Saturday, November 12, 2016

John L. Motley to Mary Lothrop Motley, December 1862

Vienna, December, 1862.

My Dearest Little Mary: Your last letter was very pleasant to us — I have so high a respect for General Wadsworth. I hardly know a man in the whole country by whose course I have been so electrified as I was by his. Nothing can be nobler or more heroic than his career ever since the breaking out of the war. Certainly these are times that prove the mettle men are made of, and not only does his character, but his intellect, shine forth most brightly since the great events in which he has been taking part have revealed what was in him. The few speeches which he made in the late canvass seemed to me of the highest order of eloquence.

It is some good fruit at least of these unhappy times that we learn to know our contemporaries. In piping times of peace I should not have thought of James Wadsworth other than the agreeable man of the world, the liberal man of fortune, the thriving landlord, and now he turns out a hero and a statesman.

We were inexpressibly shocked and grieved to hear of the death of sweet, dear, and beautiful Mrs. d'Hauteville. How much of loveliness and grace and gentle, intelligent, virtuous womanhood is buried in that grave! What a loss to her family who adored her, to so many friends who admired her and loved her, to her son far away on the field of danger! Certainly we live in tragic days. You may live to see tranquil and happy ones, but it is not probable that we of this generation will do so. The great slave revolution will, I think, take almost the span of one generation to accomplish itself thoroughly. This partial pro-slavery reaction in the North has, I fear, protracted the contest. I say partial, because on taking a wide view of the field I find really that the antislavery party has made enormous progress this year. The States of Pennsylvania and Ohio were almost evenly balanced on a general election taken immediately after the President's Emancipation Proclamation. Massachusetts gave 20,000 majority to the antislavery party; and although the city of New York was pro-slavery, as it always has been, yet the State, the really American part of the four millions of the inhabitants, voted by a great majority for Wadsworth. Then, the result of the Missouri election outweighs all the pro-slavery triumphs in any other State. If I had been told five years ago that that great slave State would, in the year 1862, elect five emancipationists out of the nine members of Congress, and that emancipation would have a strong majority in each house of the Missouri Legislature, I could not have believed in such a vision. . . . This is one of the revolutions that does not go backward. “Die Welt ist rund und muss sich drehen.” I suppose the din about McClellan's removal goes on around you. I take little interest in the matter. It is in vain to try to make a hero of him. But there is so much that is noble and generous and magnanimous in his nature, so much dignity and forbearance, and he is really so good a soldier, that it seems a pity he could not have been a great man and a great commander.

We are humdrumming on as usual. Yesterday we dined at our colleague's, the Dutch minister, Baron Heeckeren. This is our only festivity for the present. I am glad the Hoopers have been so kind as to invite you to Washington again. It is a great privilege for you, and I am very grateful to them. Always remember me most kindly when you see them. I owe Mr. Hooper a letter, which I shall immediately answer.
Ever your most affectionate

SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley in Two Volumes, Library Edition, Volume 2, p. 301-3

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