best solution 
yet tried. The problem was worked out. 

Of all the conditions of his youth which afterwards puzzled 
the grown-up man, this disappearance of religion puzzled him 
most. The boy went to church twice every Sunday; he was taught 
to read his Bible, and he learned religious poetry by heart; he 
believed in a mild deism; he prayed; he went through all the 
forms; but neither to him nor to his brothers or sisters was reli- 
gion real. Even the mild discipline of the Unitarian Church was 
so irksome that they all threw it off at the first possible moment, 
and never afterwards entered a church. The religious instinct 
had vanished, and could not be revived, although one made in 
later life many efforts to recover it. That the most powerful 
emotion of man, next to the sexual, should disappear, might 
be a personal defect of his own; but that the most intelligent 
society, led by the most intelligent clergy, in the most moral con- 
ditions he ever knew, should have solved all the problems of the 
universe so thoroughly as to have quite ceased making itself 
anxious about past or future, and should have persuaded itself 
that all the problems which had convulsed human thought from 
earliest recorded time, were not worth discussing, seemed to 
him the most curious social phenomenon he had to account for 
in a long life. The faculty of turning away one's eyes as ..one 
approaches a chasm is not unusual, and Boston showed, under 
the lead of Mr. Webster, how successfully it could be done in 



BOSTON 35 

politics; but in politics a certain number of men did at least pro- 
test. In religion and philosophy no .Oil^prptested.^ Such protest 
as was made took forms more simple than the silence, like the 
deism of Theodore Parker, and of the boy's own cousin Octavius 
Frothingham, who distressed his father and scandalized Beacon 
Street by avowing scepticism that seemed to solve no old prob- 
lems, and to raise many new ones. The less aggressive protest of 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, was, from an old-world point of view, 
less serious. It was naif. 

The children reached manhood without knowing religion, and 
with the certainty that dogma, metaphysics, and abstract phil- 
osophy were not worth knowing. So one-sided an education could 
Eaveeen possible in no other country or time, but it became, 
almost of necessity, the more literary and political. As the chil- 
dren grew up, they exaggerated the literary and the political 
interests. They joined in the dinner-table discussions and from 
childhood the boys were accustomed to hear, almost every day, 
table-talk as good as they were ever likely to hear again. The 
eldest child, Louisa, was one of the most sparkling creatures her 
brother met in a long and varied experience of bright women. 
The oldest son, John, was afterwards regarded as one of the best 
talkers in Boston society, and perhaps the most popular man in 
the State, though apt to be on the unpopular side. Palfrey and 
Dana could be entertaining when they pleased, and though 
Charles Sumner could hardly be called light in hand, he was will- 
ing to be amused, and smiled grandly from time to time; while 
Mr. Adams, who talked relatively little, was always a good lis- 
tener, and laughed over a witticism till he choked. 

By way of educating and amusing the children, Mr. Adams 
read much aloud, and was sure to read political literature, espe- 
cially when it was satirical, like the speeches of Horace Mann and 
the "Epistles" of "Hosea Biglow," with great delight to the 
youth. So he read Longfellow and Tennyson as their poems ap- 
peared, but the children took possession of Dickens and Thackeray 



36 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

for themselves. Both were too modern for tastes founded on 
Pope and Dr. Johnson. The boy Henry soon became a desultory 
reader of every book he found readable, but these were commonly 
eighteenth-century historians because his father's library was full 
of them. In the want of positive instincts, he drifted into the 
mentaHndolence of history. So, too, he read shelves of eighteenth- 
century poetry, but when his father offered his own set of Words- 
worth as a gift on condition of reading it through, he declined. 
Pope and Gray called for no mental effort; they were easy read- 
ing; but the boy was thirty years old before his education reached 
Wordsworth. 

This is the story of an education, and the person or persons who 
figure in it are supposed to have values only as educators or edu- 
cated. The surroundings concern it only so far as they affect 
education. Sumncr, Dana, Palfrey, had values of their own, like 
Hume, Pope, and Wordsworth, which any one may study in their 
works; here all appear only as influences on the mind of a boy very 
nearly the average of most boys in physical and mental stature. 
The influence was wholly political and literary. His father made 
no effort to force his mind, but left him free play, and this was 
perhaps best. Only in one way his father rendered him a great 
service by trying to teach him French and giving him some idea 
of a French accent. Otherwise the family was rather an atmos- 
phere than an influence. The boy had a large and overpowering 
set of brothers and sisters, who were modes or replicas of the 
same type, getting the same education, struggling with the same 
problems, and solving the question, or leaving it unsolved much 
in the same way. They knew no more than he what they wanted 
or what to do for it, but all were conscious that they would like 
;to control power in some form; and the same thing could be said 
of an ant or an elephant. Their form was tied to politics or liter- 
ature. They amounted to one individual with half-a-dozen sides 
or facets; their temperaments reacted on each other and made 
each child more like the other. This was also education, but in the 



BOSTON 37 

type, and the Boston or New England type was well enough known. 
What no one knew was whether the individual who thought himself 
a representative of this type, was fit to deal with life. 

As far as outward bearing went, such a family of turbulent chil- 
dren, given free rein by their parents, or indifferent to check, 
should have come to more or less grief. Certainly no one was strong 
enough to control them, least of all their mother, the queen-bee 
of the hive, on whom nine-tenths of the burden fell, on whose 
strength they all depended, but whose children were much too 
self-willed and self-confident to take guidance from her, or from 
any one else, unless in the direction they fancied. Father and 
mother were about equally helpless. Almost every large family 
in those days produced at least one black sheep, and if this genera- 
tion of Adamses escaped, it was as much a matter of surprise to 
them as to their neighbors. By some happy chance they grew up 
to be decent citizens, but Henry Adams, as a brand escaped from 
the burning, always looked back with astonishment at their luck. 
The fact seemed to prove that they were born, like birds, with a 
certain innate balance. Home influences alone never saved the 
New England boy from ruin, though sometimes they may have 
helped to ruin him ; and the influences outside of home were nega- 
tive. If school helped, it was only by reaction. The dislike of 
school was so strong as to be a positive gain. The passionate hatred 
of school methods was almost a method in itself. Yet the day- 
school of that time was respectable, and the boy had nothing to 
complain of. In fact, he never complained. He hated it because 
he was here with a crowd of other boys and compelled to learn 
by memory a quantity of things that did not amuse him. His 
memory was slow, and the effort painful. For him to conceive that 
his memory could compete for school prizes with machines of 
two or three times its power, was to prove himself wanting not 
only in memory, but flagrantly in mind. He thought his mind a 
good enough machine, if it were given time to act, but it acted 
wrong if hurried. Schoolmasters never gave time. 



38 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

In any and all its forms, the boy detested school, and the pre- 
judice became deeper with years. He always reckoned his school- 
days, from ten to sixteen years old, as time thrown away. Per- 
haps his needs turned out to be exceptional, but his existence was 
exceptional. Between 1850 and 1900 nearly every one's existence 
was exceptional. For success in the life imposed on him he needed, 
as afterwards appeared, the facile use of only four tools : Mathe- 
matics, French, German, and Spanish. With these, he could 
master in very short time any special branch of inquiry, and feel 
at home in any society. Latin and Greek, he could, with the help 
of the modern languages, learn more completely by the intelligent 
work of six weeks than in the six years he spent on them at school. 
These four tools were necessary to his success in life, but he never 
controlled any one of them. 

Thus, at the outset, he was condemned to failure more or less 
complete in the life awaiting him, but not more so than his com- 
panions. Indeed, had his father kept the boy at home, and given 
him half an hour's direction every day, he would have done more 
for him than school ever could do for them. Of course, school- 
taught men and boys looked down on home-bred boys, and rather 
prided themselves on their own ignorance, but the man of sixty 
can generally see what he needed in life, and in Henry Adams's 
opinion it was not school. 

Most school experience was bad. Boy associations at fifteen 
were worse than none. Boston at that time offered few healthy 
resources for boys or men. The bar-room and billiard-room were 
more familiar than parents knew. As a rule boys could skate and 
swim and were sent to dancing-school ; they played a rudimentary 
game of baseball, football, and hockey; a few could sail a boat; 
still fewer had been out with a gun to shoot yellow-legs or a stray 
wild duck; one or two may have learned something of natural his- 
tory if they came from the neighborhood of Concord; none could 
ride across country, or knew what shooting with dogs meant. 
Sport as a pursuit was unknown. Boat-racing came after 1850. 



BOSTON 39 

For horse-racing, only the trotting-course existed. Of all pleasures, 
winter sleighing was still the gayest and most popular. From none 
of these amusements could the boy learn anything likely to be of 
use to him in the world. Books remained as in the eighteenth, 
century, the source of life, and as they came out Thackeray,, 
Dickens, Bulwer, Tennyson, Macaulay, Carlyle, and the rest 
they were devoured; but as far as happiness went, the happiest 
hours of the boy's education were passed in summer lying on a 
musty heap of Congressional Documents in the old farmhouse 
at Quincy, reading "Quentin Durward," "Ivanhoe," and " The 
Talisman," and raiding the garden at intervals for peaches ^ 
pears. On the whole he learned most then. 



CHAPTER III 

WASHINGTON (1850-1854) 

EXCEPT for politics, Mount Vernon Street had the merit 
of leaving the boy-mind supple, free to turn with the 
world, and if one learned next to nothing, the little one 
iid learn needed not to be unlearned. The surface was ready 
to take any form that education should cut into it, though Boston, 
with singular foresight, rejected the old designs. What sort of 
education was stamped elsewhere, a Bostonian had no idea, but 
hie escaped the evils of other standards by having no standard at 
all; and what was true of school was true of society. Boston offered 
none that could help outside. Every one now smiles at the bad 
taste of Queen Victoria and Louis Philippe the society of the 
forties but the taste was only a reflection of the social slack- 
water between a tide passed, and a tide to come. Boston belonged 
to neither, and hardly even to America. Neither aristocratic 
nor industrial nor social, Boston girls and boys were not nearly 
as unformed as English boys and girls, but had less means of 
acquiring form as they grew older. Women counted for little as 
models. Every boy, from the age of seven, fell in love at frequent 
intervals with some girl always more or less the same little 
girl who had nothing to teach him, or he to teach her, except 
rather familiar and provincial manners, until they married and 
bore children to repeat the habit. The idea of attaching one's 
self to a married woman, or of polishing one's manners to suit the 
standards of women of thirty, could hardly have entered the mind 
of a young Bostonian, and would have scandalized his parents. 
From women the boy got the domestic virtues and nothing else. 
He might not even catch the idea that women had more to give. 
The garden of Eden was hardly more primitive. 
To balance this virtue, the Puritan city had always hidden a 



WASHINGTON 41 



darker side. Blackguard Boston was only too educational, and to 
most boys much the more interesting. A successful blackguard 
must enjoy great physical advantages besides a true vocation, and 
Henry Adams had neither; but no boy escaped some contact with 
vice of a very low form. Blackguardism came constantly under 
boys' eyes, and had the charm of force and freedom and superi- 
ority to culture or decency. One might fear it, but no one honestly 
despised it. Now and then it asserted itself as education more 
roughly than school ever did. One of the commonest boy-games 
of winter, inherited directly from the eighteenth-century, was a 
game of war on Boston Common. In old days the two hostile 
forces were called North-Enders and South-Enders. In 1850 the 
North-Enders still survived as a legend, but in practice it was a 
battle of the Latin School against all comers, and the Latin School, 
for snowball, included all the boys of the West End. Whenever, 
on a half-holiday, the weather was soft enough to soften the snow, 
the Common was apt to be the scene of a fight, which began in 
daylight with the Latin School in force, rushing their opponents 
down to Tremont Street, and which generally ended at dark by 
the Latin School dwindling in numbers and disappearing. As the 
Latin School grew weak, the roughs and young blackguards grew 
strong. As long as snowballs were the only weapon, no one was 
much hurt, but a stone may be put in a snowball, and in the dark 
a stick or a slungshot in the hands of a boy is as effective as a 
knife. One afternoon the fight had been long and exhausting. The 
boy Henry, following, as his habit was, his bigger brother Charles, 
had taken part in the battle, and had felt his courage much de- 
pressed by seeing one of his trustiest leaders, Henry Higginson 
"Bully Hig," his school name struck by a stone over the 
eye, and led off the field bleeding in rather a ghastly manner. As 
night came on, the Latin School was steadily forced back to the 
Beacon Street Mall where they could retreat no further without 
disbanding, and by that time only a small band was left, headed 
by two heroes, Savage and Marvin. A dark mass of figures could be 



42 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

seen below, making ready for the last rush, and rumor said that 
a swarm of blackguards from the slums, led by a grisly terror called 
Conky Daniels, with a club and a hideous reputation, was go- 
ing to put an end to the Beacon Street cowards forever. Henry 
wanted to run away with the others, but his brother was too big 
to run away, so they stood still and waited immolation. The dark 
mass set up a shout, and rushed forward. The Beacon Street 
boys turned and fled up the steps, except Savage and Marvin 
and the few champions who would not run. The terrible Conky 
Daniels swaggered up, stopped a moment with his body-guard to 
swear a few oaths at Marvin, and then swept on and chased the 
flyers, leaving the few boys untouched who stood their ground. 
The obvious moral taught that blackguards were not so black as 
they were painted; but the boy Henry had passed through as much 
terror as though he were Turenne or Henri IV, and ten or twelve 
years afterwards when these same boys were fighting and falling 
on all the battle-fields of Virginia and Maryland, he wondered 
whether their education on Boston Common had taught Savage 
and Marvin how to die. 

If violence were a part of complete education, Boston was not 
incomplete. The idea of violence was familiar to the anti-slavery 
leaders as well as to their followers. Most of them suffered from 
it. Mobs were always possible. Henry never happened to be 
actually concerned in a mob, but he, like every other boy, was sure 
to be on hand wherever a mob was expected, and whenever he 
heard Garrison or Wendell Phillips speak, he looked for trouble. 
Wendell Phillips on a platform was a model dangerous for youth. 
Theodore Parker in his pulpit was not much safer. Worst of all, 
the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law in Boston the sight 
of Court Square packed with bayonets, and his own friends obliged 
to line the streets under arms as State militia, in order to return a 
negro to slavery wrought frenzy in the brain of a fifteen-year- 
old, eighteenth-century boy from Quincy, who wanted to miss no 
reasonable chance of mischief. 



WASHINGTON 43 



One lived in the atmosphere of the Stamp Act, the Tea Tax, and 
the Boston Massacre. Within Boston, a boy was first an eight- 
eenth-century politician, and afterwards only a possibility; be- 
yond Boston the first step led only further into politics. After 
February, 1848, but one slight tie remained of all those that, since 
1776, had connected Quincy with the outer world. The Madam 
stayed in Washington, after her husband's death, and in her 
turn was struck by paralysis and bedridden. From time to time 
her son Charles, whose affection and sympathy for his mother in 
her many tribulations were always pronounced, went on to see 
her, and in May, 1850, he took with him his twelve-year-old son. 
The journey was meant as education, and as education it served 
the purpose of fixing in memory the stage of a boy's thought in 
1850. He could not remember taking special interest in the rail- 
road journey or in New York; with railways and cities he was 
familiar enough. His first impression was the novelty of crossing 
New York Bay and finding an English railway carriage on the 
Camden and Amboy Railroad. This was a new world; a sugges- 
tion of corruption in the simple habits of American life; a step to 
exclusiveness never approached in Boston; but it was amusing. 
The boy rather liked it. At Trenton the train set him on board 
a steamer which took him to Philadelphia where he smelt other 
varieties of town life; then again by boat to Chester, and by train 
to Havre de Grace; by boat to Baltimore and thence by rail to 
Washington. This was the journey he remembered. The actual 
journey may have been quite different, but the actual journey has 
no interest for education. The memory was all that mattered; and 
what struck him most, to remain fresh in his mind all his lifetime, 
was the sudden change that came over the world on entering a 
slave State. He took education politically. The mere raggedness 
of outline could not have seemed wholly new, for even Boston had 
its ragged edges, and the town of Quincy was far from being a 
vision of neatness or good-repair; in truth, he had never seen a 
finished landscape; but Maryland was raggedness of a new kind. 



44 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

The railway, about the size and character of a modern tram, 
rambled through unfenced fields and woods, or through village 
streets, among a haphazard variety of pigs, cows, and negro babies, 
who might all have used the cabins for pens and styes, had the 
Southern pig required styes, but who never showed a sign of care. 
This was the boy's impression of what slavery caused, and, for 
him, was all it taught. Coming down in the early morning from 
his bedroom in his grandmother's house still called the Adams 
Building in F Street and venturing outside into the air reek- 
ing with the thick odor of the catalpa trees, he found himself 
on an earth-road, or village street, with wheel-tracks meandering 
from the colonnade of the Treasury hard by, to the white marble 
columns and fronts of the Post Office and Patent Office which 
faced each other in the distance, like white Greek temples in the 
abandoned gravel-pits of a deserted Syrian city. Here and there 
low wooden houses were scattered along the streets, as in other 
Southern villages, but he was chiefly attracted by an unfinished 
square marble shaft, half-a-mile below, and he walked down to 
inspect it before breakfast. His aunt drily remarked that, at this 
rate, he would soon get through all the sights; but she could not 
guess having lived always in Washington how little the 
sights of Washington had to do with its interest. 

The boy could not have told her; he was nowhere near an under- 
standing of himself. The more he was educated, the less he under- 
stood. Slavery struck him in the face; it was a nightmare; a hor- 
j a crime; the sum of all wickedness ! Contact made it only more 
repulsive. He wanted to escape, like the negroes, to free soil. Slave 
States were dirty, unkempt, poverty-stricken, ignorant, vicious! 
He had not a thought but repulsion for it; and yet the picture had 
another side. The May sunshine and shadow had something to 
do with it; the thickness of foliage and the heavy smells had more; 
the sense of atmosphere, almost new, had perhaps as much again; 
and the brooding indolence of a warm climate and a negro popu- 
lation hung in the atmosphere heavier than the catalpas. The 



WASHINGTON 45 



impression was not simple, but the boy liked it: distinctly it re- 
mained on his mind as an attraction, almost obscuring Quincy 
itself. The want of barriers, of pavements, of forms; the loose- 
ness, the laziness; the indolent Southern drawl; the pigs in the 
streets; the negro babies and their mothers with bandanas; the 
freedom, openness, swagger, of nature and man, soothed his 
Johnson blood. Most boys would have felt it in the same way, 
but with him the feeling caught on to an inheritance. The soft- 
ness of his gentle old grandmother as she lay in bed and chatted 
with him, did not come from Boston. His aunt was anything 
rather than Bostonian. He did not wholly come from Boston 
himself... Though Washington belonged to a different world, and 
the two worlds could not live together, he was not sure that he 
enjoyed the Boston world most. Even at twelve years old he could 
see his own nature no more clearly than he would at twelve hun- 
dred, if by accident he should happen to live so long. 

His father took him to the Capitol and on the floor of the Sen- 
ate, which then, and long afterwards, until the era of tourists, 
was freely open to visitors. The old Senate Chamber resembled 
a pleasant political club. Standing behind the Vice-President's 
chair, which is now the Chief Justice's, the boy was presented to 
some of the men whose names were great in their day, and as 
familiar to him as his own. Clay and Webster and Calhoun were 
there still, but with them a Free Soil candidate for the Vice-Presi- 
dency had little to do; what struck boys most was their type. 
Senators were a species; they all wore an air, as they wore a blue 
dress coat or brass buttons; they were Roman. The type of 
Senator in 1850 was rather charming at its best, and the Senate, 
when in good temper, was an agreeable body, numbering only 
some sixty members, and affecting the airs of courtesy. Its vice 
was not so jnuch a vice of manners or temper as of attitude. The 
statesman of all periods was apt to be pompous, but even pom- 
posity was less offensive than familiarity on the platform as 
in the pulpit and Southern pomposity, when not arrogant, was 



46 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

genial and sympathetic, almost quaint and childlike in its simple- 
mindedness; quite a different thing from the Websterian or Conk- 
linian pomposity of the North. The boy felt at ease there, more 
at home than he had ever felt in Boston State House, though his 
acquaintance with the codfish in the House of Representatives 
went back beyond distinct recollection. Senators spoke kindly 
to him, and seemed to feel so, for they had known his family so- 
cially; and, in spite of slavery, even J. Q. Adams in his later years, 
after he ceased to stand in the way of rivals, had few personal 
enemies. Decidedly the Senate, pro-slavery though it were, 
seemed a friendly world. 

This first step in national politics was a little like the walk be- 
fore breakfast; an easy, careless, genial, enlarging stride into a 
fresh and amusing world, where nothing was finished, but where 
even the weeds grew rank. The second step was like the first, 
except that it led to the White House. He was taken to see Presi- 
dent Taylor. Outside, in a paddock in front, "Old Whitey," the 
President's charger, was grazing, as they entered; and inside, the 
President was receiving callers as simply as if he were in the pad- 
dock too. The President was friendly, and the boy felt no sense of 
strangeness that he could ever recall. In fact, what strangeness 
should he feel? The families were intimate; so intimate that their 
friendliness outlived generations, civil war, and all sorts of rupture. 
President Taylor owed his election to Martin Van Buren and the 
Free Soil Party. To him, the Adamses might still be of use. As 
for the White House, all the boy's family had lived there, and, 
barring the eight years of Andrew Jackson's reign, had been more 
or less at home there ever since it was built. The boy half thought 
he owned it, and took for granted that he should some day live in 
it. He felt no sensation whatever before Presidents. A President 
was a matter of course in every respectable family; he had two 
in his own; three, if he counted old Nathaniel Gorham, who, 
was the oldest and first in distinction. Revolutionary patriots, 
or perhaps a Colonial Governor, might be worth talking about, 



WASHINGTON 47, 



one could be jPrgsident^ and some very ..shady j 
wereTIEeTy to be. Presidents, Senators, Congressmen^ and such 
TKings were swarming in every street. 

^Evtry one thought alike whether they had ancestors or not. 
No sort of glory hedged Presidents as such, and, in the whole 
country, one could hardly have met with an admission of respect 
for any office or name, unless it were George Washington. That 
was to all appearance sincerely respected. People made pil- 
grimages to Mount Vernon and made even an effort to build 
Washington a monument. The effort had failed, but one still 
went to Mount Vernon, although it was no easy trip. Mr. Adams 
took the boy there in a carriage and pair, over a road that gave 
him a complete Virginia education for use ten years afterwards. 
Tojthe^New England i^d, oads, ^schools, clothes, and a clean 
facejwere connected as part of the law of order or Bi^ne^system. 
Bad roads meant bad morals. The moral of this Virginia road was 
clear, and the boy fully learned it. Slavery was wicked, and 
slavery was the cause of this road's badness which amounted to 
social crime and yet, at the end of the road and product of 
the crime stood Mount Vernon and George Washington. 

t contradictions as readily as their elders do, 



^ 

or this boy might have become prematurely wise. He had only to 
repeat what he was told that George Washington stood alone. 
Otherwise this third step in his Washington education would have 
been his last. On that line, the problem of progress was not 
soluble, whatever the optimists and orators might say or, for 
that matter, whatever they might think. George Washington 
could not be reached on Boston lines. George Washington was a 
primary, or, if Virginians liked it better, an ultimate relation, like 
the Pole Star, and amid the endless restless motion of every other 
visible point in space, he alone remained steady, in the mind of 
Henry Adams, to the end. All the other points shifted their 
bearings; John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, even John 
Marshall, took varied lights, and assumed new relations, but 



48 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 



Mount Vernqn always remained Hhsr^Jl was, with no pr^dicable 
road to reach it; and yet, when he got there, Mount Vernon was 
only Quincy 111^ a Southern setting. No doubt it was much more 
charming, but it was the same eighteenth-century, the same old 
furniture, the same old patriot, and the same old President. 

The boy took to it instinctively. The broad Potomac and the 
coons in the trees, the bandanas and the box-hedges, the bedrooms 
upstairs and the porch outside, even Martha Washington herself 
in memory, were as natural as the tides and the May sunshine; 
he had only enlarged his horizon a little; but he never thought to 
ask himself or his father how to deal with the moral problem that 
deduced George Washington from the sum of all wickedness. In 
practice, such trifles as contradictions in principle are easily set 
aside; the faculty of ignoring them makes the practical man; but 
any attempt to deal with them seriously as education is fatal. 
Luckily Charles Francis Adams never preached and was singu- 
larly free from cant. He may have had views of his own, but he 
let his son Henry satisfy himself with the simple elementary fact 
that George Washington stood alone. 

Life was not yet complicated. Every problem had a solution, 
even the negro. The boy went back to Boston more political than 
ever, and his politics were no longer so modern as the eighteenth 
century, but took a strong tone of the seventeenth. Slavery 
drove the whole Puritan community back on its Puritanism. The 
boy thought as dogmatically as though he were one of his own 
ancestors. The Slave ppwer took the -place _of Stuart kings and 
Roman popes. Education could go no further in that course, and 
ran off into emotion; but, as the boy gradually found his surround- 
ings change, and felt himself no longer an isolated atom in a hostile 
universe, but a sort of herring-fry in a shoal of moving fish, he 
began to learn the first and easier lessons of practical politics. 
Thus far he had seen nothing but eighteenth-century statesman- 
ship. America and he began, at the same time, to become aware^ 
of a new force under the innocent surface of party machinery. 



WASHINGTON 49, 



Even at that early moment, a rather slow boy felt dimly conscious 
that he might meet some personal difficulties in trying to reconcile 
sixteenth-century principles and eighteenth-century statesmanship 
with late nineteenth-century party organization. The first vague 
sense of feeling an unknown living obstacle in the dark came in 
1851. 

The Free Soil conclave in Mount Vernon Street belonged, as 
already said, to the statesman class, and, like Daniel Webster, 
had nothing to do with machinery. Websters or Sewards depended 
on others for machine work and money on Peter Harveys and 
Thurlow Weeds, who spent their lives in it, took most of the abuse, 
and asked no reward. Almost without knowing it, the subordin- 
ates ousted their employers and created a machine which no one 
but themselves could run. In 1850 things had not quite reached 
that point. The men who ran the small Free Soil machine were 
still modest, though they became famous enough in their own 
right, Henry Wilson, John B. Alley, Anson Burlingame, and the 
other managers, negotiated a bargain with the Massachusetts 
Democrats giving the State to the Democrats and a seat in the 
Senate to the Free Soilers. With this bargain Mr. Adams and his 
statesman friends would have nothing to do, for such a coalition 
was in their eyes much like jockeys selling a race. They did not 
care to take office as pay for votes sold to pro-slavery Democrats. 
Theirs was a correct, not to say noble, position; but, as a matter 
of fact, they took the benefit of the sale, for the coalition chose 
Charles Sumner as its candidate for the Senate, while George S. 
Boutwell was made Governor for the Democrats. This was the 
boy's first lesson in practical politics, and a sharp one; not that 
he troubled himself with moral doubts, but^ that he learned the 
nature of a flagrantly corrupt political bargain IrTwKicIT he was 
too good[ tp^ take part, ; but not too good to7M^IPIS^ " ^ ar ^ es 
Sumner happened to "Be the partner to receive these stolen goods, 
but between his friend and his father the boy felt no distinction, 
and, for him, there was none. He entered into no casuistry on the 



50 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

matter. His friend was right because his friend, and the boy 
shared the glory. The question of education did not rise while the 
conflict lasted. Yet every one saw as clearly then as afterwards 
that a lesson of some sort must be learned and understood, once 
for all The boy might ignore, as a mere historical puzzle, the 
question how to deduce George Washington from the sum of all 
wickedness, but he had himself helped to deduce Charles Sumner 
from the sum of political corruption. On that line, too, education 
could go no further. Tammany Hall stood at the end of the vista. 

Mr. Alley, one of the strictest of moralists, held that his object 
in making the bargain was to convert the Democratic Party to 
anti-slavery principles, and that he did it. Henry Adams could 
rise to no such moral elevation. He was only a boy, and his object 
in supporting the coalition was that of making his friend a Sen- 
ator. It was as personal as though he had helped to make his friend 
a millionaire. He could never find a way of escaping immoral 
conclusions, except by admitting that he and his father and 
Sumner were wrong, and this he was never willing to do, for the 
consequences of this admission were worse than those of the other. 
Thus, before he was fifteen years old, he had managed to get him- 
self into a state of moral confusion from which he never escaped. 
As a politician, he was already corrupt, and he never could see 
how any practical politician could be less corrupt than himself. 

Apology, as he understood himself, was cant or cowardice. At 
the time he never even dreamed that he needed to apologize, 
though the press shouted it at him from every corner, and though 
the Mount Vernon Street conclave agreed with the press; yet 
he could not plead ignorance, and even in the heat of the conflict, 
he never cared to defend the coalition. Boy as he was, he knew 
enough to know that something was wrong, but his only interest 
was the election. Day after day, the General Court balloted; 
and the boy haunted the gallery, following the roll-call, and won- 
dered what Caleb Gushing meant by calling Mr. Sumner a "one- 
eyed abolitionist." Truly the difference in meaning with the phrase 



WASHINGTON 5 1 



" one-ideaed^ _abolirionist," which was Mr. Cushing's actual ex- 
pression, is riot very great, but neither the one nor the other seemed 
to describe Mr. Sumner to the boy, who never could have made 
the error of classing Garrison and Sumner together, or mistaking 
Caleb Cushing's relation to either. Temper ran high at that 
moment, while Sumner every day missed his election by only one 
or two votes. At last, April 24, 1851, standing among the silent 
crowd in the gallery, Henry heard the vote announced which gave 
Sumner the needed number. Slipping under the arms of the by- 
standers, he ran home as hard as he could, and burst into the dining- 
room where Mr. Sumner was seated at table with the family. He 
enjoyed the glory of telling Sumner that he was elected; it was 
probably the proudest moment in the life of either. 

The next day, when the boy went to school, he noticed numbers 
of boys and men in the streets wearing black crape on their arm. 
He knew few Free Soil boys in Boston; his acquaintances were 
what he called pro-slavery; so he thought proper to tie a bit of 
white silk ribbon round his own arm by way of showing that his 
friend Mr. Sumner was not wholly alone. This little piece of 
bravado passed unnoticed; no one even cuffed his ears; but in 
later life he was a little puzzled to decide which symbol was the 
more correct. No one then dreamed of four years' war, but every 
one dreamed of secession. The symbol for either might well be 
matter of doubt. 

This triumph of the Mount Vernon Street conclave capped the 
political climax. The boy, like a million other American boys, was 
a politician, and what was worse, fit as yet to be nothing else. 
He should have been, like his grandfather, a protege of George 
Washington, a statesman designated by destiny, with nothing 
to do but look directly ahead, follow orders, and march. On the 
contrary, he was not even a Bostonian; he felt himself shut out 
of Boston as though he were an exile; he never thought of himself 
as a Bostonian; he never looked about him in Boston, as boys 
commonly do wherever they are, to select the street they like best, 



52 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

the house they want to live in, the^rcfess]on they mean to prac- 
tise. t41w&ys Jhe felt himself somewhere else} perhaps in Washing- 
ton with its social ease; perhaps in Europe; and he watched with 
vague unrest from the Quincy hills the smoke of the Cunard 
steamers stretching in a long line to the horizon, and disappearing 
every other Saturday or whatever the day might be, as though the 
steamers were offering to take him away, which was precisely what 
they were doing. 

Had these ideas been unreasonable, influences enough were at 
hand to correct them; but the point of the whole story, when 
Henry Adams came to look back on it, seemed to be that the ideas 
were more than reasonable; they were the logical, necessary, mathe- 
matical result of conditions old as history and fixed as fate 
invariable sequence in man's experience. The only idea which 
would have been quite unreasonable scarcely entered his mind. 
This was the thought of going westward and growing up with the 
country. That he was not in the least fitted for going West made 
no objection whatever, since he was much better fitted than most 
of the persons that went. The convincing reason for staying in 
the East was that he had there every advantage over the West. 
He could not go wrong. The West must inevitably pay an enor- 
mous tribute to Boston and New York. One's position in the East 
was the best in the world for every purpose that could offer an 
object for going westward. If ever in history men had been able 
to calculate on a certainty for a lifetime in advance, the citizens 
of the great Eastern seaports could do it in 1850 when their railway 
systems were already laid out. Neither to a politician nor to a 
business-man nor to any of the learned professions did the West 
promise any certain advantage, while it offered uncertainties in 
plenty. 

At any other moment in human history, this education, includ- 
ing its political and literary bias, would have been not only good, 
but quite the best. Society had always welcomed and flattered men 
so endowed. Henry Adams had every reason to be well pleased 



WASHINGTON 5 3 



with it, and not ill-pleased with himself. He had all he wanted. 
He saw no reason for thinking that any one else had more. He 
finished with school, not very brilliantly, but without finding fault 
with the sum of his knowledge. Probably he knew more than his 
father, or his grandfather, or his great-grandfather had known 
at sixteen years old. Only on looking back, fifty years later, at 
his own figure in 1854, and pondering on the needs of the twen- 
tieth century, he wondered whether, on the whole, the boy of 1854 
stood nearer to the thought of 1904, or to that of the year I. He 
found himself unable to give a sure answer. The calculation was 
clouded by the undetermined values of twentieth-century thought, 
but the story will show his reasons for thinking that, in essentials 
like religion, ethics, philosophy; in history, literature, art; in the 
concepts of all science, except perhaps mathematics, the American 
boy of 1854 stood nearer the year I than to the year 1900. The 
education he had received bore little relation to the education he 
needed. Speaking as an American of 1900, he had as yet no edu- 
cation at all. He knew not even where or how to begin. 



CHAPTER IV 

HARVARD COLLEGE (1854-1858) 

ONE day in June, 1854, young Adams walked for the last 
time down the steps of Mr. Dixwell's school in Boylston 
Place, and felt no sensation but one of unqualified joy 
that this experience was ended. Never before or afterwards in 
his life did he close a period so long as four years without some 
sensation of loss some sentiment of habit but school was 
what in after life he commonly heard his friends denounce as 
an intolerable bore. He was born too old for it. The same thing 
could be said of most New England boys. Mentally they never 
were boys. Their education as men should have begun at ten 
years old. They were fully five years more mature than the Eng- 
lish or European boy for whom schools were made. For the pur- 
poses of future advancement, as afterwards appeared, these first 
six years of a possible education were wasted in doing imper- 
fectly what might have been done perfectly in one, and in any 
case would have had small value. The next regular step was 
Harvard College. He was more than glad to go. For generation 
after generation, Adamses and Brookses and Boylstons and Gor- 
hams had gone to Harvard College, and although none of them, 
as far as known, had ever done any good there, or thought him- 
self the better for it, custom, social. ties, convenience^ and, .above 
all, economy, kept each generation in the track. Any other edu- 
cation would have required a serious effort, but no one took Har- 
vard College seriously. All went there because their friends went 
there, and the College was their ideal of social self-respect. 

Harvard College, as far as it educated at all, was a mild and 
liberal school, which sent young men into the world with all they 
needed to make respectable citizens, and something of what they 
wanted to make useful ones. Leaders of men it never tried to 



HARVARD COLLEGE 55 

make. Its ideals were altogether different. The Unitarian clergy 
had given to the College a character of moderation, balance, 
judgment, restraint, what the French called me sure; excellent 
traits, which the College attained with singular success, so that 
its graduates could commonly be recognized by the stamp, but 
such a type of character rarely lent itself to autobiography. In 
effect, the school created a type but not a will. Four years of 
Harvard College, if successful, resulted in an autobiographical 
blank, a mind on which only a^atej-mark had been stamped. 

The stamp, as such things went, was a good one. The chief 
wonder of education is that it does not ruin everybody concerned 
in it, teachers and taught. Sometimes in after life, Adams de- 
bated whether in fact it had not ruined him and most of his com- 
panions, but, disappointment apart, Harvard College was prob- 
ably less hurtful than any other university then in existence. It 
taught little, and that little ill, but it left the mind open, free from 
bias, ignorant of facts, but docile. The graduate had few strong 
prejudices. He knew little, but his mind remained supple, ready 
to receive knowledge. 

What caused the boy most disappointment was the little he 
got from his mates. Speaking exactly, he got less than nothing, 
a result common enough in education. Yet the College Catalogue 
for the years 1854 to 1861 shows a list of names rather distin- 
guished in their time. Alexander Agassiz and Phillips Brooks led 
it; H. H. Richardson and O. W. Holmes helped to close it. As a 
rule the most promising of all die early, and never get their names 
into a Dictionary of Contemporaries, which seems to be the only 
popular standard of success. Many died in the war. Adams knew 
them all, more or less; he felt as much regard, and quite as much 
respect for them then, as he did after they won great names and 
were objects of a vastly wider respect; but, as help towards edu- 
cation, he got nothing whatever from them or they from him 
until long after they had left college. Possibly the fault was his, 
but one would like to know how many others shared it. Accident 



56 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

counts for much in companionship as in marriage. Life offers 
perhaps only a score of possible companions, and it is mere chance 
whether they meet as early as school or college, but it is more than 
a chance that boys brought up together under like conditions 
have nothing to give each other. The Class of 1858, to which 
Henry Adams belonged, was a typical collection of young New 
Englanders, quietly penetrating and aggressively commonplace; 
free from meannesses, jealousies, intrigues, enthusiasms, and pas- 
sions; not exceptionally quick; not consciously sceptical; Angu- 
larly indifferent to display, Artifice, florid expression, but not hos- 
tile to it when it amused them ^distrustful of themselves, but 
little disposed to trust any one else; with not much humor of 
their own, but full of readiness to enjoy the humor of others; 
negative to a degree that in the long run became positive and 
triumphant. Not harsh in manners or judgment, rather liberal 
and open-minded, they were still as a body the most formidable 
critics one would care to meet, in a long life exposed to criti- 
cism. They never flattered, seldom praised ; free from vanity, they 
were not intolerant of it; but they were objectiveness itself; their 
attitude was a law of nature; their judgment beyond appeal, 
not an act either of intellect or emotion or of will, but a sort of 
gravitation. 

^This was Harvard College incarnate, but even for Harvard 
College, the Class of 1858 was somewhat extreme. Of unity this 
band of nearly one hundred young men had no keen sense, but 
they had equally little energy of repulsion. They were pleasant to 
live with, and above the average of students German, French, 
English, or what not but chiefly because each individual ap- 
peared satisfied to stand alone, j[t seemed a sign of force; yet 
to stand alone is quite natural when one has no passions; still 
easier when one has no pains. 

Into this unusually dissolvent medium, chance insisted on en- 
larging Henry Adams's education by tossing a trio of Virginians 
as little fitted for it as Sioux Indians to a treadmill. By some 



HARVARD COLLEGE 57 

further affinity, these three outsiders fell into relation with the 
Bostonians among whom Adams as a schoolboy belonged, and 
in the end with Adams himself, although they and he knew well 
how thin an edge of friendship separated them in 1856 from mor- 
tal enmity. One of the Virginians was the son of Colonel Robert 
E. Lee, of the Second United States Cavalry; the two others who 
seemed instinctively to form a staff for Lee, were town-Virginians 
from Petersburg. A fourth outsider came from Cincinnati and 
was half Kentuckian, N. L. Anderson, Longworth on the mother's 
side. For the first time Adams's education brought him in con- 
tact with new types and taught him their values. He saw the 
New England type measure itself with another, and he was part 
of the process. 

Lee, known through life as "Roony," was a Virginian of the 
eighteenth century, much as Henry Adams was a Bostonian of 
the same age. .Roony Lee had changed little from the type of his 
grandfather, Light Horse Harry. Tall, largely built, handsome, 
genial, with liberal Virginian openness towards all he liked, he 
had also the Virginian habit of command and took leadership as 
his natural habit. No one cared to contest it. .None of the New 
Englanders wanted command. For a year, at least, Lee was the 
most popular and prominent young man in his class, but then 
seemed slowly to drop into the background. The habit of com- 
mand was not enough, and the Virginian had little else. He was 
simple beyond analysis; so simple that even the simple New Eng- 
land student could not realize him. No one knew enough to know 
how ignorant he was; how childlike; how helpless before the rela- 
tive complexity of a school. As an animal, the Southerner seemed 
to have every advantage, but even as an animal he steadily lost 
ground. 

The lesson in education was vital to these young men, who, 
within ten years, killed each other by scores in the act of testing 
their college conclusions. Strictly, the Southerner had no mind; he 
had temperament. He was not a scholar; he had no intellectual 



58 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

training; he could not analyze an idea, and he could not even con- 
ceive of admitting two; but in life one could get along very 
well without ideas, if one had only the social instinct. Dozens 
of eminent statesmen were men of Lee's type, and maintained 
themselves well enough in the legislature, but college was a 
sharper test. The Virginian was weak in vice itself, though the 
Bostonian was hardly a master of crime. The habits of neither 
were good; both were apt to drink hard and to live low lives; but 
the Bostonian suffered less than the Virginian. Commonly the 
Bostonian could take some care of himself even in his worst stages, 
while the Virginian became quarrelsome and dangerous. When 
a Virginian had brooded a few days over an imaginary grief and 
substantial whiskey, none of his Northern friends could be sure 
that he might not be waiting, round the corner, with a knife or 
pistol, to revenge insult by the dry light of delirium tremens; and 
when things reached this condition, Lee had to exhaust his au- 
thority over his own staff. Lee was a gentleman of the old school, 
and, as every one knows, gentlemen of the old school drank al- 
most as much as gentlemen of the new school; but this was not 
his trouble. He was sober even in the excessive violence of poli- 
tical feeling in those years; he kept his temper and his friends 
under control. 

Adams liked the Virginians. No one was more obnoxious to 
them, by name and prejudice; yet their friendship was unbroken 
and even warm. At a moment when the immediate future posed 
no problem in education so vital as the relative energy and en- 
durance of North and South, this momentary contact with South- 
ern character was a sort of education for its own sake; but this 
was not all. No doubt the self-esteem of the Yankee, which 
tended naturally to self-distrust, was flattered by gaining the 
slow conviction that the Southerner, with his slave-owning limi- 
tations, was as little fit to succeed in the struggle of modern life 
as though he were still a maker of stone axes, living in caves, and 
hunting the bos primigenius, and that every quality in which he 



HARVARD COLLEGE 59 

was strong, made him weaker; but Adams had begun to fear that 
even in this respect one eighteenth-century type might not differ 
deeply from another. Roony Lee had changed little from the Vir- 
ginian of a century before; but Adams was himself a good deal 
nearer the type of his great-grandfather than to that of a rail- 
way superintendent. He was little more fit than the Virginians 
to deal with a future America which showed no fancy for the past. 
Already Northern society betrayed a preference for economists 
over diplomats or soldiers one might even call it a jealousy 
against which two eighteenth-century types had little chance to 
live, and which they had in common to fear. 

Nothing short of this curious sympathy could have brought 
into close relations two young men so hostile as Roony Lee and 
Henry Adams, but the chief difference between them as colle- 
gians consisted only in their difference of scholarship : Lee was 
a total failure; Adams a partial one. Both failed, but Lee felt 
his failure more sensibly, so that he gladly seized the chance of 
escape by accepting a commission offered him by General Win- 
field Scott in the force then being organized against the Mormons. 
He asked Adams to write his letter of acceptance, which flat- 
tered Adams's vanity more than any Northern compliment could 
do, because, in days of violent political bitterness, it showed a cer- 
tain amount of good temper. The diplomat felt his profession. 

If the student got little from his mates, he got little more from 
his masters. The four years passed at college were, for his pur- 
poses, wasted. Harvard College was a good school, but at bot- 
tom what the boy disliked most was any school at all. He did not 
want to be one in a hundred one per cent of an education. He 
regarded himself as the only person for whom his education had 
value, and he wanted the whole of it. He got barely half of an 
average. Long afterwards, when the devious path of life led him 
back to teach in his turn what no student naturally cared or 
needed to know, he diverted some dreary hours of faculty-meet- 
ings by looking up his record in the class-lists, and found himself 



60 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

graded precisely in the middle. In the one branch he most needed 
mathematics barring the few first scholars, failure was so 
nearly universal that no attempt at grading could have had value, 
and whether he stood fortieth or ninetieth must have been an 
accident or the personal favor of the professor. Here his educa- 
tion failed lamentably. At best he could never have been a mathe- 
matician; at worst he would never have cared to be one; but he 
needed to read mathematics, like any other universal language, 
and he never reached the alphabet. 

Beyond two or three Greek plays, the student got nothing 
from the ancient languages. Beyond some incoherent theories 
of free-trade and protection, he got little from Political Economy. 
He could not afterwards remember to have heard the name of 
Karl Marx mentioned, or the title of "Capital." He was equally 
ignorant of Auguste Comte. These were the two writers of his 
time who most influenced its thought. The bit of practical teach- 
ing he afterwards reviewed with most curiosity was the course in 
Chemistry, which taught him a number of theories that befogged 
his mind for a lifetime. The only teaching that appealed to his 
imagination was a course of lectures by Louis Agassiz on the Gla- 
cial Period and Palaeontology, which had more influence on his 
curiosity than the rest of the college instruction altogether. The 
entire work of the four years could have been easily put into the 
work of any four months in after life. 

Harvard College was a negative force, and negative forces have 
value. Slowly it weakened the violent political bias of childhood, 
not by putting interests in its place, but by mental habits which 
had no bias at all. It would also have weakened the literary bias, 
if Adams had been capable of finding other amusement, but the 
climate kept him steady to desultory and useless reading, till he 
had run through libraries of volumes which he forgot even to 
their title-pages. Rather by instinct than by guidance, he turned 
to writing, and his professors or tutors occasionally gave his Eng- 
lish composition a hesitating approval; but in that branch, as 



HARVARD COLLEGE 61 

in all the rest, even when he made a long struggle for recognition, 
he never convinced his teachers that his abilities, at their best, 
warranted placing him on the rank-list, among the first third oi 
his class. Instructors generally reach a fairly accurate gauge oi 
their scholars' powers. Henry Adams himself held the opinion 
that his instructors were very nearly right, and when he became 
a professor in his turn, and made mortifying mistakes in ranking 
his scholars, he still obstinately insisted that on the whole, he was 
not far wrong. Student or professor, he accepted the negative 
standard because it was the standard of the school. 

He never knew what other students thought of it, or what they 
thought they gained from it; nor would their opinion have much 
affected his. From the first, he wanted to be done with it, and 
stood watching vaguely for a path and a direction. The world 
outside seemed large, but the paths that led into it were not many 
and lay mostly through Boston, where he did not want to go. 
As it happened, by pure chance, the first door of escape that 
seemed to offer a hope led into Germany, and James Russell 
Lowell opened it. 

Lowell, on succeeding Longfellow as Professor of Belles-Lettres, 
had duly gone to Germany, and had brought back whatever he 
found to bring. The literary world then agreed that truth sur- 
vived in Germany alone, and Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, Renan, 
Emerson, with scores of popular followers, taught the German 
faith. The literary world had revolted against the yoke of coming 
capitalism its money-lenders, its bank direttQrv&adJt&jrail- 
way magnates. TEacSeray and Dickens followed JB aba c Jbucratch- 
ing and biting the unfortunate middle class with savage ill-tem- 
per, much as the middle class had scratched. And Bitten^the 
Church and Court for, a hundred years before. The middle class 
had the power, and^hdd its coal^and.jraojydl in handout the 
satirists and idealists seized the press, and as WejFwere agreed 
that the Second Empire was a 'disgrace to France and a danger 
to England, they turned to Germany because at that moment 



62 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Germany was neither economical Jiorjrmljtaiy, and a hundred 
years behind western Europe in the simplicity of its standard. 
German thought, method, honesty, and even taste, became the 
standards of scholarship. Goethe was raised to the rank of Shake- 
speare Kant ranked as a law-giver above Plato. All serious 
scholars were obliged to become German, for German thought 
was revolutionizing criticism. Lowell had followed the rest, not 
very enthusiastically, but with sufficient conviction, and invited 
his scholars to join him. Adams was glad to accept the invitation, 
rather for the sake of cultivating Lowell than Germany, but still 
in perfect good faith. It was the first serious attempt he had 
made to direct his own education, and he was sure of getting some 
education out of it; not perhaps anything that he expected, but 
at least a path. 

Singularly circuitous and excessively wasteful of energy the 
path proved to be, but the student could never see what other 
was open to him. He could have done no better had he foreseen 
every stage of his coming life, and he would probably have done 
worse. The preliminary step was pure gain. James Russell 
Lowell had brought back from Germany the only new and valu- 
able part of its universities, the habit of allowing students to read 
with him privately in his study. Adams asked the privilege, and 
used it to read a little, and to talk a great deal, for the personal 
contact pleased and flattered him, as_that of older men ought to 
flatter and please the young even when they altogether exag- 
gerate its value. Lowell was a new element in the boy's life. As 
practical a New Englander as any, he leaned towards the Con- 
cord faith rather than towards Boston where he properly be- 
longed; for Concord, in the dark days of 1856, glowed with pure 
light. Adams approached it in much the same spirit as he would 
have entered a Gothic Cathedral, for he well knew that the priests 
regarded him as only a worm. To the Concord Church all Adamses 
were minds of dust and emptiness, devoid of feeling, poetry or 
imagination; little higher than the common scourings of State 



HARVARD COLLEGE 63 

Street; politicians of doubtful honesty; natures of narrow scope; 
and already, at eighteen years old, Henry had begun to feel un- 
certainty about so many matters more important than Adamses 
that his mind rebelled against no discipline merely personal, and 
he was ready to admit his unworthiness if only he might pene- 
trate the shrine. The influence of Harvard College was beginning 
to have its effect. He was slipping away from fixed principles; 
from Mount Vernon Street; from Quincy; from the eighteenth 
century; and his first steps led toward Concord. 

He never reached Concord, and to Concord Church he, like 
the rest of mankind who accepted a material universe, remained 
always an insect, or something much lower a man. It was 
surely no fault of his that the universe seemed to him real; per- 
haps as Mr. Emerson justly said it was so; in spite of the 
long-continued effort of a lifetime, he perpetually fell back into 
the heresy that if anything universal was unreal, it was himself 
and not the appearances; it was the poet and not the banker; it 
was his own thought, not the thing that moved it. He did not 
lack the wish to be transcendental. Concord seemed to him, at 
one time, more real than Quincy; yet in truth Russell Lowell was 
as little transcendental as Beacon Street. From him the boy 
got no revolutionary thought whatever objective or subjective 
as they used to call it but he got good-humored encourage- 
ment to do what amused him, which consisted in passing two 
years in Europe after finishing the four years of Cambridge. 

The result seemed small in proportion to the effort, but it was 
the only positive result he could ever trace to the influence of 
Harvard College, and he had grave doubts whether Harvard 
College influenced even that. Negative results in plenty he could 
trace, but he tended towards negation on his own account, as 
one side of the New England mind had always done, and even 
there he could never feel sure that Harvard College had more 
than reflected a weakness. In his opinion the education was not 
serious, but in truth hardly any Boston student took it seriously, 



64 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

and none of them seemed sure that President Walker himself, 
or President Felton after him, took it more seriously than the 
students. For them all, the college offered chiefly advantages 
vulgarly called social, rather than mental. 

Unluckily for this particular boy, social advantages were his 
only capital in life. Of money he had not much, of mind not more, 
but he could be quite certain that, barring his own faults, his so- 
cial position would never be questioned. What he needed was a 
career in which social position had value. Never in his life would 
he have to explain who he was; never would he have need of ac- 
quaintance to strengthen his social standing; but he needed greatly 
some one to show him how to use the acquaintance he cared to 
make. He made no acquaintance in college which proved to have 
the smallest use in after life. All his Boston friends he knew be- 
fore, or would have known in any case, and contact of Bostonian 
with Bostonian was the last education these young men needed. 
t Cordial and intimate as their college relations were, they all flew 
off in different directions the moment they took their degrees. 
Harvard College remained a tie, indeed, but a tie little stronger 
than Beacon Street and not so strong as State Street. Strangers 
might perhaps gain something from the college if they were hard 
pressed for social connections. A student like H. H. Richardson, 
who came from far away New Orleans, and had his career before 
him to chase rather than to guide, might make valuable friend- 
ships at college. Certainly Adams made no acquaintance there 
that he valued in after life so much as Richardson, but still more 
certainly the college relation had little to do with the later friend- 
ship. Life^ is _a jiarrow valley^ and the jroads run close-together.. 
Adams would have' attached himself to Richardson in any case, 
as he attached himself to John LaFarge or Augustus St. Gaudens 
or Clarence King or John Hay, none of whom were at Harvard 
College. The valley of life grew more and more narrow with years, 
and certain men with common tastes were bound to come to- 
gether. Adams knew only that he would have felt himself on a 



HARVARD COLLEGE 65 

more equal footing with them had he been less ignorant, and had 
he not thrown away ten years of early life in acquiring what he 
might have acquired in one. 

Socially or intellectually, the college was for him negative and 
in some ways mischievous. The most tolerant man of the world 
could not see good in the lower habits of the students, but the 
vices were less harmful than the virtues. The habit of drinking 
though the mere recollection of it made him doubt his own 
veracity, so fantastic it seemed in later life may have done no 
great or permanent harm; but the habit of looking at life as a 
social relation - an affair of society did no good. It culti- 
vated a weakness which needed no cultivation. If it had helped 
to make men of the world, or give the manners and instincts of 
any profession such as temper, patience, courtesy, or a faculty 
of profiting by the social defects of opponents it would have 
been education better worth having than mathematics or lan- 
guages; but so far as it helped to make anything, it helped only 
to make the college standard permanent through life. The Bos- 
tonian educated at Harvard College remained a collegian, if he 
stuck only to what the college gave him. If parents went on, 
generation after generation, sending their children to Harvard Col- 
lege for the sake of its social advantages, they perpetuated an 
inferior social type, quite as ill-fitted as the Oxford type for suc- 
cess in the next generation. 

Luckily the old social standard of the college, as President 
Walker or James Russell Lowell still showed it, was admirable, 
and if it had little practical value or personal influence on the 
mass of students, at least it preserved the tradition for those who 
liked it. The Harvard graduate was neither American nor Euro- 
pean, nor even wholly Yankee; his admirers were few, and his 
critics many; perhaps his worst weakness was his self-criticism and 
self-consciousness; but his ambitions, social or intellectual, were 
not necessarily cheap even though they might be negative. Afraid 
of serious risks, and still more afraid of personal ridicule, he seldom 



66 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 



made a great failure of life, and nearly always led a life more or 
less worth living. So Henry Adams, well aware that he could not 
succeed as a scholar, and finding his social position beyond im- 
provement or need of effort, betook himself to the single ambition 
which otherwise would scarcely have seemed a true outcome of 
the college, though it was the last remnant of the old Unitarian 
supremacy. He took to the pen. He wrote. 

The College Magazine printed his work, and the College So- 
cieties listened to his addresses. Lavish of praise the readers were 
not; the audiences, too, listened in silence; but this was all the 
encouragement any Harvard collegian had a reasonable hope to 
receive; grave silence was a form of patience that meant possible 
future acceptance; and Henry Adams went on writing. No one 
cared enough to criticise, except himself who soon began to suffer 
from reaching his own limits. He found that he could not be this 
or that or the other; always precisely the things he wanted 
to be. He had not wit or scope or force. Judges always ranked 
him beneatH a rival, if he had any; and he believed the judges 
were right. His work seemed to liim thin, commonplace, feeble. 
At times he felt his own weakness so fatally that he could not go 
on; when he had nothing to say, he could not say it, and he found 
that he liadveiy Tittle to say at best. Much that he then wrote must 
be still in existence in print or manuscript, though he never cared 
to see it again, for he felt no doubt that it was in reality just what 
he thought it. At best it showed only a feeling for form; an in- 
stinct of exclusion. Nothing shocked not even its weakness. 

Inevitably an effort leads to an ambition creates it and 
at that time the ambition of the literary student, which almost 
took place of the regular prizes of scholarship, was that of being 
chosen as the representative of his class the Class Orator 
at the close of their course. This was political as well as literary 
success, and precisely the sort of eighteenth-century combination 
that fascinated an eighteenth-century boy. The idea lurked in 
his mind, at first as a dream, in no way serious or even possible, 



HARVARD COLLEGE 67 

for he stood outside the number of what were known as popular 
men. Year by year, his position seemed to improve, or perhaps 
his rivals disappeared, until at last, to his own great astonish- 
ment, he found himself a candidate. The habits of the college per- 
mitted no active candidacy; he and his rivals had not a word to 
say for or against themselves, and he was never even consulted 
on the subject; he was not present at any of the proceedings, and 
how it happened he never could quite divine, but it did happen, 
that one evening on returning from Boston he received notice of 
his election, after a very close contest, as Class Orator over the 
head of the first scholar, who was undoubtedly a better orator 
and a more popular man. In politics the success of the poorer 
candidate is common enough, and Henry Adams was a fairly 
trained politician, but he never understood how he managed to 
defeat not only a more capable but a more popular rival. 

To him the election seemed a miracle. This was no mock- 
modesty; his head was as clear as ever it was in an indifferent 
canvass, and he knew his rivals and their following as well as he 
knew himself. What he did not know, even after four years of 
education, was Harvard College. What he could never measure 
was the bewildering impersonality of the men, who, at twenty 
years old, seemed to set no value either on official or personal 
standards. Here were nearly a hundred young men who had lived 
together intimately during four of the most impressionable years 
of life, and who, not only once but again and again, in different 
ways, deliberately, seriously, .dispassionately, chose as their rep- 
resentatives precisely those of their companions who seemed least 
to represent them. As far as these Orators and Marshals had any 
position at all in a collegiate sense, it was that of indifference 
to the college. Henry Adams never professed the smallest faith in 
universities of any 'kind, either as boy or man, nor had he the 
faintest admiration for the university graduate, either in Europe 
or in America; as a collegian he was only known apart from his 
fellows by his habit of standing outside the college; and yet the 



68 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

singular fact remained that this commonplace body of young men 
chose him repeatedly to express his and their commonplaces. 
Secretly, of course, the successful candidate flattered himself 
and them with the hope that they might perhaps not be so 
commonplace as they thought themselves; but this was only 
another proof that all were identical. They saw in him a rep- 
resentative the kind of representative they wanted and 
he saw in them the most formidable array of judges he could ever 
meet, like so many mirrors of himself, an infinite reflection of his 
own shortcomings. 

All the same, the choice was flattering; so flattering that it 
actually shocked his vanity; and would have shocked it more, if 
possible, had he known that it was to be the only flattery of the 
sort he was ever to receive. The function of Class Day was, in the 
eyes of nine-tenths of the students, altogether the most important 
of the college, and the figure of the Orator was the most conspicu- 
ous in the function. Unlike the Orators at regular Commence- 
ments, the Class Day Orator stood alone, or had only the Poet 
for rival. Crowded into the large church, the students, their 
families, friends, aunts, uncles and chaperones, attended all the 
girls of sixteen or twenty who wanted to show their summer 
dresses or fresh complexions, and there, for an hour or two, in a 
heat that might have melted bronze, they listened to an Orator 
and a Poet in clergyman's gowns, reciting such platitudes as their 
own experience and their mild censors permitted them to utter. 
What Henry Adams said in his Class Oration of 1858 he soon for- 
got to the last word, nor had it the least value for education; but 
he naturally, remembered what was said of it. He remembered 
especially one of his eminent uncles or relations remarking that, 
as the work of so young a man, the oration was singularly wanting 
in enthusiasm. The young man always in search of education 
asked himself whether, setting rhetoric aside, this absence _of 
enthusiasm was a defect or a merit, since, in either case, it was all 
that Harvard College taught, and all that the hundred young 



HARVARD COLLEGE 69 

men, whom he was trying to represent, expressed. Another com* 
ment threw more light on the effect of the college education. One 
of the elderly gentlemen noticed the orator's "perfect self-pos- 
session." Self-possession indeed! If Harvard College gavelioth- 
ing else, it gave calm. For four years each student had been 
obliged to figure daily before dozens of young men who knew 
each other to the last fibre. One had done little but read papers 
to Societies, or act comedy in the Hasty Pudding, not to speak of 
all sorts of regular exercises, and no audience in future life would 
ever be so intimately and terribly intelligent as these. Three- 
fourths of the graduates would rather have addressed the Coun- 
cil of Trent or the British Parliament than have acted Sir An- 
thony Absolute or Dr. Ollapod before a gala audience of the 
Hasty Pudding. Self-possession was the strongest part of Har- 
vard College, which certainly taught men to stand alone, so 
that nothing seemed stranger to its graduates than the paroxysms 
of terror before the public which often overcame the graduates 
of European universities. Whether this was, or was not, educa- 
tion, Henry Adams never knew. He was ready to stand up be- 
fore any audience in America or Europe, with nerves rather 
steadier for the excitement, but whether he should ever have any- 
thing to say, remained to be proved. As yet he knew nothing. 
Education had not begun. 



CHAPTER V 

BERLIN (1858-1859) 

A FOURTH child has the strength of his weakness. Be- 
ing of no great value, he may throw himself away if he 
likes, and never be missed. Charles Francis Adams, the 
father, felt no love for Europe, which, as he and all the world 
agreed, unfitted Americans for America. A captious critic might 
have replied that all the success he or his father or his grandfather 
achieved was chiefly due to the field that Europe gave them, and 
it was more than likely that without the help of Europe they 
would have all remained local politicians or lawyers, like their 
neighbors, to the end. Strictly followed, the rule would have 
obliged them never to quit Quincy; and, in fact, sojmud^more 
timid are parents for their children than for themselves, that Mr. 
and Mrs. Adams would have been content to see their children 
remain forever in Mount Vernon Street, unexposed to the tempta- 
tions of Europe, could they have relied on the moral influences of 
Boston itself. Although the parents little knew what took place 
under their eyes, even the mothers saw enough to make them 
uneasy. Perhaps their dread of vice, haunting past and present, 
worried them less than their dread of daughters-in-law or sons-in- 
law who might not fit into the somewhat narrow quarters of home. 
On all sides were risks, Every year some young person alarmed 
the parental heart even in Boston, and although the temptations 
of Europe were irresistible, removal from the temptations of Boston 
might be imperative. The boy Henry wanted to go to Europe; he 
seemed well behaved, when any one was looking at him; he ob- 
served conventions, when he could not escape them; he was never 
quarrelsome, towards a superior; his morals were apparently good, 
and his moral principles, if he had any, were not known to be bad. 
Above all, he was timid and showed a certain sense of self-respect, 



BERLIN 71 

when in public view. What he was at heart, no one could say; 
least of all himself; but he was probably human, and no worse than 
some others. Therefore, when he presented to an exceedingly 
indulgent father and mother his request to begin at a German 
university the study of the Civil Law although neither he nor 
they knew what the Civil Law was, or any reason for his studying 
it the parents dutifully consented, and walked with him down 
to the railway-station at Quincy to bid him good-bye, with a smile 
which he almost thought a tear. 

Whether the boy deserved such indulgence, or was worth it, he 
knew no more than they, or than a professor at Harvard College; 
but whether worthy or not, he began his third or fourth attempt 
at education in November, 1858, by sailing on tte steamer Persia, 
the pride of Captain Judkins and the Cunard Line; the newest, 
largest and fastest steamship afloat. He was not alone. Several 
of his college companions sailed with him, and the world looked 
cheerful enough until, on the third day, the world as far as 
concerned the young man ran into a heavy storm. He learned 
then a lesson that stood by him better than any university teach- 
ing ever did the meaning of a November gale on the mid- 
Atlantic which, for mere physical misery, passed endurance. 
The subject offered him material for none but serious treatment; 
he could never see the humor of sea-sickness; but it united itself 
with a great variety of other impressions which made the first 
month of travel altogether the rapidest school of education he had 
yet found. The stride in knowledge seemed gigantic. One began 
at last to see that a great many impressions were needed to make 
a very little education, but how many could be crowded into one 
day without making any education at all, became the pons asinorum 
of tourist mathematics. How many would turn out to be wrong, 
or whether any could turn out right, was ultimate wisdom. 

The ocean, the Persia, Captain Judkins, and Mr. G. P. R. 
James, the most distinguished passenger, vanished one Sunday 
morning in a furious gale in the Mersey, to make place for the 



72 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

drearier picture of a Liverpool street as seen from the Adelphi 
coffee-room in November murk, followed instantly by the passion- 
ate delights of Chester and the romance of red-sandstone archi- 
tecture. Millions of Americans have felt this succession of emo- 
tions. Possibly very young and ingenuous tourists feel them still, 
but in days before tourists, when the romance was a reality, not 
a picture, they were overwhelming. When the boys went out to 
Eaton Hall, they were awed, as Thackeray or Dickens would have 
felt in the presence of a Duke. The very name of Grosvenor struck 
a note of grandeur. The long suite of lofty, gilded rooms with 
their gilded furniture; the portraits; the terraces; the gardens, 
the landscape; the sense of superiority in the England of the 
fifties, actually set the rich nobleman apart, above Americans 
and shopkeepers. Aristocracy was real. So was the England of 
Dickens. Oliver Twist and Little Hell lurked in every churchyard 
shadow, not as shadow but alive. Even Charles the First was 
not very shadowy, standing on the tower to see his army defeated. 
Nothing thereabouts had very much changed since he lost his 
battle and his head. An eighteenth-century American boy fresh 
from Boston naturally took it all for education, and was amused 
at this sort of lesson. At least he thought he felt it. 

Then came the journey up to London through Birmingham 
and the Black District, another lesson, which needed much more 
to be rightly felt. /The plunge into darkness lurid with flames; the 
sense of unknown norror in this w^rdjgloom which then existed 
nowhere else, and never had existed before, except in volcanic 
craters; the violent contrast between this dense, smoky, impene- 
trable darkness, and the soft green charm that one glided into, as 
one emerged the revelation of an unknown society of the pit 
made a boy uncomfortable, though he had no idea that Karl 
Marx was standing there waiting for him, and that sooner or later 
the process of education would have to deal with Karl Marx much 
more than with Professor Bowen of Harvard College or his Satanic 
free-trade majesty John Stuart Mill. ^The Black District was a 



BERLIN 73 

practical education, but it was infinitely far in the distance. The 
boy ran away from it, as he ran away from everything he ^ disliked. 
"Triad he known ^enough to Know where to begin he would have 
seen something to study, more vital than the Civil Law, in the 
long, muddy, dirty, sordid, gas-lit dreariness of Oxford Street as 
his dingy four-wheeler dragged its weary way to Charing Cross. 
He did notice one peculiarity about it worth remembering. Lon- 
don was still JLondon. A certain^ sjtyle dignified ijts grime jjieayy, 
'cMmsjj ^arrpgant^^purse-proud, , buXlXQt cheap; insular but large; 
barely tolerant of an outside world, and absolutely self-confident. 
The boys in the streets made such free comments on the American 
clothes and figures, that the travellers hurried to put on tall hats 
and long overcoats to escape criticism. No stranger had rights 
even in the Strand. The eighteenth century held its own. His- 
tory^ muttered down Fleet Street, like Dr. Johnson^ ia_Adams's 
ear; Vanity Fair was alive on Piccadilly in yellow chariots with 
coachmen in wigs, on hammer-cloths ; footmen with canes, on the 
footboard, and a shrivelled old woman inside; half the great 
houses, black with London smoke, bore large funereal hatchments; 
every one seemed insolent, and the most insolent j>tructures in the 
world were the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England. In 
November, 1858, London was still vast, but it was the London of 
the eighteenth century that an American felt and hated. 

Education went backward. Adams, still a boy, could not guess 
how intensely intimate this London grime was to become to him 
as a man, but he could still less conceive himself returning to it 
fifty years afterwards, noting at each turn how the great city 
grew smaller as it doubled in size; cheaper as it quadrupled its 
wealth; less imperial as its empire widened; less dignified as it 
tried to be civil. Hejiked it best when he hated it. Jdjyication_ 
began at the end, or perhaps would end at the beginning. Thus far 
it had reml^dTrT^ century," andTtHe next step took 

it back to the sixteenth. He crossed to Antwerp. As the Baron 
Osy steamed up the Scheldt in the morning mists, a travelling 



74 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

band on deck began to play, and groups of peasants, working 
along the fields, dropped their tools to join in dancing. Ostade 
and Teniers were as much alive as they ever were, and even the 
Duke of Alva was still at home. The thirteenth-century cathedral 
towered above a sixteenth-century mass of tiled roofs, ending 
abruptly in walls and a landscape that had not changed. The 
taste of the town was thick, rich, ripe, like a sweet wine; it was 
mediaeval, so that Rubens seemed modern ; it was one of the strong- 
est and fullest flavors that ever touched the young man's palate; 
but he might as well have drunk out his excitement in old Malm- 
sey, for all the education he got from it. Even in art, one can hardly 
begin with Antwerp Cathedral and the Descent from the Cross. 
He merely got drunk on his emotions, and had then to get sober 
as he best could. He was terribly sober when he saw Antwerp 
half a century afterwards. One lesson he did learn without sus- 
pecting that he must immediately lose it. He felt his middle ages 
and the sixteenth century alive. He was young enough, and the 
towns were dirty enough unimproved, unrestored, untouristcd 
to retain the sense of reality. As a taste or a smell, it was edu- 
cation, especially because it lasted barely ten years longer; but it 
was education only sensual. He never dreamed of trying to edu- 
cate himself to theDescent from the Cross. He was only too happy 
to feel himself kneeling at the foot of the Cross; he learned only 
to loathe the sordid necessity of getting up again, and going about 
his stupid business. 

This was one of the foreseen dangers of Europe, but it vanished 
rapidly enough to reassure the most anxious of parents. Dropped 
into Berlin one morning without guide or direction, the young man 
in search of education floundered in a mere mess of misunderstand- 
ings. He could never recall what he expected to find, but whatever 
he expected, it had no relation with what it turned out to be. A 
student at twenty takes easily to anything, even to Berlin, and he 
would have accepted the thirteenth century pure and simple since 
his guides assured him that this was his right path; but a week's 



BERLIN 75 

experience left him dazed and dull. Faith held out, but the paths 
grew dim. Berlin astonished him, but he had no lack of friends 
to show him all the amusement it had to offer. Within a day or 
two he was running about with the rest to beer-cellars and music- 
halls and dance-rooms, smoking bad tobacco, drinking poor beer, 
and eating sauerkraut and sausages as though he knew no better. 
This was easy. One can always descend the social ladder. The 
trouble came when he asked for the education he was promised. 
His friends took him to be registered as a student of the university; 
they selected his professors and courses; they showed him where 
to buy the Institutes of Gaius and several German works on the 
Civil Law in numerous volumes; and they led him to his first 
lecture. 

His first lecture was his last. The young man was not very 
quick, and he had almost religious respect for his guides and ad- 
visers; but he needed no more than one hour to satisfy him that 
he had made another failure in education, and this time a fatal 
one. That the language would require at least three months' hard 
work before he could touch the Law was an annoying discovery; 
but the shock that upset him was the discovery of the university 
itself. He had thought Harvard College a torpid school, but it 
was instinct with life compared with all that he could see of the 
University of Berlin. The German students were strange animals, 
but their professors were beyond pay. The mental attitude of the 
university was not of an American world. What sort of instruction 
prevailed in other branches, or in science, Adams had no occasion 
to ask, but in the Civil Law he found only the lecture system in 
its deadliest form as it flourished in the thirteenth century. The 
professor mumbled his comments ; the students made, or seemed to 
make, notes; they could have learned from books or discussion in 
a day more than they could learn from him in a month, but they 
must pay his fees, follow his course, and be his scholars, if they 
wanted a degree. To an American the result was worthless. He 
could make no use of the Civil Law without some previous notion 



76 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

of the Common Law; but the student who knew enough of the 
Common Law to understand what he wanted, had only to read 
the Pandects or the commentators at his ease in America, and be 
his own professor. Neither the method nor the matter nor the 
manner could profit an American education. 

This discovery seemed to shock none of the students. They 
went to the lectures, made notes, and read textbooks, but never 
pretended to take their professor seriously. They were much more 
serious in reading Heine. They knew no more than Heine what 
good they were getting, beyond the Berlin accent which was 
bad; and the beer which was not to compare with Munich; and 
the dancing which was better at Vienna. They enjoyed the beer 
and music, but they refused to be responsible for the education. 
Anyway, as they defended themselves, they were learning the 
language. 

So the young man fell back on the language, and being slow at 
languages, he found himself falling behind all his friends, which 
depressed his spirits, the more because the gloom of a Berlin winter 
and of Berlin architecture seemed to him a particular sort of gloom 
never attained elsewhere. One day on the Linden he caught sight 
of Charles Sumner in a cab, and ran after him. Sumner was then 
recovering from the blows of the South Carolinian cane or club, 
and he was pleased to find a young worshipper in the remote Prus- 
sian wilderness. They dined together and went to hear " William 
Tell" at the Opera. Sumner tried to encourage his friend about 
his difficulties of language: "I came to Berlin," or Rome, or what- 
ever place it was, as he said with his grand air of mastery, "I 
came to Berlin, unable to say a word in the language; and three 
months later when I went away, I talked it to my cabman." 
Adams felt himself quite unable to attain in so short a time such 
social advantages, and one day complained of his trials to Mr. 
Robert Apthorp, of Boston, who was passing the winter in Berlin 
for the sake of its music. Mr. Apthorp told of his own similar 
struggle, and how he had entered a public school and sat for 



BERLIN 77 

months with ten-year-old-boys, reciting their lessons and catching 
their phrases. The idea suited Adams's desperate frame of mind. 
At least it ridded him of the university and the Civil Law and 
American associations in beer-cellars. Mr. Apthorp took the 
trouble to negotiate with the head-master of the Friedrichs- 
Wilhelm-Werdersches Gymnasium for permission to Henry 
Adams to attend the school as a member of the Ober-tertia, a class 
of boys twelve or thirteen years old, and there Adams went for 
three months as though he had not always avoided high schools 
with singular antipathy. He never did anything else so foolish, 
but he was given a bit of education which served him some pur- 
pose in life. 

It was not merely the language, though three months passed 
in such fashion would teach a poodle enough to talk with a cab- 
man, and this was all that foreign students could expect to do, 
for they never by any chance would come in contact with Ger- 
man society, if German society existed, about which they knew 
nothing. Adams never learned to talk German well, but the 
same might be said of his English, if he could believe Englishmen. 
He learned not to annoy himself on this account. His difficulties 
with the language gradually ceased. He thought himself quite 
Germanized in 1859. He even deluded himself with the idea that 
he read it as though it were English, which proved that he knew 
little about it; but whatever success he had in his own experi- 
ment interested him less than his contact with German education. 

He had revolted at the American school and university; he had 
instantly rejected the German university; and as his last experi- 
ence of education he tried the German high school. The experi- 
ment was hazardous. In 1858 Berlin was a poor, keen-witted, 
provincial town, simple, dirty, uncivilized, and in most respects 
disgusting. Life was primitive beyond what an American boy 
could have imagined. Overridden by military methods and bu- 
reaucratic pettiness, Prussia was only beginning to free her hands 
from internal bonds. Apart from discipline, activity scarcely 



78 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

existed. The future Kaiser Wilhelm I, regent for his insane brother 
King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, seemed to pass his time looking at 
the passers-by from the window of his modest palace on the Lin- 
den. German manners, even at Court, were sometimes brutal, 
and German thoroughness at school was apt to be routine. Bis- 
marck himself was then struggling to begin a career against the 
inertia of the German system. The condition of Germany was 
a scandal and nuisance to every earnest German, all whose ener- 
gies were turned to reforming it from top to bottom; and Adams 
walked into a great public school to get educated, at precisely 
the time when the Germans wanted most to get rid of the edu- 
cation they were forced to follow. As an episode in the search for 
education, this adventure smacked of Heine. 

The school system has doubtless changed, and at all events the 
schoolmasters are probably long ago dead; the story has no longer 
a practical value, and had very little even at the time; one could 
at least say in defence of the German school that it was neither 
very brutal nor very immoral. The head-master was excellent 
in his Prussian way, and the other instructors were not worse 
than in other schools; it was their system that struck the system- 
less American with horror. The arbitrary training given to the 
memory was stupefying; the strain that the memory endured 
was d form of torture; and the feats that the boys performed, 
without complaint, were pitiable. No other faculty than the 
memory seemed to be recognized. Least of all was any use made 
of reason, either analytic, synthetic, or dogmatic. The German 
government did not encourage reasoning. . 

All State education is a sort of .dynamo machind for polarizing 
the popular mind; for turning and holding its lines of force in the 
direction supposed to be most effective for State purposes. The 
German machine was terribly efficient. Its effect on the children 
was pathetic. The Friedrichs-Wilhelm-Werdersches Gymnasium 
was an old building in the heart of Berlin which served the edu- 
cational needs of the small tradesmen or bourgeoisie of the neigh- 



BERLIN 79 

borhood; the children were Berliner-kinder if ever there were such, 
and of a class suspected of sympathy and concern in the trou- 
bles of 1848. None was noble or connected with good society. 
Personally they were rather sympathetic than not, but as the 
objects of education they were proofs of nearly all the evils that 
a bad system could give. Apparently Adams, in his rigidly illog- 
ical pursuit, had at last reached his ideal of a viciously logical 
education. The boys' physique showed it first, but their physique 
could not be wholly charged to the school. German food was bad 
at best, and a diet of sauerkraut, sausage, and beer could never 
be good; but it was not the food alone that made their faces white 
and their flesh flabby. They never breathed fresh air; they had 
never heard of a playground; in all Berlin not a cubic inch of 
oxygen was admitted in winter into an inhabited building; in the 
school every room was tightly closed and had no ventilation; the 
air was foul beyond all decency; but when the American opened 
a window in the five minutes between hours, he violated the rules 
and was invariably rebuked. As long as cold weather lasted, the 
windows were shut. If the boys had a holiday, they were apt to 
be taken on long tramps in the Thiergarten or elsewhere, always 
ending in over-fatigue, tobacco-smoke, sausages, and beer. With 
this, they were required to prepare daily lessons that would have 
quickly broken down strong men of a healthy habit, and which 
they could learn only because their minds were morbid. The 
German university had seemed a failure, but the German high 
school was something very near an indictable nuisance. 

Before the month of April arrived, the experiment of German 
education had reached this point. Nothing was left of it except 
the ghost of the Civil Law shut up in the darkest of closets, never 
to gibber again before any one who could repeat the story. The 
derisive Jew laughter of Heine ran through the university and 
everything else in Berlin. Of course, when one is twenty years 
old, life is bound to be full, if only of Berlin beer, although Ger- 
man student life was on the whole the thinnest of beer, as an 



8o THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

American looked on it, but though nothing except small frag- 
ments remained of the education that had been so promising 
or promised this is only what most often happens in life, when 
by-products turn out to be_more valuable than, ^staples. The 
German university and German law were failures; German society, 
in an American sense, did not exist, or if it existed, never showed 
itself to an American; the German theatre, on the other hand, 
was excellent, and German opera, with the ballet, was almost 
worth a journey to Berlin; but the curious and perplexing result 
of the total failure of German education was that the student's 
only clear gain his single step to a higher life came from time 
wasted; studies neglected; vices indulged; education reversed; 
it came from the despised beer-garden and music-hall; and it 
was accidental, unintended, unforeseen. 

When his companions insisted on passing two or three after- 
noons in the week at music-halls, drinking beer, smoking German 
tobacco, and looking at fat German women knitting, while an 
orchestra played dull music, Adams went with them for the sake 
of the company, but with no pretence of enjoyment; and when 
Mr. Apthorp gently protested that he exaggerated his indiffer- 
ence, for of course he enjoyed Beethoven, Adams replied simply 
that he loathed B.eethoven; and felt a slight surprise when Mr. 
Apthorp and the others laughed as though they thought it humor. 
He saw no humor in it. He supposed that, except musicians, 
every one thought Beethoven a bore, as every one except mathe- 
maticians thought mathematics a bore. Sitting thus at his beer- 
table, mentally impassive, he was one day surprised to notice 
that his mind followed the movement of a Sinfonie. He could not 
have been more astonished had he suddenly read a new language. 
Among the marvels of education, this was the most marvellous. 
A prison-wall that barred his senses on one great side of life, sud- 
denly fell, of its own accord, without so much as his knowing 
when it happened. Amid the fumes of coarse tobacco and poor 
beer, surrounded by the commonest of German Haus-frauen, a 



BERLIN 8 1 

new sense burst out like a flower in his life, so superior to the old 
senses, so bewildering, so astonished at its own existence, that 
he could not credit it, and watched it as something apart, acci- 
dental, and not to be trusted. He slowly came to admit that 
Beethoven had partly become intelligible to him, but he was the 
more inclined to think that Bj^oyen)i^ 

to be so^easjlj followed. This could not be called 



^ 

education, for he had never so much as listened to the music. He 
had been thinking of other things. Mere mechanical repetition 
of certain sounds had stuck to his unconscious mind. Beethoven 
might have this power, but not Wagner, or at all events not the 
Wagner later than "Tannhauser." Near forty years passed before 
he reached the "Gotterdammerung." 

One might talk of the revival of an atrophied sense the 
mechanical reaction of a^ sleeping consciousness but no other 
sense awoke. His sense of line and color remained as dull as ever, 
and as far as ever below the level of an artist. His metaphysical 
sense did not spring into life, so that his mind could leap the bars 
of German expression into sympathy with the idealities of Kant 
and Hegel. Although he insisted that his faith in German thought 
and literature was exalted, he failed to approach German thought, 
and he shed never a tear of emotion over the pages of Goethe and 
Schiller. When his father rashly ventured from time to time to 
write him a word of common sense, the young man would listen 
to no sense at all, but insisted that Berlin was the best of educa- 
tions in the best of Germanics; yet, when, at last, April came, and 
some genius suggested a tramp in Thiiringen, his heart sang like 
a bird; he realized what a nightmare he had suffered, and he made 
up his mind that, wherever else he might, in the infinities of space 
and time, seek for education, it should not be again in Berlin. 



CHAPTER VI 

ROME (1859-1860) 

THE tramp in Thiiringen lasted four-and-twenty hours. 
By the end of the first walk, his three companions 
John Bancroft, James J. Higginson, and B. W. Crownin- 
shield, all Boston and Harvard College like himself were satis- 
fied with what they had seen, and when they sat down to rest on 
the spot where Goethe had written 

"Wartenur! balde 
Ruhest du auch! " 

the profoundness of the thought and the wisdom of the advice 
affected them so strongly that they hired a wagon and drove to 
Weimar the same night. They were all quite happy and light- 
hearted in the first fresh breath of leafless spring, and the beer was 
better than at Berlin, but they were all equally in doubt why they 
had come to Germany, and not one of them could say why they 
stayed. Adams stayed because he did not want to go home, and 
he had fears that his father's patience might be exhausted if he 
asked to waste time elsewhere. 

They could not think that their education required a return to 
Berlin. A few days at Dresden in the spring weather satisfied 
them that Dresden was a better spot for general education than 
Berlin, and equally good for reading Civil Law. They were possi- 
bly right. There was nothing to study in Dresden, and no educa- 
tion to be gained, but the Sistine Madonna and the Correggios 
were famous; the theatre and opera were sometimes excellent, and 
the Elbe was prettier than the Spree. They could always fall back 
on the language. So he took a room in the household of the usual 
small government clerk with the usual plain daughters, and con- 
tinued the study of the language. Possibly one might learn some- 
thing more by accident, as one had learned something of Beet- 



ROME 83 

1 , 

hoven. For the next eighteen months the young man pursued 
accidental education, since he could pursue no other; and by great 
good fortune, Europe and America were too busy with their own 
affairs to give much attention to his. Accidental education had 
every chance in its favor, especially because nothing came amiss. 

Perhaps the chief obstacle to the youth's education, now that 
he had come of age, was his honesty; his simple-minded faith in 
his intentions. Even after Berlin had become a nightmare, he still 
persuaded himself that his German education was a success. He 
loved, or thought he loved the people, but the Germany he loved 
was the eighteenth-century which the Germans were ashamed of, 
and were destroying as fast as they could. Of the Germany to 
come, he knew nothing. Military Germany was his abhorrence. 
What he liked was the simple character; the good-natured senti- 
ment; the musical and metaphysical abstraction; the blundering 
incapacity of the German for practical affairs. At that time every- 
one looked on Germany as incapable of competing with France, 
England or America in any sort of organized energy. Germany 
had no confidence in herself, and no reason to feel it. She had no 
unity, and no reason to want it. She never had unity. Her reli- 
gious and social history, her economical interests, her military 
geography, her political convenience, had always tended to eccen- 
tric rather than concentric motion. Until coal-power and railways 
were created, she was mediaeval by nature and geography, and 
this was what Adams, under the teachings of Carlyle and Lowell, 
liked. 

He was in a fair way to do himself lasting harm, floundering be- 
tween worlds passed and worlds coming, which had a haEItof crush- 
ing men who stayed too long at the points of contact. Suddenly 
the Emperor Napoleon declared war on Austria and raised a con- 
fused point of morals in the mind of Europe. France was the 
nightmare of Germany, and even at Dresden one looked on the 
return of Napoleon to Leipsic as the most likely thing in the world. 
One morning the government clerk, in whose family Adams was 



84 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

staying, rushed into his room to consult a map in order that he 
might measure the distance from Milan to Dresden. The third 
Napoleon had reached Lombardy, and only fifty or sixty years had 
passed since the first Napoleon had begun his military successes 
from an Italian base. 

An enlightened young American, with eighteenth-century 
tastes capped by fragments of a German education and the most 
excellent intentions, had to make up his mind about the moral 
value of these conflicting forces. France was the wicked spirit of 
moral politics, and whatever helped France must be so far evil. 
At that time Austria was another evil spirit. Italy was the prize 
they disputed, and for at least fifteen hundred years had been the 
chief object of their greed. The question of sympathy had dis- 
turbed a number of persons during that period. The question of 
morals had been put in a number of cross-lights. Should one be 
Guelph or Ghibelline? No doubt, one was wiser than one's neigh- 
bors who had found no way of settling this question since the days 
of the cave-dwellers, but ignorance did better to discard the at- 
tempt to be wise, for wisdom had been singularly baffled by the 
problem. Better take sides first, and reason about it for the rest 
of life. 

Not that Adams felt any real doubt about his sympathies or 
wishes. He had not been German long enough for befogging his 
mind to that point, but the moment was decisive for much to 
come, especially for political morals. His morals were the highest, 
and he clung to them to preserve his self-respect; but steam and 
electricity had brought about new political and social concentra- 
tions, or were making them necessary in the line of his moral 
principles freedom, education, economic development and so 
forth which required association with allies as doubtful as 
Napoleon III, and robberies with violence on a very extensive 
scale. As long as he could argue that his opponents were wicked, 
he could join in robbing and killing them without a qualm; but 
it might happen that the good were robbed. Education insisted 



ROME 85 

on finding a moral foundation for robbery. He could hope to begin 
life in the character of no animal more moral than a monkey unless 
he could satisfy himself when and why robbery and murder were 
a virtue and duty. Education founded on mere self-interest was 
merely Guelph and Ghibelline over again * Machiavelli translated 
into American. 

luckily for him he had a sister much brighter than he ever was 
though he thought himself a rather superior person who 
after marrying Charles Kuhn, of Philadelphia, had come to Italy, 
and, like all good Americans and English, was hotly Italian. In 
July, 1859, she was at Thun in Switzerland, and there Henry 
Adams joined them. Women have, commonly, a very positive 
moral sense; that which they will, is right; that which they reject, 
is wrong; and their will, in most cases, ends by settling the moral. 
Mrs. Kuhn had a double superiority. She not only adored Italy, 
but she cordially disliked Germany in all its varieties. She saw 
no gain in helping her brother to be Germanized, and she wanted 
him much to be civilized. She was the first young woman he was 
ever intimate with quick, sensitive, v^ilful, or full of will, ener- 
getic, sympathetic and intelligent enough to supply a score of men 
with ideas and he was delighted to give her the reins to let 
her drive him where she would. It was his first experiment in 
giving the reins to a woman, and he was so much pleased with the 
results that he never wanted to take them back. In after life he 
made a general law of experience no wpmaaJiaiever driven him 
wrong; no man had ever driven him right. 

Nothing would satisfy Mrs. Kuhn but to go to the seat of war 
as soon as the armistice was declared. Wild as the idea seemed, 
nothing was easier. The party crossed the St. Gothard and 
reached Milan, picturesque with every sort of uniform and every 
sign of wan To young Adams this first plunge into Italy passed 
Beethoven as a piece of accidental education. Like music, it 
differed from other education in being, not a means of pursuing 
life, but one of the ends attained. Further, on these lines, one 



86 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

could not go. It had but one defect that of attainment. Life 
had no richer impression to give; it offers barely half-a-dozen such, 
and the intervals seem long. Exactly what they teach would 
puzzle a Berlin jurist; yet they seem to have an economic value, 
since most people would decline to part with even their faded 
memories except at a valuation ridiculously extravagant. They 
were also what men pay most for; but one's ideas become hope- 
lessly mixed in trying to reduce such forms of education to a 
standard of exchangeable value, and, as in political economy, 
one had best disregard altogether what cannot be stated in equiv- 
alents. The proper equivalent of pleasure is pain, which is also 
a form of education. 

Not satisfied with Milan, Mrs. Kuhn insisted on invading the 
enemy's country, and the carriage was chartered for Innsbruck by 
way of the Stelvio Pass. The Valtellina, as the carriage drove 
up it, showed war. Garibaldi's Cacciatori were the only visible 
inhabitants. No one could say whether the pass was open, but 
in any case no carriage had yet crossed. At the inns the handsome 
young officers in command of the detachments were delighted to 
accept invitations to dinner and to talk all the evening of their 
battles to the charming patriot who sparkled with interest and 
flattery, but not one of them knew whether their enemies, the 
abhorred Austrian Jagers, would let the travellers through their 
lines. As a rule, gaiety was not the character failing in any party 
that Mrs. Kuhn belonged to, but when at last, after climbing what 
was said to be the finest carriage-pass in Europe, the carriage 
turned the last shoulder, where the glacier of the Ortler Spitze 
tumbled its huge mass down upon the road, even Mrs. Kuhn 
gasped when she was driven directly up to the barricade and 
stopped by the double line of sentries stretching on either side 
up the mountains, till the flash of the gun barrels was lost in the 
flash of the snow. For accidental education the picture had its 
value. The earliest of these pictures count for most, as first 
impressions must, and Adams never afterwards cared much for 



ROME 87 

landscape education, except perhaps in the tropics for the sake of 
the contrast. As education, that chapter, too, was read, and set 
aside. 

The handsome blond officers of the Jagers were not to be beaten 
in courtesy by the handsome young olive-toned officers of the 
Cacciatori. The eternal^ woman as usual, when she is young, 
pretty, and engaging, had her way, and the barricade offered no 
resistance. In fifteen minutes the carriage was rolling down to 
Mais, swarming with German soldiers and German fleas, worse than 
the Italian; and German language, thought, and atmosphere, 
of which young Adams, thanks to his glimpse of Italy, never again 
felt quite the old confident charm. 

Yet he could talk to his cabman and conscientiously did his 
cathedrals, his Rhine, and whatever his companions suggested. 
Faithful to his self-contracted scheme of passing two winters in 
study of the Civil Law, he went back to Dresden with a letter 
to the Frau Hofrathin von Reichenbach, in whose house Lowell and 
other Americans had pursued studies more or less serious. In 
those days, "The Initials" was a new book. The charm which its 
clever author had laboriously woven over Munich gave also a 
certain reflected light to Dresden. Young Adams had nothing to 
do but take fencing-lessons, visit the galleries and go to the 
theatre; but his social failure in the line of "The Initials," was 
humiliating and he succumbed to it. The Frau Hofrathin herself 
was sometimes roused to huge laughter at the total discomfiture 
and helplessness of the young American in the face of her society. 
Possibly an education may be the wider and the richer for a large 
experience of the world; Raphael Pumpelly and Clarence King, 
at about the same time, were enriching their education by a pic- 
turesque intimacy with the manners of the Apaches and Digger 
Indians. All experience is an arch, to build upon. Yet Adams 
admitted himself unable to guess what use his second winter in 
Germany was to him, or what he expected it to be. Even the 
doctrine of accidental education broke down. There were no 



88 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

accidents in Dresden. As soon as the winter was over, he closed 
and locked the German door with a long breath of relief, and took 
the road to Italy. He had then pursued his education, as it pleased 
him, for eighteen months, and in spite of the infinite variety of 
new impressions which had packed themselves into his mind, he 
knew no more, for his practical purposes, than the day he gradu- 
ated. He had made no step towards a profession. He was as 
ignorant as a schoolboy of society. He was unfit for any career 
in Europe, and unfitted for any career in America, and he had not 
natural intelligence enough to see what a mess he had thus far 
made of his education. 

By twisting life to follow accidental and devious paths, one 
might perhaps find some use for accidental and devious knowl- 
edge, but this had been no part of Henry Adams's plan when he 
chose the path most admired by the best judges, and followed it 
till he found it led nowhere. Nothing had been further from his 
mind when he started in November, 1858, than to become a tourist, 
but a mere tourist, and nothing else, he had become in April, 1860, 
when he joined his sister in Florence. His father had been in the 
right. The young man felt a little sore about it. Supposing his 
father asked him, on his return, what equivalent he had brought 
back for the time and money put into his experiment! The only 
possible answer would be: "Sir, I am a tourist!" 

The answer was not what he had meant it to be, and he was 
not likely to better it by asking his father, in turn, what equiva- 
lent his brothers or cousins or friends at home had got out of the 
same time and money spent in Boston. All they had put into the 
law was certainly thrown away, but were they happier in science? 
In theory one might say, with some show of proof, that a pure, 
scientific education was alone correct; yet many of his friends who 
took it, found reason to complain that it was anything but a pure, 
scientific world in which they lived. 

Meanwhile his father had quite enough perplexities of his own, 
without seeking more in his son's errors. His Quincy district had 



ROME 89 

sent him to Congress, and in the spring of 1860 he was in the full 
confusion of nominating candidates for the Presidential election 
in November. He supported Mr. Seward. The Republican Party 
was an unknown force, and the Democratic Party was torn to 
pieces. No one could see far into the future. Fathers could 
blunder as well as sons, and, in 1860, every one was conscious 
of being dragged along paths much less secure than those of the 
European tourist. For the time, the young man was safe from 
interference, and went on his way with a light heart to take what- 
ever chance fragments of education God or the devil was pleased 
to give him, for he knew no longer the good from the bad. 

He had of both sorts more than he knew how to use. Perhaps 
the most useful purpose he set himself to serve was that of his 
pen, for he wrote long letters, during the next three months, to 
his brother Charles, which his brother caused to be printed in the 
Boston Courier; and the exercise was good for him. He had little 
to say, and said it not very well, but that mattered less. Thejhabjt 
of expression leads to the search for something to express. Some- 
thing remains as a residuum of the commonplace itself, if one 
strikes out every commonplace in the expression. Young men 
as a rule saw little in Italy, or anywhere else, and in after life, 
when Adams began to learn what some men could see, he shrank 
into corners of shame at the thought that he should have be- 
trayed his own inferiority as though it were his pride, while he 
invited his neighbors to measure and admire; but it was still the 
nearest approach he had yet made to an intelligent act. 

For the rest, Italy was mostly an emotion and the emotion nat- 
urally centred in Rome. The American parent, curiously enough, 
while bitterly hostile to Paris, seemed rather disposed to accept 
Rome as legitimate education, though abused; but to young men 
seeking education in a serious spirit, taking for granted that 
everything had a cause, and that nature tended to an end, Rome 
was altogether the most violent vice in the world, and Rome be- 
fore 1870 was seductive beyond resistance. The month of May, 



90 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

1860, was divine. No doubt other young men, and occasionally 
young women, have passed the month of May in Rome since 
then, and conceive that the charm continues to exist. Possibly 
it does in them but in 1860 the lights and shadows were 
still mediaeval, and mediaeval Rome was alive; the shadows 
breathed and glowed, full of soft forms felt by lost senses. No 
sand-blast of science had yet skinned off the epidermis of history, 
thought, and feeling. The pictures were uncleaned, the churches 
unrestored, the ruins unexcavated. Mediaeval Rome was sor- 
cery. Rome was the worst spot on earth to teach nineteenth- 
century youth what to do with a twentieth-century world. One's 
emotions in Rome were one's private affair, like one's glass of 
absinthe before dinner in the Palais Royal; they must be hurtful, 
else they could not have been so intense; and they were surely 
immoral, for no t>rre, priest or politician, could honestly read in 
the ruins of Rome any other certain lesson than that they were 
evidence of the just judgments of an outraged God against all the 
doings of man. This moral unfitted young men for every sort of 
useful activity; it made Rome a gospel of anarchy and vice; the 
last place under the sun for educating the young; yet it was, by 
common consent, the only spot that the young of either sex 
and every race passionately, perversely, wickedly loved. 

Boys never see a conclusion; only on the edge of the grave can 
rnan conclude anything; but the first impulse given to the boy is 
apt to lead or drive him for the rest of his life into conclusion 
after conclusion that he never dreamed of reaching. One looked 
idly enough at the Forum or at St. Peter's, but one never forgot 
the look, and it never ceased reacting. To a young Bostonian, 
fresh from Germany, Rome seemed a pure emotion, quite free 
from economic or actual values, and he could not in reason or 
common sense foresee that it was mechanically piling up conun- 
drum after conundrum in his educational path, which seemed 
unconnected but that he had got to connect; that seemed in- 
soluble but had got to be somehow solved. Rome was not a beetle 



ROME 91 

to be dissected and dropped; not a bad French novel to be read 
in a railway train and thrown out of the window after other bad 
French novels, the morals of which could never approach the 
immorality of Roman history. Rome was actual; it was England; 
it was going to be America. Rome could not be fitted into an 
orderly, middle-class, Bostonian, systematic scheme of evolution. 
No law of progress applied to it. Not even time-sequences 
the last refuge of helpless historians had value for it. The 
Forum no more led to the Vatican than the Vatican to the Forum. 
Rienzi, Garibaldi, Tiberius Gracchus, Aurelian might be mixed 
up in any relation of time, along with a thousand more, and never 
lead to a sequence. The great word Evolution had not yet, in 
1860, made a new religion of history, but the old religion had 
preached the same doctrine for a thousand years without finding 
in the entire history of Rome anything but flat contradiction. 

Of course both priests and evolutionists bitterly denied this 
heresy, but what they affirmed or denied in 1860 had very little 
importance indeed for 1960. Anarchy lost no ground meanwhile. 
The problem became only the more fascinating. Probably it was 
more vital in May, 1860, than it had been in October, 1764, when 
the idea of writing the Decline and Fall of the city first started to 
the mind of Gibbon, "in the close of the evening, as I sat musing 
in the Church of the Zoccolanti or Franciscan Friars, while they 
were singing Vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, on the ruins of the 
Capitol." Murray's Handbook had the grace to quote this pas- 
sage from Gibbon's "Autobiography," which led Adams more 
than once to sit at sunset on the steps of the Church of Santa 
Maria di Ara Cceli, curiously wondering that .not an inch^had been 
gained by. Gibbon or all the historians since towards ex- 
plaining the Fall. The mystery remained unsolved; the charm 
remained intact. Two great experiments 



had left there the chief monuments of their failure, and nothing 
proved that the city might not still survive to express the failure 
of a third. 



92 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

The young man had no idea what he was doing. The thought 
of posing for a Gibbon never entered his mind. He was a tourist, 
even to the depths of his sub-consciousness, and it was well for 
him that he should be nothing else, for even the greatest of men 
cannot sit with dignity, "in the close of evening, among the ruins 
of the Capitol/' unless they have something quite original to say 
about it. Tacitus could do it; so could Michael Angelo; and so, 
at a pinch, could Gibbon, though in figure hardly heroic; but, in 
sum, none of them could say very much more than the tourist, 
who went on repeating to himself the eternal question: Why! 
Why!! Why!!! as his neighbor, the blind beggar, might do, sit- 
ting next him, on the church steps. No one ever had answered the 
question to the satisfaction of any one else; yet every one who had 
either head or heart, felt that sooner or later he must make up his 
mind what answer to accept. Substitute the word America for 
the word Rome, and the question became personal. 

Perhaps Henry learned something in Rome, though he never 
knew it, and never sought it. Rome dwarfs teachers. The great- 
est men of the age scarcely bore the test of posing with Rome 
for a background. Perhaps Garibaldi possibly even Cavour 
could have sat "in the close of the evening, among the ruins of the 
Capitol," but one hardly saw Napoleon III there, or Palmerston 
or Tennyson or Longfellow. One morning, Adams happened to 
be chatting in the studio of Hamilton Wilde, when a middle-aged 
Englishman came in, evidently excited, and told of the shock he 
had just received, when riding near the Circus Maximus, at com- 
ing unexpectedly on the guillotine, where some criminal had been 
put to death an hour or two before. The sudden surprise had 
quite overcome him; and Adams, who seldom saw the point of 
a story till time had blunted it, listened sympathetically to learn 
what new form of grim horror had for the moment wiped out the 
memory of two thousand years of Roman bloodshed, or the con- 
solation, derived from history and statistics, that most citizens 
of Rome seemed to be the better for guillotining. Only by slow 



ROME 93 

degrees, he grappled the conviction that the victim of the shock 
was Robert Browning; and, on the background of the Circus 
Maximus, the Christian martyrs flaming as torches, and the morn- 
ing's murderer on the block, Browning seemed rather in place, 
as a middle-aged gentlemanly English Pippa Passes; while after- 
wards, in the light of Belgravia dinner-tables, he never made 
part of his background except by effacement. Browning might 
have sat with Gibbon, among the ruins, and few Romans would 
have smiled. 

Yet Browning never revealed the poetic depths of Saint Francis; 
William Story could not touch the secret of Michael Angelo; and 
Mommsen hardly said all that one felt by instinct in the lives of 
Cicero and Caesar. They taught what, as a rule, needed no teach- 
ing, the lessons of a rather cheap imagination and cheaper politics. 
Rome was a bewildering complex of ideas, experiments, ambitions, 
energies; without her, the Western world was pointless and frag- 
mentary; she gave heart and unity to it all; yet Gibbon might 
have gone on for the whole century, sitting among the ruins of the 
Capitol, and no one would have passed, capable of telling him 
what it meant. Perhaps it meant nothing. 

So it ended; the happiest month of May that life had yet of- 
fered, fading behind the present, and probably beyond the past, 
somewhere into abstract time, grotesquely out of place with the 
Berlin scheme or a Boston future. Adams explained to himself 
that he was absorbing knowledge. He would have put it better 
had he said that knowledge was absorbing him. He was passive. 
In spite of swarming impressions he knew no more when he left 
Rome than he did when he entered it. As a marketable object, his 
value was less. His next step went far to convince him that acci- 
dental education, whatever its economical return might be, was 
prodigiously successful as an object in itself. Everything con- 
spired to ruin his sound scheme of life, and to make him a vagrant 
as well as pauper. He went on to Naples, and there, in the hot 
June, heard rumors that Garibaldi and his thousand were about 



94 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

to attack Palermo. Calling on the American Minister, Chandler 
of Pennsylvania, he was kindly treated, not for his merit, but for 
his name, and Mr. Chandler amiably consented to send him to the 
seat of war as bearer of despatches to Captain Palmer of the 
American sloop of war Iroquois. Young Adams seized the chance, 
and went to Palermo in a government transport filled with fleas, 
commanded by a charming Prince Caracciolo. 

He told all about it to the Boston Courier, where the narrative 
probably exists to this day, unless the files of the Courier have 
wholly perished; but of its bearing on education the Courier did 
not speak. He himself would have much liked to know whether 
it had any bearing whatever, and what was its value as a post- 
graduate course. Quite apart from its value as life attained, real- 
ized, capitalized, it had also a certain value as a lesson in some- 
thing, though Adams could never classify the branch of study. 
Loosely, the tourist called it knowledge of men, but it was just 
the reverse; it was knowledge of one's ignorance of men.; Captain 
Palmer of the Iroquois, who was a friend of the young man's uncle, 
Sydney Brooks, took him with the officers of the ship to make an 
evening call on Garibaldi, whom they found in the Senate House 
towards sunset, at supper with his picturesque and piratic staff, 
in the full noise and color of the Palermo revolution. As a spec- 
tacle, it belonged to Rossini and the Italian opera, or to Alexandre 
Dumas at the least, but the spectacle was not its educational side. 
Garibaldi left the table, and, sitting down at the window, had a 
few words of talk with Captain Palmer and young Adams. At 
that moment, in the summer of 1860, Garibaldi was certainly the 
most serious of the doubtful energies in the world ; the most essen- 
tial to gauge rightly. Even then society was dividing between 
banker and anarchist. One or the other, Garibaldi must serve. 
Himself a typical anarchist, sure to overshadow Europe and alarm 
empires bigger than Naples, his success depended on his mind; 
his energy was beyond doubt. 

Adams had the chance to look this sphinx in the eyes, and f 



ROME 95 

for five minutes, to watch him like a wild animal, at the moment 
of his greatest achievement and most splendid action. One saw 
a quiet-featured, quiet-voiced man in a red flannel shirt; absolutely 
impervious; a type of which Adams knew nothing. Sympathetic 
it was, and one felt that it was simple; one suspected even that it 
might be childlike, but could form no guess of its intelligence. In 
his own eyes Garibaldi might be a Napoleon or a Spartacus; in the 
hands of Cavour he might become a Condottiere; in the eyes of his- 
tory he might, like the rest of the world, be only the vigorous player 

The student was none the wiser. 



This compound nature of patriot and pirate had illumined 
Italian history from the beginning, and was no more intelligible 
to itself than to a young American who had no experience in double 
natures. In the end, if the "Autobiography" tells truth, Gari- 
baldi saw and said that he had not understood his own acts ; that 
he had been an instrument; that he had served the purposes of the 
class he least wanted to help; yet in 1860 he thought himself the 
revolution anarchic, Napoleonic, and his ambition was unbounded. 
What should a young Bostonian have made of a character like 
this, internally alive with childlike fancies, and externally quiet, 
simple, almost innocent; uttering with apparent conviction the 
usual commonplaces of popular politics that all politicians use as 
the small change of their intercourse with the public; but never 
betraying a thought? 

Precisely this class of mind was to be the toughest problem of 
Adams's practical life, but he could never make anything of it. 
The lesson of Garibaldi, as educatjon^sejsm 
treme complexity of extreme simplicity; ^but . pne could have 
learnecTERis from a glow-worm. One did not need the vivid recol- 
Ie<rri6n 5f~^ seafaring captain of 

Genoese adventurers and Sicilian brigands, supping in the July 
heat and Sicilian dirt and revolutionary clamor, among the bar- 
ricaded streets of insurgent Palermo, merely in order to remember 
that simplicity is complex. 



96 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Adams left the problem as he found it, and came north to stum- 
ble over others, less picturesque but nearer. He squandered two 
or three months on Paris. From the first he had avoided Paris, 
and had wanted no French influence in his education. He dis- 
approved of France in the lump. A certain knowledge of the lan- 
guage one must have; enough to order dinner and buy a theatre 
ticket; but more he did not seek. He disliked the Empire and the 
Emperor particularly, but this was a trifle; he disliked most the 
French mind. To save himself the trouble of drawing up a long 
list of all that he disliked, he disapproved of the whole, once 
for all, and shut them figuratively out of his life. France was 
not serious, and he was not serious in going there. 

He did this in good faith, obeying the lessons his teachers had 
taught him; but the curious result followed that, being in no way 
responsible for the French and sincerely disapproving them, he 
felt quite at liberty to enjoy to the full everything he disapproved. 
Stated thus crudely, the idea sounds derisive; but, as a matter of 
fact, several thousand Americans passed much of their time there 
on this understanding. They sought to take share in every func- 
tion that was open to approach, as they sought tickets to the 
opera, because they were not a part of it. Adams did like the rest. 
All thought of serious education had long vanished. He tried to 
acquire a few French idioms, without even aspiring to master a 
subjunctive, but he succeeded better in acquiring a modest taste 
for Bordeaux and Burgundy and one or two sauces ; for the Trois 
Freres Proven^aux and Voisin's and Philippe's and the Cafe 
Anglais; for the Palais Royal Theatre, and the Varietes and the 
Gymnase; for the Brohans and Bressant, Rose Cheri and Gil 
Perez, and other lights of the stage. His friends were good to him. 
Life was amusing. Paris rapidly became familiar. In a month or 
six weeks he forgot even to disapprove of it; but he studied noth- 
ing, entered no society, and made no acquaintance. Accidental 
education went far in Paris, and one picked up a deal of knowl- 
edge that might become useful; perhaps, after all, the three months 



ROME 97 

passed there might serve better purpose than the twenty-one 
months passed elsewhere; but he did not intend it did not 
think it and looked at it as a momentary and frivolous vaca- 
tion before going home to fit himself for life. Therewith, after 
staying as long as he could and spending all the money he dared, 
he started with mixed emotions but no education, for home. 




CHAPTER VII 

TREASON (1860-1861) 

9 forty years afterwards, Henry Adams looked 

back over his adventures in search of knowledge, he 
asked himself whether fortune or fate had ever dealt 
its cards quite so wildly to any of his known antecessors as when 
it led him to ; I^a jie jst^ 
Lincoln on the same day. 

He dropped back on Quincy like a lump of lead; he rebounded 
like a football, tossed into space by an unknown energy which 
played with all his generation as a cat plays with mice. The 
simile is none too strong. Not one man in America wanted the 
Civil War, or expected or intended it. A small minority wanted 
secession. The vast majority wanted to go on with their occupa- 
tions in peace. Not one, however clever or learned, guessed what 
happened. Possibly a few Southern loyalists in despair might 
dream it as an impossible chance; but none planned it. 

As for Henry Adams, fresh from Europe and chaos of another 
sort, he plunged at once into a lurid atmosphere of politics, quite 
heedless of any education or forethought. His past melted away. 
The prodigal was welcomed home, but not even his father asked 
a malicious question about the Pandects. At the utmost, he hinted 
at some shade of prodigality by quietly inviting his son to act as 
private secretary during the winter in Washington, as though any 
young man who could afford to throw away two winters on the 
Civil Law could afford to read Blackstone for another winter 
without a master. The young man was beyond satire, and asked 
only a pretext for throwing all education to the east wind. No- 
vember at best is sad, and November at Quincy had been from 
earliest childhood the least gay of seasons. Nowhere else does 
the uncharitable autumn wreak its spite so harshly on the frail 



TREASON V 99 

wreck of the grasshopper summer; yet even a Quincy November 
seemed temperate before the chill of a Boston January. 

This was saying much, for the November of 1860 at Quincy 
stood apart from other memories as lurid beyond description. 
Although no one believed in civil war, the air reeked of it, and the 
Republicans organized their clubs and parades as Wide-Awakes in 
a form military in all things except weapons. Henry reached home 
in time to see the last of these processions, stretching in ranks of 
torches along the hillside, file down through the November night 
to the Old House, where Mr. Adams, their Member of Congress, 
received them, and, let them pretend what they liked, their air 
was not that of innocence. 

Profoundly ignorant, anxious, and curious, the young man 
packed his modest trunk again, which had not yet time to be un- 
packed, and started for Washington with his family. Ten years 
had passed since his last visit, but very little had changed. As in 
1800 and 1850, so in 1860, the same rude colony was camped in 
the same forest, with the same unfinished Greek temples for work- 
rooms, and sloughs for roads. The Government had an air of so- 
cial instability and incompleteness that went '.faOOL 5iippQ?t tl} 
jight of secession in theory as in fact; but right or wrong, seces- 
sion was likely to be easy where there was so little to secede from. 
The Union was a sentiment, but not much more, and in December, 
1860, the sentiment about the Capitol was chiefly hostile, so far 
as it made itself felt. John Adams was better off in Philadelphia 
in 1776 than his great-grandson Henry in 1860 in Washington. 

Patriotism ended by throwing a halo over the Continental Con- 
gress, but over the close of the Thirty-sixth Congress in 1860-61, 
no halo could be thrown by any one who saw it. Of all the crowd 
swarming in Washington that winter, young Adams was surely 
among the most ignorant and helpless, but he saw plainly that the 
knowledge possessed by everybody about him was hardly greater 
than his own. Never in a long life did he seek to master a lesson 
so obscure. Mr. Sumner was given to saying after Oxenstiern: 



ioo THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

"Quantula sapientia mundus regitur!" Oxenstiern talked of a 
world that wanted wisdom; but Adams found himself seeking 
education in a world that seemed to him both unwise and igno- 
rant. The Southern secessionists were certainly unbalanced in 
mind fit for medical treatment, like other victims of hallu- 
cination haunted by suspicion, by idees fixes, by violent mor- 
bid excitement; but this was not all. They were stupendously 
ignorant of the world. As a class, the cotton-planters were men- 
tally one-sided, ill-balanced, and provincial to a degree rarely 
known. They were a close society on whom the new fountains of 
power had poured a stream of wealth and slaves that acted like 
oil on flame. They showed a young student his first object-lesson 
of the way in which excess of power worked when held by inade- 
quate hands. 

- This might be a commonplace of 1900, but in 1860 it was para- 
dox. The Southern statesmen were regarded as standards of 
statesmanship, and such standards barred education. Charles 
Sumner's chief offence was his insistence on Southern ignorance, 
and he stood a living proof of it. To this school, Henry Adams had 
come for a new education, and the school was seriously, honestly, 
taken by most of the world, including Europe, as proper for the 
purpose, although the Sioux Indians would have taught less mis- 
chief. From such contradictions among intelligent people, what 
was a young man to learn ? 

He could learn nothing but cross-purpose. The old and typical 
Southern gentleman developed as cotton-planter had nothing to 
teach or to give, except warning. Even as example to be avoided, 
he was too glaring in his defiance of reason, to help the education 
of a reasonable being. No one learned a useful lesson from the 
Confederate school except to keep away from it. Thus, at one 
sweep, the whole field of instruction south of the Potomac was 
shut off; it was overshadowed by the cotton planters, from whom 
one could learn nothing but bad temper, bad manners, poker, and 
treason. 



TREASON 101 

Perforce, the student was thrown back on Northern precept 
and example; first of all, on his New England surroundings. Re- 
publican houses were few in Washington, and Mr. and Mrs. 
Adams aimed to create a social centre for New Englanders. They 
took a house on I Street, looking over Pennsylvania Avenue, weli 
out towards Georgetown the Markoe house and there the 
private secretary began to learn his social duties, for the political 
were confined to committee-rooms and lobbies of the Capitol. 
He had little to do, and knew not how to do it rightly, but he 
knew of no one who knew more. 

The Southern type was one to be avoided; the New England 
type was one's self. It had nothing to show except one's own 
features. Setting aside Charles Sumner, who stood quite alone 
and was the boy's oldest friend, all the New Englanders were 
sane and steady men, well-balanced, educated, and free from mean- 
ness or intrigue men whom one liked to act with, and who, 
whether graduates or not, bore the stamp of Harvard College. 
Anson Burlingame was one exception, and perhaps Israel Wash- 
burn another; but as a rule the New Englander's strength was his 
poise which almost amounted to a defect. He offered no more 
target for love than for hate; he attracted as little as he repelled; 
even as a machine, his motion seemed never accelerated. The 
character, with its force or feebleness, was familiar; one knew it 
to the core; one was it had been run in the same mould. 

There remained the Central and Western States, but there the 
choice of teachers was not large and in the end narrowed itself to 
Preston King, Henry Winter Davis, Owen Lovejoy, and a few 
other men born with social faculty. Adams took most kindly to 
Henry J. Raymond, who came to view the field for the Nezv York 
Times, and who was a man of the world. The average Congress- 
man was civil enough, but had nothing to ask except offices, and 
nothing to offer but the views of his district. The average Senator 
was more reserved, but had not much more to say, being always^ 
excepting one or two genial natures, handicapped by his own 
importance. 



IO2 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Study it as one might, the hope of education, till the arrival 
of the President-elect, narrowed itself to the possible influence 
of only two men Sumner and Seward. 

Sumner was then fifty years old. Since his election as Senator 
in 1851 he had passed beyond the reach of his boy friend, and, 
after his Brooks injuries, his nervous system never quite recov- 
ered its tone; but perhaps eight or ten years of solitary existence as 
Senator had most to do with his development. No man, however 
strong, can serve ten years as schoolmaster, priest, or Senator, 
and remain fit for anything else. All the dogmatic stations in life 
have the effect of fixing a certain stiffness of attitude forever, as 
though they mesmerized the subject. Yet even among Senators 
there were degrees in dogmatism, from the frank South Caro- 
linian brutality, to that of Webster, Benton, Clay, or Sumner 
himself, until in extreme cases, like Conkling, it became Shake- 
spearian and bou/e as Godkin used to call it like Malvolio. 
Sumner had become dogmatic like the rest, but he had at least the 
merit of qualities that warranted dogmatism. He justly thought, 
as Webster had thought before him, that his great services and sac- 
rifices, his superiority in education, his oratorical power, his polit- 
ical experience, his representative character at the head of the 
whole New England contingent, and, above all, his knowledge of 
the world, made him the most important member of the Senate; 
and no Senator had ever saturated himself more thoroughly with 
the spirit and temper of the body. 

Although the Senate is much given to admiring in its members 
a superiority less obvious or quite invisible to outsiders, one 
'Senator seldom proclaims his own inferiority to another, and 
still more seldom likes to be told of it. Even the greatest Senators 
seemed to inspire little personal affection in each other, and be- 
trayed none at all. Sumner had a number of rivals who held his 
judgment in no high esteem, and one of these was Senator Seward. 
The two men would have disliked each other by instinct had they 
lived in different planets. Each was created only for exasperat- 



TREASON 103 

ing the other; the virtues of one were the faults of his rival, until 
no good quality seemed to remain of either. That the public serv- 
ice must suffer was certain, but what were the sufferings of the 
public service compared with the risks run by a young mosquito 
a private secretary trying to buzz admiration in the ears of 
each, and unaware that each would impatiently slap at him for 
belonging to the other? Innocent and unsuspicious beyond what 
was permitted even in a nursery, the private secretary courted 
both. 

Private secretaries are servants of' a rather low order, whose 
business is to serve sources of power. The first news of a profes- 
sional kind, imparted to private secretary Adams on reaching 
Washington, was that the President-elect, Abraham Lincoln, had 
selected Mr. Seward for his Secretary of State, and that Seward 
was to be the medium for communicating his wishes to his fol- 
lowers. Every young man naturally accepted the wishes of Mr. 
Lincoln as orders, the more because he could see that the new 
President was likely to need all the help that several million 
young men would be able to give, if they counted on having any 
President at all to serve. Naturally one waited impatiently for 
the first meeting with the new Secretary of State. 

Governor Seward was an old friend of the family. He pro- 
fessed to be a disciple and follower of John Quincy Adams. He 
had been Senator since 1849, when his responsibilities as leader had 
separated him from the Free Soil contingent, for, in the dry light 
of the first Free Soil faith, the ways of New York politics and of 
Thurlow Weed had not won favor; but the fierce heat which 
welded the Republican Party in 1856 melted many such barriers, 
and when Mr. Adams came to Congress in December, 1859, Gov- 
ernor Seward instantly renewed his attitude of family friend, be- 
came a daily intimate in the household, and lost no chance of 
forcing his fresh ally to the front. 

A few days after their arrival in December, 1860, the Governor, 
as he was always called, came to dinner, alone, as one of the 



IO4 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

family, and the private secretary had the chance he wanted to 
watch him as carefully as one generally watches men who dispose 
of one's future. A slouching, slender figure; a head like a wise 
macaw; a beaked nose; shaggy eyebrows; unorderly hair and 
clothes; hoarse voice; offhand manner; free talk, and perpetual 
cigar, offered a new type of western New York to fathom; 
a type in one way simple because it was only double political 
and personal; but complex because the political had become na- 
ture, and no one could tell which was the mask and which the 
features. At table, among friends, Mr. Seward threw off restraint, 
or seemed to throw it off, in reality, while in the world he threw 
it off, like a politician, for effect. In both cases he chose to appear 
as a free talker, who loathed pomposity and enjoyed a joke; but 
how much was nature and how much was mask, he was himself 
too simple a nature to know. Underneath the surface he was 
conventional after the conventions of western New York and 
Albany. Politicians thought it unconventional-fry. Bostonians 
thought it provincial. Henry Adams thought it charming. From 
the first sight, he loved the Governor, who, though sixty years old, 
had the youth of his sympathies. He noticed that Mr. Seward 
was never petty or personal; his talk was large; he generalized; 
he never seemed to . pose for statesmanship; he did not require 
an attitude of prayer. What was more unusual almost sin- 
gular and quite eccentric he had some means, unknown to 
other Senators, of producing the effect of unselfishness. 

Superficially Mr. Seward and Mr. Adams were contrasts; es- 
sentially they were much alike. Mr. Adams was taken to be 
rigid, but the Puritan character in all its forms could be supple 
enough when it chose; and in Massachusetts all the Adamses had 
been attacked in succession as no better than political mercenaries. 
Mr. Hildreth, in his standard history, went so far as to echo with 
approval the charge that treachery was hereditary in the family. 
Any Adams had at least to be thick-skinned, hardened to every 
contradictory epithet that virtue could supply, and, on the whole, 



TREASON 105 

armed to return such attentions; but all must have admitted that 
they had invariably subordinated local to national interests, and 
would continue to do so, whenever forced to choose. C. F. Adams 
was sure to do what his father had done, as his father had followed 
the steps of John Adams, and no doubt thereby earned his epi- 
thets. 

The inevitable followed, as a child fresh from the nursery 
should have had the instinct to foresee, but the young man on 
the edge of life never dreamed. What motives or emotions drove 
his masters on their various paths he made no pretence of guess- 
ing; even at that age he preferred to admit his dislike for guess- 
ing motives; he knew only his own infantile ignorance, before 
which he stood amazed, and his innocent good-faith, always 
matter of simple-minded surprise. Critics who know ultimate 
truth will pronounce judgment on history; all that Henry Adams 
ever saw in man was a reflection of his own ignorance., and he never 
sawquite so much^of it as in the winter of 1 860-61. Every one 
Icnows the story; every one draws what conclusion suits his tem- 
per, and the conclusion matters now less than though it concerned 
the merits of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; but in 1861 
the conclusion made the sharpest lesson of life; it was condensed 
and concentrated education. 

Rightly or wrongly the new President and his chief advisers 
in Washington decided that, before they could administer the 
Government, they must make sure of a government to admin- 
ister, and that this chance depended on the action of Virginia. 
The whole ascendancy of the winter wavered between the effort 
of the cotton States to drag Virginia out, and the effort of the 
new President to keep Virginia in. Governor Seward represent- 
ing the Administration in the Senate took the lead; Mr. Adams 
took the lead in the House; and as far as a private secretary knew, 
the party united on its tactics. In offering concessions to the 
border States, they had to run the risk, or incur the certainty, 
of dividing their own party, and they took this risk with open 



io6 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

eyes. As Seward himself, in his gruff way, said at dinner, after 
Mr. Adams and he had made their speeches: "If there's no seces- 
sion now, you and I are ruined." 

They won their game; this was their affair and the affair of the 
historians who tell their story; their private secretaries had nothing 
to do with it except to follow their orders. On that side a sec- 
retary learned nothing and had nothing to learn. The sudden 
arrival of Mr. Lincoln in Washington on February 23, and the lan- 
guage of his inaugural address, were the final term of the win- 
ter's tactics, and closejithfiLJlriyate secretary's interest in the mat- 
ter forever. Perhaps he felt, even then, a good deal more interest 
in the appearance of another private secretary, of his own age, 
a young man named John Hay, who lighted on La Fayette Square 
at the same moment. Eriends are born, not made, and Henry 
never mistook a friend except "when In power. From the first 
sfiiEt meeting in February and March, 1861, he recognized Hay 
as a friend, and never lost sight of him at the future crossing of 
their paths; but, for the moment, his own task ended on March 4 
when Hay's began. The winter's anxieties were shifted upon 
new shoulders, and Henry gladly turned back to Blackstone. He 
had tried to make himself useful, and had exerted energy that 
seemed to him portentous, acting in secret as newspaper corre- 
spondent, cultivating a large acquaintance and even haunting ball- 
rooms where the simple, old-fashioned, Southern tone was pleas- 
ant even in the atmosphere of conspiracy and treason. The sum 
was next to nothing for education, because no one could teach; 
all were as ignorant as himself; none knew what should be done, 
or how to do it; all were trying to learn and were more bent on 
asking than on answering questions. The mass of ignorance in 
Washington was lighted up by no ray of knowledge. Society, 
rpmjtop to bottom, broke down. 

From tKis law "there was no exception, unless, perhaps, that of 
old General Winfield Scott, who happened to be the only mili- 
tary figure that looked equal to the crisis. No one else either 



TREASON 



looked it, or was it, or could be it, by nature or training. Had 
young Adams been told that his life was to hang on the correct- 
ness of his estimate of the new President, he would have lost. He 
saw Mr. Lincoln but once; at the melancholy function called an 
Inaugural Ball. Of course he looked anxiously for a sign of char- 
acter. He saw a long, awkward figure; a plain, ploughed face; 
a mind, absent in part, and in part evidently worried by white 
kid gloves; features that expressed neither self-satisfaction nor 
any other familiar Americanism, but rather the same painful 
sense of becoming educated and of needing education that tor- 
mented a private secretary; above all a Jftck of apparent force. 
Any private secretary in the least fit for his business would have 
thought, as Adams did, that no.jnan living needed so much educa- 
tion as the new President but that all the education he could get 
would not be enough. 

"~As far as a young man of anxious temperament could see, no 
one in Washington was fitted for his duties; or rather, no duties 
in March were fitted for the duties in April. The few people who 
thought they knew something were more in error than those who 
knew nothing. Education was matter of life and death, but all 
the education in the world would have helped nothing. Only one 
man in Adams's reach seemed to him supremely fitted by knowl- 
edge and experience to be an adviser and friend. This was Senator 
Sumner; and there, in fact, the young man's education began; 
there it ended. 

Going over the experience again, long after all the great actors 
were dead, he struggled to see where he had blundered. In the 
effort to make acquaintances, he lost friends, but he would have 
liked much to know whether he could have helped it. He had 
necessarily followed Seward and his father; he took for granted 
that his business was obedience, discipline, and silence; he sup- 
posed the party to require it, and that the crisis overruled all 
personal doubts. He was thunderstruck to learn that Senator 
Sumner privately denounced the course, regarded Mr. Adams 



io8 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

as betraying the principles of his life, and broke off relations 
with his family. 

Many a shock was Henry Adams to meet in the course of a 
long life passed chiefly near politics and politicians, but the pro- 
foundest lessons are not the lessons of reason; they are sudden 
-strains that permanently warp the mind? He^carecTTif tie or noth- 
ing about the point in discussion; he was even willing to admit 
that Surnner might be right, though in all great emergencies he 
commonly found that every one was more or less wrong; he liked 
lofty moral principle and cared little for political tactics; he felt 
a profound respect for Sumner himself; but the shock opened, a 
chasm in life that never closed, and as long as life lasted, he found 
himself invariably taking for granted, as a political instinct, with- 
out waiting further experiment as he took for granted that 
arsenic poisoned the rule that a friend in power is a friend lost. 

On his own score, he never admitted the rupture, and never 
exchanged a word with Mr. Sumner on the subject, then or after- 
wards, but his education for good or bad made an enor- 
mous stride. One has to deal with all sorts of unexpected morals 
in life, and, at this moment, he was looking at hundreds of South- 
ern gentlemen who believed themselves singularly honest, but 
who seemed to hinr engaged in the plainest breach of faith and 
the blackest secret conspiracy, yet they did not disturb his edu- 
cation. History told of little else; and not one rebel defection 
not even Robert E. Lee's cost young Adams a personal pang; 
but Sumner's struck home. 

This, then, was the result of the new attempt at education, 
down to March 4, 1861; this was all; and frankly, it seemed to 
him hardly what he wanted. The picture of Washington in March, 
1861, offered education, but not the kind of education that led to 
good. The process that Matthew Arnold described as wander- 
ing between two .worlds, pne dead^ the other powerless to ^>e born, 
helps nothing. Washington was a dismal school. Even before the 
traitors had flown, the vultures descended on it in swarms that 



TREASON 109 

v - " -"" 

darkened the ground, and tore the carrion of political patronage 
into fragments and gobbets of fat and lean, on the very steps of 
tfee White Mouse. Not a man there knew what his task was to 
be, or was fitted for it; every one without exception, Northern or 
Southern, was to : learn his business at the cost of the public. Lin- 
coln, Seward, Sumner, and the rest, could give no help to the 
young man seeking education; they knew less than he; within six 
weeks they were all to be taught their duties by the uprising of 
such as he, and their education was to cost a million lives and ten 
thousand million dollars, more or less/ North and South, before 
the country could recover its balance and movement. Henry 
was a helpless victim, and, like all the rest, he could only wait for 
he knew not what, to send him he knew not where. 

With the close of the session, his own functions ended. Ceas- 
ing to be private secretary he knew not what else to do but re- 
turn with his father and mother to Boston in the middle of March, 
and, with childlike docility, sit down at a desk in the law-office 
of Horace Gray in Court Street, to begin again: "My Lords and 
Gentlemen"; dozing after a two o'clock dinner, or waking to dis- 
cuss politics with the future Justice. There, in ordinary times, he 
would have remained for life, his attempt at education in treason 
having, like all the rest, disastrously failed. 



CHAPTER VIII 

DIPLOMACY (1861) 

HARDLY a week passed when the newspapers announced 
that President Lincoln had selected Charles Francis 
Adams as his Minister to England. Once more, silently, 
Henry put Blackstone back on its shelf. As Friar Bacon's head 
sententiously announced many centuries before: Time had passed! 
The Civil Law lasted a brief day; the Common Law prolonged its 
shadowy existence for a week. The law ? altogether, as path of 
education, vanished in April, 1861, leaving a million young men 
planted in the mud of a lawless world, to begin a new life with- 
out education at all. They asked few questions, but if they had 
asked millions they would have got no answers. No one could help. 
Looking back on this moment of crisis, nearly fifty years after- 
wards, one could only shake one's white beard in silent horror. Mr. 
Adams once more intimated that he thought himself entitled to 
the services of one of his sons, and he indicated Henry as the only 
one who could be spared from more serious duties. Henry packed 
his trunk again without a word. He could offer no protest. Ridic- 
ulous as he knew himself about to be in his new role, he was less 
ridiculous than his betters. He was at least no public official, like 
the thousands of improvised secretaries and generals who crowded 
their jealousies and intrigues on the President. He was not a vul- 
ture of carrion patronage. He knew that his father's appoint- 
ment was the result of Governor Seward's personal friendship; 
he did not then know that Senator Sumner had opposed it, or the 
reasons which Sumner alleged for thinking it unfit; but he could 
have supplied proofs enough had Sumner asked for them, the 
strongest and most decisive being that, in his opinion, Mr. Adams 
had chosen a private secretary far more unfit than his chief. That 
Mr. Adams was unfit might well be, since it was hard to find a fit 



DIPLOMACY 1 1 1 



appointment in the list of possible candidates, except Mr. Sumner 
v himself ; and no one knew so well as this experienced Senator that 
the weakest of all Mr. Adams's proofs of fitness was his consent 
to quit a safe seat in Congress for an exceedingly unsafe seat in 
London with no better support than Senator Sumner, at the head 
of the Foreign Relations Committee, was likely to give him. In 
the family history, its members had taken many a dangerous risk, 
but never before had they taken one so desperate. 

The private secretary troubled himself not at all about the un- 
fitness of any one; he knew too little; and, in fact, no one, except 
perhaps Mr. Sumner, knew more. The President and Secretary 
of State knew least of all. As Secretary of Legation the Executive 
appointed the editor of a Chicago newspaper who had applied for 
the Chicago Post-Office; a good fellow, universally known as 
Charley Wilson, who had not a thought of staying in the post, or 
of helping the Minister. The Assistant Secretary was inherited 
from Buchanan's time, a hard worker, but socially useless. Mr. 
Adams made no effort to find efficient help; perhaps he knew no 
name to suggest; perhaps he knew too much of Washington; but 
he could hardly have hoped to find a staff of strength in his son. 

The private secretary was more passive than his father, for he 
knew not where to turn. Sumner alone could have smoothed his 
path by giving him letters of introduction, but if Sumner wrote 
letters, it was not with the effect of smoothing paths. No one, at 
that moment, was engaged in smoothing either paths or people. 
The private secretary was no worse off than his neighbors except 
in being called earlier into service. On April 13 the storm burst 
and rolled several hundred thousand young men like Henry Adams 
mtolTie surf of a wild ocean, all helpless like himself, to be beaten 
about for four years by the waves of war. Adams still had time to 
watch the regiments form ranks before Boston State House in 
the April evenings and march southward, quietly enough, with 
the air of business they wore from their cradles, but with few signs 
or sounds of excitement. He had time also to go down the harbor 



H2 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

to see his brother Charles quartered in Fort Independence before 
being thrown, with a hundred thousand more, into the furnace of 
the Army of the Potomac to get educated in alury^of .fire. Few 
things were for the moment so trivial in importance as the soli- 
tary private secretary crawling down to the wretched old Cu- 
nard steamer Niagara at East Boston to start again for Liverpool. 
This time the pitcher of education had gone to the fountain once 
too often; it was fairly broken; and the young man had got to 
meet a hostile world without defence or arms. 

The situation did not seem even comic, so ignorant was the 
world of its humors; yet Minister Adams sailed for England, May I, 
1861, with much the same outfit as Admiral Dupont would have 
enjoyed if the Government had sent him to attack Port Royal 
with one cabin-boy in a rowboat. Luckily for the cabin-boy, he 
was alone. Had Secretary Seward and Senator Sumner given to 
Mr. Adams the rank of Ambassador and four times his salary, a 
palace in London, a staff of trained secretaries, and personal let- 
ters of introduction to the royal family and the whole peerage, the 
private secretary would have been cabin-boy still, with the extra 
burden of many masters; he was the most fortunate person in the 
party, having for master only his father who never fretted, never 
dictated, never disciplined, and whose idea of American diplo- 
macy was that of the eighteenth century. Minister Adams re- 
membered how his grandfather had sailed from Mount Wollaston 
in midwinter, 1778, on the little frigate Boston, taking his eleven- 
year-old son John Quincy with him, for secretary, on a diplomacy 
of adventure that had hardly a parallel for success. He remem- 
bered how John Quincy, in 1809, had sailed for Russia, with him- 
self, a baby of two years old, to cope with Napoleon and the Czar 
Alexander single-handed, almost as much of an adventurer as 
John Adams before him, and almost as successful. He thought it 
natural that the Government should send him out as an adven- 
turer also, with a twenty-three-year-old son, and he did not even 
notice that he left not a friend behind him. No doubt he could 



DIPLOMACY 113 



depend on Seward, but on whom could Seward depend? Cer- 
tainly not on the Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Rela- 
tions. Minister Adams had no friend in the Senate; he could hope 
for no favors, and he asked none. He thought it right to play the 
adventurer as his father and grandfather had done before him, 
without a murmur. This was a lofty view, and for him answered 
his objects, but it bore hard on cabin-boys, and when, in time, the 
young man realized what had happened, he felt it as a betrayal. 
He modestly thought himself unfit for the career of adventurer, 
and judged his father to be less fit than himself. 



Amencaj^as posing as the champJQn .of legitimacy and order. ' 
Her representatives should know how to play their role; they 
should wear the costume; but, in the mission attached to Mr. 
Adams in 1861, the only rag of legitimacy or order was the private 
secretary, whose stature was not sufficient to impose awe on the 
Court and Parliament of Great Britain. 

One inevitable effect of this lesson was to make a victim of the 
scholar and to turn him into a harsh judge of his masters. If they 
overlooked him, he could hardly overlook them, since they stood 
with their whole weight on his body. By way of teaching him 
quickly, they sent out their new Minister to Russia in the same 
ship. Secretary Seward had occasion to learn the merits of Cassius 
M. Clay in the diplomatic service, but Mr. Seward's education 
profited less than the private secretary's, Cassius Clay as a 
teacher having no equal though possibly some rivals. No young 
man, not in Government pay, could be asked to draw, from such 
lessons, any confidence in himself, and it was notorious that, for 
the next two years, the persons were few indeed who felt, or 
ha3~reason to feel, any sort of confidence in the Government; few- 
est of all among those who were in it. At home, for the most part, 
young men went to the war, grumbled and died ; in England they 
might grumble or not; no one listened. 

Above all, the private secretary could not grumble to his chief. 
He knew surprisingly little, but that much he did know. He never 



ii4 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

laboredjijojiard to learn a language^as, .h$ did toholdj^isjongue, 
and it affected Kim For life, The habit of reticence of talking 
without meaning is never effaced. He had to begin it at once. 
He was already an adept when the party landed at Liverpool, 
May 13, 1861, and went instantly up to London: a family of early 
Christian martyrs about to be flung into an arena of lions, under 
the glad eyes of -Tiberius; Palmerston.l Though Lord Palmerston 
would have laughed his pecuiraTPalmerston laugh at figuring as 
Tiberius, he would have seen only evident resemblance in the 
Christian martyrs, for he had already arranged the ceremony. 

Of what they had to expect, the Minister knew no more than 
his son. What he or Mr. Seward or Mr. Sumner may have thought 
is the affair of history and their errors concern historians. The 
errors of a private secretary concerned no one but himself, and 
were a large part of his education. He thought on May 12 that 
he was going to a friendly Government and people, true to the 
anti-slavery principles which had been their steadiest profession. 
For a hundred years the chief effort of his family had aimed at 
bringing the Government of England into intelligent cooperation 
with the objects and interests of America. His father was about 
to make a new effort, and this time the chance of success was 
promising. The slave States had been the chief apparent obstacle 
to good understanding. As for the private secretary himself, he 
was, like all Bostonians, instinctively English. He could not con- 
ceive the idea of a hostile England. He supposed himself, as one 
of the members of a famous anti-slavery family, to be welcome 
everywhere in the British Islands. 

On May 13, he met the official announcement that England 
recognized the belligerency of the Confederacy. This beginning 
of a new education tore up by the roots nearly all that was left 
of Harvard College and Germany. He had to learn the sooner 
the better that his ideas were the reverse of truth; that in 
May, 1861, no one in England literally no one doubted that 
Jefferson Davis had made or would make a nation, and nearly all 



DIPLOMACY 115 



were glad of it, though not often saying so. They mostly imitated 
Palmerston, who, according to Mr. Gladstone, "desired the sev- 



eranjce_asjl djjtnjnution of ^dangerQ^^powerj but prudently held 
his tongue/' The sentiment of anti-slavery had disappeared. Lord 
John Russell, as Foreign Secretary, had received the rebel emis- 
saries, and had decided to recognize their belligerency before the 
arrival of Mr, Adams in order to fix the position of the British 
Government in advance. The recognition of independence would 
then become an understood policy; a matter of time and occasion. 

Whatever Minister Adams may have felt, the first effect of this 
shock upon his son produced only a dullness of comprehension 
a sort of hazy inability to grasp the missile or realize the blow. 
Yet he realized that to his father it was likely to be fatal. The 
chances were great that the whole family would turn round and 
go home within a few weeks. The horizon widened out in endless 
waves of confusion. When he thought over the subject in the long 
leisure of later life, he grew cold at the idea of his situation had 
his father then shown himself what Sumner thought him to be 
unfit for his post. That the private secretary was unfit for his 
trifling though it were was proved by his unreflecting confi- 
dence in his father. It never entered his mind that his father 
might lose his nerve or his temper, and yet in a subsequent knowl- 
edge of statesmen and diplomats extending over several genera- 
tions, he could not certainly point out another who could have 
stood such a shock without showing it. He passed this long day, 
and tedious journey to London, without once thinking of the pos- 
sibility that his father might make a mistake. Whatever the 
Minister thought, and certainly his thought was not less active 
than his son's, he showed no trace of excitement. His manner 
was the same as ever; his mind and temper were as perfectly 
balanced; not a word escaped; not a nerve twitched. 

The test was final, for no other shock so violent and sudden could 
possibly recur. The worst was in full sight. For once the private 
secretary knew his own business, which was to imitate his father 



ii6 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

as closely as possible and hold his tongue. Dumped thus into 
Maurigy's Hotel at the foot of Regent Street, in the midst of a 
London season, without a friend or even an acquaintance, he pre- 
ferred to laugh at his father's bewilderment before the waiter's 
" 'amhandheggsir" for breakfast, rather than ask a question or 
express a doubt. His situation, if taken seriously, was too ap- 
palling to face. Had he known it better, he would only have 
thought it worse. 

Politically or socially, the outlook was desperate, beyond re- 
trieving or contesting. Socially, under the best of circumstances, 
a newcomer in London society needs years to establish a position, 
and Minister Adams had not a week or an hour to spare, while his 
son had not even a remote chance of beginning. Politically the 
prospect looked even worse, and for Secretary Seward and Sena- 
tor Sumner it was so; but for the Minister, on the spot, as he came 
to realize exactly where he stood, the danger was not so immi- 
nent. Mr, Adaips was always one of the luckiest of men, both in 
what he achieved and in what he escaped. The blow, which pros- 
trated Seward and Sumner, passed over him. Lord John Russell 
had acted had probably intended to act kindly by him in 
forestalling his arrival. The blow must have fallen within three 
months, and would then have broken him down. The British 
Ministers were a little in doubt still a little ashamed of them- 
selves and certain to wait the longer for their next step in 
proportion to the haste of their first. 

This is not a story of the diplomatic adventures of Charles 
Francis Adams, but of his son Henry's adventures in search of an 
education, which, if not taken too seriously, tended to humor. 
The father's position in London was not altogether bad; the son's 
was absurd. Thanks to certain family associations, Charles 
Francis Adams naturally looked on all British Ministers as ene- 
mies; the only public occupation of all Adamses for a hundred 
and fifty years at least, in their brief intervals of quarrelling with 
State Street, had been to quarrel with Downing Street; and the 



DIPLOMACY 117 



British Government, well used to a liberal unpopularity abroad, 
^vra when officially j&d&liked. Jtp be personally civil. All diplo- 
matic agents are liable to be put, so to speak, in a corner, and are 
none the worse for it. Minister Adams had nothing in especial 
to complain of; his position was good while it lasted, and he had 
only the chances of war to fear. The son had no such compensa- 
tions. Brought over in order to help his father, he could con- 
ceive no way of rendering his father help, but he was clear that 
his father had got to help him. To him, the Legation was social 
ostracism, terrible beyond anything he had known. Entire soli- 
tude in the great society of London was doubly desperate be- 
cause his duties as private secretary required him to know every- 
body and go with his father and mother everywhere they needed 
escort. He had no friend, or even enemy, to tell him to be patient. 
Had any one done it, he would surely have broken out with the 
reply that gatience was the last resource of fools as well as of 
sages; if he was to help his father at all, he must do it at once, for 
his father would never so much need help again. In fact he never 
gave his father the smallest help, unless it were as a footman, 
clerk, or a companion for the younger children. 

He found himself in a singular situation for one who was to be 
useful. As he came to see the situation closer, he began to doubt 
whether secretaries were meant to be useful. Wars were too com- 
mon in diplomacy to disturb the habits of the diplomat. Most 
secretaries detested their chiefs, and wished to be anything but 
useful. At the St. James's Club, to which the Minister's son could 
go only as an invited guest, the most instructive conversation he 
ever heard among the young men of his own age who hung about 
the tables, more helpless than himself, was: "Quel chien de pays!" 
or, "Que tu es beau aujourd'hui, moncher!" No one wanted to 
discuss affairs; still less to give or get information. That was the 
affair of their chiefs, who were also slow to assume work not spe- 
cially ordered from their Courts. If the American Minister was in 
trouble to-day, the Russian Ambassador was in trouble yesterday, 



ii8 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

and the Frenchman would be in trouble to-morrow. It would all 
come in the day's work. There was nothing professional in worry, 
^impires were always tumbling to pieces and diplomats were al- 
ways picking them up. 

This was his whole diplomatic education, except that he found 
rich veins of jealousy running between every chief and his staff. 
His social education was more barren still, and more trying to his 
vanity. His little mistakes in etiquette or address made him writhe 
with torture. He never forgot the first two or three social functions 
he attended : one an afternoon at Miss Burdett Coutts's in Strat- 
ton Place, where he hid himself in the embrasure of a window and 
hoped that no one noticed him; another was a garden-party given 
by the old anti-slavery Duchess Dowager of Sutherland at Chis- 
wick, where -the American Minister and Mrs. Adams were kept 
in conversation by the old Duchess till every one else went away 
except the young Duke and his cousins, who set to playing leap- 
frog on the lawn. At intervals during the next thirty years Henry 
Adams continued to happen upon the Duke, who, singularly 
enough, was always playing leap-frog. Still another nightmare he 
suffered at a dance given by the old Duchess Dowager of Somer- 
set, a terrible vision in castanets, who seized him and forced him 
to perform a Highland fling before the assembled nobility and gen- 
try, with the daughter of the Turkish Ambassador for partner. 
'This might seem humorous to some, but to him the world turned 
to ashes. 

When the end of the season came, the private secretary had not 
yet won a private acquaintance, and he hugged himself in his 
solitude when the story of the battle of Bull Run appeared in the 
Times. He felt only the wish to be more private than ever, for 
Bull Run was a worse diplomatic than military disaster. All this 
is history and can be read by public schools if they choose; but the 
curious and unexpected happened to the Legation, for the effect 
of Bull Run on them was almost strengthening. They no longer 
felt doubt. For the next year they went on only from week to 



DIPLOMACY 119 



week, ready to leave England at once, and never assuming more 
than three months for their limit. Europe was waiting to see them 
go. ^<o_certain was the end that no one cared to hurry it./ 

So far as a private secretary could see, this was all that saved 
his father. For many months he looked on himself as lost or fin- 
ished in the character of private secretary; and as about to begin, 
without further experiment, a final education in the ranks of the 
Army of the Potomac where he would find most of his friends 
enjoying a much pleasanter life than his own. With this idea 
uppermost in his mind, he passed the summer and the autumn, 
and began the winter. Any winter in London is a severe trial; 
one's first winter is the most trying; but the month of December, 
1861, in Mansfield Street, Portland Place, would have gorged a 
glutton of gloom. 

One afternoon when he was struggling to resist complete nervous 
depression in the solitude of Mansfield Street, during the absence 
of the Minister and Mrs. Adams on a country visit, Reuter's tele- 
gram announcing the seizure of Mason and Slidell from a British 
mail-steamer was brought to the office. All three secretaries, pub- 
lic and private were there nervous as wild beasts under the 
long strain on their endurance and all three, though they 
knew it to be not merely their order of departure not merely 
diplomatic rupture but a declaration of war broke into 
shouts of delight. They were glad to face the end. They saw it 
and cheered it! Since England was waiting only for its own mo- 
ment to strike, they were eager to strike first. 

They telegraphed the news to the Minister, who was staying 
with Monckton Milnes at Fryston in Yorkshire. How Mr. Adams 
took it, is told in the " Lives" of Lord Houghton and William E. 
Forster who was one of the Fryston party. The moment was for 
him the crisis of his diplomatic career; for the secretaries it was 
merely the beginning of another intolerable delay, as though they 
were a military outpost waiting orders to quit an abandoned 
position. At the moment of sharpest suspense, the Prince Consort 



I2O THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

sickened and died. Portland Place at Christmas in a black fog 
was never a rosy landscape, but in 1861 the most hardened Lon- 
doner lost his ruddiness. The private secretary had one source 
of comfort denied to them he should not be private secretary 
long. 

He was mistaken of course! He had been mistaken at every 
point of his education, and, on this point, he kept up the same 
mistake for nearly seven years longer, always deluded by the 
notion that the end was near. To him the Trent Affair was 
nothing but one of many affairs which he had to copy in a delicate 
round hand into his books, yet it had one or two results personal 
to him which left no trace on the Legation records. One of these, 
and to him the most important, was to put an end forever to the 
idea of being "useful." Hitherto, as an independent and free 
citizen, not in the employ of the Government, he had kept up his 
relations with the American press. He had written pretty fre- 
quently to Henry J. Raymond, and Raymond had used his letters 
in the New York Times.. He had also become fairly intimate with 
the two or three friendly newspapers in London, the Daily News, 
the Star, the weekly Spectator ; and he had tried to give them news 
and views that should have a certain common character, and pre- 
vent clash. He had even gone down to Manchester to study the 
cotton famine, and wrote a long account of his visit which his 
brother Charles had published in the Boston Courier. Unfortu- 
nately it was printed with his name, and instantly came back upon 
him in the most crushing shape possible that of a long, satiri- 
cal leader in the London Times. Luckily the Times did not know 
its victim to be a part, though not an official, of the Legation, and 
lost the chance to make its satire fatal; but he instantly learned 
the narrowness of his escape from old Joe Parkes, one of the tradi- 
tional busy-bodies of politics, who had haunted London since 
1830, and who, after rushing to the Times office, to tell them all 
they did not know about Henry Adams, rushed to the Legation to 
tell Adams all he did not want to know about the Times. For a 



DIPLOMACY 121 



moment Adams thought his "usefulness" at an end in other re- 
spects than in the press, but a day or two more taught him the 
value of obscurity. He was totally unknown; he had not even a 
club; London was empty; no one thought twice about the Times 
article; no one except Joe Parkes ever spoke of it; and the world 
had other persons such as President Lincoln, Secretary Sew- 
ard, and Commodore Wilkes for constant and favorite ob- 
jects of ridicule. Henry Adams escaped, but he never tried to be 
useful again. The Trent Affair dwarfed individual effort. His 
education at least had reached the point of seeing its own pro- 
portions. "Surtout point de zcle!" Zeal was too hazardous a pro- 
fession for a Minister's son to pursue, as a volunteer manipulator, 
among Trent Affairs and rebel cruisers. He wrote no more letters 
and meddled with no more newspapers, but he was still young, 
and felt unkindly towards the editor of the London Times. 

Mr. Delane lost few opportunities of embittering him, and he 
felt little or no hope of repaying these attentions; but the Trent 
Affair passed like a snowstorm, leaving the Legation, to its sur- 
prise, still in place. Although the private secretary saw in this 
delay which he attributed to Mr. Seward's good sense no 
reason for changing his opinion about the views of the British 
Government, he had no choice but to sit down again at his table, 
and go on copying papers, filing letters, and reading newspaper 
accounts of the incapacity of Mr. Lincoln and the brutality of 
Mr. Seward or vice versa. The heavy months dragged on and 
winter slowly turned to spring without improving his position or 
spirits. Socially he had but one relief; and, to the end of life, he 
never forgot the keen gratitude he owed for it. During this tedi- 
ous winter and for many months afterwards, the only gleams of 
sunshine were on the days he passed at Walton-on-Thames as the 
guest of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Sturgis at Mount Felix. 

His education had unfortunately little to do with bankers, al- 
though old George Peabody and his partner, Junius Morgan, were 
strong allies. Joshua Bates was devoted, and no one could be 



122 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

kinder than Thomas Baring, whose little dinners in Upper Gros- 
venor Street were certainly the best in London; but none offered 
a refuge to compare with Mount Felix, and, for the first time, 
the refuge was a liberal education. Mrs. Russell Sturgis was one of 
the women to whom an intelligent boy attaches himself as closely 
as he can. Henry Adams was not a very intelligent boy, and he 
had no knowledge of the world, but he knew enough to understand 
that a cub needed shape. The kind of education he most required 
was that of ^charming woman, and Mrs. Russell Sturgis, a dozen 
years older than himself, could have good-naturedly trained a 
school of such, without an effort, and with infinite advantage to 
them. Near her he half forgot the anxieties of Portland Place. 
During two years of miserable solitude, she was in this social polar 
winter, the single source of warmth and light. 

Of course the Legation itself was home, and, under such pres- 
sure, life in it could be nothing but united. All the inmates made 
common cause, but this was no education. One lived, but was 
merely flayed alive. Yet, while this might be exactly true of the 
younger members of the household, it was not quite so with the 
Minister and Mrs. Adams. Very slowly, but quite steadily, they 
gained foothold. For some reason partly connected with Ameri- 
can sources, British society had begun with violent social pre- 
judice against Lincoln, Seward, and all the Republican leaders 
except Sumner. Familiar as the whole tribe of Adamses had been 
for three generations with the impenetrable stupidity of the Brit- 
ish mind, and weary of the long struggle to teach it its own in- 
terests, the fourth generation could still not quite persuade itself 
that this new British prejudice was natural. The private secre- 
tary suspected that Americans in New York and Boston had some- 
thing to do with it. The Copperhead was at home in Pall Mall. 
Naturally the Englishman was a coarse animal and liked coarse- 
ness. Had Lincoln and Seward been the ruffians supposed, the 
average Englishman would have liked them the better. The ex- 
ceedingly quiet manner and the unassailable social position of 



DIPLOMACY 123 



Minister Adams in no way conciliated them. CDiey c Hos^toJgnojre 
Jiinv-siaGe_they^cQuld noLndicule him. Lord John Russell set the 
example. Personally the Minister was to be kindly treated; politi- 
cally he was negligible; be was there to be put aside. London and 
Paris imitated Lord John. Every one waited to see Lincoln and 
his hirelings disappear in one vast debacle. All conceived that the 
Washington Government would soon crumble, and that Minister 
Adams would vanish with the rest. 

This situation made Minister Adams an exception among dip- 
lomats. European rulers for the most part fought and treated as 
members of one family, and rarely had in view the possibility of 
total extinction; but the Governments and society of Europe, for 
a year at least, regarded the Washington Government as dead, 
and its Ministers as nullities. Minister Adams was better received 
than most nullities because he made no noise. Little by little, 
in private, society took the habit of accepting him, not so much 
as a diplomat, but rather as a member of opposition, or an emi- 
nent counsel retained for a foreign Government. He was to be 
received and considered; to be cordially treated as, by birth and 
manners, one of themselves. This curiously English way of get- 
ting behind a stupidity gave the Minister every possible advan- 
tage over a European diplomat. Barriers of race, language, birth, 
habit, ceased to exist. Diplomacy held diplomats apart in order 
to save Governments, but Earl Russell could not hold Mr. Adams 
apart. He was undistinguishable from a Londoner. In society 
few Londoners were so widely at home. None had such double 
personality and corresponding double weight. 

The singular luck that took him to Fryston to meet the shock 
of the Trent Affair under the sympathetic eyes of Monckton 
Milnes and William E. Forster never afterwards deserted him. 
Both Milnes and Forster needed support and were greatly re- 
lieved to be supported. They saw what the private secretary in 
May had overlooked, the hopeless position they were in if the 
American Minister made a mistake, and, since his strength was 



124 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

theirs, they lost no time in expressing to all the world their esti- 
mate of the Minister's character. Between them the Minister was 
almost safe. 

One might discuss long whether, at that moment, Milnes or 
Forster were the more valuable ally, since they were influences 
of different kinds. Monckton Milnes was a social power in London, 
possibly greater than Londoners themselves quite understood, for 
in London society as elsewhere, the dull and the ignorant made a 
large majority, and dull men always laughed at Monckton Milnes. 
Every bore was used to talk familiarly about "Dicky Milnes," 
the "cool of the evening"; and of course he himself affected social 
eccentricity, challenging ridicule with the indifference of one who 
knew himself to be the first wit in London, and a maker of men 
of a great many men. A word from him went far. An invitation 
to his breakfast-table went farther. Behind his almost Falstaffian 
mask and laugh of Silenus, he carried a fine, broad, and high 
intelligence which no one questioned. As a young man he had 
written verses, which some readers thought poetry, and which 
were certainly not altogether prose. Later, in Parliament he made 
speeches, chiefly criticised as too good for the place and too high 
for the audience. Socially, he was one of two or three men who 
went everywhere, knew everybody, talked of everything, and had 
the ear of Ministers; but unlike most wits, he held a social position 
of his own that ended in a peerage, and he had a house in Upper 
Brook Street to which most clever people were exceedingly glad 
of admission. His breakfasts were famous, and no one liked to 
decline his invitations, for it was more dangerous to show timidity 
than to risk a fray. He was a voracious reader, a strong critic, 
an art connoisseur in certain directions, a collector of books, but 
above all he was a man of the world by profession, and loved the 
contacts perhaps the collisions of society. Not even Henry 
Brougham dared do the things he did, yet Brougham defied rebuff. 
Milnes was the good-nature of London; the Gargantuan type of its 
refinement and coarseness; the most universal figure of May Fair. 



DIPLOMACY 125 



Compared with him, figures like Hayward, or Delane, or Ven- 
ables, or Henry Reeve were quite secondary, but William E. 
Forster stood in a different class. Forster had nothing whatever 
to do with May Fair. Except in being a Yorkshireman he was 
quite the opposite of Milnes. He had at that time no social or 
political position; he never had a vestige of Milnes's wit or variety; 
he was a tall, rough, ungainly figure, affecting the singular form of 
self-defense which the Yorkshiremen and Lancashiremen seem to 
hold dear the exterior roughness assumed to cover an internal, 
emotional, almost sentimental nature. Kindly he had to be, if 
only by his inheritance from a Quaker ancestry, but he was a 
Friend one degree removed. Sentimental and emotional he must 
have been, or he could never have persuaded a daughter of Dr. 
Arnold to marry him. Pure gold, without a trace of base metal; 
honest, unselfish, practical; he took up the Union cause and made 
himself its champion, as a true Yorkshireman was sure to do, 
partly because of his Quaker anti-slavery convictions, and partly 
because it gave him a practical opening in the House. As a new 
member, he needed a field. 

Diffidence was not one of Forster's weaknesses. His practical 
sense and his personal energy soon established him in leadership, 
and made him a powerful champion, not so much for ornament 
as for work. With such a manager, the friends of the Union in 
England began to take heart. Minister Adams had only to look 
on as his true champions, the heavy-weights, came into action, 
and even the private secretary caught now and then a stray gleam 
of encouragement as he saw the ring begin to clear for these burly 
Yorkshiremen to stand up in a prize-fight likely to be as brutal as 
ever England had known. Milnes and Forster were not exactly 
light-weights, but Bright and Cobden were the hardest hitters in 
England, and with them for champions the Minister could tackle 
even Lord Palmerston without much fear of foul play. 

In society John Bright and Richard Cobden were never seen, 
and even in Parliament they had no large following. They were 



126 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

classed as enemies of order, anarchists, and anarchists they 
were if hatred of the so-called established orders made them so. 
About them was no sort of political timidity. They took bluntly 
the side of the Union against Palmerston whom they hated. 
Strangers to London society, they were at home in the American 
Legation, delightful dinner-company, talking always with reckless 
freedom. Cobden was the milder and more persuasive; Bright 
was the more dangerous to approach; but the private secretary 
delighted in both, and nourished an ardent wish to see them talk 
the same language to Lord John Russell from the gangway of the 
House. 

With four such allies as these, Minister Adams stood no longer 
quite helpless. For the second time the British Ministry felt a 
little ashamed of itself after the Trent Affair, as well it might, and 
disposed to wait before moving again. Little by little, friends 
gathered about the Legation who were no fair-weather compan- 
ions. The old anti-slavery, Exeter Hall, Shaftesbury clique turned 
out to be an annoying and troublesome enemy, but the Duke of 
Argyll was one of the most valuable friends the Minister found, 
both politically and socially, and the Duchess was as true as her 
mother. Even the private secretary shared faintly in the social 
profit of this relation, and never forgot dining one night at the 
Lodge, and finding himself after dinner engaged in instructing 
John Stuart Mill about the peculiar merits of an American pro- 
tective system. In spite of all the probabilities, he convinced 
himself that it was not the Duke's claret which led him to this 
singular form of loquacity; he insisted that it was the fault of Mr. 
Mill himself who led him on by assenting to his point of view. 
Mr. Mill took no apparent pleasure in dispute, and in that re- 
spect the Duke would perhaps have done better; but the secre- 
tary had to admit that though at other periods of life he was 
sufficiently and even amply snubbed by Englishmen, he could 
never recall a single occasion during this trying year, when he 
had to complain of rudeness. 



DIPLOMACY 127 



Friendliness he found here and there, but chiefly among his 
elders; not among fashionable or socially powerful people, either 
men or women; although not even this rule was quite exact, 
for Frederick Cavendish's kindness and intimate relations made 
Devonshire House almost familiar, and Lyulph Stanley's ardent 
Americanism created a certain cordiality with the Stanleys of 
Alderley whose house was one of the most frequented in London. 
Lome, too, the future Argyll, was always a friend. Yet the regu- 
lar course of society led to more literary intimacies. Sir Charles 
Trevelyan's house was one of the first to which young Adams 
was asked, and with which his friendly relations never ceased for 
near half a century, and then only when death stopped them. 
Sir Charles and Lady Lyell were intimates. Tom Hughes came 
into close alliance. By the time society began to reopen its doors 
after the death of the Prince Consort, even the private secretary 
occasionally saw a face he knew, although he made no more effort 
of any kind, but silently waited the end. Whatever might be the 
advantages of social relations to his father and mother, to him the 
whole business of diplomacy and society was futile. He meant 
to go home. 



CHAPTER IX 

FOES OR FRIENDS (1862) 

OF the year 1862 Henry Adams could never think without 
a shudder. The war alone did not greatly distress him; 
already in his short life he was used to seeing people wade 
in blood, and he could plainly discern in history, that man from 
the beginning had found his chief amusement in bloodshed; but 
the ferocious joy of destruction at its best requires that one should 
kill what one hates, and young Adams neither hated nor wanted 
to kill his friends the rebels, while he wanted nothing so much as 
to wipe England off the earth. Never could any good come from 
that besotted race! He was feebly trying to save his own life. 
Every day the British Government deliberately crowded him one 
step further into the grave. He could see it; the Legation knew it; 
no one doubted it; no one thought of questioning it. The Trent 
Affair showed where Palmerston and Russell stood. The escape 
of the rebel cruisers from Liverpool was not, in a young man's eyes, 
the sign of hesitation, but the proof of their fixed intention to in- 
tervene. Lord Russell's replies to Mr. Adams's notes were dis- 
courteous in their indifference, and, to an irritable young private 
secretary of twenty-four, were insolent in their disregard of truth. 
Whatever forms of phrase were usual in public to modify the harsh- 
ness of invective, in private no political opponent in England, and 
few political friends, hesitated to say brutally of Lord John Russell 
that he lied. This was no great reproach, for, more or less, every 
statesman lied, but the intensity of the private secretary's rage 
sprang from his belief that Russell's form of defence covered intent 
to kill. Not for an instant did the Legation draw a free breath. 
The suspense was hideous and unendurable. 

The Minister, no doubt, endured it, but he had support and 
consideration, while his son had nothing to think about but his 



FOES OR FRIENDS 129 



friends who were mostly dying under McClellan in the swamps 
about Richmond, or his enemies who were exulting in Pall Mall. 
He bore it as well as he could till midsummer, but, when the 
story of the second Bull Run appeared, he could bear it no longer, 
and after a sleepless night, walking up and down his room without 
reflecting that his father was beneath him, he announced at break- 
fast his intention to go home into the army. His mother seemed 
to be less impressed by the announcement than by the walking 
over her head, which was so unlike her as to surprise her son. His 
father, too, received the announcement quietly. No doubt they 
expected it, and had taken their measures in advance. In those 
days, parents got used to all sorts of announcements from their 
children. Mr. Adams took his son's defection as quietly as he 
took Bull Run; but his son never got the chance to go. He found 
obstacles constantly rising in his path. The remonstrances of his 
brother Charles, who was himself in the Army of the Potomac, 
and whose opinion had always the greatest weight with Henry, 
had much to do with delaying action; but he felt, of his own ac- 
cord, that if he deserted his post in London, and found the Capuan 
comforts he expected in Virginia where he would have only bullets 
to wound him, he would never forgive himself for leaving his father 
and mother alone to be devoured by the wild beasts of the British 
amphitheatre. This reflection might not have stopped him, but 
his father's suggestion was decisive. The Minister pointed out 
that it was too late for him to take part in the actual campaign, 
and that long before next spring they would all go home together. 

The young man had copied too many affidavits about rebel 
cruisers to miss the point of this argument, so he sat down again 
to copy some more. Consul Dudley at Liverpool provided a con- 
tinuous supply. Properly, the affidavits were no business of the 
private secretary, but practically the private secretary did a 
second secretary's work, and was glad to do it, if it would save 
Mr. Seward the trouble of sending more secretaries of his own 
selection to help the Minister. The work was nothing, and no one 



130 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ever complained of it; not even Moran, the Secretary of Legation 
after the departure of Charley Wilson, though he might sit up all 
night to copy. Not the work, but the play exhausted. The effort 
of facing a hostile society was bad enough, but that of facing 
friends was worse. After terrific disasters like the seven days before 
Richmond and the second Bull Run, friends needed support; a 
tone of bluff would have been fatal, for the average mind sees 
quickest through a bluff; nothing answers but candor; yet private 
secretaries never feel candid, however much they feel the reverse, 
and therefore they must affect candor; not always a simple act 
when one is exasperated, furious, bitter, and choking with tears 
over the blunders and incapacity of one's Government. n_one 
^shed tears, they must be shed on one's pillow. Least of all, must 
one throw extra strain on the Minister, who had all he could carry 
without being fretted in his family. One must read one's Times 
every morning over one's muffin without reading aloud "An- 
other disastrous Federal Defeat"; and one might not even indulge 
in harmless profanity. Self-restraint among friends required much 
more effort than keeping a quiet face before enemies. Great men 
were the worst blunderers. One day the private secretary smiled, 
when standing with the crowd in the throne-room while the end- 
less procession made bows to the royal family, at hearing, behind 
his shoulder, one Cabinet Minister remark gaily to another: "So 
the Federals have got another licking!" The point of the remark 
was its truth. Even a private secretary had learned to control his 
tones and guard his features and betray no joy over the "lickings" 
of an enemy in the enemy's presence. 

London was altogether beside itself on one point, in especial; 
it created a nightmare of its own, and gave it the shape of Abra- 
ham Lincoln. Behind this it placed another demon, if possible 
more devilish, and called it Mr. Seward. In regard to these two 
men, English society seemed demented. Defence was useless; 
explanation was vain; one could only let the passion exhaust itself. 
One's best friends were as unreasonable as enemies, for the belief 



FOES OR FRIENDS 131 

in poor Mr. Lincoln's brutality and Seward's ferocity became a 
dogma of popular faith. The last time Henry Adams saw Thack- 
eray, before his sudden death at Christmas in 1863, was in enter- 
ing the house of Sir Henry Holland for an evening reception. 
Thackeray was pulling on his coat downstairs, laughing because, 
in his usual blind way, he had stumbled into the wrong house and 
not found it out till he shook hands with old Sir Henry, whom he 
knew very well, but who was not the host he expected. Then his 
tone changed as he spoke of his and Adams's friend, Mrs. 
Frank Hampton, of South Carolina, whom he had loved as Sally 
Baxter and painted as Ethel Newcome. Though he had never 
quite forgiven her marriage, his warmth of feeling revived when 
he heard that she had died of consumption at Columbia while 
her parents and sister were refused permission to pass through 
the lines to see her. In speaking of it, Thackeray's voice trembled 
and his eyes filled with tears. The coarse cruelty of Lincoln and his 
hirelings was notorious. He never doubted that the Federals made 
a business of harrowing the tenderest feelings of women partic- 
ularly of women in order to punish their opponents. On quite 
insufficient evidence he burst into violent reproach. Had Adams 
carried in his pocket the proofs that the reproach was unjust, he 
would have gained nothing by showing them. At that moment 
Thackeray, and all London society with him, needed the nervous 
relief of expressing emotion; for if Mr. Lincoln was not what they 
said he was what were they? 

For like reason, the members of the Legation kept silence, even 
in private, under the boorish Scotch jibes of Carlyle. If Carlyle 
was wrong, his diatribes would give his true measure, and this 
measure would be a low one, for Carlyle was not likely to be more 
sincere or more sound in one thought than in another. The proof 
that a philosopher does not know what he is talking about is apt 
to sadden his followers before it reacts on himself. Demolition of 
one's idols is painful, and Carlyle had been an idol. Doubts cast 
on his stature spread far into general darkness like shadows of a 



132 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

setting sun. Not merely the idols fell, but also the habit of faith. 
If Carlyle, too, was a fraud, what were his scholars and school? 

Society as a rule was civil, and one had no more reason to com- 
plain than every other diplomatist has had, in like conditions, but 
one's few friends in society were mere ornament. The Legation 
could not dream of contesting social control. The best they could 
do was to escape mortification, and by this time their relations 
were good enough to save the Minister's family from that annoy- 
ance. Now and then, the fact could not be wholly disguised that 
some one had refused to meet or to receive the Minister; but 
never an open insult, or any expression of which the Minister had 
to take notice. Diplomacy served as a buffer in times of irrita- 
tion, and no diplomat who knew his business fretted at what every 
diplomat and none more commonly than the English had to 
expect; therefore Henry Adams, though not a diplomat and wholly 
unprotected, went his way peacefully enough, seeing clearly that 
society cared little to make his acquaintance, but seeing also no 
reason why society should discover charms in him of which he was 
himself unconscious. He went where he was asked; he was always 
courteously received; he was, on the whole, better treated than at 
Washington; and he held his tongue. 

For a thousand reasons, the best diplomatic house in London 
was Lord Palmerston's, while Lord John Russell's was one of the 
worst. Of neither host could a private secretary expect to know 
anything. He might as well have expected to know the Grand 
Lama. Personally Lord Palmerston was the last man in London 
that a cautious private secretary wanted to know. Other Prime 
Ministers may perhaps have lived who inspired among diplo- 
matists as much distrust as Palmerston, and yet between Palmer- 
ston's word and Russell's word, one hesitated to decide, and gave 
years of education to deciding, whether either could be trusted, 
or how far. The Queen herself in her famous memorandum of 
August 12, 1850, gave her opinion of Palmerston in words that dif- 
fered little from words used by Lord John Russell, and both the 



FOES OR FRIENDS 133 



Queen and Russell said in substance only what Cobden and Bright 
said in private. Every diplomatist agreed with them, yet the 
diplomatic standard of trust seemed to be other than the par- 
liamentarian. No professional diplomatists worried about false- 
hoods. Words were with them forms of expression which varied 
with individuals, but falsehood was more or less necessary to all. 
The worst liars were the candid. What diplomatists wanted to 
know was the motive that lay beyond the expression. In the case 
of Palmerston they were unanimous in warning new colleagues 
that they might expect to be sacrificed by him to any momentary 
personal object. Every new Minister or Ambassador at the Court 
of St. James received this preliminary lesson that he must, if pos- 
sible, keep out of Palmerston's reach. The rule was not secret or 
merely diplomatic. The Queen herself had emphatically expressed 
the same opinion officially. If Palmerston had an object to gain, 
he would go down to the House of Commons and betray or mis- 
represent a foreign Minister, without concern for his victim. No 
one got back on him with a blow equally mischievous not even 
the Queen for, as old Baron Brunnow described him: "C'est 
une peau de rhinocere!" Having gained his point, he laughed, 
and his public laughed with him, for the usual British or Amer- 
ican public likes to be amused, and thought it very amus- 
ing to see these beribboned and bestarred foreigners caught and 
tossed and gored on the horns of this jovial, slashing, devil-may- 
care British bull. 

Diplomatists have no right to complain of mere lies; it is their 
own fault, if, educated as they are, the lies deceive them; but they 
complain bitterly of traps. Palmerston was believed to lay traps. 
He was the enfant terrible oi the British Government. On the other 
hand, Lady Palmerston was believed to be good and loyal. All 
the diplomats and their wives seemed to think so, and took their 
troubles to her, believing that she would try to help them. For 
this reason among others, her evenings at home Saturday Re- 
views, they were called had great vogue. An ignorant young 



134 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

American could not be expected to explain it. Cambridge House 
was no better for entertaining than a score of others. Lady Pal- 
merston was no longer young or handsome, and could hardly at 
any age have been vivacious. The people one met there were never 
smart and seldom young; they were largely diplomatic, and dip- 
lomats are commonly dull; they were largely political, and poli- 
ticians rarely decorate or beautify an evening party; they were 
sprinkled with literaiy people, who are notoriously unfashion- 
able; the women were of course ill-dressed and middle-aged; the 
men looked mostly bored or out of place; yet, beyond a doubt, Cam- 
bridge House was the best, and perhaps the only political house 
in London, and its success was due to Lady Palmerston, who never 
seemed to make an effort beyond a friendly recognition. As a les- 
son in social education, Cambridge House gave much subject for 
thought. First or last, one was to know dozens of statesmen more 
powerful and more agreeable than Lord Palmerston; dozens of 
ladies more beautiful and more painstaking than Lady Palmer- 
ston; but no political house so successful as Cambridge House. 
The world never explains such riddles. The foreigners said only 
that Lady Palmerston was "sympathique." 

The small fry of the Legations were admitted there, or toler- 
ated, without a further effort to recognize their existence, but they 
were pleased because rarely tolerated anywhere else, and there 
they could at least stand in a corner and look at a bishop or even 
a duke. This was the social diversion of young Adams. No one 
knew him not even the lackeys. The last Saturday evening he 
ever attended, he gave his name as usual at the foot of the stair- 
case, and was rather disturbed to hear it shouted up as "Mr. 
Handrew Hadams!" He tried to correct it, and the footman 
shouted more loudly: "Mr. Hanthony Hadams I' 9 With some 
temper he repeated the correction, and was finally announced as 
"Mr. Halexander Hadams," and under this name made his bow 
for the last time to Lord Palmerston who certainly knew no better. 

Far down the staircase one heard Lord Palmerston's laugh as 



FOES OR FRIENDS 135 

he stood at the door receiving his guests, talking probably to one 
of his henchmen, Delane, Borthwick, or Hayward, who were sure 
to be near. The laugh was singular, mechanical, wooden, and did 
not seem to disturb his features. "Ha! ... Ha! ... Ha!" Each 
was a slow, deliberate ejaculation, and all were in the same tone, 
as though he meant to say: "Yes! . . . Yes! . . . Yes!" by way of 
assurance. It was a laugh of 1810 and the Congress of Vienna. 
Adams would have much liked to stop a moment and ask whether 
William Pitt and the Duke of Wellington had laughed so; but 
young men attached to foreign Ministers asked no questions at all 
of Palmerston and their chiefs asked as few as possible. One made 
the usual bow and received the usual glance of civility; then passed 
on to Lady Palmerston, who was always kind in manner, but who 
wasted no remarks; and so to Lady Jocelyn with her daughter, 
who commonly had something friendly to say; then went through 
the diplomatic corps, Brunnow, Musurus, Azeglio, Apponyi, Van 
de Weyer, Bille, Tricoupi, and the rest, finally dropping into the 
hands of some literary accident as strange there as one's self. The 
routine varied little. There was no attempt at entertainment. 
Except for the desperate isolation of these two first seasons, even 
secretaries would have found the effort almost as mechanical as a 
levee at St. James's Palace. 

Lord Palmerston was not Foreign Secretary; he was Prime Min- 
ister, but he loved foreign affairs and could no more resist scoring 
a point in diplomacy than in whist. Ministers of foreign powers, 
knowing his habits, tried to hold him at armsMength, and, to do 
this, were obliged to court the actual Foreign Secretary, Lord John 
Russell, who, on July 30, 1861, was called up to the House of Lords 
as an earl. By some process of personal affiliation, Minister Adams 
succeeded in persuading himself that he could trust Lord Russell 
more safely than Lord Palmerston. His son, being young and ill- 
balanced in temper, thought there was nothing to choose. Eng- 
lishmen saw little difference between them, and Americans were 
bound to follow English experience in English character. Minister 



136 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Adams had much to learn, although with him as well as with his 
son, the months of education began to count as aeons. 

Just as Brunnow predicted, Lord Palmerston made his rush at 
last, as unexpected as always, and more furiously than though 
still a private secretary of twenty-four. Only a man who had been 
young with the battle of Trafalgar could be fresh and jaunty to 
that point, but Minister Adams was not in a position to sympa- 
thize with octogenarian youth and found himself in a danger as 
critical as that of his numerous predecessors. It was late one after- 
noon in June, 1862, as the private secretary returned, with the 
Minister, from some social function, that he saw his father pick up 
a note from his desk and read it in silence. Then he said curtly: 
"Palmerston wants a quarrel!" This was the point of the inci- 
dent as he felt it. Palmerston wanted a quarrel; he must not be 
gratified; he must be stopped. The matter of quarrel was General 
Butler's famous woman-order at New Orleans, but the motive was 
the belief in President Lincoln's brutality that had taken such 
deep root in the British mind. Knowing Palmerston's habits, the 
Minister took for granted that he meant to score a diplomatic 
point by producing this note in the House of Commons. If he did 
this at once, the Minister was lost; the quarrel was made; and one 
new victim to Palmerston's passion for popularity was sacrificed. 

The moment was nervous as far as the private secretary 
knew, quite the most critical moment in the records of American 
diplomacy but the story belongs to history, not to education, 
and can be read there by any one who cares to read it. As a part 
of Henry Adams's education it had a value distinct from history. 
That his father succeeded in muzzling Palmerston without a pub- 
lic scandal, was well enough for the Minister, but was not enough 
for a private secretary who liked going to Cambridge House, and 
was puzzled to reconcile contradictions. That Palmerston had 
wanted a quarrel was obvious; why, then, did he submit so tamely 
to being made the victim of the quarrel? The correspondence that 
followed his note was conducted feebly on his side, and he allowed 



FOES OR FRIENDS 137 



the United States Minister to close it by a refusal to receive further 
communications from him except through Lord Russell. The step 
was excessively strong, for it broke off private relations as well 
as public, and cost even the private secretary his invitations to 
Cambridge House. Lady Palmerston tried her best, but the two 
ladies found no resource except tears. They had to do with 
an American Minister perplexed in the extreme. Not that Mr. 
Adams lost his temper, for he never felt such a weight of respon- 
sibility, and was never more cool ; but he could conceive no other 
way of protecting his Government, not to speak of himself, than 
to force Lord Russell to interpose. He believed that Palmerston's 
submission and silence were due to Russell. Perhaps he was right; 
at the time, his son had no doubt of it, though afterwards he felt 
less sure. Palmerston wanted a -quarrel; the motive seemed evi- 
dent; yet when the quarrel was made, he backed out of it; for some 
reason it seemed that he did not want it at least, not then. He 
never showed resentment against Mr. Adams at the time or after- 
wards. He never began another quarrel. Incredible as it seemed, 
he behaved like a well-bred gentleman who felt himself in the 
wrong. Possibly this change may have been due to Lord Russell's 
remonstrances, but the private secretary would have felt his edu- 
cation in politics more complete had he ever finally made up his 
mind whether Palmerston was more angry with General Butler, 
or more annoyed at himself, for committing what was in both 
cases an unpardonable betise. 

At the time, the question was hardly raised, for no one doubted 
Palmerston's attitude or his plans. The season was near its end, 
and Cambridge House was soon closed. The Legation had trou- 
bles enough without caring to publish more. The tide of English 
feeling ran so violently against it that one could only wait to see 
whether General McClellan would bring it relief. The year 1862 
was a dark spot in Henry Adams's life, and the education it gave 
was mostly one that he gladly forgot. As far as he was aware, he 
made no friends; he could hardly make enemies; yet towards the 



138 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

close of the year he was flattered by an invitation from Monck- 
ton Milnes to Fryston, and it was one of many acts of charity to- 
wards the young that gave Milnes immortality. Milnes made it 
his business to be kind. Other people criticised him for his man- 
ner of doing it, but never imitated him. Naturally, a dispirited, 
disheartened private secretary was exceedingly grateful, and never 
forgot the kindness, but it was chiefly as education that this 
first country visit had value. Commonly, country visits are much 
alike, but Monckton Milnes was never like anybody, and his 
country parties served his purpose of mixing strange elements. 
Fryston was one of a class of houses that no one sought for its nat- 
ural beauties, and the winter mists of Yorkshire were rather more 
evident for the absence of the hostess on account of them, so that 
the singular guests whom Milnes collected to enliven his Decem- 
ber had nothing to do but astonish each other, if anything could 
astonish such men. Of the five, Adams alone was tame; he alone 
added nothing to the wit or humor, except as a listener; but they 
needed a listener and he was useful. Of the remaining four, Milnes 
was the oldest, and perhaps the sanest in spite of his superficial 
eccentricities, for Yorkshire sanity was true to a standard of its 
own, if not to other conventions ; yet even Milnes startled a young 
American whose Boston and Washington mind was still fresh. 
He would not have been startled by the hard-drinking, horse- 
racing Yorkshi reman of whom he had read in books; but Milnes 
required a knowledge of society and literature that only himself 
possessed, if one were to try to keep pace with him. He had sought 
contact with everybody and everything that Europe could offer. 
He knew it all from several points of view, and chiefly as hu- 
morous. 

The second of the party was also of a certain age; a quiet, well- 
mannered, singularly agreeable gentleman of the literary class. 
When Milnes showed Adams to his room to dress for dinner, he 
stayed a moment to say a word about this guest, whom he called 
Stirling of Keir. His sketch closed with the hint that Stirling was 



FOES OR FRTENDS 139 



violent only on one point hatred of Napoleon III. On that 
point, Adams was himself sensitive, which led him to wonder how 
bad the Scotch gentleman might be. The third was a man of 
thirty or thereabouts, whom Adams had already met at Lady 
Palmerston's carrying his arm in a sling. His figure and bearing 
were sympathetic almost pathetic with a certain grave and 
gentle charm, a pleasant smile, and an interesting story. He 
was Laurence Oliphant, just from Japan, where he had been 
wounded in the fanatics' attack on the British Legation. He 
seemed exceptionally sane and peculiarly suited for country 
houses, where every man would enjoy his company, and every 
woman would adore him. He had not then published "Picca- 
dilly"; perhaps he was writing it; while, like all the young men 
about the Foreign Office, he contributed to The Owl. 

The fourth was a boy, or had the look of one, though in fact 
a year older than Adams himself. He resembled in action and 
in this trait, was remotely followed, a generation later, by an- 
other famous young man, Robert Louis Stevenson a tropical 
bird, high-crested, long-beaked, quick-moving, with rapid utter- 
ance and screams of humor, quite unlike any English lark or night- 
ingale. One could hardly call him a crimson macaw among owls, 
and yet no ordinary contrast availed. Milnes introduced him 
as Mr. Algernon Swinburne. The name suggested nothing. Milnes 
was always unearthing new coins and trying to give them cur- 
rency. He had unearthed Henry Adams who knew himself to be 
worthless and not current. When Milnes lingered a moment in 
Adams's room to add that Swinburne had written some poetry, 
not yet published, of really extraordinary merit, Adams only 
wondered what more Milnes would discover, and whether by 
chance he could discover merit in a private secretary. He was 
capable of it. 

In due course this party of five men sat down to dinner with the 
usual club manners of ladyless dinner-tables, easy and formal at 
the same time. Conversation ran first to Oliphant who told his 



140 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

dramatic story simply, and from him the talk drifted off into other 
channels, until Milnes thought it time to bring Swinburne out. 
Then, at last, if never before, Adams acquired education. What 
he had sought so long, he found; but he was none the wiser; only 
the more astonished. For once, too, he felt at ease, for the others 
were no less astonished than himself, and their astonishment grew 
apace. For the rest of the evening Swinburne figured alone; the 
end of dinner made the monologue only freer, for in 1862, even 
when ladies were not in the house, smoking was forbidden, and 
guests usually smoked in the stables or the kitchen; but Monck- 
ton Milnes was a licensed libertine who let his guests smoke in 
Adams's bedroom, since Adams was an American-German bar- 
barian ignorant of manners; and there after dinner all sat 
or lay till far into the night, listening to the rush of Swinburne's 
talk. In a long experience, before or after, no one ever approached 
it; yet one had heard accounts of the best talking of the time, and 
read accounts of talkers in all time, among the rest, of Voltaire, 
who seemed to approach nearest the pattern. 

That Swinburne was altogether new to the three types of men- 
of-the-world before him; that he seemed to them quite origi- 
nal, wildly eccentric, astonishingly gifted, and convulsingly droll, 
Adams could see; .but what more he was, even Milnes hardly 
dared say. They could not believe his incredible memory and 
knowledge of literature, classic, mediaeval, and modern; his fac- 
ulty of reciting a play of Sophocles or a play of Shakespeare, for- 
ward or backward, from end to beginning; or Dante, or Villon, 
or Victor Hugo. They knew not what to make of his rhetorical 
recitation of his own unpublished ballads "Faustine"; the 
"Four Boards of the Coffin Lid"; the "Ballad of Burdens" 
which he declaimed as though they were books of the Iliad. It 
was singular that his most appreciative listener should have been 
the author only of pretty verses like " We wandered by the brook- 
side," and "She seemed to those that saw them meet"; and who 
never cared to write in any other tone; but Milnes took everything 



FOES OR FRIENDS 141 

into his sympathies, including Americans like young Adams whose 
standards were stiffest of all, while Swinburne, though millions 
of ages far from them, united them by his humor .even more than 
by his poetry. The story of his first day as a member of Profes- 
sor Stubbs's household was professionally clever farce, if not high 
comedy, in a young man who could write a Greek ode or a Pro- 
ven^al chanson as easily as an English quatrain. 

Late at night when the symposium broke up, Stirling of Keir 
wanted to take with him to his chamber a copy of " Queen Rosa- 
mund, " the only volume Swinburne had then published, which 
was on the library table, and Adams offered to light him down 
with his solitary bedroom candle. All the way, Stirling was ejacu- 
lating explosions of wonder, until at length, at the foot of the stairs 
"and at the climax gf his imagination, he paused, and burst out: 
"He's a cross between the devil and the Duke of Argyll!" 

To appreciate the full merit of this description, a judicious 
critic should have known both, and Henry Adams knew only 
one at least in person but he understood that to a Scotch- 
man the likeness meant something quite portentous, beyond 
English experience, supernatural, and what the French call moy- 
enageux, or mediaeval with a grotesque turn. That Stirling as well 
as Milnes should regard Swinburne as a prodigy greatly com- 
forted Adams, who lost his balance of mind at first in trying to 
imagine that Swinburne was a natural product of Oxford, as muf- 
fins and pork-pies of London, at once the cause and effect of dys- 
pepsia. The idea that one has actually met a real genius dawns 
slowly on a Boston mind, but it made entry at last. 

Then came the sad reaction, not from Swinburne whose genius 
never was in doubt, but from the Boston mind which, in its utter- 
most flights, was never moyenageux. One felt the horror of Long- 
fellow and Emerson, the doubts of Lowell and the humor of 
Holmes, at the wild Walpurgis-night of Swinburne's talk. What 
could a shy young private secretary do about it? Perhaps, in his 
good nature, Milnes thought that Swinburne might find a friend 



142 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

in Stirling or Oliphant, but he could hardly have fancied Henry 
Adams rousing in him even an interest. Adams could no more 
interest Algernon Swinburne than he could interest Encke's 
comet. To Swinburne he could be no more than a worm. The 
quality of genius was an education almost ultimate, for one touched 
there the limits of the human mind on that side; but one could 
only receive; one had nothing to give nothing even to offer. 

Swinburne tested him then and there by one of his favorite 
tests Victor Hugo; for to him the test of Victor Hugo was the 
surest and quickest of standards. French poetry is at best a severe 
exercise for foreigners; it requires extraordinary knowledge of the 
language and rare refinement of ear to appreciate even the recita- 
tion of French verse; but unless a poet has both, he lacks some- 
thing of poetry. Adams had neither. To the end of his life he 
never listened to a French recitation with pleasure, or felt a sense 
of majesty in French verse; but he did not care to proclaim 
his weakness, and he tried to evade Swinburne's vehement in- 
sistence by parading an affection for Alfred de Musset. Swin- 
burne would have none of it; de Musset was unequal; he did not 
sustain himself on the wing. 

Adams would have given a world or two, if he owned one, to 
sustain himself on the wing like de Musset, or even like Hugo; but 
his education as well as his ear was at fault, and he succumbed. 
Swinburne tried him again on Walter Savage Landor. In truth 
the test was the same, for Swinburne admired in Landor's Eng- 
lish the qualities that he felt in Hugo's French; and Adams's 
failure was equally gross, for, when forced to despair, he had to 
admit that both Hugo and Landor bored him. Nothing more was 
needed. One who could feel neither Hugo nor Landor was lost. 

The sentence was just and Adams never appealed from it. He 
knew his inferiority in taste as he might know it in smell. Keenly 
mortified by the dullness of his senses and instincts, he knew he was 
no companion for Swinburne; probably he could be only an an- 
noyance; no number of centuries could ever educate him to Swin- 



FOES OR FRIENDS 143 

burne's level, even in technical appreciation; yet he often won- 
dered whether there was nothing he had to offer that was worth 
the poet's acceptance. Certainly such mild homage as the Ameri- 
can insect would have been only too happy to bring, had he known 
how, was hardly worth the acceptance of any one. Only in France 
is the attitude of prayer possible; in England it became absurd. 
Even Monckton Milnes, who felt the splendors of Hugo and 
Landor, was almost as helpless as an American private secretary in 
personal contact with them. Ten years afterwards Adams met him 
at the Geneva Conference, fresh from Paris, bubbling with de- 
light at a call he had made on Hugo: "I was shown into a large 
room," he said, "with women and men seated in chairs against 
the walls, and Hugo at one end throned. No one spoke. At last 
Hugo raised his voice solemnly, and uttered the words: 'Quant 
a moi, je crois en Dieu!' Silence followed. Then a woman re- 
sponded as if in deep meditation: 'Chose sublime! un Dieu qui 
croit en Dieu!'" 

With the best of will, one could not do this in London; the 
actors had not the instinct of the drama; and yet even a private 
secretary was not wholly wanting in instinct. As soon as he 
reached town he hurried to Pickering's for a copy of "Queen 
Rosamund," and at that time, if Swinburne was not joking, 
Pickering had sold seven copies. When the "Poems and Ballads" 
came out, and met their great success and scandal, he sought one 
of the first copies from Moxon. If he had sinned and doubted at 
all, he wholly repented and did penance before "Atalanta in 
Calydon," and would have offered Swinburne a solemn worship 
as Milnes's female offered Hugo, if it would have pleased the 
poet. Unfortunately it was worthless. 

The three young men returned to London, and each went his 
own way. Adams's interest in making friends was something 
desperate, but "the London season," Milnes used to say, "is a 
season for making acquaintances and losing friends"; there was 
no intimate life. Of Swinburne he saw no more till Monckton 



144 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Milnes summoned his whole array of Frystonians to support him 
in presiding at the dinner of the Authors' Fund, when Adams 
found himself seated next to Swinburne, famous then, but no 
nearer. They never met again. Oliphant he met oftener; all the 
world knew and loved him; but he too disappeared in the way 
that all the world knows. Stirling of Keir, after one or two efforts, 
passed also from Adams's vision into Sir William Stirling-Max- 
well. The only record of his wonderful visit to Fryston may 
perhaps exist still in the registers of the St. James's Club, for im- 
mediately afterwards Milnes proposed Henry Adams for mem- 
bership, and unless his memory erred, the nomination was sec- 
onded by Tricoupi and endorsed by Laurence Oliphant and Evelyn 
Ashley. The list was a little singular for variety, but on the whole 
it suggested that the private secretary was getting on. 



CHAPTER X 

POLITICAL MORALITY (1862) 

ON Moran's promotion to be Secretary, Mr. Seward, in- 
quired whether Minister Adams would like the place of 
Assistant Secretary for his son. It was the first and 
last office ever offered him, if indeed he could claim what was 
offered in fact to his father. To them both, the change seemed 
useless. Any young man could make some sort of Assistant Secre- 
tary; only one, just at that moment, could make an Assistant Son. 
More than half his duties were domestic; they sometimes required 
long absences; they always required independence of the Govern- 
ment service. His position was abnormal. The British Govern- 
ment by courtesy allowed the son to go to Court as Attache, 
though he was never attached, and after five or six years' tolera- 
tion, the decision was declared irregular. In the Legation, as pri- 
vate secretary, he was liable to do Secretary's work. In society, 
when official, he was attached to the Minister; when unofficial, 
he was a young man without any position at all. As the years 
went on, he began to find advantages in having no position at 
all except that of young man. Gradually he aspired to become a 
gentleman; just a member of society like the rest. The position 
was irregular; at that time many positions were irregular; yet it 
lent itself to a sort of irregular education that seemed to be the 
only sort of education the young man was ever to get. 

Such as it was, few young men had more. The spring and 
summer of 1863 saw a great change in Secretary Seward's manage- 
ment of foreign affairs. Under the stimulus of danger, he too got 
education. He felt, at last, that his official representatives abroad 
needed support. Officially he could give them nothing but des- 
patches, which were of no great value to any one; and at best the 
mere weight of an office had little to do with the public. Govern- 
ments were made to deal with Governments, not with private 



146 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

individuals or with the opinions of foreign society. In order to 
affect European opinion, the weight of American opinion had to 
be brought to bear personally, and had to be backed by the weight 
of American interests. Mr. Seward set vigorously to work and 
sent over every important American on whom he could lay his 
hands. All came to the Legation more or less intimately, and 
Henry Adams had a chance to see them all, bankers or bishops, 
who did their work quietly and well, though, to the outsider, the 
work seemed wasted and the "influential classes'' more indurated 
with prejudice than ever. The waste was only apparent; the work 
all told in the end, and meanwhile it helped education. 

Two or three of these gentlemen were sent over to aid the 
Minister and to cooperate with him. The most interesting of these 
was Thurlow Weed, who came to do what the private secretary 
himself had attempted two years before, with boyish ignorance of 
his own powers. Mr. Weed took charge of the press, and began, to 
the amused astonishment of the secretaries, by making what the 
Legation had learned to accept as the invariable mistake of every 
amateur diplomat; he wrote letters to the London Times. Mistake 
or not, Mr. Weed soon got into his hands the threads of manage- 
ment, and did quietly and smoothly all that was to be done. With 
his work the private secretary had no connection; it was he that 
interested. Thurlow Weed was a complete American education 
in himself. His mind was naturally strong and beautifully bal- 
anced; his temper never seemed ruffled; his manners were care- 
fully perfect in the style of benevolent simplicity, the tradition of 
Benjamin Franklin. He was the model of political management 
and patient address; but the trait that excited enthusiasm in a 
private secretary was his faculty of irresistibly conquering confi- 
dence. Of all flowers in the garden of education, confidence was 
becoming the rarest; but before Mr. Weed went away, young 
Adams followed him about not only obediently for obedience 
had long since become a blind instinct but rather with sym- 
pathy and affection, much like a little dog. 



POLITICAL MORALITY 147 

The sympathy was not due only to Mr. Weed's skill of manage- 
ment, although Adams never met another such master, or any one 
who approached him; nor was the confidence due to any display 
of professions, either moral or social, by Mr. Weed. The trait 
that astounded and confounded cynicism was his apparent un- 
selfishness. Never, in any man who wielded such power, did 
Adams meet anything like it. The effect of power and publicity 
on all men is the aggravation of self, a sort of tumor that ends 
by killing the victim's sympathies; a diseased appetite, like a 
passion for drink or perverted tastes; one can scarcely use expres- 
sions too strong to describe the violence of egotism it stimulates; 
and Thurlow Weed was one of the exceptions; a rare immune. 
He thought apparently not of himself, but of the person he was 
talking with. He held himself naturally in the background. He 
was not jealous. He grasped power, but not office. He distributed 
offices by handfuls without caring to take them. He had the 
instinct of empire: he gave, but he did not receive. This rare 
superiority to the politicians he controlled, a trait that private 
secretaries never met in the politicians themselves, excited Adams's 
wonder and curiosity, but when he tried to get behind it, and to 
educate himself from the stores of Mr. Weed's experience, he found 
the study still more fascinating. Management was an instinct 
with Mr. Weed; an object to be pursued for its own sake, as one 
plays cards; but he appeared to play with men as though they 
were only cards; he seemed incapable of feeling himself one of 
them. He took them and played them for their face-value; but 
once, when he had told, with his usual humor, some stories of his 
political experience which were strong even for the Albany lobby, 
the private secretary made bold to ask him outright: "Then, 
Mr. Weed, do you think that no politician can be trusted?" Mr. 
Weed hesitated for a monent; then said in his mild manner: "I 
never advise a young man to begin by thinking so." 

This lesson, at the time, translated itself to Adams in a moral 
sepse, as though Mr. Weed had said: "Youth needs illusions 1" 



148 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

As he grew older he rather thought that Mr. Weed looked on it 
as a question of how the game should be played. Young men most 
needed experience. They could not play well if they trusted to a 
general rule. Every card had a relative value. Principles had bet- 
ter be left aside; values were enough. Adams knew that he could 
never learn to play politics in so masterly a fashion as this: his 
education and his nervous system equally forbade it, although he 
admired all the more the impersonal faculty of the political master 
who could thus efface himself and his temper in the game. He 
noticed that most of the greatest politicians in history had seemed 
to regard men as counters. The lesson was the more interesting 
because another famous New Yorker came over at the same time 
who liked to discuss the same problem. Secretary Seward sent 
William M. Evarts to London as law counsel, and Henry began 
an acquaintance with Mr. Evarts that soon became intimate. 
Evarts was as individual as Weed was impersonal; like most men, 
he cared little for the game, or how it was played, and much for 
the stakes, but he played it in a large and liberal way, like Daniel 
Webster, "a great advocate employed in politics." Evarts was 
also an economist of morals, but with him the question was rather 
how much morality one could afford. "The world can absorb 
only doses of truth," he said; "too much would kill it." One 
sought education in order to adjust the dose. 

The teachings of Weed and Evarts were practical, and the 
private secretary's life turned on their value. England's power 
of absorbing truth was small. Englishmen, such as Palmerston, 
Russell, Bethell, and the society represented by the Times and 
Morning Post, as well as the Tories represented by Disraeli, 
Lord Robert Cecil, and the Standard, offered a study in educa- 
tion that sickened a young student with anxiety. He had begun 
contrary to Mr. Weed's advice by taking their bad faith for 
granted. Was he wrong? To settle this point became the main 
object of the diplomatic education so laboriously pursued, at a 
cost already stupendous, and promising to become ruinous. Life 



POLITICAL MORALITY 149 

changed front, according as one thought one's self dealing with 
honest men or with rogues. 

Thus far, the private secretary felt officially sure of dishonesty. 
The reasons that satisfied him had not altogether satisfied his 
father, and of course his father's doubts gravely shook his own 
convictions, but, in practice, if only for safety, the Legation put 
little or no confidence in Ministers, and there the private secre- 
tary's diplomatic education began. The recognition of belligerency, 
the management of the Declaration of Paris, the Trent Affair, 
all strengthened the belief that Lord Russell had started in May, 
1 86 1, with the assumption that the Confederacy was established; 
every step he had taken proved his persistence in the same idea; he 
never would consent to put obstacles in the way of recognition; 
and he was waiting only for the proper moment to interpose. All 
these points seemed so fixed so self-evident that no one in 
the Legation would have doubted or even discussed them except 
that Lord Russell obstinately denied the whole charge, and per- 
sisted in assuring Minister Adams of his honest and impartial 
neutrality. 

With the insolence of youth and zeal, Henry Adams jumped 
at once to the conclusion that Earl Russell like other statesmen 
lied; and, although the Minister thought differently, he had to 
act as though Russell were false. Month by month the demon- 
stration followed its mathematical stages; one of the most perfect 
educational courses in politics and diplomacy that a young man 
ever had a chance to pursue. The most costly tutors in the world 
were provided for him at public expense Lord Palmerston, 
Lord Russell, Lord Westbury, Lord Selborne, Mr. Gladstone, 
Lord Granville, and their associates, paid by the British Govern- 
ment; William H. Seward, Charles Francis Adams, William Max- 
well Evarts, Thurlow Weed, and other considerable professors em- 
ployed by the American Government; but there was only one 
student to profit by this immense staff of teachers. The private 
secretary alone sought education. 



150 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

To the end of his life he labored over the lessons then taught. 
Never was demonstration more tangled. Hegel's metaphysical 
doctrine of the identity of opposites was simpler and easier to 
understand. Yet the stages of demonstration were clear. They 
began in June, 1862, after the escape of one rebel cruiser, by the 
remonstrances of the Minister against the escape of "No. 290," 
which was imminent. Lord Russell declined to act on the evi- 
dence. New evidence was sent in every few days, and with it, on 
July 24, was included Collier's legal opinion: "It appears difficult 
to make out a stronger case of infringement of the Foreign Enlist- 
ment Act, which, if not enforced on this occasion, is little better 
than a dead letter." Such language implied almost a charge of 
collusion with the rebel agents an intent to aid the Confeder- 
acy. In spite of the warning, Earl Russell let the ship, four days 
afterwards, escape. 

Young Adams had nothing to do with law; that was business of 
his betters. His opinion of law hung on his opinion of lawyers. 
In spite of Thurlow Weed's advice, could one afford to trust human 
nature in politics? History said not. Sir Robert Collier seemed to 
hold that Law agreed with History. For education the point was 
vital. If one could not trust a dozen of the most respected private 
characters in the world, composing the Queen's Ministry, one 
could trust no mortal man. 

Lord Russell felt the force of this inference, and undertook to 
disprove it. His effect lasted till his death. At first he excused 
himself by throwing the blame on the law officers. This was a 
politician's practice, and the lawyers overruled it. Then he pleaded 
guilty to criminal negligence, and said in his "Recollections": 
"I assent entirely to the opinion of the Lord Chief Justice of 
England that the Alabama ought to have been detained during 
the four days I was waiting for the opinion of the law officers. 
But I think that the fault was not that of the commissioners of 
customs, it was my fault as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs." 
This concession brought all parties on common ground. Of course 



POLITICAL MORALITY 151 

it was his fault! The true issue lay not in the question of his fault, 
but of his intent. To a young man, getting an education in poli- 
tics, there could be no sense in history unless a constant course of 
faults implied a constant motive. 

For his father the question was not so abstruse; it was a practical 
matter of business to be handled as Weed or Evarts handled their 
bargains and jobs. Minister Adams held the convenient belief 
that, in the main, Russell was true, and the theory answered his 
purposes so well that he died still holding it. His son was seeking 
education, and wanted to know whether he could, in politics, risk 
trusting any one. Unfortunately no one could then decide; no one 
knew the facts. Minister Adams died without knowing them. 
Henry Adams was an older man than his father in 1862, before 
he learned a part of them. The most curious fact, even then, was 
that Russell believed in his own good faith and that Argyll believed 
in it also. 

Argyll betrayed a taste for throwing the blame on Bethell, Lord 
Westbury, then Lord Chancellor, but this escape helped Adams 
not at all. On the contrary, it complicated the case of Russell. 
In England, one half of society enjoyed throwing stones at Lord 
Palmerston, while the other half delighted in flinging mud at Earl 
Russell, but every one of every party united in pelting Westbury 
with every missile at hand. The private secretary had no doubts 
about him, for he never professed to be moral. He was the head 
and heart of the whole rebel contention, and his opinions on neu- 
trality were as clear as they were on morality. The private secre- 
tary had nothing to do with him, and regretted it, for Lord West- 
bury's wit and wisdom were great; but as far as his authority went, 
he affirmed the law that in politics no man should be trusted. 

Russell alone insisted on his honesty of intention and persuaded 
both the Duke and the Minister to believe him. Every one in the 
Legation accepted his assurances as the only assertions they 
could venture to trust. They knew he expected the rebels to win 
in the end, but they believed he would not actively interpose to 



152 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

decide it. On that on nothing else they rested their frail 
hopes of remaining a day longer in England. Minister Adams re- 
mained six years longer in England; then returned to America to 
lead a busy life till he died in 1886 still holding the same faith in 
Earl Russell, who had died in 1878. In 1889, Spencer Walpole 
published the official life of Earl Russell, and told a part of the 
story which had never been known to the Minister and which 
astounded his son, who burned with curiosity to know what his 
father would have said of it. 

The story was this: The Alabama escaped, by Russell's con- 
fessed negligence, on July 28, 1862. In America the Union armies 
had suffered great disasters before Richmond and at the second 
Bull Run, August 29-30, followed by Lee's invasion of Maryland, 
September 7, the news of which, arriving in England on Sep- 
tember 14, roused the natural idea that the crisis was at hand. 
The next news was expected by the Confederates to announce 
the fall of Washington or Baltimore. Palmerston instantly, Sep- 
tember 14, wrote to Russell: "If this should happen, would it 
not be time for us to consider whether in such a state of things 
England and France might not address the contending parties 
and recommend an arrangement on the basis of separation?" 

This letter, quite in the line of Palmerston's supposed opinions, 
would have surprised no one, if it had been communicated to 
the Legation; and indeed, if Lee had captured Washington, no 
one could have blamed Palmerston for offering intervention. 
Not Palmerston's letter but Russell's reply, merited the painful 
attention of a young man seeking a moral standard for judging 
politicians : 

GOTHA, September, 17, 1862. 
MY DEAR PALMERSTON : 

Whether the Federal army is destroyed or not, it is clear that it 
is driven back to Washington and has made no progress in subduing 
the insurgent States. Such being the case, I agree with you that the 
time is come for offering mediation to the United States Govern- 
ment with a view to the recognition of the independence of the Con- 



POLITICAL MORALITY 153 

federates. I agree further that in case of failure, we ought ourselves 
to recognize the Southern States as an independent State. For the 
purpose of taking so important a step, I think we must have a meeting 
of the Cabinet. The 23d or 3Oth would suit me for the meeting. 

We ought then, if we agree on such a step, to propose it first to 
France, and then on the part of England and France, to Russia and 
other powers, as a measure decided upon by us. 

We ought to make ourselves safe in Canada, not by sending more 
troops there, but by concentrating those we have in a few defensible 
posts before the winter sets in. ... 

Here, then, appeared in its fullest force, the practical difficulty 
in education which a mere student could never overcome; a dif- 
ficulty not in theory, or knowledge, or even want of experience, 
but in the sheer chaos of human nature. Lord Russell's course 
had been consistent from the first, and had all the look of rigid 
determination to recognize the Southern Confederacy "with a 
view" to breaking up the Union. His letter of September 17 
hung directly on his encouragement of the Alabama and his pro- 
tection of the rebel navy; while the whole of his plan had its root 
in the Proclamation of Belligerency, May 13, 1861. The policy 
had every look of persistent forethought, but it took for granted 
the deliberate dishonesty of three famous men: Palmerston, Rus- 
sell, and Gladstone. This dishonesty, as concerned Russell, was 
denied by Russell himself, and disbelieved by Argyll, Forster, and 
most of America's friends in England, as well as by Minister 
Adams. What the Minister would have thought had he seen 
this letter of September 17, his son would have greatly liked to 
know, but he would have liked still more to know what the Min- 
ister would have thought of Palmerston's answer, dated Sep- 
tember 23 : 

... It is evident that a great conflict is taking place to the north- 
west of Washington, and its issue must have a great effect on the state 
of affairs. If the Federals sustain a great defeat, they may be at once 
ready for mediation, and the iron should be struck while it is hot. 
If, on the other hand, they should have the best of it, we may wait 
a while and see what may follow. . . 



154 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

The roles were reversed. Russell wrote what was expected 
from Palmerston, or even more violently; while Palmerston wrote 
what was expected from Russell, or even more temperately. The 
private secretary's view had been altogether wrong, which would 
not have much surprised even him, but he would have been greatly 
astonished to learn that the most confidential associates of these 
men knew little more about their intentions than was known in 
the Legation. The most trusted member of the Cabinet was Lord 
Granville, and to him Russell next wrote. Granville replied at once 
decidedly opposing recognition of the Confederacy, and Russell 
sent the reply to Palmerston, who returned it October 2, with the 
mere suggestion of waiting for further news from America. At 
the same time Granville wrote to another member of the Cabinet, 
Lord Stanley of Alderley, a letter published forty years after- 
wards in Granville's "Life" (i, 442) to the private secretary 
altogether the most curious and instructive relic of the whole les- 
son in politics : 

... I have written to Johnny my reasons for thinking it decidedly 
premature. I, however, suspect you will settle to do so. Pam., Johnny, 
and Gladstone would be in favor of it, and probably Newcastle. I 
do not know about the others. It appears to me a great mistake. . . . 

Out of a Cabinet of a dozen members, Granville, the best in- 
formed of them all, could pick only three who would favor recogni- 
tion. Even a private secretary thought he knew as much as this, 
or more. Ignorance was not confined to the young and insignifi- 
cant, nor were they the only victims of blindness. Granville's let- 
ter made only one point clear. He knew of no fixed policy or con- 
spiracy. If any existed, it was confined to Palmerston, Russell, 
Gladstone, and perhaps Newcastle. In truth, the Legation knew, 
then, all that was to be known, and the true fault of education 
was to suspect too much. 

By that time, October 3, news of Antietam and of Lee's retreat 
into Virginia had reached London. The Emancipation Proclama- 



POLITICAL MORALITY 155 

tion arrived. Had the private secretary known all that Granville 
or Palmerston knew, he would surely have thought the danger 
past, at least for a time, and any man of common sense would 
have told him to stop worrying over phantoms. This healthy les- 
son would have been worth much for practical education, but it 
was quite upset by the sudden rush of a new actor upon the stage 
with a rhapsody that made Russell seem sane, and all education 
superfluous. 

This new actor, as every one knows, was William Ewart Glad- 
stone, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. If, in the domain of 
the world's politics, one point was fixed, one value ascertained, 
one element serious, it was the British Exchequer; and if one man 
lived who could be certainly counted as sane by overwhelming 
interest, it was the man who had in charge the finances of England. 
If education had the smallest value, it should have shown its 
force in Gladstone, who was educated beyond all record of English 
training. From him, if from no one else, the poor student could 
safely learn. 

Here is what he learned! Palmerston notified Gladstone, Sep- 
tember 24, of the proposed intervention: "If I am not mistaken, 
you would be inclined to approve such a course." Gladstone re- 
plied the next day: "He was glad to learn what the Prime Minister 
had told him; and for two reasons especially he desired that the 
proceedings should be prompt: the first was the rapid progress of 
the Southern arms and the extension of the area of Southern feel- 
ing; the second was the risk of violent impatience in the cotton- 
towns of Lancashire such as would prejudice the dignity and dis- 
interestedness of the proffered mediation." 

Had the puzzled student seen this letter, he must have con- 
cluded from it that the best educated statesman England ever 
produced did not know what he was talking about, an assumption 
which all the world would think quite inadmissible from a private 
secretary but this was a trifle. Gladstone having thus arranged, 
with Palmerston and Russell, for intervention in the American 



156 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

war, reflected on the subject for a fortnight from September 25 
to October 7, when he was to speak on the occasion of a great 
dinner at Newcastle. He decided to announce the Government's 
policy with all the force his personal and official authority could 
give it. This decision was no sudden impulse; it was the result of 
deep reflection pursued to the last moment. On the morning of 
October 7, he entered in his diary: "Reflected further on what I 
should say about Lancashire and America, for both these subjects 
are critical." That evening at dinner, as the mature fruit of his 
long study, he deliberately pronounced the famous phrase : 

. . . We know quite well that the people of the Northern States 
have not yet drunk of the cup they are still trying to hold it 
far from their lips which all the rest of the world see they never- 
theless must drink of. We may have our own opinions about slavery; 
we may be for or against the South; but there is no doubt that 
Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; 
they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made, what is 
more than either, they have made a nation. . . . 

Looking back, forty years afterwards, on this episode, one 
asked one's self painfully what sort of a lesson a young man should 
have drawn, for the purposes of his education, from this world- 
famous teaching of a very great master. In the heat of passion 
at the moment, one drew some harsh moral conclusions: Were 
they incorrect? Posed bluntly as rules of conduct, they led to the 
worst possible practices. As morals, one could detect no shade of 
difference between Gladstone and Napoleon except to the advan- 
tage of Napoleon. The private secretary saw none; he accepted the 
teacher in that sense; he took his lesson of political morality as 
learned, his notice to quit as duly served, and supposed his educa- 
tion to be finished. 

Every one thought so, and the whole City was in a turmoil. 
Any intelligent education ought to end when it is complete. One 
would then feel fewer hesitations and would handle a surer world. 
The old-fashioned logical drama required unity and sense; the ac- 



POLITICAL MORALITY 157 

tual drama is a pointless puzzle, without even an intrigue. When 
the curtain fell on Gladstone's speech, any student had the right 
to suppose the drama ended; none could have affirmed that it was 
about to begin; that one's painful lesson was thrown away. 

Even after forty years, most people would refuse to believe it; 
they would still insist that Gladstone, Russell, and Palmerston 
were true villains of melodrama. The evidence against Gladstone 
in special seemed overwhelming. The word "must" can never 
be used by a responsible Minister of one Government towards 
another, as Gladstone used it. No one knew so well as he that he 
and his own officials and friends at Liverpool were alone "mak- 
ing" a rebel navy, and that Jefferson Davis had next to nothing 
to do with it. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he was the Min- 
ister most interested in knowing that Palmerston, Russell, and 
himself were banded together by mutual pledge to make the 
Confederacy a nation the next week, and that the Southern lead- 
ers had as yet no hope of "making a nation" but in them. Such 
thoughts occurred to every one at the moment and time only 
added to their force. Never in the history of political turpitude 
had any brigand of modern civilization offered a worse example. 
The proof of it was that it outraged even Palmerston, who im- 
mediately put up Sir George Cornewall Lewis to repudiate the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, against whom he turned his press at 
the same time. Palmerston had no notion of letting his hand be 
forced by Gladstone. 

Russell did nothing of the kind; if he agreed with Palmerston, 
he followed Gladstone. Although he had just created a new evan- 
gel of non-intervention for Italy, and preached it like an apostle, 
he preached the gospel of intervention in America as though he 
were a mouthpiece of the Congress of Vienna. On October 13, 
he issued his call for the Cabinet to meet, on October 23, for dis- 
cussion of the "duty of Europe to ask both parties, in the most 
friendly and conciliatory terms, to agree to a suspension of arms." 
Meanwhile Minister Adams, deeply perturbed and profoundly 



158 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

anxious, would betray no sign of alarm, and purposely delayed to 
ask explanation. The howl of anger against Gladstone became 
louder every day, for every one knew that the Cabinet was called 
for October 23, and then could not fail to decide its policy about 
the United States. Lord Lyons put off his departure for America 
till October 25 expressly to share in the conclusions to be dis- 
cussed on October 23. When Minister Adams at last requested 
an interview, Russell named October 23 as the day. To the last 
moment every act of Russell showed that, in his mind, the inter- 
vention was still in doubt. 

When Minister Adams, at the interview, suggested that an 
explanation was due him, he watched Russell with natural in- 
terest, and reported thus : 

. . . His lordship took my allusion at once, though not without 
a slight indication of embarrassment. He said that Mr. Gladstone 
had been evidently much misunderstood. I must have seen in the 
newspapers the letters which contained his later explanations. That 
he had certain opinions in regard to the nature of the struggle in 
America, as on all public questions, just as other Englishmen had, 
was natural enough. And it was the fashion here for public men to 
express such as they held in their public addresses. Of course it was 
not for him to disavow anything on the part of Mr. Gladstone; but 
he had no idea that in saying what he had, there was a serious inten- 
tion to justify any of the inferences that had been drawn from it of 
a disposition in the Government now to adopt a new policy. . . . 

A student trying to learn the processes of politics in a free gov- 
ernment could not but ponder long on the moral to be drawn from 
this "explanation" of Mr. Gladstone by Earl Russell. The point 
set for study as the first condition of political life, was whether 
any politician could be believed or trusted. The question which a 
private secretary asked himself, in copying this despatch of Octo- 
ber 24, 1862, was whether his father believed, or should believe, one 
word of Lord Russell's "embarrassment." The "truth" was not 
known for thirty years, but when published, seemed to be the re- 
verse of Earl Russell's statement. Mr. Gladstone's speech had 



POLITICAL MORALITY 159 

been drawn out by Russell's own policy of intervention and had 
no sense except to declare the "disposition in the Government now 
to adopt" that new policy. Earl Russell never disavowed Glad- 
stone, although Lord Palmerston and Sir George Cornewall Lewis 
instantly did so. As far as the curious student could penetrate the 
mystery, Gladstone exactly expressed Earl Russell's intent. 

As political education, this lesson was to be crucial; it would 
decide the law of life. All these gentlemen were superlatively 
honorable; if one could not believe them, Truth in politics might 
be ignored as a delusion. Therefore the student felt compelled 
to reach some sort of idea that should serve to bring the case within 
a general law. Minister Adams felt the same compulsion. He 
bluntly told Russell that while he was "willing to acquit" Glad- 
stone of "any deliberate intention to bring on the worst effects," 
he was bound to say that Gladstone was doing it quite as certainly 
as if he had one; and to this charge, which struck more sharply at 
Russell's secret policy than at Gladstone's public defence of it, 
Russell replied as well as he could : 

. . . His lordship intimated as guardedly as possible that Lord 
Palmerston and other members of the Government regretted the 
speech, and Mr. Gladstone himself was not disinclined to correct, 
as far as he could, the misinterpretation which had been made of it. 
It was still their intention to adhere to the rule of perfect neutrality 
in the struggle, and to let it come to its natural end without the 
smallest interference, direct or otherwise. But he could not say what 
circumstances might happen from month to month in the future. 
I observed that the policy he mentioned was satisfactory to us, and 
asked if I was to understand him as saying that no change of it was 
now proposed. To which he gave his assent. . . . 

Minister Adams never knew more. He retained his belief that 
Russell could be trusted, but that Palmerston could not. This was 
the diplomatic tradition, especially held by the Russian diplomats. 
Possibly it was sound, but it helped in no way the education of 
a private secretary. The cat's-paw theory offered no safer clue, 



160 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

than the frank, old-fashioned, honest theory of villainy. Neither 
the one nor the other was reasonable. 

No one ever told the Minister that Earl Russell, only a few 
hours before, had asked the Cabinet to intervene, and that the 
Cabinet had refused. The Minister was led to believe that the 
Cabinet meeting was not held, and that its decision was informal. 
Russell's biographer said that, "with this memorandum [of Rus- 
sell's, dated October 13] the Cabinet assembled from all parts 
of the country on October 23 ; but . . . members of the Cabinet 
doubted the policy of moving, or moving at that time." The Duke 
of Newcastle and Sir George Grey joined Granville in opposi- 
tion. As far as known, Russell and Gladstone stood alone. "Consid- 
erations such as these prevented the matter being pursued any 
further." 

Still no one has distinctly said that this decision was formal; per- 
haps the unanimity of opposition made the formal Cabinet unnec- 
essary; but it is certain that, within an hour or two before or after 
this decision, "his lordship said [to the United States Minister] 
that the policy of the Government was to adhere to a strict neu- 
trality and to leave this struggle to settle itself."- When Mr. 
Adams, not satisfied even with this positive assurance, pressed for 
a categorical answer: "I asked him if I was to understand that 
policy as not now to be changed; he said: Yes!" 

John Morley's comment on this matter, in the "Life of Glad- 
stone, "forty years afterwards, would have interested the Minister, 
as well as his private secretary: "If this relation be accurate," said 
Morley of a relation officially published at the time, and never 
questioned, "then the Foreign Secretary did not construe strict 
neutrality as excluding what diplomatists call good offices." For 
a vital lesson in politics, Earl Russell's construction of neutrality 
mattered little to the student, who asked only Russell's intent, and 
cared only to know whether his construction had any other object 
than to deceive the Minister. 

In the grave one can afford to be lavish of charity, and possibly 



POLITICAL MORALITY 161 

Earl Russell may have been honestly glad to reassure his personal 
friend Mr. Adams ; but to one who is still in the world even if not 
of it, doubts are as plenty as days. Earl Russell totally deceived 
the private secretary, whatever he may have done to the Minister. 
The policy of abstention was not settled on October 23. Only the 
next day, October 24, Gladstone circulated a rejoinder to G. C. 
Lewis, insisting on the duty of England, France, and Russia to 
intervene by representing, "with moral authority and force, the 
opinion of the civilized world upon the conditions of the case." 
Nothing had been decided. By some means, scarcely accidental, 
the French Emperor was led to think that his influence might 
turn the scale, and only ten days after Russell's categorical 
"Yes!" Napoleon officially invited him to say "No!" He was 
more than ready to do so. Another Cabinet meeting was called 
for November II, and this time Gladstone himself reports the 
debate : 

Nov. ii. We have had our Cabinet to-day and meet again to- 
morrow. I am afraid we shall do little or nothing in the business of 
America. But I will send you definite intelligence. Both Lords 
Palmerston and Russell are right. 

Nov. 12. The United States affair has ended and not well. Lord 
Russell rather turned tail. He gave way without resolutely fighting 
out his battle. However, though we decline for the moment, the 
answer is put upon grounds and in terms which leave the matter 
very open for the future. 

Nov. 13. I think the French will make our answer about America 
public; at least it is very possible. But I hope they may not take it 
as a positive refusal, or at any rate that they may themselves act 
in the matter. It will be clear that we concur with them, that the 
war should cease. Palmerston gave to Russell's proposal a feeble 
and half-hearted support. 

Forty years afterwards, when every one except himself, who 
looked on at this scene, was dead, the private secretary of 1862 
read these lines with stupor, and hurried to discuss them with 
John Hay, who was more astounded than himself. All the world 



1 62 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

had been at cross-purposes, had misunderstood themselves and 
the situation, had followed wrong paths, drawn wrong conclusions, 
had known none of the facts. One would have done better to 
draw no conclusions at all. One's diplomatic education was a 
long mistake. 

These were the terms of this singular problem as they presented 
themselves to the student of diplomacy in 1862: Palmerston, on 
September 14, under the impression that the President was about 
to be driven from Washington and the Army of the Potomac dis- 
persed, suggested to Russell that in such a case, intervention might 
be feasible. Russell instantly answered that, in any case, he wanted 
to intervene and should call a Cabinet for the purpose. Palmerston 
hesitated; Russell insisted; Granville protested. Meanwhile the 
rebel army was defeated at Antietam, September 17, and driven 
out of Maryland. Then Gladstone, October 7, tried to force 
Palmerston's hand by treating the intervention as a fait accompli. 
Russell assented, but Palmerston put up Sir George Cornewall 
Lewis to contradict Gladstone and treated him sharply in the 
press, at the very moment when Russell was calling a Cabinet to 
make Gladstone's words good. On October 23, Russell assured 
Adams that no change in policy was now proposed. On the same 
day he had proposed it, and was voted down. Instantly Napoleon 
III appeared as the ally of Russell and Gladstone with a proposi- 
tion which had no sense except as a bribe to Palmerston to replace 
America, from pole to pole, in her old dependence on Europe, and 
to replace England in her old sovereignty of the seas, if Palmerston 
would support France in Mexico. The young student of diplo- 
macy, knowing Palmerston, must have taken for granted that 
Palmerston inspired this motion and would support It; knowing 
Russell and his Whig antecedents, he would conceive that Rus- 
sell must oppose it; knowing Gladstone and his lofty principles, 
he would not doubt that Gladstone violently denounced the 
scheme. If education was worth a straw, this was the only ar- 
rangement of persons that a trained student would imagine 



POLITICAL MORALITY 163 

possible, and it was the arrangement actually assumed by nine 
men out of ten, as history. In truth, each valuation was false. 
Palmerston never showed favor to the scheme and gave it only 
"a feeble and half-hearted support." Russell gave way without 
resolutely fighting out "his battle." The only resolute, vehe- 
ment, conscientious champion of Russell, Napoleon, and Jeffer- 
son Davis was Gladstone. 

Other people could afford to laugh at a young man's blunders, 
but to him the best part of life was throwfi away if he learned such 
a lesson wrong. Henry James had not yet taught the world to read 
a volume for the pleasure of seeing the lights of his burning-glass 
turned on alternate sides of the same figure. Psychological study 
was still simple, and at worst or at best English character 
was never subtile. Surely no one would believe that complexity 
was the trait that confused the student of Palmerston, Russell, and 
Gladstone. Under a very strong light human nature will always 
appear complex and full of contradictions, but the British states- 
man would appear, on the whole, among the least complex of men. 

Complex these gentlemen were not. Disraeli alone might, by 
contrast, be called complex, but Palmerston, Russell, and Glad- 
stone deceived only by their simplicity. Russell was the most in- 
teresting to a young man because his conduct seemed most states- 
manlike. Every act of Russell, from April, 1861, to November, 
1862, showed the clearest determination to break up the Union. 
The only point in Russell's character about which the student 
thought no doubt to be possible was its want of good faith. It was 
thoroughly dishonest, but strong. Habitually Russell said one 
thing and did another. He seemed unconscious of his own con- 
tradictions even when his opponents pointed them out, as they 
were much in the habit of doing, in the strongest language. As 
the student watched him deal with the Civil War in America, 
Russell alone showed persistence, even obstinacy, in a definite 
determination, which he supported, as was necessary, by the usual 
definite falsehoods. The young man did not complain of the false- 



164 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

hoods; on the contrary, he was vain of his own insight in detecting 
them; but he was wholly upset by the idea that Russell should 
think himself true. 

Young Adams thought Earl Russell a statesman of the old 
school, clear about his objects and unscrupulous in his methods 
dishonest but strong. Russell ardently asserted that he had no 
objects, and that though he might be weak he was above all else 
honest. Minister Adams leaned to Russell personally and thought 
him true, but officially, in practice, treated him as false. Punch, 
before 1862, commonly drew Russell as a schoolboy telling lies, and 
afterwards as prematurely senile, at seventy. Education stopped 
there. No one, either in or out of England, ever offered a rational 
explanation of Earl Russell. 

Palmerston was simple so simple as to mislead the student 
altogether but scarcely more consistent. The world thought 
him positive, decided, reckless; the record proved him to be cau- 
tious, careful, vacillating. Minister Adams took him for pugna- 
cious and quarrelsome; the "Lives" of Russell, Gladstone, and 
Granville show him to have been good-tempered, conciliatory, 
avoiding quarrels. He surprised the Minister by refusing to pur- 
sue his attack on General Butler. He tried to check Russell. He 
scolded Gladstone.. He discouraged Napoleon. Except Disraeli 
none of the English statesmen were so cautious as he in talking 
of America. Palmerston told no falsehoods; made no professions; 
concealed no opinions; was detected in no double-dealing. The 
most mortifying failure in Henry Adams's long education was that, 
after forty years of confirmed dislike, distrust, and detraction of 
Lord Palmerston, he was obliged at last to admit himself in error, 
'and to consent in spirit for by that time he was nearly as dead 
as any of them to beg his pardon. 

Gladstone was quite another story, but with him a student's 
difficulties were less because they were shared by all the world 
including Gladstone himself. He was the sum of contradictions. 
The highest education could reach, in this analysis, only a reduction 



POLITICAL MORALITY 165 

to the absurd, but no absurdity that a young man could reach in 
1862 would have approached the level that Mr. Gladstone admit- 
ted, avowed, proclaimed, in his confessions of 1896, which brought 
all reason and all hope of education to a still-stand : 

I have yet to record an undoubted error, the most singular and 
palpable, I may add the least excusable of them all, especially since 
it was committed so late as in the year 1862 when I had outlived half 
a century. ... I declared in the heat of the American struggle that 
Jefferson Davis had made a nation. . . . Strange to say, this declara- 
tion, most unwarrantable to be made by a Minister of the Crown 
with no authority other than his own, was not due to any feeling of 
partisanship for the South or hostility to the North. ... I really, 
though most strangely, believed that it was an act of friendliness to 
all America to recognize that the struggle was virtually at an end. . . . 
That my opinion was founded upon a false estimate of the facts was 
the very least part of my fault. I did not perceive the gross impro- 
priety of such an utterance from a Cabinet Minister of a power allied 
in blood and language, and bound to loyal neutrality; the case being 
further exaggerated by the fact that we were already, so to speak, 
under indictment before the world for not (as was alleged) having 
strictly enforced the laws of neutrality in the matter of the cruisers. 
My offence was indeed only a mistake, but one of incredible grossness, 
and with such consequences of offence and alarm attached to it, that 
my failing to perceive them justly exposed me to very severe blame. 
It illustrates vividly that incapacity which my mind so long retained, 
and perhaps still exhibits, an incapacity of viewing subjects all 
round. . . . 

Long and patiently more than patiently sympatheti- 
cally, did the private secretary, forty years afterwards in the 
twilight of a life of study, read and re-read and reflect upon this 
confession. Then, it seemed, he had seen nothing correctly at the 
time. His whole theory of conspiracy of policy of logic and 
connection in the affairs of man, resolved itself into " incredible 
grossness." He felt no rancor, for he had won the game; he for- 
gave, since he must admit, the "incapacity of viewing subjects all 
round" which had so nearly cost him life and fortune; he was will- 



1 66 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ing even to believe. He noted, without irritation, that Mr. Glad- 
stone, in his confession, had not alluded to the understanding 
between Russell, Palmerston, and himself; had even wholly left 
out his most "incredible" act, his ardent support of Napoleon's 
policy, a policy which even Palmerston and Russell had sup- 
ported feebly, with only half a heart. All this was indifferent. 
Granting, in spite of evidence, that Gladstone had no set plan of 
breaking up the Union; that he was party to no conspiracy; that 
he saw none of the results of his acts which were clear to every one 
else; granting in short what the English themselves seemed at last 
to conclude that Gladstone was not quite sane; that Russell 
was verging on senility; and that Palmerston had lost his nerve 
what sort of education should have been the result of it? How 
should it have affected one's future opinions and acts? 

Politics cannot stop to study psychology. Its methods are 
rough; its judgments rougher still. All this knowledge would not 
have affected either the Minister or his son in 1862. The sum of 
the individuals would still have seemed, to the young man, one 
individual a single will or intention bent on breaking up 
the Union "as a diminution of a dangerous power." The Minister 
would still have found his interest in thinking Russell friendly 
and Palmerston hostile. The individual would still have been 
identical with the mass. The problem would have been the same; 
the answer equally obscure. Every student would, like the private 
secretary, answer for himself alone. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS (1863) 

MINISTER ADAMS troubled himself little about what 
he did not see of an enemy. His son, a nervous ani- 
mal, made life a terror by seeing toq much. Minister 
Adams played his hand as it came, and seldom credited his oppo- 
nents with greater intelligence than his own. Earl Russell suited 
him; perhaps a certain personal sympathy united them; and in- 
deed Henry Adams never saw Russell without being amused by 
his droll likeness to John Quincy Adams. Apart from this shad- 
owy personal relation, no doubt the Minister was diplomatically 
right; he had nothing to lose and everything to gain by making a 
friend of the Foreign Secretary, and whether Russell were true or 
false mattered less, because, in either case, the American Lega- 
tion could act only as though he were false. Had the Minister 
known Russell's determined effort to betray and ruin him in Oc- 
tober, 1862, he could have scarcely used stronger expressions than 
he did in 1863. Russell must have been greatly annoyed by Sir 
Robert Collier's hint of collusion with the rebel agents in the 
Alabama Case, but he hardened himself to hear the same innu- 
endo repeated in nearly every note from the Legation. As time went 
on, Russell was compelled, though slowly, to treat the Ameri- 
can Minister as serious. He admitted nothing so unwillingly, for 
the nullity or fatuity of the Washington Government was his 
idee fixe; but after the failure of his last effort for joint interven- 
tion on November 12, 1862, only one week elapsed before he re- 
ceived a note from Minister Adams repeating his charges about 
the Alabama, and asking in very plain language for redress. 
Perhaps Russell's mind was naturally slow to understand the force 
of sudden attack, or perhaps age had affected it; this was one of 
the points that greatly interested a student, but young men have 



1 68 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

a passion for regarding their elders as senile, Jwhich was only in 
parf"wariranted in this instance By observing that Russell's gen- 
eration were mostly senile from youth. They had never got be- 
yond 1815. Both Palmerston and Russell were in this case. Their 
senility was congenital, like Gladstone's Oxford ^training and 
High Church illusions, which caused wild eccentricities in his 
judgment. Russell could not conceive that he had misunder- 
stood and mismanaged Minister Adams from the start, and when, 
after November 12, he found himself on the defensive, with Mr. 
Adams taking daily a stronger tone, he showed mere confusion 
and helplessness. 

Thus, whatever the theory, the action of diplomacy had to be 
the same. Minister Adams was obliged to imply collusion between 
Russell and the rebels. He could not even stop at criminal neg- 
ligence. If, by an access of courtesy, the Minister were civil 
enough to admit that the escape of the Alabama had been due to 
criminal negligence, he could make no such concession in regard 
to the ironclad rams which the Lairds were building; for no one 
could be so simple as to believe that two armored ships-of-war 
could be built publicly, under the eyes of the Government, and 
go to sea like the Alabama, without active and incessant collu- 
sion. The longer Earl Russell kept on his mask of assumed ig- 
norance, the more violently in the end, the Minister would have 
to tear it off. Whatever Mr. Adams might personally think of 
Earl Russell, he must take the greatest possible diplomatic liber- 
ties with him if this crisis were allowed to arrive. 

As the spring of 1863 drew on, the vast field cleared itself for 
action. A campaign more beautiful better suited for train- 
ing the mind of a youth eager for training has not often un- 
rolled itself for study, from the beginning, before a young man 
perched in so commanding a position. Very slowly, indeed, after 
two years of solitude, one began to feel the first faint flush of 
new and imperial life. One was twenty-five years old, and quite 
ready to assert it; some of one's friends were wearing stars on 



THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS 169 

their collars; some had won stars of a more enduring kind. At 
moments one's breath came quick. One began to dream the 
sensation of wielding unmeasured power. The sense came, like 
vertigo, for an instant, and passed, leaving the brain a little 
dazed, doubtful, shy. With an intensity more painful than that 
of any Shakespearean drama, men's eyes were fastened on the 
armies in the field. Little by little, at first only as a shadowy 
chance of what might be, if things could be rightly done, one 
began to feel that, somewhere behind the chaos in Washington 
power was taking shape; that it was massed and guided as it had 
not been before. Men seemed to have learned their business 
at a cost that ruined and perhaps too late. A private secre- 
tary knew better than most people how much of the new power 
was to be swung in London, and almost exactly when; but the 
diplomatic campaign had to wait for the military campaign to 
lead. The student could only study. 

Life never could know more than a single such climax. In that 
form, education reached its limits. As the first great blows began 
to fall, one curled up in bed in the silence of night, to listen with 
incredulous hope. As the huge masses struck, one after another, 
with the precision of machinery, the opposing mass, the world 
shivered. Such development of power was unknown. The mag- 
nificent resistance and the return shocks heightened the sus- 
pense. During the July days Londoners were stupid with unbelief. 
They were learning from the Yankees how to fight. 

An American saw in a flash what all this meant to England, 
for one's mind was working with the acceleration of the machine 
at home; but Englishmen were not quick to see their blunders. One 
had ample time to watch the process, and had even a little time to 
gloat over the repayment of old scores. News of Vicksburg and 
Gettysburg reached London one Sunday afternoon, and it hap- 
pened that Henry Adams was asked for that evening to some 
small reception at the house of Monckton Milnes. He went early 
in order to exchange a word or two of congratulation before the 



170 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

rooms should fill, and on arriving he found only the ladies in the 
drawing-room; the gentlemen were still sitting over their wine. 
Presently they came in, and, as luck would have it, Delane of 
the Times came first. When Milnes caught sight of his young 
American friend, with a whoop of triumph he rushed to throw 
both arms about his neck and kiss him on both cheeks. Men of 
later birth who knew too little to realize the passions of 1863 

backed by those of 1813 and reenforced by those of 1763 

might conceive that such publicity embarrassed a private sec- 
retary who came from Boston and called himself shy; but that 
evening, for the first time in his life, he happened not to be think- 
ing of himself. He was thinking of Delane, whose eye caught 
his, at the moment of Milnes's embrace. Delane probably regarded 
it as a piece of Milnes's foolery; he had never heard of young 
Adams, and never dreamed of his resentment at being ridiculed 
in the Times; he had no suspicion of the thought floating in the 
mind of the American Minister's son, for the British mind is the 
slowest of all minds, as the files of the Times proved, and the 
capture of Vicksburg had not yet penetrated Delane's thick 
cortex of fixed ideas. Even if he had read Adams's thought, he 
would have felt for it only the usual amused British contempt for 
all that he had not been taught at school. It needed a whole 
generation for the Times to reach Milnes's standpoint. 

Had the Minister's son carried out the thought, he would surely 
have sought an introduction to Delane on the spot, and assured 
him that he regarded his own personal score as cleared off suf- 
ficiently settled, then and there because his father had assumed 
the debt, and was going to deal with Mr. Delane himself. "You 
come next!" would have been the friendly warning. For nearly 
a year the private secretary had watched the board arranging 
itself for the collision between the Legation and Delane who stood 
behind the Palmerston Ministry. Mr. Adams had been steadily 
strengthened and reenforced from Washington in view of the final 
struggle. The situation had changed since the Trent Affair. The 



THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS 171 

work was efficiently done; the organization was fairly complete. 
No doubt, the Legation itself was still as weakly manned and had 
as poor an outfit as the Legations of Guatemala or Portugal. Con- 
gress was always jealous of its diplomatic service, and the Chair- 
man of the Committee of Foreign Relations was not likely to 
press assistance on the Minister to England. For the Legation not 
an additional clerk was offered or asked. The Secretary, the Assis- 
tant Secretary, and the private secretary did all the work that the 
Minister did not do. A clerk at five dollars a week would have done 
the work as well or better, but the Minister could trust no clerk; 
without express authority he could admit no one into the Lega- 
tion; he strained a point already by admitting his son. Congress 
and its committees were the proper judges of what was best for 
the public service, and if the arrangement seemed good to them, it 
was satisfactory to a private secretary who profited by it more 
than they did. A great staff would have suppressed him. The 
whole Legation was a sort of improvised, volunteer service, and he 
was a volunteer with the rest. He was rather better off than the 
rest, because he was invisible and unknown. Better or worse, he 
did his work with the others, and if the secretaries made any 
remarks about Congress, they made no complaints, and knew that 
none would have received a moment's attention. 

If they were not satisfied with Congress, they were satisfied 
with Secretary Seward. Without appropriations for the regular 
service, he had done great things for its support. If the Minister 
had no secretaries, he had a staff of active consuls; he had a well- 
organized press; efficient legal support; and a swarm of social allies 
permeating all classes. All he needed was a victory in the field, 
and Secretary Stanton undertook that part of diplomacy. Vicks- 
burg and Gettysburg cleared the board, and, at the end of July, 
1863, Minister Adams was ready to deal with Earl Russell or 
Lord Palmerston or Mr. Gladstone or Mr. Delane, or any one 
else who stood in his way; and by the necessity of the case, was 
obliged to deal with all of them shortly. 



172 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Even before the military climax at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, 
the Minister had been compelled to begin his attack; but this 
was history, and had nothing to do with education. The private 
secretary copied the notes into his private books, and that was all 
the share he had in the matter, except to talk in private. 

No more volunteer services were needed; the volunteers were 
in a manner sent to the rear; the movement was too serious for 
skirmishing. All that a secretary could hope to gain from the af- 
fair was experience and knowledge of politics. He had a chance to 
measure the motive forces of men; their qualities of character; 
their foresight; their tenacity of purpose. 

In the Legation no great confidence was felt in stopping the rams. 
Whatever the reason, Russell seemed immovable. Had his efforts 
for intervention in September, 1862, been known to the Legation 
in September, 1863, the Minister must surely have admitted that 
Russell had, from the first, meant to force his plan of interven- 
tion on his colleagues. Every separate step since April, 1861, led 
to this final coercion. Although Russell's hostile activity of 1862 
was still secret and remained secret for some five-and-twenty 
years his animus seemed to be made clear by his steady refusal 
to stop the rebel armaments. Little by little, Minister Adams 
lost hope. With loss of hope came the raising of tone, until at last, 
after stripping Russettof every rag of defence and excuse, he closed 
by leaving him loaded with connivance in the rebel armaments, 
and ended by the famous sentence: "It would be superfluous in 
me to point out to your lordship that this is war!" 

What the Minister meant by this remark was his own affair; 
what the private secretary understood by it, was a part of his 
education. Had his father ordered him to draft an explanatory 
paragraph to expand the idea as he grasped it, he would have 
continued thus : 

"It would be superfluous: 1st. Because Earl Russell not only 
knows it already, but has meant it from the start. 2d. Because 
it is the only logical and necessary consequence of his unvarying 



THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS 173 

action. 3d. Because Mr. Adams is not pointing out to him that 
'this is war/ but is pointing it out to the world, to complete the 
record. " 

This would have been the matter-of-fact sense in which the pri- 
vate secretary copied into his books the matter-of-fact statement 
with which, without passion or excitement, the Minister an- 
nounced that a state of war existed. To his copying eye, as clerk, 
the words, though on the extreme verge of diplomatic propriety, 
merely stated a fact, without novelty, fancy, or rhetoric. The fact 
had to be stated in order to make clear the issue. The war was 
Russell's war Adams only accepted it. 

Russell's reply to this note of September 5 reached the Legation 
on September 8, announcing at last to the anxious secretaries that 
" instructions have been issued which will prevent the departure 
of the two ironclad vessels from Liverpool." The members of the 
modest Legation in Portland Place accepted it as Grant had 
accepted the capitulation of Vicksburg. The private secretary 
conceived that, as Secretary Stanton had struck and crushed 
by superior weight the rebel left on the Mississippi, so Secretary 
Seward had struck and crushed the rebel right in England, and he 
never felt a doubt as to the nature of the battle. Though Minister 
Adams should stay in office till he were ninety, he would never 
fight another campaign of life and death like this; and though the 
private secretary should covet and attain every office in the gift 
of President or people, he would never again find education to 
compare with the life-and-death alternative of this two-year-and-a- 
half struggle in London, as it had racked and thumb-screwed him 
in its shifting phases; ^ut its practical value as e^cation,,tuilied^ 
on his correctness of judgment in measuring the men and their 
forces. He felt respect for Russell as for Paimerston because they 
represented traditional England and an English policy, respectable 
enough in itself, but which, for four generations, every Adams had 
fought and exploited as the chief source of his political fortunes. 
As he understood it, Russell had followed this policy steadily, ably, 



174 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

even vigorously, and had brought it to the moment of execution. 
Then he had met wills stronger than his own, and, after persevering 
to the last possible instant, had been beaten. Lord North and 
George Canning had a like experience. 

This was only the idea of a boy, but, as far as he ever knew, it 
was also the idea of his Government. For once, the volunteer 
secretary was satisfied with his Government. Commonly the self- 
respect of a secretary, private or public, depends on, and is propor- 
tional to, the severity of his criticism, but in this case the English 
campaign seemed to him as creditable to the State Department as 
the Vicksburg campaign to the War Department, and more deci- 
sive. It was well planned, well prepared, and well executed. He 
could never discover a mistake in it. Possibly he was biassed by 
personal interest, but his chief reason for trusting his own judg- 
ment was that he thought himself to be one of only half a dozen 
persons who knew something about it. When others criticised 
Mr. Seward, he was rather indifferent to their opinions because 
he thought they hardly knew what they were talking about, and 
could not be taught without living over again the London life of 
1862. To him Secretary Seward seemed immensely strong and 
steady in leadership; but this was no discredit to Russell or Palm- 
erston or Gladstone. They, too, had shown power, patience and 
steadiness of purpose. They had persisted for two years and a 
half in their plan for breaking up the Union, and had yielded at 
last only in the jaws of war. After a long and desperate struggle, 
the American Minister had trumped their best card and won the 
game. 

Again and again, in after life, he went back over the ground to 
see whether he could detect error on either side. He found none. 
At every stage the steps were both probable and proved. All the 
more he was disconcerted that Russell should indignantly and with 
growing energy, to his dying day, deny and resent the axiom of 
Adams's whole contention, that from the first he meant to break 
up the Union. Russell affirmed that he meant nothing of the sort; 



THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS 175 

that he had meant nothing at all; that he meant to do right; that 
he did not know what he meant. Driven from one defence after 
another, he pleaded at last, like Gladstone, that he had no defence. 
Concealing all he could conceal burying in profound secrecy 
his attempt to break up the Union in the autumn of 1862 he 
affirmed the louder his scrupulous good faith. What was worse 
for the private secretary, to the total derision and despair of the 
lifelong effort for education, as the final result of combined prac- 
tice, experience, and theory he proved it. 

Henry Adams had, as he thought, suffered too much from Russell 
to admit any plea in his favor; but he came to doubt whether this 
admission really favored him. Not until long after Earl Russell's 
death was the question reopened. Russell had quitted office in 
1866; he died in 1878; the biography was published in 1889. Dur- 
ing the Alabama controversy and the Geneva Conference in 1872, 
his course as Foreign Secretary had been sharply criticised, and 
he had been compelled to see England pay more than 3,000,000 
penalty for his errors. On the other hand, he brought forward 
or his biographer for him evidence tending to prove that he was 
not consciously dishonest, and that he had, in spite of appearances, 
acted without collusion, agreement, plan, or policy, as far as con- 
cerned the rebels. He had stood alone, as was his nature. Like 
Gladstone, he had thought himself right. 

In the end, Russell entangled himself in a hopeless ball of admis- 
sions, denials, contradictions, and resentments which led even his 
old colleagues to drop his defence, as they dropped Gladstone's; 
but this was not enough for the student of diplomacy who had 
made a certain theory his law of life, and wanted to hold Russell 
up against himself; to show that he had foresight and persistence 
of which he was unaware. The effort became hopeless when the 
biography in 1889 published papers which upset all that Henry 
Adams had taken for diplomatic education; yet he sat down once 
more, when past sixty years old, to see whether he could unravel 
the skein. 



176 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Of the obstinate effort to bring about an armed intervention, 
on the lines marked out by Russell's letter to Palmerston from 
Gotha, 17 September, 1862, nothing could be said beyond Glad- 
stone's plea in excuse for his speech in pursuance of the same 
effort, that it was "the most singular and palpable error," "the 
least excusable," "a mistake of incredible grossness," which passed 
defence; but while Gladstone threw himself on the mercy of the 
public for his speech, he attempted no excuse for Lord Russell who 
led him into the "incredible grossness" of announcing the For- 
eign Secretary's intent. Gladstone's offence, "singular and palpa- 
ble," was not the speech alone, but its cause the policy that in- 
spired the speech. "I weakly supposed ... I really, though most 
strangely, believed that it was an act of friendliness." Whatever 
absurdity Gladstone supposed, Russell supposed nothing of the 
sort. Neither he nor Palmerston "most strangely believed" in 
any proposition so obviously and palpably absurd, nor did Napo- 
leon delude himself with philanthropy. Gladstone, even in his 
confession, mixed up policy, speech, motives, and persons, as 
though he were trying to confuse chiefly himself. 

There Gladstone's activity seems to have stopped. He did not 
reappear in the matter of the rams. The rebel influence shrank in 
1863, as far as is known, to Lord Russell alone, who wrote on 
September I that he could not interfere in any way with those ves- 
sels, and thereby brought on himself Mr. Adams's declaration of 
war on September 5. A student held that, in this refusal, he was 
merely following his policy of September, 1862, and of every step 
he had taken since 1861. 

The student was wrong. Russell proved that he had been feeble, 
timid, mistaken, senile, but not dishonest. The evidence is con- 
vincing. The Lairds had built these ships in reliance on the known 
opinion of the law-officers that the statute did not apply, and a 
jury would not convict. Minister Adams replied that, in this case, 
the statute should be amended, or the ships stopped by exercise 
of the political power. Bethell rejoined that this would be a viola- 



THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS 177 

tion of neutrality; one must preserve the status quo. Tacitly Rus- 
sell connived with Laird, and, had he meant to interfere, he was 
bound to warn Laird that the defect of the statute would no longer 
protect him, but he allowed the builders to go on till the ships 
were ready for sea. Then, on September 3, two days before Mr. 
Adams's " superfluous" letter, he wrote to Lord Palmerston beg- 
ging for help; "The conduct of the gentlemen who have contracted 
for the two ironclads at Birkenhead is so very suspicious," he 
began, and this he actually wrote in good faith and deep con- 
fidence to Lord Palmerston, his chief, calling "the conduct" of 
the rebel agents "suspicious" when no one else in Europe or 
America felt any suspicion about it, because the whole question 
turned not on the rams, but on the technical scope of the For- 
eign Enlistment Act, "that I have thought it necessary to 
direct that they should be detained," not, of course, under the 
statute, but on the ground urged by the American Minister, of 
international obligation above the statute. " The Solicitor Gen- 
eral has been consulted and concurs in the measure as one of policy 
though not of strict law. We shall thus test the law, and, if we 
have to pay damages, we have satisfied the opinion which pre- 
vails here as well as in America that that kind of neutral hostility 
should not be allowed to go on without some attempt to stop it." 
For naivete that would be unusual in an unpaid attache of Lega- 
tion, this sudden leap from his own to his opponent's ground, after 
two years and a half of dogged resistance, might have roused 
Palmerston to inhuman scorn, but instead of derision, well earned 
by Russell's old attacks on himself, Palmerston met the appeal 
with wonderful loyalty. "On consulting the law officers he found 
that there was no lawful ground for meddling with the ironclads," 
or, in unprofessional language, that he could trust neither his law 
officers nor a Liverpool jury; and therefore he suggested buying 
the ships for the British Navy. As proof of "criminal negligence" 
in the past, this suggestion seemed decisive, but Russell, by this 
time, was floundering in other troubles of negligence, for he had 



178 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

neglected to notify the American Minister. He should have done 
so at once, on September 3. Instead he waited till September 4, 
and then merely said that the matter was under "serious and 
anxious consideration." This note did not reach the Legation till 
three o'clock on the afternoon of Septembers after the "su- 
perfluous" declaration of war had been sent. Thus, Lord Russell 
had sacrificed the Lairds : had cost his Ministry the price of two 
ironclads, besides the Alabama Claims say, in round numbers, 
twenty million dollars and had put himself in the position of 
appearing to yield only to a threat of war. Finally he wrote to 
the Admiralty a letter which, from the American point of view, 
would have sounded youthful from an Eton schoolboy: 

September 14, 1863. 
MY DEAR DUKE: 

It is of the utmost importance and urgency that the ironclads build- 
ing at Birkenhead should not go to America to break the blockade. 
They belong to Monsieur Bravay of Paris. If you will offer to buy 
them on the part of the Admiralty you will get money's worth if he 
accepts your offer; and if he does not, it will be presumptive proof 
that they are already bought by the Confederates. I should state 
that we have suggested to the Turkish Government to buy them; 
but you can easily settle that matter with the Turks. . . . 

The hilarity of the secretaries in Portland Place would have 
been loud had they seen this letter and realized the muddle of dif- 
ficulties into which Earl Russell had at last thrown himself under 
the impulse of the American Minister; but, nevertheless, these 
letters upset from top to bottom the results of the private secre- 
tary's diplomatic education forty years after he had supposed it 
complete. They made a picture different from anything he had 
conceived and rendered worthless his whole painful diplomatic 
experience. 

To reconstruct, when past sixty, an education useful for any 
practical purpose, is no practical problem, and Adams saw no use 
in attacking it as only theoretical. He no longer cared whether 



THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS 179 

he understood human nature or not; he understood quite as much 
of it as he wanted; but he found in the "Life of Gladstone" 
(n, 464) a remark several times repeated that gave him matter for 
curious thought. "I always hold," said Mr. Gladstone, "that poli- 
ticians are the men whom, as a rule, it is most difficult to compre- 
hend"; and he added, by way of strengthening it: "For my own 
part, I never have thus understood, or thought I understood, 
above one or two" 

Earl Russell was certainly not one of the two. 

Henry Adams thought he also had understood one or two; but 
the American type was more familiar. Perhaps this was the suf- 
ficient result of his diplomatic education; it seemed to be the 
whole. 



CHAPTER XII 

ECCENTRICITY (1863) 

KNOWLEDGE of human nature is the beginning and end 
of political education, but several years of arduous 
study in the neighborhood of Westminster led Henry 
Adams to think that knowledge of English human nature had 
little or no value outside of England. In Paris, such a habit stood 
in one's way; in America, it roused all the instincts of native 
jealousy. The English mind was one-sided, eccentric, systemati- 
cally unsystematic, and logically illogical. The less one knew of 
it, the better. 

This heresy, which scarcely would have been allowed to pene- 
trate a Boston mind it would, indeed, have been shut out by 
instinct as a rather foolish exaggeration rested on an experi- 
ence which Henry Adams gravely thought he had a right to think 
conclusive for him. That it should be conclusive for any one 
else never occurred to him, since he had no thought of educating 
anybody else. For him alone the less English education he 
got, the better! 

For several years, under the keenest incitement to watchfulness, 
he observed the English mind in contact with itself and other 
minds. Especially with the American the contact was interest- 
ing because the limits and defects of the American mind were one 
of the favorite topics of the European. From the old-world point 
of view, the American had no mind; he : had an ^ggg^mjc^ think- 
ing-machine which could work only on a fixed line. The American 
mm J exasperated the European as ja Jbnu^saw might exasperate 
a pine forest. The English mind disliked the French mind be- 
cause it was antagonistic, unreasonable, perhaps hostile, but rec- 
ognized it as at least a thought. The American mind was not 
a thought at all; it was a convention, superficial, narrow, and 



ECCENTRICITY 1 8 1 



ignorant; a mere cutting instrument, practical, 
and direct^ 

The English themselves hardly conceived that their mind was 
either economical, sharp, or direct; but the defect that most 
struck an American was its enormous waste in eccentricity. 
Americans needed and used their whole energy, and applied it 
with close economy; but English society was eccentric by law and 
for sake of the eccentricity itself. 

The commonest phrase overheard at an English club or din- 
ner-table was that So-and-So "is quite mad." It was no offence 
to So-and-So; it hardly distinguished him from his fellows; and 
when applied to a public man, like Gladstone, it was qualified 
by epithets much more forcible. Eccentricity was so general as 
to become hereditary distinction. It made the chief charm of Eng- 
lish society as well as its chief terror. 

The American delighted in Thackeray as a satirist, but Thack- 
eray quite justly maintained that he was not a satirist at all, and 
that his pictures of English society were exact and good-natured. 
The American, who could not believe it, fell back on Dickens, who, 
at all events, had the vice of exaggeration to extravagance, but 
Dickens's English audience thought the exaggeration rather in 
manner or style, than in types. Mr. Gladstone himself went to 
see Sothern act Dundreary, and laughed till his face was dis- 
torted not because Dundreary was exaggerated, but because 
he was ridiculously like the types that Gladstone had seen or 
might have seen in any club in Pall Mall. Society swarmed 
with exaggerated characters; it contained little else. 

Often this eccentricity bore all the marks of strength; perhaps 
it was actual exuberance of force, a birthmark of genius. Boston 
thought so. The Bostonian called it national character na- 
tive vigor robustness honesty courage. He respected and 
feared it. British self-assertion, bluff, brutal, blunt as it was, 
seemed to hinf a better and nobler thing than the acuteness of 
the Yankee or the polish of the Parisian. Perhaps he was right. 



1 82 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

These questions of taste, of feeling, of inheritance, need no settle- 
ment. Every one carries his own inch-rule of taste, and amuses 
himself by applying it, triumphantly, wherever he travels. What- 
ever others thought, the cleverest Englishmen held that the na- 
tional eccentricity needed correction, and were beginning to cor- 
rect it. The savage satires of Dickens and the gentler ridicule of 
Matthew Arnold against the British middle class were but a part of 
the rebellion, for the middle class were no worse than their neigh- 
bors in the eyes of an American in 1863; they were even a very 
little better in the sense that one could appeal to their interests, 
while a university man, like Gladstone, stood outside of argument. 
From none of them could a young American afford to borrow ideas. 

The private secretary, like every other Bostonian, began by 
regarding British eccentricity as a force. Contact with it, in the 
shape of Palmerston, Russell, and Gladstone, made him hesitate; 
he saw his own national type his father, Weed, Evarts, for 
instance deal with the British, and show itself certainly not 
the weaker; certainly sometimes the stronger. Biassed though 
he were, he could hardly be biassed to such a degree as to mistake 
the effects of force on others, and while labor as he might 
Earl Russell and his state papers seemed weak to a secretary, he 
could not see that they seemed strong to Russell's own followers. 
Russell might be dishonest or he might be merely obtuse the 
English type might be brutal or might be only stupid but strong, 
in either case, it was not, nor did it seem strong to Englishmen. 

Eccentricity was not always a force; Americans were deeply in- 
terested in deciding whether it was always a weakness. Evidently, 
on the hustings or in Parliament, among eccentricities, eccentricity 
was at home; but in private society the question was not easy to 
answer. That English society was infinitely more amusing because 
of its eccentricities, no one denied. Barring the atrocious insolence 
and brutality which Englishmen and especially Englishwomen 
showed to each other very rarely, indeed, to foreigners 
English society was much more easy and tolerant than American. 



ECCENTRICITY 183 



One must expect to be treated with exquisite courtesy this week 
and be totally forgotten the next, but this was the way of the 
world, and education consisted in learning to turn one's back on 
others with the same unconscious indifference that others showed 
among themselves. The smart of wounded vanity lasted no long 
time with a young man about town who had little vanity to smart, 
and who, in his own country, would have found himself in no bet- 
ter position. He had nothing to complain of. No one was ever 
brutal to him. On the contrary, he was much better treated than 
ever he was likely to be in Boston let alone New York or Wash- 
ington and if his reception varied inconceivably between ex- 
treme courtesy and extreme neglect, it merely proved that he had 
become, or was becoming, at home. Not from a sense of personal 
griefs or disappointments did he labor over this part of the social 
problem, but only because his education was becoming English, 
and the further it went, the less it promised. 

By natural affinity the social eccentrics commonly sympa- 
thized with political eccentricity. The English mind took naturally 
to rebellion when foreign and it felt particular confidence 
in the Southern Confederacy because of its combined attributes 
foreign rebellion of English blood which came nearer ideal 
eccentricity than could be reached by Poles, Hungarians, Ital- 
ians or Frenchmen. All the English eccentrics rushed into the 
ranks of rebel sympathizers, leaving few but well-balanced minds 
to attach themselves to the cause of the Union. None of the 
English leaders on the Northern side were marked eccentrics. Wil- 
liam E. Forster was a practical, hard-headed Yorkshireman, whose 
chief ideals in politics took shape as working arrangements on an 
economical base. Cobden, considering the one-sided conditions of 
his life, was remarkably well balanced. John Bright was stronger 
in his expressions than either of them, but with all his self- 
assertion he stuck to his point, and his point was practical. He 
did not, like Gladstone, box the compass of thought; "furiously 
earnest," as Monckton Milnes said, "on both sides of every 



184 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

question"; he was rather, on the whole, a consistent conservative 
of the old Commonwealth type, and seldom had to defend in- 
consistencies. Monckton Milnes himself was regarded as an ec- 
centric, chiefly by those who did not know him, but his fancies 
and hobbies were only ideas a little in advance of the time; his 
manner was eccentric, but not his mind, as any one could see 
who read a page of his poetry. None of them, except Milnes, was 
a university man. As a rule, the Legation was troubled very little, 
if at all, by indiscretions, extravagances, or contradictions among 
its English friends. Their work was largely judicious, practical, 
well considered, and almost too cautious. The "cranks" were all 
rebels, and the list was portentous. Perhaps it might be headed 
by old Lord Brougham, who had the audacity to appear at a 
July 4th reception at the Legation, led by Joe Parkes, and claim 
his old credit as "Attorney General to Mr. Madison." The Church 
was rebel, but the dissenters were mostly with the Union. The 
universities were rebel, but the university men who enjoyed most 
public confidence like Lord Granville, Sir George Cornewall 
Lewis, Lord Stanley, Sir George Grey took infinite pains to be 
neutral for fear of being thought eccentric. To most observers, 
as well as to the Times, the Morning Post, and the Standard, a 
vast majority of the English people seemed to follow the profes- 
sional eccentrics; even the emotional philanthropists took that di- 
rection; Lord Shaftesbury and Carlyle, Powell Buxton, and Glad- 
stone, threw their sympathies on the side which they should 
naturally have opposed, and did so for no reason except their 
eccentricity; but the "canny" Scots and Yorkshiremen were 
cautious. 

This eccentricity did not mean strength. The proof of it was 
the mismanagement of the rebel interests. No doubt the first 
cause of this trouble lay in the Richmond Government itself. No 
one understood why Jefferson Davis chose Mr. Mason as his agent 
for London at the same time that he made so good a choice as 
Mr. Slidell for Paris. The Confederacy had plenty of excellent 



ECCENTRICITY 185 



men to send to London, but few who were less fitted than Mason. 
Possibly Mason had a certain amount of common sense, but he 
seemed to have nothing else, and in London society he counted 
merely as one eccentric more. He enjoyed a great opportunity; 
he might even have figured as a new Benjamin Franklin with all 
society at his feet; he might have roared as lion of the season and 
made the social path of the American Minister almost impassable; 
but Mr. Adams had his usual luck in enemies, who were always his 
most valuable allies if his friends only let them alone. Mason 
was his greatest diplomatic triumph. He had his collision with 
Palmerston; he drove Russell off the field; he swept the board 
before Cockburn; he overbore Slidell; but he never lifted a finger 
against Mason, who became his bulwark of defence. 

Possibly Jefferson Davis and Mr. Mason shared two defects in 
common which might have led them into this serious mistake. 
Neither could have had much knowledge of the world, and both 
must have been unconscious of humor. Yet at the same time with 
Mason, President Davis sent out Slidell to France and Mr. Lamar 
to Russia. Some twenty years later, in the shifting search for 
the education he never found, Adams became closely intimate at 
Washington with Lamar, then Senator from Mississippi, who had 
grown to be one of the calmest, most reasonable and most amiable 
Union men in the United States, and quite unusual in social charm. 
In 1860 he passed for the worst of Southern fire-eaters, but he was 
an eccentric by environment, not by nature; above all his South- 
ern eccentricities, he had tact and humor; and perhaps this was 
a reason why Mr. Davis sent him abroad with the others, on a 
futile mission to St. Petersburg. He would have done better 
in London, in place of Mason. London society would have de- 
lighted in him; his stories would have won success; his manners 
would have made him loved; his oratory would have swept every 
audience; even Monckton Milnes could never have resisted the 
temptation of having him to breakfast between Lord Shaftesbury 
and the Bishop of Oxford. 



1 86 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Lamar liked to talk of his brief career in diplomacy, but he 
never spoke of Mason. He never alluded to Confederate manage- 
ment or criticised Jefferson Davis's administration. The subject 
that amused him was his English allies. At that moment the 
early summer of 1863 the rebel party in England were full of 
confidence, and felt strong enough to challenge the American 
Legation to a show of power. They knew better than the Lega- 
tion what they could depend upon : that the law officers and com- 
missioners of customs at Liverpool dared not prosecute the iron- 
clad ships; that Palmerston, Russell, and Gladstone were ready 
to recognize the Confederacy; that the Emperor Napoleon would 
offer them every inducement to do it. In a manner they owned 
Liverpool and especially the firm of Laird who were building their 
ships. The political member of the Laird firm was Lindsay, 
about whom the whole web of rebel interests clung rams, cruis- 
ers, munitions, and Confederate loan; social introductions and 
parliamentary tactics. The firm of Laird, with a certain dignity, 
claimed to be champion of England's navy; and public opinion, 
in the summer of 1863, still inclined towards them. 

Never was there a moment when eccentricity, if it were a force, 
should have had more value to the rebel interest; and the mana- 
gers must have thought so, for they adopted or accepted as their 
champion an eccentric of eccentrics; a type of 1820; a sort of Broug- 
ham of Sheffield, notorious for poor judgment and worse temper. 
Mr. Roebuck had been a tribune of the people, and, like tribunes 
of most other peoples, in growing old, had grown fatuous. He was 
regarded by the friends of the Union as rather a comical person- 
age a favorite subject for Punch to laugh at with a bitter 
tongue and a mind enfeebled even more than common by the 
political epidemic of egotism. In all England they could have 
found no opponent better fitted to give away his own case. No 
American man of business would have paid him attention; yet 
the Lairds, who certainly knew their own affairs best, let Roebuck 
represent them and take charge of their interests. 



ECCENTRICITY 187 



With Roebuck's doings, the private secretary had no concern 
except that the Minister sent him down to the House of Com- 
mons on June 30, 1863, to report the result of Roebuck's motion 
to recognize the Southern Confederacy. The Legation felt no 
anxiety, having Vicksburg already in its pocket, and Bright and 
Forster to say so; but the private secretary went down and was 
admitted under the gallery on the left, to listen, with great content, 
while John Bright, with astonishing force, caught and shook and 
tossed Roebuck, as a big mastiff shakes a wiry, ill-conditioned, 
toothless, bad-tempered Yorkshire terrier. The private secretary 
felt an artistic sympathy with Roebuck, for, from time to time, 
by way of practice, Bright in a friendly way was apt to shake him 
too, and he knew how it was done. The manner counted for more 
than the words. The scene was interesting, but the result was not 
in doubt. 

All the more sharply he was excited, near the year 1879, in 
Washington, by hearing Lamar begin a story after dinner, which, 
little by little, became dramatic, recalling the scene in the House 
of Commons. The story, as well as one remembered, began with 
Lamar' s failure to reach St. Petersburg at all, and his consequent 
detention in Paris waiting instructions. The motion to recognize 
the Confederacy was about to be made, and, in prospect of the 
debate, Mr. Lindsay collected a party at his villa on the Thames 
to bring the rebel agents into relations with Roebuck. Lamar was 
sent for, and came. After much conversation of a general sort, 
such as is the usual object or resource of the English Sunday, find- 
ing himself alone with Roebuck, Lamar, by way of showing inter- 
est, bethought himself of John Bright and asked Roebuck whether 
he expected Bright to take part in the debate: "No, sir!" said 
Roebuck sententiously; " Bright and I have met before. It was 
the old story -the story of the sword-fish and the whale! No, 
sir! Mr. Bright will not cross swords with me again!" 

Thus assured, Lamar went with the more confidence to the 
House on the appointed evening, and was placed under the gallery, 



1 88 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

on the right, where he listened to Roebuck and followed the debate 
with such enjoyment as an experienced debater feels in these con- 
tests, until, as he said, he became aware that a man, with a singu- 
larly rich voice and imposing manner, had taken the floor, and 
was giving Roebuck the most deliberate and tremendous pounding 
he ever witnessed, "until at last," concluded Lamar, "it dawned 
on my mind that the sword-fish was getting the worst of it." 

Lamar told the story in the spirit of a joke against himself rather 
than against Roebuck; but such jokes must have been unpleasantly 
common in the experience of the rebel agents. They were sur- 
rounded by cranks of the worst English species, who distorted 
their natural eccentricities and perverted their judgment. Roe- 
buck may have been an extreme case, since he was actually in his 
dotage, yet this did not prevent the Lairds from accepting his lead, 
or the House from taking him seriously. Extreme eccentricity was 
no bar, in England, to extreme confidence; sometimes it seemed 
a recommendation; and unless it caused financial loss, it rather 
helped popularity. 

r The question whether British eccentricity was ever strength 
weighed heavily in the balance of education. That Roebuck should 
mislead the rebel agents on so strange a point as that of Bright's 
courage was doubly characteristic because the Southern people 
themselves had this same barbaric weakness of attributing want 
of courage to opponents, and owed their ruin .chiefly to such igno- 
rance of the world. Bright's courage was almost as irrational as 
that of the rebels themselves. Every one knew that he had the 
courage of a prize-fighter. He struck, in succession, pretty nearly 
every man in England that could be reached by a blow, and when 
he could not reach the individual he struck the class, or when the 
class was too small for him, the whole people of England. At 
times he had the whole country on his back. He could not act on 
the defensive; his mind required attack. Even among friends at 
the dinner-table he talked as though he were denouncing them, or 
some one else, on a platform; he measured his phrases, built his 



ECCENTRICITY 189 



sentences, cumulated his effects, and pounded his opponents, real 
or imagined. His humor was glow, like iron at dull heat; his blow 
was elementary, like the thrash of a whale. 

One day in early spring, March 26, 1863, the Minister requested 
his private secretary to attend a Trades-Union Meeting at St. 
James's Hall, which was the result of Professor Beesly's patient 
efforts to unite Bright and the Trades-Unions on an American 
platform. The secretary went to the meeting and made a report 
which reposes somewhere on file in the State Department to this 
day, as harmless as such reports should be; but it contained no men- 
tion of what interested young Adams most B right's psychology. 
With singular skill and oratorical power, Bright managed at the 
outset, in his opening paragraph, to insult or outrage every class 
of Englishman commonly considered respectable, and, for fear 
of any escaping, he insulted them repeatedly under consecutive 
heads. The rhetorical effect was tremendous : 

"Privilege thinks it has a great interest in the American con- 
test," he began in his massive, deliberate tones; "and every morn- 
ing with blatant voice, it comes into our streets and curses the 
American Republic. Privilege has beheld an afflicting spectacle 
for many years past. It has beheld thirty million of men happy 
and prosperous, without emperors without king (cheers) 
without the surroundings of a court (renewed cheers) without 
nobles, except such as are made by eminence in intellect and 
virtue without State bishops and State priests, those vendors 
of the love that works salvation (cheers) without great armies 
and great navies without a great debt and great taxes and 
Privilege has shuddered at what might happen to old Europe if 
this great experiment should succeed." 

An ingenious man, with an inventive mind, might have man- 
aged, in the same number of lines, to offend more Englishmen than 
Bright struck in this sentence; but he must have betrayed artifice 
and hurt his oratory. The audience cheered furiously, and the 
private secretary felt peace in his much troubled mind, for he knew 



190 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

how careful the Ministry would be, once they saw Bright talk 
republican principles before Trades-Unions; but, while he did not, 
like Roebuck, see reason to doubt the courage of a man who, after 
quarrelling with the Trades-Unions, quarreled with all the world 
outside the Trades-Unions, he did feel a doubt whether to class 
Bright as eccentric or conventional. Every one called Bright " un- 
English/' from Lord Palmerston to William E. Forster; but to an 
American he seemed more English than any of his critics. He was 
a liberal hater, and what he hated he reviled after the manner of 
Milton, but he was afraid of no one. He was almost the only man 
in England, or, for that matter, in Europe, who hated Palmerston 
and was not afraid of him, or of the press or the pulpit, the clubs 
or the bench, that stood behind him. He loathed the whole fabric 
of sham religion, sham loyalty, sham aristocracy, and sham social- 
ism. He had the British weakness of believing only in himself and 
his own conventions. In all this, an American saw, if one may make 
the distinction, much racial eccentricity, but little that was per- 
sonal. Bright was singularly well poised; but he used singularly 
strong language. 

Long afterwards, in 1880, Adams happened to be living again in 
London for a season, when James Russell Lowell was transferred 
there as Minister; and as Adams's relations with Lowell had be- 
come closer and more intimate with years, he wanted the new 
Minister to know some of his old friends. Bright was then in the 
Cabinet, and no longer the most radical member even there, but 
he was still a rare figure in society. He came to dinner, along with 
Sir Francis Doyle and Sir Robert Cunliffe, and as usual did most 
of the talking. As usual also, he talked of the things most on his 
mind. Apparently it must have been some reform of the criminal 
law which the Judges opposed, that excited him, for at the end of 
dinner, over the wine, he took possession of the table in his old 
way, and ended with a superb denunciation of the Bench, spoken 
in his massive manner, as though every word were a hammer, 
smashing what it struck : 



ECCENTRICITY 191 



"For two hundred years, the Judges of England sat on the 
Bench, condemning to the penalty of death every man, woman, 
and child who stole property to the value of five shillings; and, 
during all that time, not one Judge ever remonstrated against the 
law. We English are a nation of brutes, and ought to be extermi- 
nated to the last man." 

As the party rose from table and passed into the drawing-room, 
Adams said to Lowell that Bright was very fine. "Yes!" replied 
Lowell; "but too violent!" 

Precisely this was the point that Adams doubted. Bright knew 
his Englishmen better than Lowell did better than England did. 
He knew what amount of violence in language was necessary to 
drive an idea into a Lancashire or Yorkshire head. He knew that 
no violence was enough to affect a Somersetshire or Wiltshire 
peasant. Bright kept his own head cool and clear. He was not 
excited; he never betrayed excitement. As for his denunciation 
of the English Bench, it was a very old story, not original with 
him. That the English were a nation of brutes was a commonplace 
generally admitted by Englishmen and universally accepted by 
foreigners; while the matter of their extermination could be treated 
only as unpractical, on their deserts, because they were probably 
not very much worse than their neighbors. Had Bright said that 
the French, Spaniards, Germans, or Russians were a nation of 
brutes and ought to be exterminated, no one would have found 
fault; the whole human race, according to the highest authority, 
has been exterminated once already for the same reason, and only 
tKcTamBow protects them from a repetition of it. What shocked 
Lowell was that he' denounced his own people. 

Adams felt no moral obligation to defend Judges, who, as far as 
he knew, were the only class of society specially adapted to defend 
themselves; but he was curious even anxious as a point of 
education, to decide for himself whether Bright's language was 
violent for its purpose. He thought not. Perhaps Cobden did 
better by persuasion, but that was another matter. Of course, 



1 92 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

even Englishmen sometimes complained of being so constantly 
told that they were brutes and hypocrites, although they were 
told little else by their censors, and bore it, on the whole, meekly; 
but the fact that it was true in the main troubled the ten-pound 
voter much less than it troubled Newman, Gladstone, Ruskin, 
Carlyle, and Matthew Arnold. Bright was personally disliked by 
his victims, but not distrusted. They never doubted what he 
would do next, as they did with John Russell, Gladstone, and 
Disraeli. He betrayed no one, and he never advanced an opinion 
in practical matters which did not prove to be practical. 

The class of Englishmen who set out to be the intellectual oppo- 
sites of Bright, seemed to an American bystander the weakest and 
most eccentric of all. These were the trimmers, the political econ- 
omists, the anti-slavery and doctrinaire class, the followers of de 
Tocqueville, and of John Stuart Mill. As a class, they were timid 
with good reason and timidity, which is high wisdom in phi- 
losophy, sicklies the whole cast of thought in action. Numbers of 
these men haunted London society, all tending to free-thinking, but 
never venturing much freedom of thought. Like the anti-slavery 
doctrinaires of the forties and fifties, they became mute and useless 
when slavery struck them in the face. For type of these eccentrics, 
literature seems to have chosen Henry Reeve, at least to the extent 
of biography. He was a bulky figure in society, always friendly, 
good-natured, obliging, and useful; almost as universal as Milnes 
and more busy. As editor of the Edinburgh Review he had author- 
ity and even power, although the Review and the whole Whig 
doctrinaire school had begun as the French say to date; 
and of course the literary and artistic sharpshooters of 1867 
like Frank Palgrave frothed and foamed at the mere mention 
of Reeve's name. Three-fourths of their fury was due only to his 
ponderous manner. London society abused its rights of personal 
criticism by fixing on every too conspicuous figure some word or 
phrase that stuck to it. Every one had heard of Mrs. Grote as 
"the origin of the word grotesque." Every one had laughed at 



ECCENTRICITY 193 



the story of Reeve approaching Mrs. Grote, with his usual some- 
what florid manner, asking in his literary dialect how her husband 
the historian was: "And how is the learned Grotius?" "Pretty 
well, thank you, Puffendorf !" One winced at the word, as though 
it were a drawing of Forain. 

No one would have been more shocked than Reeve had he been 
charged with want of moral courage. He proved his courage after- 
wards by publishing the "Greville Memoirs/' braving the dis- 
pleasure of the Queen. Yet the Edinburgh Review and its editor 
avoided taking sides except where sides were already fixed. Amer- 
icanism would have been bad form in the liberal Edinburgh Review; 
it would have seemed eccentric even for a Scotchman, and Reeve 
was a Saxon of Saxons. To an American this attitude of oscillat- 
ing reserve seemed more eccentric than the reckless hostility of 
Brougham or Carlyle, and more mischievous, for he never could be 
sure what preposterous commonplace it might encourage. 

The sum of these experiences in 1863 left the conviction that 
eccentricity was weakness. The young American who should 
adopt English thought was lost. From the facts, the conclusion 
was correct, yet, as usual, the conclusion was wrong. The years 
of Palmerston's last Cabinet, 1859 to 1865, were avowedly years 
of truce of arrested development. The British system like the 
French, was in its last stage of decomposition. Never had the 
British mind shown itself so decousu so unravelled, at sea, 
floundering in every sort of historical shipwreck. Eccentricities 
had a free field. Contradictions swarmed in State and Church. 
England devoted thirty years of arduous labor to clearing away 
only a part of the debris. A young American in 1863 could see lit- 
tle or nothing of the future. He might dream, but he could not 
foretell, the suddenness with which the old Europe, with England 
in its wake, was to vanish in 1870. He was in dead-water, and 
the parti-colored, fantastic cranks swam about his boat, as though 
he were the ancient mariner., and they saurians of the prime. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY (1864) 

MINISTER ADAMS'S success in stopping the rebel 
rams fixed his position once for all in English society. 
From that moment he could afford to drop the char- 
acter of diplomatist, and assume what, for an American Min- 
ister in London, was an exclusive diplomatic advantage, the 
character of a kind of American Peer of the Realm. The British 
never did things by halves. Once they recognized a man's right 
to social privileges, they accepted him as one of themselves. Much 
as Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli were accepted as leaders of Her 
Majesty's domestic Opposition, Minister Adams had a rank of 
his own as a kind of leader of Her Majesty's American Opposi- 
tion. Even the Times conceded it. The years of struggle were 
over, and Minister Adams rapidly gained a position which would 
have caused his father or grandfather to stare with incredulous envy. 
This Anglo-American form of diplomacy was chiefly undip- 
lomatic, and had the peculiar effect of teaching a habit of 
diplomacy useless or mischievous everywhere but in London. 
Nowhere else in the world could one expect to figure in a role so 
unprofessional. The young man knew no longer what character 
he bore. Private secretary in the morning, son in the afternoon, 
young man about town in the evening, the only character he never 
bore was that of diplomatist, except when he wanted a card to some 
great function. His diplomatic education was at an end; he seldom 
met a diplomat, and never had business with one; he could be of 
no use to them, or they to him; but he drifted inevitably into so- 
ciety, and, do what he might, his next education must be one of 
English social life. Tossed between the horns of successive dilem- 
mas, he reached his twenty-sixth birthday without the power of 
earning five dollars in any occupation. His friends in the army 



THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY 195 

were almost as badly off, but even army life ruined a young man 
less fatally than London society. Had he been rich, this form of 
ruin would have mattered nothing; but the young men of 1865 
were none of them rich; all had to earn a living; yet they had 
reached high positions of responsibility and power in camps and 
Courts, without a dollar of their own and with no tenure of office. 

Henry Adams had failed to acquire any useful education; he 
should at least have acquired social experience. Curiously enough, 
he failed here also. From the European or English point of view, 
he had no social experience, and never got it. Minister Adams 
happened on a political interregnum owing to Lord Palmerston's 
personal influence from 1860 to 1865; but this political interreg- 
num was less marked than the social still-stand during the same 
years. The Prince Consort was dead; the Queen had retired; the 
Prince of Wales was still a boy. In its best days, Victorian society 
had never been " smart." During the forties, under the influence 
of Louis Philippe, Courts aflfectcd to be simple, serious and mid- 
dle class; and they succeeded. The taste of Louis Philippe was 
bourgeois beyond any taste except that of Queen Victoria. Style 
lingered in the background with the powdered footman behind 
the yellow chariot, but speaking socially the Queen had no style 
save what she inherited. Balmoral was a startling revelation of 
royal taste. Nothing could be worse than the toilettes at Court 
unless it were the way they were worn. One's eyes might be daz- 
zled by jewels, but they were heirlooms, and if any lady appeared 
well dressed, she was either a foreigner or "fast." Fashion was not 
fashionable in London until the Americans and the Jews were 
let loose. The style of London toilette universal in 1864 was gro- 
tesque, like Monckton Milnes on horseback in Rotten Row. 

Society of this sort might fit a young man in some degree for 
editing Shakespeare or Swift, but had little relation with the so- 
ciety of 1870, and none with that of 1900. Owing to other causes, 
young Adams never got the full training of such style as still 
existed. The embarrassments of his first few seasons socially 



196 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ruined him. His own want of experience prevented his asking 
introductions to the ladies who ruled society; his want of friends 
prevented his knowing who these ladies were; and he had every 
reason to expect snubbing if he put himself in evidence. This 
sensitiveness was thrown away on English society, where men 
and women treated each others' advances much more brutally 
than those of strangers, but young Adams was son and private 
secretary too; he could not be as thick-skinned as an Englishman. 
He was not alone. Every young diplomat, and most of the old 
ones, felt awkward in an English house from a certainty that they 
were not precisely wanted there, and a possibility that they might 
be told so. 

If there was in those days a country house in England which 
had a right to call itself broad in views and large in tastes, it was 
Bretton in Yorkshire; and if there was a hostess who had a right 
to consider herself fashionable as well as charming, it was Lady 
Margaret Beaumont; yet one morning at breakfast there, sitting 
by her side not for his own merits Henry Adams heard her 
say to herself in her languid and liberal way, with her rich voice 
and musing manner, looking into her tea-cup: "I don't think I 
care for foreigners!" Horror-stricken, not so much on his own 
account as on hers, the young man could only execute himself as 
gaily as he might: "But Lady Margaret, please make one small 
exception for me!" Of course she replied what was evident, that 
she did not call him a foreigner, and her genial Irish charm made 
the slip of tongue a happy courtesy; but none the less she knew 
that, except for his momentary personal introduction, he was in 
fact a foreigner, and there was no imaginable reason why she should 
like him, or any other foreigner, unless it were because she was 
bored by natives. She seemed to feel that her indifference needed 
a reason to excuse itself in her own eyes, and she showed the sub- 
conscious sympathy of the Irish nature which never feels itself 
perfectly at home even in England. She, too, was some shadowy 
shade un-English. 



THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY ,197 

\ f , -- 

Always conscious of this barrier, while the war lasted the priv- 
ate secretary hid himself among the herd of foreigners till he found 
his relations fixed and unchangeable. He never felt himself in so- 
ciety, and he never knew definitely what was meant as society 
by those who were in it. He saw far enough to note a score of so- 
cieties which seemed quite independent of each other. The smart- 
est was the smallest, and to him almost wholly strange. The largest 
was the sporting world, also unknown to him except through the 
talk of his acquaintances. Between or beyond these lay groups of 
nebulous societies. His lawyer friends, like Evarts, frequented 
legal circles where one still sat over the wine and told anecdotes 
of the bench and bar; but he himself never set eyes on a judge ex- 
cept when his father took him to call on old Lord Lyndhurst, where 
they found old Lord Campbell, both abusing old Lord Brougham. 
The Church and the Bishops formed several societies which no 
secretary ever saw except as an interloper. The Army; the Navy; 
the Indian Service; the medical and surgical professions; City 
people; artists; county families; the Scotch, and indefinite other 
subdivisions of society existed, which were as strange to each 
other as they were to Adams. At the end of eight or ten seasons in 
London society he professed to know less about it, or how to enter 
it, than he did when he made his first appearance at Miss Burdett 
Coutts's in May, 1861. 

Sooner or later every young man dropped into a set or circle, 
and frequented the few houses that were willing to harbor him. 
An American who neither hunted nor raced, neither shot nor 
fished nor gambled, and was not marriageable, had no need to 
think of society at large. Ninety-nine houses in every hundred 
were useless to him, a greater bore to him than he to them. Thus 
the question of getting into or getting out of society which 
troubled young foreigners greatly, settled itself after three or four 
years of painful speculation. Society had no unity; one wandered 
about in it like a maggot in cheese; it was not a hansom cab, to 
be got into, or out of, at dinner-time. 



198 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Therefore he always professed himself ignorant of society; he 
never knew whether he had been in it or not, but from the ac- 
counts of his future friends, like General Dick Taylor or George 
Smalley, and of various ladies who reigned in the seventies, he 
inclined to think that he knew very little about it. Certain great 
houses and certain great functions of course he attended, like 
every one else who could get cards, but even of these the number 
was small that kept an interest or helped education. In seven 
years he could remember only two that seemed to have any mean- 
ing for him, and he never knew what that meaning was. Neither 
of the two was official; neither was English in interest; and both 
were scandals to the philosopher while they scarcely enlightened 
men of the world. 

One was at Devonshire House, an ordinary, unpremeditated 
evening reception. Naturally every one went to Devonshire 
House if asked, and the rooms that night were fairly full of the 
usual people. The private secretary was standing among the rest, 
when Mme. de Castiglione entered, the famous beauty of the 
Second Empire. How beautiful she may have been, or indeed what 
sort of beauty she was, Adams never knew, because the company, 
consisting of the most refined and aristocratic society in the world, 
instantly formed a lane, and stood in ranks to stare at her, while 
those behind mounted on chairs to look over their neighbors' heads; 
so that the lady walked through this polite mob, stared completely 
out of countenance, and fled the house at once. This was all ! 

The other strange spectacle was at Stafford House, April 13, 
1864, when, in a palace gallery that recalled Paolo Veronese's 
pictures of Christ in his scenes of miracle, Garibaldi, in his gray 
capote over his red shirt, received all London, and three duchesses 
literally worshipped at his feet. Here, at all events, a private 
secretary had surely caught the last and highest touch of social 
experience; but what it meant what social, moral, or mental 
development it pointed out to the searcher of truth was not a 
matter to be treated fully by a leader in the Morning Post or even 



THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY 199 

by a sermon in Westminster Abbey. Mme. de Castiglione and 
Garibaldi covered, between them, too much space for simple 
measurement; their curves were too complex for mere arithmetic. 
The task of bringing the two into any common relation with an 
ordered social system tending to orderly development in Lon- 
don or elsewhere was well fitted for Algernon Swinburne or 
Victor Hugo, but was beyond any process yet reached by the edu- 
cation of Henry Adams, who would probably, even then, have 
rejected, as superficial or supernatural, all the views taken by any 
of the company who looked on with him at these two interesting 
and perplexing sights. 

From the Court, or Court society, a mere private secretary got 
nothing at all, or next to nothing, that could help him on his 
road through life. Royalty was in abeyance. One was tempted to 
think in these years, 1860-65, that the nicest distinction between 
the very best society and the second-best, was their attitude to- 
wards royalty. The one regarded royalty as a bore, and avoided 
it, or quietly said that the Queen had never been in society. The 
same thing might have been said of fully half the peerage. Adams 
never knew even the names of half the rest; he never exchanged 
ten words with any member of the royal family; he never knew 
any one in those years who showed interest in any member of the 
royal family, or who would have given five shillings for the opin- 
ion of any royal person on any subject; or cared to enter any royal 
or noble presence, unless the house was made attractive by as 
much social effort as would have been necessary in other countries 
where no rank existed. No doubt, as one of a swarm, young 
Adams slightly knew various gilded youth who frequented balls 
and led such dancing as was most in vogue, but they seemed to 
set no value on rank; their anxiety was only to know where to 
find the best partners before midnight, and the best supper after 
midnight. To the American, as to Arthur Pendennis or Barnes 
Newcome, the value of social position and knowledge was evi- 
dent enough; he valued it at rather more than it was worth to 



200 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

him; but it was a shadowy thing which seemed to vary with every 
street corner; a thing which had shifting standards, and which no 
one could catch outright. The half-dozen leaders and beauties of 
his time, with great names and of the utmost fashion, made some 
of the poorest marriages, and the least showy careers. 

Tired of looking on at society from the outside, Adams grew to 
loathe the sight of his Court dress; to groan at every announcement 
of a Court ball; and to dread every invitation to a formal dinner. 
The greatest social event gave not half the pleasure that one could 
buy for ten shillings at the opera when Patti sang Cherubino or 
Gretchen, and not a fourth of the education. Yet this was not 
the opinion of the best judges. Lothrop Motley, who stood among 
the very best, said to him early in his apprenticeship that the 
London dinner and the English country house were the perfec- 
tion of human society. The young man meditated over it, uncertain 
of its meaning. Motley could not have thought the dinner itself 
perfect, since there was not then outside of a few bankers or 
foreigners a good cook or a good table in London, and nine out 
of ten of the dinners that Motley ate came from Gunter's, and 
all were alike. Every one, especially in young society, complained 
bitterly that Englishmen did not know a good dinner when they 
ate it, and could - not order one if they were given carte blanche. 
Henry Adams was not a judge, and knew no more than they, but 
he heard the complaints, and he could not think that Motley 
meant to praise the English cuisine. 

Equally little could Motley have meant that dinners were good 
to look at. Nothing could be worse than the toilettes; nothing less 
artistic than the appearance of the company. One's eyes might be 
dazzled by family diamonds, but, if an American woman were 
present, she was sure to make comments about the way the jewels 
were worn. If there was a well-dressed lady at table, she was 
either an American or "fast." She attracted as much notice as 
though she were on the stage. No one could possibly admire an 
English dinner-table. 



THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY 201 

Least of all did Motley mean that the taste or the manners were 
perfect. The manners of English society were notorious, and the 
taste was worse. Without exception every American woman rose 
in rebellion against English manners. In fact, the charm of Lon- 
don which made most impression on Americans was the violence 
of its contrasts; the extreme badness of the worst, making back- 
ground for the distinction, refinement, or wit of a few, just as the 
extreme beauty of a few superb women was more effective against 
the plainness of the crowd. The result was mediaeval, and amus- 
ing; sometimes coarse to a degree that might have startled a 
roustabout, and sometimes courteous and considerate to a degree 
that suggested King Arthur's Round Table; but this artistic con- 
trast was surely not the perfection that Motley had in his mind. 
He meant something scholarly, worldly, and modern; he was 
thinking of his own tastes. 

Probably he meant that, in his favorite houses, the tone was 
easy, the talk was good, and the standard of scholarship was high. 
Even there he would have been forced to qualify his adjectives. 
No German would have admitted that English scholarship was 
high, or that it was scholarship at all, or that any wish for scholar- 
ship existed in England. Nothing that seemed to smell of the shop 
or of the lecture-room was wanted. One might as well have talked 
of Kenan's Christ at the table of the Bishop of London, as talk 
of German philology at the table of an Oxford don. Society, if a 
small literary class could be called society, wanted to be amused 
in its old way. Sydney Smith, who had amused, was dead; so was 
Macaulay, who instructed if he did not amuse; Thackeray died 
at Christmas, 1863; Dickens never felt at home, and seldom ap- 
peared, in society; Bulwer Lytton was not sprightly; Tennyson 
detested strangers; Carlyle was mostly detested by them; Darwin 
never came to town; the men of whom Motley must have been 
thinking were such as he might meet at Lord Houghton's break- 
fasts: Grote, Jowett, Milman, or Froude; Browning, Matthew 
Arnold, or Swinburne; Bishop Wilberforce, Venables, or Hayward; 



202 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

or perhaps Gladstone, Robert Lowe, or Lord Granville. A rela- 
tively small class, commonly isolated, suppressed, and lost at the 
usual London dinner, such society as this was fairly familiar even 
to a private secretary, but to the literary American it might well 
seem perfection since he could find nothing of the sort in America. 
Within the narrow limits of this class, the American Legation was 
fairly at home; possibly a score of houses, all liberal, and all lit- 
erary, but perfect only in the eyes of a Harvard College historian. 
They could teach little worth learning, for their tastes were an- 
tiquated and their knowledge was ignorance to the next genera- 
tion. What was altogether fatal for future purposes, they were 
only English. 

A social education in such a medium was bound to be useless in 
any other, yet Adams had to learn it to the bottom. The one thing 
needful for a private secretary, was that he should not only seem, 
but should actually be, at home. He studied carefully, and prac- 
tised painfully, what seemed to be the favorite accomplishments of 
society. Perhaps his nervousness deceived him; perhaps he took 
for an ideal of others what was only his reflected image; but he 
conceived that the perfection of human society required that a man 
should enter a drawing-room where he was a total stranger, and 
place himself on the hearth-rug, his back to the fire, with an air of 
expectant benevolence, without curiosity, much as though he had 
dropped in at a charity concert, kindly disposed to applaud the 
performers and to overlook mistakes. This ideal rarely succeeded 
in youth, and towards thirty it took a form of modified insolence 
and offensive patronage; but about sixty it mellowed into courtesy, 
kindliness, and even deference to the young which had extraor- 
dinary charm both in women and in men. Unfortunately Adams 
could not wait till sixty for education; he had his living to earn; and 
the English air of patronage would earn no income for him any- 
where else. 

After five or six years of constant practice, any one can ac- 
quire the habit of going from one strange company to another 



THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY 203 

without thinking much of one's self or of them, as though silently 
reflecting that "in a world where we are all insects, no insect is 
alien; perhaps they are human in parts"; but the dreamy habit 
of mind which comes from solitude in crowds is not fitness for 
social success except in London, Everywhere else it is injury. Eng- 
land was a social kingdom whose social coinage had no currency 
elsewhere. 

Englishwomen, from the educational point of view, could give 
nothing until they approached forty years old* Then they be- 
come very interesting very charming to the man of fifty. 
The young American was not worth the young Englishwoman's 
notice, and never received it. Neither understood the other. Only 
in the domestic relation, in the country never in society at 
large a young American might accidentally make friends with 
an Englishwoman of his own age, but it never happened to Henry 
Adams. His susceptible nature was left to the mercy of American 
girls, which was professional duty rather than education as long 
as diplomacy held its own. 

Thus he found himself launched on waters where he had never 
meant to sail, and floating along a stream which carried him far 
from his port. His third season in London society saw the end 
of his diplomatic education, and began for him the social life of 
a young man who felt at home in England more at home there 
than anywhere else. With this feeling, the mere habit of going to 
garden-parties, dinners, receptions, and balls had nothing to do. 
One might go to scores without a sensation of home. One might 
stay in no end of country houses without forgetting that one was a 
total stranger and could never be anything else. One might bow 
to half the dukes and duchesses in England, and feel only the more 
strange. Hundreds of persons might pass with a nod and never 
come nearer. Close relation in a place like London is a personal 
mystery as profound as chemical affinity. Thousands pass, and 
one separates himself from the mass to attach himself to another, 
and so make, little by little, a group. 



2O4 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

One morning, April 27, 1863, he was asked to breakfast with Sir 
Henry Holland, the old Court physician who had been acquainted 
with every American Minister since Edward Everett, and was 
a valuable social ally, who had the courage to try to be of use to 
everybody, and who, while asking the private secretary to break- 
fast one day, was too discreet to betray what he might have 
learned about rebel doings at his breakfast-table the day before. 
He had been friendly with the Legation, in the teeth of society, 
and was still bearing up against the weight of opinion, so that 
young Adams could not decline his invitations, although they 
obliged him to breakfast in Brook Street at nine o'clock in the 
morning, alternately with Mr. James M. Mason. Old Dr. Hol- 
land was himself as hale as a hawk, driving all day bare-headed 
about London, and eating Welsh rarebit every night before bed; 
he thought that any young man should be pleased to take his 
early muffin in Brook Street, and supply a few crumbs of war 
news for the daily peckings of eminent patients. Meekly, when 
summoned, the private secretary went, and on reaching the front 
door, this particular morning, he found there another young man 
in the act of rapping the knocker. They entered the breakfast- 
room together, where they were introduced to each other, and 
Adams learned that the other guest was a Cambridge undergrad- 
uate, Charles Milnes Gaskell, son of James Milnes Gaskell, the 
Member for Wenlock; another of the Yorkshire Milneses, from 
Thornes near Wakefield. Fate had fixed Adams to Yorkshire. 
By another chance it happened that young Milnes Gaskell 
was intimate at Cambridge with William Everett who was also 
about to take his degree. A third chance inspired Mr. Evarts with 
a fancy for visiting Cambridge, and led William Everett to offer 
his services as host. Adams acted as courier to Mr. Evarts, and 
at the end of May they went down for a few days, when William 
Everett did the honors as host with a kindness and attention that 
made his cousin sorely conscious of his own social shortcomings. 
Cambridge was pretty, and the dons were kind. Mr. Evarts en- 



THE PERFECTION OP HUMAN SOCIETY 205 

joyed his visit, but this was merely a part of the private secretary's 
day's work. What affected his whole life was the intimacy then 
begun with Milnes Gaskell and his circle of undergraduate friends, 
just about to enter the world. 

Intimates are predestined. Adams met in England a thousand 
people, great and small; jostled against every one, from royal 
princes to gin-shop loafers; attended endless official functions 
and private parties; visited every part of the United Kingdom 
and was not quite a stranger at the Legations in Paris and Rome; 
he knew the societies of certain country houses, and acquired 
habits of Sunday-afternoon calls; but all this gave him nothing 
to do, and was life wasted. For him nothing whatever could be 
gained by escorting American ladies to drawing-rooms or Ameri- 
can gentlemen to levees at St. James's Palace, or bowing solemnly 
to people with great titles, at Court balls, or even by awkwardly 
jostling royalty at garden-parties; all this was done for the Govern- 
ment, and neither President Lincoln nor Secretary Seward would 
ever know enough of their business to thank him for doing what 
they did not know how to get properly done by their own servants; 
but for Henry Adams not private secretary all the time 
taken up by such duties was wasted. On the other hand, his few 
personal intimacies concerned him alone, and the chance that 
made him almost a Yorkshireman was one that must have started 
under the Heptarchy. 

More than any other county in England, Yorkshire retained a 
sort of social independence of London. Scotland itself was hardly 
more distinct. The Yorkshire type had always been the strong- 
est of the British strains; the Norwegian and the Dane were a 
different race from the Saxon. Even Lancashire had not the 
mass and the cultivation of the West Riding. London could 
never quite absorb Yorkshire, which, in its turn had no great love 
for London and freely showed it. To a certain degree, evident 
enough to Yorkshiremen, Yorkshire was not English or was 
all England, as they might choose to express it. This must have 



206 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

been the reason why young Adams was drawn there rather than 
elsewhere. Monckton Milnes alone took the trouble to draw him, 
and possibly Milnes was the only man in England with whom 
Henry Adams, at that moment, had a chance of calling out such 
an un-English effort. Neither Oxford nor Cambridge nor any re- 
gion south of the Humber contained a considerable house where 
a young American would have been sought as a friend. Eccen- 
tricity alone did not account for it. Monckton Milnes was a sin- 
gular type, but his distant cousin, James Milnes Gaskell, was 
another, quite as marked, in an opposite sense. Milnes never 
seemed willing to rest; Milnes Gaskell never seemed willing to 
move. In his youth one of a very famous group Arthur Hal- 
lam, Tennyson, Manning, Gladstone, Francis Doyle and re- 
garded as one of the most promising; an adorer of George Canning; 
in Parliament since coming of age; married into the powerful 
connection of the Wynns of Wynstay ; rich according to Yorkshire 
standards; intimate with his political leaders; he was one of the 
numerous Englishmen who refuse office rather than make the ef- 
fort of carrying it, and want power only to make it a source of 
indolence. He was a voracious reader and an admirable critic; 
he had forty years of parliamentary tradition on his memory; he 
liked to talk and to listen; he liked his dinner and, in spite of George 
Canning, his dry champagne; he liked wit and anecdote; but he 
belonged to the generation of 1830, a generation which could not 
survive the telegraph and railway, and which even Yorkshire could 
hardly produce again. To an American he was a character even 
more unusual and more fascinating than his distant cousin Lord 
Houghton. 

Mr. Milnes Gaskell was kind to the young American whom his 
son brought to the house, and Mrs. Milnes Gaskell was kinder, for 
she thought the American perhaps a less dangerous friend than 
some Englishman might be, for her son, and she was probably 
right. The American had the sense to see that she was herself one 
of the most intelligent and sympathetic women in England; her 



THE PERFECTION OF HUMAN SOCIETY 207 

sister, Miss Charlotte Wynn, was another; and both were of an 
age and a position in society that made their friendship a compli- 
ment as well as a pleasure. Their consent and approval settled the 
matter. In England, the family is a serious fact; once admitted to 
it, one is there for life. London might utterly vanish from one's 
horizon, but as long as life lasted, Yorkshire lived for its friends. 

In the year 1857, Mr. James Milnes Gaskell, who had sat for 
thirty years in Parliament as one of the Members for the borough 
of Wenlock in Shropshire, bought Wenlock Abbey and the estate 
that included the old monastic buildings. This new, or old, play- 
thing amused Mrs. Milnes Gaskell. The Prior's house, a charming 
specimen of fifteenth-century architecture, had been long left 
to decay as a farmhouse. She put it in order, and went there to 
spend a part of the autumn of 1864. Young Adams was one of 
her first guests, and drove about Wenlock Edge and the Wrekin 
with her, learning the loveliness of this exquisite country, and 
its stores of curious antiquity. It was a new and charming exist- 
ence; an experience greatly to be envied ideal repose and rural 
Shakespearian peace but a few years of it were likely to com- 
plete his education, and fit him to act a fairly useful part in life 
as an Englishman, an ecclesiastic, and a contemporary of Chaucer. 



CHAPTER XIV 

DILETTANTISM (1865-1866) 

THE campaign of 1864 and the reelection of Mr. Lincoln 
in November set the American Minister on so firm a 
footing that he could safely regard his own anxieties as 
over, and the anxieties of Earl Russell and the Emperor Napoleon 
as begun. With a few months more his own term of four years 
would come to an end, and even though the questions still under 
discussion with England should somewhat prolong his stay, he 
might look forward with some confidence to his return home in 
1865. His son no longer fretted. The time for going into the 
army had passed. If he were to be useful at all, it must be as a 
son, and as a son he was treated with the widest indulgence and 
trust. He knew that he was doing himself no good by staying in 
London, but thus far in life he had done himself no good anywhere, 
and reached his twenty-seventh birthday without having ad- 
vanced a step, that he could see, beyond his twenty-first. For the 
most part, his friends were worse off than he. The war was about 
to end and they were to be set adrift in a world they would find 
altogether strange. 

At this point, as though to cut the last thread of relation, six 
months were suddenly dropped out of his life in England. The Lon- 
don climate had told on some of the family; the physicians pre- 
scribed a winter in Italy. Of course the private secretary was 
detached as their escort, since this was one of his professional 
functions; and he passed six months, gaining an education as 
Italian courier, while the Civil War came to its end. As far as other 
education went, he got none, but he was amused. Travelling in all 
possible luxury, at some one else's expense, with diplomatic privi- 
leges and position, was a form of travel hitherto untried. The 
Cornice in vettura was delightful; Sorrento in winter offered hills 



DILETTANTISM 209 



to climb and grottoes to explore, and Naples near by to visit; 
Rome at Easter was an experience necessary for the education of 
every properly trained private secretary; the journey north by 
vettura through Perugia and Sienna was a dream; the Spliigen 
Pass, if not equal to the Stelvio, was worth seeing; Paris had 
always something to show. The chances of accidental education 
were not so great as they had been, since one's field of experience 
had grown large; but perhaps a season at Baden Baden in these 
later days of its brilliancy offered some chances of instruction, 
if it were only the sight of fashionable Europe and America on 
the race-course watching the Duke of Hamilton, in the middle, 
improving his social advantages by the conversation of Cora 
Pearl. 

The assassination of President Lincoln fell on the party while 
they were at Rome, where it seemed singularly fitting to that nurs- 
ery of murderers and murdered, as though America were also 
getting educated. Again one went to meditate on the steps of the 
Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, but the lesson seemed as shallow as 
before. Nothing happened. The travellers changed no plan or 
movement. The Minister did not recall them to London. The sea- 
son was over before they returned; and when the private secre- 
tary sat down again at his desk in Portland Place before a mass of 
copy in arrears, he saw before him a world so changed as to be 
beyond connection with the past. His identity, if one could call a 
bundle of disconnected memories an identity, seemecTto remain; 
but his life was once more broken into separate pieces; he was 
a spider and had to spin a new web in some new place with a new 
attachment. 

All his American friends and contemporaries who were still 
alive looked singularly commonplace without uniforms, and has- 
tened to get married and retire into back streets and suburbs until 
they could find employment. Minister Adams, too, was going 
home "next fall," and when the fall came, he was going home 
"next spring," and when the spring came, President Andrew John- 



2io THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

son was at loggerheads with the Senate, and found it best to keep 
things unchanged. After the usual manner of public servants 
who had acquired the habit of office and lost the faculty of will, 
the members of the Legation in London continued the daily rou- 
tine of English society, which, after becoming a habit, threatened 
to become a vice. Had Henry Adams shared a single taste with 
the young Englishmen of his time, he would have been lost; but 
the custom of pounding up and down Rotten Row every day, on 
a hack, was not a taste, and yet was all the sport he shared. 
Evidently he must set to work; he must get a new education; he 
must begin a career of his own. 

Nothing was easier to say, but even his father admitted two 
careers to be closed. For the law, diplomacy had unfitted him; for 
diplomacy he already knew too much. Any one who had held, 
during the four most difficult years of American diplomacy, a 
position at the centre of action, with his hands actually touching 
the lever of power, could not beg a post of Secretary at Vienna or 
Madrid in order to bore himself doing nothing until the next 
President should do him the honor to turn him out. For once 
all his advisers agreed that diplomacy was not possible. 

In any ordinary system he would have been called back to 
serve in the State Department, but, between the President and 
the Senate, service of any sort became a delusion. The choice of 
career was more difficult than the education which had proved im- 
practicable. Adams saw no road; in fact there was none. All his 
friends were trying one path or another, but none went a way 
that he could have taken. John Hay passed through London in 
order to bury himself in second-rate Legations for years, before he 
drifted home again to join Whitelaw Reid and George Smalley 
on the Tribune. Frank Barlow and Frank Bartlett carried Major- 
Generals' commissions into small law business. Miles stayed in 
the army. Henry Higginson, after a desperate struggle, was forced 
into State Street; Charles Adams wandered about, with brevet- 
brigadier rank, trying to find employment. Scores of others tried 



DILETTANTISM 211 



experiments more or less unsuccessful. Henry Adams could see 
easy ways of making a hundred blunders; he could see no likely 
way of making a legitimate success. Such as it was, his so-called 
education was wanted nowhere. 

One profession alone seemed possible the press. In 1860 he 
would have said that he was born to be an editor, like at least a 
thousand other young graduates from American colleges who 
entered the world every year enjoying the same conviction; but 
in 1866 the situation was altered; the possession of money had 
become doubly needful for success, and double energy was essen- 
tial to get money. America had more than doubled her scale. 
Yet the press was still_the last^resource of the educated poor who 
~^ wpuIcL&ot be tutors. Any man who was 



fit for nothing else could write an editorial or a criticism. The 
enormous mass of misinformation accumulated in ten years of 
nomad life could always be worked off on a helpless public, in 
diluted doses, if one could but secure a table in the corner of a 
newspaper office. The press was an inferior pulpit; an anony- 
mous schoolmaster; a cheap boarding-school; but it was still 
the nearest approach to a career for the literary survivor of a 
wrecked education. For the press, then, Henry Adams decided to 
fit himself, and since he could not go home to get practical train- 
ing, he set to work to do what he could in London. 

He knew, as well as any reporter on the New York Herald, that 
this was not an American way of beginning, and he knew a certain 
number of other drawbacks which the reporter could not see so 
clearly. Do what he might, he drew breath only in the atmosphere 
of English methods and thoughts; he could breathe none other. 
His mother who should have been a competent judge, since 
her success and popularity in England exceeded that of her hus- 
band averred that every woman who lived a certain time in 
England came to look and dress like an Englishwoman, no matter 
how she struggled. Henry Adams felt himself catching an English 
tone of mind and processes of thought, though at heart more hos- 



212 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

tile to them than ever. As though to make him more helpless and 
wholly distort his life, England grew more and more agreeable and 
amusing. Minister Adams became, in 1866, almost a historical 
monument in London; he held a position altogether his own. His 
old opponents disappeared. Lord Palmerston died in October, 
1865; Lord Russell tottered on six months longer, but then van- 
ished from power; and in July, 1 866, the conservatives came into 
office. Traditionally the Tories were easier to deal with than the 
Whigs, and Minister Adams had no reason to regret the change. 
His personal relations were excellent and his personal weight in- 
creased year by year. On that score the private secretary had no 
cares, and not much copy. His own position was modest, but it 
was enough; the life he led was agreeable; his friends were all he 
wanted, and, except that he was at the mercy of politics, he felt 
much at ease. Of his daily life he had only to reckon so many 
breakfasts; so many dinners; so many receptions, balls, theatres, 
and country-parties; so many cards to be left; so many Americans 
to be escorted the usual routine of every young American in a 
Legation; all counting for nothing in sum, because, even if it had 
been his official duty which it was not it was mere routine, 
a single, continuous, unbroken act, which led to nothing and no- 
where except Portland Place and the grave. 

The path that led somewhere was the English habit of mind 
which deepened its ruts every day. The English mind was like the 
London drawing-room, a comfortable and easy spot, filled with 
bits and fragments of incoherent furnitures, which were never 
meant to go together, and could be arranged in any relation with- 
out making a whole, except by the square room. Philosophy 
might dispute about innate ideas till the stars died out in the sky, 
but about innate tastes no one, except perhaps a collie dog, has 
the right to doubt; least of all, the Englishman, for his tastes are 
his being; he drifts after them as unconsciously as a honey-bee 
drifts after his flowers, and, in England, every one must drift with 
him. Most young Englishmen drifted to the race-course or the 



DILETTANTISM 213 



moors or the hunting-field; a few towards books; one or two fol- 
lowed some form of science; and a number took to what, for want 
of a better name, they called Art. Young Adams inherited a cer- 
tain taste for the same pursuit from his father who insisted that he 
had it not, because he could not see what his son thought he saw 
in Turner. The Minister, on the other hand, carried a sort of aes- 
thetic rag-bag of his own, which he 



^ 

never calledjart. So he wolll3"wander~off~on a Sunday to attend 
service successively in all the city churches built by Sir Christopher 
Wren; or he would disappear from the Legation day" after day 'to 
attend coin sales at Sotheby's, where his son attended alternate sales 
of drawings, engravings, or water-colors. Neither knew enough to 
talk much about the other's tastes, but the only difference between 
them was a slight difference of direction. The Minister's mind 
like his writings showed a correctness of form and line that his 
son would have been well pleased had he inherited. 

Of all supposed English tastes, that of art was the most alluring 
and treacherous. Once drawn into it, one had small chance of 
escape, for it had no centre or circumference, no beginning, middle, 
or end, no origin, no object, and no conceivable result as education. 
In London one met no corrective. The only American who came 
by, capable of teaching, was William Hunt, who stopped to paint 
the portrait of the Minister which now completes the family 
series at Harvard College. Hunt talked constantly, and was, or 
afterwards became, a famous teacher, but Henry Adams did not 
know enough to learn. Perhaps, too, he had inherited or acquired 
a stock of tastes, as young men must, which he was slow to out- 
grow. Hunt had no time to sweep out the rubbish of Adams's 
mind. The portrait finished, he went. 

As often as he could, Adams ran over to Paris, for sunshine, and 
there always sought out Richardson in his attic in the Rue du 
Bac, or wherever he lived, and they went off to dine at the Palais 
Royal, and talk of whatever interested the students of the Beaux 
Arts. Richardson, too, had much to say, but had not yet seized his 



214 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

style. Adams caught very little of what lay in his mind, and the 
less, because, to Adams, everything French was bad except the 
restaurants, while the continuous life in England made French art 
seem worst of all. This did not prove that English art, in 1866, 
was good; far from it; but it helped to make bric-a-brac of all art, 
after the manner of England. 

Not in the Legation, or in London, but in Yorkshire at Thornes, 
Adams met the man that pushed him furthest in this English 
garden of innate disorder called taste. The older daughter of 
the Milnes Gaskells had married Francis Turner Palgrave. Few 
Americans will ever ask whether any one has described the Pal- 
graves, but the family was one of the most describable in all Eng- 
land at that day. Old Sir Francis, the father, had been much the 
greatest of all the historians of early England, the only one who 
was un-English; and the reason of his superiority lay in his name, 
which was Cohen, and his mind which was Cohen also, or at least 
not English. He changed his name to Palgrave in order to please 
his wife. They had a band of remarkable sons: Francis Turner, 
Gifford, Reginald, Inglis; all of whom made their mark. Gifford 
was perhaps the most eccentric, but his "Travels" in Arabia were 
famous, even among the famous travels of that generation. Fran- 
cis Turner or, as he was commonly called, Frank Palgrave 
unable to work off his restlessness in travel like Gifford, and stifled 
in the atmosphere of the Board of Education, became a critic. 
His art-criticisms helped to make the Saturday Review a terror to 
the British artist. His literary taste, condensed into the " Golden 
Treasury/' helped Adams to more literary education than he ever 
got from any taste of his own. Palgrave himself held rank as one 
of the minor poets; his hymns had vogue. As an art-critic he was 
too ferocious to be liked; even Holman Hunt found his temper 
humorous; among many rivals, he may perhaps have had a right 
to claim the much-disputed rank of being the most unpopular 
man in London; but he liked to teach, and asked only for a docile 
pupil. Adams was docile enough, for he knew nothing and liked 



DILETTANTISM 215 



to listen. Indeed, he had to listen, whether he liked or not, for 
Palgrave's voice was strident, and nothing could stop him, Lit- 
erature, painting, sculpture, architecture were open fields for his 
attacks, which were always intelligent if not always kind, and when 
these failed, he readily descended to meaner levels. John Richard 
Green, who was Palgrave's precise opposite, and whose Irish 
charm of touch and humor defended him from most assaults, used 
to tell with delight of Palgrave' s call on him just after he had 
moved into his new Queen Anne house in Kensington Square: 
"Palgrave called yesterday, and the first thing he said was, 'I've 
counted .three anachronisms on your front doorstep/ " 

Another savage critic, also a poet, was Thomas Woolner, a type 
almost more emphatic than Palgrave in a society which resounded 
with emphasis. Woolner' s sculpture showed none of the rough 
assertion that Woolner himself showed, when he was not making 
supernatural effort to be courteous, but his busts were remarkable, 
and his work altogether was, in Palgrave's clamorous opinion, the 
best of his day. He took the matter of British art or want of 
art seriously, almost ferociously, as a personal grievance and 
torture; at times he was rather terrifying in the anarchistic wrath 
of his denunciation. As Henry Adams felt no responsibility for 
English art, and had no American art to offer for sacrifice, he 
listened with enjoyment to language much like Carlyle's, and 
accepted it without a qualm. On the other hand, as a third mem- 
ber of this critical group, he fell in with Stopford Brooke whose 
tastes lay in the same direction, and whose expression was modi- 
fied by clerical propriety. Among these men, one wandered off 
into paths of education much too devious and slippery for an 
American foot to follow. He would have done better to go on the 
race-track, as far as concerned a career. 

Fortunately for him he knew too little ever to be an art-critic, 
still less an artist. For some things ignorance is good, and art is 
one of them. He knew he knew nothing, and had not the trained 
eye or the keen instinct that trusted itself; but he was curious, as 



2i6 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

he went on, to find out how much others knew. He took Palgrave 1 s 
word as final about a drawing of Rembrandt or Michael Angelo, 
and he trusted Woolner implicitly about a Turner; but when he 
quoted their authority to any dealer, the dealer pooh-poohed it, 
and declared that it had no weight in the trade. If he went to a 
sale of drawings or paintings, at Sotheby's or Christie's, an hour 
afterwards, he saw these same dealers watching Palgrave or Wool- 
ner for a point, and bidding over them. He rarely found two 
dealers agree in judgment. He once bought a water-color from 
the artist himself, out of his studio, and had it doubted an hour 
afterwards by the dealer to whose place he took it for framing. 
He was reduced to admit that he could not prove its authenticity; 
internal evidence was against it. 

One morning in early July, 1867, Palgrave stopped at the Lega- 
tion in Portland Place on his way downtown, and offered to take 
Adams to Sotheby's, where a small collection of old drawings was 
on show. The collection was rather a curious one, said to be that 
of Sir Anthony Westcomb, from Liverpool, with an undisturbed 
record of a century, but with nothing to attract notice. Probably 
none but collectors or experts examined the portfolios. Some 
dozens of these were always on hand, following every sale, and 
especially on the lookout for old drawings, which became rarer 
every year. Turning rapidly over the numbers, Palgrave stopped 
at one containing several small drawings, one marked as Rem- 
brandt, one as Rafael; and putting his finger on the Rafael, after 
careful examination; "I should buy this/' he said; "it looks to me 
like one of those things that sell for five shillings one day, and 
fifty pounds the next." Adams marked it for a bid, and the next 
morning came down to the auction. The numbers sold slowly, and 
at noon he thought he might safely go to lunch. When he came 
back, half an hour afterwards, the drawing was gone. Much 
annoyed at his own stupidity, since Palgrave had expressly said 
he wanted the drawing for himself if he had not in a manner 
given it to Adams, the culprit waited for the sale to close, and then 



DILETTANTISM 217 



asked the clerk for the name of the buyer. It was Holloway, the art- 
dealer, near Covent Garden, whom he slightly knew. Going at 
once to the shop he waited till young Holloway came in, with 
his purchases under his arm, and without attempt at preface, 
he said: "You bought to-day, Mr. Holloway, a number that I 
wanted. Do you mind letting me have it?" Holloway took out 
the parcel, looked over the drawings, and said that he had bought 
the number for the sake of the Rembrandt, which he thought 
possibly genuine; taking that out, Adams might have the rest for 
the price he paid for the lot twelve shillings. 

Thus, down to that moment, every expert in London had prob- 
ably seen these drawings. Two of them only two had thought 
them worth buying at any price, and of these two, Palgrave chose 
the Rafael, Holloway the one marked as Rembrandt. Adams, the 
purchaser of the Rafael, knew nothing whatever on the subject, 
but thought he might credit himself with education to the value 
of twelve shillings, and call the drawing nothing. Such items of 
education commonly came higher. 

He took the drawing to Palgrave. It was closely pasted to an 
old, rather thin, cardboard mount, and, on holding it up to the 
window, one could see lines on the reverse. "Take it down to Reed 
at the British Museum," said Palgrave; "he is Curator of the 
drawings, and, if you ask him, he will have it taken off the mount." 
Adams amused himself for a day or two by searching Rafael's 
works for the figure, which he found at last in the Parnasso, the 
figure of Horace, of which, as it happened though Adams did 
not know it the British Museum owned a much finer drawing. 
At last he took the dirty, little, unfinished red-chalk sketch to 
Reed whom he found in the Curator's room, with some of the finest 
Rafael drawings in existence, hanging on the walls. "Yes!" said 
Mr. Reed ; " I noticed this at the sale ; but it 's not Rafael ! " Adams, 
feeling himself incompetent to discuss this subject, reported the 
result to Palgrave, who said that Reed knew nothing about it. 
Also this point lay beyond Adams's competence; but he noted that 



2i 8 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Reed was in the employ of the British Museum as Curator of the 
best or nearly the best collection in the world, especially of 
Rafaels, and that he bought for the Museum. As expert he had 
rejected both the Rafael and the Rembrandt at first-sight, and 
after his attention was recalled to the Rafael for a further opinion 
he rejected it again. 

A week later, Adams returned for the drawing, which Mr. 
Reed took out of his drawer and gave him, saying with what 
seemed a little doubt or hesitation: "I should tell you that the 
paper shows a water-mark, which I find the same as that of paper 
used by Marc Antonio." A little taken back by this method of 
studying art, a method which even a poor and ignorant Ameri- 
can might use as well as Rafael himself, Adams asked stupidly: 
"Then you think it genuine?" "Possibly!" replied Reed; "but 
much overdrawn." 

Here was expert opinion after a second revise, with help of water- 
marks! In Adams's opinion it was alone worth another twelve 
shillings as education; but this was not all. Reed continued: 
"The lines on the back seem to be writing, which I cannot read, 
but if you will take it down to the manuscript-room, they will 
read it for you." 

Adams took the sheet down to the keeper of the manuscripts 
and begged him to read the lines. The keeper, after a few minutes' 
study, very obligingly said he could not: "It is scratched with 
an artist's crayon, very rapidly, with many unusual abbreviations 
and old forms. If any one in Europe can read it, it is the old man 
at the table yonder, Libri! Take it to him!" 

This expert broke down on the alphabet! He could not even 
judge a manuscript; but Adams had no right to complain, for he 
had nothing to pay, not even twelve shillings, though he thought 
these experts worth more, at least for his education. Accordingly 
he carried his paper to Libri, a total stranger to him, and asked the 
old man, as deferentially as possible, to tell him whether the lines 
had any meaning. Had Adams not been an ignorant person he 



DILETTANTISM 219 



would have known all about Libri, but his ignorance was vast, and 
perhaps was for the best. Libri looked at the paper, and then 
looked again, and at last bade him sit down and wait. Half an hour 
passed before he called Adams back and showed him these lines: 

"Or questo credo ben che una elleria 
Te offende tanto che te ofFese il core. 
Perche sei grande nol sei in tua volia; 
Tu vedi e gia non credi il tuo valore; 
Passate gia son tutte gelosie; 
Tu sei di sasso; non hai piu dolore." 

As far as Adams could afterwards recall it, this was Libri's 
reading, but he added that the abbreviations were many and 
unusual; that the writing was very ancient; and that the word he 
read as " elleria " in the first line was not Italian at all. 

By this time, one had got too far beyond one's depth to ask 
questions. If Libri could not read Italian, very clearly Adams 
had better not offer to help him. He took the drawing, thanked 
everybody, and having exhausted the experts of the British Mu- 
seum, took a cab to Woolner's studio, where he showed the figure 
and repeated Reed's opinion. Woolner snorted : " Reed's a fool!" 
he said; "he knows nothing about it; there maybe a rotten line 
or two, but the drawing's all right." 

For forty years Adams kept this drawing on his mantelpiece, 
partly for its own interest, but largely for curiosity to see whether 
any critic or artist would ever stop to look at it. None ever did, 
unless he knew the story. Adams himself never wanted to know 
more about it. He refused to seek further light. He never cared 
to learn whether the drawing was Rafael's, or whether the verse 
were Rafael's, or whether even the water-mark was Rafael's. 
The experts some scores of them including the British Museum, 
had affirmed that the drawing was worth a certain moiety of 
twelve shillings. On that point, also, Adams could offer no opin- 
ion, but he was clear that his education had profited by it to that 
extent his amusement even more. 



22O THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Art was a superb field for education, but at every turn he met 
the same old figure, like a battered and illegible signpost that 
ought to direct him to the next station but never did. There was 
no next station. All the art of a thousand or ten thousand 
years had brought England to stuif which Palgrave and Woolner 
brayed in their mortars; derided, tore in tatters, growled at, and 
howled at, and treated in terms beyond literary usage. Whistler 
had not yet made his appearance in London, but the others did 
quite as well. What result could a student reach from it? Once, 
on returning to London, dining with Stopford Brooke, some one 
asked Adams what impression the Royal Academy Exhibition 
made on him. With a little hesitation, he suggested that it was 
rather a chaos, which he meant for civility; but Stopford Brooke 
abruptly met it by asking whether chaos were not better than 
death. Truly the question was worth discussion. For his own 
part, Adams inclined to think that neither chaos nor death was 
an object to him as a searcher of knowledge neither would 
have vogue in America neither would help him to a career. 
Both of them led him away from his objects, into an English 
dilettante museum of scraps, with nothing but a wall-paper to 
unite them in any relation of sequence. Possibly English taste was 
one degree more fatal than English scholarship, but even this ques- 
tion was open to argument. Adams went to the sales and bought 
what he was told to buy; now a classical drawing by Rafael or 
Rubens; now a water-color by Girtin or Cotman, if possible unfin- 
ished because it was more likely to be a sketch from nature; and 
he bought them not because they went together on the con- 
trary, they made rather awkward spots on the wall as they did on 
the mind but because he could afford to buy those, and not 
others. Ten pounds did not go far to buy a Michael Angelo, but 
was a great deal of money to a private secretary. The effect was 
spotty, fragmentary, feeble; and the more so because the British 
mind was constructed in that way boasted of it, and held it to 
be true philosophy as well as sound method. 



DILETTANTISM 221 



What was worse, no one had a right to denounce the English 
as wrong. Artistically their mind was scrappy, and every one 
knew it, but perhaps thought itself, history, and nature, were 
scrappy, and ought to be studied so. Turning from British art to 
British literature, one met the same dangers. The historical school 
was a playground of traps and pitfalls. Fatally one fell into the 
sink of history antiquarianism. For one who nourished a natural 
weakness for what was called history, the whole of British litera- 
ture in the nineteenth century was antiquarianism or anecdotage, 
for no one except Buckle had tried to link it with ideas, and com- 
monly Buckle was regarded as having failed. Macaulay was the 
English historian. Adams had the greatest admiration for Ma- 
caulay, but he felt that any one who should even distantly imitate 
Macaulay would perish in self-contempt. One might as well imi- 
tate Shakespeare. Yet evidently something was wrong here, for 
the poet and the historian ought to have different methods, and 
Macaulay' s method ought to be imitable if it were sound ; yet the 
method was more doubtful than the style. He was a dramatist; a 
painter; a poet, like Carlyle. This was the English mind, method, 
genius, or whatever one might call it; but one never could quite 
admit that the method which ended in Froude and Kinglake 
could be sound for America where passion and poetry were eccen- 
tricities. Both Froude and Kinglake, when one met them at din- 
ner, were very agreeable, very intelligent; and perhaps the Eng- 
lish method was right, and art fragmentary by essence. History, 
like everything else, might be a field of scraps, like the refuse about 
a Staffordshire iron-furnace. One felt a little natural reluctance 
to decline and fall like Silas Wegg on the golden dust-heap of 
British refuse; but if one must, one could at least expect a degree 
from Oxford and the respect of the Athenaeum Club. 

While drifting, after the war ended, many old American friends 
came abroad for a holiday, and among the rest, Dr. Palfrey, busy 
with his " History of New England." Of all the relics of childhood, 
Dr. Palfrey was the most sympathetic, and perhaps the more so 



222 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

because he, too, had wandered into the pleasant meadows of anti- 
quarianism, and had forgotten the world in his pursuit of the New 
England Puritan. Although America seemed becoming more and 
more indifferent to the Puritan except as a slightly rococo orna- 
ment, he was only the more amusing as a study for the Monk- 
barns of Boston Bay, and Dr. Palfrey took him seriously, as his 
clerical education required. His work was rather an Apologia in 
the Greek sense; a justification of the ways of God to Man, or, 
what was much the same thing, of Puritans to other men; and the 
task of justification was onerous enough to require the occasional 
relief of a contrast or scapegoat. When Dr. Palfrey happened on 
the picturesque but unpuritanic figure of Captain John Smith, 
he felt no call to beautify Smith's picture or to defend his moral 
character; he became impartial and penetrating. The famous 
story of Pocahontas roused his latent New England scepticism. 
He suggested to Adams, who wanted to make a position for him- 
self, that an article in the North American Review on Captain John 
Smith's relations with Pocahontas would attract as much atten- 
tion, and probably break as much glass, as any other stone that 
could be thrown by a beginner. Adams could suggest nothing 
better. The task seemed likely to be amusing. So he planted 
himself in the British Museum and patiently worked over all the 
material he could find, until, at last, . after three or four months 
of labor, he got it in shape and sent it to Charles Norton, who 
was then editing the North American. Mr. Norton very civilly 
and even kindly accepted it. The article appeared in January, 
1867. 

Surely, here was something to ponder over, as a step in educa- 
tion; something that tended to stagger a sceptic! In spite of per- 
sonal wishes, intentions, and prejudices; in spite of civil wars and 
diplomatic education; in spite of determination to be actual, 
daily, and practical, Henry Adams found himself, at twenty-eight, 
still in English society, dragged on one side into English dilet- 
tantism, which of all dilettantism he held the most futile; and, 



DILETTANTISM 223 



on the other, into American antiquarianism, which of all anti- 
quarianism he held the most foolish. This was the result of five 
years in London. Even then he knew it to be a false start. He had 
wholly lost his way. If he were ever to amount to anything, he 
must begin a new education, in a new place, with a new purpose. 



CHAPTER XV 

DARWINISM (1867-1868) 

POLITICS, diplomacy, law, art, and history had opened 
no outlet for future energy or effort, but a man must do 
something, even in Portland Place, when winter is dark 
and winter evenings are exceedingly long. At that moment Dar- 
win was convulsing society. The geological champion of Darwin 
was Sir Charles Lyell, and the Lyells were intimate at the Lega- 
tion. Sir Charles constantly said of Darwin, what Palgrave said of 
Tennyson, that the first time he came to town, Adams should be 
asked to meet him, but neither of them ever came to town, or 
ever cared to meet a young American, and one could not go to 
them because they were known to dislike intrusion. The only 
Americans who were not allowed to intrude were the half-dozen 
in the Legation. Adams was content to read Darwin, especially 
his "Origin of Species" and his "Voyage of the Beagle." He was 
a Darwinist before the letter; a predestined follower of the tide; 
but he was hardly trained to follow Darwin's evidences. Frag- 
mentary the British mind might be, but in those days it was 
doing a great deal of work in a very un-English way, building up 
so many and such vast theories on such narrow foundations as 
to shock the conservative, and delight the frivolous. The atomic 
theory; the correlation and conservation of energy; the mechan- 
ical theory of the universe; the kinetic theory of gases, and Dar- 
win's Law of Natural Selection, were examples of what a young 
man had to take on trust. Neither he nor any one else knew enough 
to verify them; in his ignorance of mathematics, he was partic- 
ularly helpless ; but this never stood in his way. The ideas were 
new and seemed to lead somewhere to some great general- 
ization which would finish one's clamor to be educated. That a 
beginner should understand them all, or believe them all, no one 



DARWINISM 225 



could expect, still less exact. Henry Adams was Darwinist be- 
cause it was easier than not, for his ignorance exceeded belief, 
and one must know something in order to contradict even such 
triflers as Tyndall and Huxley. 

By rights, he should have been also a Marxist, but some narrow- 
trait of the New England nature seemed to blight socialism, and 
he tried in vain to make himself a convert. He did the next best 
thing; he became a Comteist, within the limits of evolution. He 
was ready to become anything but quiet. As though the world 
had not been enough upset in his time, he was eager to see it up- 
set more. He had his wish, but he lost his hold on the results by 
trying to understand them. 

He never tried to understand Darwin; but he still fancied he 
might get the best part of Darwinism from the easier study of 
geology; a science which suited idle minds as well, as v though it 
were history. Every curate in England dabbled in geology and 
hunted for vestiges of Creation. Darwin hunted only for vestiges 
of Natural Selection, and Adams followed him, although he cared 
nothing about Selection, unless perhaps for the indirect amuse- 
ment of upsetting curates. He felt, like nine men in ten, an instinc- 
tive belief in Evolution, but he felt no more concern in Natural 
than in unnatural Selection, though he seized with greediness the 
new volume on the "Antiquity of Man" which Sir Charles Lyell 
published in 1863 in order to support Darwin by wrecking the 
Garden of Eden. Sir Charles next brought out, in 1866, a new edi- 
tion of his " Principles," then the highest text-book of geology; 
but here the Darwinian doctrine grew in stature. Natural Selection 
led back to Natural Evolution, and at last to Natural Uniformity. 
This was a vast stride. Unbroken Evolution under uniform condi- 
tions pleased every one except curates and bishops; it was 
the very best substitute for religion; a safe, conservative, practi- 
cal, thoroughly Common-Law deity. Such a working system for 
the universe suited a young man who had just helped to waste 
five or ten thousand million dollars and a million lives, more or 



226 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 



less, to enforce unity and uniformity on people jwfe? objected to 
it; the idea was only too seductive in its perfection; it had the 
charm of art. Unity and Uniformity were the whole motive of 
philosophy, and if Darwin, like a true Englishman, preferred to 
back into it to reach^God a posteriori rather than start 
from it, like ^ir^ozaTIEEe difierence of metliod taught only the 
moral that the best way of reaching unity was to unite. Any road 
was good that arrived. 

Life depended on it. One had been, from the first, dragged 
hither and thither like a French poodle on a string, following 
always the strongest pull, between one form of unity or central- 
ization and another. The proof that one had acted wisely because 
of obeying the primordial habit of nature flattered one's self- 
esteem. Steady, uniform, unbroken evolution from lower to 
higher seemed easy. So, one day when Sir Charles came to the 
Legation to inquire about getting his "Principles 5 ' properly 
noticed in America, young Adams found nothing simpler than 
to suggest that he could do it himself if Sir Charles would tell 
him what to say. Youth risks such encounters with the universe 
before one succumbs to it, yet even he was surprised at Sir Charles's 
ready assent, and still more so at finding himself, after half an 
hour's conversation, sitting down to clear the minds of American 
geologists about the principles of their profession. This was get- 
ting on fast; Arthur Pendennis had never gone so far. 

The geologists were a hardy class, not likely to be much hurt 
by Adams's learning, nor did he throw away much concern on 
their account. He undertook the task chiefly to educate, not 
them, but himself, and if Sir Isaac Newton had, like Sir Charles 
Lyell, asked him to explain for Americans his last edition of the 
"Principia," Adams would have jumped at the chance. Unfor- 
tunately the mere reading such works for amusement is quite a 
different matter from studying them for criticism. Ignorance 
must always begin at the beginning. Adams must inevitably 
have begun by asking Sir Isaac for an intelligible reason why the 



DARWINISM 227 



apple fell to the ground. He did not know enough to be satisfied 
with the fact. The Law of Gravitation was so-and-so, but what 
was Gravitation? and he would have been thrown quite off 
his base if Sir Isaac had answered that he did not know. 

At the very outset Adams struck on Sir Charles's Glacial 
Theory or theories. He was ignorant enough to think that the 
glacial epoch looked like a chasm between him and a uniformita- 
rian world. If the glacial period were uniformity, what was catas- 
trophe? To him the two or three labored guesses that Sir Charles 
suggested or borrowed to explain glaciation were proof of noth- 
ing, and were quite unsolid as support for so immense a super- 
structure as geological uniformity. If one were at liberty to be 
as lax in science as in theology, and to assume unity from the 
start, one might better say so, as the Church did, and not invite 
attack by appearing weak in evidence. Naturally a young man, 
altogether ignorant, could not say this to Sir Charles Lyell or 
Sir Isaac Newton; but he was forced to state Sir Charles's views, 
which he thought weak as hypotheses and worthless as proofs. 
Sir Charles himself seemed shy of them. Adams hinted his here- 
sies in vain. At last he resorted to what he thought the bold ex- 
periment of inserting a sentence in the text, intended to provoke 
correction. "The introduction [by Louis Agassiz] of this new 
geological agent seemed at first sight inconsistent with Sir Charles's 
argument, obliging him to allow that causes had in fact existed 
on the earth capable of producing more violent geological changes 
than would be possible in our own day." The hint produced no 
effect. Sir Charles said not a word; he let the paragraph stand; and 
Adams never knew whether the great Uniformitarian was strict 
or lax in his uniformitarian creed; but he doubted. 

Objections fatal to one mind are futile to another, and as far 
as concerned the article, the matter ended there, although the 
glacial epoch remained a misty region in the young man's Dar- 
winism. Had it been the only one, he would not have fretted about 
it; but uniformity often worked queerly and sometimes did not 



228 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

work as Natural Selection at all. Finding himself at a loss for some 
single figure to illustrate the Law of Natural Selection, Adams 
asked Sir Charles for the simplest case of uniformity on record. 
Much to his surprise Sir Charles told him that certain forms, 
like Terebratula, appeared to be identical from the beginning 
to the end of geological time. Since this was altogether too much 
uniformity and much too little selection, Adams gave up the at- 
tempt to begin at the beginning, and tried starting at the end 
himself. Taking for granted that the vertebrates would serve his 
purpose, he asked Sir Charles to introduce him to the first verte- 
brate. Infinitely to his bewilderment, Sir Charles informed him 
that the first vertebrate was a very respectable fish, among the 
earliest of all fossils, which had lived, and whose bones were still 
reposing, under Adams's own favorite Abbey on Wenlock Edge. 
By this time, in 1867, Adams had learned to know Shropshire 
familiarly, and it was the part of his diplomatic education which 
he loved best. Like Catherine Olney in "Northanger Abbey," 
he yearned for nothing so keenly as to feel at home in a thirteenth- 
century Abbey, unless it were to haunt a fifteenth-century Prior's 
House, and both these joys were his at Wenlock. With companions 
or without, he never tired of it. Whether he rode about the Wre- 
kin, or visited aU the historical haunts from Ludlow Castle and 
Stokesay to Boscobel and Uriconium; or followed the Roman road 
or scratched in the Abbey ruins, all was amusing and carried a 
flavor of its own like that of the Roman Campagna ; but perhaps 
he liked best to ramble over the Edge on a summer afternoon and 
look across the Marches to the mountains of Wales. The peculiar 
flavor of the scenery has something to do with absence of evolution; 
it was better marked in Egypt: it was felt wherever time-sequences 
became interchangeable. One's instinct abhors time. As one lay 
on the slope of the Edge, looking sleepily through the summer haze 
towards Shrewsbury or Cader Idris or Caer Caradoc or Urico- 
nium, nothing suggested sequence. The Roman road was twin to 
the railroad; Uriconium was well worth Shrewsbury; Wenlock 



DARWINISM 229 



and Buildwas were far superior to Bridgnorth. The shepherds 
of Caractacus or Offa, or the monks of Buildwas, had they ap- 
proached where he lay in the grass, would have taken him only for 
another and tamer variety of Welsh thief. They would have seen 
little to surprise them in the modern landscape unless it were the 
steam of a distant railway. One might mix up the terms of time 
as one liked, or stuff the present anywhere into the past, measuring 
time by FalstafFs Shrewsbury clock, without violent sense of 
wrong, as one could do it on the Pacific Ocean; but the triumph of 
all was to look south along the Edge to the abode of one's earliest 
ancestor and nearest relative, the ganoid fish, whose name, accord- 
ing to Professor Huxley, was Pteraspis, a cousin of the sturgeon, 
and whose kingdom, according to Sir Roderick Murchison, was 
called Siluria. Life began and ended there. Behind that horizon 
lay only the Cambrian, without vertebrates or any other organ- 
ism except a few shell-fish. On the further verge of the Cambrian 
rose the crystalline rocks from which every trace of organic exist- 
ence had been erased. 

That here, on the Wenlock Edge of time, a young American, 
seeking only frivolous amusement, should find a legitimate par- 
entage as modern as though just caught in the Severn below, 
astonished him as much as though he had found Darwin himself. 
In the scale of evolution, one vertebrate was as good as another. 
For anything he, or any one else, knew, nine hundred and ninety- 
nine parts of evolution out of a thousand lay behind or below the 
Pteraspis. To an American in search of a father, it mattered noth- 
thing whether the father breathed through lungs, or walked on 
fins, or on feet. Evolution of mind was altogether another mat- 
ter and belonged to another science, but whether one traced de- 
scent from the shark or the wolf was immaterial even in morals. 
This matter had been discussed for ages without scientific result. 
La Fontaine and other fabulists maintained that the wolf, even 
in morals, stood higher than man; and in view of the late civil war, 
Adams had doubts of his own on the facts of moral evolution : 



230 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

"Tout bien considere, je te soutiens en somme, 

Que scelerat pour scelerat, 
II vaut mieux etre un loup qu'un homme." 

It might well be! At all events, it did not enter into the problem 
of Pteraspis, for it was quite certain that no complete proof of 
Natural Selection had occurred back to the time of Pteraspis, and 
that before Pteraspis was eternal void. No trace of any vertebrate 
had been found there; only starfish, shell-fish, polyps, or trilobites 
whose kindly descendants he had often bathed with, as a child 
on the shores of Quincy Bay. 

That Pteraspis and shark were his cousins, great-uncles, or 
grandfathers, in no way troubled him, but that either or both of 
them should be older than evolution itself seemed to him per- 
plexing; nor could he at all simplify the problem by taking the sud- 
den back-somersault into Quincy Bay in search of the fascinating 
creature he had called a horseshoe, whose huge dome of shell 
and sharp spur of tail had so alarmed him as a child. In Siluria, 
he understood, Sir Roderick Murchison called the horseshoe a 
Limulus, which helped nothing. Neither in the Limulus nor in 
the Terebratula, nor in the Cestracion Philippi, any more than in 
the Pteraspis, could one conceive an ancestor, but, if one must, the 
choice mattered little. Cousinship had limits but no one knew 
enough to fix them. When the vertebrate vanished in Siluria, it dis- 
appeared instantly and forever. Neither vertebra nor scale nor print 
reappeared, nor any trace of ascent or descent to a lower type. 
The vertebrate began in the Ludlow shale, as complete as Adams 
himself in some respects more so at the top of the column 
of organic evolution : and geology offered no sort of proof that he 
had ever been anything else. Ponder over it as he might, Adams 
could see nothing in the theory of Sir Charles but pure inference, 
precisely like the inference of Paley, that, if one found a watch, one_ 
inferred ^jnaker. He could detect no more evolution in life since 
the Pteraspis than he could detect it in architecture since the 
Abbey. Alljie could prove was change. Coal-power alone asserted 



DARWINISM 231 



evolution of power and only by violence could be forced to 
assert selection of type. 

All this seemed trivial to the true Darwinian, and to Sir Charles 
it was mere defect in the geological record. Sir Charles labored 
only to heap up the evidences of evolution; to cumulate them till 
the mass became irresistible. With that purpose, Adams gladly 
studied and tried to help Sir Charles, but, behind the lesson of 
the day, he was conscious that, in geology as in theology, he could 
prove only Evolution that did not evolve; Uniformity that was not 
uniform; and Selection that did not select. To other Darwinians 
except Darwin Natural Selection seemed a dogma to be 
put in the place of the Athanasian creed; it was a form of reli- 
gious hope; a promise of ultimate perfection. Adams wished no 
better; he warmly sympathized in the object; but when he came 
to ask himself what he truly thought, he felt that he had no Faith; 
that whenever the next new hobby should be brought out, he 
should surely drop off from Darwinism like a monkey from a 
perch; that the idea of one Form, Law, Order, or Sequence had 

the idea.pf nonej that 



most was Motion, and that what attracted Jhis mind was Change,, 
Psychology was to" him a new study, and a dark corner of edu- 
cation. As he lay on Wenlock Edge, with the sheep nibbling the 
grass close about him as they or their betters had nibbled the 
grass or whatever there was to nibble in the Silurian king- 
dom of Pteraspis, he seemed to have fallen on an evolution far 
more wonderful than that of fishes. He did not like it; he could 
not account for it; and he determined to stop it. Never since the 
days of his Limulus ancestry had any of his ascendants thought 
thus. Their modes of thought might be many, but their thought 
was one. Out of his millions of millions of ancestors, back to the 
Cambrian mollusks, every one had probably lived and died in 
the illusion of Truths which did not amuse him, and which had 
never changed. Henry Adams was the first in an infinite series to 
discover and admit to himself that he really did not care whether 



232 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

truth was, or was not, tnie._He did not even care that it; should 
bej2!Qvecl true, unlessHtKe process were new and amusing. He 
svas ^J^arwi^nJoL,^^^ 

From the beginning of history, this attitude had been branded 
as criminal worse than crime sacrilege ! Society punished 
it ferociously and justly, in self-defence. Mr. Adams, the father, 
looked on it as moral weakness; it annoyed him; but it did not 
annoy him nearly so much as it annoyed his son, who had no need 
to learn from Hamlet the fatal effect of the pale cast of thought on 
enterprises great or small. He had no notion of letting the cur- 
rents of his action be turned awry by this form of conscience. To 
him, the current of his time was to be his current, lead where it 
might. He put psychology under lock and key; he insisted on main- 
taining his absolute standards; on aiming at ultimate Unity. The 
mania for handling all the sides of every question, looking into 
every window, and opening every door, was, as Bluebeard judi- 
ciously pointed out to his wives, Jatal to their practical usefulness 
in society. One could not stop to chase dpuhta^as thpugh^tliey 
werejrabbrts. One had no time "to paint and putty the surface of 
Law, even though it were cracked and rotten. For the young men 
whose lives were cast in the generation between 1867 and 1900, 
Law should be Evolution from lower to higher, aggregation of the 
atom in the mass, concentration of multiplicity in unity, com- 
pulsion of anarchy in order; and he would force himself to follow 
wherever it led, though he should sacrifice five thousand millions 
more in money, and a million more lives. 

As the path ultimately led, it sacrificed much more than this; 
but at the time, he thought the price he named a high one, and he 
could not foresee that science and society would desert him in 
paying it. He, at least, took his education as a Darwinian in good 
faith. The Church was gone, and Duty was dim, but Will should 
take its place, founded deeply in interest and law. This was the 
result of five or six years in England; a result so British as to be 
almost the equivalent of an Oxford degree. 



DARWINISM 233 



Quite serious about it, he set to work at once. While confusing 
his ideas about geology to the apparent satisfaction of Sir Charles 
who left him his field-compass in token of it, Adams turned reso- 
lutely to business, and attacked the burning question of specie 
payments. His principles assured him that the honest way to re- 
sume payments was to restrict currency. He thought he might 
win a name among financiers and statesmen at home by showing 
how this task had been done by England, after the classical sus- 
pension of 1797-1821. Setting himself to the study of this per- 
plexed period, he waded as well as he could through a morass of 
volumes, pamphlets, and debates, until he learned to his confu- 
sion that the Bank of England itself and all the best British finan- 
cial writers held that restriction was a fatal mistake, and that 
the best treatment of a debased currency was to let it alone, as the 
Bank had in fact done. Time and patience were the remedies. 

The shock of this discovery to his financial principles was se- 
rious; much more serious than the shock of the Terebratula and 
Pteraspis to his principles of geology. A mistake about Evolution 
was not fatal; a mistake about specie payments would destroy 
forever the last hope of employment in State Street. Six months 
of patient labor would be thrown away if he did not publish, and 
with it his whole scheme of making himself a position as a prac- 
tical man-of-business. If he did publish, how could he tell vir- 
tuous bankers in State Street that moral and absolute principles 
of abstract truth, such as theirs, had nothing to do with the mat- 
ter, and that they had better let it alone? Geologists, naturally 
a humble and helpless class, might not revenge impertinences of- 
fered to their science; but capitalists never forgot or forgave. 

With labor and caution he made one long article on British 
Finance in 1816, and another on the Bank Restriction of 1797- 
1821, and, doing both up in one package, he sent it to the North 
American for choice. He knew that two heavy, technical, financial 
studies thus thrown at an editor's head, would probably return to 
crush the author; but the audacity of youth is more sympathetic 



234 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

when successful than his ignorance. The editor accepted 
both. 

When the post brought his letter, Adams looked at it as though 
he were a debtor who had begged for an extension. He read it with 
as much relief as the debtor, if it had brought him the loan. The 
letter gave the new writer literary rank. Henceforward he had 
the freedom of the press. These articles, following those on Po- 
cahontas and Lyell, enrolled him on the permanent staff of the 
North American Review. Precisely what this rank was worth, no 
one could say; but, for fifty years the North American Review had 
been the stage coach which carried literary Bostonians to such 
distinction as they had achieved. Few writers had ideas which 
warranted thirty pages of development, but for such as thought 
they had, the Review alone offered space. An article was a small 
volume which required at least three months' work, and was paid, 
at best, five dollars a page. Not many men even in England or 
France could write a good thirty-page article, and practically no 
one in America read them; but a few score of people, mostly in 
search of items to steal, ran over the pages to extract an idea 
or a fact, which was a sort of wild game a blue-fish or a teal 

worth anywhere from fifty cents to five dollars. Newspaper 
writers had their eye on quarterly pickings. The circulation of 
the Review had never exceeded three or four hundred copies, and 
the Review had never paid its reasonable expenses. Yet it stood 
at the head of American literary periodicals; it was a source of 
suggestion to cheaper workers; it reached far into societies that 
never knew its existence; it was an organ worth playing on; and, 
in the fancy of Henry Adams, it led, in some indistinct future, to 
playing on a New York daily newspaper. 

With the editor's letter under his eyes, Adams asked himself what 
better he could have done. On the whole, considering his helpless- 
ness, he thought he had done as well as his neighbors. No one could 
yet guess which of his contemporaries was most likely to play 
a part in the great world. A shrewd prophet in Wall Street might 



DARWINISM 235 



perhaps have set a mark on Pierpont Morgan, but hardly on the 
Rockefellers or William C. Whitney or Whitelaw Reid. No one 
would have picked out William McKinley or John Hay or Mark 
Hanna for great statesmen. Boston was ignorant of the careers 
in store for Alexander Agassiz and Henry Higginson. Phillips 
Brooks was unknown; Henry James was unheard; Howells was 
new; Richardson and LaFarge were struggling for a start. Out 
of any score of names and reputations that should reach beyond 
the century, the thirty-years-old who were starting in the year 
1867 could show none that was so far in advance as to warrant 
odds in its favor. The army men had for the most part fallen to 
the ranks. Had Adams foreseen the future exactly as it came, he 
would have been no wiser, and could have chosen no better path. 

Thus it turned out that the last year in England was the pleas- 
antest. He was already old in society, and belonged to the Silu- 
rian horizon. The Prince of Wales had come. Mr. Disraeli, Lord 
Stanley, and the future Lord Salisbury had thrown into the back- 
ground the memories of Palmerston and Russell. Europe was 
moving rapidly, and the conduct of England during the American 
Civil War was the last thing that London liked to recall. The 
revolution since 1861 was nearly complete, and, for the first time 
in history, the American felt himself almost as strong as an English- 
man. He had thirty years to wait before he should feel himself 
stronger. Meanwhile even a private secretary could afford to be 
happy. His old education was finished; his new one was not be- 
gun; he still loitered a year, feeling himself near the end of a very 
long, anxious, tempestuous, successful voyage, with another to 
follow, and a summer sea between. 

He made what use he could of it. In February, 1868, he was 
back in Rome with his friend Milnes Gaskell. For another season 
he wandered on horseback over the campagna or on foot through 
the Rome of the middle ages, and sat once more on the steps of 
Ara Coeli, as had become with him almost a superstition, like the 
waters of the fountain of Trevi. Rome was still tragic and solemn 



236 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

as ever, with its mediaeval society, artistic, literary, and clerical, 
taking itself as seriously as in the days of Byron and Shelley. The 
long ten years of accidental education had changed nothing for 
him there. He knew no more in 1868 than in 1858. He had learned 
nothing whatever that made Rome more intelligible to him, or 
made life easier to handle. The case was no better when he got 
back to London and went through his last season. London had 
become his vice. He loved his haunts, his houses, his habits, and 
even his hansom cabs. He loved growling like an Englishman, 
and going into society where he knew not a face, and cared not a 
straw. He lived deep into the lives and loves and disappointments 
of his friends. When at last he found himself back again at Liver- 
pool, his heart wrenched by the act of parting, he moved mechan- 
ically, unstrung, but he had no more acquired education than 
when he first trod the steps of the Adelphi Hotel in November, 
1858. He could see only one great change, and this was wholly 
in years. Eaton Hall no longer impressed his imagination; even 
the architecture of Chester roused but a sleepy interest; he felt 
no sensation whatever in the atmosphere of the British peerage, 
but mainly an habitual dislike to most of the people who fre- 
quented their country houses; he had become. English to the point 
of sharing their petty social divisions, their dislikes and prejudices 
against each other; he took England no longer with the awe of 
American youth, but with the habit of an old and rather worn 
suit of clothes. As far as he knew, this was all that Englishmen 
meant by social education, but in any case it was all the education 
he had gained from seven years in London. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE PRESS (1868) 

AT ten o'clock of a July night, in heat that made the 
tropical rain-shower simmer, the Adams family and the 
Motley family clambered down the side of their Cunard 
steamer into the government tugboat, which set them ashore in 
black darkness at the end of some North River pier. Had they 
been Tyrian traders of the year B.C. 1000, landing from a galley 
fresh from Gibraltar, they could hardly have been stranger on the 
shore of a world, so changed from what it had been ten years before. 
The historian of the Dutch, no longer historian but diplomatist, 
started up an unknown street, in company with the private secre- 
tary who had become private citizen, in search of carriages to 
convey the two parties to the Brevoort House. The pursuit was 
arduous but successful Towards midnight they found shelter 
once more in their native land. 

How much its character had changed or was changing, they 
could not wholly know, and they could but partly feel. For that 
matter, the land itself knew no more than they. _ 



ica was always trying, almost as blindly as an e^rthwonn, to real- 
ize and understand itself; to catch up with its owa.liead, and.lo 
twist about in search of its jtajl. Society offered the profile of a 
long, straggling caravan, stretching loosely towards the prairies, its 
few score of leaders far in advance and its millions of immigrants, 
negroes, and Indians far in the rear, somewhere in archaic time. 
It enjoyed the vast advantage over Europe that all seemed, for 
the moment, to move in one direction, l^He Europe wasted most 
of its energy in trying several contradictory movements at once; 
but whenever Europe or Asia should be polarized or oriented 
towards the same point, America might easily lose her lead. 
Meanwhile each newcomer needed to slip into a place as near the 



238 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

head of the caravan as jpossible, ^andjjeeded most to knqwjwhere 
the leaders could be found. 

"One could divine pretty nearly where the force lay, since the 
last ten years had given to the great mechanical energies 
coal, iron, steam a distinct superiority in power over the old 
industrial elements agriculture, handwork, and learning; but 
the result of this revolution" on a survivor from the fifties re- 
sembled the action of the earthworm; he twisted about, in vain, 
to recover his starting-point; he could no longer see his own trail; 
he had become an estray; a flotsam or jetsam of wreckage; a be- 
lated reveller, or a scholar-gipsy like Matthew Arnold's. His world 
was dead. Not a Polish Jew fresh from Warsaw or Cracow 
not a furtive Yacoob or Ysaac still reeking of the Ghetto, snarling 
a weird Yiddish to the officers of the customs but had a keener 
instinct, an intenser energy, and a freer hand than he American 
of Americans, with Heaven knew how many Puritans and Patriots 
behind him, and an education that had cost a civil war. He made 
no complaint and found no fault with his time; he was no worse 
off than the Indians or the buffalo who had been ejected from their 
heritage by his own people; but he vehemently insisted that he 
was not himself at fault. The defeat was not due to him, nor yet 
to any superiority of his rivals. He had been unfairly forced out 
of the track, and must get back into it as best he could. 

One comfort he could enjoy to the full. Little as he might be 
fitted for the work that was before him, he had only to look at his 
father and Motley to see figures less fitted for it than he. All were 
equally survivals from the forties bric-a-brac from the time of 
Louis Philippe; stylists; doctrinaires; ornaments that had been 
more or less suited to the colonial architecture, but which never had 
much value in Desbrosses Street or Fifth Avenue. They could 
scarcely have earned five dollars a day in any modern industry. 
The men who commanded high pay were as a rule not ornamental. 
Even Commodore Vanderbilt and Jay Gould lacked social charm. 
Doubtless the country needed ornament needed it very badly 



THE PRESS 239 



indeed bi^^jieeded energy still more, and capital most of all, 
for its supply was ridiculously out of proportion to its wants. 
On tkejiew scale of power, merely to make the continent habitable 
for civilizei^eoplejwould require an immediate outlay that would 
&Y?J^^PtiJtKe world. As yet, no portion of the world except 
a few narrow stretches of western Europe had ever been tolerably 
provided with the essentials of comfort and convenience; to fit 
9Ut an entire continent with roads and the decencies of life would 
exhaust the credit of the entire planet. Such an estimate seemed 
outrageous to a Texan member of Congress who loved the sim- 
plicity of nature's noblemen; but the mere suggestion that a sun 
existed above him would outrage the self-respect of a deep-sea 
fish that carried a lantern on the end of its nose. JFrom the mo- 

togk on extravagance. 



Thus the belated reveller who landed in the dark at the Des- 
brosses Street ferry, found his energies exhausted in the effort to 
see his own length. The new Americans, of whom he was to be 
one, must, whether they were fit or unfit, create a world of their 
own, a science, a society, a philosophy, a universe, where they had 
not yet creald^a:QM.Ql^YeaJl5amec[tp diig .th_eirjown iron. They 
had no time for thought; they saw, and could see, nothing" beyond 
their day's work; their attitude to the universe outside them was 
that of the deep-sea fish. Above all, they naturally and intensely 
disliked to be told what to do, and how to do it, by men who took 
their ideas and their methods from the abstract theories of his- 
tory, philosophy, or theology. They knew L enough to know that 
jtheirjWQild was one of energies quite new. ~~ "" 

All this, the newcomer understood and accepted, since he could 
not help himself and saw that the American could help himself as 
little as the newcomer; but the fact remained that the more he 
knew, the less he was educated. Society knew as much as this, and 
seemed rather inclined to boast of it, at least on the sturnp; but 
the leaders of industry betrayed no sentiment, popular or other. 
They used, without qualm, whatever instruments they found at 



240 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

hand. They had been obliged, in 1861, to turn aside and waste 
immense energy in settling what had been settled a thousand years 
before, and should never have been revived. At prodigious ex- 
pense, by sheer force, they broke resistance down, leaving every- 
thing but the mere fact of power untouched, since nothing else had 
a solution. Race and thought were beyond reach. Having cleared 
its path so far, society wentjback>,to its work, and threw itself on 
that which stood first l its roads, ) The field was vast; altogether 
beyond its power to control offhand; and society dropped every 
thought of dealing with anything more than the single fraction 
called a ^railway system. This relatively small part of its task was 
still so big as to need the energies of a generation, for it required 
all the new machinery to be created capital, banks, mines, 
furnaces, shops, power-houses, technical knowledge, mechanical 
population, together with a steady remodelling of social and polit- 
ical habits, ideas, and institutions to fit the new scale and suit the 
new conditions. The generation between 1865 and 1895 was al- 
ready mortgaged to the railways, and no one knew it better than 
the generation itself. 

Whether Henry Adams knew it or not, he knew enough to act 
as though he did. He reached Quincy once more, ready for the 
new start. His brother Charles had determined to strike for the 
railroads; Henry was to strike for the press; and they hoped to 
play into each other's hands. They had great need, for they found 
no one else to play with. After discovering the worthlessness of a 
so-called education, they had still to discover the worthlessness of 
so-called social connection. No young man had a larger acquaint- 
ance and relationship than Henry Adams, yet he knew no one 
who could help him. He was for sale, in the open market. So 
were many of his friends. All the world knew it, and knew too that 
they were cheap ; to be bought at the price of a mechanic. There was 
no concealment, no delicacy, and no illusion about it. Neither he 
nor his friends complained; but he felt sometimes a little surprised 
that, as far as he knew, no one, seeking in the labor market, ever 



THE PRESS 241 



so much as inquired about their fitness. The want of solidarity 
between old and young seemed American. The young man was 
required to impose himself, by the usual business methods, as a 
necessity on his elders, in order to compel them to buy him as an 
investment. As Adams felt it, he was in a manner expected to 
blackmail. Many a young man complained to him in after life 
of the same experience, which became a matter of curious reflec- 
tion as he grew old. The labor market of good society was ill- 
organized. 

Boston seemed to offer no market for educated labor. A peculiar 
and perplexing amalgam Boston always was, and although it had 
changed much in ten years, it was not less perplexing. One no 
longer dined at two o'clock; one could no longer skate on Back 
Bay; one heard talk of Bostonians worth five millions or more as 
something not incredible. Yet the place seemed still simple, and 
less restless-minded than ever before. In the line that Adams had 
chosen to follow, he needed more than all else the help of the press, 
but any shadow of hope on that side vanished instantly. The less 
one meddled with the Boston press, the better. All the newspaper- 
men were clear on that point. The same was true of politics. 
Boston meant business. The Bostonians were building railways. 
Adams would have liked to help in building railways, but had no 
education. He was not fit. 

He passed three or four months thus, visiting relations, renewing 
friendships, and studying the situation. At thirty years old, the 
man who has not yet got further than to study the situation, is lost, 
or near it. He could see nothing in the situation that could be of 
use to him. His friends had won no more from it than he. His 
brother Charles, after three years of civil life, was no better off 
than himself, except for being married and in greater need of in- 
come. His brother John had become a brilliant political leader on 
the wrong side. No one had yet regained the lost ground of the 
war. 

He went to Newport and tried to be fashionable, but even in the 



242 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

simple life of 1868, he failed as fashion. All the style he had learned 
so painfully in London was worse than useless in America where 
every standard was different. Newport was charming, but it asked 
for no education and gave none. What it gave was much gayer and 
pleasanter, and one enjoyed it amazingly; but friendships in that 
society were a kind of social partnership, like the classes at college; 
not education but the subjects of education. All were doing the 
same thing, and asking the same question of the future. None 
could help. Society seemed founded on the law that all was for 
the best New Yorkers in the best of Newports, and that all young 
people were rich if they could waltz. It was a new version of the 
Ant and Grasshopper. 

At the end of three months, the only person, among the hundreds 
he had met, who had offered him a word of encouragement or 
had shown a sign of acquaintance with his doings, was Edward 
Atkinson. Boston was cool towards sons, whether prodigals or 
other, and needed much time to make up its mind what to do for 
them time which Adams, at thirty years old, could hardly 
spare. He had not the courage or self-confidence to hire an office 
in State Street, as so many of his friends did, and doze there alone, 
vacuity within and a snowstorm outside, waiting for Fortune to 
knock at the door, or hoping to find her asleep in the elevator; 
or on the staircase, since elevators were not yet in use. Whether 
this course would have offered his best chance he never knew; 
it was one of the points in practical education which most needed 
a clear understanding, and he could never reach it. His father and 
mother would have been glad to see him stay with them and begin 
reading Blackstone again, and he showed no very filial tenderness 
by abruptly breaking the tie that had lasted so long. After all, per- 
haps Beacon Street was as good as any other street for his objects 
in life; possibly his easiest and surest path was from Beacon 
Street to State Street and back again, all the days of his years. 
Who could tell? Even after life was over, the doubt could not be 
determined. 



THE PRESS . 24.3 



In thus sacrificing his heritage, he only followed the path that 
had led him from the beginning. Boston was full of his brothers. 
He had reckoned from childhood on outlawry as his peculiar 
birthright. The mere thought of beginning life again in Mount 
Vernon Street lowered the pulsations of his heart. This is a 
story of education not a mere lesson of life and, with edu- 
cation, temperament has in strictness nothing to do, although in 
practice they run close together. Neither by temperament nor 
by education was he fitted for Boston. He had drifted far away 
and behind his companions there; no one trusted his tempera- 
ment or education ; he had to go. 

Since no other path seemed to offer itself, he stuck to his plan 
of joining the press, and selected Washington as the shortest road 
to New York, but, in 1868, Washington stood outside the social 
pale. No Bostonian had ever gone there. One announced one's 
self as an adventurer and an office-seeker, a person of deplorably 
bad judgment, and the charges were true. The chances of ending 
in the gutter were, at best, even. The risk was the greater in 
Adams's case, because he had no very clear idea what to do when 
he got there. That he must educate himself over again, for ob- 
jects quite new, in an air altogether hostile to his old educations, 
was the only certainty; but how he was to do it how he was 
to convert the idler in Rotten Row into the lobbyist of the Cap- 
ital he had not an idea, and no one to teach him. The ques- 
tion of money is rarely serious for a young American unless he is 
married, and money never troubled Adams more than others; not 
because he had it, but because he could do without it, like most 
people in Washington who all lived on the income of bricklayers; 
but with or without money he met the difficulty that, after get- 
ting to Washington in order to go on the press, it was necessary 
to seek a press to go on. For large work he could count on the 
North American Review, but this was scarcely a press. For cur- 
rent discussion and correspondence, he could depend on the New 
York Nation ; but what he needed was a New York daily, and no 



244 ' THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

New York daily needed him. He lost his one chance by the death 
of Henry J. Raymond. The Tribune under Horace Greeley was 
out of the question both for political and personal reasons, and 
because Whitelaw Reid had already undertaken that singularly 
venturesome position, amid difficulties that would have swamped 
Adams in four-and-twenty hours. Charles A. Dana had made 
the Sun a very successful as well as a very amusing paper, but had 
hurt his own social position in doing it; and Adams knew himself 
well enough to know that he could never please himself and Dana 
too; with the best intentions, he must always fail as a black- 
guard, and at that time a strong dash of blackguardism was life 
to the Sun. As for the New York Herald, it was a despotic em- 
pire admitting no personality but that of Bennett. Thus, for the 
moment, the New York daily press offered no field except the 
free-trade Holy Land of the Evening Post under William Cullen 
Bryant, while beside it lay only the elevated plateau of the New 
Jerusalem occupied by Godkin and the Nation. Much as Adams 
liked Godkin, and glad as he was to creep under the shelter of 
the Evening Post and the Nation., he was well aware that he should 
find there only the same circle of readers that he reached in the 
North American Review. 

The outlook was dim, but it was all he had, and at Washing- 
ton, except for the personal friendship of Mr. Evarts who was then 
Attorney-General and living there, he would stand in solitude 
much like that of London in 1861. Evarts did what no one in 
Boston seemed to care for doing; he held out a hand to the young 
man. Whether Boston, like Salem, really shunned strangers, or 
whether Evarts was an exception even in New York, he had the 
social instinct which Boston had not. Generous by nature, prodi- 
gal in hospitality, fond of young people, and a born man-of-the- 
world, Evarts gave and took liberally, without scruple, and ac- 
cepted the world without fearing or abusing it. His wit was the 
least part of his social attraction. His talk was broad and free. 
He laughed where he could; he joked if a joke was possible; he 



THE PRESS 245 



was true to his friends, and never lost his temper or became ill- 
natured. Like all New Yorkers he was decidedly not a Bostonian; 
but he was what one might call a transplanted New Englander, 
like General Sherman; a variety, grown in ranker soil. In the 
course of life, and in widely different countries, Adams incurred 
heavy debts of gratitude to persons on whom he had no claim 
and to whom he could seldom make return; perhaps half-a-dozen 
such debts remained unpaid at last, although six is a large number 
as lives go; but kindness seldom came more happily than when 
Mr. Evarts took him to Washington in October, 1868. 

Adams accepted the hospitality of the sleeper, with deep grati- 
tude, the more because his first struggle with a sleeping-car made 
him doubt the value to him of a Pullman civilization ; but 
he was even more grateful for the shelter of Mr. Evarts's house 
in H Street at the corner of Fourteenth, where he abode in safety 
and content till he found rooms in the roomless village. To him 
the village seemed unchanged. Had he not known that a great 
war and eight years of astonishing movement had passed over it, 
he would have noticed nothing that betrayed growth. As of old, 
houses were few; rooms fewer; even the men were the same. No 
one seemed to miss the usual comforts of civilization, and Adams 
was glad to get rid of them, for his best chance lay in the eight- 
eenth century. 

The first step, of course, was the making of acquaintance, and 
the first acquaintance was naturally the President, to whom an 
aspirant to the press officially paid respect. Evarts immediately 
took him to the White House and presented him to President 
Andrew Johnson. The interview was brief and consisted in the 
stock remark common to monarchs and valets, that the young 
man looked even younger than he was. The younger man felt 
even younger than he looked. He never saw the President again, 
and never felt a wish to see him, for Andrew Johnson was not the 
sort of man whom a young reformer of thirty, with two or three 
foreign educations, was likely to see with enthusiasm; yet, musing 



246 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

over the interview as a matter of education, long years afterwards, 
he could not help recalling the President's figure with a distinct- 
ness that surprised him. The old-fashioned Southern Senator and 
statesman sat in his chair at his desk with a look of self-esteem 
that had its value. None doubted. All were great men; some, no 
doubt, were greater than others; but all were statesmen and all 
were supported, lifted, inspired by the moral certainty of right- 
ness. To them the universe was serious, even solemn, but it was 
their universe, a Southern conception of right. Lamar used to say 
that he never entertained a doubt of the soundness of the South- 
ern system until he found that slavery could not stand a war. 
Slavery was only a part of the Southern system, and the life 
of it all the vigor the poetry was its moral certainty of 
self. The Southerner could not doubt; and this self-assurance 
not only gave Andrew Johnson the look of a true President, but 
actually made him one. When Adams came to look back on it 
afterwards, he was surprised to realize how strong the Executive 
was in 1868 perhaps the strongest he was ever to see. Cer- 
tainly he never again found himself so well satisfied, or so much 
at home. 

Seward was still Secretary of State. Hardly yet an old man, 
though showing marks of time and violence, Mr. Seward seemed 
little changed in these eight years. He was the same with a 
difference. Perhaps he unlike Henry Adams had at last got 
an education, and all he wanted. Perhaps he had resigned him- 
self to doing without it. Whatever the reason, although his man- 
ner was as roughly kind as ever, and his talk as free, he appeared 
to have closed his account with the public; he no longer seemed 
to care; he asked nothing, gave nothing, and invited no support; 
he talked little of himself or of others, and waited only for his 
discharge. Adams was well pleased to be near him in these last 
days of his power and fame, and went much to his house in the 
evenings when he was sure to be at his whist. At last, as the end 
drew near, wanting to feel that the great man the only chief 



THE PRESS 247 



he ever served even as a volunteer recognized some personal 
relation, he asked Mr. Seward to dine with him one evening in his 
rooms, and play his game of whist there, as he did every night in 
his own house. Mr. Seward came and had his whist, and Adams 
remembered his rough parting speech: "A very sensible enter- 
tainment!" It was the only favor he ever asked of Mr. Seward, 
and the only one he ever accepted. 

Thus, as a teacher of wisdom, after twenty years of example, 
Governor Seward passed out of one's life, and Adams lost what 
should have been his firmest ally; but in truth the State Depart- 
ment had ceased to be the centre of his interest, and the Treasury 
had taken its place. The Secretary of the Treasury was a man 
new to politics Hugh McCulloch not a person of much im- 
portance in the eyes of practical politicans such as young members 
of the press meant themselves to become, but they all liked Mr. 
McCulloch, though they thought him a stop-gap rather than a 
force. Had they known what sort of forces the Treasury was to 
offer them for support in the generation to come, they might have 
reflected a long while on their estimate of McCulloch. Adams was 
fated to watch the Sittings of many more Secretaries than he ever 
cared to know, and he rather came back in the end to the idea that 
McCulloch was the best of them, although he seemed to represent 
everything that one liked least. He was no politician, he had no 
party, and no power. He was not fashionable or decorative. He 
was a banker, and towards bankers Adams felt the narrow prej- 
udice which the serf feels to his overseer; for he knew he must 
obey, and he knew that the helpless showed only their helpless- 
ness when they tempered obedience by mockery. The world, 
after i86^becane a bankers' world, and no banker would ever 
trust one who had deserted State Street, and had gone to Wash- 
ington with purposes of doubtful credit, or of no credit at all, for 
he could not have put up enough collateral to borrow five thousand 
dollars of any bank in America. The banker never would trust 
him, and he would never trust the banker. To him, the banking 



248 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

mind was obnoxious; and this antipathy caused him the more 
surprise at finding McCulloch the broadest, most liberal, most 
genial, and most practical public man in Washington. 

There could be no doubt of it. The burden of the Treasury at 
that time was very great. The whole financial system was in 
chaos; every part of it required reform; the utmost experience, 
tact, and skill could not make the machine work smoothly. No 
one knew how well McCulloch did it until his successor took it in 
charge, and tried to correct his methods. Adams did not know 
enough to appreciate McCulloch's technical skill, but he was 
struck at his open and generous treatment of young men. Of all 
rare qualities, this was, in Adams's experience, the rarest. As a 
rule, officials dread interference. The strongest often resent it 
most. Any official who admits equality in discussion of his official 
course, feels it to be an act of virtue; after a few months or years 
he tires of the effort. Every friend in power is a friend lost. This 
rule is so nearly absolute that it may be taken in practice as ad- 
mitting no exception. Apparent exceptions exist, and McCulloch 
was one of them. 

McCulloch had been spared the gluttonous selfishness and in- 
fantile jealousy which are the commoner results of early political 
education. He had neither past nor future, and could afford to 
be careless of his company. Adams found him surrounded by all the 
active and intelligent young men in the country. Full of faith, 
greedy for work, eager for reform, energetic, confident, capable, 
quick of study, charmed with a fight, equally ready to defend or 
attack, they were unselfish, and even as young men went 
honest. They came mostly from the army, with the spirit of the 
volunteers. Frank Walker, Frank Barlow, Frank Bartlett were 
types of the generation. Most of the press, and much of the 
public, especially in the West, shared their ideas. No one denied 
the need for reform. Th^v^ole^overnmentj from top to bottom, 
was rotten, with the senility of what was antiquated_ and ^^.In- 
stability of what was improvised. The currency was only one 



THE PRESS 249 



example; the tariff was another; but the whole fabric required 
reconstruction as much as in 1789, for the Constitution had be- 
come as antiquated as the Confederation. Sooner or later a shock 
must come, the more dangerous the longer postponed. The Civil 
War had made a new system in fact; the country would have to 
reorganize the machinery in practice and theory. 

One might discuss indefinitely the question which branch of 
government needed reform most urgently; all needed it enough, 
but no one denied that the finances were a scandal, and a constant, 
universal nuisance. The tariff was worse, though more interests 
upheld it. McCulloch had the singular merit of facing reform with 
large good-nature and willing sympathy outside of parties, 
jobs, bargains, corporations or intrigues which Adams never 
was to meet again. 

Chaos often breeds^iife, when order breeds habit- The Civil 
War hacfbred life. The army bred courage. Young men of the 
volunteer type were not always docile under control, but they 
were handy in a fight. Adams was greatly pleased to be admitted 
as one of them. He found himself much at home with them 
more at home than he ever had been before, or was ever to be 
again in the atmosphere of the Treasury. He had no strong 
party passion, and he felt as though he and his friends owned this 
administration, which, in its dying days, had neither friends nor 
future except in them. 

These were not the only allies; the whole government in all its 
branches was alive with them. Just at that moment the Supreme 
Court was about to take up the Legal Tender cases where Judge 
Curtis had been employed to argue against the constitutional 
power of the Government to make an artificial standard of value 
in time of peace. Evarts was anxious to fix on a line of argument 
that should have a chance of standing up against that of Judge 
Curtis, and was puzzled to do it. He did not know which foot to 
put forward. About to deal with Judge Curtis, the last of the 
strong jurists of Marshall's school, he could risk no chances. In 



250 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

doubt, the quickest way to clear one's mind is to discuss, and 
Evarts deliberately forced discussion. Day after day, driving, 
dining, walking he provoked Adams to dispute his positions. He 
needed an anvil, he said, to hammer his ideas on. 

Adams was flattered at being an anvil, which is, after all, more 
solid than the hammer; and he did not feel called on to treat Mr. 
Evarts's arguments with more respect than Mr. Evarts himself 
expressed for them; so he contradicted with freedom. Like most 
young men, he was much of a doctrinaire, and the question was, 
in any event, rather historical or political than legal. He could 
easily maintain, by way of argument, that the required power had 
never been given, and that no sound constitutional reason could 
possibly exist for authorizing the Government to overthrow the 
standard of value without necessity, in time of peace. The dis- 
pute itself had not much value for him, even as education, but it 
led to his seeking light from the Chief Justice himself. Following 
up the subject for his letters to the Nation and his articles in the 
North American Review, Adams grew to be intimate with the Chief 
Justice, who, as one of the oldest and strongest leaders of the Free 
Soil Party, had claims to his personal regard; for the old Free 
Soilers were becoming few. Like all strong-willed and self-assert- 
ing men, Mr. Chase had the faults of his qualities. He was never 
easy to drive in harness, or light in hand. He saw vividly what 
was wrong, and did not always allow for what was relatively right. 
He loved power as though he were still a Senator. His position 
towards Legal Tender was awkward. As Secretary of the Treas- 
ury he had been its author; as Chief Justice he became its enemy. 
Legal Tender caused no great pleasure or pain in the sum of life 
to a newspaper correspondent, but it served as a subject for let- 
ters, and the Chief Justice was very willing to win an ally in the 
press who would tell his story as he wished it to be read. The 
intimacy in Mr. Chase's house grew rapidly, and the alliance was 
no small help to the comforts of a struggling newspaper adven- 
turer in Washington. No matter what one might think of his 



THE PRESS 251 



politics or temper, Mr. Chase was a dramatic figure, of high 
senatorial rank, if also of certain senatorial faults; a valuable 
ally. 

As was sure, sooner or later, to happen, Adams one day met 
Charles Sumner on the street, and instantly stopped to greet him. 
As though eight years of broken ties were the natural course of 
friendship, Sumner at once, after an exclamation of surprise, 
dropped back into the relation of hero to the school boy. Adams 
enjoyed accepting it. He was then thirty years old and Sumner 
was fifty-seven; he had seen more of the world than Sumner 
ever dreamed of, and he felt a sort of amused curiosity to be 
treated once more as a child. At best, the renewal of broken rela- 
tions is a nervous matter, and in this case it bristled with thorns, 
for Sumner's quarrel with Mr. Adams had not been the most 
delicate of his ruptured relations, and he was liable to be sensitive 
in many ways that even Bostonians could hardly keep in con- 
stant mind; yet it interested and fascinated Henry Adams as a 
new study of political humanity. The younger man knew that 
the meeting would have to come, and was ready for it, if only as 
a newspaper need; but to Sumner it came as a surprise and a dis- 
agreeable one, as Adams conceived. He learned something 
a piece of practical education worth the effort by watching 
Sumner's behavior. He could see that many thoughts mostly 
unpleasant were passing through his mind, since he made no 
inquiry about any of Adams's family, or allusion to any of his 
friends or his residence abroad. He talked only of the present. 
To him, Adams in Washington should have seemed more or less 
of a critic, perhaps a spy, certainly an intriguer or adventurer 
like scores of others; a politician without party; a writer without 
principles; an office-seeker certain to beg for support. All this 
was, for his purposes, true. Adams could do him no good, and 
would be likely to do him all the harm in his power. Adams ac- 
cepted it all; expected to be kept at arm's length; admitted that 
the reasons were just. He was the more surprised to see that 



252 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Sumner invited a renewal of old relations. He found himself 
treated almost confidentially. Not only was he asked to make 
a fourth at Sumner's pleasant little dinners in the house on La 
Fayette Square, but he found himself admitted to the Senator's 
study and informed of his views, policy and purposes, which were 
sometimes even more astounding than his curious gaps or lapses 
of omniscience. 

On the whole, the relation was the queerest that Henry Adams 
ever kept up. He liked and admired Sumner, but thought his 
mind a pathological study. At times he inclined to think that 
Sumner felt his solitude, and, in the political wilderness, craved 
educated society; but this hardly told the whole story. Sumner's 
mind had reached^ the_ calm of water which receives and reflects 
images without ^absorbing them; it contained nothing but itself. 
TJie images from without, the objects mechanically perceived 
by the senses, existed by courtesy until the mental surface was 
ruffled, but never became part of the thought. Henry Adams 
roused no emotion; if he had roused a disagreeable one, he would 
have ceased to exist. The mind would have mechanically re- 
jected, as it had mechanically admitted him. Not that Sumner 
was more aggressively egoistic than other Senators Conkling, 
for instance but that with him the disease had affected the 
whole mind; it was chronic and absolute; while, with other Sena- 
tors for the most part, it was still acute. 

Perhaps for this very reason, Sumner was the more valuable 
acquaintance for a newspaper-man. Adams found him most use- 
ful; perhaps quite the most useful of all these great authori- 
ties who were the stock-in-trade of the newspaper business; the 
accumulated capital of a Silurian age. A few months or years 
more, and they were gone. In 1868, they were like the town it- 
self, changing but not changed. La Fayette Square was society. 
Within a few hundred yards of Mr. Clark Mills's nursery mon- 
ument to the equestrian seat of Andrew Jackson, one found 
all one's acquaintance as well as hotels, banks, markets and 



THE PRESS 253 



national government. Beyond the Square the country began. No 
rich or fashionable stranger had yet discovered the town. No 
literary or scientific man, no artist, no gentleman without office or 
employment, had ever lived there. It was rural, and its society 
was primitive. Scarcely a person in it had ever known life in a 
great city. Mr. Evarts, Mr. Sam Hooper, of Boston, and perhaps 
one or two of the diplomatists had alone mixed in that sort of 
world. The happy village was innocent of a club. The one-horse 
tram on F Street to the Capitol was ample for traffic. Every 
pleasant spring morning at the Pennsylvania Station, society met 
to bid good-bye to its friends going off on the single express. The 
State Department was lodged in an infant asylum far out on 
Fourteenth Street while Mr. Mullett was constructing his archi- 
tectural infant asylum next the White House. The value of real 
estate had not increased since 1800, and the pavements were more 
impassable than the mud. All this favored a young man who had 
come to make a name. In four-and-twenty hours he could know 

?XQd^b^n^^ .him. 

After seven years' arduous and unsuccessful effort to explore 
the outskirts of London society, the Washington world offered 
an easy and delightful repose. When he looked round him, from 
the safe shelter of Mr. Evarts's roof, on the men he was to work 
with or against he had to admit that nine-tenths of his ac- 
quired education was useless, and the other tenth harmful. He 
would have to begin again from the beginning. He must learn to 
talk to the Western Congressman, and to hide his own antece- 
dents. The task was amusing. He could see nothing to prevent him 
from enjoying it, with immoral unconcern for all that had gone 
before and for anything that might follow. The lobby offered a 
spectacle almost picturesque. Few figures on the Paris stage were 
more entertaining and dramatic than old Sam Ward, who knew 
more of life than all the departments of the Government together, 
including the Senate and the Smithsonian. Society had not much 
to give, but what it had, it gave with an open hand. For the mo- 



254 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ment, politics had ceased to disturb social relations. All parties 
were mixed up and jumbled together in a sort of tidal slack-water. 
The Government resembled Adams himself in the matter of edu- 
cation. All that had gone before was useless, and some of it was 
worse. 



CHAPTER XVII 

PRESIDENT GRANT (1869) 

THE first effect of this leap into the unknown was a fit of 
low spirits new to the young man's education; due in 
part to the overpowering beauty and sweetness of the 
Maryland autumn, almost unendurable for its strain on one who 
had toned his life down to the November grays and browns of 
northern Europe. Life could not go on so beautiful and so sad. 
Luckily, no one else felt it or knew it. He bore it as well as he 
could, and when he picked himself up, winter had come, and he 
was settled in bachelor's quarters, as modest as those of a clerk 
in the Departments, far out on G Street, towards Georgetown, 
where an old Finn named Dohna, who had come out with the 
Russian Minister Stoeckel long before, had bought or built a new 
house. Congress had met. Two or three months remained to the 
old administration, but all interest centred in the new one. The 
town began to swarm with office-seekers, among whom a young 
writer was lost. He drifted among them, unnoticed, glad to learn 
his work under cover of the confusion. He never aspired to be- 
come a regular reporter; he knew he should fail in trying a career 
so ambitious and energetic; but he picked up friends on the press 

Nordhoff, Murat Halstead, Henry Watterson, Sam Bowles 

all reformers, and all mixed and jumbled together in a tidal 
wave of expectation, waiting for General Grant to give orders. 
No one seemed to know much about it. Even Senators h^d nothing 
to say. One could only make notes and study finance. 

In waiting, he amused himself as he could. In the amusements 
of Washington, education had no part, but the simplicity of the 
amusements proved the simplicity of everything else, ambitions, 
interests, thoughts, and knowledge. Proverbially Washington 
was a poor place for education, and of course young diplomats 



256 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

avoided or disliked it, but, as a rule, diplomats disliked every 
place except Paris, and the world contained only one Paris. They 
abused London more violently than Washington; they praised 
no post under the sun; and they were merely describing three- 
fourths of their stations when they complained that there were no 
theatres, no restaurants, no monde, no demi-monde, no drives, no 
splendor, and, as Mme. de Struve used to say, no grandezza. This 
was all true; Washington was a mere political camp, as transient 
and temporary as a camp-meeting for religious revival, but the 
diplomats had least reason to complain, since they were more 
sought for there than they would ever be elsewhere. For young 
men Washington was in one way paradise, since they were few, 
and greatly in demand. After watching the abject unimportance 
of the young diplomat in London society, Adams found himself a 
young duke in Washington. He had ten years of youth to make 
up, and a ravenous appetite. Washington was the easiest society 
he had ever seen, and even the Bostonian became simple, good- 
natured, almost genial, in the softness of a Washington spring. 
Society went on excellently well without houses, or carriages, or 
jewels, or toilettes, or pavements, or shops, or grandezza of any 
sort; and the market was excellent as well as cheap. One could 
not stay there a month .without loving the shabby town. Even 
the Washington girl, who was neither rich nor well-dressed nor 
^ell-educated nor clever, had singular charm, and used it. Ac- 
:ording to Mr. Adams the father, this charm dated back as far 
is Monroe's administration, to his personal knowledge. 

Therefore, behind all the processes of political or financial or 
lewspaper training, the social side of Washington was to be taken 
: or granted as three-fourths of existence. Its details matter noth- 
ng. Life ceased to be strenuous, and the victim thanked God for 
t. Politics and reform became the detail, and waltzing the pro- 
ession. Adams was not alone. Senator Sumner had as private 
secretary a young man named Moorfield Storey, who became 
i dangerous example of frivolity. The new Attorney-General, 



PRESIDENT GRANT 257 

. R. Hoar, brought with him from Concord a son, Sam Hoar, 
vhose example rivalled that of Storey. Another impenitent was 
lamed Dewey, a young naval officer. Adams came far down in 
:he list. He wished he had been higher. He could have spared 
i world of superannuated history, science, or politics, to have 
eversed better in waltzing. 

He had no adequate notion how little he knew, especially of 
women, and Washington offered no standard of comparison. All 
were profoundly ignorant together, and as indifferent as children 
to education. No one needed knowledge. Washington was happier 
without style. Certainly Adams was happier without it; happier 
than he had ever been before; happier than any one in the harsh 
world of strenuousness could dream of. This must be taken as 
background for such little education as he gained; but the life 
belonged to the eighteenth century, and in no way concerned 
education for the twentieth. 

In such an atmosphere, one made no great pretence of hard 
work. If the world wants hard work, the world must pay for it; 
and, if it will not pay, it has no fault to find with the worker. Thus 
far, no one had made a suggestion of pay for any work that Adams 
had done or could do; if he worked at all, it was for social considera- 
tion, and social pleasure was his pay. For this he was willing to 
go on working, as an artist goes on painting when no one buys his 
pictures. Artists have done it from the beginning of time, and 
will do it after time has expired, since they cannot help themselves, 
and they find their return in the pride of their social superiority 
as they feel it. Society commonly abets them and encourages their 
attitude of contempt. The society of Washington was too simple 
and Southern as yet, to feel anarchistic longings, and it never read 
or saw what artists produced elsewhere, but it good-naturedly 
abetted them when it had the chance, and respected itself the more 
for the frailty. Adams found even the Government at his service, 
and every one willing to answer his questions. He worked, after 
a fashion; not very hard, but as much as the Government would 



258 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

have required of him for nine hundred dollars a year; and his work 
defied frivolity. He got more pleasure from writing than the world 
ever got from reading him, for his work was not amusing, nor was 
he. One must not try to amuse money-lenders or investors, and 
this was the class to which he began by appealing. He gave three 
months to an article on the finances of the United States, just then 
a subject greatly needing treatment; and when he had finished it, 
he sent it to London to his friend Henry Reeve, the ponderous 
editor of the Edinburgh Review. Reeve probably thought it good ; 
at all events, he said so; and he printed it in April. Of course it 
was reprinted in America, but in England such articles were still 
anonymous, and the author remained unknown. 

The author was not then asking for advertisement, and made 
no claim for credit. His object was literary. He wanted to win a 
place on the staff of the Edinburgh Review, under the vast shadow 
of Lord Macaulay; and, to a young American in 1868, such rank 
seemed colossal the highest in the literary world as it had 
been only five-and-twenty years before. Time and tide had 
flowed since then, but the position still flattered vanity, though 
it brought no other flattery or reward except the regular thirty 
pounds of pay fifty dollars a month, measured in time and labor. 

The Edinburgh article finished, he set himself to work on a 
scheme for the North American Review. In England, Lord Robert 
Cecil had invented for the London Quarterly an annual review of 
politics which he called the "Session." Adams stole the idea and 
the name he thought he had been enough in Lord Robert's 
house, in days of his struggle with adversity, to excuse the theft 
and began what he meant for a permanent series of annual political 
reviews which he hoped to make, in time, a political authority. 
With his sources of information, and his social intimacies at 
Washington, he could not help saying something that would com- 
mand attention. He had the field to himself, and he meant to 
give himself a free hand, as he went on. Whether the newspapers 
liked it or not, they would have to reckon with him; for such a 



PRESIDENT GRANT 



2 59 



power, once established, was more effective than all the speeches 
in Congress or reports to the President that could be crammed into 
the Government presses. 

The first of these "Sessions" appeared in April, but it could not 
be condensed into a single article, and had to be supplemented in 
October by another which bore the title of "Civil Service Reform," 
and was really a part of the same review. A good deal of authentic 
history slipped into these papers. Whether any one except his 
press associates ever read them, he never knew and never greatly 
cared. The difference is slight, to the influence of an author, 
whether he is read by five hundred readers, or by five hundred 
thousand; if he can select the five hundred, he reaches the five 
hundred thousand. The fateful year 1870 was near at hand, which 
was to mark the close of the literary epoch, when quarterlies gave 
way to monthlies ; letter-press to illustration; volumes to pages. The 
outburst was brilliant. Bret Harte led, and Robert Louis Steven- 
son followed. Guy de Maupassant and Rudyard Kipling brought 
up the rear, and dazzled the world. As usual, Adams found him- 
self fifty years behind his time, but a number of belated wanderers 
kept him company, and they produced on each other the effect or 
illusion of a public opinion. They straggled apart, at longer and 
longer intervals, through the procession, but they were still within 
hearing distance of each other. The drift was still superficially 
conservative. Just as the Church spoke with apparent authority, 
so the quarterlies laid down an apparent law, and no one could 
surely say where the real authority, or the real law, lay. Science 
did not know. Truths a 'priori held their own against truths 
purely relative. According to Lowell, Right was forever on the 
Scaffold, Wrong was forever on the Throne; and most people still 
thought they believed it. Adams was not the only relic of the 
eighteenth century, and he could still depend on a certain num- 
ber of listeners mostly respectable, and some rich. 

Want of audience did not trouble him; he was well enough off 
in that respect, and would have succeeded in all his calculations 



260 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

if this had been his only hazard. Where he broke down was at a 
point where he always suffered wreck and where nine adventurers 
out of ten make their errors. One may be more or less certain of 
organized forces; one can never be certain of men. He belonged 
to the eighteenth century, and the eighteenth century upset all his 
plans. For the moment, America was more eighteenth century 
than himself; it reverted to the stone age, 

As education of a certain sort the story had probably a 
certain value, though he could never see it. One seldom can see 
much education in the buck of a broncho; even less in the kick 
of a mule. The lesson it teaches is only that of getting out of the 
animal's way. This was the lesson that Henry Adams had learned 
over and over again in politics since 1860. 

At least four-fifths of the American people Adams among the 
rest had united in the election of General Grant to the Presi- 
dency, and probably had been more or less affected in their choice 
by the parallel they felt between Grant and Washington. Noth- 
ing could be more obvious. Grant represented order. He was a 
great soldier, and the soldier always represented order, He might 
be as partisan as he pleased, but a general who had organized and 
commanded half a million or a million men in the field, must know 
how to administer. Even Washington, who was, in education and 
experience, a mere cave-dweller, had known how to organize a 
government, and had found Jeffersons and Hamilton s to organize 
his departments. The task of bringing the Government back to 
regular practices, and of restoring moral and mechanical order to 
administration, was not very difficult; iLJ^asjeady to, dp it itself, 
with a little encouragement, No doubt the confusion, especially 
in the old slave States and in the currency, was considerable, but 
the general disposition was good, and every one had echoed the 
famous phrase: "Let us have peace." 

Adams was young and easily deceived, in spite of his diplomatic 
adventures, but even at twice his age he could not see that this 
reliance on Grant was unreasonable. Had Grant been a Con- 



PRESIDENT GRANT 261 

gressman one would have been on one's guard, for one knew the 
type. One never expected from a Congressman more than good 
intentions and public spirit. Newspaper-men as a rule had no great 
respect for the lower House; Senators had less; and Cabinet officers 
had none at all. Indeed, one day when Adams was pleading with 
a Cabinet officer for patience and tact in dealing with Represen- 
tatives, the Secretary impatiently broke out: "You can't use tact 
with a Congressman! A Congressman is a hog! You must take a 
stick and hit him on the snout!" Adams knew far too little, com- 
pared with the Secretary, to contradict him, though he thought the 
phrase somewhat harsh even as applied to the average Congress- 
man of 1869 he saw little or nothing of later ones but he 
knew a shorter way of silencing criticism. He had but to ask: "If 
a Congressman is a hog, what is a Senator?" This innocent ques- 
tion, put in a candid spirit, petrified any executive officer that 
ever sat a week in his office. Even Adams admitted that Senators 
passed belief. The comic side of their egotism partly disguised 
its extravagance, but faction had gone so far under Andrew 
Johnson that at times the whole Senate seemed to catch hysterics 
of nervous bucking without apparent reason. Great leaders, like 
Sumner and Conkling, could not be burlesqued; they were more 
grotesque than ridicule could make them; even Grant, who rarely 
sparkled in epigram, became witty on their account; but their 
egotism and factiousness were no laughing matter. They did 
permanent and terrible mischief, as Garfield and Elaine, and even 
McKinley and John Hay, were to feel. The most troublesome 
task of a reform President was that of bringing the Senate back 
to decency. 

Therefore no one, and Henry Adams less than most, felt hope 
that any President chosen from the ranks of politics or politicians 
would raise the character of government; and by instinct if not by 
reason, all the world united on Grant. The Senate understood 
what the world expected, and waited in silence for a struggle with 
Grant more serious than that with Andrew Johnson. Newspaper- 



262 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

men were alive with eagerness to support the President against the 
Senate. The newspaper-man is, more than most men, a double 
personality; and his person feels best satisfied in its double instincts 
when writing in one sense and thinking in another. All newspaper- 
men, whatever they wrote, felt alike about the Senate. Adams 
floated with the stream. He was eager to join in the fight which 
he foresaw as sooner or later inevitable. He meant to support the 
Executive in attacking the Senate and taking away its two- 
thirds vote and power of confirmation, nor did he much care how 
it should be done, for he thought it safer to effect the revolution 
in 1870 than to wait till 1920. 

With this thought in his mind, he went to the Capitol to hear 
the names announced which should reveal the carefully guarded 
secret of Grant's Cabinet. To the end of his life, he wondered 
at the suddenness of the revolution which actually, within five 
minutes, changed his intended future into an absurdity so laugh- 
able as to make him ashamed of it. He was to hear a long list of 
Cabinet announcements not much weaker or more futile than that 
of Grant, and none of them made him blush, while Grant's nomi- 
nations had the singular effect of making the hearer ashamed, 
not so much of Grant, as of himself. He had made another total 
misconception of life another inconceivable false start. Yet, 
unlikely as it seemed, he had missed his motive narrowly, and 
his intention had been more than sound, for the Senators made 
no secret of saying with senatorial frankness that Grant's nomi- 
nations betrayed his intent as plainly as they betrayed his incom- 
petence. A great soldier might be a baby politician. 

Adams left the Capitol, much in the same misty mental condi- 
tion that he recalled as marking his railway journey to London on 
May 13, 1861; he felt in himself what Gladstone bewailed so sadly, 
"the incapacity of viewing things all round." He knew, without 
absolutely saying it, that Grant had cut short the life which Adams 
had laid out for himself in the future. After such a miscarriage, no 
thought of effectual reform could revive for at least one generation, 



PRESIDENT GRANT 263 

and he had no fancy for ineffectual politics. What course could 
he sail next ? He had tried so many, and society had barred them 
all ! For the moment, he saw no hope but in following the stream 
on which he had launched himself. The new Cabinet, as individ- 
uals, were not hostile. Subsequently Grant made changes in the 
list which were mostly welcome to a Bostonian or should have 
been although fatal to Adams. The name of Hamilton Fish, 
as Secretary of State, suggested extreme conservatism and prob- 
able deference to Sumner. The name of George S. Boutwell, as 
Secretary of the Treasury, suggested only a somewhat lugubrious 
joke; Mr. Boutwell could be described only as the opposite of Mr. 
McCulloch, and meant inertia; or, in plain words, total extinction 
for any one resembling Henry Adams. On the other hand, the 
name of Jacob D. Cox, as Secretary of the Interior, suggested help 
and comfort; while that of Judge Hoar, as Attorney-General, 
promised friendship. On the whole, the personal outlook, merely 
for literary purposes, seemed fairly cheerful, and the political 
outlook, though hazy, still depended on Grant himself. No one 
doubted that Grant's intention had been one of reform; that his 
aim had been to place his administration above politics; and until 
he should actually drive his supporters away, one might hope to 
support him. One's little lantern must therefore be turned on 
Grant. One seemed to know him so well, and really knew so 
little. 

By chance it happened that Adam Badeau took the lower suite 
of rooms at Dohna's, and, as it was convenient to have one table, 
the two men dined together and became intimate. Badeau was 
exceedingly social, though not in appearance imposing. He was 
stout; his face was red, and his habits were regularly irregular; 
but he was very intelligent, a good newspaper-man, and an ex- 
cellent military historian. His life of Grant was no ordinary book. 
Unlike most newspaper-men, he was a friendly critic of Grant, as 
suited an officer who had been on the General's staff. As a rule, 
the newspaper correspondents in Washington were unfriendly, 



264 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

and the lobby sceptical. From that side one heard tales that made 
one's hair stand on end, and the old West Point army officers were 
no more flattering. All described him as vicious, narrow, dull, and 
vindictive. Badeau, who had come to Washington for a consulate 
which was slow to reach him, resorted more or less to whiskey for 
encouragement, and became irritable, besides being loquacious. 
He talked much about Grant, and showed a certain artistic feel- 
ing for analysis of character, as a true literary critic would nat- 
urally do. Loyal to Grant, and still more so to Mrs. Grant, who 
acted as his patroness, he said nothing, even when far gone, that 
was offensive about either, but he held that no one except himself 
and Rawlins understood the General. To him, Grant appeared 
as an intermittent energy, immensely powerful when awake, but 
passive and plastic in repose. He said that neither he nor the rest 
of the staff knew why Grant succeeded ; they believed in him be- 
cause of his success. For stretches of time, his mind seemed torpid. 
Rawlins and the others would systematically talk their ideas into 
it, for weeks, not directly, but by discussion among themselves, 
in his presence. In the end, he would announce the idea as his 
own, without seeming conscious of the discussion; and would give 
the orders to carry it out with all the energy that belonged to his 
nature. They could never measure his character or be sure when 
he would act. They could never follow a mental process in his 
thought. They were not sure that he did think. 

In all this, Adams took deep interest, for although he was not, 
like Badeau, waiting for Mrs. Grant's power of suggestion to act 
on the General's mind in order to germinate in a consulate or a 
legation, his portrait gallery of great men was becoming large, and 
it amused him to add an authentic likeness of the greatest gen- 
eral the world had seen since Napoleon. Badeau's analysis was 
rather delicate; infinitely superior to that of Sam Ward or Charles 
Nordhoff. 

Badeau took Adams to the White House one evening and in- 
troduced him to the President and Mrs. Grant. First and last, 



PRESIDENT GRANT 265 

he saw a dozen Presidents at the White House, and the most 
famous were by no means the most agreeable, but he found Grant 
the most curious object of study among them all. About no one 
did opinions differ so widely. Adams had no opinion, or occasion 
to make one. A single word with Grant satisfied him that, for his 
own good, the fewer words he risked, the better. Thus far in life 
he had met with but one man of the same intellectual or unin- 
tellectual type Garibaldi. Of the two, Garibaldi seemed to him 
a trifle the more intellectual, but, in both, the intellect counted 
for nothing; only the energy counted. The type was pre-in- 
tellectual, archaic, and would have seemed so even to the cave- 
dwellers. Adam, according to legend, was such a man. 

In time one came to recognize the type in other men, with 
differences and variations, as normal; men whose energies were 
the greater, the less they wasted on thought; men who sprang 
from the soil to power; apt to be distrustful of themselves and of 
others; shy; jealous; sometimes vindictive; more or less dull in 
outward appearance; always needing stimulants, -but for whom 
action was the highest stimulant the instinct of fight. Such 
men were forces of nature, energies of the prime, like the Pteraspis, 
but they made short work of scholars. They had commanded 
thousands of such and saw no more in them than in others. The 
fact was certain; it crushed argument and intellect at once. 

Adams did not feel Grant as a hostile force; like Badeau he saw 
only an uncertain one. When in action he was superb and safe to 
follow; only when torpid he was dangerous. To deal with him one 
must stand near, like Rawlins, and practice more or less sympa- 
thetic habits. Simple-minded beyond the experience of Wall 
Street or State Street, he resorted, like most men of the same in- 
tellectual calibre, to commonplaces when at a loss for expression: 
"Let us have peace!" or, "The best way to treat a bad law is to 
execute it"; or a score of such reversible sentences generally to 
be gauged by their sententiousness ; but sometimes he made one 
doubt his good faith; as when he seriously remarked to a partic- 



266 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ularly bright young woman that Venice would be a fine city if it 
were drained. In Mark Twain, this suggestion would have taken 
rank among his best witticisms; in Grant it was a measure of 
simplicity not singular. Robert E. Lee betrayed the same intel- 
lectual commonplace, in a Virginian form, not to the same degree, 
but quite distinctly enough for one who knew the American. 
What worried Adams was not the commonplace; it was, as usual, 
his own education. Grant fretted and irritated him, like the 
Terebratula, as a defiance of first principles. He had no right to 
exist. He should have been extinct for ages. The iclea that, as 
society grew older, it grew one-sided, upset evolution, and made 
of education a fraud. That, two thousand years after Alexander 
the Great and Julius Csesar, a man like Grant should be called 
and should actually and truly be the highest product of the 
most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous. One must 
be as commonplace as Grant's own commonplaces to maintain 
such an absurdity. The progress of evolution from President 
Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to 
upset Darwin. 

Education became more perplexing at every phase. No theory 
was worth the pen that wrote it. America had no use for Adams 
because he was eighteenth-century, and yet it worshipped Grant 
because he was archaic and should have lived in a cave and worn 
skins. Darwinists ought to conclude that America was reverting 
to the stone age, but the theory of reversion was more absurd 
than that of evolution. Grant's administration reverted to nothing. 
One could not catch a trait of the past, still less of the future. 
It was not even sensibly American. Not an official in it, except 
perhaps Rawlins whom Adams never met, and who died in Sep- 
tember, suggested an American idea. 

Yet this administration, which upset Adams's whole life, was 
not unfriendly; it was made up largely of friends. Secretary Fish 
was almost kind; he kept the tradition of New York social values; 
he was human and took no pleasure in giving pain. Adams felt 



PRESIDENT GRANT 267 

no prejudice whatever in his favor, and he had nothing in mind or 
person to attract regard; his social gifts were not remarkable; 
he was not in the least magnetic; he was far from young; but he 
won confidence from the start and remained a friend to the finish. 
As far as concerned Mr. Fish, one felt rather happily suited, and 
one was still better off in the Interior Department with J. D. 
Cox. Indeed, if Cox had been in the Treasury and Boutwell in 
the Interior, one would have been quite satisfied as far as personal 
relations went, while, in the Attorney-General's Office, Judge 
Hoar seemed to fill every possible ideal, both personal and polit- 
ical. 

The difficulty was not the want of friends, and had the whole 
government been filled with them, it would have helped little 
without the President and the Treasury. Grant avowed from the 
start a policy of drift; and a policy of drift attaches only barnacles. 
At thirty, one has no interest in becoming a barnacle, but even in 
that character Henry Adams would have been ill-seen. His friends 
were reformers, critics, doubtful in party allegiance, and he was 
himself an object of suspicion. Grant had no objects, wanted no 
help, wished for no champions. The Executive asked only to be 
let alone. This was his meaning when he said: "Let us have 
peace!" 

No one wanted to go into opposition. As for Adams, all his 
hopes of success in life turned on his finding an administration to 
support. He knew well enough the rules of self : interest. He was 
for sale. He wanted to be bought. His price was excessively cheap, 
for he did not even ask an office, and had his eye, not on the Gov- 
ernment, but on New York. All he wanted was something to sup- 
port; something that would let itself be supported. Luck went 
dead against him. For once, he was fifty years in advance of his 
time. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

FREE FIGHT (1869-1870) 

THE old New Englander was apt to be a solitary animal, 
but the young New Englander was sometimes human. 
Judge Hoar brought his son Sam to Washington, and Sam 
Hoar loved largely and well. He taught Adams the charm of Wash- 
ington spring. Education for education, none ever compared with 
the delight of this. The Potomac and its tributaries squandered 
beauty. Rock Creek was as wild as the Rocky Mountains. Here 
and there a negro log cabin alone disturbed the dogwood and the 
judas-tree, the azalea and the laurel. The tulip and the chestnut 
gave no sense of struggle against a stingy nature. The soft, full 
outlines of the landscape carried no hidden horror of glaciers in its 
bosom. The brooding heat of the profligate vegetation; the cool 
charm of the running water; the terrific splendor of the June 
thunder-gust in the deep and solitary woods, were all sensual, 
animal, elemental. No European spring had shown him the same 
intermixture of delicate grace and passionate depravity that 
marked the Maryland May. He loved it too much, as though it 
were Greek and half human. He could not leave it, but loitered 
on into July, falling into the Southern ways of the summer vil- 
lage about La Fayette Square, as one whose rights of inheritance 
could not be questioned. Few Americans were so poor as to ques- 
tion them. 

In spite of the fatal deception or undeception about 
Grant's political character, Adams's first winter in Washington 
had so much amused him that he had not a thought of change. 
He loved it too much to question its value. What did he know 
about its value, or what did any one know? His father knew 
more about it than any one else in Boston, and he was amused 
to find that his father, whose recollections went back to 1820, 



FREE FIGHT 269 



betrayed for Washington much the same sentimental weakness, 
and described the society about President Monroe much as his 
son felt the society about President Johnson. He feared its effect 
on young men, with some justice, since it had been fatal to two 
of his brothers; but he understood the charm, and he knew that 
a life in Quincy or Boston was not likely to deaden it. 

Henry was in a savage humor on the subject of Boston. He 
saw Boutwells at every counter. He found a personal grief in 
every tree. Fifteen or twenty years afterwards, Clarence King 
used to amuse him by mourning over the narrow escape that 
nature had made in attaining perfection. Except for two mistakes, 
the earth would have been a success. One of these errors was the 
indmztiQn of the ecliptic; the other was the differentiation of 
the _sexes, and the saddest thought about the last was that it 
should have been so modern. Adams, in his splenetic temper, 
held that both these unnecessary evils had wreaked their worst 
on Boston. The climate made eternal war on society, and sex was 
a species of crime. The ecliptic had inclined itself beyond recovery 
till life was as thin as the elm trees. Of course he was in the wrong. 
The thinness was in himself, not in Boston; but this is a story of 
education, and Adams was struggling to shape himself to his 
time. Boston was trying to do the same thing. Everywhere, ex- 
cept in Washington, Americans were toiling for the same object. 
Every one complained of surroundings, except where, as at Wash- 
ington, there were no surroundings to complain of. Boston kept 
its head better than its neighbors did, and very little time was 
needed to prove it, even to Adams's confusion. 

Before he got back to Quincy, the summer was already half 
over, and in another six weeks the effects of President Grant's 
character showed themselves. They were startling astounding 
terrifying. The mystery that shrouded the famous, classical 
attempt of Jay Gould to corner gold in September, 1869, has 
never been cleared up at least so far as to make it intelligible 
to Adams. Gould was led, by the change at Washington, into 



270 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

the belief that he could safely corner gold without interference 
from the Government. He took a number of precautions, which 
he admitted; and he spent a large sum of money, as he also testi- 
fied, to obtain assurances which were not sufficient to have satis- 
fied so astute a gambler; yet he made the venture. Any criminal 
lawyer must have begun investigation by insisting, rigorously, 
that no such man, in such a position, could be permitted to plead 
that he had taken, and pursued, such a course, without assurances 
which did satisfy him. The plea was professionally inadmissible. 

This meant that any criminal lawyer would have been bound 
to start an investigation by insisting that Gould had assurances 
from the White House or the Treasury, since none other could 
have satisfied him. To young men wasting their summer at 
Quincy for want of some one to hire their services at three dollars 
a day, such a dramatic scandal was Heaven-sent. Charles and 
Henry Adams jumped at it like salmon at a fly, with as much 
voracity as Jay Gould, or his time damnee Jim Fisk, had ever 
shown for Erie; and with as little fear of consequences. They 
risked something; no one could say what; but the people about 
the Erie office were not regarded as lambs. 

The unravelling a skein so tangled as that of the Erie Railway 
was a task that might have given months of labor to the most 
efficient District Attorney, with all his official tools to work with. 
Charles took the railway history; Henry took the so-called Gold 
Conspiracy; and they went to New York to work it up. The sur- 
face was in full view. They had no trouble in Wall Street, and they 
paid their respects in person to the famous Jim Fisk in his Opera- 
House Palace; but the New York side of the story helped Henry 
little. He needed to penetrate the political mystery, and for this 
purpose he had to wait for Congress to meet. At first he feared 
that Congress would suppress the scandal, but the Congressional 
Investigation was ordered and took place. He soon knew all that 
was to be known; the material for his essay was furnished by the 
Government. 



FREE FIGHT 271 



Material furnished by a government seldom satisfies critics or 
historians, for it lies always under suspicion. Here was a mys- 
tery, and as usual, the chief mystery was the means of making 
sure that any mystery existed. All Adams's great friends 
Fish, Cox, Hoar, Evarts, Sumner, and their surroundings were 
precisely the persons most mystified. They knew less than Adams 
did; they sought information, and frankly admitted that their 
relations with the White House and the Treasury were not con- 
fidential. No one volunteered advice. No one offered suggestion. 
One got no light, even from the press, although press agents ex- 
pressed in private the most damning convictions with their usual 
cynical frankness. The Congressional Committee took a quan- 
tity of evidence which it dared not probe, and refused to analyze. 
Although the fault lay somewhere on the Administration, and 
could lie nowhere else, the trail always faded and died out at the 
point where any member of the Administration became visible. 
Every one dreaded to press inquiry. Adams himself feared find- 
ing out too much. He found out too much already, when he saw 
in evidence that Jay Gould had actually succeeded in stretching 
his net over Grant's closest surroundings, and that Boutwell's 
incompetence was the bottom of Gould's calculation. With the 
conventional air of assumed confidence, every one in public as- 
sured every one else that the President himself was the savior of 
the situation, and in private assured each other that if the Presi- 
dent had not been caught this time, he was sure to be trapped the 
next, for the ways of Wall Street were dark and double. All this 
was wildly exciting to Adams. That Grant should have fallen, 
within six months, into such a morass or should have let 
Boutwell drop him into it rendered the outlook for the next 
four years probably eight possibly twelve mysterious, or 
frankly opaque, to a young man who had hitched his wagon, as 
Emerson told him, to the star of reform. The country might 
outlive it, but not he. The worst scandals of the eighteenth cen- 
tury were relatively harmless by the side of this, which smirched 



272 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

executive, judiciary, banks, corporate systems, professions, and 
people, all the great active forces of society, in one dirty cesspool 
of vulgar corruption. Only six months before, this innocent young 
man, fresh from the cynicism of European diplomacy, had ex- 
pected to enter an honorable career in the press as the champion 
and confidant of a new Washington, and already he foresaw a life 
of wasted energy, sweeping the stables of American society clean 
of the endless corruption which his second Washington was quite 
certain to breed. 

By vigorously shutting one's eyes, as though one were an As- 
sistant Secretary, a writer for the press might ignore the Erie 
scandal, and still help his friends or allies in the Government who 
were doing their best to give it an air of decency; but a few weeks 
showed that the Erie scandal was a mere incident, a rather vulgar 
Wall Street trap, into which, according to one's point of view, 
Grant had been drawn by Jay Gould, or Jay Gould had been mis- 
led by Grant. One could hardly doubt that both of them were 
astonished and disgusted by the result; but neither Jay Gould 
nor any other astute American mind still less the complex 
Jew could ever have accustomed itself to the incredible and 
inexplicable lapses of Grant's intelligence; and perhaps, on the 
whole, Gould was the less mischievous victim, if victims they both 
were. The same laxity that led Gould into a trap which might 
easily have become the penitentiary, led the United States Sen- 
ate, the Executive departments and the Judiciary into confu- 
sion, cross-purposes, and ill-temper that would have been scanda- 
lous in a- boarding-school of girls. For satirists or comedians, the 
study was rich and endless, and they exploited its corners with 
happy results, but a young man fresh from the rustic simplicity 
of London noticed with horror that the grossest satires on the 
American Senator and politician never failed to excite the laughter 
and applause of every audience. Rich and poor joined in throw- 
ing contempt on their own representatives. Society laughed a 
vacant and meaningless derision over its own failure. Nothing 



FREE FIGHT 273 



remained for a young man without position or power except to 
laugh too. 

Yet the spectacle was no laughing matter to him, whatever it 
might be to the public. Society is immoral and immortal; it can 
afford to commit any kind of folly, and indulge in any sort of vice; 
it cannot be killed, and the fragments that survive can always 
laugh at the dead; but a young man has only one chance, and brief 
time to seize it. Any one in power above him can extinguish the 
chance. He is horribly at the mercy of fools and cowards. One 
dull administration can rapidly drive out every active subordi- 
nate. At Washington, in 1869-70, every intelligent man about th 
Government prepared to go. The people would have liked to go 
too, for they stood .helpless before the chaos ; some laughed and 
some raved; all were disgusted ; but they had to content themselves 
By turning their backs and going to work harder than ever on 
their railroads and foundries. They were strong enough to carry 
even their politics. Only the helpless remained stranded in Wash- 
ington. 

The shrewdest statesman of all was Mr. Boutwell, who showed 
how he understood the situation by turning out of the Treasury 
every one who could interfere with his repose, and then locking 
himself up in it, alone. What he did there, no one knew. His col- 
leagues asked him in vain. Not a word could they get from him, 
either in the Cabinet or out of it, of suggestion or information on 
matters even of vital interest. The Treasury as an active influence 
ceased to exist. Mr. Boutwell waited with confidence for society 
to drag his department out of the mire, as it was sure to do if he 
waited long enough. 

Warned by his friends in the Cabinet as well as in the Treasury 
that Mr. Boutwell meant to invite no support, and cared to re- 
ceive none, Adams had only the State and Interior Departments 
left to serve. He wanted no better than to serve them. Opposition 
was his horror; pure waste of energy; a union with Northern 
Democrats and Southern rebels who never had much in common 



274 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

with any Adams, and had never shown any warm interest about 
them except to drive them from public life. If Mr. Boutwell 
turned him out of the Treasury with the indifference or contempt 
that made even a beetle helpless, Mr. Fish opened the State 
Department freely, and seemed to talk with as much openness 
as any newspaper-man could ask. At all events, Adams could 
cling to this last plank of salvation, and make himself perhaps the 
recognized champion of Mr. Fish in the New York press. He 
never once thought of his disaster between Seward and Sumner 
in 1861. Such an accident could not occur again. Fish and Sum- 
ner were inseparable, and their policy was sure to be safe enough 
for support. No mosquito could be so unlucky as to be caught 
a second time between a Secretary and a Senator who were both 
his friends. 

This dream of security lasted hardly longer than that of 1861. 
Adams saw Sumner take possession of the Department, and he 
approved; he saw Sumner seize the British mission for Motley, 
and he was delighted; but when he renewed his relations with 
Sumner in the winter of 1869-70, he began slowly to grasp the 
idea that Sumner had a foreign policy of his own which he pro- 
posed also to force on the Department. This was not all. Secre- 
tary Fish seemed to have vanished. Besides the Department of 
State over which he nominally presided in the Infant Asylum 
on Fourteenth Street, there had risen a Department of Foreign 
Relations over which Senator Sumner ruled with a high hand at 
the Capitol; and, finally, one clearly made out a third Foreign 
Office in the War Department, with President Grant himself 
for chief, pressing a policy of extension in the West Indies which 
no Northeastern man ever approved. For his life, Adams could 
not learn where to place himself among all these forces. Offi- 
cially he would have followed the responsible Secretary of State, 
but he could not find the Secretary. Fish seemed to be friendly 
towards Sumner, and docile towards Grant, but he asserted as 
yet no policy of his own. As for Grant's policy, Adams never had 



FREE FIGHT 275 



a chance to know fully what it was, but, as far as he did know, 
he was ready to give it ardent support. The difficulty came only 
when he heard Sumner's views, which, as he had reason to know, 
were always commands, to be disregarded only by traitors. 

Little by little, Sumner unfolded his foreign policy, and Adams 
gasped with fresh astonishment at every new article of the creed. 
To his profound regret he heard Sumner begin by imposing his 
veto on all extension within the tropics; which cost the island 
of St. Thomas to the United States, besides the Bay of Samana 
as an alternative, and ruined Grant's policy. Then he listened 
with incredulous stupor while Sumner unfolded his plan for con- 
centrating and pressing every possible American claim against 
England, with a view of compelling the cession of Canada to the 
United States. 

Adams did not then know in fact, he never knew, or could 
find any one to tell him what was going on behind the doors 
of the White House. He doubted whether Mr. Fish or Bancroft 
Davis knew much more than he. The game of cross-purposes 
was as impenetrable in Foreign Affairs as in the Gold Conspiracy. 
President Grant let every one go on, but whom he supported, 
Adams could not be expected to divine. One point alone seemed 
clear to a man no longer so very young who had lately come 
from a seven years' residence in London. He thought he knew as 
much as any one in Washington about England, and he listened 
with the more perplexity to Mr. Sumner's talk, because it opened 
the gravest doubts of Sumner's sanity. If war was his object, 
and Canada were worth it, Sumner's scheme showed genius, and 
Adams was ready to treat it seriously; but if he thought he could 
obtain Canada from England as a voluntary set-off to the Ala- 
bama Claims, he drivelled. On the point of fact, Adams was as 
peremptory as Sumner on the point of policy, but he could only 
wonder whether Mr. Fish would dare say it. When at last Mr. 
Fish did say it, a year later, Sumner publicly cut his acquaint- 
ance. 



276 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Adams was the more puzzled because he could not believe Sum- 
ner so mad as to quarrel both with Fish and with Grant. A quar- 
rel with Seward and Andrew Johnson was bad enough, and had 
profited no one; but a quarrel with General Grant was lunacy. 
Grant might be whatever one liked, as far as morals or temper or 
intellect were concerned, but he was not a man whom a light- 
weight cared to challenge for a fight; and Sumner, whether he 
knew it or not, was a very light weight in the Republican Party, 
if separated from his Committee of Foreign Relations. As a party 
manager he had not the weight of half-a-dozen men whose very 
names were unknown to him. 

Between these great forces, where was the Administration and 
how was one to support it? One must first find it, and even then 
it was not easily caught. Grant's simplicity was more disconcert- 
ing than the complexity of a Talleyrand. Mr. Fish afterwards 
told Adams, with the rather grim humor he sometimes indulged 
in, that Grant took a dislike to Motley because he parted his hair 
in the middle. Adams repeated the story to Godkin, who made 
much play with it in the Nation^ till it was denied. Adams saw 
no reason why it should be denied. Grant had as good a right to 
dislike the hair as the head, if the hair seemed to him a part of it. 
Very shrewd men have formed very sound judgments on less 
material than hair on clothes, for example, according to Mr. 
Carlyle, or on a pen, according to Cardinal de Retz and nine 
men in ten could hardly give as good a reason as hair for their 
likes or dislikes. In truth, Grant disliked Motley at sight, because 
they had nothing in common; and for the same reason he disliked 
Sumner. For the same reason he would be sure to dislike Adams 
if Adams gave him a chance. Even Fish could not be quite sure 
of Grant, except for the powerful effect which wealth had, or 
appeared to have, on Grant's imagination. 

The quarrel that lowered over the State Department did not 
break in storm till July, 1870, after Adams had vanished, but 
another quarrel, almost as fatal to Adams as that between Fish 



FREE FIGHT 277 



and Sumner, worried him even more. Of all members of the Cab- 
inet, the one whom he had most personal interest in cultivating 
was Attorney-General Hoar. The Legal Tender decision, which 
had been the first stumbling-block to Adams at Washington, 
grew in interest till it threatened to become something more seri- 
ous than a block; it fell on one's head like a plaster ceiling, and 
could not be escaped. The impending battle between Fish and 
Sumner was nothing like so serious as the outbreak between 
Hoar and Chief Justice Chase. Adams had come to Washington 
hoping to support the Executive in a policy of breaking down the 
Senate, but he never dreamed that he would be required to help 
in breaking down the Supreme Court. Although, step by step, 
he had been driven, like the rest of the world, to admit that 
American society had outgrown most of its institutions, he still 
clung to the Supreme Court, much as a churchman clings to his 
bishops, because they are his only symbol of unity; his last rag of 
Right. Between the Executive and the Legislature, citizens could 
have no Rights; they were at the mercy of Power. They had 
created the Court to protect them from unlimited Power, and it 
was little enough protection at best. Adams wanted to save the 
independence of the Court at least for his lifetime, and could not 
conceive that the Executive should wish to overthrow it. 

Frank Walker shared this feeling, and, by way of helping the 
Court, he had promised Adams for the North American Review 
an article on the history of the Legal Tender Act, founded on a 
volume just then published by Spaulding, the putative father of 
the legal-tender clause in 1861. Secretary Jacob D. Cox, who 
alone sympathized with reform, saved from BoutwelFs decree of 
banishment such reformers as he could find place for, and he saved 
Walker for a time by giving him the Census of 1870. Walker was 
obliged to abandon his article for the North American in order 
to devote himself to the Census. He gave Adams his notes, and 
Adams completed the article. 

He had not toiled in vain over the Bank of England Restric- 



278 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

tion. He knew enough about Legal Tender to leave it alone. If the 
banks and bankers wanted fiat money, fiat money was good enough 
for a newspaper-man; and if they changed about and wanted 
"intrinsic" value, gold and silver came equally welcome to a 
writer who was paid half the wages of an ordinary mechanic. 
He had no notion of attacking or defending Legal Tender; his 
object was to defend the Chief Justice and the Court. Walker 
argued that, whatever might afterwards have been the necessity 
for legal tender, there was no necessity for it at the time the Act 
was passed. With the help of the Chief Justice's recollections, 
Adams completed the article, which appeared in the April number 
of the North American. Its ferocity was Walker's, for Adams never 
cared to abandon the knife for the hatchet, but Walker reeked of 
the army and the Springfield Republican^ and his energy ran away 
with Adams's restraint. The unfortunate Spaulding complained 
loudly of this treatment, not without justice, but the article itself 
had serious historical value, for Walker demolished every shred 
of Spaulding's contention that legal tender was necessary at the 
time; and the Chief Justice told his part of the story with convic- 
tion. The Chief Justice seemed to be pleased. The Attorney- 
General, pleased or not, made no sign. The article had enough 
historical interest to induce Adams to reprint it in a volume of 
Essays twenty years afterwards; but its historical value was not 
its point in education. The point was that, in spite of the best 
intentions, the plainest self-interest, and the strongest wish to 
escape further trouble, the article threw Adams into opposition. 
Judge Hoar, like Boutwell, was implacable. 

Hoar went on to demolish the Chief Justice; while Henry 
Adams went on, drifting further and further from the Adminis- 
tration. He did this in common with all the world, including 
Hoar himself. Scarcely a newspaper in the country kept discipline. 
The New York Tribune was one of the most criminal. Dissolution 
of ties in every direction marked the dissolution of temper, and 
the Senate Chamber became again a scene of irritated egotism 



FREE FIGHT 279 



that passed ridicule. Senators quarrelled with each other, and no 
one objected, but they picked quarrels also with the Executive 
and threw every Department into confusion. Among others they 
quarrelled with Hoar, and drove him from office. 

That Sumner and Hoar, the two New Englanders in great posi- 
tion who happened to be the two persons most necessary for his 
success at Washington, should be the first victims of Grant's lax 
rule, must have had some meaning for Adams's education, if 
Adams could only have understood what it was. He studied, but 
failed. Sympathy with him was not their weakness. Directly, 
in the form of help, he knew he could hope as little from them as 
from Boutwell. So far from inviting attachment they, like other 
New Englanders, blushed to own a friend. Not one of the whole 
delegation would ever, of his own accord, try to help Adams or any 
other young man who did not beg for it, although they would 
always accept whatever services they had not to pay for. The 
lesson of education was not there. The selfishness of politics was 
the earliest of all political education, and Adams had nothing to 
learn from its study; but the situation struck him as curious 
so curious that he devoted years to reflecting upon it. His four 
most powerful friends had matched themselves, two and two, and 
were fighting in pairs to a finish; Sumner-Fish; Chase-Hoar; with 
foreign affairs and the judiciary as prizes! What value had the 
fight in education ? 

Adams was puzzled, and was not the only puzzled bystander. 
The stage-type of statesman was amusing, whether as Roscoe 
Conkling or Colonel Mulberry Sellers, but what was his value? 
The statesmen of the old type, whether Sumners or Conklings or 
Hoars or Lamars, were personally as honest as human nature could 
produce. They trod with lofty contempt on other people's jobs, 
especially when there was good in them. Yet the public thought 
that Sumner and Conkling cost the country a hundred times more 
than all the jobs they ever trod on; just as Lamar and the old 
Southern statesmen, who were also honest in money-matters, cost 



280 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

the country a civil war. This painful moral doubt worried Adams 
less than it worried his friends and the public, but it affected the 
whole field of politics for twenty years. The newspapers discussed 
little else than the alleged moral laxity of Grant, Garfield, and 
Elaine. If the press were taken seriously, politics turned on jobs, 
and some of Adams's best friends, like Godkin, ruined their influ- 
ence by their insistence on points of morals. Society hesitated, 
wavered, oscillated between harshness and laxity, pitilessly sacri- 
ficing the weak, and deferentially following the strong. In spite 
of all such criticism, the public nominated Grant, Garfield, and 
Elaine for the Presidency, and voted for them afterwards, not 
seeming to care for the question; until young men were forced to 
see that either some new standard must be created, or none could 
be upheld. The moral law had expired like the Constitution. 

Grant's administration outraged every rule of ordinary decency, 
but scores of promising men, whom the country could not well 
spare, were ruined in saying so. The world cared little for decency. 
What it wanted, it did not know; probably a system that would 
work, and men who could work it; but it found neither. Adams 
had tried his own little hands on it, and had failed. His friends 
had been driven out of Washington or had taken to fisticuffs. 
He himself sat down and stared helplessly into the future. 

The result was a review of the Session for the July North Ameri- 
can into which he crammed and condensed everything he thought 
he had observed and all he had been told. He thought it good 
history then, and he thought it better twenty years afterwards; 
he thought it even good enough to reprint. As it happened, in 
the process of his devious education, this "Session" of 1869-70 
proved to be his last study in current politics, and his last dying 
testament as a humble member of the press. As such, he stood by 
it. He could have said no more, had he gone on reviewing every 
session in the rest of the century. The political dilemma was 
as clear in 1870 as it was likely to be in 1970. The system of 1789 
had broken down, and with it the eighteenth-century fabric of 



FREE FIGHT 281 



a priori, or moral, principles. Politicians had tacitly given it up. 
Grant's administration marked the avowal. Nine-tenths of men's 
political energies must henceforth be wasted on expedients to piece 
out to patch or, in vulgar language, to tinker the political 
machine as often as it broke down. Such a system, or want of 
system, might last centuries, if tempered by an occasional revolu- 
tion or civil war; but as a machine, it was, or soon would be, the 
poorest in the world the clumsiest the most inefficient. 

Here again was an education, but what it was worth he could not 
guess. Indeed, when he raised his eyes to the loftiest and most 
triumphant results of politics to Mr. Boutwell, Mr. Conkling 
or even Mr. Sumner he could not honestly say that such an 
education, even when it carried one up to these unattainable 
heights, was worth anything. There were men, as yet standing 
on lower levels clever and amusing men like Garfield and 
Elaine who took no little pleasure in making fun of the sena- 
torial demi-gods, and who used language about Grant himself 
which the North American Review would not have admitted. One 
asked doubtfully what was likely to become of these men in their 
turn. What kind of political ambition was to result from this 
destructive political education? 

Yet the sum of political life was, or should have been, the attain- 
ment of a working political system. Society needed to reach it. If 
moral standards broke down, and machinery stopped working, 
new morals and machinery of some sort had to be invented. An 
eternity of Grants, or even of Garfields or of Conklings or of Jay 
Goulds, refused to be conceived as possible. Practical Americans 
laughed, and went their way. Society paid them to be practical. 
Whenever society cared to pay Adams, he too would be practical, 
take his pay, and hold his tongue; but meanwhile he was driven 
to associate with Democratic Congressmen and educate them. 
He served David Wells as an active assistant professor of revenue 
reform, and turned his rooms into a college. The Administration 
drove him, and thousands of other young men, into active enmity, 



282 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

not only to Grant, but to the system or want of system, which 
took possession of the President. Every hope or thought which 
had brought Adams to Washington proved to be absurd. No 
one wanted him; no one wanted any of his friends in reform; the 
blackmailer alone was the normal product of politics as of business. 

All this was excessively amusing. Adams never had been so 
busy, so interested, so much in the thick of the crowd. He knew 
Congressmen by scores and newspaper-men by the dozen. He 
wrote for his various organs all sorts of attacks and defences. 
He enjoyed the life enormously, and found himself as happy as 
Sam Ward or Sunset Cox; much happier than his friends Fish 
or J. D. Cox, or Chief Justice Chase or Attorney-General Hoar 
or Charles Sumner. When spring came, he took to the woods, 
which were best of all, for after the first of April, what Maurice de 
Guerin called "the vast maternity" of nature showed charms more 
voluptuous than the vast paternity of the United States Senate. 
Senators were less ornamental than the dogwood or even the 
judas-tree. They were, as a rule, less good company. Adams 
astonished himself by remarking what a purified charm was lent 
to the Capitol by the greatest possible distance, as one caught 
glimpses of the dome over miles of forest foliage. At such moments 
he pondered on the distant beauty of St. Peter's and the steps 
of Ara Cceli. 

Yet he shortened his spring, for he needed to get back to London 
for the season. He had finished his New York "Gold Conspir- 
acy," which he meant for his friend Henry Reeve and the Edinburgh 
Review. It was the best piece of work he had done, but this was 
not his reason for publishing it in England. The Erie scandal had 
provoked a sort of revolt among respectable New Yorkers, as well 
as among some who were not so respectable; and the attack on 
Erie was beginning to promise success. London was a sensitive 
spot for the Erie management, and it was thought well to strike 
them there, where they were socially and financially exposed. 
The tactics suited him in another way, for any expression about 



FREE FIGHT 283 



America in an English review attracted ten times the attention 
in America that the same article would attract in the North 
American. Habitually the American dailies reprinted such articles 
in full. Adams wanted to escape the terrors of copyright; his high- 
est ambition was to be pirated and advertised free of charge, since, 
in any case, his pay was nothing. Under the excitement of chase, 
he was becoming a pirate himself, and liked it. 



CHAPTER XIX 

CHAOS (1870) 

ONE fine May afternoon in 1870 Adams drove again up St. 
James's Street wondering more than ever at the marvels 
of life. Nine years had passed since the historic entrance 
of May, 1861. Outwardly London was the same. Outwardly 
Europe showed no great change. Palmerston and Russell were for- 
gotten; but Disraeli and Gladstone were still much alive. One's 
friends were more than ever prominent. John Bright was in the 
Cabinet; W. E. Forster was about to enter it; reform ran riot. 
Never had the sun of progress shone so fair. Evolution from lower 
to higher raged like an epidemic. Darwin was the greatest of proph- 
ets in the most evolutionary of worlds. Gladstone had over- 
thrown the Irish Church; was overthrowing the Irish landlords; 
was trying to pass an Education Act. Improvement, prosperity, 
power, were leaping and bounding over every country road. 
Even America, with her Erie scandals and Alabama Claims, hardly 
made a discordant note. 

At the Legation, Motley ruled; the long Adams reign was for- 
gotten; the rebellion had passed into history. In society no one 
cared to recall the years before the Prince of Wales. The smart 
set had come to their own. Half the houses that Adams had 
frequented, from 1861 to 1865, were closed or closing in 1870. 
Death had ravaged one's circle of friends. Mrs. Milnes Gaskell 
and her sister Miss Charlotte Wynn were both dead, and Mr. 
James Milnes Gaskell was no longer in Parliament. That field 
of education seemed closed too. 

One found one's self in a singular frame of mind more eight- 
eenth-century than ever almost rococo and unable to catch 
anywhere the cog-wheels of evolution. Experience ceased to 
educate. London taught less freely than of old. That one bad 



CHAOS 285 

style was leading to another that the older men were more 
amusing than the younger that Lord Hough ton's breakfast- 
table showed gaps hard to fill that there were fewer men one 
wanted to meet these, and a hundred more such remarks, helped 
little towards a quicker and more intelligent activity. For English 
reforms, Adams cared nothing. The reforms were themselves 
mediaeval. The Education Bill of his friend W. E. Forster seemed 
to him a guaranty against all education he had use for. He re- 
sented change. He would have kept the Pope in the Vatican and 
the Queen at Windsor Castle as historical monuments. He did 
not care to Americanize Europe. The Bastille or the Ghetto was 
a curiosity worth a great deal of money, if preserved ; and so was 
a Bishop; so was Napoleon III. The tourist was the great con- 
servative who hated novelty and adored dirt. Adams came back 
to London without a thought of revolution or restlessness or re- 
form. He wanted amusement, quiet, and gaiety. 

Had he not been born in 1838 under the shadow of Boston State 
House, and been brought up in the Early Victorian epoch, he would 
have cast off his old skin, and made his court to Maryborough 
House, in partnership with the American woman and the Jew 
banker. Common-sense dictated it; but Adams and his friends were 
unfashionable by some law of Anglo-Saxon custom some innate 
atrophy of mind. Figuring himself as already a man of action, 
and rather far up towards the front, he had no idea of making 
a new effort or catching up with a new world. He saw nothing 
ahead of him. The world was never more calm. He wanted to 
talk with Ministers about the Alabama Claims, because he looked 
on the Claims as his own special creation, discussed between him 
and his father long before they had been discussed by Govern- 
ment; he wanted to make notes for his next year's articles; but he 
had not a thought that, within three months, his world was to 
be upset, and he under it. Frank Palgrave came one day, more 
contentious, contemptuous, and paradoxical than ever, because 
Napoleon III seemed to be threatening war with Germany. Pal- 



286 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

grave said that " Germany would beat France into scraps" if there 
was war. Adams thought not. The chances were always against 
catastrophes. No one else expected great changes in Europe. Pal- 
grave was always extreme; his language was incautious violent! 

In this year of all years, Adams lost sight of education. Things 
began smoothly, and London glowed with the pleasant sense of 
familiarity and dinners. He sniffed with voluptuous delight the 
coal-smoke of Cheapside and revelled in the architecture of Ox- 
ford Street. May Fair never shone so fair to Arthur Pendennis as 
it did to the returned American. The country never smiled its vel- 
vet smile of trained and easy hostess as it did when he was so lucky 
as to be asked on a country visit. He loved it all everything 
had always loved it! He felt almost attached to the Royal Ex- 
change. He thought he owned the St. James's Club. He patronized 
the Legation. 

The first shock came lightly, as though Nature were playing 
tricks on her spoiled child, though she had thus far not exerted 
herself to spoil him. Reeve refused the Gold Conspiracy. Adams 
had become used to the idea that he was free of the Quarterlies, 
and that his writing would be printed of course; but he was stunned 
by the reason of refusal. Reeve said it would bring half-a-dozen 
libel suits on him. One knew that the power of Erie was almost as 
great in England as in America, but one was hardly prepared to 
find it controlling the Quarterlies. The English press professed to 
be shocked in 1870 by the Erie scandal, as it had professed in 
1860 to be shocked by the scandal of slavery, but when invited 
to support those who were trying to abate these scandals, the 
English press said it was afraid. To Adams, Reeve's refusal seemed 
portentous. He and his brother and the North American Review 
were running greater risks every day, and no one thought of fear. 
That a notorious story, taken bodily from an official document, 
should scare the Edinburgh Review into silence for fear of Jay Gould 
and Jim Fisk, passed even Adams's experience of English eccen- 
tricity, though it was large. 



CHAOS 287 

He gladly set down Reeve's refusal of the Gold Conspiracy to 
respectability and editorial law, but when he sent the manuscript 
on to the Quarterly, the editor of the Quarterly also refused it. 
The literary standard of the two Quarterlies was not so high as to 
suggest that the article was illiterate beyond the power of an 
active and willing editor to redeem it. Adams had no choice but 
to realize that he had to deal in 1870 with the same old English 
character of 1860, and the same inability in himself to under- 
stand it. As usual, when an ally was needed, the American was 
driven into the arms of the radicals. Respectability, everywhere 
and always, turned its back the moment one asked to do it a 
favor. Called suddenly away from England, he despatched the 
article, at the last moment, to the Westminster Review and heard 
no more about it for nearly six months. 

He had been some weeks in London when he received a telegram 
from his brother-in-law at the Bagni di Lucca telling him that his 
sister had been thrown from a cab and injured, and that he had 
better come on. He started that night, and reached the Bagni di 
Lucca on the second day. Tetanus had already set in. 

The last lesson the sum and term of education began 
then. He had passed through thirty years of rather varied experi- 
ence without having once felt the shell of custom broken. He had 
never seen Nature only her surface the sugar-coating that 
she shows to youth. Flung suddenly in his face, with the harsh bru- 
tality of chance, the terror of the blow stayed by him thenceforth 
for life, until repetition made it more than the will could struggle 
with; more than he could call on himself to bear. He found his 
sister, a woman of forty, as gay and brilliant in the terrors of 
lockjaw as she had been in the careless fun of 1859, lying in bed 
in consequence of a miserable cab-accident that had bruised her 
foot. Hour by hour the muscles grew rigid, while the mind remained 
bright, until after ten days of fiendish torture she died in con- 
vulsions. 

One had heard and read a great deal about death, and even seen 



288 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

a little of it, and knew by heart the thousand commonplaces of 
religion and poetry which seemed to deaden one's senses and veil 
the horror. Society being immortal, could put on immortality at 
will. Adams being mortal, felt only the mortality. Death took 
features altogether new to him, in these rich and sensuous sur- 
roundings. Nature enjoyed it, played with it, the horror added 
to her charm, she liked the torture, and smothered her victim 
with caresses. Never had one seen her so winning. The hot 
Italian summer brooded outside, over the market-place and the 
picturesque peasants, and, in the singular color of the Tuscan 
atmosphere, the hills and vineyards of the Apennines seemed burst- 
ing with mid-summer blood. The sick-room itself glowed with the 
Italian joy of life; friends filled it; no harsh northern lights pierced 
the soft shadows; even the dying woman shared the sense of the 
Italian summer, the soft, velvet air, the humor, the courage, the 
sensual fulness of Nature and man. She faced death, as women 
mostly do, bravely and even gaily, racked slowly to unconscious- 
ness, but yielding only to violence, as a soldier sabred in battle. 
For many thousands of years, on these hills and plains, Nature 
had gone on sabring men and women with the same air of sensual 
pleasure. 

Impressions like these are not reasoned or catalogued in the 
mind; they are felt as part of violent emotion; and the mind that 
feels them is a different one from that which reasons; it is thought 
of a different power and a different person. The first serious con- 
sciousness of Nature's gesture her attitude towards life took 
form then as a phantasm, a nightmare, an insanity of force. For the 
first time, the stage-scenery of the senses collapsed; the human 
mind felt itself stripped naked, vibrating in a void of shapeless 
energies, with resistless mass, colliding, crushing, wasting, and 
destroying what these same energies had created and labored 
from eternity to perfect. Society became fantastic, a vision of 
pantomime with a mechanical motion; and its so-called thought 
merged in the mere sense of life, and pleasure in the sense. The usual 



CHAOS 289 

anodynes of social medicine became evident artifice. Stoicism was 
perhaps the best; religion was the most human; but the idea that 
any personal deity could find pleasure or profit in torturing a 
poor woman, by accident, with a fiendish cruelty known to man 
only in perverted and insane temperaments, could not be held for 
a moment. For pure blasphemy, it made pure atheism a comfort* 
God might be, as the Church said, a Substance, but He could not 
be a Person. 

With nerves strained for the first time beyond their power of 
tension, he slowly travelled northwards with his friends, and stopped 
for a few days at Ouchy to recover his balance in a new world; for 
the fantastic mystery of coincidences had made the world, which 
he thought real, mimic and reproduce the distorted nightmare of his 
personal horror. He did not yet know it, and he was twenty years 
in finding it out; but he had need of all the beauty of the Lake be- 
low and of the Alps above, to restore the finite to its place. For the 
first time in his life, Mont Blanc for a moment looked to him what 
it was a chaos of anarchic and purposeless forces and he 
needed days of repose to see it clothe itself again with the illu- 
sions of his senses, the white purity of its snows, the splendor of its 
light, and the infinity of its heavenly peace. Nature was kind; 
Lake Geneva was beautiful beyond itself, and the Alps put on 
charms real as terrors; but man became chaotic, and before the 
illusions of Nature were wholly restored, the illusions of Europe 
suddenly vanished, leaving a new world to learn. 

On July 4, all Europe had been in peace; on July 14, Europe was 
in full chaos of war. One felt helpless and ignorant, but one 
might have been king or kaiser without feeling stronger to deal 
with the chaos. Mr. Gladstone was as much astounded as Adams; 
the Emperor Napoleon was nearly as stupefied as either, and Bis- 
marck himself hardly knew how he did it. As education, the out- 
break of the war was wholly lost on a man dealing with death 
hand-to-hand, who could not throw it aside to look at it across the 
Rhine. Only when he got up to Paris, he began to feel the approach 



290 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

of catastrophe. Providence set up no affiches to announce the 
tragedy. Under one's eyes France cut herself adrift, and floated 
off, on an unknown stream, towards a less known ocean. Standing 
on the curb of the Boulevard, one could see as much as though 
one stood by the side of the Emperor or in command of an army 
corps. The effect was lurid. The public seemed to look on the 
war, as it had looked on the wars of Louis XIV and Francis I, as 
a^ branch of decorative art. The French, like true artists, always 
regarded war as one of the fine arts. Louis XIV practfsecTit; 
Napoleon I perfected it; and Napoleon III had till then pursued 
it in tKeTsame spirit with singular success. In Paris, in July, 1870, 
the war was brought out like an opera of Meyerbeer. One felt 
one's self a supernumerary hired to fill the scene. Every evening 
at the theatre the comedy was interrupted by order, and one stood 
up by order, to join in singing the Marseillaise to order. For nearly 
twenty years one had been forbidden to sing the Marseillaise under 
any circumstances, but at last regiment after regiment marched 
through the streets shouting "Marchons!" while the bystanders 
cared not enough to join. Patriotism seemed to have been brought 
out of the Government stores, and distributed by grammes per 
capita. One had seen one's own people dragged unwillingly into 
a war, and had watched one's own regiments march to the front 
without sign of enthusiasm; on the contrary, most serious, anx- 
ious, and conscious of the whole weight of the crisis; but in Paris 
every one conspired to ignore the crisis, which every one felt at 
hand. Here was education for the million, but the lesson was in- 
tricate. Superficially Napoleon and his Ministers and marshals 
were playing a game against Thiers and Gambetta. A bystander 
knew almost as little as they did about the result. How could 
Adams prophesy that in another year or two, when he spoke of his 
Paris and its tastes, people would smile at his dotage? 

As soon as he could, he fled to England and once more took 
refuge in the profound peace of Wenlock Abbey. Only the few re- 
maining monks, undisturbed by the brutalities of Henry VIII 



CHAOS 291 

three or four young Englishmen survived there, with Milnes 
Gaskell acting as Prior. The August sun was warm; the calm of the 
Abbey was ten times secular; not a discordant sound hardly 
a sound of any sort except the cawing of the ancient rookery at 
sunset broke the stillness; and, after the excitement of the last 
month, one felt a palpable haze of peace brooding over the Edge 
and the Welsh Marches. Since the reign of Pteraspis, nothing had 
greatly changed; nothing except the monks. Lying on the turf, 
the ground littered with newspapers, the monks studied the war 
correspondence. In one respect Adams had succeeded in educat- 
ing himself; he had learned to follow a campaign. 

While at Wenlock, he received a letter from President Eliot 
inviting him to take an Assistant Professorship of History, to be 
created shortly at Harvard College. After waiting ten or a dozen 
years for some one to show consciousness of his existence, even a 
Terebratula would be pleased and grateful for a compliment which 
implied that the new President of Harvard College wanted his 
help; but Adams knew nothing about history, and much less about 
teaching, while he knew more than enough about Harvard Col- 
lege; and wrote at once to thank President Eliot, with much re- 
gret that the honor should be above his powers. His mind was 
full of other matters. The summer, from which he had expected 
only amusement and social relations with new people, had ended 
in the most intimate personal tragedy, and the most terrific politi- 
cal convulsion he had ever known or was likely to know. He had 
failed in every object of his trip. The Quarterlies had refused his 
best essay. He had made no acquaintances and hardly picked up 
the old ones. He sailed from Liverpool, on September I, to begin 
again where he had started two years before, but with no longer a 
hope of attaching himself to a President or a party or a press. He 
was a free lance and no other career stood in sight or mind. To 
that point education had brought him. 

Yet he found, on reaching home, that he had not done quite so 
badly as he feared. His article on the Session in the July North 



292 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

American had made a success. Though he could not quite see what 
partisan object it served, he heard with flattered astonishment that 
it had been reprinted by the Democratic National Committee and 
circulated as a campaign document by the hundred thousand cop- 
ies. He was henceforth in opposition, do what he might; and a 
Massachusetts Democrat, say what he pleased; while his only re- 
ward or return for this partisan service consisted in being for- 
mally answered by Senator Timothy Howe, of Wisconsin, in a 
Republican campaign document, presumed to be also freely cir- 
culated, in which the Senator, besides refuting his opinions, did 
him the honor most unusual and picturesque in a Senator's 
rhetoric of likening him to a begonia. 

The begonia is, or then was, a plant of such senatorial qualities 
as to make the simile, in intention, most flattering. Far from charm- 
ing in its refinement, the begonia was remarkable for curious and 
showy foliage; it was conspicuous; it seemed to have no useful 
purpose; and it insisted on standing always in the most prominent 
positions. Adams would have greatly liked to be a begonia in 
Washington, for this was rather his ideal of the successful states- 
man, and he thought about it still more when the Westminster 
Review for October brought him his article on the Gold Conspiracy, 
which was also instatitly pirated on a great scale. Piratical he was 
himself henceforth driven to be, and he asked only to be pirated, 
for he was sure not to be paid ; but the honors of piracy resemble the 
colors of the begonia; they are showy but not useful. Here was 
a tour de force he had never dreamed himself equal to performing: 
two long, dry, quarterly, thirty or forty page articles, appearing in 
quick succession, and pirated for audiences running well into the 
hundred thousands; and not one person, man or woman, offering 
him so much as a congratulation, except to call him a begonia. 

Had this been all, life might have gone on very happily as before, 
but the ways of America to a young person of literary and political 
tastes were such as the so-called evolution of civilized man had 
not before evolved. No sooner had Adams made at Washington 



CHAOS 293 

what he modestly hoped was a sufficient success, than his whole 
family set on him to drag him away. For the first time since 1861 
his father interposed; his mother entreated; and his brother Charles 
argued and urged that he should come to Harvard College. Charles 
had views of further joint operations in a new field. He said that 
Henry had done at Washington all he could possibly do; that his 
position there wanted solidity; that he was, after all, an adven- 
turer; that a few years in Cambridge would give him personal 
weight; that his chief function was not to be that of teacher, but 
that of editing the North American Review which was to be coupled 
with the professorship, and would lead to the daily press. In short, 
that he needed the university more than the university needed 
him. 

Henry knew the university well enough to know that the de- 
partment of history was controlled by one of the most astute 
and ideal administrators in the world Professor Gurney and 
that it was Gurney who had established the new professorship, 
and had cast his net over Adams to carry the double load of 
mediaeval history and the Review. He could see no relation what- 
ever between himself and a professorship. He sought educa- 
tion; he did not sell it. He knew no history; he knew only a few 
historians; his ignorance was mischievous because it was literary, 
accidental, indifferent. On the other hand he knew Gurney, and 
felt much influenced by his advice. One cannot take one's self 
quite seriously in such matters; it could not much affect the sum 
of solar energies whether one went on dancing with girls in Wash- 
ington, or began talking to boys at Cambridge. The good people 
who thought it did matter had a sort of right to guide. One could 
not reject their advice; still less disregard their wishes. 

The sum of the matter was that Henry went out to Cambridge 
and had a few words with President Eliot which seemed to him 
almost as American as the talk about diplomacy with his father 
ten years before. "But, Mr. President," urged Adams, "I know 
nothing about Mediaeval History." With the courteous manner 



294 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

and bland smile so familiar for the next generation of Americans, 
Mr. Eliot mildly but firmly replied, "If you will point out to 
me any one who knows more, Mr. Adams, I will appoint him." 
The answer was neither logical nor convincing, but Adams could 
not meet it without overstepping his privileges. He could not 
say that, under the circumstances, the appointment of any pro- 
fessor at all seemed to him unnecessary. 

y x/ So, at twenty-four hours 5 notice, he broke his life in halves again 
in order to begin a new education, on lines he had not chosen, in 
subjects for which he cared less than nothing; in a place he did 
,not love, and before a future which repelled. Thousands of men 
have to do the same thing, but his case was peculiar because he 
had no need to do it. He did it because his best and wisest friends 
urged it, and he never could make up his mind whether they were 
right or not. To him this kind of education was always false. For 
himself he had no doubts. He thought it a mistake; but his 
opinion did not prove that it was one, since, in all probability, 
whatever he did would be more or less a mistake. He had reached, 
cross-roads of education which all led astray. What he could gain 
at Harvard College he did not know, but in any case it was nothing 
he wanted. What he lost at Washington he could partly see, but 
in any case it was not fortune. Grant's administration wrecked 
men by thousands, but profited few. Perhaps Mr. Fish was the 
solitary exception. One might search the whole list of Congress, 
Judiciary, and Executive during the twenty-five years 1870 to 
1895, and find little but damaged reputation. The period was poor 
in purpose and barren in results. 

Henry Adams, if not the rose, lived as near it as any politician, 
and knew, more or less, all the men in any way prominent at 
Washington, or knew all about them. Among them, in his opin- 
ion, the best equipped, the most active-minded, and most indus- 
trious was Abram Hewitt, who sat in Congress for a dozen years, 
between 1874 and 1886, sometimes leading the House and al- 
ways wielding influence second to none. With nobody did Adams 



CHAOS 295 

form closer or longer relations than with Mr. Hewitt, whom he 
regarded as the most useful public man in Washington; and he 
was the more struck by Hewitt's saying, at the end of his laborious 
career as legislator, that he left behind him no permanent result ex- 
cept the Act consolidating the Surveys. Adams knew no other man 
who had done so much, unless Mr. Sherman's legislation is accepted 
as an instance of success. Hewitt's nearest rival would probably 
have been Senator Pendleton who stood father to civil service 
reform in 1882, an attempt to correct a vice that should never 
have been allowed to be born. These were the men who succeeded. 

The press stood in much the same light. No editor, no political 
writer, and no public administrator achieved enough good repu- 
tation to preserve his memory for twenty years. A number of them 
achieved bad reputations, or damaged good ones that had been 
gained in the Civil War. On the whole, even for Senators, diplo- 
mats, and Cabinet officers, the period was wearisome and stale. 

None of Adams's generation profited by public activity unless 
it were William C. Whitney, and even he could not be induced to 
return to it. Such ambitions as these were out of one's reach, but 
supposing one tried for what was feasible, attached one's self 
closely to the Garfields, Arthurs, Frelinghuysens, Blaines, Bayards, 
or Whitneys, who happened to hold office; and supposing one asked 
for the mission to Belgium or Portugal, and obtained it; supposing 
one served a term as Assistant Secretary or Chief of Bureau; or, 
finally, supposing one had gone as sub-editor on the New York 
Tribune or Times how much more education would one have 
gained than by going to Harvard College? These questions 
seemed better worth an answer than most of the questions on 
examination papers at college or in the civil service; all the more 
because one never found an answer to them, then or afterwards, 
and because, to his mind, the value of American society alto- 
gether was mixed up with the value of Washington. 

At first, the simple beginner, struggling with principles, wanted 
to throw off responsibility on the American people, whose bare 



296 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

and toiling shoulders had to carry the load of every social or 
political stupidity; but the American people had no more to do 
with it than with the customs of Peking. American character 
might perhaps account for it, but what accounted for American 
character? All Boston, all New England, and all respectable New 
York, including Charles Francis Adams the father and Charles 
Francis Adams the son, agreed that Washington was no place for 
a respectable young man. All Washington, including Presidents, 
Cabinet officers, Judiciary, Senators, Congressmen, and clerks, 
expressed the same opinion, and conspired to drive away every 
young man who happened to be there, or tried to approach. Not 
one young man of promise remained in the Government service. 
All drifted into opposition. The Government did not want them 
in Washington. Adams's case was perhaps the strongest because 
he thought he had done well. He was forced to guess it, since he 
knew no one who would have risked so extravagant a step as that 
of encouraging a young man in a literary career, or even in a po- 
litical one; society forbade it, as well as residence in a political 
capital; but Harvard College must have seen some hope for him, 
since it made him professor against his will; even the publishers 
and editors of the North American Review must have felt a certain 
amount of confidence in him, since they put the Review in his hands. 
After all, the Review was the first literary power in America, even 
though it paid almost as little in gold as the United States Treas- 
ury. The degree of Harvard College might bear a value as ephem- 
eral as the commission of a President of the United States; but 
the government of the college, measured by money alone, and 
patronage, was a matter of more importance than that of some 
branches of the national service. In social position, the college was 
the superior of them all put together. In knowledge, she could 
assert no superiority, since the Government made no claims, 
and prided itself on ignorance. The service of Harvard College 
was distinctly honorable; perhaps the most honorable in America; 
and if Harvard College thought Henry Adams worth employing at 



CHAOS 297 

four dollars a day, why should Washington decline his services 
when he asked nothing? Why should he be dragged from a career 
he liked in a place he loved, into a career he detested, in a place 
and climate he shunned? Was it enough to satisfy him, that all 
America should call Washington barren and dangerous? What 
made Washington more dangerous than New York? 

The American character showed singular limitations which some- 
times drove the student of civilized man to despair. Crushed by 
his own ignorance lost in the darkness of his own gropings 
the scholar finds himself jostled of a sudden by a crowd of men 
who seem to him ignorant that there is a thing called ignorance; 
who have forgotten how to amuse themselves; who cannot even 
understand that they are bored. The American thought of him- 
self as a restless, pushing, energetic, ingenious person, always 
awake and trying to get ahead of his neighbors. Perhaps this idea 
of the national character might be correct for New York or Chicago; 
it was not correct for Washington. There the American showed 
himself, four times in five, as a quiet, peaceful, shy figure, rather in 
the mould of Abraham Lincoln, somewhat sad, sometimes pa- 
thetic, once tragic; or like Grant, inarticulate, uncertain, distrust- 
ful of himself, still more distrustful of others, and awed by money. 
That the American, by temperament, worked to excess, was true; 
work and whiskey were his stimulants; work was a form of vice; 
but he never cared much for money or power after he earned them. 
The amusement of the pursuit was all the amusement he got from 
it; he had no use for wealth. Jim Fisk alone seemed to know what 
he wanted; Jay Gould never did. At Washington one met mostly 
such true Americans, but if one wanted to know them better, one 
went to study them in Europe. Bored, patient, helpless; patheti- 
cally dependent on his wife and daughters; indulgent to excess; 
mostly a modest, decent, excellent, valuable citizen; the American 
was to be met at every railway station in Europe, carefully ex- 
plaining to every listener that the happiest day of his life would be 
the day he should land on the pier at New York. He was ashamed 



298 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

to be amused ; his mind no longer answered to the stimulus of va- 
riety; he could not face a new thought. All his immense strength, 
his intense nervous energy, his keen analytic perceptions, were 
oriented in one direction, and he could not change it. Congress 
was full of such men; in the Senate, Sumner was almost the only 
exception; in the Executive, Grant and Boutwell were varieties of 
the type political specimens pathetic in their helplessness to 
do anything with power when it came to them. They knew not 
how to amuse themselves; they could not conceive how other 
people were amused. Work, whiskey, and cards were life. The at- 
mosphere of political Washington was theirs or was supposed 
by the outside world to be in their control and this was the 
reason why the outside world judged that Washington was fatal 
even for a young man of thirty-two, who had passed through the 
whole variety of temptations, in every capital of Europe, for a 
dozen years; who never played cards, and who loathed whiskey. 



CHAPTER XX 

FAILURE (1871) 

FAR back in childhood, among its earliest memories, Henry 
Adams could recall his first visit to Harvard College. He 
must have been nine years old when on one of the singularly 
gloomy winter afternoons which beguiled Cambridgeport, his 
mother drove him out to visit his aunt, Mrs. Everett. Edward 
Everett was then President of the college and lived in the old 
President's House on Harvard Square. The boy remembered the 
drawing-room, on the left of the hall door, in which Mrs. Everett 
received them. He remembered a marble greyhound in the corner. 
The house had an air of colonial self-respect that impressed even 
a nine-year-old child. 

When Adams closed his interview with President Eliot, he asked 
the Bursar about his aunt's old drawing-room, for the house had 
been turned to base uses. The room and the deserted kitchen ad- 
jacent to it were to let. He took them. Above him, his brother 
Brooks, then a law student, had rooms, with a private staircase. 
Opposite was J. R. Dennett, a young instructor almost as literary 
as Adams himself, and more rebellious to conventions. Inquiry 
revealed a boarding-table, somewhere in the neighborhood, also 
supposed to be superior in its class. Chauncey Wright, Francis 
Wharton, Dennett, John Fiske, or their equivalents in learning 
and lecture, were seen there, among three or four law students 
like Brooks Adams. With these primitive arrangements, all of 
them had to be satisfied. The standard was below that of Wash- 
ington, but it was, for the moment, the best. 

For the next nine months the Assistant Professor had no time to 
waste on comforts or amusements. He exhausted all his strength in 
trying to keep one day ahead of his duties. Often the stint ran on, 
till night and sleep ran short. He could not stop to think whether 



300 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

he were doing the work rightly. He could not get it done to please 
him, rightly or wrongly, for he never could satisfy himself what 
to do. 

The fault he had found with Harvard College as an under- 
graduate must have been more or less just, for the college was 
making a great effort to meet these self-criticisms, and had elected 
President Eliot in 1869 to carry out its reforms. Professor Gurney 
was one of the leading reformers, and had tried his hand on his 
own department of History. The two full Professors of History 
Torrey and Gurney, charming men both could not cover 
the ground. Between Gurney's classical courses and Torrey's 
modern ones, lay a gap of a thousand years, which Adams was 
expected to fill. The students had already elected courses num- 
bered I, 2, and 3, without knowing what was to be taught or who 
was to teach. If their new professor had asked what idea was in 
their minds, they must have replied that nothing at all was in 
their minds, since their professor had nothing in his, and down to 
the moment he took his chair and looked his scholars in the face, 
he had given, as far as he could remember, an hour, more or less, 
to the Middle Ages. 

Not that his ignorance troubled him! He knew enough to be 
ignorant. His course^ had led him through oceans of ignorance; 
he had tumbled from one ocean into another till he had learned 
to swim; but even to him education was a serious thing. j\ parent 
gives life, but as parent, gives no more. A murderer takes life, 
but his deed stops there. A teacher affects eternity; he can never 
tell where his influence stops. A teacher is expected to teach truth, 
and may perhaps flatter himself that he does so, if he stops with 
the alphabet or the multiplication table, as a mother teaches 
truth by making her child eat with a spoon; but morals are quite 
another truth and philosophy is more complex still. A teacher 
must either treat history as a catalogue, a record, a romance, or as 
an evolution; and whether he affirms or denies evolution, he falls 
into all the burning faggots of the pit. He makes of his scholars 



FAILURE 301 

either priests or atheists, plutocrats or socialists, judges or anarch- 
ists, almost in spite of himself. In essence incoherent and immoral, 
history had either to be taught as such "or falsified' ~ 

Adams wanted to do neither. He had no theory of evolution 
to teach, and could not make the facts fit one. He had no fancy 
for telling agreeable tales to amuse sluggish-minded boys, in order 
to publish them afterwards as lectures. He could still less compel 
his students to learn the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Vener- 
able Bede by heart. He saw no relation whatever between his 
students and the Middle Ages unless it were the Church, and there 
the ground was particularly dangerous. He knew better than 
though he were a professional historian that the man who should 
solve the riddle of the Middle Ages and bring them into the line 
of evolution from past to present, would be a greater man than 
Lamarck or Linnaeus; but history had nowhere broken down so 
pitiably, or avowed itself so hopelessly bankrupt, as there. Since 
Gibbon, the spectacle was almost a scandal. Historj^had Jbst 
even the sense of shame. It was a hundred years behind the ex- 
perimental sciences. For all serious purpose, it was less instruc- 
tive than Walter Scott and Alexandra Dumas. 

All this was without offence to Sir Henry Maine, Tyler, Mc- 
Lennan, Buckle, Auguste Comte, and the various philosophers 
who, from time to time, stirred the scandal, and made it more 
scandalous. No doubt, a teacher might make some use of these 
writers or their theories; but Adams could fit them into no theory 
of his own. The college expected him to pass at least half his time 
in teaching the boys a few elementary dates and relations, that 
they might not be a disgrace to the university. This was formal : 
and he could frankly tell the boys that, provided they passed their 
examinations, they might get their facts where they liked, and 
use the teacher only for questions. The only privilege a student 
had that was worth his claiming, was that of talking to the pro- 
fessor, and the professor was bound to encourage it. His onl} 
difficulty on that side was to get them to talk at all He had tc 



302 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

devise schemes to find what they were thinking about, and in- 
duce them to risk criticism from their fellows. Any large body of 
students stifles the student. No man can instruct more than half- 
a^lozen students at once. The whole problem of education is one 
of its cost in money. 

The lecture system to classes of hundreds, which was very much 
that of the twelfth century, suited Adams not at all. Barred from 
philosophy and bored by facts, he wanted to teach his students 
something not wholly useless. The number of students whose 
minds were of an order above the average was, in his experience, 
barely one in ten; the rest could not be much stimulated by any 
inducements a teacher could suggest. All were respectable, and 
in seven years of contact, Adams never had cause to complain of 
one; but nine minds in ten take polish passively, like a hard sur- 
face; only the tenth sensibly reacts. 

Adams thought that, as no one seemed to care what he did, he 
would try to cultivate this tenth mind, though necessarily at the 
expense of the other nine. He frankly acted on the rule that a 
teacher, who knew nothing of his subject, should not pretend to 
teach his scholars what he did not know, but should join them in 
trying to find the best way of learning it. The rather pretentious 
name of historical method was sometimes given to this process of 
instruction, but the name smacked of German pedagogy, and a 
young professor who respected neither history nor method, and 
whose sole object of interest was his students' minds, fell into 
trouble enough without adding to it a German parentage. 

The task was doomed to failure for a reason which he could 
not control. Nothing is easier than to teach historical method, 
but, when learned, it has little use. History is a tangled skein 
that one may take up at any point, and break when one has un- 
ravelled enough; but complexity precedes evolution. The Pter- 
aspis grins horribly from the closed entrance. One may not begin 
at the beginning, and one has but the loosest relative truths to 
follow up. Adams found himself obliged to force his material into 



FAILURE 303 

some shape to which a method could be applied. He could think 
only of law as subject; the Law School as end; and he took, as 
victims of his experiment, half-a-dozen highly intelligent young 
men who seemed willing to work. The course began with the 
beginning, as far as the books showed a beginning in primitive 
man, and came down through the Salic Franks to the Norman 
English. Since no textbooks existed, the professor refused to 
profess, knowing no more than his students, and the students read 
what they pleased and compared their results. As pedagogy, noth- 
ing could be more triumphant. The boys worked like rabbits, 
and dug holes all over the field of archaic society; no difficulty 
stopped them; unknown languages yielded before their attack, 
and customary law became familiar as the police court; undoubt- 
edly they learned, after a fashion, to chase an idea, like a hare, 
through as dense a thicket of obscure facts as they were likely to 
meet at the bar; but their teacher knew from his own experience 
that his wonderful method led nowhere, and they would have to 
exert themselves to get rid of it in the Law School even more than 
they exerted themselves to acquire it in the college. Their science 
had no system, and could have none, since its subject was merely 
antiquarian. Try as hard as he might, the professor could not make 
it actual. 

What was the use of training an active mind to waste its en- 
ergy? The experiments might in time train Adams as a professor, 
but this result was still less to his taste. He wanted to help the 
boys to a career, but not one of his many devices to stimulate the 
intellectual reaction of the student's mind satisfied either him or 
the students. For himself he was clear that the fault lay in the 
system, which could lead only to inertia. Such little knowledge 
of himself as he possessed warranted him in affirming that his 
mind required conflict, competition, contradiction even more than 
that of the student. He too wanted a rank-list to set his name upon. 
His reform of the system would have begun in the lecture-room at 
his own desk. He would have seated a rival assistant professor 



304 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

opposite him, whose business should be strictly limited to express- 
ing opposite views. Nothing short of this would ever interest 
either the professor or the student; but of all university freaks, 
no irregularity shocked the intellectual atmosphere so much as 
contradiction or competition between teachers. In that respect 
the thirteenth-century university system was worth the whole 
teaching of the modern school. 

All his pretty efforts to create conflicts of thought among his 
students failed for want of system. None met the needs of in- 
struction. In spite of President Eliot's reforms and his steady, 
generous, liberal support, the system remained costly, clumsy and 
futile. The university as far as it was represented by Henry 
Adams produced at great waste of time and money results not 
worth reaching. 

He made use of his lost two years of German schooling to in- 
flict their results on his students, and by a happy chance he was 
in the full tide of fashion* The Germans were crowning their new 
emperor at Versailles, and surrounding his head with a halo of 
Pepins and Merwigs, Othos and Barbarossas. James Bryce had 
even discovered the Holy Roman Empire. Germany was never 
so powerful, and the Assistant Professor of History had nothing 
else as his stock in trade. He imposed Germany on his scholars 
with a heavy hand. He was rejoiced; but he sometimes doubted 
whether they should be grateful. On the whole, he was content 
neither with what he had taught nor with the way he had taught 
it. The seven years he passed in teaching seemed to him lost. 

The uses of adversity are beyond measure strange. As a pro- 
fessor, he regarded himself as a failure. Without false modesty he 
thought he knew what he meant. He had tried a great many ex- 
periments, and wholly succeeded in none. He had succumbed to 
the weight of the system. He had accomplished nothing that he 
tried to do. He regarded the system as wrong; more mischievous 
to the teachers than to the students; fallacious from the beginning 
to end. He quitted the university at last, in 1877, with a feeling, 



FAILURE 305 

that, if it had not been for the invariable courtesy and kindness 
shown by every one in it, from the President to the injured stu- 
dents, he should be sore at his failure. 

These were his own feelings, but they seemed not to be felt in 
the college. With the same perplexing impartiality that had so 
much disconcerted him in his undergraduate days, the college in- 
sisted on expressing an opposite view. John Fiske went so far in 
his notice of the family in " Appleton's Cyclopedia," as to say that 
Henry had left a great reputation at Harvard College; which was 
a proof of John Fiske's personal regard that Adams heartily re- 
turned; and set the kind expression down to camaraderie. The 
case was different when President Eliot himself hinted that Ad- 
ams's services merited recognition. Adams could have wept on his 
shoulder in hysterics, so grateful was he for the rare good-will that 
inspired the compliment; but he could not allow the college to 
think that he esteemed himself entitled to distinction. He knew 
better, and his was among the failures which were respectable 
enough to deserve self-respect. Yet nothing in the vanity of life 
struck him as more humiliating than that Harvard College, which 
he had persistently criticised, abused, abandoned, and neglected, 
should alone have offered him a dollar, an office, an encourage- 
ment, or a kindness. Harvard College might have its faults, but 
at least it redeemed America, since it was true to its own. 

The only part of education that the professor thought a success 
was the students. He found them excellent company. Cast more 
or less in the same mould, without violent emotions or sentiment, 
and, except for the veneer of American habits, ignorant of all that 
man had ever thought or hoped, their minds burst open like flow- 
ers at the sunlight of a suggestion. They were quick to respond; 
plastic to a mould; and incapable of fatigue. Their faith in edu- 
cation was so full of pathos that one dared not t ask them what 
they thought they could do with education when they got it. 
Adams did put the question to one of them, and was surprised at 
the answer: "The degree of Harvard College is worth money to 



306 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

me in Chicago/ 7 This reply upset his experience; for the degree 
of Harvard College had been rather a drawback to a young 
man in Boston and Washington. So far as it went, the answer was 
good, and settled one's doubts. Adams knew no better, although 
he had given twenty years to pursuing the same education, and 
was no nearer a result than they. He still had to take for granted 
many things that they need not among the rest, that his teach- 
ing did them more good than harm. In his own opinion the great- 
est good he could do them was to hold his tongue. They needed 
much faith then; they were likely to need more if they lived long. 

He never knew whether his colleagues shared his doubts about 
their own utility. Unlike himself, they knew more or less their 
business. He could not tell his scholars that history glowed with 
social virtue; the Professor of Chemistry cared not a chemical 
atom whether society was virtuous or not. Adams could not pre- 
tend that mediaeval society proved evolution; the Professor of 
Physics smiled at evolution. Adams was glad to dwell on the 
virtues of the Church and the triumphs of its art: the Profes- 
sor of Political Economy had to treat them as waste of force. 
They knew what they had to teach; he did not. They might per- 
haps be frauds without knowing it; but he knew certainly noth- 
ing else of himself. He could teach his students nothing; he was 
only educating himself at their cost. 

Education, like politics, is a rough affair, and every instructor 
has to shut his eyes and hold his tongue as though he were a priest. 
The students alone satisfied. They thought they gained some- 
thing. Perhaps they did, for even in America and in the twen- 
tieth century, life could not be wholly industrial. Adams fer- 
vently hoped that they might remain content; but supposing 
twenty years more to pass, and they should turn on him as fiercely 
as he had turned on his old instructors what answer could he 
make? The college had pleaded guilty, and tried to reform. He 
had pleaded guilty from the start, and his reforms had failed be- 
fore those of the college. 



FAILURE 307 

The lecture-room was futile enough, but the faculty-room was 
worse. American society feared total wreck in the maelstrom of 
political and corporate administration, but it could not look for 
help to college dons. Adams knew, in that capacity, both Con- 
gressmen and professors, and he preferred Congressmen. The same 
failure marked the society of a college. Several score of the best- 
educated, most agreeable, and personally the most sociable people 
in America united in Cambridge to make a social desert that would 
have starved a polar bear. The liveliest and most agreeable of 
men James Russell Lowell, Francis J. Child, Louis Agassiz, 
his son Alexander, Gurney, John Fiske, William James and a 
dozen others, who would have made the joy of London or Paris 
tried their best to break out and be like other men in Cambridge 
and Boston, but society called them professors, and professors 
they had to be. While all these brilliant men were greedy for 
companionship, all were famished for want of it. Society was a 
faculty-meeting without business. The elements were there; but 
society cannot be made up of elements people who are expected 
to be silent unless they have observations to make and all the 
elements are bound to remain apart if required to make observa- 
tions. 

Thus it turned out that of all his many educations, Adams 
thought that of school-teacher the thinnest. Yet he was forced to 
admit that the education of an editor, in some ways, was thinner 
still. The editor had barely time to edit; he had none to write. 
If copy fell short, he was obliged to scribble a book-review on the 
virtues of the Anglo-Saxons or the vices of the Popes; for he knew 
more about Edward the Confessor or Boniface VIII than he did 
about President Grant. For seven years he wrote nothing; the 
Review lived on his brother Charles's railway articles. The editor 
could help others, but could do nothing for himself. As a writer, 
he was totally forgotten by the time he had been an editor for 
twelve months. As editor he could find no writer to take his place 
for politics and affairs of current concern. The Review became 



308 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

chiefly historical. Russell Lowell and Frank Palgrave helped him 
to keep it literary. The editor was a helpless drudge whose suc- 
cesses, if he made any, belonged to his writers; but whose failures 
might easily bankrupt himself. Such a Review may be made a sink 
of money with captivating ease. The secrets of success as an editor 
were easily learned; the highest was that of getting advertise- 
ments. Ten pages of advertising made an editor a success; five 
marked him as a failure. The merits or demerits of his literature 
had little to do with his results except when they led to adversity. 

A year or two of education as editor satiated most of his appe- 
tite for that career as a profession. After a very slight experience, 
he said no more on the subject. He felt willing to let any one edit, 
if he himself might write. Vulgarly speaking, it was a dog's life 
when it did not succeed, and little better when it did. A professor 
had at least the pleasure of associating with his students; an edi- 
tor lived the life of an owl. A professor commonly became a peda- 
gogue or a pedant; an editor became an authority on advertising. 
On the whole, Adams preferred his attic in Washington. He was 
educated enough. Ignorance paid better, for at least it earned fifty 
dollars a month. 

With this result Henry Adams's education, at his entry into life, 
stopped, and his life began. He had to take that life as he best 
could, with such accidental education as luck had given him; 
but he held that it was wrong, and that, if he were to begin again, 
he would do it on a better system. He thought he knew nearly 
what system to pursue. At that time Alexander Agassiz had not 
yet got his head above water so far as to serve for a model, as 
he did twenty or thirty years afterwards; but the editorship of 
the North American Review had one solitary merit; it made the 
editor acquainted at a distance with almost every one in the coun- 
try who could write or who could be the cause of writing. Adams 
was vastly pleased to be received among these clever people as one 
of themselves, and felt always a little surprised at their treating 
him as an equal, for they all had education; but among them, only 



FAILURE 



309 



one stood out in extraordinary prominence as the type and model 
of what Adams would have liked to be, and of what the American, 
as he conceived, should have been and was not. 

Thanks to the article on Sir Charles Lyell, Adams passed for a 
friend of geologists, and the extent of his knowledge mattered much 
less to them than the extent of his friendship, for geologists were as 
a class not much better off than himself, and friends were sorely 
few. One of his friends from earliest childhood, and nearest neigh- 
bor in Quincy, Frank Emmons, had become a geologist and joined 
the Fortieth Parallel Survey under Government. At Washington 
in the winter of 1869-70, Emmons had invited Adams to go out 
with him on one of the field-parties in summer. Of course when 
Adams took the Review he put it at the service of the Survey, and 
regretted only that he could not do more. When the first year of 
professing and editing was at last over, and his July North Ameri- 
can appeared, he drew a long breath of relief, and took the next 
train for the West. Of his year's work he was no judge. He had 
become a small spring in a large mechanism, and his work counted 
only in the sum; but he had been treated civilly by everybody, and 
he felt at home even in Boston. Putting in his pocket the July 
number of the North American, with a notice of the Fortieth Par- 
allel Survey by Professor J. D. Whitney, he started for the plains 
and the Rocky Mountains. 

In the year 1871, the West was still fresh, and the Union Pacific 
was young. Beyond the Missouri River, one felt the atmosphere of 
Indians and buffaloes. One saw the last vestiges of an old educa- 
tion, worth studying if one would; but it was not that which Adams 
sought; rather, he came out to spy upon the land of the future. The 
Survey occasionally borrowed troopers from the nearest station in 
case of happening on hostile Indians, but otherwise the topog- 
raphers and geologists thought more about minerals than about 
Sioux. They held under their hammers a thousand miles of mineral 
country with all its riddles to solve, and its stores of possible wealth 
to mark. They felt the future in their hands. 



310 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Emmons's party was out of reach in the Uintahs, but Arnold 
Hague's had come in to Laramie for supplies, and they took charge 
of Adams for a time. Their wanderings or adventures matter 
nothing to the story of education. They were all hardened moun- 
taineers and surveyors who took everything for granted, and spared 
each other the most wearisome bore of English and Scotch life, 
the stories of the big game they killed. A bear was an occasional 
amusement; a wapiti was a constant necessity; but the only wild 
animal dangerous to man was a rattlesnake or a skunk. One shot 
for amusement, but one had other matters to talk about. 

Adams enjoyed killing big game, but loathed the labor of cutting 
it up; so that he rarely unslung the little carbine he was in a man- 
ner required to carry. On the other hand, he liked to wander off 
alone on his mule, and pass the day fishing a mountain stream or 
exploring a valley. One morning when the party was camped 
high above Estes Park, on the flank of Long's Peak, he borrowed 
a rod, and rode down over a rough trail into Estes Park, for some 
trout. The day was fine, and hazy with the smoke of forest fires 
a thousand miles away; the park stretched its English beauties 
off to the base of its bordering mountains in natural landscape 
and archaic peace; the stream was just fishy enough to tempt 
lingering along its banks. Hour after hour the sun" moved west- 
ward and the fish moved eastward, or disappeared altogether, 
until at last when the fisherman cinched his mule, sunset was 
nearer than he thought. Darkness caught him before he could 
catch his trail. Not caring to tumble into some fifty-foot hole, 
he "allowed" he was lost, and turned back. In half-an-hour he 
was out of the hills, and under the stars of Estes Park, but he saw 
no prospect of supper or of bed. 

Estes Park was large enough to serve for a bed on a summer 
night for an army of professors, but the supper question offered 
difficulties. There was but one cabin in the Park, near its entrance, 
and he felt no great confidence in finding it, but he thought his mule 
cleverer than himself, and the dim lines of mountain crest against 



FAILURE 311 

the stars fenced his range of error. The patient mule plodded on 
without other road than the gentle slope of the ground, and some 
two hours must have passed before a light showed in the distance. 
As the mule came up to the cabin door, two or three men came 
out to see the stranger. 

One of these men was Clarence King on his way up to the camp. 
Adams fell into his arms. As with most friendships, it was never a 
matter of growth or doubt. Friends are born in archaic horizons; 
they were shaped with the Pteraspis in Siluria; they have nothing 
to do with the accident of space. King had come up that day from 
Greeley in a light four-wheeled buggy, over a trail hardly fit for 
a commissariat mule, as Adams had reason to know since he went 
back in the buggy. In the cabin, luxury provided a room and one 
bed for guests. They shared the room and the bed, and talked till 
far towards dawn. 

King had everything to interest and delight Adams. He knew 
more than Adams did of art and poetry; he knew America, espe- 
cially west of the hundredth meridian, better than any one; he 
knew the professor by heart, and he knew the Congressman better 
than he did the professor. He knew even women ; even the Ameri- 
can woman; even the New York woman, which is saying much. 
Incidentally he knew more practical geology than was good for 
him, and saw ahead at least one generation further than the text- 
books. That he saw right was a different matter. Since the be- 
ginning of time no man has lived who is known to have seen right; 
the charm of King was that he saw what others did and a great 
deal more. His wit and humor; his bubbling energy which swept 
every one into the current of his interest; his personal charm of 
youth and manners; his faculty of giving and taking, profusely, 
lavishly, whether in thought or in money as though he were Nature 
herself, marked him almost alone among Americans. He had in 
him something of the Greek a touch of Alcibiades or Alexander. 
One Clarence King only existed in the world. 

A new friend is always a miracle, but at thirty-three years old, 



312 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

such a bird of paradise rising in the sage-brush was an avatar. One 
friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly possi- 
ble. Friendship needs a certain parallelism of life, a community 
of thought, a rivalry of aim. King, like Adams, and all their gener- 
ation, was at that moment passing the critical point of his career. 
The one, coming from the west, saturated with the sunshine of 
the Sierras, met the other, drifting from the east, drenched in the 
fogs of London, and both had the same problems to handle 
the same stock of implements the same field to work in; above 
all, the same obstacles to overcome. 

As a companion, King's charm was great, but this was not the 
quality that so much attracted Adams, nor could he affect even 
distant rivalry on this ground. Adams could never tell a story, 
chiefly because he always forgot it; and he was never guilty of 
a witticism, unless by accident. King and the Fortieth Parallel 
influenced him in a way far more vital. The lines of their lives con- 
verged, but King had moulded and directed his life logically, scien- 
tifically, as Adams thought American life should be directed. 
He had given himself education all of a piece, yet broad. Stand- 
ing in the middle of his career, where their paths at last came to- 
gether, he could look back and look forward on a straight line, 
with scientific knowledge for its base. Adams's life, past or future, 
was a succession of violent breaks or waves, with no base at all. 
King's abnormal energy had already won him great success. None 
of his contemporaries had done so much, single-handed, or were 
likely to leave so deep a trail. He had managed to induce Congress 
to adopt almost its first modern act of legislation. He had organ- 
ized, as a civil not military measure, a Government Survey. 
He had paralleled the Continental Railway in Geology; a feat as 
yet unequalled by other governments which had as a rule no con- 
tinents to survey. He was creating one of the classic scientific 
works of the century. The chances were great that he could, 
whenever he chose to quit the Government service, take the pick 
of the gold and silver, copper or coal, and build up his fortune 



FAILURE 313 

as he pleased. Whatever prize he wanted lay ready for him 
scientific, social, literary, political and he knew how to take 
them in turn. With ordinary luck he would die at eighty the richest 
and most many-sided genius of his day. 

So little egoistic he was that none of his friends felt envy of his 
extraordinary superiority, but rather grovelled before it, so that 
women were jealous of the power he had over men; but women 
were many and Kings were one. The men worshipped not so 
much their friend, as the ideal American they all wanted to be. 
The women were jealous because, at heart, King had no faith in 
the American woman; he loved types more robust. 

The young men of the Fortieth Parallel had Californian instincts; 
they were brothers of Bret Harte. They felt no leanings towards 
the simple uniformities of Lyell and Darwin; they saw little proof of 
slight and imperceptible changes; to them, catastrophe was the law 
of changejj:hey cared little for simplicity and much for complexity; 
6ut ft was the complexity of Nature, not of New York or even of 
the Mississippi Valley. King loved paradox; he started them like 
rabbits, and cared for them no longer, when caught or lost; but 
they delighted Adams, for they helped, among other things, to 
persuade him that history was more amusing than science. The 
only question left open to doubt was their relative money value. 

In Emmons's camp, far up in the Uintahs, these talks were con- 
tinued till the frosts became sharp in the mountains. History and 
science spread out in personal horizons towards goals no longer 
far away. No more education was possible for either man. Such 
as they were, they had got to stand the chances of the world they 
lived in; and when Adams started back to Cambridge, to take 
up again the humble tasks of schoolmaster and editor he was har- 
nessed to his cart. Education, systematic or accidental, had done 
its worst. Henceforth, he went on, submissive. 



CHAPTER XXI 
TWENTY YEARS AFTER (1892) 

ONCE more ! this is a story of education, not of adventure ! 
It is meant to help young men or such as have intel- 
ligence enough to seek help but it is not meant to 
amuse them. What one did or did not do with one's edu- 
cation, after getting it, need trouble the inquirer in no way; it is 
a personal matter only which would confuse him. Perhaps Henry 
Adams was not worth educating; most keen judges incline to think 
that barely one man in a hundred owns a mind capable of re- 
acting to any purpose on the forces that surround him, and fully 
half of these react wrongly. The object of education for that mind 
should be the teaching itself how to react with vigor and economy. 
No doubt the world at large will always lag so far behind the active 
mind as to make a soft cushion of inertia to drop upon, as it did 
for Henry Adams; but education should try to lessen the ob- 
stacles, diminish the friction, invigorate the energy, and should 
train minds to react, not at haphazard, but by choice, on the lines 
of force that attract their world. What one knows is, in youth, 
of little moment; they know enough who know how to learn. 
Throughout human history the waste of mind has been appalling, 
and, as this story is meant to show, society has conspired to pro- 
mote it. No doubt the teacher is the worst criminal, but the 
world stands behind him and drags the student from his course. 
The moral is stentorian. Only the most energetic, the most highly 
fitted, and the most favored have overcome the friction or the 
viscosity of inertia, and these were compelled to waste three- 
fourths of their energy in doing it. 

Fit or unfit, Henry Adams stopped his own education in 1871, 
and began to apply it for practical uses, like his neighbors. At the 
end of twenty years, he found that he had finished, and could 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER 315 

sum up the result. He had no complaint to make against man or 
woman. They had all treated him kindly; he had never met with 
ill-will, ill- temper, or even ill-manners, or known a quarrel. He 
had never seen serious dishonesty or ingratitude. He had found a 
readiness in the young to respond to suggestion that seemed to 
him far beyond all he had reason to expect. Considering the stock 
complaints against the world, he could not understand why he 
had nothing to complain of. 

During these twenty years he had done as much work, in quan- 
tity, as his neighbors wanted ; more than they would ever stop to 
look at, and more than his share. Merely in print, he thought 
altogether ridiculous the number of^volumes He counted on the 
shelves of public libraries. He had no notion whether they served 
a useful purpose; he had worked in the dark; but so had most of 
his friends, even the artists, none of whom held any lofty opinion 
of their success in raising the standards of society, or felt pro- 
found respect for the methods or manners of their time, at home 
or abroad, but all of whom had tried, in a way, to hold the stand- 
ard up. The effort had been, for the older generation, exhausting, 
as one could see in the Hunts; but the generation after 1870 made 
more figure, not in proportion to public wealth or in the census, but 
in their own self-assertion. A fair number of the men who were 
born in the thirties had won names Phillips Brooks; Bret Harte; 
Henry James; H. H. Richardson; John La Farge; and the list might 
be made fairly long if it were worth while; but from their school 
had sprung others, like Augustus St. Gaudens, McKim, Stanford 
White, and scores born in the forties, who counted as force even 
in the mental inertia of sixty or eighty million people. Among all 
these Clarence King, John Hay, and Henry Adams had led modest 
existences, trying to fill in the social gaps of a class which, as yet, 
showed but thin ranks and little cohesion. The combination offered 
no very glittering prizes, but they pursued it for twenty years with 
as much patience and effort as though it led to fame or power, until, 
at last, Henry Adams thought his own duties sufficiently performed 



316 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

and his account with society settled. He had enjoyed his life amaz- 
ingly, and would not have exchanged it for any other that came 
in his way; he was, or thought he was, perfectly satisfied with 
it; but for reasons that had nothing to do with education, he was 
tired; his nervous energy ran low; and, like a horse that wears out, 
he quitted the race-course, left the stable, and sought pastures as 
far as possible from the old. Education had ended in 1871 ; life was 
complete in 1890; the rest mattered so little! 

As had happened so often, he found himself in London when the 
question of return imposed its verdict on him after much fruitless 
effort to rest elsewhere. The time was the month of January, 1892; 
he was alone, in hospital, in the gloom of midwinter. He was 
close on his fifty-fourth birthday, and Pall Mall had forgotten him 
as completely as it had forgotten his elders. He had not seen Lon- 
don for a dozen years, and was rather amused to have only a 
bed for a world and a familiar black fog for horizon. The coal-fire 
smelt homelike; the fog had a fruity taste of youth; anything was 
better than being turned out into the wastes of Wigmore Street. 
He could always amuse himself by living over his youth, and driv- 
ing once more down Oxford Street in 1858, with life before him to 
imagine far less amusing than it had turned out to be. 

The future attracted him less. Lying there for a week he re- 
flected on what he could do next. He had just come up from the 
South Seas with John La Farge, who had reluctantly crawled 
away towards New York to resume the grinding routine of studio- 
work at an age when life runs low. Adams would rather, as choice, 
have gone back to the east, if it were only to sleep forever in the 
trade-winds under the southern stars, wandering over the dark 
purple ocean, with its purple sense of solitude and void. Not that 
he liked the sensation, but that it was the most unearthly he had 
felt. He had not yet happened on Rudyard Kipling's "Manda- 
lay," but he knew the poetry before he knew the poem, like millions 
of wanderers, who have perhaps alone felt the world exactly as it 
is. Nothing attracted him less than the idea of beginning a new 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER 317 

education. The old one had been poor enough; any new one could 
only add to its faults. Life had been cut in halves, and the old half 
had passed away, education and all, leaving no stock to graft on. 

The new world he faced in Paris and London seemed to him 
fantastic. Willing to admit it real in the sense of having some kind 
of existence outside his own mind, he could not admit it reason- 
able. In Paris, his heart sank to mere pulp before the dismal 
ballets at the Grand Opera and the eternal vaudeville at the old 
Palais Royal; but, except for them, his own Paris of the Second 
Empire was as extinct as that of the first Napoleon. At the gal- 
leries and exhibitions, he was racked by the effort of art to be 
original, and when one day, after much reflection, John La Farge 
asked whether there might not still be room for something simple 
in art, Adams shook his head. As he saw the world, it was no 
longer simple and could not express itself simply. It should express 
what it was; and this was something that neither Adams nor 
La Farge understood. 

Under the first blast of this furnace-heat, the lights seemed fairly 
to go out. He felt nothing in common with the world as it promised 
to be. He was ready to quit it, and the easiest path led back to the 
east; but he could not venture alone, and the rarest of animals is 
a companion. He must return to America to get one. Perhaps, while 
waiting, he might write more history, and on the chance as a last 
resource, he gave orders fpr copying everything he could reach 
in archives, but this was mere habit. Jie went home as a horse 
goes back to his stablej because he, knew nowhere else to go. 
^TTome was Washington. As soon as Grant's administration 
ended, in 1877, and Evarts became Secretary of State, Adams 
went back there, partly to write history, but chiefly because his 
seven years of laborious banishment, in Boston, convinced him 
that, as far as he had a function in life, it was as stable-companion 
to statesmen, whether they liked it or not. At about the same time, 
old George Bancroft did the same thing, and presently John Hay 
came on to be Assistant Secretary of State for Mr. Evarts, and 



318 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

stayed there to write the "Life" of Lincoln. In 1884 Adams joined 
him in employing Richardson to build them adjoining houses on 
La Fayette Square. As far as Adams had a home this was it. 
To the house on La Fayette Square he must turn, for he had no 
other status no position in the world. 

Never did he make a decision more reluctantly than this of going 
back to his manger. His father and mother were dead. All his 
family led settled lives of their own. Except for two or three 
friends in Washington, who were themselves uncertain of stay, 
no one cared whether he came or went, and he cared least. There 
was nothing to care about. Every one was busy; nearly every one 
seemed contented. Since 1871 nothing had ruffled the surface of 
the American world, and even the progress of Europe in her side- 
way track to dis-Europeaning herself had ceased to be violent. 

After a dreary January in Paris, at last when no excuse could be 
persuaded to offer itself for further delay, he crossed the channel 
and passed a week with his old friend, Milnes Gaskell, at Thornes, 
in Yorkshire, while the westerly gales raved a warning against go- 
ing home. Yorkshire in January is not an island in the South Seas. 
It has few points of resemblance to Tahiti; not many to Fiji or 
Samoa; but, as so often before, it was a rest between past and 
future, and Adams was grateful for it. 

At last, on February 3, he drove, after a fashion, down the Irish 
Channel, on board the Teutonic. He had not crossed the Atlantic 
for a dozen years, and had never seen an ocean steamer of the new 
type. He had seen nothing new of any sort, or much changed in 
France or England. The railways made quicker time, but were 
no more comfortable. The scale was the same. The Channel serv- 
ice was hardly improved since 1858, or so little as to make no 
impression. Europe seemed to have been stationary for twenty 
years. To a man who had been stationary like Europe, the Teu- 
tonic was a marvel. That he should be able to eat his dinner through 
a week of howling winter gales was a miracle. That he should have 
a deck stateroom, with fresh air, and read all night, if he chose, by 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER 319 

electric light, was matter for more wonder than life had yet sup- 
plied, in its old forms, Wonder may be double even treble. 
Adams's wonder ran off into figures. As the Niagara was to 
the Teutonic as 1860 was to 1890 so the Teutonic and 1890 
must be to the next term and then? Apparently the question 
concerned only America. Western Europe offered no such conun- 
drum. There one might double scale and speed indefinitely with- 
out passing bounds. 

Fate was kind on that voyage. Rudyard Kipling, on his wed- 
ding trip to America, thanks to the mediation of Henry James, 
dashed over the passenger his exuberant fountain of gaiety and 
wit ^though i playing^ a^g^j^Im ho^Qft a thirsty and faded 
begonia. Kipling could never know what peace of mind he gave, for 
he could hardly ever need it himself so much; and yet, in the full 
delight of his endless fun and variety, one felt the old conundrum 
repeat itself. Somehow, somewhere, Kipling and the American 
were not one, but two, and could not be glued together. The Amer- 
ican felt that the defect, if defect it were, was in himself; he had felt 
it when he was with Swinburne, and, again, with Robert Louis 
Stevenson, even under the palms of Vailima; but he did not carry 
self-abasement to the point of thinking himself singular. Whatever 
the defect might be, it was American; it belonged to the type; it 
lived in the blood. Whatever the quality might be that held him 
apart, it was English; it lived also in the blood; one felt it little if 
at all, with Celts, and one yearned reciprocally among Fiji canni- 
bals. Clarence King used to say that it was due to discord be- 
tween the wave-lengths of the man-atoms; but the theory offered 
difficulties in measurement. Perhaps, after all, it was only that 
genius soars; but this theory, too, had its dark corners. All through 
life, one had seen the American on his literary knees to the Euro- 
pean; and all through many lives back for some two centuries, one 
had seen the European snub or patronize the American; not always 
intentionally, but effectually. It was in the nature of things. Kip- 
ling neither snubbed nor patronized; he was all gaiety and good- 



320 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

nature; but he would have been first to feel what one meant. 
Genius has to pay itself that unwilling self-respect. 

Towards the middle of February, 1892, Adams found himself 
again in Washington. In Paris and London he had seen nothing 
to make a return to life worth while; in Washington he saw plenty 
of reasons for staying dead. Changes had taken place there; im- 
provements had been made; with time much time the city 
might become habitable according to some fashionable standard; 
but all one's friends had died or disappeared several times over, 
leaving one almost as strange as in Boston or London. Slowly, a 
certain society had built itself up about the Government; houses 
had been opened and there was much dining; much calling; much 
leaving of cards; but a solitary man counted for less than in 1868. 
Society seemed hardly more at home than he. Both Executive 
and Congress held it aloof. No one in society seemed to have the 
ear of anybody in Government. No one in Government knew any 
reason for consulting any one in society. The world had ceased to 
be wholly political, but politics had become less social. A survivor 
of the Civil War like George Bancroft, or John Hay tried 
to keep footing, but without brilliant success. They were free to 
say or do what they liked, but no one took much notice of any- 
thing said or done. 

A presidential election was to take place in November, and no 
one showed much interest in the result. The two candidates were 
singular persons, of whom it was the common saying that one of 
them had no friends; the other, only enemies. Calvin Brice, who 
was at that time altogether the wittiest and cleverest member of 
the Senate, was in the habit of describing Mr. Cleveland in glow- 
ing terms and at great length, as one of the loftiest natures and 
noblest characters of ancient or modern time; "but," he concluded, 
"in future I prefer to look on at his proceedings from the safe 
summit of some neighboring hill." The same remark applied to 
Mr. Harrison. In this respect, they were the greatest of Presi- 
dents, for, whatever harm they might do their enemies, was as 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER 321 

nothing when compared to the mortality they inflicted on their 
friends. Men fled them as though they had the evil eye. To the 
American people, the two candidates and the two parties were so 
evenly balanced that the scales showed hardly a perceptible dif- 
ference. v]VIr. Harrison was an excellent President, a man of abil- 
ity and force; perhaps the best President the Republican Party 
had put forward since Lincoln's death; yet, on the whole, Adams 
felt a shade of preference for President Cleveland, not so much 
personally as because the Democrats represented to him the last 
remnants of the eighteenth century; the survivors of Hosea Big- 
low's Cornwallis; the sole remaining protestants against a bank- 
er's Olympus which had become, for five-and-twenty years, more 
and more despotic over Esop's frog-empire. One might no longer 
croak except to vote for King Log, or failing storks for 
Grover Cleveland; and even then could not be sure where King 
Banker lurked behind. The costly education in politics had led to 
political torpor. Every one did not share it. Clarence King and 
John Hay were loyal Republicans who never for a moment con- 
ceived that there could be merit in other ideals. With King, the 
feeling was chiefly love of archaic races; sympathy with the negro 
and Indian and corresponding dislike of their enemies; but with 
Hay, party loyalty became a phase of being, a little like the 
loyalty of a highly cultivated churchman to his Church. He saw 
all the failings of the party, and still more keenly those of the 
partisans; but he could not live outside. To Adams a Western 
Democrat or a Western Republican, a city Democrat or a city 
Republican, a W. C. Whitney or a J. G. Elaine, were actually the 
same man, as far as their usefulness to the objects of King, Hay, 
or Adams was concerned. They graded themselves as friends or 
enemies, not as Republicans or Democrats. To Hay, the diifer- 
ence was that of being respectable or not. 

Since 1879, King, Hay, and Adams had been inseparable. Step 
by step, they had gone on in the closest sympathy, rather shun- 
ning than inviting public position, until, in 1892, none of them 



322 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

held any post at all. With great effort, in Hayes's administra- 
tion, all King's friends, including Abram Hewitt and Carl Schurz, 
had carried the bill for uniting the Surveys and had placed King 
at the head of the Bureau; but King waited only to organize the 
service, and then resigned, in order to seek his private fortune in 
the West. Hay, after serving as Assistant Secretary of State under 
Secretary Evarts during a part of Hayes's administration, then 
also insisted on going out, in order to write with Nicolay the 
"Life" of Lincoln. Adams had held no office, and when his 
friends asked the reason, he could not go into long explanations, 
but preferred to answer simply that no President had ever in- 
vited him to fill one. The reason was good, and was also con- 
veniently true, but left open an awkward doubt of his morals or 
capacity. Why had no President ever cared to employ him? The 
question needed a volume of intricate explanation. There never 
was a day when he would have refused to perform any duty that 
the Government imposed on him, but the American Government 
never to his knowledge imposed duties. The point was never 
raised with regard to him, or to any one else. The Government 
required candidates to offer; the business of the Executive began 
and ended with the consent or refusal to confer. The social for- 
mula carried this passive attitude a shade further. Any public 
man who may for years have used some other man's house as his 
own, when promoted to a position of patronage commonly feels 
himself obliged to inquire, directly or indirectly, whether his 
friend wants anything; which is equivalent to a civil act of di- 
vorce, since he feels awkward in the old relation. The handsom- 
est formula, in an impartial choice, was the grandly courteous 
Southern phrase of Lamar: "Of course Mr. Adams knows that 
anything in my power is at his service/' A la disposition de 
Usted! The form must have been correct since it released both 
parties. He was right; Mr. Adams did know all about it; a bow 
and a conventional smile closed the subject forever, and every one 
felt flattered. 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER 323 

Such an intimate, promoted to power, was always lost. His 
duties and cares absorbed him and affected his balance of mind. 
Unless his friend served some political purpose, friendship was an 
effort. Men who neither wrote for newspapers nor made cam- 
paign speeches, who rarely subscribed to the campaign fund, and 
who entered the White House as seldom as possible, placed them- 
selves outside the sphere of usefulness, and did so with entirely 
adequate knowledge of what they were doing. They never ex- 
pected the President to ask for their services, and saw no reason 
why he should do so. As for Henry Adams, in fifty years that he 
knew Washington, no one would have been more surprised than 
himself had any President ever asked him to perform so much of 
a service as to cross the square. Only Texan Congressmen imag- 
ined that the President needed their services in some remote con- 
sulate after worrying him for months to find one. 

In Washington this law or custom is universally understood, 
and no one's character necessarily suffered because he held no of- 
fice. No one took office unless he wanted it; and in turn the out- 
sider was never asked to do work or subscribe money. Adams saw 
no office that he wanted, and he gravely thought that, from his 
point of view, in the long run, he was likely to be a more useful 
citizen without office. He could at least act as audience, and, in 
those days, a Washington audience seldom filled even a small 
theatre. He felt quite well satisfied to look on, and from time to 
time he thought he might risk a criticism of lEe players; but though 
he found his own position regular, he never quite understood that 
of John Hay. The Republican leaders treated Hay as one of 
themselves; they asked his services and took his money with a 
freedom that staggered even a hardened observer; but they never 
needed him in equivalent office. In Washington Hay was the only 
competent man in the party for diplomatic work. He corresponded 
in his powers of usefulness exactly with Lord Granville in London, 
who had been for forty years the saving grace of every Liberal 
administration in turn. Had usefulness to the public service been 



324 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ever a question, Hay should have had a first-class mission under 
Hayes; should have been placed in the Cabinet by Garfield, and 
should have been restored to it by Harrison. These gentlemen 
were always using him; always invited his services, and always 
took his money. 

Adams's opinion of politics and politicians, as he frankly ad- 
mitted, lacked enthusiasm, although never, in his severest temper, 
did he apply to them the terms they freely applied to each other; 
and he explained everything by his old explanation of Grant's 
character as more or less a general type; but what roused in his 
mind more rebellion was the patience and good-nature with which 
Hay allowed himself to be used. The trait was not confined to 
politics. Hay seemed to like to be used, and this was one of his 
many charms; but in politics this sort of good-nature demands 
supernatural patience. Whatever astonishing lapses of social 
convention the politicians betrayed, Hay laughed equally heartily, 
and told the stories with constant amusement, at his own expense. 
Like most Americans, he liked to play at making Presidents, but, 
unlike most, he laughed not only at the Presidents he helped to 
make, but also at himself for laughing. 

One must be rich, and come from Ohio or New York, to gratify 
an expensive taste like this. Other men, on both political flanks, 
did the same thing, and did it well, less for selfish objects than for 
the amusement of the game; but Hay alone lived in Washington 
and in the centre of the Ohio influences that ruled the Republican 
Party during thirty years. On the whole, these influences were 
respectable, and although Adams could not, under any circum- 
stances, have had any value, even financially, for Ohio politicians, 
Hay might have much, as he showed, if they only knew enough 
to appreciate him. The American politician was occasionally an 
amusing object; Hay laughed, and, for want of other resource, 
Adams laughed too; but perhaps it was partly irritation at seeing 
how President Harrison dealt his cards that made Adams wel- 
come President Cleveland back to the White House. 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER 325 

At all events, neither Hay nor King nor Adams had much to 
gain by reflecting Mr. Harrison in 1892, or by defeating him, as 
far as he was concerned; and as far as concerned Mr. Cleveland, 
they seemed to have even less personal concern. The whole coun- 
try, to outward appearance, stood in much the same frame of 
mind. Everywhere was slack-water. Hay himself was almost as 
languid and indifferent as Adams. Neither had occupation. Both 
had finished their literary work. The "Life" of Lincoln had been 
begun, completed, and published hand in hand with the "History" 
of Jefferson and Madison, so that between them they had written 
nearly all the American history there was to write. The inter- 
mediate period needed intermediate treatment; the gap between 
James Madison and Abraham Lincoln could not be judicially 
filled by either of them. Both were heartily tired of the subject, 
and America seemed as tired as they. What was worse, the re- 
deeming energy of Americans which had generally served as the 
resource of minds otherwise vacant, the creation of new force, 
the application of expanding power, showed signs of check. Even 
the year before, in 1891, far off in the Pacific, one had met every- 
where in the East a sort of stagnation a creeping paralysis 
complaints of shipping and producers that spread throughout 
the whole southern hemisphere. Questions of exchange and sil- 
ver-production loomed large. Credit was shaken, and a change of 
party government might shake it even in Washington. The mat- 
ter did not concern Adams, who had no credit, and was always 
richest when the rich were poor; but it helped to dull the vibra- 
tion of society. 

However they studied it, the balance of profit and loss, on the 
last twenty years, for the three friends, King, Hay, and Adams, 
was exceedingly obscure in 1892. They had lost twenty years, 
but what had they gained? They often discussed the question. 
Hay had a singular faculty for remembering faces, and would 
break off suddenly the thread of his talk, as he looked out of the 
window on La Fayette Square, to notice an old corps commander 



326 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

or admiral of the Civil War, tottering along to the club for his 
cards or his cocktail: "There is old Dash who broke the rebel 
lines at Blankburg! Think of his having been a thunderbolt of 
war!" Or what drew Adams's closer attention: "There goes 
old Boutwell gambolling like the gambolling kid!" There they 
went! Men who had swayed the course of empire as well as the 
coufse of Hay, King, and Adams, less valued than the ephemeral 
Congressman behind them, who could not have told whether the 
general was a Boutwell or Boutwell a general. Theirs was the 
highest known success, and one asked what it was worth to them. 
Apart from personal vanity, what would they sell it for? Would 
any one of them, from President downwards, refuse ten thousand 
a year in place of all the consideration he received from the world 
on account of his success ? 

Yet consideration had value, and at that time Adams enjoyed 
lecturing Augustus St. Gaudens, in hours of depression, on its 
economics: "Honestly you must admit that even if you don't pay 
your expenses you get a certain amount of advantage from doing 
the best work. Very likely some of the really successful Ameri- 
cans would be willing you should come to dinner sometimes, if you 
did not come too often, while they would think twice about Hay, 
and would never stand me." The forgotten statesman had no 
value at all; the general and admiral not much; the historian but 
little; on the whole, the artist stood best, and of course, wealth 
rested outside the question, since it was acting as judge; but, in 
the last resort, the judge certainly admitted that consideration 
had some value as an asset, though hardly as much as ten or 
five thousand a year. 

Hay and Adams had the advantage of looking out of their win- 
dows on the antiquities of La Fayette Square, with the sense of 
having all that any one had; all that the world had to offer; all 
that they wanted in life, including their names on scores of title- 
pages and in one or two biographical dictionaries; but this had 
nothing to do with consideration, and they knew no more than 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER 327 

Boutwell or St. Gaudens whether to call it success. Hay had 
passed ten years in writing the "Life" of Lincoln, and^perhaps 
President Lincoln was the better for it, but what Hay goFfrom it 
was not so easy to see, except the privilege of seeing popular book- 
makers steal from his book and cover the theft by abusing the 
author. Adams had given ten or a dozen years to Jefferson and 
Madison, with expenses which, in any mercantile business, could 
hardly have been reckoned at less than a hundred thousand dol- 
lars, on a salary of five thousand a year; and when he asked what 
return he got from this expenditure, rather more extravagant in 
proportion to his means than a racing-stable, he could see none 
whatever. Such works never return money. Even Frank Park- 
man never printed a first edition of his relatively cheap and popu- 
lar volumes, numbering more than seven hundred copies, until 
quite at the end of his life. A thousand copies of a book that cost 
twenty dollars or more was as much as any author could expect; 
two thousand copies was a visionary estimate unless it were can- 
vassed for subscription. As far as Adams knew, he had but three 
serious readers Abram Hewitt, Wayne McVeagh, and Hay 
himself. He was amply satisfied with their consideration, and 
could dispense with that of the other fifty-nine million, nine hun- 
dred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-seven; 
but neither he nor Hay was better off in any other respect, and 
their chief title to consideration was their right to look out of their 
windows on great men, alive or dead, in La Fayette Square, a 
privilege which had nothing to do with their writings. 

The world was always good-natured; civil; glad to be amused; 
open-armed to any one who amused it; patient with every one 
who dicTriot Insist on putting himself in, its way, or costing it 
money; but this was not consideration, still less power in any of 
its concrete forms, and applied as well or better to a comic actor. 
Certainly a rare soprano or tenor voice earned infinitely more 
applause as it gave infinitely more pleasure, even in America; but 
one does what one can with one's means, and casting up one's 



328 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

balance sheet, one expects only a reasonable return on one's capi- 
tal. Hay and Adams had risked nothing and never played for 
high stakes. King had followed the ambitious course. He had 
played for many millions. He had more than once come close 
to a great success, but the result was still in doubt, and meanwhile 
he was passing the best years of his life underground. For com- 
panionship he was mostly lost. 

Thus, in 1892, neither Hay, King, nor Adams knew whether 
they had attained success, or how to estimate it, or what to call 
it; and the American people seemed to have no clearer idea than 
they. Indeed, the American people had no idea at all; they were 
wandering in a wilderness much more sandy than the Hebrews had 
ever trodden about Sinai; they had neither serpents nor golden 
calves to worship. They had lost the sense of worship; for the 
idea that they worshipped money seemed a delusion. Worship of 
money was an old-world trait; a healthy appetite akin to worship 
of the Gods, or to worship of power in any concrete shape; but the 
American wasted money more recklessly than any one ever did 
before; he spent more to less purpose than any extravagant court 
aristocracy; he had no sense of relative values, and knew not what 
to do with his money when he got it, except use it to make more, 
or throw it away. Probably, since human society began, it had 
seen no such curious spectacle as the houses of the San Francisco 
millionaires on Nob Hill. Except for the railway system, the enor- 
ijious wealth taken out of the ground since 1840, had disappeared. 
West of the Alleghenies, the whole country might have been swept 
clean, and could have been replaced in better form within one or 
;two years. The American mind had less respect for money than 
"the European or Asiatic mind, and bore its loss more easily; but 
it had been deflected by its pursuit till it could turn in no other 
direction. It shunned, distrusted, disliked, the dangerous attrac- 
tion of ideals, and stood alone in history for its ignorance of the 
past. 

Personal contact brought this American trait close to Adams's 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER 329 

notice. His first step, on returning to Washington, took him out 
to the cemetery known as Rock Creek, to see the bronze figure 
which St. Gaudens had made for him in his absence. Naturally 
every detail interested him; every line; every touch of the artist; 
every change of light and shade; every point of relation; every 
possible doubt of St. Gaudens's correctness of taste or feeling; 
so that, as the spring approached, he was apt to stop there often 
to see what the figure had to tell him that was new; but, in all 
that it had to say, he never once thought of questioning what it 
meant. He supposed its meaning to be the one commonplace 
about it the oldest idea known to human thought. He knew 
that if he asked an Asiatic its meaning, not a man, woman, or 
child from Cairo to Kamtchatka would have needed more than 
a glance to reply. From the Egyptian Sphinx to the Kamakura 
Daibuts; from Prometheus to Christ; from Michael Angelo to 
Shelley, art had wrought on this eternal figure almost as though 
it had nothing else to say. The interest of the figure was not in 
its meaning, but in the response of the observer. As Adams sat 
there, numbers of people came, for the figure seemed to have be- 
come a tourist fashion, and all wanted to know its meaning. Most 
took it for a portrait-statue, and the remnant were vacant-minded 
in the absence of a personal guide. None felt what would have 
been a nursery-instinct to a Hindu baby or a Japanese jinricksha- 
runner. The only exceptions were the clergy, who taught a lesson 
even deeper. One after another brought companions there, and, 
apparently fascinated by their own reflection, broke out passion- 
ately against the expression they felt in the figure of despair, of 
atheism, of denial. Like the others, the priest saw only what he 
brought. Ljke_U^great artists, St. Gaudens held up the mirror 
and no more. The American layman had lost sight of ideals fthe 
American priest 'had lost sight of faith. Both were^ more Ameri- 
can than the old, half-witted soldiers wKo^Hcnoiinced the wast- 
ing, on a mere grave, of money which should have been given for 
drink. 



330 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Landed, lost, and forgotten, in the centre of this vast plain of 
self-content, Adams could see but one active interest, to which all 
others were subservient, and which absorbed the energies of some 
sixty million people to the exclusion of every other force, real or 
imaginary. The power of the railway system had enormously in- 
creased since 1870. Already the coal output of 160,000,000 tons 
closely approached the 180,000,000 of the British Empire, and one 
Kelchone's" breath at the nearness of what one had never expected 
to see, the crossing of courses, and the lead of American energies. 
The moment was deeply exciting to a historian, but the railway 
system itself interested one less than in 1868, since it offered less 
chance for future profit. Adams had been born with the railway 
system; had grown up with it; had been over pretty nearly every 
mile of it with curious eyes, and knew as much about it as his 
neighbors; but not there could he look for a new education. In- 
complete though it was, the system seemed on the whole to satisfy 
the wants of society better than any other part of the social ma- 
chine, and society was content with its creation, for the time, and 
with itself for creating it. Nothing new was to be done or learned 
there, and the world hurried on to its telephones, bicycles, and 
electric trams. At past fifty, Adams solemnly and painfully learned 
to ride the bicycle. 

Nothing else occurred' to him as a means of new life. Nothing 
else offered itself, however carefully he sought. He looked for no 
change. He lingered in Washington till near July without notic- 
ing a new idea. Then he went back to England to pass his summer 
on the Deeside. In October he returned to Washington and there 
awaited the reelection of Mr. Cleveland, which led to no deeper 
thought than that of taking up some small notes that happened 
to be outstanding. He had seen enough of the world to be a coward, 
and above all he had an uneasy distrust of bankers. Even dead 
men allow themselves a few narrow prejudices. 



CHAPTER XXII 
CHICAGO (1893) 

DRIFTING in the dead-water of the fin-de-siecle and 
during this last decade every one talked, and seemed 
to f eel fin-de-siecle where not a breath stirred the idle 
air of education or fretted the mental torpor of self-content, one 
lived alone. Adams had long ceased going into society. For years 
he had not dined out of his own house, and in public his face was 
as unknown as that of an extinct statesman. He had often noticed 
that six months' oblivion amounts to newspaper-death, and that 
resurrection is rare. Nothing is easier, if a man wants it, than rest, 
profound as the grave. 

His friends sometimes took pity on him, and came to share a 
meal or pass a night on their passage south or northwards, but 
existence was, on the whole, exceedingly solitary, or seemed so to 
him. Of the society favorites who made the life of every dinner- 
table and of the halls of Congress Tom Reed, Bourke Cockran, 
Edward Wolcott he knew not one. Although Calvin Brice was 
his next neighbor for six years, entertaining lavishly as no one had 
ever entertained before in Washington, Adams never entered his 
house. W. C. Whitney rivalled Senator Brice in hospitality, and 
was besides an old acquaintance of the reforming era, but Adams 
saw him as little as he saw his chief, President Cleveland, or Presi- 
dent Harrison or Secretary Bayard or Blaine or Olney. One has 
no choice but to go everywhere or nowhere. No one may pick and 
choose between houses, or accept hospitality without returning it. 
He loved solitude as little as others did; but he was unfit for social 
work, and he sank under the surface. 

Luckily for such helpless animals as solitary men, the world is 
not only good-natured but even friendly and generous; it loves 
to pardon if pardon is not demanded as a right. Adams's social 



332 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

offences were many, and no one was more sensitive to it than 
himself; but a few houses^always remained which he could enter 
without being asked, and quit without being noticed. One was 
John Hay's; another was Cabot Lodge's; a third led to an intimacy 
which had the singular effect of educating him in knowledge of 
the very class of American politician who had done most to block 
his intended path in life. Senator Cameron of Pennsylvania had 
married in 1880 a young niece of Senator John Sherman of Ohio, 
thus making an alliance of dynastic importance in politics, and 
in society a reign of sixteen years, during which Mrs. Cameron 
and Mrs. Lodge led a career, without precedent and without suc- 
cession, as the dispensers of sunshine over Washington. Both of 
them had been kind to Adams, and a dozen years of this intimacy 
had made him one of their habitual household, as he was of Hay's. 
In a small society, such ties between houses become political and 
social force. Without intention or consciousness, they fix one's 
status in the world. Whatever one's preferences in politics might 
be, one's house was bound to the Republican interest when sand- 
wiched between Senator Cameron, John Hay, and Cabot Lodge, 
with Theodore Roosevelt equally at home in them all, and Cecil 
Spring-Rice to unite them by impartial variety. The relation was 
daily, and the alliance undisturbed by power or patronage, since 
Mr. Harrison, in those respects, showed little more taste than Mr. 
Cleveland for the society and interests of this particular band of 
followers, whose relations with the White House were sometimes 
comic, but never intimate. 

In February, 1893, Senator Cameron took his family to South 
Carolina, where he had bought an old plantation at Coffin's Point 
on St. Helena Island, and Adams, as one of the family, was taken, 
with the rest, to open the new experience. From there he went on 
to Havana, and came back to Coffin's Point to linger till near 
April. In May the Senator took his family to Chicago to see the 
Exposition, and Adams went with them. Early in June, all sailed 
for England together, and at last, in the middle of July, all found 



CHICAGO 333 

themselves in Switzerland, at Prangins, Chamounix, and Zermatt. 
On July 22 they drove across the Furka Pass and went down by 
rail to Lucerne. 

Months of close contact teach character, if character has inter- 
est; and to Adams the Cameron type had keen interest, ever since 
it had shipwrecked his career in the person of President Grant. 
Perhaps it owed life to Scotch blood; perhaps to the blood of Adam 
and Eve, the primitive strain of man; perhaps only to the blood 
of the cottager working against the blood of the townsman; but 
whatever it was, one liked it for its simplicity. The Pennsylvania 
mind, as minds go, was not complex; it reasoned little and nevef 
talked; but in practical matters it was the steadiest "of all Ameri J 
can types; perhaps the most efficient; certainly the safest. 

Adams had printed as much as this in his books, but had never 
been able to find a type to describe, the two great historical Penn- 
sylvanians having been, as every one had so often heard, Benjamin 
Franklin of Boston and Albert Gallatin of Geneva. Of Albert 
Gallatin, indeed, he had made a voluminous study and an elabo- 
rate picture, only to show that he was, if American at all, a 
New Yorker, with a Calvinistic strain rather Connecticut than 
Pennsylvanian. The true Pennsylvanian was a narrower type; as 
narrow as the kirk; as shy of other people's narrowness as a Yankee; 
as self-limited as a Puritan farmer. To him, none but Pennsyl- 
yanians were white. Chinaman, negro, Dago, Italian, English- 
man, Yankee all was one in the depths of Pennsylvanian con- 
sciousness. The mental machine could run only on what it took 
for American lines. This was familiar, ever since one's study of 
President Grant in 1869; but in 1893, as then, the type was admir- 
ably strong and useful if one wanted only to run on the same lines. 
Practically the Pennsylvanian forgot his prejudices when he allied 
his interests. He then became supple in action and large in motive, 
whatever he thought of his colleagues. When he happened to be 
right which Was, of course, whenever one agreed with him he 
was the strongest American in America. As an ally he was worth 



334 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

all the rest, because he understood his own class, who were always 
a majority; and knew how to deal with them as no New Englander 
could. If one wanted work done in Congress, one did wisely to 
avoid asking a New Englander to do it. A Pennsylvanian not 
only could do it, but did it willingly, practically, and intelligently. 

Never in the range of human possibilities had a Cameron be- 
lieved in an Adams or an Adams in a Cameron but they had 
curiously enough, almost always worked together. The Camerons 
had what the Adamses thought the political vice of reaching their 
objects without much regard to their methods. The loftiest virtue 
of the Pennsylvania machine had never been its scrupulous purity 
or sparkling professions. The machine worked by coarse means on 
coarse interests; but its practical success had been the most curi- 
ous subject of study in American history. When one summed up 
the results of Pennsylvanian influence, one inclined to think that 
Pennsylvania set up the Government in 1789; saved it in 1861; 
created the American system; developed its iron and coal power; 
and invented its great railways. Following up the same line, in 
his studies of American character, Adams reached the result 
to him altogether paradoxical that Cameron's qualities and 
defects united in equal share to make him the most useful member 
of the Senate. 

In the interest of studying, at last, a perfect and favorable speci- 
men of this American type which had so persistently suppressed 
his own, Adams was slow to notice that Cameron strongly influ- 
enced him, but he could not see a trace of any influence which he 
exercised on Cameron. Not an opinion or a view of his on any 
subject was ever reflected back on him from Cameron's, mind; 
not even an expression or a fact. Yet the difference in age was 
trifling, and in education slight. On the other hand, Cameron 
made deep impression on Adams, and in nothing so much as on 
the great subject of discussion that year the question of silver. 

Adams had taken no interest in the matter, and knew nothing 
about it, except as a very tedious hobby of his friend Dana Horton; 



CHICAGO 335 

but inevitably, from the moment he was forced to choose sides, he 
was sure to choose silver. Every political idea and personal preju- 
dice he ever dallied with held him to the silver standard, and made 
a barrier between him and gold. He knew well enough all that was 
to be said for the gold standard as economy, but he had never in 
his life taken politics for a pursuit of economy. One might have 
a political or an economical policy; one could not have both at 
the same time. This was heresy in the English school, but it had 
always been law in the American. Equally he knew all that was to 
be said on the moral side of the question, and he admitted that his 
interests were, as Boston maintained, wholly on the side of gold; 
but, had they been ten times as great as they were, he could not 
have helped his bankers or croupiers to load the dice and pack 
the cards to make sure his winning the stakes. At least he was 
bound to profess disapproval or thought he was. From early 
childhood his moral principles had struggled blindly with his inter- 
ests, but he was certain of one law that ruled all others masses 
of men invariably follow interests in deciding morals. Morality 
is a private and costly luxury. The morality of the silver or gold 
standards was to be decided by popular vote, and the popular 
vote would be decided by interests; but on which side lay the 
larger interest? To him the interest was political; he thought it 
probably his last chance of standing up for his eighteenth-century 
principles, strict construction, limited powers, George Washington, 
John Adams, and the rest. He had, in a half-hearted way, strug- 
gled all his life against State Street, banks, capitalism altogether, 
as he knew it in old England or new England, and he was fated 
to make his last resistance behind the silver standard. 
*.For him this result was clear, and if he erred, he erred in com- 
pany with nine men out of ten in Washington, for there was little 
difference on the merits. Adams was sure to learn backwards, but 
the case seemed entirely different with Cameron, a typical Pennsyl- 
vanian, a practical politician, whom all the reformers, including 
all the Adamses, had abused for a lifetime for subservience to 



336 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

moneyed interests and political jobbery. He was sure to go with 
the banks and corporations which had made and sustained him. 
On the contrary, he stood out obstinately as the leading champion 
of silver in the East. The reformers, represented by the Evening 
Post and Godkin, whose personal interests lay with the gold stand- 
ard, at once assumed that Senator Cameron had a personal interest 
in silver, and denounced his corruption as hotly as though he had 
been convicted of taking a bribe. 

More than silver and gold, the moral standard interested Ad- 
ams. His own interests were with gold, but he supported silver; 
the Evening Post 9 s and Godkin's interests were with gold, and they 
frankly said so, yet they avowedly pursued their interests even into 
politics; Cameron's interests had always been with the corporations, 
yet he supported silver. Thus morality required that Adams should 
be condemned for going against his interests; that Godkin was vir- 
tuous in following his interests; and that Cameron was a scoundrel 
whatever he did. 

Granting that one of the three was a moral idiot, which was it: 
Adams or Godkin or Cameron? Until a Council or a Pope or a 
Congress or the newspapers or a popular election has decided a 
question of doubtful morality, individuals are apt to err, especially 
when putting money in to. their own pockets; but in democracies, 
the majority alone gives law. To any one who knew the relative 
popularity of Cameron and Godkin, the idea of a popular vote 
between them seemed excessively humorous; yet the popular vote 
in the end did decide against Cameron, for Godkin. 

The Boston moralist and reformer went on, as always, like Dr. 
Johnson, impatiently stamping his foot and following his interests, 
or his antipathies; but the true American, slow to grasp new and 
complicated ideas, groped in the dark to discover where his greater 
interest lay. As usual, the. banks^taught him. In the course of fifty 
years the banlcs taught one many wise lessons for which an insect 
had to be grateful whether it liked them or not; but of all the 
lessons Adams learned from them, none compared in dramatic 



CHICAGO 337 

effect with that of July 22, 1893, when, after talking silver all the 
morning with Senator Cameron on the top of their travelling- 
carriage crossing the Furka Pass, they reached Lucerne in the 
afternoon, where Adams found letters from his brothers request- 
ing his immediate return to Boston because the community was 
bankrupt and he was probably a beggar. 

If he wanted education, he knew no quicker mode of learning a 
lesson than that of being struck on the head by it; and yet he was 
himself surprised at his own slowness to understand what had 
struck him. For several years a sufferer from insomnia, his first 
thought was of beggary of nerves, and he made ready to face a 
sleepless night, but although his mind tried to wrestle with the 
problem how any man could be ruined who had, months before, 
paid off every dollar of debt he knew himself to owe, he gave up 
that insoluble riddle in order to fall back on the larger principle 
that beggary could be no more for him than it was for others who 
were more valuable members of society, and, with that, he went 
to sleep like a good citizen, and the next day started for Quincy 
where he arrived August 7. 

As a starting-point for a new education at fifty-five years old, the 
shock of finding one's self suspended, for several months, over the 
edge of bankruptcy, without knowing how one got there, or how 
to get away, is to be strongly recommended. By slow degrees the 
situation dawned on him that the banks had lent him, among 
others, some money thousands of millions were as bank- 
ruptcy the same for which he, among others, was respon- 
sible and of which he knew no more than they. The humor of this 
situation seemed to him so much more pointed than the terror, as 
to make him laugh at himself with a sincerity he had been long 
strange to. As far as he could comprehend, he had nothing to lose 
that he cared about, but the banks stood to lose their existence. 
Money mattered as little to him as to anybody, but money was 
their life. For the first time he had the banks in his power; he could 
afford to laugh; and the whole community was in the same posi- 



338 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

tion, though few laughed. All sat down on the banks and asked 
what the banks were going to do about it. To Adams the situa- 
tion seemed farcical, but the more he saw of it, the less he under- 
stood it. He was quite sure that nobody understood it much 
better. Blindly some very powerful energy was at work, doing 
something that nobody wanted done. When Adams went to his 
bank to draw a hundred dollars of his own money on deposit, the 
cashier refused to let him have more than fifty, and Adams ac- 
cepted the fifty without complaint because he was himself refusing 
to let the banks have some hundreds or thousands that belonged to 
them. Each wanted to help the other, yet both refused to pay their 
debts, and he could find no answer to the question which was re- 
sponsible for getting the other into the situation, since lenders and 
borrowers were the same interest and socially the same person. 
Evidently the force was one; its operation was mechanical; its 
effect must be proportional to its power; but no one knew what it 
meant, and most people dismissed it as an emotion a panic 
that meant nothing. 

Men died like flies under the strain, and Boston grew suddenly 
old, haggard, and thin. Adams alone waxed fat and was happy, 
for at last he had got hold of his world and could finish his educa- 
tion, interrupted for twenty years. He cared not whether it were 
worth finishing, if only it amused; but he seemed, for the first time 
since 1870, to feel that something new and curious was about to 
happen to the world. Great changes had taken place since 1870 in 
the forces at work; the old machine ran far behind its duty; some- 
where somehow it was bound to break down, and if it hap- 
pened to break precisely over one's head, it gave the better chance 
for study. 

For the first time in several years he saw much of his brother 
Brooks in Quincy, and was surprised to find him absorbed in the 
same perplexities. Brooks was then a man of forty-five years old; 
a strong writer and a vigorous thinker who irritated too many Bos- 
ton conventions ever to suit the atmosphere; but the two brothers 



CHICAGO 



339 



could talk to each other without atmosphere and were used to 
audiences of one. Brooks had discovered or developed a law of 
history that civilization followed the exchanges, and having worked 
it out for the Mediterranean was working it out for the Atlantic. 
Everything American, as well as most things European and 
Asiatic, became unstable by this law, seeking new equilibrium 
and compelled to find it. Loving paradox, Brooks, with the ad- 
vantages of ten years' study, had swept away much rubbish in 
the effort to build up a new line of thought for himself, but he 
found that no paradox compared with that of daily events. The 
facts were constantly outrunning his thoughts. The instability 
was greater than he calculated; the speed of acceleration passed 
bounds. Among other general rules he laid down the paradox that, 
in the social disequilibrium between capital and labor, the logical 
outcome was not collectivism, but anarchism; and Henry made 
note of it for study. 

By the time he got back to Washington on September 19, the 
storm having partly blown over, life had taken on a new face, and 
one so interesting that he set off to Chicago to study the Exposi- 
tion again, and stayed there a fortnight absorbed in it. He found 
matter of study to fill a hundred years, and his education spread 
over chaos. Indeed, it seemed to him as though, this year, educa- 
tion went mad. The silver question, thorny as it was, fell into 
relations as simple as words of one syllable, compared with the 
problems of credit and exchange that came to complicate it; and 
when one sought rest at Chicago, educational game started like 
rabbits from every building, and ran out of sight among thousands 
of its kind before one could mark its burrow. The Exposition 
itself defied philosophy. One might find fault till the last gate 
closed, one could still explain nothing that needed explanation. 
As a scenic display, Paris had never approached it, but the 
inconceivable scenic display consisted in its being there at all 
more surprising, as it was, than anything else on the continent, 
Niagara Falls, the Yellowstone Geysers, and the whole railway 



34-O THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

system thrown in, since these were all natural products in their 
place; while, since Noah's Ark, no such Babel of loose and ill- 
joined, such vague and ill-defined and unrelated thoughts and 
half-thoughts and experimental outcries as the Exposition, had 
ever ruffled the surface of the Lakes. 

The first astonishment became greater every day. That the 
Exposition should be a natural growth and product of the North- 
west offered a step in evolution to startle Darwin; but that it 
should be anything else seemed an idea more startling still; and 
even granting it were not admitting it to be a sort of industrial, 
speculative growth and product of the Beaux Arts artistically 
induced to pass the summer on the shore of Lake Michigan 
could it be made to seem at home there? Was the American made 
to seem at home in it? Honestly, he had the air of enjoying it as 
though it were all his own; he felt it was good; he was proud of 
it; for the most part, he acted as though he had passed his life 
in landscape gardening and architectural decoration. If lie had 
not done it himself, he had known how to get it done to suit him, 
as he knew how to get his wives and daughters dressed at Worth's 
or Paquin's. Perhaps he could not do it again; the next time he 
would want to do it himself and would show his own faults; but for 
the moment he seemed to have leaped directly from Corinth and 
Syracuse and Venice, over the heads of London and New York, 
to impose classical standards on plastic Chicago. Critics had no 
trouble in criticising the classicism, but all trading cities had al- 
ways shown traders' taste, and, to the stern purist of religious 
faith, no art was thinner than Venetian Gothic. All trader's taste 
smelt of bric-a-brac; Chicago tried at least to give her taste a look 
of unity. 

One sat down to ponder on the steps beneath Richard Hunt's 
dome almost as deeply as on the steps of Ara Coeli, and much to the 
same purpose. Here was a breach of continuity a rupture m 
historical sequence! Was it real, or only apparent? One's personal 
universe hung on The answer, for, if the rupture was real and the 



CHICAGO 341 

new American world could take this sharp and conscious twist 
towards ideals, one's personal friends would come in, at last, as 
winners in the great American chariot-race for fame. If the people 
of the Northwest actually knew what was good when they saw it, 
they would some day talk about Hunt and Richardson, La Farge 
and St. Gaudens, Burnham and McKim, and Stanford White 
when their politicians and millionaires were otherwise forgotten. 
The artists and architects who had done the work offered little 
encouragement to hope it; they talked freely enough, but not in 
terms that one cared to quote; and to them the Northwest refused 
to look artistic. They talked as though they worked only for them- 
selves; as though art, to the Western people, was a stage decora- 
tion; a diamond shirt-stud; a paper collar; but possibly the archi- 
tects of Paestum and Girgenti had talked in the same way, and the 
Greek had said the same thing of Semitic Carthage two thousand 
years ago. 

Jostled by these hopes and doubts, one turned to the exhibits for 
help, and found it. The industrial schools tried to teach so much 
and so quickly that the instruction ran to waste. Some millions 
of other people felt the same helplessness, but few of them were 
seeking education, and to them helplessness seemed natural and 
normal, for they had grown up in the habit of thinking a steam- 
engine or a dynamo as natural as the sun, and expected to under- 
stand one as little as the other. For the historian alone the Expo- 
sition made a serious effort. Historical exhibits were common, but 
they never went far enough; none were thoroughly worked out. 
One of the best was that of the Cunard steamers, but still a student 
hungry for results found himself obliged to waste a pencil and 
several sheets of paper trying to calculate exactly when, according 
to the given increase of power, tonnage, and speed, the growth of 
the ocean steamer Would reach its limits. His figures brought him, 
he tKou^t/'to^theyear I9 2 7; ^B2^1 iei L8 enerat ^ on t? s P a e before 
force, space, and time shoulTmeet. The ocean steamer ran the 
surest line of trianguTaHbii into the future, because it was the 



34 2 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

nearest of man's products to a unity; railroads taught less because 
they seemed already finished except for mere increase in number; 
explosives taught most, but needed a tribe of chemists, physi- 
cists, and mathematicians to explain; the dynamo taught least 
because it had barely reached infancy, and, if its progress was to 
be constant at the rate of the last ten years, it would result in 
infinite costless energy within a generation. One lingered long 
among the dynamos, for they were new, and they gave to history 
a new phase. Men of science could never understand the ignorance 
'and naivete of the 'historian,' ".who, when he came suddenly on a 
new power, asked naturally what it was; did it pull or did it 
push? Was it a screw or thrust? Did it flow or vibrate? Was it a 
wire or a mathematical line? And a score of such questions to 
which he expected answers and was astonished to get none. 

Education ran riot at Chicago, at least for retarded minds 
which had never faced in concrete form so many matters of which 
they were ignorant. Men who knew nothing whatever who 
had never run a steam-engine, the simplest of forces who had 
never put their hands on a lever had never touched an electric 
battery never talked through a telephone, and had not the 
shadow of a notion what amount of force was meant by a watt 
or an ampere or an erg> or any other term of measurement intro- 
duced within a hundred years had no choice but to sit down on 
the steps and brood as they had never brooded on the benches of 
Harvard College, either as student or professor, aghast at what 
they had said and done in all these years, and still more ashamed 
of the childlike ignorance and babbling futility of the society 
that let them say and do it. The historical mind can think only 
in historical processes, and probably this was the first time since 
historians existed, that any of them had sat down helpless before 
a mechanical sequence. Before a metaphysical or a theological 
or a political sequence, most historians had felt helpless, but the 
single clue to which they had hitherto trusted was the unity of 
natural force. 



CHICAGO 34.3 

Did he himself quite know what he meant? Certainly not! If 
he had known enough to state his problem, his education would 
have been complete at once. Chicago asked in 1893 for the first 
time the question whether the American people knew where they 
were driving. Adams answered, for one, that he did not know, but 
would try to find out. On reflecting sufficiently deeply, under the 
shadow of Richard Hunt's architecture, he decided that the Amer- 
ican people probably knew no more than he did; but that they 
might still be driving or drifting unconsciously to some point in 
thought, as their solar system was said to be drifting towards 
some point in space; and that, possibly, if relations enough could 
be observed, this point might be fixed. Chicago was the first ex- 
pression of American thought as a unity; one must start there. 

Washington was the second. When he got back there, he fell 
headlong into the extra session of Congress called to repeal the 
Silver Act. The silver minority made an obstinate attempt to 
prevent it, and most of the majority had little heart in the creation 
of a single gold standard. The banks alone, and the dealers in 
exchange, insisted upon it; the political parties divided according to 
capitalistic geographical lines, Senator Cameron offering almost 
the only exception; but they mixed with unusual good-temper, and 
made liberal allowance for each others' actions and motives. The 
struggle was rather less irritable than such struggles generally 
were, and it ended like a comedy. On the evening of the final vote, 
Senator Cameron came back from the Capitol with Senator Brice, 
Senator Jones, Senator Lodge, and Moreton Frewen, all in the 
gayest of humors as though they were rid of a heavy responsibility. 
Adams, too, in a bystander's spirit, felt light in mind. He had stood 
up for his eighteenth century, his Constitution of 1789, his George 
Washington, his Harvard College, his Quincy, and his Plymouth 
Pilgrims, as long as any one would stand up with him. He had 
said it was hopeless twenty years before, but he had kept on, in the 
same old attitude, by habit and taste, until he found himself alto- 
gether alone, i He had hugged his antiquated dislike of bankers and 



344 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Capitalistic society until he had become little better than a crank. 
He had known for years that he must_ accept the regime, but he 
had known a great many other disagreeable certainties like age, 
senility, and death against which one made what* little resist- 
ance one could. The matter was settled at last by the people. 
For a hundred years, between 1793 and 1893, the American people 
had hesitated, vacillated, swayed forward and back, between two 
forces, one simply industrial, the other capitalistic, centralizing, and 
mechanical. In 1893, the issue came on the single gold standard, 
and the majority at last declared itself, once for all, in favor of 
the capitalistic system with all its necessary machinery. All one's 
friends, all one's best citizens, reformers, churches, colleges, edu- 
cated classes, had joined the banks to force submission to capi- 
talism; a submission long foreseen by the mere law of mass. Of 
all forms of society or government, this was the one he liked least, 
but his likes or dislikes were as antiquated as the rebel doctrine of 
State rights. A capitalistic system had been adopted, and if it were 
to be run at all, it must be run by capital and by capitalistic 
methods; for nothing could surpass the nonsensity of trying to 
run so complex and so concentrated a machine by Southern and 
Western farmers in grotesque alliance with city day-laborers, as 
had been tried in 1800 and 1828, and had failed even under simple 
conditions. 

There, education in domestic politics stopped. The rest was 
question of gear; of running machinery; of economy; and involved 
no disputed principle. Once admitted that the machine must be 
efficient, society might dispute in what social interest it should be 
run, but in any case it must work concentration. Such great revo- 
lutions commonly leave some bitterness behind, but nothing in 
politics ever surprised Henry Adams more than the ease with which 
he and his silver friends slipped across the chasm, and alighted on 
the single gold standard and the capitalistic system with its 
methods; the protective tariff; the corporations and trusts; the 
trades-unions and socialistic paternalism which necessarily made 



CHICAGO 345 

their complement; the whole mechanical consolidation of force, 
which ruthlessly stamped out the life of the class into which 
Adams was born, but created fnonopolies capable of controlling 
the new energies that America adored. 

Society rested, after sweeping into the ash-heap these cinders 
of a misdirected education. After this vigorous impulse, nothing 
remained for a historian but to ask how long and how far! 



CHAPTER XXIII 
SILENCE (1894-1898) 

THE convulsion of 1893 left its victims in dead-water, and 
closed much education. While the country braced itself 
up to an effort such as no one had thought within its 
powers, the individual crawled as he best could, through the 
wreck, and found many values of life upset. But for connecting 
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the four years, 1893 to 
1897, had no value in the drama of education, and might be left 
out. Much that had made life pleasant between 1870 and 1890 
perished in the ruin, and among the earliest wreckage had been 
the fortunes of Clarence King. The lesson taught whatever the 
bystander chose to read in it; but to Adams it seemed singularly 
full of moral, if he could but understand it. In 1871 he had thought 
King's education ideal, and his personal fitness unrivalled. No 
other young American approached him for the combination of 
chances physical energy, social standing, mental scope and 
training, wit, geniality, and science, that seemed superlatively 
American and irresistibly strong. His nearest rival was Alexander 
Agassiz, and, as far as their friends knew, no one else could be 
classed with them in the running. The result of twenty years' 
effort proved that the theory of scientific education failed where 
most theory fails for want of money. Even Henry Adams, who 
kept himself, as he thought, quite outside of every possible fi- 
nancial risk, had been caught in the cogs, and held for months 
over the gulf of bankruptcy, saved only by the chance that the 
whole class of millionaires were more or less bankrupt too, and the 
banks were forced to let the mice escape with the rats; but, in 
sum, education without capital could always be taken by the 
throat and forced to disgorge its gains, nor was it helped by the 
knowledge that no one intended it, but that all alike suffered. 



SILENCE 347 

Whether voluntary or mechanical the result for education was 
the same. The failure of the scientific scheme, without money to 
back it, was flagrant. 

The scientific scheme in theory was alone sound, for science 
should be equivalent to money; in practice science was helpless 
without money. The weak holder was, in his own language, sure 
to be frozen out. Education must fit the complex conditions of a 
new society, always accelerating its movement, and its fitness 
could be known only from success. One looked about for exam- 
ples of success among the educated of one's time the men born 
in the thirties, and trained to professions. Within one's immediate 
acquaintance, three were typical: John Hay, Whitelaw Reid, and 
William C. Whitney; all of whom owed their free hand to marriage, 
education serving only for ornament, but among whom, in 1893, 
William C. Whitney was far and away the most popular type. 

Newspapers might prate about wealth till commonplace print 
was exhausted, but as matter of habit, few Americans envied the 
very rich for anything the most of them got out of money. New 
York might occasionally fear them, but more often laughed or 
sneered at them, and never showed them respect. Scarcely one 
of the very rich men held any position in society by virtue of his 
wealth, or could have been elected to an office, or even into a good 
club. Setting aside the few, like Pierpont Morgan, whose social 
position had little to do with greater or less wealth, riches were in 
New York no object of envy on account of the joys they brought 
in their train, and Whitney was not even one of the very rich; 
yet in his case the envy was palpable. There was reason for it. 
Already in 1893 Whitney had finished with politics after having 
gratified every ambition, and swung the country almost at his 
will; he had thrown away the usual objects of political ambition 
like the ashes of smoked cigarettes; had turned to other amuse- 
ments, satiated every taste, gorged every appetite, won every 
object that New York afforded, and, not yet satisfied, had carried 
his field of activity abroad, until New York no longer knew what 



348 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

most to envy, his horses or his houses. He had succeeded pre- 
cisely where Clarence King had failed. 

Barely forty years had passed since all these men started in a 
bunch to race for power, and the results were fixed beyond rever- 
sal; but one knew no better in 1894 than In 1854 what an Ameri- 
can education ought to be in order to count as success. Even 
granting that it counted as money, its value could not be called 
general. America contained scores of men worth J&y^milliOTs_or 
upwards^ whose Hves were no more worth livingjdian those of 
their cooks, and to whom the task of making money equivalent 
to education offered more difficulties than to Adams the task of 
making education equivalent to money. Social position seemed to 
have value still, while education counted for nothing. A mathe- 
matician, linguist, chemist, electrician, engineer, if fortunate, 
might average a value of ten dollars a day in the open market. 
An administrator, organizer, manager, with 



of energy and will, but no education beyond Kis special branch, 
would probably be worth at least ten times as much. 

Society had failed to discover what sort of education suited it 
best. Wealth valued social position and classical education as 
highly as either of these valued wealth, and the women still tended 
to keep the scales even. For anything Adams could see he was 
himself as contented as though he had been educated; while 
Clarence King, whose education was exactly suited to theory, 
had failed; and Whitney, who was no better educated than Adams, 
had achieved phenomenal success. 

Had Adams in 1894 been starting in life as he did in 1854, he 
must have repeated that all he asked of education was the facile 
use of the four old tools: Mathematics, French, German, and 
Spanish. With these he could still make his way to any object 
within his vision, and would have a decisive advantage over nine 
rivals in ten. Statesman or lawyer, chemist or electrician, priest 
or professor, native or foreign, he would fear none. 

King's breakdown, physical as well as financial, brought the 



SILENCE 349 

indirect gain to Adams that, on recovering strength, King in- 
duced him to go to Cuba, where, in January, 1894, they drifted 
into the little town of Santiago. The picturesque Cuban society, 
which King knew well, was more amusing than any other that 
one had yet discovered in the whole broad world, but made no 
profession of teaching anything unless it were Cuban Spanish or 
the danza; and neither on his own nor on King's account did the 
visitor ask any loftier study than that of the buzzards floating on 
the trade-wind down the valley to Dos Bocas, or the colors of sea 
and shore at sunrise from the height of the Gran Piedra; but, as 
though they were still twenty years old and revolution were as 
young as they, the decaying fabric, which had never been solid, fell 
on their heads and drew them with it into an ocean of mischief. 
In the half-century between 1850 and 1900, empires were always 
falling on one's head, and, of all lessons, these constant political 
convulsions taught least. Since the time of Rameses, revolutions 
have j-aised more doubts tfian they solved, but they have some- 
times the merit of changing one's point of view, and the Cuban 
rebellion served to sever the last tie that attached Adams to a 
Democratic administration. He thought that President Cleve- 
land could have settled the Cuban question, without war, had he 
chosen to do his duty, and this feeling, generally held by the Demo- 
cratic Party, joined with the stress of economical needs and the 
gold standard to break into bits the old organization and to leave 
no choice between parties. The new American, whether con- 
sciously or not, had turned his back on the nineteenth century 
before he was done with it; the gold standard, the protective sys- 
tem, and the lawiT'oFihass could have no other outcome, and, as 
so often before, the movement, once accelerated by attempting 
to impede it, had the additional, brutal consequence of crushing 
equally the good and the bad that stood in its way. 

The lesson was old so old that it became tedious. One had 
studied nothing else since childhood, and wearied of it. For yet 
another year Adams lingered on these outskirts of the vortex, 



350 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

among the picturesque, primitive types of a world which had never 
been fairly involved in the general motion, and were the more 
amusing for their torpor. After passing the winter with King in 
the West Indies, he passed the summer with Hay in the Yellow- 
stone, and found there little to study. The Geysers were an old 
story; the Snake River posed no vital statistics except in its ford- 
ings; even the Tetons were as calm as they were lovely; while the 
wapiti and bear, innocent of strikes and corners, laid no traps. In 
return the party treated them with affection. Never did a band 
less bloody or bloodthirsty wander over the roof of the continent. 
Hay loved as little as Adams did, the labor of skinning and butcher- 
ing big game; he had even outgrown the sedate, middle-aged, medi- 
tative joy of duck-shooting, and found the trout of the Yellowstone 
too easy a prey. Hallett Phillips himself, who managed the party, 
loved to play Indian hunter without hunting so much as a field- 
mouse; Iddings the geologist was reduced to shooting only for the 
table, and the guileless prattle of Billy Hofer alone taught the 
simple life. Compared with the Rockies of 1871, the sense of wild- 
ness had vanished ; one saw no possible adventures except to break 
one's neck as in chasing an aniseed fox. Only the more intelligent 
ponies scented an occasional friendly and sociable bear. 

When the party came out of the Yellowstone, Adams went on 
alone to Seattle and Vancouver to inspect the last American rail- 
way systems yet untried. They, too, offered little new learning, 
and no sooner had he finished this debauch of Northwestern geog- 
raphy than with desperate thirst for exhausting the American 
field, he set out for Mexico and the Gulf, making a sweep of the 
Caribbean and clearing up, in these six or eight months, at least 
twenty thousand miles of American land and water. 

He was beginning to think, when he got back to Washington in 
April, 1895, that he knew enough about the edges of life tropi- 
cal islands, mountain solitudes, archaic law, and retrograde types. 
Infinitely more amusing and incomparably more picturesque 
than civilization, they educated only artists, and, as one's sixtieth 



SILENCE 351 

year approached, the artist began to die^ only a certain intense 
cerebral restlessness survived which no longer responded to sen- 
sual stimulants; one was driven from beauty to beauty as though 
art were a trotting-match. For this, one was in some degree pre- 
pared, for the old man had been a stage-type since drama began; 
but one felt some perplexity to account for failure on the opposite 
or mechanical side, where nothing but cerebral action was needed. 
Taking for granted that the alternative to art was arithmetic, 
he plunged deep into statistics, fancying that education would 
find the surest bottom there; and the study proved the easiest 
he had ever approached. Even the Government volunteered un- 
limited statistics, endless columns of figures, bottomless aver- 
ages merely for the asking. At the Statistical Bureau, Worthing- 
ton Ford supplied any material that curiosity could imagine for 
filling the vast gaps of ignorance, and methods for applying the 
plasters of fact. One seemed for a while to be winning ground, 
and one's averages projected themselves as laws into the future. 
Perhaps the most perplexing part of the study lay in the attitude 
of the statisticians, who showed no enthusiastic confidence in 
their own figures. They should have reached certainty, but they 
talked like other men who knew less. The method did not result 
in faith. Indeed, every increase of mass of volume and velocity 
seemed to bring in new elements, and, at last, a scholar, fresh 
in arithmetic and ignorant of algebra, fell into a superstitious 
terror of complexity as the sink of facts. Nothing came out as it 
should. In principle, according to figures, any one could set up 
or pull down a society. One could frame no sort of satisfactory 
answer to the constructive doctrines of Adam Smith, or to the 
destructive criticisms of Karl Marx or to the anarchistic impre- 
cations of Elisee Reclus. One revelled at will in the ruin of every 
society in the past, and rejoiced in proving the prospective over- 
throw of every society that seemed possible in the future; but mean- 
while these societies which violated every law, moral, arithmetical, 
and economical, not only propagated each other, but produced 



352 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

also fresh complexities with every propagation and developed mass 
with every complexity. 

The human factor was worse still. Since the stupefying dis- 
covery of Pteraspis in 1867, nothing had so confused the student as 
the conduct of mankind in the fin-de-siecle. No one seemed very 
much concerned about this world or the future, unless it might 
be the anarchists, and they only because they disliked the present. 
Adams disliked the present as much as they did, and his interest 
in future society was becoming slight, yet he was kept alive by 
irritation at finding his life so thin and fruitless. Meanwhile he 
watched mankind march on, like a train of pack-horses on the 
Snake River, tumbling from one morass into another, and at 
short intervals, for no reason but temper, falling to butchery, like 
Cain. Since 1850, massacres had become so common that so- 
ciety scarcely noticed them unless they summed up hundreds of 
thousands, as in Armenia; wars had been almost continuous, and 
were beginning again in Cuba, threatening in South Africa, and 
possible in Manchuria; yet impartial judges thought them all 
not merely unnecessary, but foolish induced by greed of the 
coarsest class, as though the Pharaohs or the Romans were still 
robbing their neighbors. The robbery might be natural and in- 
evitable, but the murder seemed altogether archaic. 

At one moment of perplexity to account for this trait of Pteraspis, 
or shark, which seemed to have survived every moral improvement 
of society, he took to study of the religious press. Possibly growth 
in human nature might show itself there. He found no need to 
speak unkindly of it; but, as an agent of motion, he preferred on 
the whole the vigor of the shark, with its chances of betterment; 
and he very gravely doubted, from his aching consciousness of 
religious void, whether any large fraction of society cared for a 
future life, or even for the present one, thirty years hence. Not an 
act, or an expression, or an image, showed depth of faith or hope. 

The object of education, therefore, was changed. For many 
years it had lost itself in studying what the world had ceased to 



SILENCE 353 

care for; if it were to begin again, it must try to find out what the 
mass of mankind did care for, and why. Religion, politics, sta- 
tistics, travel had thus far led to nothing. Even the Chicago Fair 
had only confused the roads. Accidental education could go no 
further, for one's mind was already littered and stuffed beyond 
hope with the millions of chance images stored away without order 
in the memory. One might as well try to educate a gravel-pit. The 
task was futile, which disturbed a student less than the discovery 
that, in pursuing it, he was becoming himself ridiculous. Nothing 
is more tiresome than a superannuated pedagogue. 

the moment he was rescued, as often before, by a womaiL) 
rndsunrmer, i89S,TVTrs." Cabot Lodge bade him follow 
her to Europe with the Senator and her two sons. The study of 
history is useful to the historian by teaching him his ignorance of 
women; and the mass of this ignorance crushes one who is familiar 
enough with what are called historical sources to realize how few 
women have ever been known. The woman who is known only 
through a man is known wrong, and excepting one or two like 
Mme. de Sevigne, no woman has pictured herself. The American 
woman of the nineteenth century will live only as the man saw 
her; probably she will be less known than the woman of the eight- 
eenth ; none of the female descendants of Abigail Adams can ever 
be nearly so familiar as her letters have made her; and all this is 
pure loss to history, for the American woman of the nineteenth 
century was much better company than the American man; 
she was probably much better company than her grandmothers. 
With Mrs. Lodge and her husband, Senator since 1893, Adams's 
relations had been those of elder brother or uncle since 1871 when 
Cabot Lodge had left his examination-papers on Assistant Pro- 
fessor Adams's desk, and crossed the street to Christ Church in 
Cambridge to get married. With Lodge himself, as scholar, fellow 
instructor, co-editor of the North American Review, and political 
reformer from 1873 to 1878, he had worked intimately, but with 
him afterwards as politician he had not much relation; and since 



354 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Lodge had suffered what Adams thought the misfortune of becom- 
ing not only a Senator but a Senator from Massachusetts a 
singular social relation which Adams had known only as fatal to 
friends a superstitious student, intimate with the laws of his- 
torical fatality, would rather have recognized him only as an 
enemy; but apart from this accident he valued Lodge highly, and 
in the waste places of average humanity had been greatly de- 
pendent on his house. Senators can never be approached with 
safety, but a Senator who has a very superior wife and several su- 
perior children who feel no deference for Senators as such, may 
be approached at times with relative impunity while they keep 
him under restraint. 

Where Mrs. Lodge summoned, one followed with gratitude, 
and so it chanced that in August one found one's self for the first 
time at Caen, Coutances, and Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. 
If history had a chapter with which he thought himself familiar, 
it was the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; yet so little has labor 
to do with knowledge that these bare playgrounds of the lecture 
system turned into green and verdurous virgin forests merely 
through the medium of younger eyes and fresher minds. His Ger- 
man bias must have given his youth a terrible twist, for the Lodges 
saw at a glance what he had thought unessential because un-Ger- 
man. They breathed native air in the Normandy of 1200, a com- 
pliment which would have seemed to the Senator lacking in taste or 
even in sense when addressed to one of a class of men who passed 
life in trying to persuade themselves and the public that they 
breathed nothing less American than a blizzard ; but this atmos- 
phere, in the touch of a real emotion, betrayed the unconscious 
humor of the senatorial mind. In the thirteenth century, by an 
unusual chance, even a Senator became natural, simple, interested, 
cultivated, artistic, liberal genial. 

Through the Lodge eyes the old problem became new and per- 
sonal; it threw off all association with the German lecture- room. 
One could not at first see what this novelty meant; it had the air 



SILENCE 355 

of mere antiquarian emotion like Wenlock Abbey and Pteraspis; 
but it expelled archaic law and antiquarianism once for all, with- 
out seeming conscious of it; and Adams drifted back to Washing- 
ton with a new sense of history. Again he wandered south, and 
in April returned to Mexico with the Camerons to study the 
charms of pulque and Churriguerresque architecture. In May he 
ran through Europe again with Hay, as far south as Ravenna. 
There came the end of the passage. After thus covering once more, 
in 1896, many thousand miles of the old trails, Adams went home 
in October, with every one else, to elect McKinley President and 
to start the world anew. 

For the old world of public men and measures since 1870, 
Adams wept no tears. Within or without, during or after it, as 
partisan or historian, he never saw anything to admire in it, or 
anything he wanted to save; and in this respect he reflected only 
the public mind which balanced itself so exactly between the un- 
popularity of both parties as to express no sympathy with either. 
Even among the most powerful men of that generation he knew 
none who had a good word to say for it. No period so thoroughly 
ordinary had been known in American politics since Christopher 
Columbus first disturbed the balance of American society; but 
the natural result of such lack of interest in public affairs, in a 
small society like that of Washington, led an idle bystander to 
depend abjectly on intimacy of private relation. One dragged 
one's self down the long vista of Pennsylvania Avenue, by leaning 
heavily on one's friends, and avoiding to look at anything else. 
Thus life had grown narrow with years, more and more concen- 
trated on the circle of houses round La Fayette Square, which 
had no direct or personal share in power except in the case of Mr. 
Blaine whose tumultuous struggle for existence held him apart. 
Suddenly Mr. McKinley entered the White House and laid his 
hand heavily on this special group. In a moment the whole nest 
so slowly constructed, was torn to pieces and scattered over the 
world. Adams found himself alone. John Hay took his orders 



356 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

for London. Rockhill departed to Athens. Cecil Spring-Rice had 
been buried in Persia. Cameron refused to remain in public life 
either at home or abroad, and broke up his house on the Square. 
Only the Lodges and Roosevelts remained, but even they were 
at once absorbed in the interests of power. Since 1861, no such 
social convulsion had occurred. 

Even this was not quite the worst. To one whose interests lay 
chiefly in foreign affairs, and who, at this moment, felt most strongly 
the nightmare of Cuban, Hawaiian, and Nicaraguan chaos, the 
man in the State Department seemed more important than the 
man in the White House. Adams knew no one in the United 
States fit to manage these matters in the face of a hostile Europe, 
and had no candidate to propose; but he was shocked beyond all 
restraints of expression to learn that the President meant to put 
Senator John Sherman in the State Department in order to make 
a place for Mr. Hanna in the Senate. Grant himself had done noth- 
ing that seemed so bad as this to one who had lived long enough 
to distinguish between the ways of presidential jobbery, if not 
between the jobs. John Sherman, otherwise admirably fitted for 
the place, a friendly influence for nearly forty years, was noto- 
riously feeble and quite senile, so that the intrigue seemed to 
Adams the betrayal of an old friend as well as of the State Depart- 
ment. One might have shrugged one's shoulders had the President 
named Mr. Hanna his Secretary of State, for Mr. Hanna was a 
man of force if not of experience, and selections much worse than 
this had often turned out well enough; but John Sherman must 
inevitably and tragically break down. 

The prospect for once was not less vile than the men. One can 
bear coldly the jobbery of enemies, but not that of friends, and to 
Adams this kind of jobbery seemed always infinitely worse than 
all the petty money bribes ever exploited by the newspapers. 
Nor was the matter improved by hints that the President might 
call John Hay to the Department whenever John Sherman should 
retire. Indeed, had Hay been even unconsciously party to such an 



SILENCE 357 

intrigue, he would have put an end, once for all, to further con- 
cern in public affairs on his friend's part; but even without this 
last disaster, one felt that Washington had become no longer 
habitable. Nothing was left there but solitary contemplation of 
Mr. McKinley's ways which were not likely to be more amusing 
than the ways of his predecessors; or of senatorial ways, which 
offered no novelty of what the French language expressively calls 
embetement; or of poor Mr. Sherman's ways which would surely 
cause anguish to his friends. Once more, one must go! 

Nothing was easier! On and off, one had done the same thing 
since the year 1858, at frequent intervals, and had now reached 
the month of March, 1897; yet, as the whole result of six years 1 
dogged effort to begin a new education, one could not recommend 
it to the young. The outlook lacked hope. The object of travel had 
become more and more dim, ever since the gibbering ghost of the 
Civil Law had been locked in its dark closet, as far back as 1860. 
Noah's dove had not searched the earth for resting-places so care- 
fully, or with so little success. Any spot on land or water satis- 
fies a dove who wants and finds rest; but no perch suits a dove 
of sixty years old, alone and uneducated, who has lost his taste 
even for olives. To this, also, the young may be driven, as educa- 
tion, and the lesson fails in humor; but it may be worth knowing to 
some of them that the planet offers hardly a dozen places where an 
elderly man can pass a week alone without ennui, and none at all 
where he can pass a year. 

Irritated by such complaints, the world naturally answers that 
no man of sixty should live, which is doubtless true, though not 
original. The man of sixty, with a certain irritability proper to his 
years, retorts that the world has no business to throw on him the 
task of removing its carrion, and that whjlejhe remains he has a 
right to require amusement or at least education, since this costs 
nothing to any one and that a world which cannot educate, 
wjTljiqt amuse, and is ugly besides, has even less right to exist than 
he. Both views seem sound; but the world wearily objects to be 



358 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

called by epithets what society always admits in practice; for no 
one likes to be told that he is a bore, or ignorant, or even ugly; 
and having nothing to say in its defence, it rejoins that, what- 
ever license is pardonable in youth, the man of sixty who wishes 
consideration had better hold his tongue. This truth also has the 
defect of being too true. The rule holds equally for men of half that 
age. Only the very young have the right to betray their ignorance 
or ill-breeding. Elderly people commonly know enough not to 
betray themselves. 

Exceptions are plenty on both sides, as the Senate knew to its 
acute suffering; but young or old, women or men, seemed agreed 
on one point with singular unanimity; each praised silence in 
others. Of all characteristics in human nature, this has been one 
of the most abiding. Mere superficial gleaning of what, in the long 
history of human expression, has been said by the fool or unsaid 
by the wise, shows that, for once, no difference of opinion has ever 
existed on this. "Even a fool," said the wisest of men, "when he 
holdeth his peace, is counted wise," and still more often, the wisest 
of men, when he spoke the highest wisdom, has been counted a 
fool. They agreed only on the merits of silence in others. Socrates 
made remarks in its favor, which should have struck the Athenians 
as new to them; but qf late the repetition had grown tiresome. 
Thomas Carlyle vociferated his admiration of it. Matthew Arnold 
thought it the best form of expression; and Adams thought Mat- 
thew Arnold the best form of expression in his time. Algernon 
Swinburne called it the most noble to the end. Alfred de Vigny's 
dying wolf remarked : 

"A voir ce que Ton fut sur terre et ce qu'on laisse, 
Seul le silence est grand; tout le reste est faiblesse." 

"When one thinks what one leaves in the world when one dies, 
Only silence is strong, all the rest is but lies." 

Even Byron, whom a more brilliant era of genius seemed to have 



SILENCE 359 

decided to be but an indifferent poet, had ventured to affirm 
that 

"The Alp's snow summit nearer heaven is seen 
Than the volcano's fierce eruptive crest;" 

with other verses, to the effect that words are but a "temporary 
torturing flame"; of which no one knew more than himself. The 
evidence of the poets could not be more emphatic: 

"Silent, while years engrave the brow! 
Silent, the best are silent now!" 

Although none of these great geniuses had shown faith in silence 
as a cure for their own ills or ignorance, all of them, and all philos- 
ophy after them, affirmed that no man, even at sixty, had ever 
been known to attain knowledge; but that a very few were believed 
to have attained ignorance, which was in result the same. More 
than this, in every society worth the name, the man of sixty had 
been encouraged to ride this hobby the Pursuit of Ignorance 
in Silence as though it- were the easiest way to get rid of him. 
In America the silence was more oppressive than the ignorance; 
but perhaps elsewhere the world might still hide some haunt of 
f utilitarian silence where content reigned although long search 
had not revealed it and so the pilgrimage began anew ! 

The first step led to London where John Hay was to be estab- 
lished. One had seen so many American Ministers received in 
London that the Lord Chamberlain himself scarcely knew more 
about it; education could not be expected there; but there Adams 
arrived, April 21, 1897, as though thirty-six years were so many 
days, for Queen Victoria still reigned and one saw little change in 
St. James's Street. True, Carl ton House Terrace, like the streets 
of Rome, actually squeaked and gibbered with ghosts, till one felt 
like Odysseus before the press of shadows, daunted by a " bloodless 
fear"; but in spring London is pleasant, and it was more cheery 
than ever in May, 1897, when every one was welcoming the return 



360 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

of life after the long winter since 1893. One's fortunes, or one's 
friends' fortunes, were again in flood. 

This amusement could not be prolonged, for one found one's 
self the oldest Englishman in England, much too familiar with 
family jars better forgotten, and old traditions better unknown. 
No wrinkled Tannhauser, returning to the Wartburg, needed a 
wrinkled Venus to show him that he was no longer at home, and 
that even penitence was a sort of impertinence. He slipped away to 
Paris, and set up a household at St. Germain where he taught and 
learned French history for nieces who swarmed under the vener- 
able cedars of the Pavilion d'Angouleme, and rode about the green 
forest-alleys of St. Germain and Marly. From time to time Hay 
wrote humorous laments, but nothing occurred to break the sum- 
mer-peace of the stranded Tannhauser, who slowly began to feel 
at home in France as in other countries he had thought more home- 
like. At length, like other dead Americans, he went to Paris be- 
cause he could go nowhere else, and lingered there till the Hays 
came by, in January, 1898; and Mrs. Hay, who had been a stanch 
and strong ally for twenty years, bade him go with them to Egypt. 

Adams cared little to see Egypt again, but he was glad to see 
Hay, and readily drifted after him to the Nile. What they saw 
and what they said had as little to do with education as possible, 
until one evening, as they were looking at the sun set across the 
Nile from Assouan, Spencer Eddy brought them a telegram to 
announce the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor. This was 
the greatest stride in education since 1865, but what did it teach? 
One leant on a fragment of column in the great hall at Karnak 
and watched a jackal creep down the debris of ruin. The jackal's 
ancestors had surely crept up the same wall when it was building. 
What was his view about the value of silence? One lay in the 
sands and watched the expression of the Sphinx. Brooks Adams 
had taught him that the relation between civilizations was that 
of trade. Henry wandered, or was storm-driven, down the coast. 
He tried to trace out the ancient harbor of Ephesus. He went 



SILENCE 361 

over to Athens, picked up Rockhill, and searched for the harbor 
of Tiryns; together they went on to Constantinople and studied 
the great walls of Constantine and the greater domes of Justin- 
ian. His hobby had turned into a camel, and he hoped, if he rode 
long enough in silence, that at last he might come on a city of 
thought along the great highways of exchange. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

INDIAN SUMMER (1898-1899) 

THE summer of the Spanish War began the Indian sum- 
mer of life to one who had reached sixty years of age, 
and cared only to reap in peace such harvest as these 
sixty years had yielded. He had reason to be more than content 
with it. Since 1864 he had felt no such sense of power and mo- 
mentum, and had seen no such number of personal friends wield- 
ing it. The sense of solidarity counts for much in one's content- 
ment, but the sense of winning one's game counts for more; and 
in London, in 1898, the scene was singularly interesting to the 
last survivor of the Legation of 1861. He thought himself per- 
haps the only person living who could get full enjoyment of the 
drama. He carried every scene of it, in a century and a half since 
the Stamp Act, quite alive in his mind all the interminable 
disputes of his disputatious ancestors as far back as the year 1750 
as well as his own insignificance in the Civil War, every step 
in which had the object of bringing England into an American 
system. For this they had written libraries of argument and re- 
monstrance, and had piled war on war, losing their tempers for 
life, and souring the gentle and patient Puritan nature of their 
descendants, until even their private secretaries at times used 
language almost intemperate; and suddenly, by pure chance, the 
blessing fell on Hay. After two hundred years of stupid and greedy 
blundering, which no argument and no violence affected, the peo- 
ple of England learned their lesson just at the moment when Hay 
would otherwise have faced a flood of the old anxieties. Hay him- 
self scarcely knew how grateful he should be, for to him the change 
came almost of course. He saw only the necessary stages that had 
led to it, and to him they seemed natural; but to Adams, still 
living in the atmosphere of Palmerston and John Russell, the 



INDIAN SUMMER 363 



sudden appearance of Germany as the grizzly terror which, in 
twenty years effected what Adamses had tried for two hundred 
in vain frightened England into America's arms seemed as 
melodramatic as any plot of Napoleon the Great. He could feel 
only the sense of satisfaction at seeing the diplomatic triumph of 
all his family, since the breed existed, at last realized under his 
own eyes for the advantage of his oldest and closest ally. 

This was history, not education, yet it taught something ex- 
ceedingly serious, if not ultimate, could one trust the lesson. For 
the first time in his life, he felt a sense of possible purpose working 
itself out in history. Probably no one else on this earthly planet 
not even Hay could have come out on precisely such extreme 
personal satisfaction, but as he sat at Hay's table, listening to 
any member of the British Cabinet, for all were alike now, discuss 
the Philippines as a question of balance of power in the East, he 
could sec that the family work of a hundred and fifty years fell 
at once into the grand perspective of true empire-building, which 
Hay's work set off with artistic skill. The roughness of the archaic 
foundations looked stronger and larger in scale for the refinement 
and certainty of the arcade. In the long list of famous American 
Ministers in London, none could have given the work quite the 
completeness, the harmony, the perfect ease of Hay. 

Never before had Adams been able to discern the working of 
law in history, which was the reason of his failure in teaching it, 
for, chaos cannot be taught; but he thought he had a personal prop- 
erty by inheritance in this proof of sequence and intelligence in 
the affairs of man a property which x no one else had right to 
dispute; and this personal triumph left him a little cold towards 
the other diplomatic results of the war. He knew that Porto Rico 
must be taken, but he would have been glad to escape the Philip- 
pines. Apart from too intimate an acquaintance with the value 
of islands in the South Seas, he knew the West Indies well enough 
to be assured that, whatever the American people might think or 
say about it, they would sooner or later have to police those islands, 



364 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

.not against Europe, but for Europe, and America too. Education 
on the outskirts of civilized life teaches not very much, but it 
taught this; and one felt no call to shoulder the load of archipela- 
goes in the antipodes when one was trying painfully to pluck up 
courage to face the labor of shouldering archipelagoes at home. 
The country decided otherwise, and one acquiesced readily enough, 
since the matter concerned only the public willingness to carry 
loads; in London, the balance of power in the East came alone 
into discussion; and in every point of view one had as much reason 
to be gratified with the result as though one had shared in the 
danger, .instead of being vigorously employed in looking on from 
a great distance. After all, friends had done the work, if not one's 
self, and he too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers. 

In June, at the crisis of interest, the Camerons came over, and 
took the fine old house of Surrenden Dering in Kent which they 
made a sort of country house to the Embassy. Kent has charms 
rivalling those of Shropshire, and, even compared with the many 
beautiful places scattered along the Welsh border, few are nobler 
or more genial than Surrenden with its unbroken descent from the 
Saxons, its avenues, its terraces, its deer-park, its large repose on 
the Kentish hillside, and its broad outlook over what was once the 
forest of Anderida. Filled with a constant stream of guests, the 
house seemed to wait for the chance to show its charms to the Amer- 
ican, with whose activity the whole world was resounding; and 
never since the battle of Hastings could the little telegraph office 
of the Kentish village have done such work. There, on a hot July 4, 
1898, to an expectant group under the shady trees, came the tele- 
gram announcing the destruction of the Spanish Armada, as it 
might have come to Queen Elizabeth in 1588; and there, later in 
the season, came the order summoning Hay to the State Depart- 
ment. 

Hay had no wish to be Secretary of State. He much preferred to 
remain Ambassador, and his friends were quite as cold about it as 
he. No one knew so well what sort of strain falls on Secretaries 



INDIAN SUMMER 365 



of State, or how little strength he had in reserve against it. Even 
at Surrenden he showed none too much endurance, and he would 
gladly have found a valid excuse for refusing. The discussion on 
both sides was earnest, but the decided voice of the conclave was 
that, though if he were a mere office-seeker he might certainly 
decline promotion, if he were a member of the Government he 
could not. No serious statesman could accept a favor and refuse 
a service. Doubtless he might refuse, but in that case he must 
resign. The amusement of making Presidents has keen fascination 
for idle American hands, but these black arts have the old draw- 
back of all deviltry; one must serve the spirit one evokes, even 
though the service were perdition to body and soul. For him, no 
doubt, the service, though hard, might bring some share of profit, 
but for the friends who gave this unselfish decision, all would prove 
loss. For one, Adams on that subject had become a little daft. 
No one in his experience had ever passed unscathed through 
that malarious marsh. In his fancy, office was poison; it killed 

body and soul physically and socially. Office was more pois- 
onous than priestcraft or pedagogy in proportion as it held more 
power; but the poison he complained of was not ambition; he 
shared none of Cardinal Wolsey's belated penitence for that healthy , 
stimulant, as he had shared none of the fruits; his poison was 
that qf the will the distortion of sight the warping of mind 

the degradation of tissue the coarsening of taste the nar- 
rowing of sympathy to the emotions of a caged rat. Hay needed 
no office in order to wield influence. For him, influence lay about 
the streets, waiting for him to stoop to it; he enjoyed more than 
enough power without office; no one of his position, wealth, and 
political experience, living at the centre of politics in contact with 
the active party managers, could escape influence. His only ambi- 
tion was to escape annoyance, and no one knew better than he 
that, at sixty years of age, sensitive to physical strain, still more 
sensitive to brutality, vindictiveness, or betrayal, he took office 
at cost of life. 



366 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Neither he nor any of the Surrenden circle made pretence of 
gladness at the new dignity for, with all his gaiety of manner and 
lightness of wit, he took dark views of himself, none the lighter 
for their humor, and his obedience to the President's order was the 
gloomiest acquiescence he had ever smiled. Adams took dark 
views, too, not so much on Hay's account as on his own, for, while 
Hay had at least the honors of office, his friends would share only 
the ennuis of it; but, as usual with Hay, nothing was gained by 
taking such matters solemnly, and old habits of the Civil War left 
their mark of military drill on every one who lived through it. 
He shouldered his pack and started for home. Adams had no mind 
to lose his friend without a struggle, though he had never known 
such sort of struggle to avail. The chance was desperate, but he 
could not afford to throw it away; so, as soon as the Surrenden 
establishment broke up, on October 17, he prepared for return 
home, and on November 13, none too gladly, found himself again 
gazing into La Fayette Square. 

He had made another false start and lost two years more of 
education; nor had he excuse; for, this time, neither politics nor 
society drew him away from his trail. He had nothing to do with 
Hay's politics at home or abroad, and never affected agreement 
with his views or his methods, nor did Hay care whether his friends 
agreed or disagreed. They all united in trying to help each other to 
get along the best way they could, and all they tried to save was 
the personal relation. Even there, Adams would have been beaten 
had he not been helped by Mrs. Hay, who saw the necessity of 
distraction, and led her husband into the habit of stopping every 
afternoon to take his friend off for an hour's walk, followed by a 
cup of tea with Mrs. Hay afterwards, and a chat with any one 
who called. 

For the moment, therefore, the situation was saved, at least in 
outward appearance, and Adams could go back to his own pur- 
suits which were slowly taking a direction. Perhaps they had no 
right to be called pursuits, for in truth one consciously pursued 



INDIAN SUMMER 367 



nothing, but drifted as attraction offered itself. The short session 
broke up the Washington circle, so that, on March 22, Adams was 
able to sail with the Lodges for Europe and to pass April in Sicily 
and Rome. 

With the Lodges, education always began afresh. Forty years 
had left little of the Palermo that Garibaldi had shown to the boy 
of 1860, but Sicily in all ages seems to have taught only catastrophe 
and violence, running riot on that theme ever since Ulysses began 
its study on the eye of Cyclops. For ^l^sjsc^jn^anarchy, without 
a shade of sequence, Sicily stands alone and defies evolution." 
Syracuse teaches more than Rome. Yet even Rome was not 
mute, and the church of Ara Coeli seemed more and more to 
draw all the threads of thought to a centre, for every new jour- 
ney led back to its steps Karnak, Ephesus, Delphi, Mycenae, 
Constantinople, Syracuse all lying on the road to the Capitol. 
What they had to bring by way of intellectual riches could not 
yet be discerned, but they carried camel-loads of moral; and New 
York sent most of all, for, in forty years^America had made so 
vast a stride to empire that the world of 1860 stood already on a 
distant horizon somewhere on the same plane with the republic 
of Brutus and Cato, while schoolboys read of Abraham Lincoln 
..as, they did of Julius Caesar. Vast swarms of Americans knew the 
Civil War only by school history, as they knew the story of Crom- 
well or Cicero, and were as familiar with political assassination 
as though they had lived under Nero." The climax of empire 
could be seen approaching, year after year, as though Sulla were 
a President or McKinley a Consul. 

Nothing annoyed Americans more than to be told this simple 
and obvious in no way unpleasant truth; therefore one sat 
silent as ever on the Capitol ; but, by way of completing the lesson, 
the Lodges added a pilgrimage to Assisi and an interview with St. 
Francis, whose solution of historical riddles seemed the most satis- 
factory or sufficient ever offered; worth fully forty years' 
more study, and better worth it than Gibbon himself, or even 



368 THE EDUCATION op HENRY ADAMS 

St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, or St. Jerome. The most bewildering 
effect of all these fresh cross-lights on the old Assistant Professor 
of 1874 was due to the astonishing contrast between what he had 
taught then and what he found himself confusedly trying to learn 
five-and-twenty years afterwards between the twelfth century 
of his thirtieth and that of his sixtieth years. At Harvard College, 
weary of spirit in the wastes of Anglo-Saxon law, he had occasion- 
ally given way to outbursts of derision at shedding his life-blood 
for the sublime truths of Sac and Soc : 

HIC JACET 

HOMUNCULUS SCRIPTOR 
DOCTOR BARBARICUS 

HENRICUS ADAMS 
ADAE FILIUS ET EVAE 
PRIMO EXPLICUIT 

SOCNAM 

The Latin was as twelfth-century as the law, and he meant as 
satire the claim that he had been first to explain the legal meaning 
of Sac and Soc, although any German professor would have 
scorned it as a shameless and presumptuous bid for immortality; 
but the whole point of view had vanished in 1900. Not he, but Sir 
Henry Maine and Rudolph Sohm, were the parents or creators 
of Sac and Soc. Convinced that the clue of religion led to nothing, 
and that politics led to chaos, one had turned to the law, as one's 
scholars turned to the Law School, because one could see no other 
path to a profession. 

The law had proved as futile as politics or religion, or any other 
8ingle"thread spun by the human spider; it offered no more conti- 
guity than architecture or coinage, and no more force of its own. 
St. Francis expressed supreme contempt for them all, and solved 
the whole problem by rejecting it altogether. Adams returned to 
Paris with a broken and contrite spirit, prepared to admit that his 
life had no meaning, and conscious that in any case it no longer 



INDIAN SUMMER 369 



mattered. He passed a summer of solitude contrasting sadly with 
the last at Surrenden; but the solitude did what the society did not 

it forced and drove Jiim into the study of his ignorance in 
sileftceTJHere"af last he entered^tEe"practice of his final profession. 
^Hunted by ennui, he could no longer escape, and, by way of a 

summer school, he began a methodical survey a triangulation 

of the twelfth century. The pursuit had a singular French 
charm which France had long lost a calmness, lucidity, sim- 
plicity of expression, vigor of action, complexity of local color, 
that made Paris flat. In the long summer days one found a sort 
of saturated green pleasure in the forests, and gray infinity of rest 
in the little twelfth-century churches that lined them, as unassum- 
ing as their own mosses, and as sure of their purpose as their round 
arches; but churches were many and summer was short, so that 
he was at last driven back to the quays and photographs. For 
weeks he lived in silence. 

His solitude was broken in November by the chance arrival of 
John La Farge. At that moment, contact with La Farge had a new 
value. Of all the men who had deeply affected their friends since 
1850 John La Farge was certainly the foremost, and for Henry 
Adams, who had sat at his feet since 1872, the question how much 
he owed to La Farge could be answered only by admitting that he 
had no standard to measure it by. Of all his friends La Farge alone 
owned a mind complex enough to contrast against the common- 
places of American uniformity, and in the process had vastly per- 
plexed most Americans who came in contact with it. The American 
mind the Bostonian as well as the Southern or Western likes 
to walk straight up to its object, and assert or deny something that 
it takes for a fact; it has a conventional approach, a conventional 
Analysis, and a conventional conclusion, as well as a conventional 
expression, all the time loudly asserting its unconventionality. The 
most dTsconcerting trait of John La Farge was his reversal of the 
process. His approach was quiet and indirect; he moved round an 
object, and never separated it from its surroundings; he prided 



370 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

tymself on faithfulness to tradition and convention; he was never 
abrupt and abhorred dispute. His manners and attitude towards 
the universe were the same, whether tossing in the middle of the 
Pacific Ocean sketching the trade-wind from a whale-boat in the 
blast of sea-sickness, or drinking the cka-no-yu in the formal rites 
of Japan, or sipping his cocoanut cup of kava in the ceremonial of 
Samoan chiefs, or reflecting under the sacred bo-tree at Anaradj- 
pura. 

One was never quite sure of his whole meaning until too late to 
respond, for he had no difficulty in carrying different shades of 
'contradiction in his mind. As he said of his friend Okakura, his 
thought ran as a stream runs through grass, hidden perhaps but 
always there; and one felt often uncertain in what direction it 
flowed, for even a contradiction was to him only a shade of differ- 
ence, a complementary color, about which no intelligent artist 
would dispute. Constantly he repulsed argument: "Adams, you 
reason too much!" was one of his standing reproaches even in the 
mild discussion of rice and mangoes in the warm night of Tahiti 
dinners. He should have blamed Adams for being born in Boston. 
The mind resorts to reason for want of training, and Adams had 
never met a perfectly trained mind. 

To La Farge, eccentricity meant convention; a mind really 
eccentric never betrayed it. True eccentricity was a tone a 
shade a nuance and the flner the tone, the truer the eccen- 
tricity. Of course all artists hold more or less the same point of 
view in their art, but few carry it into daily life, and often the 
contrast is excessive between their art and their talk. One eve- 
ning Humphreys Johnston, who was devoted to La Farge, asked 
him to meet Whistler at dinner. La Farge was ill more ill than 
usual even for him but he admired and liked Whistler, and 
insisted on going. By chance, Adams was so placed as to over- 
hear the conversation of both, and had no choice but to hear that 
of Whistler, which engrossed the table. At that moment the Boer 
War was raging, and, as every one knows, on that subject Whistler 



INDIAN SUMMER . 371 



raged worse than the Boers. For two hours he declaimed against 
England witty, declamatory, extravagant, bitter, amusing, and 
noisy; but in substance what he said was not merely common- 
place it was true! That is to say, his hearers, including Adams 
and, as far as he knew, La Farge, agreed with it all, and mostly 
as a matter of course; yet La Farge was silent, and this difference 
of expression was a difference of art. Whistler in his art carried the 
sense of nuance and tone far beyond any point reached by La 
Farge, or even attempted ; but in talk he showed, above or below 
his color-instinct, a willingness to seem eccentric where no real 
eccentricity, unless perhaps of temper, existed. 

This vehemence, which Whistler never betrayed in his paint- 
ing, La Farge seemed to lavish on his glass. With the relative 
value of La Farge's glass in the history of glass-decoration, Adams 
was too ignorant to meddle, and as a rule artists were if possible 
more ignorant than he; but whatever it was, it led him back to 
the twelfth century and to Chartres where La Farge not only felt 
at home, but felt a sort of ownership. No other American had a 
right there, unless he too were a member of the Church and 
worked in glass. Adams himself was an interloper, but long habit 
led La Farge to resign himself to Adams as one who meant well, 
though deplorably Bostonian; while Adams, though near sixty 
years old before he knew anything either of glass or of Chartres, 
asked no better than to learn, and only La Farge could help him, 
for he knew enough at least to see that La Farge alone could use 
glass like a thirteenth-century artist. In Europe the art had been 
dead for centuries, and modern glass was pitiable. Even La Farge 
felt the early glass rather as a document than as a historical emo- 
tion, and in hundreds of windows at Chartres and Bourges and 
Paris, Adams knew barely one or two that were meant to hold 
their own against a color-scheme so strong as his. In conversation 
La Farge's mind was opaline with infinite shades and refractions 
of light, and with color toned down to the finest gradations. In 
glass it was insubordinate; it was renaissance; it asserted his per- 



372 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

sonal force with depth and vehemence of tone never before seen. 
He seemed bent on crushing rivalry. 

Even the gloom of a Paris December at the Elysee Palace Hotel 
was somewhat relieved by this companionship, and education 
made a step backwards towards Chartres, but La Farge's health 
became more and more alarming, and Adams was glad to get him 
safely back to New York, January 15, 1900, while he himself 
went at once to Washington to find out what had become of 
Hay. Nothing good could be hoped, for Hay's troubles had be- 
gun, and were quite as great as he had foreseen. Adams saw as lit- 
tle encouragement as Hay himself did, though he dared not say 
so. He doubted Hay's endurance, the President's firmness in 
supporting him, and the loyalty of his party friends; but all this 
worry on Hay's account fretted him not nearly so much as the 
Boer War did on his own. Here was a problem in his political 
education that passed all experience since the Treason winter of 
1860-61! Much to his astonishment, very few Americans seemed 
to share his point of view; their hostility to England seemed mere 
temper; but to Adams the war became almost a personal outrage. 
He had been taught from childhood, even in England, that his 
forbears and their associates in 1776 had settled, once for all, the 
liberties of the British free colonies, and he very strongly objected 
to being thrown on the defensive again, and forced to sit down, a 
hundred and fifty years after John Adams had begun the task, to 
prove, by appeal to law and fact, that George Washington was 
not a felon, whatever might be the case with George III. For rea- 
sons still more personal, he declined peremptorily to entertain 
question of the felony of John Adams. He felt obliged to go even 
further, and avow the opinion that if at any time England should 
take towards Canada the position she took towards her Boer colo- 
nies, the United States would be bound, by their record, to inter- 
pose, and to insist on the application of the principles of 1776. 
To him the attitude of Mr. Chamberlain and his colleagues seemed 
exceedingly un-American, and terribly embarrassing to Hay. 



INDIAN SUMMER 373 



Trained early, in the stress of civil war, to hold his tongue, and 
to help make the political machine run somehow, since it could 
never be made to run well, he would not bother Hay with theo- 
retical objections which were every day fretting him in practical 
forms. Hay's chance lay in patience and good-temper till the luck 
should turn, and to him the only object was time; but as political 
education the point seemed vital to Adams, who never liked shut- 
ting his eyes or denying an evident fact. Practical politics con- 
sists in ignoring facts, but education and politics are two different 
and often contradictory things, In this case, the contradiction 
seemed crude. - > 

With Hay's politics, at home or abroad, Adams had nothing 
whatever to do. Hay belonged to the New York school, like Abram 
Hewitt, Evarts, W. C. Whitney, Samuel J. Tilden men who 
played the game for ambition or amusement, and played it, as a 
rule^'muclf better tKan .the professionals, but whose aims were 
considerably larger than those of the usual player, and who felt 
no great love for the cheap drudgery of the work. In return, the 
professionals felt no great love for them, and set them aside when 
they could. Only their control of money made them inevitable, 
and even this did not always carry their points. The story of 
Abrani Hewitt would offer one type of this statesman series, and 
that of Hay another. President Cleveland set aside the one; Pres- 
ident Harrison set aside the other. "There is no politics in it," 
was his comment on Hay's appointment to office. Hay held a 
different opinion and turned to McKinley whose judgment of men 
was finer than common in Presidents. Mr. McKinley brought to 
the problem of American government a solution which lay very far 
outside of Henry Adams's education, but which seemed to be at 
least practical and American. He undertook to pool interests in 
v a general trust into which every interest should be taken, more or 
less at its own valuation, and whose mass should, under his man- 
agement, create efficiency. He achieved very remarkable results. 
How much they cost was another matter; if the public is ever 



374 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

driven to its last resources and the usual remedies of chaos, the 
result will probably cost more^ 

Himself a marvellous manager of men, McKinley found several 
manipulators to help him, almost as remarkable as himself, one 
of whom was Hay; but unfortunately Hay's strength was weakest 
and his task hardest. At home, interests could be easily combined 
by simply paying their price; but abroad whatever helped on one 
side, hurt him on another. Hay thought England must be brought 
first into the combine; but at that time Germany, Russia, and 
France were all combining against England, and the Boer War 
helped them. For the moment Hay had no ally, abroad or at home, 
except Pauncefote, and Adams always maintained that Paunce- 
fote alone pulled him through. 

Yet the difficulty abroad was far less troublesome than the 
obstacles at home. The Senate had grown more and more unman- 
ageable, even since the time of Andrew Johnson, and this was less 
the fault of the Senate than of the system. "A treaty of peace, 
in any normal state of things," said Hay, "ought to be ratified 
with unanimity in twenty-four hours. They wasted six weeks in 
wrangling over this one, and ratified it with one vote to spare. 
We have five or six matters now demanding settlement. I can 
settle them all, honorably and advantageously to our own side; 
and I am assured by leading men in the Senate that not one of 
these treaties, if negotiated, will pass the Senate. I should have 
a majority in every case, but a malcontent third would certainly 
dish every one of them. To such monstrous shape has the original 
mistake of the Constitution grown in the evolution of our politics. 
You must understand, it is not merely my solution the Senate 
will reject. They will reject, for instance, any treaty, whatever, 
on any subject, with England. I doubt if they would accept any 
treaty of consequence with Russia or Germany. The recalcitrant 
third would be differently composed, but it would be on hand. 
So that the jeal duties of a Secretary of State seem to be threes 
to fight claims upon us by other States; to press more or less frau- 



INDIAN SUMMER 375 



dulent^claims of pur_own citizens upon other countries^ f 
offices for the friends of Senators when there are none. Is it worth 
while for me to keep up this useless labor?" 

To Adams, who, like Hay, had seen a dozen acquaintances 
struggling with the same enemies, the question had scarcely the 
interest of a new study. He had said all he had to say about it in 
a dozen or more volumes relating to the politics of a hundred years 
before. To him, the spectacle was so familiar as to be humorous. 
The intrigue was too open to be interesting. The interference of 
the German and Russian legations, and of the Clan-na-Gael, with 
the press and the Senate was innocently undisguised. The charm- 
ing Russian Minister, Count Cassini, the ideal of diplomatic man- 
ners and training, let few days pass without appealing through 
the press to the public against the government. The German 
Minister, Von Holleben, more cautiously did the same thing, and 
of course every whisper of theirs was brought instantly to the 
Department. These three forces, acting with the regular opposi- 
tion and the natural obstructionists, could always stop action in 
the Senate. The fathers had intended to neutralize the energy of 
government and had succeeded, but their machine was never 
meant to do the work of a twenty-million horse-power society in 
the twentieth century, where much work needed to be quickly and 
efficiently done. The only defence of the system was that, as 
Government did nothing well, it had best do nothing; but the 
Government, in truth, did perfectly well all it was given to do; 
and even if the charge were true, it applied equally to human 
society altogether, if one chose to treat mankind from that point 
of view. As a matter of mechanics, so much work must be done; 
bad machinery merely added to friction. 

Always unselfish, generous, easy, patient, and loyal, Hay had 
treated the world as something to be taken in block without pull- 
ing it to pieces to get rid of its defects; he liked it all: he laughed 
and accepted; he had never known unhappiness and would have 
gladly lived his entire life over again exactly as it happened. In 



376 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

the whole New York school, one met a similar dash of humor 
and cynicism more or less pronounced but seldom bitter. Yet even 
the gayest of tempers succumbs at last to constant friction. The 
old friend was rapidly fading. The habit remained, but the easy 
intimacy, the careless gaiety, the casual humor, the equality of 
indifference, were sinking into the routine of office; the mind lin- 
gered in the Department; the thought failed to react; the wit and 
humor shrank within the blank walls of politics, and the irritations 
multiplied. To a hfcad of bureau, the result seemed ennobling. 

Although, as education, this branch of study was more familiar 
and older than the twelfth century, the task of bringing the two 
periods into a common relation was new. Ignorance required that 
these political and social and scientific values of the twelfth and 
twentieth centuries should be correlated in some relation of move- 
ment that could be expressed in mathematics, nor did one care in 
the least that all the world said it could not be done, or that one 
knew not enough mathematics even to figure a formula beyond 

the schoolboy s = If Kepler and Newton could take liberties 

2 

with the sun and moon, an obscure person in a remote wilderness 
like La Fayette Square could take liberties with Congress, and 
venture to multiply half its attraction into the square of its time. 
He had only to find a value, even infinitesimal, for its attraction 
at any given time. A historical formula that should satisfy the 
conditions of the stellar universe weighed heavily on his mind; 
but a trifling matter like this was one in which he could look for 
no help from anybody he could look only for derision at best. 
All his associates in history condemned such an attempt as futile 
and almost immoral certainly hostile to sound historical sys- 
tem. Adams tried it only because of its hostility to all that he had 
taught for history, since he started afresh from the new point that, 
whatever was right, all he had ever taught was wrong. He had 
pursued ignorance thus far with success, and had swept his mind 
clear of knowledge. In beginning again, from the starting-point 



INDIAN SUMMER 377 



of Sir Isaac Newton, he looked about him in vain for a teacher. 
Few men in Washington cared to overstep the school conventions, 
and the most distinguished of them, Simon Newcomb, was too 
sound a mathematician to treat such a scheme seriously. The 
greatest of Americans, judged by his rank in science, Willard 
Gibbs, never came to Washington, and Adams never enjoyed a 
chance to meet him. After Gibbs, one of the most distinguished 
was Langley, of the Smithsonian, who was more accessible, to 
whom Adams had been much in the habit of turning whenever he 
wanted an outlet for his vast reservoirs of ignorance. Langley lis- 
tened with outward patience to his disputatious questionings; but 
he too nourished a scientific passion for doubt, and sentimental 
attachment for its avowal. He had the physicist's heinous fault 
of professing to know nothing between flashes of intense per- 
ception. Like so many other great observers, Langley was not 
a mathematician, and like most physicists, he believed in physics. 
Rigidly denying himself the amusement of philosophy, which 
consists chiefly in suggesting unintelligible answers to insoluble 
problems, he still knew the problems, and liked to wander past 
them in a courteous temper, even bowing to them distantly as 
though recognizing their existence, while doubting their respect- 
ability. He generously let others doubt what he felt obliged to 
affirm; and early put into Adams's hands the " Concepts of 
Modern Science," a volume by Judge Stallo, which had been 
treated for a dozen years by the schools with a conspiracy of si- 
lence such as inevitably meets every revolutionary work that up- 
sets the stock and machinery of instruction. Adams read and failed 
to understand; then he asked questions and failed to get answers. 
Probably this was education. Perhaps it was the only scientific 
education open to a student sixty-odd years old, who asked to be 
as ignorant as an astronomer. For him the details of science meant 
nothing: he wanted to know its mass. Solar heat was not enough, 
or was too much. Kinetic atoms led only to motion; never to di- 
rection or progress. History had no use for multiplicity; it needed 



378 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

unity; it could study only motion, direction, attraction, relation 
Everything must be made to move together; one must seek nevt 
worlds to measure; and so, like Rasselas, Adams set out once more 
and found himself on May 12 settled in rooms at the very door o: 
the Trocadero. 



CHAPTER XXV 
THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN (1900) 

UNTIL the Great Exposition of 1900 closed its doors in 
November, Adams haunted it, aching to absorb knowl- 
edge, and helpless to find it. He would have liked to 
know how much of it could have been grasped by the best-informed 
man in the world. While he was thus meditating chaos, Langley 
came by, and showed it to him. At Langley' s behest, the Exhibi- 
tion dropped its superfluous rags and stripped itself to the skin, 
for Langley knew what to study, and why, and how; while Adams 
might as well have stood outside in the night, staring at the Milky 
Way. Yet Langley said nothing new, and taught nothing that one 
might not have learned from Lord Bacon, three hundred years 
before; but though one should have known the "Advancement of 
Science" as well as one knew the " Comedy of Errors," the liter- 
ary knowledge counted for nothing until some teacher should show 
how to apply it. Bacon took a vast deal of trouble in teaching 
King James I and his subjects, American or other, towards the 
year 1620, that true science was the development or economy of 
forces; yet an elderly American in 1900 knew neither the formula 
nor the forces; or even so much as to say to himself that his his- 
torical business in the Exposition concerned only the economies 
or developments of force since 1893, when he began the study at 
Chicago. 

Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of igno- 
rance it accumulates in the form of inert facts. Adams had looked 
at most of the accumulations of art in the storehouses called Art 
Museums; yet he did not know how to look at the art exhibits of 
1900. He had studied Karl Marx and his doctrines of history with 
profound attention, yet he could not apply them at Paris. Lang- 
ley, with the ease of a great master of experiment, threw out of the 



380 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

field every exhibit that did not reveal a new application of force, 
and naturally threw out, to begin with, almost the whole art ex- 
hibit. Equally, he ignored almost the whole industrial exhibit. 
He led his pupil directly to the forces. His chief interest was in 
new motors to make his airship feasible, and he taught Adams 
the astonishing complexities of the new Daimler motor, and of 
the automobile, which, since 1893, had become a nightmare at a 
hundred kilometres an hour, almost as destructive as the electric 
tram which was only ten years older; and threatening to become 
as terrible as the locomotive steam-engine itself, which was almost 
exactly Adams's own age. 

Then he showed his scholar the great hall of dynamos, and ex- 
plained how little he knew about electricity or force of any kind, 
even of his own special sun, which spouted heat in inconceivable 
volume, but which, as far as he knew, mightjspout less or more, 
at any time, for all the certainty he felt in it; To him, the dynamo 
itself was but an ingenious channel for conveying somewhere the 
heat latent in a few tons of poor coal hidden in a dirty engine-house 
carefully kept out ojLsight; but to Adams the dynamo became a 
symbol of infinity .^As he grew accustomed to the great gallery of 
machines, he began to feel the forty-foot dynamos as a moral force, 
much as the early Christians felt the Cross. The planet itself 
seemed less impressive, in its old-fashioned, deliberate, annual or 
daily revolution, than this huge wheel, revolving within arm's- 
length at some vertiginous speed, and barely murmuring 
scarcely humming an audible warning to stand a hair's-breadth 
further for respect of power while it would not wake the baby 
lying close against its frame. Before the end, one began to pray to 
it; inherited instinct taught the natural expression of man before 
silent and infinite force. Among the thousand symbols of ultimate 
energy, the dynamo was not so human as some, but it was the 
most expressive. 

Yet the dynamo, next to the steam-engine, was the most fa- 
miliar of exhibits. For Adams's objects its value lay chiefly in its 



THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN 381 

occult mechanism. Between the dynamo in the gallery of machines 
and the engine-house outside, the break of continuity amounted to 
abysmal fracture for a historian's objects. No more relation could 
he discover between the steam and the electric current than be- 
tween the Cross and the cathedral. The forces were interchange- 
able if not reversible, but he could see only an absolute fiat in elec- 
tricity as in faith. Langley could not help him. Indeed, Langley 
seemed to be worried by the same trouble, for he constantly re- 
peated that the new forces were anarchical, and especially that 
he was not responsible for the new rays, that were little short of 
parricidal in their wicked spirit towards science. His own rays, 
with which he had doubled the solar spectrum, were altogether 
harmless and beneficent; but Radium denied its God or, what 
was to Langley the same thing, denied the truths of his Science. 
The force was wholly new. 

A historian who asked only to learn enough to be as futile as 
Langley or Kelvin, made rapid progress under this teaching, and 
mixed himself up in the tangle of ideas until he achieved a sort of 
Paradise of ignorance vastly consoling to his fatigued senses. He 
wrapped himself in vibrations and rays which were new, and he 
would have hugged Marconi and Branly had he met them, as he 
hugged the dynamo; while he lost his arithmetic in trying to figure 
out the equation between the discoveries and the economies of 
force. The economies, like the discoveries, were absolute, super- 
sensual, occult; incapable of expression in horse-power. What 
mathematical equivalent could he suggest as the value of a Branly 
coherer? Frozen air, or the electric furnace, had some scale of 
measurement, no doubt, if somebody could invent a thermometer 
adequate to the purpose; but X-rays had played no part whatever 
in man's consciousness, and the atom itself had figured only as a 
fiction of thought. In these seven years man had translated himself 
into a new universe which had no common scale of measurement 
with the old. He had entered a supersensual world, in which he 
could measure nothing except by chance collisions of movements 



382 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

imperceptible to his senses, perhaps even imperceptible to his in- 
struments, but perceptible to each other, and so to some known 
ray at the end of the scale. Langley seemed prepared for anything, 
even for an indeterminable number of universes interfused 
physics stark mad in metaphysics. 

Historians undertake to arrange sequences, called stories, or 
histories assuming in silence a relation of cause and effect. 
These assumptions, hidden in the depths of dusty libraries, have 
been astounding, but commonly unconscious and childlike; so 
much so, that if any captious critic were to drag them to light, his- 
torians would probably reply, with one voice, that they had never 
supposed themselves required to know what they were talking 
about. Adams, for one, had toiled in vain to find out what he 
meant. He had even published a dozen volumes of American his- 
tory for no other purpose than to satisfy himself whether, by the 
severest process of stating, with the least possible comment, such 
facts as seemed sure, in such order as seemed rigorously consequent, 
he could fix for a familiar moment a necessary sequence of human 
movement,. The result had satisfied him as little as at Harvard 
College. < Where he saw sequence, other men saw something quite 
different, and no one saw the same unit of measure. He cared little 
about his experiments and less about his statesmen, who seemed 
to Kim quite as ignorant as himself and, as a rule, no more honest; 
but he insisted on a relation of sequence, and if he could not reach 
it by one method, he would try as many methods as science knew. 
Satisfied that the sequence of men led to nothing and that the 
sequence of their society could lead no further, while the mere se- 
quence of time was artificial, and the sequence of thought was 
chaos, he turned at last to the sequence of force ;/and thus it hap- 
pened that, after ten years' pursuit, he found fiimself lying in the 
Gallery of Machines at the Great Exposition of 1900, his historical 
neck broken by the sudden irruption of forces totally new. 

Since no one else showed much concern, an elderly person with- 
out other cares had no need to betray alarm. The year 1900 was 



THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN 383 

not the first to upset schoolmasters. Copernicus and Galileo had 
broken many professorial necks about 1600; Columbus had stood 
the world on its head towards 1500; but the nearest approach to 
the revolution of 1900 was that of 310, when Constantine set up 
the Cross. The rays that Langley disowned, as well as those which 
he fathered, were occult, supersensual, irrational; they were a 
revelation of mysterious energy like that of the Cross; they were 
what, in terms of mediaeval science, were called immediate modes 
of the divine substance. 

The historian was thus reduced to his last resources. Clearly 
if he was bound to reduce all these forces to a common value, this 
common value could have no measure but that of their attraction 
on his own mind. He must treat them as they had been felt; as 
convertible, reversible, interchangeable attractions on thought. 
He made up his mind to venture it; he would risk translating rays 
into faith. Such a reversible process would vastly amuse a chemist, 
but the chemist could not deny that he, or some of his fellow 
physicists, could feel the force of both. When Adams was a boy in 
Boston, the best chemist in the place had probably never heard 
of Venus except by way of scandal, or of the Virgin except as 
idolatry; neither had he heard of dynamos or automobiles or ra- 
dium; yet his mind was ready to feel the force of all, though the 
rays were unborn and the women were dead. 

Here opened another totally new education, which promised to 
be by far the most hazardous of all. The knife-edge along which 
he must crawl, like Sir Lancelot in the twelfth century, divided 
two kingdoms of force which had nothing in common but attrac- 
tion. They were as different as a magnet is from gravitation, sup- 
posing one knew what a magnet was, or gravitation, or love. 
The force of the Virgin was still felt at Lourdes, and seemed to be 
as potent as X-rays; but in America neither Venus nor Virgin ever 
had value as force at most as sentiment. No American had 
ever been truly afraid of either. 

This problem in dynamics gravely perplexed an American his- 



384 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 



torian. j^he Wpmaahad once been supreme; in Justice she still 
seemed potent, not merely as a sentiment, but as a force. Why was 
she unknown in America ? For evidently America was ashamed of 
her, and she was ashamed of herself, otherwise they would not 
have strewn fig-leaves so profusely all over her. When she was a 
true force, she was ignorant of fig-leaves, but the monthly-maga- 
zine-made American female had not a feature that would have 
been recognized by Adam. The trait was notorious, and often 
humorous, but any one brought up among Puritans knew that 
sex was sin. In any previous age, sex was strength. Neither art 
nor beauty was needed. Every one, even among Puritans, knew 
that neither Diana of the Ephesians nor any of the Oriental god- 
desses was worshipped for her beauty. She was goddess because 
of her force; she was the animated dynamo; she was reproduction 
the greatest and most mysterious of all energies; all she needed 
was to be fecund. Singularly enough, not one of Adams's many 
schools of education had ever drawn his attention to the opening 
lines of Lucretius, though they were perhaps the finest in all Latin 
literature, where the poet invoked Venus exactly as Dante in- 
voked the Virgin : 

"Quae quoniam rerum naturam sola gubernas." 

The Venus of Epicurean philosophy survived in the Virgin of the 
Schools : 

"Donna, sei tanto grande, e tanto vali, 
Che qual vuol grazia, e a te non ricorre, 
Sua disianza vuol volar senz' all." 

All this was to American thought as though it had never existed. 
The true American knew something of the facts, but nothing of 
the feelings; he read the letter, but he never felt the law. Before 
this historical chasm, a mind like that of Adams felt itself help- 
less; he turned from the Virgin to the Dynamo as though he were 
a Branly coherer. On one side, at the Louvre and at Chartres, 
as he knew by the record of work actually done and still before his 



THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN 385 

eyes, was the highest energy ever known to man, the creator of 
four-fifths of his noblest art, exercising vastly more attraction 
over the human mind than all the steam-engines and dynamos 
ever dreamed of; and yet this energy was unknown to the Ameri- 
can mind. An American Virgin would never dare command; an 
American Venus would never dare exist. 

The question, which to any plain American of the nineteenth 
century seemed as remote as it did to Adams, drew him almost 
violently to study, once it was posed; and on this point Langleys 
were as useless as though they were Herbert Spencers or dynamos. 
The idea survived only as art. There one turned as naturally as 
though the artist were himself a woman. Adams began to ponder, 
asking himself whether he knew of any American artist who had 
ever insisted on the power of sex, as every classic had always done; 
but he could thinLonly of Walt Whitman ;JSret Harte, as far as 
the magazines would let him venture; and one or two painters, 
for the flesh-tones. All the rest had used sex for sentiment, never 
for force; to them, Eve was a tender flower, and Herodias an un- 
feminine horror. American art, like the American language and 
American education, was as far as possible sexles?. Society re-* 
garded this victory over sex as its greatest triumph, and the his- 
torian readily admitted it, since the moral issue, for the moment, 
did not concern one who was studying the relations of unmoral 
force. He cared nothing for the sex of the dynamo until he could 
measure its energy. 

Vaguely seeking a clue, he wandered through the art exhibit, 
and, in his stroll, stopped almost every day before St. Gaudens's 
General Sherman, which had been given the central post of honor. 
St. Gaudens himself was in Paris, putting on the work his usual 
interminable last touches, and listening to the usual contradic- 
tory suggestions of brother sculptors. Of all the American artists 
who gave to American art whatever life it breathed in the seven- 
ties, St. Gaudens was perhaps the most sympathetic, but cer- 
tainly the most inarticulate. General Grant or Don Cameron 



386 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

had scarcely less instinct of rhetoric than he. All the others 
the Hunts, Richardson, John La Farge, Stanford White were 
exuberant; only St. Gaudens could never discuss or dilate on an 
emotion, or suggest artistic arguments for giving to his work the 
forms that he felt. He never laid down the law, or affected the 
despot, or became brutalized like Whistler by the brutalities of 
his world. He required no incense; he was no egoist; his simpli- 
city of thought was excessive; he could not imitate, or give any 
form but his own to the creations of his hand. No one felt more 
strongly than he the strength of other men, but the idea that they 
could affect him never stirred an image in his mind. 

This summer his health was poor and his spirits were low. For 
such a temper, Adams was not the best companion, since his own 
gaiety was not folle; but he risked going now and then to the 
studio on Mont Parnasse to draw him out for a stroll in the Bois 
de Boulogne, or dinner as pleased his moods, and in return St. 
Gaudens sometimes let Adams go about in his company. 

Once St. Gaudens took him down to Amiens, with a party of 
Frenchmen, to see the cathedral. Not until they found them- 
selves actually studying the sculpture of the western portal, did 
it dawn on Adams's mind that, for his purposes, St. Gaudens on 
that spot had more interest to him than the cathedral itself. Great 
men before great monuments express great truths, provided they 
are not taken too solemnly. Adams never tired of quoting the 
supreme phrase of his idol Gibbon, before the Gothic cathedrals : 
"I darted a contemptuous look on the stately monuments of 
superstition." Even in the footnotes of his history, Gibbon had 
never inserted a bit of humor more human than this, and one 
would have paid largely for a photograph of the fat little historian, 
on the background of Notre Dame of Amiens, trying to persuade 
his readers perhaps himself that he was darting a contemp- 
tuous look on the stately monument, for which he felt in fact the 
respect which every man of his vast study and active mind always 
feels before objects worthy of it; but besides the humor, one felt 



THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN 387 

also the relation. Gibbon ignored the Virgin, because in 1789 
religious monuments were out of fashion. In 1900 his remark 
sounded fresh and simple as the green fields to ears that had heard 
a hundred years of other remarks, mostly no more fresh and cer- 
tainly less simple. Without malice, one might find it more instruc- 
tive than a whole lecture of Ruskin. One sees what one brings, 
and at that moment Gibbon brought the French Revolution. 
Ruskin brought reaction against the Revolution. St. Gaudens 
had passed beyond all. He liked the stately monuments much 
more than he liked Gibbon or Ruskin; he loved their dignity; their 
unity; their scale; their lines; their lights and shadows; their deco- 
rative sculpture; but he was even less conscious than they of the 
force that created it all the Virgin, the Woman by whose 
genius "the stately monuments of superstition" were built, 
through which she was expressed. He would have seen more mean- 
ing in Isis with the cow's horns, at Edfoo, who expressed the same 
thought. The art remained, but the energy was lost even upon 
the artist. 

Yet in mind and person St. Gaudens was a survival of the 1500; 
he bore the stamp of the Renaissance, and should have carried an 
image of the Virgin round his neck, or stuck in his hat, like Louis 
XL In mere time he was a lost soul that had strayed by chance 
into the twentieth century, and forgotten where it came from. 
He writhed and cursed at his ignorance, much as Adams did at 
his own, but in the opposite sense. St. Gaudens was a child of 
Benvenuto Cellini, smothered in an American cradle. Adams was 
a quintessence of Boston, devoured by curiosity to think like 
Benvenuto. St. Gaudens's art was starved from birth, and Adams's 
instinct was blighted from babyhood. Each had but half of a 
nature, and when they came together before the Virgin of Amiens 
they ought both to have felt in her the force that made them one; 
but it was not so. To Adams she became more than ever a chan- 
nel of force; to St. Gaudens she remained as before a channel of 
taste. 



388 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

For a symbol of power, St. Gaudens instinctively preferred the 
horse, as was plain in his horse and Victory of the Sherman monu- 
ment. Doubtless Sherman also felt it so. The attitude was so 
American that, for at least forty years, Adams had never realized 
that any other could be in sound taste. How many years had he 
taken to admit a notion of what Michael Angelo and Rubens were 
driving at? He could not say; but he knew that only since 1895 
had he begun to feel the Virgin or Venus as force, and not every- 
where even so. At Chartres perhaps at Lourdes possibly 
at Cnidos if one could still find there the divinely naked Aphro- 
dite of Praxiteles but otherwise one must look for force to the 
goddesses of Indian mythology. The idea died out long ago in 
the German and English stock. St. Gaudens at Amiens was hardly 
less sensitive to the force of the female energy than Matthew 
Arnold at the Grande Chartreuse. Neither of them felt goddesses 
as power only as reflected emotion, human expression, beauty, 
purity, taste, scarcely even as sympathy. They felt a railway 
train as power; yet they, and all other artists, constantly com- 
plained that the power embodied in a railway train could never 
be embodied in art. All the steam in the world could not, like the 
Virgin, build Chartres. 

Yet in mechanics, whatever the mechanicians might think, both 
energies acted as interchangeable forces on man, and by action 
on man all known force may be measured. Indeed, few men of 
science measured force in any other way. After once admitting 
that a straight line was the shortest distance between two points, 
no serious mathematician cared to deny anything that suited his 
convenience, and rejected no symbol, unproved or unproveable, 
that helped him to accomplish work. The symbol was force, as a 
compass-needle or a triangle was force, as the mechanist might 
prove by losing it, and nothing could be gained by ignoring their 
value. Symbol or energy, the Virgin had acted as the greatest 
force the Western world ever felt, and had drawn man's activities 
to herself more strongly than any other power, natural or super- 



THE DYNAMO AND THE VIRGIN 389 



natural, had ever done; the historian^J^jn^ 
track ofjhe energy; to find w&ereTt came from and where jt went 
to pts^complex source and shifting cHannels; its values, equiva- 
lents, conversions. It could scarcely be more complex than ra- 
dium; it could hardly be deflected, diverted, polarized, absorbed 
more perplexingly than other radiant matter. Adams knew noth- 
ing about any of them, but as a mathematical problem of influ- 
ence on human progress, though all were occult, all reacted on his 
mind, and he rather inclined to think the Virgin easiest to handle. 
The pursuit turned out to be long and tortuous, leading at last 
into the vast forests of scholastic science. From Zeno to Descartes, 
hand in hand with Thomas Aquinas, Montaigne, and Pascal, one 
stumbled as stupidly as though one were still a German student 
of 1860. Only with the instinct of despair could one force one's 
self into this old thicket of ignorance after having been repulsed 
at a score of entrances more promising and more popular. Thus 
far, no path had led anywhere, unless perhaps to an exceedingly 
modest living. Forty-five years of study had proved to be quite 
futile for the pursuit of power; one controlled no more force in 
1900 than in 1850, although the amount of force controlled by 
society had enormously increased. The secret of education still 
hid itself somewhere behind ignorance, and one fumbled over it 
as feebly as ever. In such labyrinths, the staff is a force almost 
more necessary than the legs ; the pen becomes a sort of blind-man's 
dog, to keep him from falling into the gutters. The pen works for 
itself, and acts like a hand, modelling the plastic material over 
and over again to the form that suits it best. The form is never 
arbitrary, but is a sort of growth like crystallization, as any artist 
knows too well; for often the pencil or pen runs into side-paths 
and shapelessness, loses its relations, stops or is bogged. Then 
it has to return on its trail, and recover, if it can, its line of force. 
The result of a year's work depends more on what is struck out 
than on what is left in; on the sequence of the main lines of thought, 
than on their play or variety. Compelled once more toleanlieavily 



390 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

on this support, Adams covered more thousands of pages with 
figures as formal as though they were algebra, laboriously striking 
out, altering, burning, experimenting, until the year had expired, 
the Exposition had long been closed, and winter drawing to its 
end, before he sailed from Cherbourg, on January 19, 1901, for 
home. 



CHAPTER XXVI 
TWILIGHT (1901) 

WHILE the world that thought itself frivolous, and 
submitted meekly to hearing itself decried as vain, 
fluttered through the Paris Exposition, jogging the 
futilities of St. Gaudens, Rodin, and Besnard, the world that 
thought itself serious, and showed other infallible marks of com- 
ing mental paroxysm, was engaged in weird doings at Peking and 
elsewhere such as startled even itself. Qf all branches of educa- 
tion, the science of gauging people and events by their relative 
importance defies study most insolently. For three or four gen- 
erations, society has united in withering with contempt and op- 
probrium the shameless futility of Mme. de Pompadour and Mme. 
du Barry; yet, if one bid at an auction for some object that had 
been approved by the taste of either lady, one quickly found that 
it were better to buy half-a-dozen Napoleons or Frederics, or Maria 
Theresas, or all the philosophy and science of their time, than to 
bid for a cane-bottomed chair that either of these two ladies had 
adorned. The same thing might be said, in a different sense, of 
Voltaire; while, as every one knows, the money-value of any 
hand-stroke of Watteau or Hogarth, Nattier or Sir Joshua, is out 
of all proportion to the importance of the men. Society seemed to 
delight in talking with solemn conviction about serious values, 
and in paying fantastic prices for nothing but the most futile. 
The drama acted at Peking, in the summer of 1900, was, in the 
eyes of a student, the most serious that could be offered for his 
study, since it brought him suddenly to the inevitable struggle 
for the control of China, which, in his view, must decide the con- 
trol of the world; yet, as a money-value, the fall of China was 
chiefly studied in Paris and London as a calamity to Chinese 
porcelain. The value of a Ming vase was more serious than uni- 
versal war. 



39 2 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

The drama of the Legations interested the public much as though 
it were a novel of Alexandre Dumas, but the bearing of the drama 
on future history offered an interest vastly greater. Adams knew 
no more about it than though he were the best-informed states- 
man in Europe. Like them all, he took for granted that the Lega- 
tions were massacred, and that John Hay, who alone championed 
China's "administrative entity," would be massacred too, since he 
must henceforth look on, in impotence, while Russia and Germany 
dismembered China, and shut up America at home. Nine states- 
men out of ten, in Europe, accepted this result in advance, seeing 
no way to prevent it. Adams saw none, and laughed at Hay for 
his helplessness. 

When Hay suddenly ignored European leadership, took the lead 
himself, rescued the Legations and saved China, Adams looked 
on, as incredulous as Europe, though not quite so stupid, since, 
on that branch of education, he knew enough for his purpose. 
Nothing so meteoric had ever been done in American diplomacy. 
On returning to Washington, January 30, 1901, he found most 
of the world as astonished as himself, but less stupid than usual. 
For a moment, indeed, the world had been struck dumb at seeing 
Hay put Europe aside and set the Washington Government at the 
head of civilization so quietly that civilization submitted, by mere 
instinct of docility, to receive and obey his orders; but, after the 
first shock of silence, society felt the force of the stroke through 
its fineness, and burst into almost tumultuous applause. In- 
stantly the diplomacy of the nineteenth century, with all its pain- 
ful scuffles and struggles, was forgotten, and the American blushed 
to be told of his submissions in the past. History broke in halves. 

Hay was too good an artist not to feel the artistic skill of his 
own work, and the success reacted on his health, giving him fresh 
life, for with him as with most men, success was a tonic, and de- 
pression a specific poison; but as usual, his troubles nested at 
home. Success doubles strain. President McKinley's diplomatic 
court had become the largest in the world, and the diplomatic 



TWILIGHT 393 

relations required far more work than ever before, while the staff 
of the Department was little more efficient, and the friction in the 
Senate had become coagulated. Hay took to studying the " Diary" 
of John Quincy Adams eighty years before, and calculated that 
the resistance had increased about ten times, as measured by 
waste of days and increase of effort, although Secretary of State 
J. Q. Adams thought himself very hardly treated. Hay cheer- 
fully noted that it was killing him, and proved it, for the effort of 
the afternoon walk became sometimes painful. 

For the moment, things were going fairly well, and Hay's un- 
ruly team were less fidgety, but Pauncefote still pulled the whole 
load and turned the dangerous corners safely, while Cassini and 
Holleben helped the Senate to make jvhat trouble they could, 
without serious offence, and the Irish, after the genial Celtic nature, 
obstructed even themselves. The fortunate Irish, thanks to their 
sympathetic qualities, never made lasting enmities; but the Ger- 
mans seemed in a fair way to rouse ill-will and even ugly temper 
in the spirit of politics, which was by no means a part of Hay's 
plans. He had as much as he could do to overcome domestic fric- 
tion, and felt no wish to alienate foreign powers. Yet so much 
could be said in favor of the foreigners that they commonly knew 
why they made trouble, and were steady to a motive. Cassini had 
for years pursued, in Peking as in Washington, a policy of his own, 
never disguised, and as little in harmony with his chief as with Hay; 
he made his opposition on fixed lines for notorious objects ; but Sena- 
tors could seldom give a reason for obstruction. In every hundred 
men, a certain number obstruct by instinct, and try to invent 
reasons to explain it afterwards. The Senate was no worse than 
the board of a university; but incorporators as a rule have not made 
this class of men dictators on purpose to prevent action. In the 
Senate, a single vote commonly stopped legislation, or, in commit- 
tee, stifled discussion. 

Hay's policy of removing, one after another, all irritations, and 
closing all discussions with foreign countries, roused incessant 



394 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

obstruction, which could be overcome only by patience and bar- 
gaining in executive patronage, if indeed it could be overcome at 
all. The price actually paid was not very great except in the physi- 
cal exhaustion of Hay and Pauncefote, Root and McKinley. No 
serious bargaining of equivalents could be attempted; Senators 
would not sacrifice five dollars in their own States to gain five 
hundred thousand in another; but whenever a foreign country was 
willing to surrender an advantage without an equivalent, Hay had 
a chance to offer the Senate a treaty. In all such cases the price 
paid for the treaty was paid wholly to the Senate, and amounted 
to nothing very serious except in waste of time and wear of strength. 
"Life is so gay and horrid!" laughed Hay; "the Major will have 
promised all the consulates in the service; the Senators will all 
come to me and refuse to believe me dis-consulate; I shall see all 
my treaties slaughtered, one by one, by the thirty-four per cent 
of kickers and strikers; the only mitigation I can foresee is being 
sick a good part of the time; I am nearing my grand climacteric, 
and the great culbute is approaching." 

He was thinking of his friend Elaine, and might have thought of 
all his predecessors, for all had suffered alike, and to Adams as 
historian their sufferings had been a long delight the solitary 
picturesque and tragic element in politics incidentally requir- 
ing character-studies like Aaron Burr and William B. Giles, Cal- 
houn and Webster and Sumner, with Sir Forcible Peebles like 
James M. Mason and stage exaggerations like Roscoe Conkling. 
The Senate took the place of Shakespeare, and offered real 
Brutuses and Bolingbrokes, Jack Cades, Falstaffs, and Malvolios 
endless varieties of human nature nowhere else to be studied, 
and none the less amusing because they killed, or because they 
were like schoolboys in their simplicity. "Life is so gay and hor- 
rid!" Hay still felt the humor, though more and more rarely, but 
what he felt most was the enormous complexity and friction of the 
vast mass he was trying to guide. He bitterly complained that it 
had made him a bore of all things the most senatorial, and to 



TWILIGHT 395 

him the most obnoxious. The old friend was lost, and only the 
teacher remained, driven to madness by the complexities and 
multiplicities of his new world. 

To one who, at past sixty years old, is still passionately seek- 
ing education, these small, or large, annoyances had no great 
value except as measures of mass and motion. For him the prac- 
tical interest and the practical man were such as looked forward 
to the next election, or perhaps, in corporations, five or ten years. 
Scarcely half-a-dozen men in America could be named who were 
known to have looked a dozen years ahead j while any historian 
who means to keep his alignment with past and future must cover 
a horizon of two generations at least. If he seeks to align him- 
self with the future, he must assume a condition of some sort for 
a world fifty years beyond his own. Every historian sometimes 
unconsciously, but always inevitably must have put to him- 
self the question: How long could such-or-such an outworn system 
last ? He can never give himself less than one generation to show 
the full effects of a changed condition. His object is to triangulate 
from the widest possible base to the furthest point he thinks he can 
see, which is always far beyond the curvature of the horizon. 

To the practical man, such an attempt is idiotic, and probably 
the practical man is in the right to-day; but, whichever is right 
if the question of right or wrong enters at all into the matter the 
historian has no choice but to go on alone. Even in his own pro- 
fession few companions offer help, and his walk soon becomes soli- 
tary, leading further and further into a wilderness where twilight 
is short and the shadows are dense. Already Hay literally stag- 
gered in his tracks for weariness. More worn than he, Clarence 
King dropped. One day in the spring he stopped an hour in Wash- 
ington to bid good-bye, cheerily and simply telling how his doc- 
tors had condemned him to Arizona for his lungs. All three friends 
knew that they were nearing the end, and that if it were not the 
one it would be the other; but the affectation of readiness for 
death is a. stage role, and stoicism is a stupid resource, though 



396 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

the only one. Non dolet, Paete ! One is ashamed of it even in the 
acting. 

The sunshine of life had not been so dazzling of late but that a 
share of it flickered out for Adams and Hay when King disap- 
peared from their lives; but Hay had still his family and ambi- 
tion, while Adams could only blunder back alone, helplessly, 
wearily, his eyes rather dim with tears, to his vague trail across 
the darkening prairie of education, without a motive, big or small, 
except curiosity to reach, before he too should drop, some point 
that would give him a far look ahead. He was morbidly curious 
to see some light at the end of the passage, as though thirty years 
were a shadow, and he were again to fall into King's arms at the 
door of the last and only log cabin left in life. Time had become 
terribly short, and the sense of knowing so little when others knew 
so much, crushed out hope. 

He knew not in what new direction to turn, and sat at his desk, 
idly pulling threads out of the tangled skein of science, to see 
whether or why they aligned themselves. The commonest and 
oldest toy he knew was the child's magnet, with which he had 
played since babyhood, the most familiar of puzzles. He covered 
his desk with magnets, and mapped out their lines of force by 
compass. Then he read all the books he could find, and tried in 
vain to makes his lines of force agree with theirs. The books 
confounded him. He could not credit his own understanding. 
Here was literally the most concrete fact in nature, next to gravi- 
tation which it defied; a force which must have radiated lines of 
energy without stop, since time began, if not longer, and which 
might probably go on radiating after the sun should fall into the 
earth, since no one knew why or how or what it radiated 
or even whether it radiated at all. Perhaps the earliest known 
of all natural forces after the solar energies, it seemed to have sug- 
gested no idea to any one until some mariner bethought himself 
that it might serve for a pointer. Another thousand years passed 
when it taught some other intelligent man to use it as a pump, 



TWILIGHT 397 

supply-pipe, sieve, or reservoir for collecting electricity, still with- 
out knowing how it worked or what it was. For a historian, 
the story of Faraday's experiments and the invention of the 
dynamo passed belief; it revealed a condition of human ignorance 
and helplessness before the commonest forces, such as his mind 
refused to credit. He could not conceive but that some one, some- 
where, could tell him all about the magnet, if one could but find 
the book although he had been forced to admit the same help- 
lessness in the face of gravitation, phosphorescence, and odors; 
and he could imagine no reason why society should treat radium 
as revolutionary in science when every infant, for ages past, had 
seen the magnet doing what radium did; for surely the kind of 
radiation mattered nothing compared with the energy that ra- 
diated and the matter supplied for radiation. He dared not ven- 
ture into the complexities of chemistry, or microbes, so long as this 
child's toy offered complexities that befogged his mind beyond 
X-rays, and turned the atom into an endless variety of pumps 
endlessly pumping an endless variety of ethers. He wanted to ask 
Mme. Curie to invent a motor attachable to her salt of radium, 
and pump its forces through it, as Faraday did with a magnet. 
He figured the human mind itself as another radiating matter 
through which man had always pumped a subtler fluid. 

In all this futility, it was not the magnet or the rays or the 
microbes that troubled him, or even his helplessness before the 
forces. To that he was used from childhood. The magnet in 
its new relation staggered his new education by its evidence of 
growing complexity, and multiplicity, and even contradiction, in 
life. He could not escape it; politics or science, the lesson was the 
same, and at every step it blocked his path whichever way he 
turned. He found it in politics; he ran against it in science; he 
struck it in everyday life, as though he were still Adam in the Gar- 
den of Eden between God who was unity, and Satan who was 
complexity, witK no means of deciding which was truth. The 
problem was the same for McKinley as for Adam, and for the 



398 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Senate as for Satan. Hay was going to wreck on it, like King and 
Adams. 

All one's life, one iiad struggled for unity, and unity had always 
won. The National Government and the national unity had over- 
come every resistance, and the Darwinian evolutionists were 
triumphant over all the curates; yet the greater the unity and the 
momentum, the worse became the complexity and the friction. 
One had in vain bowed one's neck to railways, banks, corporations, 
trusts, and even to the popular will as far as one could under- 
stand it or even further; the multiplicity of unity had steadily 
increased, was increasing, and threatened to increase beyond 
reason. He had surrendered all his favorite prejudices, and lore- 
sworn even the forms of criticism except for his pet amusement, 
the Senate, which was a tonic or stimulant necessary to healthy 
life; he had accepted uniformity and Pteraspis and ice age and 
tramways and telephones; and now just when he was ready to 
hang the crowning garland on the brow of a completed education 
science itself warned him to begin it again from the beginning. 

Maundering among the magnets he bethought himself that 
once, a full generation earlier, he had begun active life by writing 
a confession of geological faith at the bidding of Sir Charles Lyell, 
and that it might be Worth looking at if only to steady his vision. 
He read it again, and thought it better than he could do at sixty- 
three; but elderly minds always work loose. He saw his doubts 
grown larger, and became curious to know what had been said 
about them since 1870. The Geological Survey supplied stacks of 
volumes, and reading for steady months; while, the longer he 
read, the more he wondered, pondered, doubted what his delight- 
ful old friend Sir Charles Lyell would have said about it. 

Truly the animal that is to be trained to unity must be caught 
young. Unity is vision; it must have been part of the process of 
learning to see. The older the mind, the older its complexities, 
and the further it looks, the more it sees, until even the stars 
resolve themselves into multiples; yet the child will always 



TWILIGHT 399 

see but one. Adams asked whether geology since 1867 had drifted 
towards unity or multiplicity, and he felt that the drift would 
depend on the age of the man who drifted. 

Seeking some impersonal point for measure, he turned to see 
what had happened to his oldest friend and cousin the ganoid 
fish, the Pteraspis of Ludlow and Wenlock, with whom he had 
sported when geological life was young; as though they had all 
remained together in time to act the Mask of Comus at Ludlow 
Castle, and repeat "how charming is divine philosophy!" He felt 
almost aggrieved to find Walcott so vigorously acting the part of 
Comus as to have flung the ganoid all the way off to Colorado and 
far back into the Lower Trenton limestone, making the Pteraspis 
as modern as a Mississippi gar-pike by spawning an ancestry for 
him, indefinitely more remote, in the dawn of known organic life. 
A few thousand feet, more or less, of limestone were the liveliest 
amusement to the ganoid, but they buried the uniformitarian alive, 
under the weight of his own uniformity. Not for all the ganoid 
fish that ever swam, would a discreet historian dare to hazard 
even in secret an opinion about the value of Natural Selection by 
Minute Changes under Uniform Conditions, for he could know 
no more about it than most of his neighbors who knew nothing; 
but natural selection that did not select evolution finished 
before it began minute changes that refused to change any- 
thing during the whole geological record survival of the highest 
order in a fauna which had no origin uniformity under condi- 
tions which had disturbed everything else in creation to an 
honest-meaning though ignorant student who needed to prove 
Natural Selection and not assume it, such sequence brought no 
peace. He wished to be shown that changes in form caused evo- 
lution in force; that chemical or mechanical energy had by nat- 
ural selection and minute changes, under uniform conditions, 
converted itself info thought. The ganoid fish seemed to prove 
to him that it had selected neither new form nor new force, 
but that the curates were right in thinking that force could be 



4.00 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

increased in volume or raised in intensity only by help of outside 
force. To him, the ganoid was a huge perplexity, none the less 
because neither he nor the ganoid troubled Darwinians, but the 
more because it helped to reveal that Darwinism seemed to sur- 
vive only in England. In vain he asked what sort of evolu- 
tion had taken its place. Almost any doctrine seemed orthodox. 
Even sudden conversions due to mere vital force acting on its own 
lines quite beyond mechanical explanation, had cropped up again. 
A little more, and he would be driven back on the old independence 
of species. 

What the ontologist thought about it was his own affair, like 
the theologist's views on theology, for complexity was nothing to 
them; but to the historian who sought only the direction of thought 
and had begun as the confident child of Darwin and Lyell in 1867, 
the matter of direction seemed vital. Then he had entered gaily 
the door of the glacial epoch, and had surveyed a universe of 
unities and uniformities. In 1900 he entered a far vaster universe, 
where all the old roads ran about in every direction, overrunning, 
dividing, subdividing, stopping abruptly, vanishing slowly, with 
side-paths that led nowhere, and sequences that could not be 
proved. The active geologists had mostly become specialists deal- 
ing with complexities far too technical for an amateur, but the 
old formulas still seemed to serve for beginners, as they had 
served when new. 

So the cause of the glacial epoch remained at the mercy of 
Lyell and Croll, although Geikie had split up the period into half- 
a-dozen intermittent chills in recent geology and in the northern 
hemisphere alone, while no geologist had ventured to assert that 
the glaciation of the southern hemisphere could possibly be re- 
ferred to a horizon more remote. Continents still rose wildly and 
wildly sank, though Professor Suess of Vienna had written an 
epoch-making work, showing that continents were anchored like 
crystals, and only oceans rose and sank. LyelPs genial uniform- 
ity seemed genial still, for nothing had taken its place, though, 



TWILIGHT 401 



in the interval, granite had grown young, nothing had been ex- 
plained, and a bewildering system of huge overthrusts had up- 
set geological mechanics. The textbooks refused even to discuss 
theories, frankly throwing up their hands and avowing that prog- 
ress depended on studying each rock as a law to itself. 

Adarns had no more to do with the correctness of the science 
than the gar-pike or the Port Jackson shark, for its correctness 
in no way concerned him, and only impertinence could lead him 
to dispute or discuss the principles of any science; but the history 
of the mind concerned the historian alone, and the historian had 
no vital concern in anything else, for he found no change to record 
in the body. In thought the Schools, like the Church, raised ig- 
norance to a faith and degraded dogma to heresy. Evolution 
survived like the trilobites without evolving, and yet the evolu- 
tionists held the whole field, and had even plucked up courage to 
rebel against the Cossack ukase of Lord Kelvin forbidding them 
to ask more than twenty million years for their experiments. No 
doubt the geologists had always submitted sadly to this last and 
utmost violence inflicted on them by the Pontiff of Physical Reli- 
gion in the effort to force unification of the universe; they had 
protested with mild conviction that they could not state the geo- 
logical record in terms of time; they had murmured Ignoramus 
under their breath; but they had never dared to assert the Ignora- 
bimus that lay on the tips of their tongues. 

Yet the admission seemed close at hand. Evolution was be- 
coming change of form broken by freaks of force, and warped at 
times by attractions affecting intelligence, twisted and tortured 
at other times by sheer violence, cosmic, chemical, solar, super- 
sensual, electrolytic 'who knew what? defying science, if 
not denying known law; and the wisest of men could but imi- 
tate the Church, and invoke a "larger synthesis" to unify the 
anarchy again. Historians have got into far too much trouble 
by following schools of theology in their efforts to enlarge their 
synthesis, that they should willingly repeat the process in science* 



402 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

For human purposes a point must always be soon reached where 
larger synthesis is suicide. 

Politics and geology pointed alike to the larger synthesis of 
rapidly increasing complexity; but still an elderly man knew that 
the change might be only in himself. The admission cost nothing. 
Any student, of any age, thinking only of a thought and not of 
his thought, should delight in turning about and trying the oppo- 
site motion, as he delights in the spring which brings even to a 
tired and irritated statesman the larger synthesis of peach-blooms, 
cherry-blossoms, and dogwood, to prove the folly of fret. Every 
schoolboy knows that this sum of all knowledge never saved him 
from whipping; mere years help nothing; King and Hay and Adams 
could neither of them escape floundering through the corridors of 
chaos that opened as they passed to the end; but they could at 
least float with the stream if they only knew which way the 
current ran. Adams would have liked to begin afresh with the 
Limulus and Lepidosteus in the waters of Braintree, side by side 
with Adamses and Quincys and Harvard College, all unchanged 
and unchangeable since archaic time; but what purpose would it 
serve ? A seeker of truth or illusion would be none the less 
restless, though a shark! 



CHAPTER XXVII 

TEUFELSDROCKH (1901) 

INEVITABLE Paris beckoned, and resistance became more 
and more futile as the store of years grew less; for the world 
contains no other spot than Paris where education can be 
pursued from every side. Even more vigorously than in the twelfth 
century, Paris taught in the twentieth, with no other school ap- 
proaching it for variety of direction and energy of mind. Of the 
teaching in detail, a man who knew only what accident had taught 
him in the nineteenth century, could know next to nothing, since 
science had got quite beyond his horizon, and mathematics had 
become the only necessary language of thought; but one could 
play with the toys of childhood, including Ming porcelain, salons 
of painting, operas and theatres, beaux-arts and Gothic architec- 
ture, theology and anarchy, in any jumble of time; or totter about 
with Joe Stickney, talking Greek philosophy or recent poetry, 
or studying "Louise" at the Opera Comique, or discussing the 
charm of youth and the Seine with Bay Lodge and his exquisite 
young wife. Paris remained Parisian in spite of change, mistress 
of herself though China fell. Scores of artists sculptors and 
painters, poets and dramatists, workers in gems and metals, de- 
signers in stuffs and furniture hundreds of chemists, physicists, 
even philosophers, philologists, physicians, and historians were 
at work, a thousand times as actively as ever before, and the mass 
and originality of their product would have swamped any pre- 
vious age, as it very nearly swamped its own; but the effect was 
one of chaos, and Adams stood as helpless before it as before the 
chaos of New York. His single thought was to keep in front of 
the movement, and, if necessary, lead it to chaos, but never fall 
behind. Only the young have time to linger in the rear. 
The amusements of youth had to be abandoned, for not even 



404 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

pugilism needs more staying-power than the labors of the pale- 
faced student of the Latin Quarter in the haunts of Montparnasse 
or Montmartre, where one must feel no fatigue at two o'clock in 
the morning in a beer-garden even after four hours of Mounet 
Sully at the Theatre Frangais. In those branches, education might 
be called closed. Fashion, too, could no longer teach anything 
worth knowing to a man who, holding open the door into the next 
world, regarded himself as merely looking round to take a last 
glance of this. The glance was more amusing than any he had 
known in his active life, but it was more infinitely more 
chaotic and complex. ^ 

Still something remained to be done for education beyond the 
chaos, and as usual the woman helped. For thirty years or there- 
abouts, he had been repeating that he really must go to Baireuth. 
Suddenly Mrs. Lodge appeared on the horizon and bade him 
come. He joined them, parents and children, alert and eager and 
appreciative as ever, at the little old town of Rothenburg-on-the 
Taube, and they went on to the Baireuth festival together. 

Thirty years earlier, a Baireuth festival would have made an 
immense stride in education, and the spirit of the master would 
have opened a vast new world. In 1901 the effect was altogether 
different from the spirit of the master. In 1876 the rococo set- 
ting of Baireuth seemed the correct atmosphere for Siegfried and 
Briinhilde, perhaps even for Parsifal. Baireuth was out of the 
world, calm, contemplative, and remote. In 1901 the world had 
altogether changed, and Wagner had become a part of it, as fa- 
miliar as Shakespeare or Bret Harte. The rococo element jarred. 
Even the Hudson and the Susquehanna perhaps the Potomac 
j tse lf had often risen to drown out the gods of Walhalla, and 
one could hardly listen to the "Gotterdammerung" in New York, 
among throngs of intense young enthusiasts, without paroxysms 
of nervous excitement that toned down to musical philistinism at 
Baireuth, as though the gods were Bavarian composers. New 
York or Paris might be whatever one pleased venal, sordid, 



TEUFELSDROCKH 405 



vulgar but society nursed there, in the rottenness of its decay, 
certain anarchistic ferments, and thought them proof of art. Per- 
haps they were; and at all events, Wagner was chiefly responsible 
for them as artistic emotion. New York knew better than Bai- 
reuth what Wagner meant, and the frivolities of Paris had more 
than once included the rising of the Seine to drown out the Etoile 
or Montmartre, as well as the sorcery of ambition that casts spells 
of enchantment on the hero. Paris still felt a subtile flattery in 
the thought that the last great tragedy of gods and men would 
surely happen there, while no one could conceive of its happen- 
ing at Baireuth, or would care if it did. Paris coquetted with 
catastrophe as though it were an old mistress faced it almost 
gaily as she had done so often, for they were acquainted since 
Rome began to ravage Europe; while New York met it with a 
glow of fascinated horror, like an inevitable earthquake, and heard 
Ternina announce it with conviction that made nerves quiver and 
thrill as they had long ceased to do under the accents of popular 
oratory proclaiming popular virtue. Flattery had lost its charm, 
but the Fluch-motif went home. 

Adams had been carried with the tide till Briinhilde had become 
a habit and Ternina an ally. He too had played with anarchy; 
though not with socialism, which, to young men who nourished 
artistic emotions under the dome of the Pantheon, seemed hope- 
lessly bourgeois, and lowest middle-class. Bay Lodge and Joe 
Stickney had given birth to the wholly new and original party of 
Conservative Christian Anarchists, to restore true poetry under 
the inspiration of the "Gotterdammerung." Such a party saw 
no inspiration in Baireuth, where landscape, history, and audience 
were relatively stodgy, and where the only emotion was a 
musical dilettantism that the master had abhorred. 

Yet Baireuth still amused even a conservative Christian anar- 
chist who cared as little as "Grane, mein Ross," whether the 
singers sang false, and who came only to learn what Wagner had 
supposed himself to mean. This end attained as pleased Frau 



406 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Wagner and the Heiliger Geist, he was ready to go on; and the 
Senator, yearning for sterner study, pointed to a haven at Mos- 
cow. For years Adams had taught American youth never to travel 
without a Senator who was useful even in America at times, but 
indispensable in Russia where, in 1901, anarchists, even though 
conservative and Christian, were ill-seen. 

This wing of the anarchistic party consisted rigorously of but 
two members, Adams and Bay Lodge. The conservative Christian 
anarchist, as a party, drew life from Hegel and Schopenhauer 
rightly understood. By the necessity of their philosophical de- 
scent, each member of the fraternity denounced the other as un- 
equal to his lofty task and inadequate to grasp it. Of course, no 
third member could be so much as considered, since the great 
principle of contradiction could be expressed only by opposites; 
and no agreement could be conceived, because anarchy, by defini- 
tion^ nayst be chaps and collision, as in the kinetic theory of a per- 
fect gas. Doubtless this law of contradiction was itself agreement, 
a restriction of personal liberty inconsistent with freedom; but 
the "larger synthesis" admitted a limited agreement provided it 
were strictly confined to the end of larger contradiction. Thus 
the great end of all philosophy the "larger synthesis" was 
attained, but the process was arduous, and while Adams, as the 
older member, assumed to declare the principle, Bay Lodge neces- 
sarily denied both the assumption and the principle in order to 
assure its truth. 

Adams proclaimed that in the last synthesis, order and anarchy 
were one, but that the unity was chaos. As anarchist, conserva- 
tive and Christian, he had no motive or duty but to attain the 
end; and, to hasten it, he was bound to accelerate progress; to 
concentrate energy; to accumulate power; to multiply and in- 
tensify forces; to reduce friction, increase velocity and magnify 
momentum, partly because this was the mechanical law of the 
universe as science explained it; but partly also in order to get 
done with the present which artists and some others complained 



TEUFELSDROCKH 407 



of; and finally and chiefly because a rigorous philosophy re- 
quired it, in order to penetrate the beyond, and satisfy man's 
destiny by reaching the largest synthesis in its ultimate contra- 
diction, 

Of course the untaught critic instantly objected that this scheme 
was neither conservative, Christian, nor anarchic, but such ob- 
jection meant only that the critic should begin his education in 
any infant school in order to learn that anarchy which should be 
logical would cease to be anarchic. To the conservative Christian 
anarchist, the amiable doctrines of Kropotkin were sentimental 
ideas of Russian mental inertia covered with the name of anarchy 
merely to disguise their innocence; and the outpourings of Elisee 
Rectus were ideals of the French ouvrier, diluted with absinthe, 
resulting in a bourgeois dream of order and inertia. Neither made 
a pretence of anarchy except as a momentary stage towards order 
ai;d unity. Neither of them had formed any other conception 
of the universe than what they had inherited from the priestly 
class to which their minds obviously belonged. With them, as 
with the socialist, communist, or collectivist, the mind that fol- 
lowed nature had no relation; if anarchists needed order, they 
must go back to the twelfth century where their thought had 
enjoyed its thousand years of reign. The conservative Christian 
anarchist could have no associate, no object, no faith except the 
nature of nature itself; and his "larger synthesis" had only the 
fault of being so supremely true that even the highest obligation 
of duty could scarcely oblige Bay Lodge to deny it in order to 
prove it. Only the self-evident truth that no philosophy of order 
except the Church had ever satisfied the philosopher recon- 
ciled the conservative Christian anarchist to prove his own. 

Naturally these ideas were so far in advance of the age that hardly 
more people could understand them than understood Wagner or 
Hegel; for that matter, since the time of Socrates, wise men have 
been mostly shy of claiming to understand anything; but such 
refinements were Gree~k or German, and affected the practical 



408 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

American but little. He admitted that, for the moment, the dark- 
ness was dense. He could not affirm with confidence, even to him- 
self, that his " largest synthesis" would certainly turn out to be 
chaos, since he would be equally obliged to deny the chaos. The 
poet groped blindly for an emotion. The play of thought for 
thought's sake had mostly ceased. The Jthrob of fifty or a hun- 
dred million steam horse-power, doubling every ten years, and 
already more despotic than all the horses that ever lived, and all 
the ridejrs they ever carried, drowned rhyme and reason. No one 
was to blame, for all were equally servants of the power, and 
worked merely to increase it; but the conservative Christian 
anarchist saw light. ~ 

Thus the student of Hegel prepared himself for a visit to Russia 
in order to enlarge his "synthesis" and much he needed it! In 
America all were conservative Christian anarchists; the faith was 
natKmal, racial, geographic. The true American had never seen 
such supreme virtue in any of the innumerable shades between 
social anarchy and social order as to mark it for exclusively human 
and his own. He never had known a complete. Bunion either in 
Church or State or thought, and had never seen any need for it. 
The freedom gave him courage to meet any contradiction, and 
intelligence..BQUgh to ignore it.^ Exactly the opposite condition 
had marked Russian growth. The Czar's empire was a phase of 
conservative Christian anarchy more interesting to history than 
all the complex variety of American newspapers, schools, trusts, 
sects, frauds, and Congressmen. These were Nature pure and 
anarchic as the conservative Christian anarchist saw Nature 
active^ vibrating, mostly unconscious, and quickly reacting on 
igrce; but, from the first glimpse one caught from the sleeping-car 
window, in the early morning, of the Polish Jew at the accidental 
railway station, in all his weird horror, to the last vision of the 
Russian peasant, lighting his candle and kissing his ikon before 
the railway Virgin in the station at St. Petersburg, all was logi- 
cal, conservative, Christian and anarchic. Russia had nothing in 



TEUFELSDROCKH 409 



common with any ancient or modern world that history knew; 
she had been the oldest source of all civilization in Europe, and 
had kept none for herself; neither Europe nor Asia had ever known 
such a phase, which seemed to fall into no line of evolution what- 
ever, and was as wonderful to the student of Gothic architecture 
in the twelfth century, as to the student of the dynamo in the 
twentieth. Studied in the dry light of conservative Christian 
anarchy, Russia became luminous like the salt of radium; but with 
a negative luminosity as though she were a substance whose ener- 
gies had been sucked out an inert residuum with movement 
of pure inertia. From the car window one seemed to float past un- 
dulations of nomad life herders deserted by their leaders and 
herds wandering waves stopped in their wanderings waiting 
for their winds or warriors to return and lead them westward; 
tribes that had camped, like Khirgis, for the season, and had lost 
the means of motion without acquiring the habit of permanence. 
They waited and suffered. As they stood they were out of place, 
and could never have been normal. Their country acted as a sink 
of energy like the Caspian Sea, and its surface kept the uniformity 
of ice and snow. One Russian peasant kissing an ikon on a saint's 
day, in the Kremlin, served for a hundred million. The student 
had no need to study Wallace, or re-read Tolstoy or Tourguenieff 
or Dostoiewski to refresh his memory of the most poignant analysis 
of human inertia ever put in words; Gorky was more than enough: 
Kropotkin answered every purpose. 

The Russian people could never have changed could they 
ever be changed ? Could inertia of race, on such a scale, be broken 
up, or take new form? Even in America, on an infinitely smaller 
scale, the question was old and unanswered. All the so-called 
primitive races, and some nearer survivals, had raised doubts 
which persisted against the most obstinate convictions of evolu- 
tion. The Senator himself shook his head, and after surveying 
Warsaw and Moscow to his content, went on to St. Petersburg to 
ask questions of Mr. de Witte and Prince Khilkoff. Their conver- 



410 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

sation added new doubts; for their efforts had been immense, their 
expenditure enormous, and their results on the people seemed to 
be uncertain as yet, even to themselves. Ten or fifteen years 
of violent stimulus seemed resulting in nothing, for, since 1898, 
Russia lagged^ 

~TKe~ tourist-student, having duly reflected, asked the Senator 
whether he should allow three generations, or more, to swing the 
Russian people into the Western movement. The Senator seemed 
disposed to ask for more. The student had nothing to say. For 
him, all opinion founded on fact must be ,e.npr, because the facts 
can never be complete, and their relations must be always iufinite. 
Very likely, Russia would instantly become the most brilliant con- 
stellation of human progress through all the ordered stages of 
good; but meanwhile one might give a value as movement of 
inertia to the mass, and assume a slow acceleration that would, 
at the end of a generation, leave the gap between east and west 
relatively the same. 

This result reached, the Lodges thought their moral improve- 
ment required a visit to Berlin; but forty years of varied emotions 
had not deadened Adams's memories of Berlin, and he preferred, 
at any cost, to escape new ones. When the Lodges started for 
Germany, Adams took steamer for Sweden and landed happily, 
in a day or two, at Stockholm. 

Until the student is fairly sure that his problem is soluble, he 
gains little by obstinately insisting on solving it. One might doubt 
whether Mr. de Witte himself, or Prince Khilkoff, or any Grand 
Duke, or the Emperor, knew much more about it than their 
neighbors; and Adams was quite sure that, even in America, he 
should listen with uncertain confidence to the views of any Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, or railway president, or President of the 
United States whom he had ever known, that should concern the 
America of the next generation. The mere fact that any man 
should dare to offer them would prove his incompetence to judge. 
Yet Russia was too vast a force to be treated as an object of 



TEUFELSDROCKH 41 1 



unconcern. As inertia, if in no other way, she represented three- 
fourths of the human race, and her movement might be the true 
movement of the future, against the hasty and unsure acceleration 
of America. No one could yet know what would best suit human- 
ity, and the tourist who carried his La Fontaine in mind, caught 
himself talking as bear or as monkey according to the mirror he 
held before him. "Am I satisfied?" he asked: 

"Moi? pourquoi non? 

N'ai-je pas quatre pieds aussi bien que les autres? 
Mon portrait jusqu'ici ne m'a rien reproche; 
Mais pour mon frere Tours, on ne Pa qu'ebauche; 
Jamais, s'il me veut croire, il ne se fera peindre/' 

Granting that his brother the bear lacked perfection in details, 
his own figure as monkey was not necessarily ideal or decorative, 
nor was he in the least sure what form it might take even in one 
generation. He had himself never ventured to dream of three. No 
man could guess what the Daimler motor and X-rays would do 
to him; but so much was sure; the monkey and motor were terribly 
afraid of the bear; how much, only a man close to their foreign 
departments knew. As the monkey looked back across the Baltic 
from the safe battlements of Stockholm, Russia looked more por- 
tentous than from the Kremlin. 

The image was that of the retreating ice-cap a wall of archaic 
glacier, as fixed, as ancient, as eternal, as the wall of archaic ice 
that blocked the ocean a few hundred miles to the northward, and 
more likely to advance. Scandinavia had been ever at its mercy. 
Europe had never changed. The imaginary line that crossed the 
level continent from the Baltic to the Black Sea, merely extended 
the northern barrier-line. The Hungarians and Poles on one side 
still struggled against the Russian inertia of race, and retained 
their own energies under the same conditions that caused inertia 
across the frontier. Race ruled tJiecqnditjonsj conditions hardly 
affected race; and yet no one could tell the patient tourist what 
race was, or how it should be known. History offered a feeble and 



4-12 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

delusive smile at the sound of the word; evolutionists and ethnol- 
ogists disputed its very existence; no btlS : "kilW what to make of 
it; yet, without the clue, history was a nursery tale. 

The Germans, Scandinavians, Poles and Hungarians, energetic 
as they were, had never held their own against the heterogeneous 
mass of inertia called Russia, and trembled with terror whenever 
Russia moved. From Stockholm one looked back on it as though 
it were an ice-sheet, and so had Stockholm watched it for centu- 
ries. In contrast with the dreary forests of Russia and the stern 
streets of St. Petersburg, Stockholm seemed a southern vision, and 
Sweden lured the tourist on. Through a cheerful New England 
landscape and bright autumn, he rambled northwards till he found 
himself at Trondhjem and discovered Norway. Education crowded 
upon him in immense masses as he triangulated these vast surfaces 
of history about which he had lectured and read for a life-time. 
When the historian fully realizes his ignorance which some- 
times happens to Americans he becomes even more tiresome to 
himself than to others, because his fhawete^ls irrepressible. Adams 
could not get over his astonishment,~!though he had preached the 
Norse doctrine all his life against the stupid and beer-swilling 
Saxon boors whom Freeman loved, and who, to the despair of 
science, produced Shakespeare. Mere contact with Norway started 
voyages of thought, and, under their illusions, he took the mail 
steamer to the north, and on September 14, reached Hammerfest. 

Frivolous amusement was hardly what one saw, through the 
equinoctial twilight, peering at the flying tourist, down the deep 
fiords, from dim patches of snow, where the last Laps and reindeer 
were watching the mail-steamer thread the intricate channels out- 
side, as their ancestors had watched the first Norse fishermen learn 
them in the succession of time; but it was not the Laps, or the snow, 
or the arctic gloom, that impressed the tourist, so much as the 
lights of an electro-magnetic civilization and the stupefying con- 
trast with Russia, which more and more insisted on taking the 
first place in historical interest. Nowhere had the new forces 



TEUFELSDROCKH 413 



so vigorously corrected the errors of the old, or so effectively re- 
dressed the balance of the ecliptic. As one approached the end 
the spot where, seventy years before, a futile Carlylean Teufels- 
drockh had stopped to ask futile questions of the silent infinite 
the infinite seemed to have become loquacious, not to say 
familiar, chattering gossip in one's ear. An installation of electric 
lighting and telephones led tourists close up to the polar ice-cap, 
beyond the level of the magnetic pole; and there the newer Teu- 
felsdrockh sat dumb with surprise, and glared at the permanent 
electric lights of Hammerfest. 

He had good reason better than the Teufelsdrockh of 1830, in 
his liveliest Scotch imagination, ever dreamed, or mortal man had 
ever told. At best, a week in these dim Northern seas, without 
means of speech, within the Arctic circle, at the equinox, lent 
itself to gravity if not to gloom; but only a week before, break- 
fasting in the restaurant at Stockholm, his eye had caught, across 
the neighboring table, a headline in a Swedish newspaper, an- 
nouncing an attempt on the life of President McKinley, and from 
Stockholm to Trondhjem, and so up the coast to Hammerfest, day 
after day the news came, telling of the President's condition, and 
the doings and sayings of Hay and Roosevelt, until at last a little 
journal was cried on reaching some dim haven, announcing the 
President's death a few hours before. To Adams the death of 
McKinley and the advent of Roosevelt were not wholly void of 
personal emotion, but this was little in comparison with his depth 
of wonder at hearing hourly reports from his most intimate friends, 
sent to him far within the realm of night, not to please him, but to 
correct the faults of the solar system. The electro-dynamo-social 
uiiiver^e worked better than the sun. 

No such strange chance hacTever happened to a historian before, 
and it upset for the moment his whole philosophy of conservative 
anarchy. The acceleration was marvellous^ and wholly in the liues 
of unity. To recover his grasp of chaos, he must look back across 
the gulf to Russia, and the gap seemed to have suddenly become 



414 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

an abyss. Russia was infinitely distant. Yet the nightmare 
glacial ice-cap still pressed down on him from the hills, in full vision, 
and no one could look out on the dusky and oily sea that lapped 
these spectral islands without consciousness that only a day's 
steaming to the northward would bring him to the ice-barrier, 
ready at any moment to advance, which obliged tourists to stop 
where Laps and reindeer and Norse fishermen had stopped so long 
ago that memory of their very origin was lost. Adams had never 
before met a ne plus ultra, and knew not what to make of it; but 
he felt at least the emotion of his Norwegian fishermen ancestors, 
doubtless numbering hundreds of thousands, jammed with their 
faces to the sea, the ice on the north, the ice-cap of Russian inertia 
pressing from behind, and the ice a tnjBingjdanger compared with 
the inertia. From the day they first followed the retreating ice- 
cap round the North Cape, down to the present moment, their 
problem was the same. 

The new Teufelsdrockh, though considerably older than the old 
one, saw no clearer into past or future, but he was fully as much 
perplexed. From the archaic ice-barrier to the Caspian Sea, a long 
line of division, permanent since ice and inertia first took possession, 
divided his lines of force, with no relation to climate or geography 
or soil. 

The less a tourist knows, the fewer mistakes he need make, for 
he will not expect himself to explain ignorance. A century ago he 
carried letters and sought knowledge; to-day he knows that no 
one knows; he needs too much and ignorance is learning. He wan- 
dered south again, and came out at Kiel, Hamburg, Bremen, and 
Cologne. A mere glance showed him that here was a Germany 
new to mankind. Hamburg was almost as American as St. Louis. 
In forty years, the green rusticity of Diisseldorf had taken on the 
sooty^ grime of Birmingham. The Rhine in 1900 resembled the 
Rhine of 1858 much as it resembled the Rhine of the Salic Franks. 
Cologne was a railway centre that had completed its cathedral 
which bore an absent-minded air of a cathedral of Chicago, The 



TEUFELSDROCKH 415 



thirteenth century, carefully strained-off, catalogued, and locked 
up, was visible to tourists as a kind of Neanderthal, cave-dwelling, 
curiosity. Th^^ine^was more_modern than the Hudson, as might 
well be, since it produced^ far more~ coal; tut all this counted for 
little beside the radical changeln the lines of force. 

In 1858 the whole plain of northern Europe^, as well as the Dan- 
ube in the south, bore evident marks of being still the prehistoric 
highway between,, Asia. arid thejxean, The trade-route followed 
tRe old routes of invasion, and Cologne was a resting-place between 
Warsaw and Flanders. Throughout northern Germany, Russia 
was felt even more powerfully than France. In 1901 Russia had 
vanished, and not even France was felt; hardly England or 
America. Coal alone was felt its stamp alone pervaded the Rhine 
district and persisted to Picardy a^nd^the stamp was the same 
as that of^Birniingham and Pittsburgh. The '^Kne""pfo3u'ced the 
same power, and the power produced the same people the 
same mind the same impulse. For a man sixty-three years 
old who had no hope of earning a living, these three months of 
education were the most arduous he ever attempted, and Russia 
was the most indigestible morsel he ever met; but the sum of it, 
viewed from Cologne, seemed reasonable. From Hammerfest to 
Cherbourg on one shore of the ocean from Halifax to Norfolk 
on the other onejjreat empire was ruled by one great emperor 
Coal. Political and human jealousies might tear it apart or 
divide it, but the power and the empire were one. Unity had gained 
that ground. Beyond lay Russia, and there an older, perhaps a 
surer, power, resting on the eternal law of inertia, held its own. 

As a personal matter, the relative value of the two powers be* 
came more interesting every year; for the mass of Russian inertia 
was moving irresistibly over China, and John Hay stood in its 
path. As long as de Witte ruled, Hay was safe. Should de Witte 
fall, Hay would totter. One could only sit down and watch the 
doings of Mr. de Witte and Mr. de Plehve. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE (1902) 

AMERICA has always taken tragedy lightly. Too busy 
to stop the activity of their twenty-million-horse-power 
society, Americans ignore tragic motives that would 
have overshadowed the Middle Ages; and the world learns to 
regard assassination as a form of hysteria, and death as neurosis, 
to be treated by a rest-cure. Three hideous political murders, that 
would have fattened the Eumenides with horror, have thrown 
scarcely a shadow on the White House. 

The year 1901 was a year of tragedy that seemed to Hay to 
centre on himself. First came, in summer, the accidental death 
of his son, Del Hay. Close on the tragedy of his son, followed that 
of his chief, "all the more hideous that we were so sure of his 
recovery/' The world turned suddenly into a graveyard. "I have 
acquired the funeral habit." "Nicolay is dying. I went to see him 
yesterday, and he did not know me." Among the letters of con- 
dolence showered upon him was one from Clarence King at Pasa- 
dena, "heart-breaking in grace and tenderness the old King 
manner"; and King himself "simply waiting till nature and the 
foe have done their struggle." The tragedy of King impressed him 
intensely: "There you have it in the face!" he said "the best 
and brightest man of his generation, with talents immeasurably 
beyond any of his contemporaries; with industry that has often 
sickened me to witness it; with everything in his favor but blind 
luck; hounded by disaster from his cradle, with none of the joy of 
life to which he was entitled, dying at last, with nameless suffering, 
alone and uncared-for, in a California tavern. Qa vous amuse, la vie ? " 

The first summons that met Adams, before he had even landed 
on the pier at New York, December 29, was to Clarence King's fu- 
neral, and from the funeral service he had no gayer road to travel 



THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE 417 

than that which led to Washington, where a revolution had oc- 
curred that must in any case have made the men of his age in- 
stantly old, but which, besides hurrying to the front the generation 
that till then he had regarded as boys, could not fail to break the 
social ties that had till then held them all together. 

(?# vous amuse , la vie ? Honestly, the lessons of education were 
becoming too trite. Hay himself, probably for the first time, felt 
half glad that Roosevelt should want him to stay in office, if only 
to save himself the trouble of quitting; but to Adams all was pure 
loss. On that side, his education had been finished at school. His 
friends in power were lost, and he knew life too well to risk total 
wreck by trying to save them. 

As far as concerned Roosevelt, the chance was hopeless. To 
them at sixty-three, Roosevelt at forty-three could not be taken 
seriously in his old character, and could not be recovered in his new 
one. fower when wielded by abnormal energy is the most serious 
of facts, and all Roosevelt's friends know that his restless and com- 
bative energy was more than abnormal. Roosevelt, more than any 
other man living within the range of notoriety, showed the sin- 
gular primitive quality that belongs to ultimate matter the 
quality that mediaeval theology assigned to God Jie was pure 
act. With him wielding unmeasured power with immeasurable 
energy, in the White House, the relation of age to youth of 
teacher to pupil was altogether out of place; and no other was 
possible. Even Hay's relation was a false one, wiiile Adams's 
ceased of itself. History's truths are little valuable now; but human 
nature retains a few of its archaic, proverbial laws, and the wis- 
est courtier that ever lived Lucius Seneca himself must have 
remained in some shade of doubt what advantage he should get 
from the power of his friend and pupil Nero Claudius, until, as a 
gentleman past sixty, he received Nero's filial invitation to kill 
himself. Seneca closed the vast circle of his knowledge by learning 
that a friend in power was a friend lost a fact very much worth 
insisting upon while the gray-headed moth that had fluttered 



4i 8 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

through many moth-administrations and had singed his wings 
more or less in them all, though he now slept nine months out of 
the twelve, acquired an instinct of self-preservation that kept him 
to the north side of La Fayette Square, and, after a sufficient 
habitude of Presidents and Senators, deterred him from hovering 
between them. 

Those who seek education in the paths of duty are always de- 
ceived by the illusion that power in the hands of friends is an 
advantage to them. As far as Adams could teach experience, he 
was bound to warn them that he had found it an invariable dis- 
aster. J^ower is poison. >Jts effect on Presidents had been always 
tragic, chiefly as an almost insane excitement at first, and a worse 
reaction afterwards; but also because no mind is so well balanced 
as to bear the strain of seizing unlimited force without habit or 
knowledge of it; and finding it disputed with him by hungry packs 
of wolves and hounds whose lives depend on snatching the carrion. 
Roosevelt enjoyed a singularly direct nature and honest intent, 
but he lived naturally in restless agitation that would have worn 
out most tempers in a month, and his first year of Presidency 
showed chronic excitement that made a friend tremble. The effect 
of unlimited power on limited mind is worth noting in Presidents 
because it must represent the same process in society, and the 
power of self-control must have limit somewhere in face of the con- 
trol of the infinite. 

Here, education seemed to see its first and last lesson, but this 
is a matter of psychology which lies far down in the depths of 
history and of science; it will recur in other forms. The personal 
lesson is different. Roosevelt was lost, but this seemed no reason 
why Hay and Lodge should also be lost, yet the result was mathe- 
matically certain. With Hay, it was only the steady decline of 
strength, and the necessary economy of force; but with Lodge it 
was law of politics. He could not help himself, for his position as 
the President's friend and independent statesman at once was 
false, and he must be unsure in both relations. 



THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE 419 

To a student, the importance of Cabot Lodge was great 
much greater than that of the usual Senator but it hung on his 
position in Massachusetts rather than on his control of Executive 
patronage; and his standing in Massachusetts was highly insecure. 
Nowhere in America was society so complex or change so rapid. 
No doubt the Bostonian had always been noted for a certain chronic 
irritability a sort of Bostonitis which, in its primitive Puri- 
tan forms, seemed due to knowing too much of his neighbors, and 
thinking too much of himself. "Many years earlier William M. 
Evarts had pointed out to Adams the impossibility of uniting New 
England behind a New England leader. The trait ied to good ends 
such as admiration of Abraham Lincoln and George Washing- 
ton but the virtue was exacting; for New England standards 
were various, scarcely reconcilable with each other, and constantly 
multiplying in number, until balance between them threatened to 
become impossible. The old ones were quite difficult enough 
State Street and the banks exacted one stamp; the old Congrega- 
tional clergy another; Harvard College, poor in votes, but rich in 
social influence, a third; the foreign element, especially the Irish, 
held aloof, and seldom consented to approve any one; the new 
socialist class, rapidly growing, promised to become more exclusive 
than the Irish. New power was disintegrating society, and setting 

it coul3 



^io to hold thejnachine together* NojaaOQuId^ it faith- 

fully as a whole. 

" Naturally, Adams's sympathies lay strongly with Lodge, but 
the task of appreciation was much more difficult in his case than 
in that of his chief friend and scholar, the President. As a type for 
study, or a standard for education, Lodge was the more interesting 
of the two. Roosevelts are bornand nevsiLcan j>e taught^utjLodgs 
was a creature of teaching Boston incarnate the child of his 
local parentage; and while his ambition led him to be more, the 
intent, though virtuous, was as Adams admitted in his own case 
restless. An excellent talker, a voracious reader, a ready wit, 



420 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

an accomplished orator, with a clear mind and a powerful memory, 
he could never feel perfectly at ease whatever leg he stood on, but 
shifted, sometimes with painful.straia.of temper, from one sensitive 
piuscle to another, uncertain whether to pose as an uncompromis- 
ing Yankee; or a pure American; or a patriot in the still purer 
atmosphere of Irish, Germans, or Jews; or a scholar and historian 
of Harvard College. English to the last fibre of his thought 
saturated with English literature, English tradition, English taste 
revolted by every vice and by most virtues of Frenchmen and 
Germans, or any other Continental standards, but at home and 
happy among the vices and extravagances of Shakespeare 
standing first on the social, then on the political foot; now wor- 
shipping, now banning; shocked by the wanton display of im- 
morality, but practising the license of political usage; sometimes 
bitter, often genial, always intelligent Lodge had the singular 
merit of interesting. The usual statesmen flocked in swarms like 
crows, black and monotonous. Lodge's plumage was varied, and, 
like his flight, harked back to race. He betrayed the consciousness 
that he and his people had a past, if they dared but avow it, and 
might have a future, if they could but divine it. 

Adams, too, was Bostonian, and the Bostonian's uncertainty of 
attitude was as natural to him as to Lodge. Only Bostonians can 
understand Bostonians and thoroughly sympathize with the in- 
consequences of the Boston mind. His theory and practice were 
also at variance. He professed in theory equal distrust of English 
thought, and called it a huge rag-bag of bric-a-brac, sometimes 
precious but never sure. For him, only the Greek, the Italian or 
the French standards had claims to respect, and the barbarism of 
Shakespeare was as flagrant as to Voltaire; but his theory never 
affected his practice. He knew that his artistic standard was the 
illusion of his own mind; that English disorder approached nearer 
to truth, if truth existed, than French measure or Italian line, or 
German logic; he read his Shakespeare as the Evangel of conserva- 
tive Christian anarchy, neither very conservative nor very Chris- 



THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE 421 

tian, but stupendously anarchistic. He loved the atrocities of 
English art and society, as he loved Charles Dickens and Miss 
Austen, not because of their example, but because of their humor. 
He made no scruple of defying sequence and denying consistency 

but he was not a Senator. 

Double standards are inspiration to men of letters, but they are 
apt to be fatal to politicians. Adams hadTno reason to care whether 
his standards were popular or not, and no one else cared more than 
he; but Roosevelt and Lodge were playing a game in which they 
were always liable to find the shifty sands of American opinion 
yield suddenly under their feet. With this game an elderly friend 
had long before carried acquaintance as far as he wished. There 
was nothing in it for him but the amusement of the pugilist or 
acrobat. The larger study was lost in the division of interests and 
the ambitions of fifth-rate men; but foreign affairs dealt only with 
large units, and made personal relation possible with Hay which 
could not be maintained with Roosevelt or Lodge. As an affair 
of pure education the point is worth notice from young men who 
are drawn into politics. The work of domestic progress is done by* 
masses of mechanical power steam, electric, furnace, or other 

which have to be controlled by a score or two of individuals 
who have shown capacity to manage it. The work of internal 
government has become the task of controlling these men, who are 
socially as remote as heathjeji gods, alone worth knowing, but 
never known, and who could tell nothing of political value if one 
skinned them alive. Most of them have nothing to tell, but are 
forces as dumb as their dynamos, absorbed in the development or 
economy of power. They are trustees for the public, and whenever 
society assumes the property, it must confer on them that title; 
but the power will remain as before, whoever manages it, and will 
then control society without appeal, as it controls its stokers and 
pit-men. Modern politics is, at bottom, a struggle not of men buj> 
of forces. The men become every year more and more creatures of 
force, massed about central power-houses. The conflict is no longer 



422 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

between the men, but between the motors that drive the men, and 
the men tend ^Q. succumb, to their QWB,.motiye forces. " ' 

This is a moral that man strongly objects to admit, especially in 
mediaeval pursuits like politics and poetry, nor is it worth while 
for a teacher to insist upon it. What he insists upon is only that, 
in domestic politics, every one works for an immediate object, 
commonly for some private job, and invariably in a near horizon, 
while in foreign affairs the outlook is far ahead, over a field as wide 
as the world. There the merest scholar could see what he was doing. 
For history, international relations are the only sure standards of 
movement; the only foundation for a map. For this reason, Adams 
had always insisted that international relation was the only sure 
base for a chart of history. 

He cared little to convince any one of the correctness of his 
view, but as teacher he was bound to explain it, and as friend he 
found it convenient. The Secretary of State has always stood as 
much alone as the historian. Required to look far ahead and round 
him, he measures forces unknown to party managers, and has found 
Congress more or less hostile ever since Congress first sat. The 
Secretary of State exists only to recognize the existence of a world 
which Congress would rather ignore; of obligations which Con- 
gress repudiates whenever it can; of bargains which Congress dis- 
trusts and tries to turn to its advantage or to reject. Since the 
first day the Senate existed, it has always intrigued against the 
Secretary of State whenever the Secretary has been obliged to 
extend his functions beyond the appointment of Consuls in Sena- 
tors' service. 

This is a matter of history which any one may approve or 
dispute as he will; but as education it gave new resources to an 
old scholar, for it made of Hay the best schoolmaster since 1865. 
Hay had become the most imposing figure ever known in the 
office. He had an influence that no other Secretary of State ever 
possessed, as he had a nation behind him such as history had 
never imagined. He needed to write no state papers j he wanted no 



THE HEIGHT OP KNOWLEDGE 423 

help, and he stood far above counsel or advice; but he could instruct 
an attentive scholar as no other teacher in the world could do; and 
Adams sought only instruction wanted only to chart the inter- 
national channel for fifty years to come; to triangulate the future; 
to obtain his dimension, and fix the acceleration of movement 
in politics since the year 1200, as he was trying to fix it in philos- 
ophy and physics; in finance and force. 

Hay had been so long at the head of foreign affairs that at last 
the stream of events favored him. With infinite effort he had 
achieved the astonishing diplomatic feat of inducing the Senate, 
with only six negative votes, to permit Great Britain to renounce, 
without equivalent, treaty rights which she had for fifty years 
defended tooth and nail. This unprecedented triumph in his ne- 
gotiations with the Senate enabled him to carry one step further 
his measures for general peace. About England the Senate could 
make no further effective opposition, for England was won, and 
Canada alone could give trouble. The next difficulty was with 
France, and there the Senate blocked advance, but England as- 
sumed the task, and, owing to political changes in France, effected 
the object a combination which, as late as 1901, had been vi- 
sionary. The next, and far more difficult step, was to bring Ger- 
many into the combine; while, at the end of the vista, most un- 
manageable of all, Russia remained to be satisfied and disarmed. 
This was the instinct of what might be named McKinleyism; the 
system of combinations, consolidations, trusts, realized at home, 
and realizable abroad. 

With the system, a student nurtured in ideas of the eighteenth 
century, had nothing to do, and made not the least pretence of 
meddling; but nothing forbade him to study, and he noticed to his 
astonishment that this capitalistic scheme of combining govern- 
ments, like railways or furnaces, was in effect precisely the socialist 
scheme of Jaures and Bebel. That John Hay, of all men, should 
adopt a socialist policy seemed an idea more ab^urd_than conserva- 
tive Christian anarchy, but paradox had become the only ort&p- 



424 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

doxy in politics as in science. When one saw the field, one realized 
that Hay could not help himself, nor could Bebel. Either Germany 
must destroy England and France to create the next inevitable 
unification as a system of continent against continent or she 
must pool interests. Both schemes in turn were attributed to the 
Kaiser; one or the other he would have to choose; opinion was 
balanced doubtfully on their merits; but, granting both to be 
feasible, Hay's and McKinley's statesmanship turned on the 
point of persuading the Kaiser to join what might be called the 
Coal-power combination, rather than build up the only possible 
alternative, a Gun-power combination by merging Germany in 
Russia. Thus Bebel and Jaures, McKinley and Hay, were partners. 

The problem was pretty * even fascinating and, to an old 
Civil-War private soldier in diplomacy, as rigorous as a geometri- 
cal demonstration. As the last possible lesson in life, it had all 
sorts of ultimate values. Unless education marches on both feet 
theory and practice it risks going astray; and Hay was prob- 
ably the most accomplished master of both then living. He knew 
not only the forces but also the men, and he had no other thought 
than his policy. 

Probably this was the moment of highest knowledge that a 
scholar could ever reach. He had under his eyes the whole edu- 
cational staff of the Government at a time when the Government 
had just reached the heights of highest activity and influence. 
Since 1860, education had done its worst, under the greatest mas- 
ters and at enormous expense to the world, to train these two 
minds to catch and comprehend every spring of international 
action, not to speak of personal influence; and the entire machin- 
ery of politics in several great countries had little to do but sup- 
ply the last and best information. Education could be carried no 
further. 

With its effects on Hay, Adams had nothing to do; but its ef- 
fects on himself were grotesque. Never had the proportions of his 
ignorance looked so appalling. He seemed to know nothing 



THE HEIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE 425 

to be groping in darkness to be falling forever in space; and the 
worst depth consisted in the assurance, incredible as it seemed, 
that no one knew more. He had, at least, the mechanical assurance 
of certain values to guide him like the relative intensities of 
his Coal-powers, and relative inertia of his Gun-powers but 
he conceived that had he known, besides the mechanics, every 
relative value of persons, as well as he knew the inmost thoughts 
of his own Government had the Czar and the Kaiser and the 
Mikado turned schoolmasters, like Hay, and taught him all they 
knew, he would still have known nothing. They knew nothing 
themselves. Only by comparison of their ignorance could the stu- 
dent measure his own. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE (1902) 

THE years hurried past, and gave hardly time to note their 
work. Three or four months, though big with change, 
come to an end before the mind can catch up with it. 
Winter vanished; spring burst into flower; and again Paris opened 
its arms, though not for long. Mr. Cameron came over, and took 
the castle of Inverlochy for three months, which he summoned his 
friends to garrison. Lochaber seldom laughs, except for its children, 
such as Camerons, McDonalds, Campbells and other products of 
the mist; but in the summer of 1902 Scotland put on fewer airs 
of coquetry than usuaL Since the terrible harvest of 1879 which 
one had watched sprouting on its stalks on the Shropshire hillsides, 
nothing had equalled the gloom. Even when the victims fled to 
Switzerland, they found the Lake of Geneva and the Rhine not 
much gayer, and Carlsruhe no more restful than Paris; until at 
last, in desperation, one drifted back to the Avenue of the Bois 
de Boulogne, and, like the Cuckoo, dropped into the nest of a 
better citizen. Diplomacy has its uses. Reynolds Hitt, transferred 
to Berlin, abandoned his attic to Adams, and there, for long sum- 
mers to come, he hid in ignorance and silence. 

Life at last managed of its own accord to settle itself into a work- 
ing arrangement. After so many years of effort to find one's drift, 
the drift found the seeker, and slowly swept him forward and 
back, with a steady progress oceanwards. Such lessons as summer 
taught, winter tested, and one had only to watch the apparent 
movement of the stars in order to guess one's declination. The 
process is possible only for men who have exhausted auto-motion. 
Adams never knew why, knowing nothing of Faraday, he began to 
mimic Faraday's trick of seeing lines of force all about him, where 
he had always seen lines of will. Perhaps the effect of knowing no 



THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE 427 

mathematics is to leave the mind to imagine figures images 
phantoms; one's mind Js a watery mirror at best; but, once con- 
ceived, the image" became rapidly simple, and the lines of force 
presented themselves as lines of attraction. Repulsions counted 
<^ly j^^tde^attractioiis. By this path, the mind steppedlnto 
the mechanical theory of the universe before knowing it, and en- 
tered a distinct new phase of education. 

This was the work of the dynamo and the Virgin of Chartres. 
Like his masters, since thought began, he was handicapped by the 
eternal mystery of Force the sink of all science. For thousands 
of years in history, he found that Force had been felt as occult 
attraction love of God and lust for power in a future life. 
After 1500, when tKislittraction began to decline, philosophers 
fell back on some vis a tergo instinct of danger from behind, 
like Darwin's survival of the fittest; and one of the greatest minds, 
between Descartes and Newton Pascal saw the master-motor 
of man in ennui, which was also scientific: "I have ofteroaidihat 
allthe troubles^of man come from his not knowing how to sit still." 
Mere restlessness forces action. "So passes the whole of life. 
We combat obstacles in order to get repose, and, when got, the 
repose is insupportable; for we think either of the troubles we 
have, or of those that threaten us; and even if we felt safe on every 
side, ennui would of its own accord spring up from the depths of the 
heart where it is rooted by nature, and would fill the mind with its 



venom." 



"If goodness lead him not, yet weariness 
May toss him to My breast." 

Ennui, like Natural Selection, accounted for change, but failed 
to^ account for direction of change. For that, an attractive force 
was essential; a force from outside; a shaping influence. Pascal 
and all the old philosophies called this outside force God or Gods. 
Caring but little for the name, and fixed only on tracing the Force, 
Adams had gone straight to the Virgin at Chartres, and asked her 



428 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

to show him God, face to face, as she did for St. Bernard. She 
replied, kindly as ever, as though she were still the young mother 
of to-day, with a sort of patient pity for masculine dulness: "My 
dear outcast, what is it you seek? This is the Church of Christ! 
If you seek him through me, you are welcome, sinner or saint; 
but he and I are one. We are Love! We have little or nothing to 
do with God's other energies which are infinite, and concern us the 
less because our interest is only in man, and the infinite is not know- 
able to man. Yet if you are troubled by your ignorance, you see 
how I am surrounded by the masters of the schools! Ask them!" 

The answer sounded singularly like the usual answer of British 
science which had repeated since Bacon that one must not try to 
know the unknowable, though one was jjuite powerless to ignore 
it; but the Virgin carried more conviction, for her feminine lack of 
interest in all perfections except her own was honester than the 
formal phrase of science; since nothing was easier than to follow her 
advice, and turn to Thomas Aquinas, who, unlike modern phy- 
sicists, answered at once and plainly: "To me," said St. Thomas, 
"Christ and the Mother are one Force Love simple, single, 
and sufficient for all human wants; but Love is a human interest 
which acts even on man so partially that you and I, as philosophers, 
need expect no share in it. Therefore we turn to Christ and the 
Schools who represent all other Force. We deal with Multiplicity 
and call it God. After the Virgin has redeemed by her personal 
Force as Love all that is redeemable in man, the Schools embrace 
the rest, and give it Form, Unity, and Motive." 

This chart of Force was more easily studied than any other pos- 
sible scheme, for one had but to do what the Church was always 
promising to do abolish in one flash of lightning not only 
man, but also the. Church itself, tfee earth, the other planets, and 
the sun, v in order to clear the air; Vithout affecting mediaeval 
science. iHie student felt "warranted in doing what the Church 
threatened abolishing his solar system altogether in order 
to look at God as actual; continuous movement, universal cause, 



THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE 429 

and interchangeable force. This was pantheism, but the Schools 
were pantheist; at least as pantheistic as the Energetik of the 
Germans; and their deity was the ultimate energy, whose thought 
and act were one. 

Rid of man and his mind, the universe of Thomas Aquinas 
seemed rather more scientific than that of Haeckel or Ernst Mach. 
Contradiction for contradiction, Attraction for attraction, Energy 
for energy, St. Thomas's idea of God had merits. Modern science 
offered not a vestige of proof, or a theory of connection be- 
tween its forces, or any scheme of reconciliation between thought 
and mechanics ; while St. Thomas at least linked together the 
jbiiits of his machine. As far as a superficial student could follow, 
the thirteenth century supposed mind to be a mode of force directly 
derived from the intelligent prime motor, and the cause of all form 
and sequence in the universe therefore the only proof of unity. 
Without thought in the unit, there could be no unity; without 
unity no orderly sequence or ordered society. Thought alone 
was Form. Mind and Unity flourished or perished together. 

This education startled even a man who had dabbled in fifty 
educations all over the world; for, if he were obliged to insist on a 
Universe, he seemed driven to the Church. Modern science guar- 
anteed no unity. The student seemed to feel himself, like all his 
predecessors, caught, trapped, meshed in this eternal drag-net of 
religion. 

In practice the student escapes this dilemma in two ways: 
the first is that of ignoring it, as one escapes most dilemmas; 
the second is that the Church rejects pantheism as worse than 
atheismi, and will have nothing to do with the pantheist at any 
price. In wandering through the forests of ignorance, one neces- 
sarily fell upon the famous old bear that scared children at play; 
but, even had the animal shown more logic than its victim, one 
had learned from Socrates to distrust, above all other traps, the 
trap of logic the mirror of the mind. ' Yet the search for a unit 
of force led into catacombs of thought where hundreds of thou- 



43 o THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 



sands of educations h^d^i^nd their end. Generation after genera- 
tion of painful and honest-minded scholars had been content to 
stay in these labyrinths forever, pursuing ignorance in silence, in 
company with the most famous teachers of all time. Not one of 
them had ever found a logicaMughroad of escape. 

Adams cared little whether he escaped or not, but he felt clear 
that he could not stop there, even to enjoy the society of Spinoza 
an3 Thomas Aquiiias7 True, tHe Church alone had asserted unity 
wltTi any conviction, and the historian alone knew what oceans 
of blood and treasure the assertTorTKaH cost; but the only honest 
alternative to affirming unity was to deny it; and the denial would 
require a new education. At sixty-five years old a new education 
promised hardly more than the old. 

Possibly the modern legislator or magistrate might no longer 
know enough to treat as the Church did the man who denied unity, 
unless the denial took the form of a bomb; but no teacher would 
know how to explain what he thought he meant by denying unity. 
Society would certainly punish the denial if ever any one learned 
enough to understand it. Philosophers, as a rule, cared little what 
principles society affirmed or denied, since the philosopher com- 
monly held that though he might sometimes be right by good 
luck on some one point, no complex of individual opinions could 
possibly be anything but wrong; yet, supposing society to be ig- 
nored, the philosopher was no further forward. Nihilism had no 
bottom. For thousands of years every philosopher had stood on 
the shore of this sunless sea, diving for pearls and never finding 
them. All had seen that, since they could not find bottom, they 
must assume it. The Church claimed to have found it, but, since 
1450, motives for agreeing on some new assumption of Unity, 
broader and deeper than that of the Church, had doubled in force 
until even the universities and schools, like the Church and State, 
seemed about to be driven into an attempt to educate, though 
specially forbidden to do it. 

Like most of his generation, Adams had taken the word of sci- 



THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE 431 

ence that the new unit was as good as found. It would not be an 
intelligence- probably not even a consciousness but TFwould 
serye^ He passed sixty years waiting for it, and at the end of that 
time, on reviewing the ground, he was led to think that the final 
synthesis of science and its ultimate triumph was the kinetic 
theory of gases ; which seemed to cover all motion in space, and 
to furnish the measure of time. So far as he understood it, the 
theory asserted that any portion of space is occupied by mole- 
cules of gas, flying in right lines at velocities varying up to a mile 
in a second, and colliding with each other at intervals varying up 
to 17,750,000 times in a second. To this analysis if one under- 
stood it right all matter whatever was reducible, and the only 
difference of opinion in science regarded the doubt whether a still 
deeper analysis would reduce the atom of gas to pure motion. > 

Thus, unless one mistook the meaning of motion, which might 
well be, the scientific synthesis commonly called Unity was the 
scientific analysis commonly called Multiplicity. The two things 
were the same, all forms being shifting phases of motion. Grant- 
ing this ocean of colliding atoms, the last hope of humanity, what 
happened if one dropped the sounder into the abyss let it go 
frankly gave up Unity altogether? What was Unity? Why 
was one to be forced to affirm it? 

Here everybody flatly refused help. Science seemed content 
with its old phrase of "larger synthesis," which was well enough 
for science, but meant chaos for man. One would have been glad 
to stop and ask no more, but the anarchist bomb bade one go on, 
and the bomb is a powerful persuader. One could not stop, even 
to enjoy the charms of a perfect gas colliding seventeen million 
times in a second, much like an automobile in Paris. JScience itself 
had been crowded so close to the edge of the abyss that its attempts 
to escape were as metaphysical as the leap,, while an ignorant old 
man felt no motive for trying to escape, seeing that the only es- 
cape possible lay in the form of vis ajergo commonly called Death. 
fie got out his Descartes again; dipped into his Hume and Berke- 



432 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ley; wrestled anew with his Kant; pondered solemnly over his 
Hegel and Schopenhauer and Hartmann; strayed gaily away 
with his Greeks all merely to ask what Unity meant, and what 
happened when one denied it. 

Apparently one never denied it. /Every philosopher, whether 
sane or insane, naturally affirmed it. The utmost flight of anarchy 
seemed to have stopped with the assertion of two principles, and 
even these fitted into each other, like good and evil, light and 
darkness. Pessimism itself, black as it might be painted, had been 
content to turn the universe of contradictions into the human 
thought as one. Will, and treat it as representation. Metaphysics 
insisted on treating the universe as one thought or treating thought 
as one universe; and philosophers agreed, like a kinetic gas, that the 
universe could be known only as motion of mind, and therefore 
as unity. One could know it only as one's self; it was psychology. 

Of all forms of pessimism, the metaphysical form was, for a his- 
torian, the least enticing. Of all studies, the one he would rather 
have avoided was that of his own mind. He knew no tragedy 
so heartrending as introspection, and the more, because as 
Mephistopheles said of Marguerite r he was not the first. Nearly 
all the highest intelligence known to history had drowned itself 
in the reflection of its own thought, and the bovine survivors had 
rudely told the truth about it, without affecting the intelligent. 
One's own time had not been exempt. Even since 1870 friends 
by scores had fallen victims to it. Within five-and-twenty years, 
a new library had grown out of it. Harvard College was a focus 
of the study; France supported hospitals for it; England published 
magazines of it. Nothing was easier than to take one's mind in 
one's hand, and ask one's psychological friends what they made 
of it, and the more because it mattered so little to either party, 
since their minds, whatever they were, had pretty nearly ceased 
to reflect, and let them do what they liked with the small remnant, 
they could scarcely do anything very new with it. All one asked 
was to learn what they hoped to do. 



THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE 433 

Unfortunately the pursuit of ignorance in silence had, by this 
time, led the weary pilgrim into such mountains of ignorance 
that he could no longer see any path whatever, and could not even 
understand a signpost. He failed to fathom the depths of the new 
psychology, which proved to him that, on that side as on the 
mathematical side, his power of thought was atrophied, if, indeed, 
it ever existed. Since he could not fathom the science, he could 
only ask the simplest of questions: Did the new psychology hold 
that the tyvxn $ ou l or mind fc was or was not a unit? He 
gathered from the books that the psychologists had, in a few cases, 
distinguished several personalities in the same mind, each con- 
scious and constant, individual and exclusive. The fact seemed 
scarcely surprising, since it had been a habit of mind from earliest 
recorded time, and equally familiar to the last acquaintance who 
had taken a drug or caught a fever, or eaten a Welsh rarebit be- 
fore bed; for surely no one could follow the action of a vivid dream, 
and still need to be told that the actors evoked by his mind were 
not himself, but quite unknown to all he had ever recognized as 
self. The new psychology went further, and seemed convinced 
that it had actually split personality not only into dualism, but 
also into complex groups, like telephonic centres and systems, 
that might be isolated and called up at will, and whose physical 
action might be occult in the sense of strangeness to any known 
form of force. Dualism seemed to have become as common as 
binary stars. Alternating personalities turned up constantly, even 
among one's friends. The facts seemed certain, or at least as 
certain as other facts; all they needed was explanation. 

This was not the business of the searcher of ignorance, who felt 
himself in no way responsible for causes. To his mind, the com- 
pound tyuxn took at once the form of a bicycle-rider, mechanically 
balancing himself by inhibiting all his inferior personalities, and sure 
to fall into the sub-conscious chaos below, if one of his inferior 
personalities got on top. The only absolute truth was the sub-con- 
scious chaos below, which every one could feel when he sought it. 



434 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Whether the psychologists admitted it or not, mattered little 
to the student who, by the law of his profession, was engaged in 
studying his own mind. On him, the effect was surprising. JHe 
woke^up with a shudder as though he had himself fallen off his 
bicycle. If his mind were really this sort of giagnet, mechanically 
dispersing its lines of force when it went to sleep, and mechani- 
cally orienting them when it woke up which was normal, the 
dispersion orjorientatipn? The mind, like the body, kept its unity 
unless itTiappened to lose balanceTJDUt the professor of physics, 
who slipped on a pavement and hurt himself, knew no more than 
an idiot what knocked him down, though he did know what the 
idiot could hardly do :_ that his normal condition was idiocy, 
qr_want of balance, and that his sanity was unstable artifice. His 
normal thought was dispersion, sleep, dream, inconsequence; the 
simultaneous action of different thought-centres without central 
control. His artificial balance was acquired habit. He was an 
acrobat, with a dwarf on his back, crossing a chasm on a slack- 
rope, arid commonly.breaking iiis neck. 

By that path of newest science, one saw no unity ahead 
nothing but a dissolving mind and the historian felt himself 
driven back on thought as one continuous Force, without Race, 
Sex, School, Country, or Church. This has been always the fate 
of rigorous thinkers, and has always succeeded in making them 
famous, as it did Gibbon, Buckle, and Auguste Comte. Their 
method made what progress the science of history knew, which 
was little enough, but they did at last fix the law that, if history 
ever meant to correct the errors she made in detail, she must 
agree on a scale for the whole. Every local historian might defy 
this law till history ended, but its necessity would be the same 
for man as for space or time or force, and without it the historian 
would always remain a child in science. 

Any schoolboy could see that man as a force must be measured 
by motion, from a fixed point. Psychology helped here by sug- 
gesting a unit the point of history when man held the highest 



THE ABYSS OF IGNORANCE 435 

idea of himself as a unit in a unified universe. Eight or ten years 
of study had led Adams to think he might use the century 1150- 
1250, expressed in Amiens Cathedral and the Works of Thomas 
Aquinas, as the unit from which he might measure motion down 
to his own time, without assuming anything as true or untrue, 
except relation. The movement might be studied at once in phi- 
losophy and mechanics. Setting himself to the task, he began 
a volume which he mentally knew as "Mont-Saint-Michel and 
Chartres: a Study of Thirteenth-Century Unity." From that 
point he proposed to fix a position for himself, which he could label : 
"The Education of Henry Adams: a Study of Twentieth-Century 
Multiplicity." With the help of these two points of relation, he 
hoped to project his lines forward and backward indefinitely, sub- 
ject to correction from any one who should know better. There^ 
upon, he sailed for home. 



CHAPTER XXX 
VIS INERTIAE (1903) 

WASHINGTON was always amusing, but in 1900, as 
in 1800, its chief interest lay in its distance from New 
York. The movement of New York had become plane- 
tary beyond control while the task of Washington, in 1900 
as in 1800, was to control it. The success of Washington in the 
past century promised ill for its success in the next. 

To a student who had passed the best years of his life in pon- 
dering over the political philosophy of Jefferson, Gallatin, and 
Madison, the problem that Roosevelt took in hand seemed alive 
with historical interest, but it would need at least another half- 
century to show its results. As yet,, one could not measure the forces 
or their arrangement; the forces had not even aligned themselves 
except in foreign affairs; and there one turned to seek the chan- 
nel of wisdom as naturally as though Washington did not exist. 
The President could do nothing effectual in foreign affairs, but 
at least he could see something of the field. 

Hay had reached the summit of his career, and saw himself on 
the edge of wreck. Committed to the task of keeping China 
"open," he saw China about to be shut. Almost alone in the world, 
he represented the "open door," and could not escape being crushed 
by it. Yet luck had been with him in full tide. Though Sir Julian 
Pauncefote had died in May, 1902, after carrying out tasks that 
filled an ex-private secretary of 1861 with open-mouthed astonish- 
ment, Hay had been helped by the appointment of Michael Herbert 
as his successor, who counted for double the value of an ordinary 
diplomat. To reduce frictipo is the chief use of friendship, and in 
politics the loss by friction is outrageous. To Herbert and his wife, 
the small knot of houses that seemed to give a vague unity to 
foreign affairs opened their doors and their hearts, for the Herberts 



Vis INERTIAS 437 



were already at home there; and this personal sympathy prolonged 
Hay's life, for it not only eased the effort of endurance, but it also 
led directly to a revolution in Germany. Down to that moment, 
the Kaiser, rightly or wrongly, had counted as the ally of the Czar 
in all matters relating to the East. Holleben and Cassini were 
taken to be a single force in Eastern affairs, and this supposed alli- 
ance gave Hay no little anxiety and some trouble. Suddenly 
Holleben, who seemed to have had no thought but to obey with 
almost agonized anxiety the least hint of the Kaiser's will, re- 
ceived a telegram ordering him to pretext illness and come home, 
which he obeyed within four-and-twenty hours. The ways of the 
German Foreign Office had been always abrupt, not to say ruth- 
less, towards its agents, and yet commonly some discontent had 
been shown as excuse; but, in this case, no cause was guessed for 
Holleben's disgrace except the Kaiser's wish to have a personal 
representative at Washington. Breaking down all precedent, he 
sent Speck von Sternburg to counterbalance Herbert. 

Welcome as Speck was in the same social intimacy, and valuable 
as his presence was to Hay, the personal gain was trifling compared 
with the political. Of Hay's official tasks, one knew no more than 
any newspaper reporter did, but of one's own diplomatic education 
the successive steps had become strides. The scholar was studying, 
not on Hay's account, but on his own. He had seen Hay, in 1898, 
bring England into his combine; he had seen the steady movement 
which was to bring France back into an Atlantic system; and now 
he saw suddenly the dramatic swing of Germany towards the west 
the movement of all others nearest mathematical certainty. 
Whether the Kaiser meant it or not, he gave the effect of meaning 
to assert his independence of Russia, and to Hay this change of 
front had enormous value. The least was that it seemed to isolate 
Cassini, and unmask the Russian movement which became more 
threatening every month as the Manchurian scheme had to be 
revealed. 

Of course the student saw whole continents of study opened to 



438 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

him by the Kaisers coup d'etat. ^Carefully as he had tried to follow 
the Kaiser's career, he had never suspected such refinement of 
policy, which raised his opinion of the Kaiser's ability to the 
highest point, and altogether upset the centre of statesmanship. 
'That Germany could be so quickly detached from separate objects 
and brought into an Atlantic system seemed a paradox more para- 
doxical than any that one's education had yet offered, though it 
had offered little but paradox. If Germany could be held there, a 
century of friction would be saved. No price would be too great 
for such an object; although no price could probably be wrung out 
of Congress as equivalent for it. The Kaiser, by one personal act 
of energy, freed Hay's hands so completely that he saw his prob- 
lems simplified to Russia alone. 

Naturally Russia was a problem ten times as difficult. JThe his- 
tory of Europe for two hundred years had accomplished little but 
to state one or two sides of the Russian problem. One's year of 
Berlin in youth, though it taught no Civil Law, had opened one's 
eyes to the Russian enigma, and both German and French histo- 
rians had labored over its proportions with a sort of fascinated 
horror. Germany, of all countries, was most vitally concerned in 
it; but even a cave-dweller in La Fayette Square, seeking only a 
measure of motion since the Crusades, saw before his eyes, in the 
spring of 1903, a survey of future order or anarchy that would 
exhaust the power of his telescopes and defy the accuracy of his 
theodolites. 

The drama had become passionately interesting and grew every 
day more Byzantine; for the Russian Government itself showed 
clear signs of dislocation, and the orders of Lamsdorf and de Witte 
were reversed when applied in Manchuria. Historians and stu- 
dents should have no sympathies or antipathies, but Adams had 
private reasons for wishing well to the Czar and his people. At 
much length, in several labored chapters of history, he had told 
how the personal friendliness of the Czar Alexander I, in 1 8 JO, 
saved the fortunes of J. Q. Adams, and opened to him the brilliant 



Vis INERTIAE 4.39 



diplomatic career that ended in the White House. Even in his 
own effaced existence he had reasons, not altogether trivial, for 
gratitude to the Czar Alexander 11^ whose firm neutrality had 
saved him some terribly anxious days and nights in 1862; while he 
had seen enough of Russia to sympathize warmly with Prince 
KhilkofF s railways and de Witte's industries. The last and highest 
triumph of history would* to his mind, be the bringing of Russia 
into the Atlanticj^mbine, and the just and fair allotment of the 
whole world among the regulated activities of the universe. At 
the rate of unification since 1840, this end should be possible within 
another .sixty years; and, in foresight of that point, Adams could 
already finish provisionally his chart of international unity; 
but, for the moment, the gravest doubts and ignorance covered 
the whole field. No one Czar or diplomat, Kaiser or Mikado 
seemed to know anything. Through individual Russians one could 
always see with ease, for their diplomacy never suggested depth; 
and perhaps Hay protected Cassini for the very reason that Cassini 
could not disguise an emotion, and never failed to betray that, in 
setting the enormous bulk of Russian inertia to roll over China, 
he regretted infinitely that he should have to roll it over Hay too. 
He would almost rather have rolled it over de Witte and Lamsdorf. 
His political philosophy, like that of all Russians, seemed fixed in 
the single idea that Russia must fatally roll must, by her irre- 
sistible inertia, crush whatever stpod in her way. 

For Hay and his pooling policy, inherited from McKinley, the 
inertia meant_the failure of American intensity, 



^ _ 

WherTRussia rolled over a neighboring people, she absorbed their 
energies in her own movement of custom and race which neither 
Czar nor peasant could convert, or wished to convert, into any 
Western equivalent. In 1903 Hay saw Russia knocking away the 
last blocks that held back the launch of this huge mass into the 
China Sea. The vast force of inertia known as China was to be 
united with the huge bulk of Russia in a single mass which no 
amount of new force could henceforward deflect. Had the Russian 



44-O THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Government, with the sharpest sense of enlightenment, employed 
scores of de Wittes and Khilkoffs, and borrowed all the resources 
of Europe, it could not have lifted such a weight; and had no idea 
of trying. 

These were the positions charted on the map of political unity 
by an insect in Washington in the spring of 1903 ; and they seemed 
to him fixed. Russia held Europe and America in her grasp, and 
Cassini held Hay in his. The Siberian Railway offered checkmate 
to all possible opposition. Japan must make the best terms she 
could; England must go on receding; America and Germany would 
look on at the avalanche. The wall of Russian inertia that barred 
Europe across the Baltic, would bar America across the Pacific; 
and Hay's policy of the open door would infallibly fail. 

Thus the game seemed lost, in spite of the Kaiser's brilliant 
stroke, and the movement of Russia eastward must drag Germany 
after it by its mere mass. To the humble student, the loss of Hay's 
game affected only Hay; for himself, the game not the stakes 
was the chief interest; and though want of habit made him object 
to read his newspapers blackened since he liked to blacken them 
himself he was in any case condemned to pass but a short space 
of time either in Siberia or in Paris, and could balance his endless 
columns of calculation equally in either place. The figures, not the 
facts, concerned his chart, and he mused deeply over his next 
equation. The Atlantic would have to deal with a vast continental 
mass of inert motion, like a glacier, which moved, and consciously 
moved, by mechanical gravitation alone. Russia saw herself so, and 
so must an American see her; he had no more to do than measure, 
if he could, the mass. Was volume or intensity the stronger? What 
and where was the vis nova that could hold its own before this 
prodigious ice-cap of vis inertiae? What was movement of inertia, 
and what its laws ? 

Naturally a student knew nothing about mechanical laws, but 
he took for granted that he could learn, and went to his books to 
ask, He found that the force of inertia had troubled wiser men than 



Vis INERTIAE 441 



he. The dictionary said that inertia was a property of matter, by 
which matter tends, when at rest, to remain so, and, when in 
motion, to move on in a straight line. Finding that, his mind re- 
fused to imagine itself at rest or in a straight line, he was forced, 
as usual, to let it imagine something else; and since the question 
concerned the mind, and not matter, he decided from personal 
experience that his mind was never at rest, but moved when 
normal about something it called a motive, and never moved 
without motives to move it. So long as these motives were habit- 
ual, and their attraction regular, the consequent result might, for 
convenience, be called movement of inertia, to distinguish it from 
movement caused by newer or higher attraction; but the greater 
the bulk to move, the greater must be the force to accelerate or 
deflect it. 

This seemed simple as running water; but simplicity is the most 
deceitful mistress that ever betrayed man. For years the student 
and the professor had gone on complaining that minds were un- 
equally inert. The inequalities amounted to contrasts. One class 
of minds responded only to habit; another only to novelty. Race 
classified thought. Class-lists classified mind. No two men thought 
alike, and no woman thought like a man. 

Race-inertia seemed to be fairly constant, and made the chief 
trouble in the Russian future. History looked doubtful when asked 
whether race-inertia had ever been overcome without destroying 
the race in order to reconstruct it ; but surely sex-inertia had never 
been overcome at all. Of all movements of inertia, maternity and 
reproduction are the most typical, and women's property of mov- 
ing in a constant line forever is ultimate, uniting history in its only 
unbroken and unbreakable sequence. Whatever else stops, the 
woman must go on reproducing, as she did in the Siluria of Pter- 
aspis; sex is a vital condition, and race only a local one. If the 
laws oJ inertiaTare to be sought anywhere with certainty, it is in 
the feminine mincD The American always ostentatiously ignored 
sex, and American history mentioned hardly the name of a woman, 



44 2 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

while English history handled them as timidly as though they were 
a new and undescribed species; but if the problem of inertia 
summed up the difficulties of the race question, it involved that 
of sex far more deeply, and to Americans vitally. The task of 
accelerating or deflecting the movement of the American woman 
had interest infinitely greater than that of any race whatever, 
Russian or Chinese, Asiatic or African. 

On this subject, as on the Senate and the banks, Adams was con- 
scious of having been born an eighteenth-century remainder. As 
he grew older, he found that Early Institutions lost their interest, 
but that Early Women became a passion. Without understanding 
movement of sex, history seemed to him mere pedantry. So "in- 
sistent had he become on this side of his subject that with women 
he talked of little else, and because women's thought is mostly 
subconscious and particularly sensitive to suggestion Jhe tried 
tricks and devices to disclose it. The woman seldom knows her 
own thought; she is as curious to understand herself as the man to 
understand her, and responds far more quickly than the man to 
a sudden idea. Sometimes, at dinner, one might wait till talk 
flagged, and then, as mildly as possible, ask one's liveliest neigh- 
bor whether she could explain why the American woman was a fail- 
jure^^Without an instant's hesitation, she was sure to answer: 
"Because the American man is a failure!" She meant it7 

Adams owed more to the American woman than to all the 
American men he ever heard of, and felt not the smallest call to 
defend his sex who seemed able to take care of themselves; but 
from the point of view of sex he felt much curiosity to know how 
far the woman was right, and, in pursuing this inquiry, he caught 
the trick of affirming that the woman was the superior. Apart 
from truth, he owed her at least that compliment. The habit led 
sometimes to perilous personalities in the sudden give-and-take of 
table-talk. This spring, just before sailing for Europe in May, 
1 93> he had a message from his sister-in-law, Mrs. Brooks Adams, 
to say that she and her sister, Mrs. Lodge, and the Senator were 



Vis INERTIAE 443 



coming to dinner by way of farewell; Bay Lodge and his lovely 
young wife sent word to the same effect; Mrs. Roosevelt joined 
the party; and Michael Herbert shyly slipped down to escape the 
solitude of his wife's absence. The party were too intimate for 
reserve, and they soon fell on Adams's hobby with derision which 
stung him to pungent rejoinder: "The American man is a fail- 
ure! You are all failures!" he said. "Has not my sister here more 
sense than my brother Brooks? Is not Bessie worth two of Bay? 
Would n't we all elect Mrs. Lodge Senator against Cabot? Would 
the President have a ghost of a chance if Mrs. Roosevelt ran 
against him? Do you want to stop at the Embassy, on your way 
home, and ask which would run it best Herbert or his wife?" 
The men laughed a little not much] Each probably made allow- 
ance for hfs own wife as "aft' unusually superior woman. Some one 
afterwards remarked that these half-dozen women were not a fair 
average. Adams replied that the half-dozen men were above all 
possible average; he could not lay his hands on another half-dozen 
their equals. 

Gay or serious, the question never failed to stir feeling. The 
cleverer the woman, the less she denied the failure. She was bitter 
at heart about it. She had failed even to hold the family together, 
and her children ran away like chickens with their first feathers; 
the family was extinct like chivalry. She had failed not only to 
create a new society that satisfied her, but even to hold her own 
in the old society of Church or State; and was left, for the most 
part, with no place but the theatre or streets to decorate. She 
might glitter with historical diamonds and sparkle with wit as 
brilliant as the gems, in rooms as splendid as any in Rome at its 
best; but she saw no one except her own sex who knew enough to 
be worth dazzling, or was competent to pay her intelligent homage. 
She might have her own way, without restraint or limit, but she 
knew not what to do with herself when free. Never had the world 
known a more cagabl^pr, devoted mother, but at forty her task 
was over, and she was left with no stage except that of her old 



444 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

duties^ or of Washington society where she had enjoyed for a hun- 
dred years every advantage, but had created only a medley where 
nine men out of ten refused her request to be civilized, and the^ 
tenth bored her. 

On most subjects, one's opinions must defer to science, but on 
this, the opinion of a Senator or a Professor, a chairman of a State 
Central Committee or a Railway President, isjworithJess jdhanjthat 
of any woman on Fifth Avenue, The inferiority of man on this, 
the most important of all social subjects, is manifest. Adams had 
here no occasion to deprecate scientific opinion, since no wcg&jin in 
tfce world would have paid the smallest respect to the opinions 
of all professors since the serpent. His own object had little to do 
with theirs. He was studying the laws of motion, and had struck 
two large questions of vital importance to America inertia of 
race and inertia of sex. He had seen Mr. de Witte and Prince 
Khilkoff turn artificial energy to the value of three thousand mil- 
lion dollars, more or less, upon Russian inertia, in the last twenty 
years, and he needed to get some idea of the effects. He had seen 
artificial energy to the amount of twenty or five-and-twenty million 
steam horse-power created in America since 1840, and as much 
more economized, v which had been socially turned over to the 
American woman, she being the chief object of social expenditure, 
and the household the only considerable object of American ex- 
travagance. According to scientific notions of inertia and force, 
what ought to be the result ? 

In Russia, because of race and bulk, no result had yet shown 
itself, but in America the results were evident and undisputed. The 
woman had been set free volatilized like Clerk Maxwell's perfect 
gas;_alrxiost brought to the point of explosion, like steam. One 
had but to pass a week in Florida, or on any of a hundred huge 
ocean steamers, or walk through the Place Vendome, or join a 
party of Cook's tourists to Jerusalem, to see that the woman had 
been set free; but these swarms were ephemeral like clouds of but- 
terflies in season, blown away and lost, while the reproductive 



Vis INERTIAE 445 



sources lay hidden. At Washington, one saw other swarms as grave 
gatherings of Dames or Daughters, taking themselves seriously, 
or brides fluttering fresh pinions; but all tEeseliKIffi^ 
known before 1840, touched the true problem slightly and super- 
ficially. Bohind them, in every city, town, and farmhouse, were 
myriads of new types or type-writers T!e!epEone and telegraph- 
girls, "sKop-clerks, factory-hands, running^ into millions of millions, 
an^as ^classes, unknown to themselves as to historians. Even 
tliFscKoolmlstresses were inarticulate. All these new women had 
teen created since 1848% -$11 were to show their meaning before 

'~~~ " " ...... *' 



_ 

^ Whatever they were, they were not content, as the ephemera 
proved; and they were hungry for illusions as ever in the fourth 
century of the Church; but this "was" probably survival, and gave 
no hint of the future. The problem remained to find out whether 
movement of inertia, inherent in function, could take direction 
except in lines of inertia. This problem needed to be solved in one 
generation of American women, and was the most vital of all 
problems of force. 

The American woman at her best like most other women 
exerted great charm on the man, but not the charm of a primitive 
type. She appeared as the result of a long series of discards, and 
her chief interest lay in what she had discarded. When closely 
watched, she seemed making a violent .effort to follow the man, 
who had turned TiTs mind and hand to mechanics. The typical 
American man had his hand on a lever and his eye,ouacurveln^is~ 
road; his living depended on keeping up an average speed of forty 
miles an hour, tending always to become sixty, eighty, or a hun- 
dred, and he cpuldnot admit emotions or anxieties or subconscious 
distractions, more than he could admit whiskey or drugs, without 
breaking his neck. He could not run his machine and a woman too; 
he must leave her, even though his wife, to find her own way^ and 
all the world saw her_trying to find her way by imitating him. 

The result was often tragic, but that was no new thing in femi- 



446 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 



t been woman's lot since 

^problem had been always one of physical strength andjt^wa^as 
physical perfection of force thatTiefVenus had governed nature. 
Thejwomanj force ha^cou^^iasjnertia of jrotation, and her axis 

The idea that she 



was weak revolted j^history; iJLw^ a P a ^ on t!gj ca l falsehood 
that even an Eocene female monkey wouldThave laughed at; but 
it was surely true that, if her force were to be diverted from its 
axis, itjnust jfind A&ew field, and the family must pay for it. So 
far as she succeeded, she must become sexless like the bees, and 
must leave the old energy of inertia to carry on the race. 

The story was not new. For thousands of years women had re- 
belled. They had made a fortress of religion had buried them- 
selves in the cloister, in self-sacrifice,, in gogd works or even in 
bad. One's studies in the twelfth century, like one's studies in the 
fourth, as in Homeric and archaic time, showed her always busy 
in the illusions of heaven or of hell ambition, intrigue, jealousy, 
magic but the American woman had no illusions or ambitions 
or new resources, and nothing to rebel against, except her own 
maternity; yet the rebels increased by millions from year to year 
till they blocked the path of rebellion. Even her field of good 
works was narrower than in the twelfth century. Socialism, com- 
munism, collectivism, philosophical anarchism, which promised 
paradise on earth for every male, cut off the few avenues of escape 
which capitalism had opened to the woman, and she saw before 
her only the future reserved for machine-made, collectivist females. 

From the male, she could look for no help; his instinct of power 
w r as blind. The Church had known more about women than science 
will ever know, and the historian who studied the sources of Chris- 
tianity felt sometimes convinced that the Church had been made 
by the woman chiefly as her protest against man. At times, the 
historian would have been almost willing to maintain that the 
man had overthrown the Church chiefly because it was feminine. 
After the overthrow of the Church, the woman had no refuge 



Vis INERTIAE 447 



except such as the man created for himself. SJ^wasJree; she had 
ijo illuskms; she was sexless; shejiad discarded all that the male 
disliked ;_and although she secretly regrettecTtlie discard, she knew 
that she could not go backward. She must, like the man, marry 
machiuexy. Already the American man sometimes felt surprise 
at finding himself regarded as sexless; the American woman was 
oftener surprised at finding herself regarded as sexual. 

No honest historian can take part with or against the 
forces he has to study. To him even the extinction of the human 
race should be merely a fact to be grouped with other vital statis- 
tics. No doubt every one in society discussed the subject, impelled 
by President Roosevelt if by nothing else, and the surface current 
of social opinion seemed set as strongly in one direction as the silent 
undercurrent of social action ran in the other; but the truth lay 
somewhere unconscious in the woman's breast. An elderly man, 
trying only to learn the law of social inertia and the limits of social 
divergence could not compel the Superintendent of the Census to 
ask every young woman whether she wanted children, and how 
many; he could not even require of an octogenarian Senate the 
passage of a law obliging every woman, married or not, to bear one 
baby at the expense of the Treasury before she was thirty 
years old, under penalty of solitary confinement for life; yet these 
were vital statistics in more senses than all that bore the name, and 
tended more directly to the foundation of a serious society in the 
future. He could draw no conclusions whatever except from the 
birth-rate. He could not frankly discuss the matter with the young 
women themselves, although they would have gladly discussed it, 
because Faust was helpless in the tragedy of woman. He could 
suggest nothing. The Marguerite of the future could alone decide 
whether she were better off than the Marguerite of the past; 
whether she would rather be victim to a man, a church, or a 



Between these various forms of inevitable inertia sex and 
race the student of multiplicity felt inclined to admit that 



448 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

ignorance against ignorance the Russian problem seemed to 
him somewhat easier of treatment than the American. Inertia of 
race and bulk would require an immense force to overcome it, 
but in time it might perhaps be partially overcome. Inertia of sex 
could not be overcome without extinguishing the race, yet an 
immense force, doubling every few years, was working irresistibly 
to overcome it. One gazed mute before this ocean of darkest 
ignorance that had already engulfed society. Few centres of great 
energy lived in illusion more complete or archaic than Washington 
with its simple-minded standards of the field and farm, its Southern 
and Western habits of life and manners, its assumptions of ethics 
and history; but even in Washington, society was uneasy enough 
to need no further fretting. One was almost glad to act the part 
of horseshoe crab in Quincy Bay, and admit that all was uniform 
that nothing ever changed and that the woman would swim 
about the ocean of future time, as she had swum in the past, with 
the gar-fish and the shark, unable to change. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE (1903) 

OF all the travels made by man since the voyages of Dante, 
this new exploration along the shores of Multiplicity and 
Complexity promised to be the longest, though as yet it 
had barely touched two familiar regions race and sex. Even 
within these narrow seas the navigator lost his bearings and fol- 
lowed the winds as they blew. By chance it happened that 
Raphael Pumpelly helped the winds; for, being in Washington on 
his way to Central Asia he fell to talking with Adams about these 
matters, and said that Willard Gibbs thought he got most help 
from a book called the "Grammar of Science," by Karl Pearson. 
To Adams's vision, Willard Gibbs stood on the same plane with 
the three or four greatest minds of his century, and the idea that a 
man so incomparably superior should find help anywhere filled 
him with wonder. He sent for the volume and read it. From the 
time he sailed for Europe and reached his den on the Avenue du 
Bois until he took his return steamer at Cherbourg on December 26, 
he did little but try to find out what Karl Pearson could have 
taught Willard Gibbs. 

Here came in, more than ever, the fatal handicap of ignorance 
in mathematics. Not so much the actual tool was needed, as the 
right to judge the product of the tool. Ignorant as one was of the 
finer values of French or German, and often deceived by the intri- 
cacies of thought hidden in the muddiness of the medium, one could 
sometimes catch a tendency to intelligible meaning even in Kant 
or Hegel- but one had not the right to a suspicion of error where 
the tool oitJiought was algebra. Adams could see in such parts of 
the "Grammar" as he could understand, little more than an 
enlargement of Stallo's book already twenty years old. He never 
found out what it could have taught a master like Willard Gibbs, 



450 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Yet the book had a historical value out of all proportion to its 
science. No such stride had any Englishman before taken in the 
lines of English thought. The progress of science was measured 
by the success of the " Grammar," when, for twenty years past, 
Stallo had been deliberately ignored under the usual conspiracy of 
silence inevitable to all thought which demands new thought- 
machinery. Science needs time to, reconstruct its instruments, to 
follow a reYdutipn in space; a certain lag is inevitable; the most 
active" mind cannot instantly swerve from its path; but such revo- 
lutions are portentous, and the fall or rise of half-a-dozen empires 
interested a student of history less than the rise of the " Grammar 
of Science," the more pressingly because, under the silent influence 
of Langley, he was prepared to expect it. 

For a number of years Langley had published in his Smithsonian 
Reports the revolutionary papers that foretold the overthrow of 
nineteenth-century dogma, and among the first was the famous 
address of Sir William Crookes on psychical research, followed by 
a series of papers on Roentgen and Curie, which had steadily 
driven the scientific lawgivers of Unity into the open; but Karl 
Pearson was the first to pen them up for slaughter in the schools. 
The phrase is not stronger than that with which the "Grammar of 
Science" challenged the fight: "Anything more hopelessly illogical 
than the statements with regard to Force and Matter current in 
elementary textbooks of science, it is difficult to imagine," opened 
Mr. Pearson, and the responsible author of the "elementary text- 
book," as he went on to explain, was Lord Kelvin himself. Pearson 
shut out of science everything which the nineteenth century had 
brought into it. He told his scholars that they must put up with a 
fraction of the universe, and a very small fraction at that the 
circle reached by the senses, where sequence could be taken for 
granted much as the deep-sea fish takes for granted the circle 
of light which he generates. "Order and reason, beauty and 
benevolence,, are characteristics and conceptions which we find 
solely associated with the mind of man." The assertion, as a broad 



THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE 45 i 

truth, left one's mind in some doubt of its bearing, for order and 
beauty Deemed to be associated^ also in the mind of a crystal, if 
ohe^s senses were to be admitted as judge; but the historian had no 
interest in the universal truth of Pearson J s or Kelvin's or Newton's 
laws; he sought only their relative drift or direction, and Pearson 
went on to say that these conceptions must stop: "Into the chaos 
beyond sense-impressions we cannot scientifically project them." 
We cannot even infer them: "In the chaos behind sensations, in 
the * beyond' of sense-impressions, we cannot infer necessity, order 
or routine, for these are concepts formed by the mind of man on 
tHisjside of sense-impressions"; brut we must infer chaps ," Briefly 
chaos is all that science can logically assert of tfie supersensuous." 
The kinetic theory of gas is an assertion of ultimate chaos. In 
plain words, Chaos was the law of nature; Order was tHe dream 
of man. 

"No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, 
for words are slippery and thought is viscous; but since Bacon 
and Newton, English thought had gone on impatiently protest- 
ing that no one must try to know the unknowable at the same time 
that every one went on thinking about it. The result was as 
chaotic as kinetic gas ; but with the thought a historian had nothing 
to do. He sought only its direction. For himself he knew, that, in 
spite of all the Englishmen that ever lived, he would be forced to 
enter supersensual chaos if he meant to find out what became of 
British science or indeed of any other science. From Pythag- 
oras to Herbert Spencer, every one had done it, although com- 
monly science had explored an ocean which it preferred to regard as 
Unity or a Universe, and called Order. Even Hegel, who taught 
that every notion included its own negation, used the negation 
only to reach a " larger synthesis," till he reached the universal- 
which thinks itself, contradiction and all. The Church alone had 
constantly protested that anarchy was not order, that Satan was 
notTjod, that pantheism was worse than atheism, and that Unity 
could not be proved as a contradiction. Karl Pearson seemed to 



452 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

agree with the Church, but every one else, including Newton, 
Darwin and Clerk Maxwell, had sailed gaily into the supersensual, 
calling it : 

"One God, one Law, one Element, 
And one far-off, divine event, 
To which the whole creation moves." 

Suddenly, in 1900, sciencq raised ,its head and denied. .) 
Yet, perhaps, after all, the change had not been so sudden as it 
seemed. Real and actual, it certainly was, and every newspaper 
betrayed it, but sequence could scarcely be denied by one who had 
watched its steady approach, thinking the change far more inter- 
esting to history than the thought. When he reflected about it, 
he recalled that the flow of tide had shown itself at least twenty 
years before; that it had become marked as early as 1893; and that 
the man of science must have been sleepy indeed who did not jump 
from his chair like a scared dog when, in 1898, Mme. Curie threw 
on his desjc the metaphysical bomb she called radium. There re- 
mained no hole to hide in. Even metaphysics swept back over 
science with the green water of the deep-sea ocean and no one could 
longer hope to bar out the unknowable, for the unknowable was 
known. 

' The fact was admitted that the uniformitarians of one's youth 
had wound about their universe a tangle of contradictions meant 
only for temporary support to be merged in " larger synthesis/' 
and had waited for the larger synthesisjn silence and in vain. They 
had refused to hear Stallo. They hadTSetraye^Tttle "interest in 
Crookes. At last their universe had been wrecked by rays, and 
Karl Pearson undertook to cut the wreck loose with an axe, leav- 
ing science adrift on a sensual raft in the midst of a supersensual 
chaos. The confusion seemed, to a mere passenger, worse than 
that of 1600 when the astronomers upset the world; it resembled 
rather the convulsion, of 310 when the Cimtas Dei cut itself loose 
from the Civitas Romae, and the Cross, took the place of ^the legions; 
but the historian accepted it all alike; he knew that his opinion 



THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE 453 

was worthless; only, in this case, he found himself on the raft, 
personally and economically .cQaQemednHts drift. 

^English thought had always been, chaos and multiplicity itself, 
in which the new step of Karl PearscELmarked_ojQly a consistent 
progress; but German thought had affected system, unity; "aSH 
abstract truth, to a point that fretted the most patient foreigner, 
and to Germany the voyager in strange seas of thought alone might 
resort with confident hope of renewing his youth. Turning his 
back on Karl Pearson and England, he plunged into Germany, 
and had scarcely crossed the Rhine when he fell into libraries 
of new works bearing the names of Ostwald, Ernst Mach, Ernst 
Haeckel, and others less familiar, among whom Haeckel was 
easiest to approach, not only because of being the oldest and 
clearest and steadiest spokesman of nineteenth-century mechani- 
cal convictions, but also because in 1902 he had published a vehe- 
ment renewal of his faith. The volume contained only one para- 
graph that concerned a historian; it was that in which Haeckel 
sank his voice almost to a religious whisper in avowing with 
evident effort, that the "proper essence of substance appeared to 
him more and more marvellous and enigmatic as he penetrated 
further into the knowledge of its attributes matter and energy 
and as he learned to know their innumerable phenomena and 
their evolution/' Since Haeckel seemed to have begun the voyage 
into multiplicity that Pearson had forbidden to Englishmen, he 
should have been a safe pilot to the point, at least, of a "proper 
essence of substance" in its attributes of matter and energy; but 
Ernst Mach seemed to go yet one step further, for he rejected 
matter altogether, and admitted but two processes in nature 
change of place and interconversion of forms. Matter was Motion 
Tvlotion was Matter the thing moved^ 

A student of history had no need to understand these scientific 
ideas of very great men; he sought only the relation with the ideas 
of their grandfathers, and their common direction towards the 
ideas of their grandsons. He had long ago reached, with Hegel 



454 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

the limits of contradiction j and Ernst Mach scarcely added % 
sftacle of variety' to the jdentity of opposites; but both of them 
seemed to be in agreement with Karl Pearson on the facts of the 
supersensual universe which could^be known only as unknowable. 

With a deep sigh of relief, the traveller turned back to France. 
There he felt safe. No Frenchman except Rabelais and Mon- 
taigne had ever taught anarchy other than as path to order. Chaos 
would be unity in Paris even if child of the guillotine. To make this 
assurance mathematically sure, the highest scientific authority 
in France was a great mathematician, M. Poincare of the In- 
stitut, who published in 1902 a small volume called "La Science 
et ITfypothese," which purported to be relatively readable. 
Trusting to its external appearance, the traveller timidly bought 
it, and greedily devoured it, without understanding a single 
consecutive page, but catching here and there a period that 
startled him to the depths of his ignorance, for they seemed to show 
that M. Poincare was troubled by the same historical landmarks 
which guided or deluded Adams himself: "[In science] we are led," 
said M, Poincare, "to act as though a simple law, when other things 
were equal, must be more probable than a complicated law. Half 
a century ago one frankly confessed it, and proclaimed that nature 
loves simplicity. She has since given us too often the lie. To-day 
this tendency is no longer avowed, and only as much of it is pre- 
served as is indispensable so that science shall not become impos- 
sible." 

Here at last was a fixed point beyond the chance of confusion 
with self-suggestion. History and mathematics agreed. Had M. 
Poincare shown anarchistic tastes, his evidence would have weighed 
less heavily; but he seemed to be the only authority in science 
who felt what a historian felt so strongly the need of unity in a 
universe. "Considering everything we have made some approach 
towards unity. We have not gone as fast as we hoped fifty years 
ago; we have not always taken the intended road; but definitely 
we have gained much ground." This was the most clear and con- 



THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE 455 

vincing evidence of progress yet offered to the navigator of igno- 
rance; but suddenly he fell on another view which seemed to him 
quite irreconcilable with the first : " Doubtless if our means of in- 
vestigation should become more and more penetrating, we should 
discover the simple under the complex; then the complex under 
the simple; then anew the simple under the complex; and so on 
without ever being able to foresee the last term." 

A mathematical paradise of endless displacement promised eter- 
nal bliss to the mathematician, but turned the historian green 
with horror. Made miserable by the thought that he knew no 
mathematics, he burned to ask whether M. Poincare knew any 
history, since he began by begging the historical question alto- 
gether, and assuming that the past showed alternating phases of 
simple and complex the precise point that Adams, after fifty 
years of effort, found himself forced to surrender; and then going 
on to assume alternating phases for the future which, for the weary 
Titan of Unity, differed in nothing essential from the kinetic 
theory of a perfect gas. 

Since monkeys first began to chatter in trees, neither man nor 
beast had ever denied or doubted Multiplicity, Diversity, Complex- 
ity, Anarchy, Chaos. Always and everywhere the Complex had 
been true and the Contradiction had been certain. Thought started 
by it. Mathematics itself began by counting one two three; 
then imagining their continuity, which M. Poincare was still ex- 
hausting his wits to explain or defend; and this was his explanation: 
"In short, the mind has the faculty of creating symbols, and it is 
thus that it has constructed mathematical continuity which is 
only a particular system of symbols." With the same light touch, 
more destructive in its artistic measure than the heaviest-handed 
brutality of Englishmen or Germans, he went on to upset relative 
truth itself: "How should I answer the question whether Euclidian 
Geometry is true? It has no sense! . . . Euclidian Geometry is, and 
will remain, the most convenient." 

Chaos was a primary fact even in Paris especially in Paris 



456 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

asjt was in the Book of Genesis ; but every thinking being in Paris 
or out of it had exhausted^ Bought in the ^ 
Continuity, Purpose, Order^Law, Truths the Universe^ Gocl^ 
after having begun by takingjt for granted, and discovering, to 
their profound dismay, that some minds denied it. TJie direction 
of mind, as a single force of nature, had been constant since history 
began. Its own unity had created a universe the essence of which 
\wr abstract^ Truth; the Absolute; God! To Thomas Aquinas, 
the universe was still a person; to Spinoza, a substance; to Kant, 
Truth was the essence of the *^I"; an innate conviction; a .cate- 
gorical imperative; to Poincare, it was a convenience; and to Karl 
Pearson, ^medium of exchange. 

, The historian never stopped repeating to himself that he knew 
nothing about it; that he was a mere instrument of measure, a 
barometer, pedometer, radiometer; and that his whole share in the 
matter was restricted to the measurement of thought-motion as 
marked by the accepted thinkers. He took their facts for granted. 
He knew no more than a firefly about rays or about race or 
sex or ennui or a bar of music or a pang of love or 
a grain of musk or of phosphorus or conscience or duty 

or the force of Euclidian geometry or non-Euclidian or 
heat or light -or osmosis or electrolysis or the magnet 

or ether or vis inertiae or gravitation or cohesion or 
elasticity or surface tension or capillary attraction or 
Brownian motion or of some scores, or thousands, or millions 
of chemical attractions, repulsions or indifferences which were busy 
within and without him; or, in brief, of Force itself, which, he 
was credibly informed, bore some dozen definitions in the text- 
books, mostly contradictory, and all, as he was assured, beyond 
his intelligence; but summed up in the dictum of the last and high- 
est science, that Motion seems to be Matter and Matter seems to 
be Motion, yet "we are probably incapable of discovering" what 
either is. History had no need to ask what either might be; all 
it needed to know was the admission of ignorance; the mere fact of 



THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE 457 

multiplicity baffling science. Even as to the fact, science disputed, 
but radium happened to radiate something that seemed to explode 
the scientific magazine, bringing thought, for the time, to a stand- 
still; though, in the line of thought-movement in history, radium 
was merely jthe next position, famili^^ 

and his arrow: continuous from the beginning of tjm^. ^c (Dis- 
continuous at each successive point. History setjtjdown on the 
record' pricked its position on ^.3Eart^ 
led, or misled, once more. 

The historian must not try to know what is truth, if he values 
his honesty; for, if he cares for his truth s t he is certain to falsify 
his facts. The laws of history only repeat the lines of force or 
"thought. Yet though his will be iron, he cannot help now and 
then resuming his humanity or simianity in face of a fear. The 
motion of thought had the same value as the motion of a cannon- 
ball seen approaching the observer on a direct line through the 
air. One could watch its curve for five thousand years. Its first 
violent acceleration in historical times had ended in the catastrophe 
of 310. The next swerve of direction occurred towards 1500. 
Galileo and Bacon gave a still newer curve to it, which altered its 
values; but all these changes had never altered the continuity. 
Only in 1900, the continuity snapped) 

Vaguely conscious of the cataclysm, the world sometimes dated 
it from 1893, by the Roentgen rays, or from '1898, by the Curie's 
radium; but in 1904, Arthur Balfour announced on the part of 
British science that the human race without exception had lived 
and died in a world of illusion until the last year of the century. 
The date was convenient, and convenience was truth. 

The child born in 1900 would, then, be born into a new world 
which would not be jt unity but a multiple, J\dams tried to imag- 
ine it, and an Education that would fit it./He found himself in a 
land where no one had ever penetrated before; where, PldeOftW 
an accidental relation obnoxious to nature; artificial compulsion 
imposed on motion; against which every f^e^nergy of the uni- 



458 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

verse revolted; and which^ being merely occasional, resolved itself 
back into anarchy; at last. He could not deny tRat the law of 
the new multiverse explained much that had been most obscure, 
especially the persistently fiendish treatment of man by man; 
the perpetual effort of society to establish law^ and the perpetual 
revoTt^oTsociety against the law it had established; the perpetual 
building up of authority by force, and the perpetual appeal to 
force to overthrow it; the perpetual symbolism of a higher law, 
and the perpetual relapse to a lower one; the perpetual victory of 
the principles of freedom, and their perpetual conversion into prin- 
ciples of power; but the staggering problem was the outlook ahead 
into thejdespotism^pf artificial order which nature^ abhorred. The 
physicists hacTa phrase for it, unintelfigible to the vulgar: "All that 
we win is a battle lost in advance with the irreversible phe- 
nomena in the background of nature/' 

All that a historian won was a vehement wish to escape. He 
saw his education complete, and was sorry he ever began it. As 
a matter of taste, he greatly preferred his eighteenth-century 
education when God was a father and nature a mother, and all 
was for the best in a scientific universe. He repudiated all share 
in the world as it was to be, and yet he could not detect the point 
where his responsibility began or ended. 

As history unveiled itself in the new order, man's mind had 
behaved like a young pearl oyster, secreting its universe to suit 
its conditions until it had built up a shell of nacre that embodied 
all its notions of the perfect. Man . knew it was true because he 
made it, and he loved it for the same reason. He sacrificed millions 
of lives to acquire his unity, but he achieved it, and justly thought 
it a work of art. The woman especially did great things, creating 
her deities on a higher level than the male, and, in the end, com- 
pelling the man to accept the Virgin as guardian of the man's God. 
The man's part in his Universe was secondary, but the woman 
was at home there, and sacrificed herself without limit to make 
it habitable, when man permitted it, as sometimes happened for 



THE GRAMMAR OP SCIENCE 459 

brief intervals of war and famine; but she could not provide 
protection against forces of nature. She did not think of her 
universe as a raft to which the limpets stuck for life in the surge 
of a supersensual chaos; she conceived herself and her family as 
the centre and flower of an ordered universe which she knew to 
be unity because she had made it after the image of her own 
fecundity; and this creation of hers was surrounded by beauties 
and perfections which she knew to be real because she herself had 
imagined them. 

Even the masculine philosopher admired and loved and cele- 
brated her triumph, and the greatest of them sang ic in the noblest 
of his verses : 

"Alma Venus, coeli subter labentia signa 
Quae mare navigerum, quae terras frugiferenteis 

Concelebras 

Quae quoniam rerum naturam sola gubernas, 
Nee sine te quidquam dias in luminis oras 
Exoritur, neque fit laetum neque amabile quidquam; 
Te sociam studeol" 

Neither man nor woman ever wanted to quit this Eden of their 
qwnjnyention, and could no more have done .it of their own 
accord than the pearl oyster could quit its shell; but although the 
oyster Inight perhaps assimilate or embalm a grain of sand forced 
into its aperture, it could only perish in face.of the cyclonic hurri- 
cane or the volcanic upheaval of its bed. Her supersensual chaos 
killed her. 

Such seemed the theory of history to be imposed by science on 
the generation born after 1900. For this theory, Adams felt him- 
self in no way responsible. Even as historian he had made it his 
duty always to speak with respect of everything that had ever 
been thought respectable except an occasional statesman; but 
he had submitted to force all his life, and he meant to accept it 
for the future as for the past. All his efforts had been turned only 
to the search for its channel. He never invented his facts; they 



460 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

were furnished him by the only authorities he could find. As for 
himself, according to Helmholz, Ernst Mach, and Arthur Bal- 
four, he was henceforth to be a conscious ball of vibrating mo- 
tions, traversed in every direction by infinite lines of rotation or 
vibration, rolling at the feet of the , Virgin at Chartres or of M. 
Poincare in an attic at Paris, a centre of supersensual chaos. 
The discovery did not distress him. A solitary man of sixty-five 
years or more, alone in a Gothic cathedral or a Paris apartment, 
need fret himself little about a few illusions more or less. He should 
have learned his lesson fifty years earlier; the times had long passed 
when a student could stop before chaos or order; he had no choice 
but to march with his world. 

Nevertheless, he could not pretend that his mind felt flattered 
by this scientific outlook. Every fabulist has told how the human 
mind has always 'struggled like a frightened bird to escape the 
chaos which caged it; how appearing suddenly and inexplicably 
out of some unknown and unimaginable void ; passing half its known 
life in the mental chaos of sleep; victim even when awake, to its 
own ill-adjustment, to disease, to age, to external suggestion, to 
nature's compulsion; doubting its sensations, and, in the last re- 
sort, trusting only to instruments and averages after sixty 
or seventy years of - growing astonishment, the mind wakes to find 
itself looking blankly into the void of death. That it should pro- 
fess itself pleased by this performance was all that the highest 
rules of good breeding could ask; but that it should actually be 
satisfied would prove that it existed only as idiocy. 

Satisfied, the future generation "could scarcely think itself, for 
even when the mind existed in a universe of its own creation, it 
had never been quite at ease. As far as one ventured to interpret 
actual science, the mind had thus far adjusted itself by an infinite 
series of infinitely delicate adjustments forced on it by the infi- 
nite motion of an infinite chaos of motion; dragged at one moment 
into the unknowable and unthinkable, then trying to scramble 
back within its senses and to bar the chaos out, but always as- 



THE GRAMMAR OF SCIENCE 461 

similating bits of it, until at last, in 1900, a new avalanche of 
unknown forces had fallen on it, which required new mental powers 
to control. If this view was correct, the mind could gain nothing 
by flight or by fight; it must merge in its supersensual multiverse, 
or succumb to it. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

VIS NOVA (1903-1904) 

PARIS after midsummer is a place where only the indus- 
trious poor remain, unless they can get away; but Adams 
knew no spot where history would be better off, and the 
calm of the Champs Elysees was so deep that when Mr. de Witte 
was promoted to a powerless dignity, no one whispered that the 
promotion was disgrace, while one might have supposed, from the 
silence, that the Viceroy Alexeieff had reoccupied Manchuria as 
a fulfilment of treaty-obligation. For pnce^ the conspiracy of 
silence became crime. Never had so modern and so vital a riddle 
been put before Western society, but society shut its eyes. Man- 
churia knew every step into war; Japan had completed every 
preparation; Alexeieff had collected his army and fleet at Port 
Arthur, mounting his siege guns and laying in enormous stores, 
ready for the expected attack; from Yokohama to Irkutsk, the 
whole East was under war conditions; but Europe knew nothing. 
The banks would allow no disturbance; the press said not a 
word, and even the embassies were silent. Every anarchist in 
Europe buzzed excitement and began to collect in groups, but the 
Hotel Ritz was calm, and the Grand Dukes who swarmed there 
professed to know directly from the Winter Palace that there 
would be no war. 

As usual, Adams felt as ignorant as the best-informed states- 
man, and though the sense was familiar, for once he could see that 
the ignorance was assumed. After nearly fifty years of experience, 
he could not understand how the comedy could be so well acted. 
Even as late as November, diplomats were gravely asking every 
passer-by for his opinion, and avowed none of their own except 
what was directly authorized at St. Petersburg. He could make 
nothing of it. He found himself in face of his new problem the 



Vis NOVA 463 



workings of Russian inertia and he could conceive no way of 
forming an opinion how much was real and how much was comedy 
had he been in the Winter Palace himself. At times he doubted 
whether the Grand Dukes or the Czar knew, but old diplomatic 
training forbade him to admit such innocence. 

This was the situation at Christmas when he left Paris. On 
January 6, 1904, he reached Washington, where the contrast of 
atmosphere astonished him, for he had never before seen his 
country think as a world-power. No doubt, Japanese diplomacy 
had much to do with this alertness, but the immense superiority 
of Japanese diplomacy should have been more evident in Europe 
than in America, and in any case, could not account for the total 
disappearance of Russian diplomacy. A government by inertia 
greatly disconcerted study. One was led to suspect that Cassini 
never heard from his Government, and that Lamsdorf knew 
nothing of his own department; yet no such suspicion could be 
admitted. Cassini resorted to transparent blague : " Japan seemed 
infatuated even to the point of war! But what can the Japanese 
do? As usual, sit on their heels and pray to Buddha !" One of the 
oldest and most accomplished diplomatists in the service could 
never show his hand so empty as this if he held a card to play; 
but he never betrayed stronger resource behind. " If any Japanese 
succeed in entering Manchuria, they will never get out of it alive." 
The inertia of Cassini, who was naturally the most energetic of 
diplomatists, deeply interested a student of race-inertia, whose 
mind had lost itself in the attempt to invent scales of force. 

The air of official Russia seemed most dramatic in the air of the 
White House, by contrast with the outspoken candor of the 
President. Reticence had no place there. Every one in America 
saw that, whether Russia or Japan were victim, one of the deci- 
sive struggles in American history was pending, and any pretence 
of secrecy or indifference was absurd. Interest was acute, and 
curiosity intense, for no one knew what the Russian Government 
meant or wanted, while war had become a question of days. To 



464 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

an impartial student who gravely doubted whether the Czar him- 
self acted as a conscious force or an inert weight, the straight- 
forward avowals of Roosevelt had singular value as a standard of 
measure. By chance it happened that Adams was obliged to lake 
the place of his brother Brooks at the Diplomatic Reception im- 
mediately after his return home, and the part of proxy included 
his supping at the President's table, with Secretary Root on one 
side, the President opposite, and Miss Chamberlain between 
them. Naturally the President talked and the guests listened; 
which seemed, to one who had just escaped from the European 
conspiracy of silence, like drawing a free breath after stifling. 
Roosevelt, as every one knew, was always an amusing talker, and 
had the reputation of being indiscreet beyond any other man of 
great importance in the world, except the Kaiser Wilhelm and Mr. 
Joseph Chamberlain, the father of his guest at table; and this 
evening he spared none. With the usual abuse of the quos ego, 
common to vigorous statesmen, he said all that he thought about 
Russians and Japanese, as well as about Boers and British, with- 
out restraint, in full hearing of twenty people, to the entire satis- 
faction of his listener; and concluded by declaring that war was 
imminent; that it ought to be stopped; that it could be stopped: 
"I could do it myself; I could stop it to-morrow!" and he went on 
to explain his reasons for restraint. 

That he was right, and that, within another generation, his suc- 
cessor would do what he would have liked to do, made no shadow 
of doubt in the mind of his hearer, though it would have been 
folly when he last supped at the White House in the dynasty of 
President Hayes; but the listener cared less for the assertion of 
power, than for the vigor of view. The truth was evident enough, 
ordinary, even commonplace if one liked, but it was not a truth 
of inertia, nor was the method to be mistaken for inert. 

Nor could the force of Japan be mistaken for a moment as a 
force of inertia, although its aggressive was taken as methodi- 
cally as mathematically as a demonstration of Euclid, and 



Vis NOVA 465 



Adams thought that as against any but Russians it would have 
lost its opening. Each day counted as a measure of relative energy 
on the historical scale, and the whole story made a Grammar of 
new Science quite as instructive as that of Pearson. 

The forces thus launched were bound to reach some new equi- 
librium which would prove the problem in one sense or another, 
and the war had no personal value for Adams except that it gave 
Hay his last great triumph. He had carried on his long contest 
with Cassini so skillfully that no one knew enough to understand 
the diplomatic perfection of his work, which contained no error; 
but such success is complete only when it is invisible, and his vic- 
tpry at last was victory of judgment, not of act. He ppuld do 
nothing, and the whole country would have sprung on him had 
he tried. Japan and England saved his "open door" and fought 
his battle. All that remained for him was to make the peace, and 
Adams set his heart on getting the peace quickly in hand, for Hay's 
sake as well as for that of Russia. He thought then that it could 
be done in one campaign, for he knew that, in a military sense, the 
fall of Port Arthur must lead to negotiation, and every one felt 
that Hay would inevitably direct it; but the race was close, and 
while the war grew every day in proportions, Hay's strength every 
day declined. 

St. Gaudens came on to model his head, and Sargent painted 
his portrait, two steps essential to immortality which he bore 
with a certain degree of resignation, but he grumbled when the 
President made him go to St. Louis to address some gathering at 
the Exposition; and Mrs. Hay bade Adams go with them, for 
whatever use he could suppose himself to serve. He professed the 
religion of World's Fairs, without which he held education to be 
a blind impossibility; and obeyed Mrs. Hay's bidding the more 
readily because it united his two educations in one; but theory and 
practice were put to equally severe test at St. Louis. Ten years 
had passed since he last crossed the Mississippi, anchhe found 
everything new. In this great region from Pittsburgh through 



468 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

back to Washington on May 24, and before sailing for Europe, 
Adams went over, one warm evening, to bid good-bye on the 
garden-porch of the White House. He found himself the first per- 
son who urged Mrs. Roosevelt to visit the Exposition for its 
beauty, and, as far as he ever knew, the last. 

He left St. Louis May 22, 1904, and on Sunday, June 5, found 
himself again in the town of Cou tances, where the people of Nor- 
mandy had built, towards the year 1250, an Exposition which 
architects still admired and tourists visited, for it was thought 
singularly expressive of force as well as of grace in the Virgin. On 
this Sunday, the Norman world was celebrating a pretty church- 
feast the Fete Dieu and the streets were filled with altars 
to the Virgin, covered with flowers and foliage; the pavements 
strewn with paths of leaves and the spring handiwork of nature; 
the cathedral densely thronged at mass. The scene was graceful. 
The Virgin did not shut her costly Exposition on Sunday, or any 
other day, even to American senators who had shut the St. Louis 
Exposition to her or for her; and a historical tramp would 
gladly have offered a candle, or even a candle-stick in her honor, 
if she would have taught him her relation with the deity of the 
Senators. The power of the Virgin had been plainly One, em- 
bracing all human activity; while the power of the Senate, or its 
deity, seemed might one say to be more or less ashamed of 
man and his work. The matter had no great interest as far as it 
concerned the somewhat obscure mental processes of Senators 
who could probably have given no clearer idea than priests of 
the deity they supposed themselves to honor if that was indeed 
their purpose; but it interested a student of force, curious to 
measure its manifestations. Apparently the Virgin or her Son 
had no longer the force to build expositions that one cared to 
visit, but had the force to close them. The force was still real, 
serious, and, at St. Louis, had been anxiously measured in actual 
money-value. 
* That it was actual and serious in France as in the Senate Cham- 



Vis NOVA 469 



her at Washington, proved itself at once by forcing Adams to 
buy an automobile, which was a supreme demonstration because 
this was the form of force which Adams most abominated. He 
had set aside the summer for study of the Virgin, not as a senti- 
ment but as a motive power, which had left monuments widely 
scattered and not easily reached. The automobile alone could 
unite them in any reasonable sequence, and although the force of 
the automobile, for the purposes of a commercial traveller, seemed 
to have no relation whatever to the force that inspired a Gothic 
cathedral, the Virgin in the twelfth century would have guided 
and controlled both bag-man and architect, as she controlled the 
seeker of history. In his mind the problem offered itself as to 
Newton; it was a matter of mutual attraction, and he knew it, 

in his own case, to be a formula as precise as s = gt -, if he could 

but experimentally prove it. Of the attraction he needed no proof 
on his own account; the costs of his automobile were more than 
sufficient: but as teacher he needed to speak for others than him- 
self. For him, the Virgin was an adorable mistress, who led the 
automobile and its owner where she would, to her wonderful pal- 
aces and chateaux, from Chartres to Rouen, and thence to Amiens 
and Laon, and a score of others, kindly receiving, amusing, charm- 
ing and dazzling her lover, as though she were Aphrodite herself, 
worth all else that man ever dreamed. He never doubted her 
force, since he felt it to the last fibre of his being, and could not 
more dispute its mastery than he could depute the force of gravi- 
tatfon_of which he knew nothing but the formula. He was only 
too glad to yield himself entirely, not to her charm or to any 
sentimentality of religion, but to her mental and physical energy 
of creation which had built up these World's Fairs of thirteenth- 
century force that turned Chicago and St. Louis pale. 

"Both were faiths^and both are gone/' said Matthew Arnold of 
the Greek and Norse divinities; but the business of a student was 
to ask where they had gone. The Virgin had not even altogether 



470 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

gone; her fading away had been excessively slow. Her adorer 
had pursued her too long, too far, and into too many manifesta- 
tions of her power, to admit that she had any equivalent either 
of quantity or kind, in the actual world, but he could still less 
admit her annihilation as energy. 

So he went on wooing, happy in the thought that at last he had 
found a mistress who could see no difference in the age of her 
lovers. Her own age had no time-measure. For years past, in- 
cited by John La Farge, Adams had devoted his summer schooling 
to the study of her glass at Chartres and elsewhere, and if the 
automobile had one vitesse more useful than another, it was that 
of a century a minute; that of passing from one century to another 
without break. The centuries dropped like autumn leaves in one's 
road, and one was not fined for running over them too fast. When 
the thirteenth lost breath, the fourteenth caught on, and the six- 
teenth ran close ahead. The hunt for the Virgin's glass opened 
rich preserves. Especially the sixteenth century ran riot in sen- 
suous worship. Then the ocean of religion, which had flooded 
France, broke into Shelley's light dissolved in star-showers thrown, 
which had left every remote village strewn with fragments that 
flashed like jewels, and were tossed into hidden clefts of peace and 
forgetfulness. One dared not pass a parish church in Champagne 
or Touraine without stopping to look for its window of fragments, 
where one's glass discovered the Christ-child in his manger, nursed 
by the head of a fragmentary donkey, with a Cupid playing into 
its long ears from the balustrade of a Venetian palace, guarded by 
a legless Flemish leibwache, standing on his head with a broken hal- 
bert; all invoked in prayer by remnants of the donors and their 
children that might have been drawn by Fouquet or Pinturicchio, 
in colors as fresh and living as the day they were burned in, and 
with feeling that still consoled the faithful for the paradise they 
had paid for and lost. France abounds in sixteenth-century glass. 
Paris alone contains acres of it, and the neighborhood within 
fifty miles contains scores of churches where the student may still 



Vis NOVA 471 

imagine himself three hundred years old, kneeling before the Vir- 
gin's window in the silent solitude of an empty faith, crying his 
culp, beating his breast, confessing his historical sins, weighed 
down by the rubbish of sixty-six years* education, and still des- 
perately hoping to understand* 

He understood a little, though not much. The sixteenth cen- 
tury had a value of its own, as though the ONE had become sev- 
eral, and Unity had counted more than Three, though the Mul- 
tiple still showed modest numbers. The glass had gone back to 
the Roman Empire and forward to the American continent; it 
betrayed sympathy with Montaigne and Shakespeare; but the 
Virgin was still supreme. At Beauvais in the Church of St. Ste- 
phen was a superb tree of Jesse, famous as the work of Engrand 
le Prince, about 1570 or 1580, in whose branches, among the four- 
teen ancestors of the Virgin, three-fourths bore features of the 
Kings of France, among them Francis I and Henry II, who were 
hardly more edifying than Kings of Israel, and at least unusual 
as sources of divine purity. Compared with the still more famous 
Tree of Jesse at Chartres, dating from 1150 or thereabouts, must 
one declare that Engrand le Prince proved progress? and in what 
direction? Complexity, Multiplicity, even a step towards Anarchy, 
it might suggest, but what step towards perfection? 

One late afternoon, at midsummer, the Virgin's pilgrim was 
wandering through the streets of Troyes in close and intimate 
conversation with Thibaut of Champagne and his highly intelli- 
gent seneschal, the Sieur de Joinville, when he noticed one or two 
men looking at a bit of paper stuck In a window. Approaching, 
he read that M. de Plehve had been assassinated at St. Peters- 
burg. The mad mixture of Russia and the Crusades, of the Hippo- 
drome and the Renaissance, drove him for refuge into the fascinat- 
ing Church of St. Pantaleon near by. Martyrs, murderers, Csesars, 
saints and assassins half in glass and half in telegram; chaos 
of time, place, morals, forces and motive gave him vertigo. 
Had one sat all one's life on the steps of Ara Coeli for this? 



47 2 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

Was assassination forever to be the last word of Progress? No 
one in the street had shown a sign of protest; he himself felt 
none; the charming Church with its delightful windows, in its 
exquisite absence of other tourists, took a keener expression of 
celestial peace than could have been given it by any contrast 
short of explosive murder; the conservative Christian anarchist 
had come to his own, but which was he the murderer or the 
murdered ? 

The Virgin herself never looked so winning so One as in 
this scandalous failure of her Grace. To what purpose had she 
existed, if, after nineteen hundred years, the world was bloodier 
than when she was born? TTie^stugendous failure of Christianity 
tortured history. The effort for Unity could not be a partial suc- 
cess; even alternating Unity resolved itself into meaningless mo- 
tion at last. To the tired student, the idea that he must give it 
up seemed sheer senility. As long as he could whisper, he would 
go on as he had begun, bluntly refusing to meet his creator with 
the admission that the creation had taught him nothing except 
that the square of the hypothenuse of a right-angled triangle might 
jqr. convenience be taken as equal to something else. Every man 
with self-respect enough to become effective, if only as a machine, 
has had to account to himself for himself somehow, and to in- 
vent a formula of his own for his universe, if the standard formulas 
failed. There, whether finished or not, education stopped. The 
formula, once made, could be but verified. 

The effort must begin at once, for time pressed. The old for- 
mulas had failed, and a new one had to be made, but, after all, 
the object was not extravagant or eccentric. One sought no abso- 
lute truth. One sought only a spool on which to wind the thread 
of history without breaking it. Among indefinite possible orbits, 
one sought the orbit which would best satisfy the observed move- 
ment of the runaway star Groombridge, 1838, commonly called 
Henry Adams. As term of a nineteenth-century education, one 
sought a common factor for certain definite historical fractions. 



Vis NOVA 473 



Any schoolboy could work out the problem if he were given the 
right to state it in his own terms. 

Therefore, when the fogs and frosts stopped his slaughter of the 
centuries, and shut him up again in his garret, he sat down as 
though he were again a boy at school to shape after his own needs 
the values of a Dynamic Theory of History. 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY (1904) 

A DYNAMIC theory, like most theories, begins by beg- 
ging the question: it defines Progress as the develop- 
ment and economy of Forces. Further, it defines force 
as anything that does, or helps to do work. Man is a force; so is 
the sun; so is a mathematical point, though without dimensions 
or known existence. 

Man commonly begs the question again by taking for granted 
that he captures the forces. A dynamic theory, assigning attrac- 
tive force to opposing bodies in proportion to the law of mass, 
takes for granted that the forces of nature capture man. The 
sum of force attracts; the feeble atom or, molecule called man is 
attracted; lie suffers education or growth; he is the sum of the 
forces that attract him; his body and his thought are alike their 
product; the movement of the forces controls the progress of his 
mind, since he can know nothing but the motions which impinge 
on his senses, whose sum makes education. 

For convenience as an image, the theory may liken man to a 
spider in its web, watching for chance prey. Forces of nature 
dance like flies before the net, and the spider pounces on them 
when it can; but it makes many fatal mistakes, though its theory 
of force is sound. The spider-mind acquires a faculty of memory, 
and, with it, a singular skill of analysis and synthesis, taking apart 
and putting together in different relations the meshes of its trap. 
Man had in the beginning no power of analysis or synthesis ap- 
proaching that of the spider, or even of the honey-bee; but he had 
acute sensibility to the higher forces. Fire taught him secrets 
that no other animal could learn; running water probably taught 
him even more, especially in his first lessons of mechanics; the 
animals helped to educate him, trusting themselves into his hands 



A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY 475 

merely for the sake of their food, and carrying his burdens or 
supplying his clothing; the grasses and grains were academies of 
study. With little or no effort on his part, all these forces formed 
his thought, induced his action, and even shaped his figure. 

Long before history began, his education was cpmplete ? for the 
record could not have been started until he had been taught to 
record. The universe that had formed him took shape in his mind 
as a reflection ofjiis own unity, containing all forces except him- 
self. Either separately^ or in groups, or as a whole, these forces 
never ceased to act on him, enlarging his mind as they enlarged 
the surface foliage of a vegetable, and the mind needed only to 
respond, as the forests did, to these attractions. Susceptibility to 
the highest forces is the highest genius; selection between them is 
the highest science ; their mass is the highest educator. Man always 
made, and still makes, grotesque blunders in selecting and mea- 
suring forces, taken at random from the heap, but he never made 
a mistake in the value he set on the whole, which he symbolized 
as unity and worshipped ;as God. To this day, his attitude to- 
wards it has never changed, though science can no longer give to 
force a name. 

Man's function as a force of nature was to assimilate other 
forces as he assimilated food. He called it the love of power. He 
felt his own feebleness, and he sought for an ass or a camel, a bow 
or a sling, to widen his range of power, as he sought a fetish or a 
planet in the world beyond. He cared little to know its immediate 
use, but he could afford to throw nothing away which he could 
conceive to have possible value in this or any other existence. He 
Baited for the object to teach him its use, or want of use, and the 
process was slow. He may have gone on for hundreds of thousands 
of years, waiting for Nature to tell him her secrets; and, to his 
rivals among the monkeys, Nature has taught no more than at 
their start; but certain lines of force were capable of acting on 
individual apes, and mechanically selecting types of race or sources 
of variation. The individual that responded or reacted to lines of 



476 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

new force then was possibly the same individual that reacts on it 
now, and his conception of the unity seems never to have changed 
in spite of the increasing diversity of forces ; but the theory of varia- 
tion is an affair of other science than history, and matters nothing 
to dynamics. The individual or the race would be educated on 
the same lines of illusion, which, according to Arthur Balfour, had 
not essentially varied down to the year 1900. 

To the highest attractive energy, man gave the name of divine, 
and for its control he invented the science called Religion, a word 
which meant, and still means, cultivation of occult force whether 
in detail or mass. Unable to <3efin_Force as a unity, man sym- 
bolized it and pursued it, both in himself, and in the infinite, as 
philosophy and theology; the mind is itself the subtlest of all 
known forces, and its self-introspection necessarily created a science 
which had the singular value of lifting his education, at the start, 
to the finest, subtlest, and broadest training both in analysis and 
synthesis, so that, if language is a test, he must have reached his 
highest powers early in his history; while the mere motive re- 
mained as simple an appetite for power as the tribal greed which 
led him to trap an elephant. Hunger, whether for food or for the 
infinite, sets in motion multiplicity and infinity of thought, and 
the sure hope of gaining a share of infinite power in eternal life 
would lift most minds to effort. 

He had reached this completeness five thousand years ago, and 
added nothing to his stock of known forces for a very long time. 
The mass of nature exercised on him so feeble an attraction that 
one can scarcely account for his apparent motion. Only a his- 
torian of very exceptional knowledge would venture to say at what 
date between 3000 B.C. and 1000 A.D., the momentum of Europe was 
greatest; but such progress as the world made consisted in econ- 
omies of energy rather jhanjn its^development; it was proved In 
mathematics, measured by names like Archimedes, Aristarchus, 
Ptolemy, and Euclid; or in Civil Law, measured by a number of 
names which Adams had begun life by failing to learn; or in coinage, 



A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY 477 

which was most beautiful near its beginning, and most barbar- 
ous at its close; or it was shown in roads, or the size of ships, or 
harbors; or by the use of metals, instruments, and writing; all of 
thencj 'economies of force, sometimes more forceful than the forces 
they helped; but the roads were still travelled by the horse, the 
ass, the camel, or the slave; the ships were still propelled by sails 
or oars; the lever, the spring, and the screw bounded the region 
of applied mechanics, ^en^e metals ^were old. 

Much the same thing could be said of religious or supernatural 
forces. Down to the year 300 of the Christian era they were little 
changed, and in spite of Plato and the sceptics were more appa- 
rently chaotic than ever. The experience of three thousand 
years had educated society to feel the vastness of Nature, and the 
infinity of her resources of power, but even this increase of attrac- 
tion had not yet caused economies in its methods of pursuit. 

There the Western world stood till the year A.D. 305, when the 
Emperor Diocletian abdicated; and there it was that Adams broke 
down on the steps of Ara Coeli, his patli blocked by the scandalous 
failure of civilization at the moment it had achieved complete suc- 
cess. In the year 305 the empire had solved the problems of Eu- 
rope more completely than they have ever been solved since. The 
Pax Romana, the Civil Law, and Free Trade should, in four hun- 
dred years, have put Europe far in advance of the point reached 
by modern society in the four hundred years since 1500, when con- 
ditions were less simple. 

The efforts to explain, or explain away, this scandal had been 
incessant, but none suited Adams unless it were the economic 
theory of adverse exchanges and exhaustion ofjnjnerals; but 
nations are not ruined Beyond a certain point by adverse exchanges, 
and Rome had by no means exhausted her resources. On the con- 
trary, the empire developed resources and energies quite astound- 
ing. No other four hundred years of history before A.D. 1800 knew 
anything like it; and although some of these developments, like 
the Civil Law, the roads, aqueducts, and harbors, were rather 



478 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

economies than force, yet in northwestern Europe alone the empire 
had developed three energies France, England, and Germany 
competent to master the world. The trouble seemed rather to be 
that the empire developed topjmuc^^ too fast. 

A dynamic law Tequlres that two masses nature and man 
must go on, reacting upon each other, without stop, as the sun 
and a /comet react on each other, and that any appearance of 
stoppage is illusive. The theory seems to exact excess, rather than 
deficiency, of action and reaction to account for the dissolution of 
the Roman Empire, which should, as a problem of mechanics, 
have been torn to pieces by acceleration. If the student means to 
try the experiment of framing a dynamic law, he must assign 
values to the forces of attraction that caused the trouble; and in 
this case he has them in plain evidence. With the relentless logic 
that stamped Roman thought, the empire, which had established 
unity on earth, could not help establishing unity in heaven. _It_ 
was induced .byjts dynamic necessities to economize the gads. 

The Church has never ceased to protest against the charge that 
Christianity ruined the empire, and, with its usual force, has 
pointed out that its reforms alone saved the State. Any dynamic 
theory gladly admits it. All it asks is to find and follow the force 
that attracts. The Church points out this force in the Cross, and 
history needs only to follow it. The empire loudly asserted its mo- 
tive. Good taste forbids saying that Constantine the Great specu- 
lated as audaciously as a modern stock-broker on values of which 
he knew at the utmost only the volume; or that he merged all un- 
certain forces into a single trust, which he enormously over- 
capitalized, and forced on the market; but this is the substance of 
what Constantine himself said in his Edict of Milan in the year 
313, which admitted Christianity into the Trust of State Religions. 
Regarded as an Act of Congress, it runs: "We have resolved to 
grant to Christians as well as all others the liberty to practise the 
religion they prefer, in order that whatever exists of divinity or 
celestial power may help and favor us and all who are under our 



A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY 479 

government/* The empire j>ursued_j>ower not merely spiritual 
but physical in the sense in which Constantine issued his army 
order the year before, at the battle of the Milvian Bridge: In hoc 
signo vinces! using the Cross as a train of artillery, which, to his 
mind, it was. Society accepted it in the same character. Eighty 
years afterwards, Theodosius marched against his rival Eugene 
with the Cross for physical champion; and Eugene raised the 
image of Hercules to fight for the pagans; while society on both 
sides looked on, as though it were 3 boxing-match, to decide a final 
test of force between the divine powers. The Church was power- 
less to raise the ideal. What is now known as religion affected the 
mind of old society but little. The laity, the people, the million, 
almost to a man, bet on the gods as they bet on a horse. 

No doubt the Church did all it could to purify the process, but 
society was almost wholly pagan in its point of view, and was 
drawn to the Cross because, in its system of physics, the Cross had 
absorbed all the old occult or fetish-power. The symbol represented 
the sum of nature the Energy of modern science and society 
believed it to be as real as X-rays; perhaps it was ! The emperors 
used it like ^unpowdeHn politics; the physicians used it like rays 
injnedicine; the dying clung to it as the quintessence of force, to 
protect them from the forces of evil on their road to the next 
life. 

Throughout these four centuries the empire knew that religion 
djaturbed <eco_nomy, for even the cost of heathen incense affected 
the exchanges; but no one could afford to buy or construct a costly 
and complicated machine when he cquld hire an occult force at 
trifling expense. Fetish-power was cheap and satisfactory, down 
to a certain point. Turgot and Auguste Comte long ago fixed 
this stage of economy as a necessary phase of social education, and 
historians seem now to accept it as the only gain yet made to- 
wards scientific history. Great numbers of educated people 
perhaps a majority cling to the method still, and practise it 
more or less strictly; but, until quite recently, no other was known. 



480 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

The only occult power at man's disposal jyas fetish. Against it, 
no mechanical force could compete except within narrow limits. 

Outside of occult or fetish-power, the Roman world was incred- 
ibly poor. It knew but one productive energy resembling a modern 
machine /the slave. No artificial force of serious value was ap- 
plied to production or transportation, and when society developed 
itself so rapidly in political and social lines, it had no other means 
of keeping its economy on the same level than to extend its slave- 
system and its fetish-system to the utmost. 

The result might have been stated in a mathematical formula as 
early as the time of Archimedes, six hundred years before Rome 
fell. The economic needs of a violently centralizing society forced 
the empire to enlarge its slave-system until the slave-system con- 
sumed itself and the empire too, leaving society no resource but 
further enlargement of its religious system in order to compensate 
for the losses and horrors of the failure. For a vicious circle, its 
mathematical completeness approached perfection. The dynamic 
law of attraction and reaction needed only a Newton to fix it in 
algebraic form. 

At last, in 410, Alaric sacked Rome, and the slave-ridden, agri- 
cultural, uncommercial Western Empire the poorer and less 
Christianized half went to pieces. Society, though terribly 
shocked by the horrors of Alaric's storm, felt still more deeply the 
disappointment in its new power, the Cross, which had failed to 
protect its Church. The outcry against the Cross became so loud 
among Christians that its literary champion, Bishop Augustine 
of Hippo a town between Algiers and Tunis was led to 
write a famous treatise in defence of the Cross, familiar still to 
every scholar, in which he defended feebly the mechanical value of 
the symbol arguing only that pagan symbols equally failed 
but insisted on its spiritual value in the Civitas Dei which had 
taken the place of the Civitas Romae in human interest. "Granted 
that we have lost all we had ! Have we lost faith ? Have we lost 
piety? Have we lost the wealth of the inner man who is rich 



A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY 481 

before God? These are the wealth of Christians!" The Civitas 
Dei, in its turn, became the sum of attraction for the Western 
world, though it also showed the same weakness in mechanics that 
had wrecked the Civitas Romae. St. Augustine and his people per- 
ished at Hippo towards 430, leaving society in appearance dull to 
new attraction. 

Yet the attraction remained constant. The delight of experi- 
menting on occult force of every kind is such as to absorb all the 
free thought of the human race. The gods did their work; history 
has no quarrel with them; they led, educated, enlarged the mind; 
taught knowledge; betrayed ignorance; stimulated effort. So little 
is known about the mind whether social, racial, sexual or 
heritable; whether material or spiritual; whether animal, vegetable 
or mineral that history is inclined to avoid it altogether; but 
nothing forbids one to admit, for convenience, that it may assimi- 
late food like the body, storing new force and growing, like a for- 
est, with the storage. The brain has not yet revealed its mysteri- 
ous mechanism of gray matter. Never has Nature offered it so 
violent a stimulant as when she opened to it the possibility of 
sharing infinite power in eternal life, ancj It might well need a 
thousand years of prolonged and intense experiment to prove the 
value of the motive. During these so-called Middle Ages, the West- 
ern mind reacted in many forms, on many sides, expressing its 
motives in modes, such as Romanesque and Gothic architecture, 
glass windows and mosaic walls, sculpture and poetry, war and 
love, which still aff ect some people as the noblest work of man, so 
that, even to-day, great masses of idle and ignorant tourists travel 
from far countries to look at Ravenna and San Marco, Palermo 
and Pisa, Assisi, Cordova, Chartres, with vague notions abput the 
force that created them, but with a certain surprise that a social 
mind of such singular energy .and unity should still lurk in their 
shadows. " ~ 

The tourist more rarely visits Constantinople or studies the 
architecture of Sancta Sofia, but when he does, he is distinctly con- 



482 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

scious of forces not quite the same. Justinian has not the simplic- 
ity of Charlemagne. The Eastern Empire showed an activity and 
variety of forces that classical Europe had never possessed. The 
navy of Nicephoras Phocas in the tenth century would have anni- 
hilated in half an hour any navy that Carthage or Athens or Rome 
ever set afloat. The dynamic scheme began by asserting rather 
recklessly that between the Pyramids (B.C. 3000), and the Cross 
(A.D. 300), no new force affected Western progress, and antiquari- 
ans may easily dispute the fact; but in any case the motive influ- 
ence, old or new, which raised both. Pyramids and Cross was the 
same attraction of power in a future life that raised the dome of 
Sancta Sofia and the Cathedral at Amiens, however much it was 
altered, enlarged, or removed to distance in space. Therefore, no 
single event has more puzzled historians than the sudden, unex- 
plained appearance of at least two new natural forces of the highest 
educational value in mechanics, for the first time within record of 
history. Literally, these two forces seemed to drop from the sky 
at the precise moment when the Cross on one side and the Crescent 
on the other, proclaimed the complete triumph of the Civitas Dei. 
Had the Manichean doctrine of Good and Evil as rival deities been 
orthodox, it would alone have accounted for this simultaneous vic- 
tory of hostile powers. 

Of the compass, as a step towards demonstration of the dy- 
namic law ~ "one may confidently say that it proved, better than 
any other force, the widening scope of the mind, since it widened 
immensely the range of contact between nature and thought. 
The compass educated. This must prove itself as needing no 
proof. 

Of Greek fire and gunpowder, the same thing cannot certainly 
be said, for they have the air of accidents due to the attraction 
of religious motives. They belong to the spiritual world; or to the 
doubtful ground of Magic which lay between Good and Evil. 
They were chemical forces, mostly explosives, which acted and 
still act as the most violent educators ever known to man, but 



A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY 4.83 

they were justly feared as diabolic, and whatever insolence man 
may have risked towards the milder teachers of his infancy, he 
was an abject pupil towards explosives. The Sieur de Joinville left 
a record of the energy with which the relatively harmless Greek 
fire educated and enlarged the French mind in a single night in the 
year 1249, when the crusaders were trying to advance on Cairo. 
The good king St. Louis and all his staff dropped on their knees 
at every fiery flame that flew by, praying "God have pity on 
us!" and never had man more reason to call on his gods than 
they, for the battle of religion between Christian and Saracen was 
trifling compared with that of education between gunpowder and 
the Cross. 

The fiction that society educated itself, or aimed at a conscious 
purpose, was upset by the compass and gunpowder which dragged 
and drove Europe at will through frightful bogs of learning. At 
first, the apparent lag for want of volume in the new energies lasted 
one or two centuries, which closed the great epochs of emotion by 
the Gothic cathedrals and scholastic theology. The moment had 
Greek beauty and more than Greek unity, but it was brief; and 
for another century or two, Western society seemed to float in 
space without apparent motion. Yet the attractive mass of nature's 
energy continued to attract, and education became more rapid 
than ever before. Society began to resist, but the individual 
showed greater and greater insistence, without realizing what he 
was doing. When the Crescent drove the Cross in ignominy from 
Constantinople in ^1453, Gutenberg and Fust were printing their 
first Bible at Mainz under the impression that they were hglping 
the^Cross. When Columbus discovered thelVest Indies in 1492, 
the Church looked on it as a victory -Qf the Cross. When Luther 
and Calvin upset Europe half a century later, they were trying, 
like St. Augustine, to substitute the Civitas Dei for the Civitas 
Romae. When the Puritans set out for New England in 1620, they 
too were looking to found a Civitas Dei in State Street; and when 
Bunyan made his Pilgrimage in 1678, he repeated St. Jerome. ' Even 



484 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

when, after centuries of license, the Church reformed its discipline, 
and, to prove it, burned Giordano Bruno in 1600, besides condemn- 
ing Galileo in 1630 as science goes pa. repeating to us every day 
^jltjron^ not atheists. None of the astronomers 

were irreligious men; all of tEem made a point of magnifying God 
through his works; a form of science which did their religion no 
credit. Neither Galileo nor Kepler, neither Spinoza nor Descartes, 
neither Leibnitz nor Newton, any more than Constantine the 
Great if so much doubted Unity. The utmost range of their 
heresies reached only its personality. 

This persistence of thought-inertia is the leading idea of modern 
history. Except as reflected in himself, man has no reason for 
assuming unity in the universe, or an ultimate substance, or a 
prime-motor. The a priori insistence on this unity ended by fatigu- 
ing the more active or reactive minds; and Lord Bacon, tried 
to stop it. He urged society to lay aside the idea of evolving the 
universe from a thought, and to try evolving thought from the 
universe. The mind should observe and register forces take 
them apart and put them together without assuming unity at 
all. "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." "The imagina- 
tion must be given not wings but weights." As Galileo reversed 
the action of earth and sun, Bacon reversed the relation of thought 
to force./The mind was thenceforth to follow the movement of 
matter, and unity must be left to shift for itself. ^ 

The revolution in attitude seemed voluntary, but in fact was as 
mechanical as the fall of a feather. Man created* nothing. After 
1500, the speed of progress so rapidly surpassed man's gait as to 
alarm every one, as though it were the acceleration of a falling 
body which the dynamic theory takes it to be. Lord Bacon was as 
much astonished by it as the Church was, and with reason. Sud- 
denly society felt itself dragged into situations altogether new and 
anarchic situations which it could not affect, but which pain- 
fully affected it. Instinct taught it that the universe in its thought 
must be in danger when its reflection lost itself in space. The 



A DYNAMIC THEORY OP HISTORY 485 

danger was all the greater 'because men of science covered it with 
"larger synthesis," and poets called the undevout astronomer mad. 
Society knew better. Yet the telescope held it rigidly standing on 
its head; thejmicroscope revealed a ^ uniyg^j^atdefiedLthe jsenses; 
gunpowder killed wRole races that lagged behind; thg^compass 
coerced^tHielnost Tmbruted mariner to act on the impossible idea 
that the earth was round; the press drenched Europe with anarch- 
ism. Europe saw itself, violently resisting, wrenched into false 
positions, drawn along new lines as a fish that is caught on a hook; 
but unable to understand by what force it was controlled. The 
resistance jwas often bloody, sometimes IjymprouSj always con- 
stant. Its contortions in the eighteenth century are best studied 
in the wit of Voltaire, but all history and all philosophy from Mon- 
taigne and Pascal to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche deal with nothing 
else; and still, throughout it all, the Baconian law held good; 
thought did not evolve nature, but nature evolved thought. Not 
one considerable man of science dared face the stream of thought; 
and the whole number of those who acted, like Franklin, as electric 
conductors of the new forces from nature to man, down to the year 
1800, did not exceed a few score, confined to a few towns in western 
Europe. Asia refused to be touched by the stream, and America, 
except for Franklin, stood outside. 

/Very slowly the accretion of these new forces, chemical and 
mechanical, grew in volume until they acquired sufficient mass to 
take the place of the old religious science, substituting their attrac- 
tion for the attractions of the Civitas Dei, but the process remained 
the same./^ature, not mind, did the work that the sun does on 
the planets. Aftan depended more and more absolutely on forces 
other than his own, and on instruments which superseded his senses. 
Bacon foretold it: "Neither the naked hand nor the understanding, 
leftjto Jtselfj jcanjffect much. It is by instruments and helps that 
the work is done." Once done, the mind resumed its illusion, and 
Society forgot its impotence; but no one better than Bacon knew 
its tricks, and for his true followers science always meant self- 



486 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

restraint, obedience, sensitiveness to impulse from without. 
"Non fingendum aut excogitandum sed inveniendum quid Natura 
faciat aut ferat." 

The success of this method staggers belief, and even to-day can 
be treated by history only as a miracle of growth, like the sports 
of nature. Evidently a new variety of mind had appeared. Cer- 
tain men merely held out their hands like Newton, watched an 
apple; like Franklin, flew a kite; like Watt^ playedwith a~tea-kettle 
" and great forces of nature stuck to them as though she were 
playing ball. ^Governments did almost nothing but resist. Even 
gunpowder and ordnance, the great weapon of government, showed 
little development between 1400 and 1800. Society was hostile or 
indifferent, as Priestley and Jenner, and even Fulton, with reason 
complained in the most advanced societies in the world, while its 
resistance became acute wherever the Church held control; until 
all mankind seemed to draw itself out in a long series of groups, 
dragged on by an attractive power in advance, which even the 
leaders obeyed without understanding, as the planets obgyed. 
gravity, or the trees obeyed heat and light. 

The influx of new force was nearly spontaneous. The reaction 
of mind on the mass of nature seemed not greater than that of a 
comet on the sun; and had the spontaneous influx of force stopped 
in Europe, society must have stood still, or gone backward, as in 
Asia or Africa. Then only economies of process would have counted 
as new force, and society would have been better pleased ; for the 
idea .thaiMtewJfora in itself a good is only an animal or 

vegetable instinct. As Nature developed her hidden energies, they 
tended to become destructive. Thought itself became tortured, 
suffering reluctantly, impatientl^painfuliy^ the coercion of new 
method. Easy thought had always been movement of inertia, and 
mostly mere sentiment; but even the processes of mathematics 
measured feebly the needs of force. 

The stupendous acceleration after 1800 ended in 1900 with the 
appearance of the new class of supersensual forces, before which the 



A DYNAMIC THEORY OF HISTORY 487 



manjofjoence pltppdjat first a^^b^wild^red .and helpless as, in the 
fourth century ,ja jm^st^DJ^]^^^ , 

This, then, or something like this, would be a dynamic formula 
of history. Any schoolboy knows enough to object at once that it 
is the oldest and most universal of all theories. Church and State, 
theology and philosophy, have always preached it, differing only 
in the allotment of energy between nature and man. Whether the 
attractive Energy has been called God or Nature, the mechanism 
has been always the same, and history is not obliged to decide 
whether the Ultimate tends to a purpose or not, or whether ulti- 
mate energy is one or many. Every one admits that the will is a 
free force, habitually decided by motives. No one denies that 
motives exist adequate to decide the will; even though it may not 
always be conscious of them. Science has proved that forces, sen- 
sible and occult, physical and metaphysical, simple and complex, 
surround, traverse, vibrate, rotate, repel, attract, without stop; 
that man's senses are conscious of few, and only in a partial degree; 
but that, from the beginning of organic existence, his consciousness 
has been induced, expanded, trained in the lines of his sensitive- 
ness; and that the rise of his faculties from a lower power to a 
higher, or from a narrower to a wider field, may be due to the 
function of assimilating and storing outside force or forces. There 
is nothing unscientific in the idea that, beyond the lines of force 
felt by the senses, the universe may be as it has always been 
either 3. supersensuous chaos or a divine unity, which irresistibly 
Attracts, and is either life or death to penetrate. Thus far, religion, 
philosophy, and science seem to go hand in hand. The schools 
begin their vital battle only there. In the earlier stages of progress, 
the forces to be assimilated were simple and easy to absorb, but, 
as the mind of man enlarged its range, it enlarged the field of com- 
plexity, and must continue to do so, even into chaos, until the 
reservoirs of sensuous or supersensuous energies are exhausted, or 
cease to affect him, or until he succumbs~tb their excess. 



488 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

For past history, this way of grouping its sequences may answer 
for a chart of relations, although any serious student would need to 
invent another, to compare or correct its errors; but past history 
is only a value of relation to the future, and this value is wholly 
one of convenience, which can be tested only by experiment. Any 
law of movement must include, to make it a convenience, some 
mechanical formula of acceleration. 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

A LAW OF ACCELERATION (1904) 

IMAGES are not argument^ rarely even lead to proof, but the 
mincT craves them, and, of late more than ever, the keenest 
experimenters find twenty images better than one, especially 
if contradictory; since the human mind has already learned to deal 
in contradictions. 

The image needed here is that of a new centre, or preponderating 
mass, artificially introduced on earth in the midst of a system of 
attractive forces that previously made their own equilibrium, and 
constantly induced to accelerate its motion till it shall establish a 
new equilibrium. A dynamic theory would begin by assuming that 
all history, terrestrial or cosmic, mechanical or intellectual, would 
be reducible to this formula if we knew the facts. 

For convenience, the most familiar image should come first; 
and this is probably that of the comet, or meteoric streams, like 
the Leonids and Perseids; a complex of minute mechanical agen- 
cies, reacting within and without, and guided by the sum of forces 
attracting or deflecting it. Nothing forbids one to assume that the 
man-meteorite might grow, as an acorn does, absorbing light, 
heat, electricity or thought; for, in recent times, such trans- 
ference of energy has become a familiar idea; but the simplest fig- 
ure, at first, is that of a perfect comet say that of 1843 which 
drops from space, in a straight line, at the regular acceleration of 
speed, directly into the sun, and after wheeling sharply about it, 
in heat that ought to dissipate any known substance, turns back 
unharmed, jn defiance of law, by the path on which it came. 
The mind, by analogy, may figure as such a comet, the better 
because it also defies law. 

Motion is the ultimate object of science, and measures of motion 
are many; but with thought as with matter, the true measure is 



49 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

mass in its astronomic sense the sum or difference of attrac- 
tive forces. Science has quite enough trouble in measuring its 
material motions without volunteering help to the historian, but 
the historian needs not much help to measure some kinds of so- 
cial movement; and especially in the nineteenth century, society 
by common accord agreed in measuring its progress by the coal- 
output. The ratio of increase in the volume of coal-power may 
serve as dynamometer. 

The coal-output of the world, speaking roughly, doubled every 
ten years between 1840 and 1900, in the form of utiKzecT power, 
for the ton of coal yielded three or four times as mucR power in 
1900 as in 1840. Rapid as this rate of acceleration in volume seems, 
it may be tested in a thousand ways without greatly reducing it. 
Perhaps the ocean steamer is nearest unity and easiest to measure, 
for any one might hire, in 1905, for a small sum of money, the use 
of 30,000 steam-horse-power to cross the ocean, and by halving 
this figure every ten years, he got back to 234 horse-power for 
1835, which was accuracy enough for his purposes. In truth, his 
chief trouble came not from the ratio in volume of heat, but from 
the intensity, since he could get no basis for a ratio there. All 
ages of history have known high intensities, like the iron-furnace, 
the burning-glass, the blow-pipe; but no society has ever used 
high intensities on any large scale till now, nor can a mere by- 
stander decide what range of temperature is now in common use. 
Loosely guessing that science controls habitually the whole range 
from absolute zero to 3000 Centigrade, one might assume, for 
convenience, that the ten-year ratio for volume could be used tem- 
porarily for intensity; and still there remained a ratio to be guessed 
for other forces than heat. Since 1 800 scores of new forces had been 
discovered; old forces had been raised to higher powers, as could 
be measured in the navy-gun; great regions of chemistry had 
been opened up, and connected with other regions of physics. 
Within ten years a new universe of force had been revealed in 
radiation. Complexity had extended itself on immense horizons, 



A LAW OF ACCELERATION 491 

and arithmetical ratios were useless for any attempt at accuracy. 
The force evolved seemed morg Jjkejexplosion than gravitation, 
and followed closelyjthe curve of steam; but, at all events, the ten- 
year ratio seemed carefully conservative. Unless the calculator 
was prepared to be instantly overwhelmed by physical force and 
mental complexity, he must stop there. 

Thus, taking the year 1900 as the starting point for carrying back 
the series, nothing was easier than to assume a ten-year period of 
retardation as far back as 1820, but beyond that point the statis- 
tician failed, and only the mathematician could help. Laplace 
would have found it child's-play to fix a ratio of progression in 
mathematical science between Descartes, Leibnitz, Newton, and 
himself. Watt could have given in pounds the increase of power 
between Newcomen's engines and his own. Volta and Benjamin 
Franklin would have stated their progress as absolute creation 
of power. Dalton could have measured minutely his advance on 
Boerhaave. Napoleon I must have had a distinct notion of his 
own numerical relation to Louis XIV. No one in 1789 doubted the 
progress of force, least of all those who were to lose their heads 
by it. 

Pending agreement between these authorities, theory may 
assume what it likes say a fifty, or even a five-and-twenty-year 
period of reduplication for the eighteenth century, for the period 
matters little until the acceleration itself is admitted. The sub- 
ject is even more amusing in the seventeenth than in the eight- 
eenth century, because Galileo and Kepler, Descartes, Huygens, 
and Isaac Newton took vast pains to fix the laws of acceleration 
for moving bodies, while Lord Bacon and William Harvey were 
content with showing experimentally the fact of acceleration in 
knowledge; but from their combined results a historian might be 
tempted to maintain a similar rate of movement back to 1600, 
subject to correction from the historians of mathematics. 

The mathematicians might carry their calculations back as far 
as the fourteenth century when algebra seems to have become for 



49 2 THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS 

the first time the standard measure of mechanical progress in 
western Europe; for not only Copernicus and Tycho Brahe, but 
even artists like Leonardo, Michael Angelo, and Albert Diirer 
worked by mathematical processes, and their testimony would 
probably give results more exact than that of Montaigne or Shake- 
speare; but, to save trouble, one might tentatively carry back the 
same ratio of acceleration, or retardation, to the year 1400, with 
the help of Columbus and Gutenberg, so taking a uniform rate 
during the whole four centuries (1400-1800), and leaving to sta- 
tisticians the task of correcting it. 

Or better, one might, for convenience, use the formula of 
squares to serve for a law of mind. Any other formula would do 
as well, either of chemical explosion, or electrolysis, or vegetable 
growth, or of expansion or contraction in innumerable forms; but 
this happens to be simple and convenient. Its force increases in 
the direct ratio of its squares. As the human meteoroid approached 
the sun or centre of attractive force, the attraction of one century 
squared itself to give the measure of attraction in the next. 

Behind the year 1400, the process certainly went on, but the 
progress became so slight as to be hardly measurable. What 
was gained in the east or elsewhere, cannot be known; but forces, 
called loosely Greek fire and gunpowder, came into use in the west 
in the thirteenth century, as well as instruments like the com- 
pass, the blow-pipe, clocks and spectacles, and materials like paper; 
Arabic notation and algebra were introduced, while metaphysics 
and theology acted as violent stimulants to mind. An architect 
might detect a sequence between the Church of St. Peter's at 
Rome, the Amiens Cathedral, the Duomo at Pisa, San Marco 
at Venice, Sancta Sofia at Constantinople and the churches at 
Ravenna. All the historian dares affirm is that a sequence is mani- 
festly there, and he has a right to carry back his ratio, to repre- 
sent the fact, without assuming its numerical correctness. On the 
human mind as a moving body, the break in acceleration in the 
Middle Ages is only apparent; the attraction worked through 



A LAW OF ACCELERATION 493 

shifting forms of force, as the sun works by light or heat> elec- 
tricity, gravitation, or what not, on different organs with differ- 
ent sensibilities, but with invariable law. 

The science of prehistoric man has no value except to prove 
that the law went back into indefinite antiquity. A stone arrow- 
head is as convincing as a steam-engine. The values were as clear 
a hundred thousand years ago as now, and extended equally over 
the whole world. The motion at last became infinitely slight, but 
cannot be proved to have stopped. The motion of Newton's comet 
at aphelion may be equally slight. To evolutionists may be left 
the processes of evolution; to historians the single interest is the 
law of reaction between force and force between mind find 
nature the law of progress. 

The great division of history into phases by Turgot and Comte 
first affirmed this law in its outlines by asserting the unity of prog- 
ress, for a mere phase interrupts no growth, and nature shows 
innumerable such phases. The development of coal-power in the 
nineteenth century furnished the first means of assigning closer 
values to the elements; and the appearance of supersensual forces 
towards 1900 made this calculation a pressing necessity; since the 
next step became infinitely serious. 

A law of acceleration, definite and constant as any law of me- 
chanics, cannot be supposed to relax its energy to suit the con- 
venience of man. No one is likely to suggest a theory that man's 
convenience had been consulted by Nature at any time, or that 
Nature has consulted the convenience of any of her creations, ex- 
cept perhaps the Terebratula. In every age man has bitterly and 
justly complained that Nature hurried and hustled him, jor inertia 
almost invariably has ended in tragedy. Resistance is its law^ and 
resistance to superior mass is futile and fatal. 

Fifty years ago, science took for granted that the rate of accel- 
eration could not last. The world forgets quickly, but even to- 
day the habit remains of founding statistics on the faith thai 
consumption will continue nearly stationary. Two generations 



494 THE EDUCATION OP HENRY ADAMS 

with John Stuart Mill, talked of this stationary period, which 
was to follow the explosion of new power. All the men who were 
elderly in the forties died in this faith, and other men grew old 
nursing the same conviction, and happy in it; while science, for 
fifty years, permitted, or encouraged, society to think that ,fprce, 
would prove to J?e limited in supply. This mental inertia of sci- 
ence lasted through the eighties before showing signs of breaking 
up; and nothing short of radium fairly wakened men to the fact, 
long since evident, that force was inexhaustible. Even then the 
scientific authorities vehemently resisted. 

Nothing so revolutionary had happened since the year 300. 
Thought had more than once been upset, but never caught and 
whirled about in the vortex of infinite forces. Power leaped from 
every atom, and enough of it to supply the stellar universe showed 
itself running to waste at every pore of matter. Man could no 
longer hold it off. Forces grasped his wrists and flung him about 
as though he had hold of a live wire or a runaway automobile; 
which was very nearly the exact truth for the purposes of an eld- 
erly and timid single gentleman in Paris, who never drove down 
the Champs Elysees without expecting an accident, and commonly 
witnessing one; or found himself in the neighborhood of an offi- 
cial without calculating the chances of a bomb. So long as the 
rates of progress held good, these bombs would double in force 
and number every ten years. 

Impossibilities no longer stood in the way. One's life had fat- 
tened on impossibilities. Before the boy was six years old, he had 
seen four impossibilities made actual the ocean-steamer, the 
railway, the electric telegraph, and the Daguerreotype; nor could 
he ever learn which of the four had most hurried others to come. 
He had seen the coaloutput of the United States grow from noth- 
ing to three hundred million tons or more. What was far more 
serious, he had seen the number of minds, engaged in pursuing 
force the truest measure of its attraction increase from a 
few scores or hundreds, in 1838, to many thousands in 1905, 



A LAW OF ACCELERATION 495 

trained to sharpness never before reached, and armed with in- 
struments amounting to new senses of indefinite power and accu- 
racy, while they chased force into hiding-places where Nature her- 
self had never known it to be, making analyses that contradicted 
being, and syntheses that endangered the elements. No one 
could say that the social mind now failed