ePub 版

give its particular finding; nor are any of the circumstances tending to place the conduct of the lieutenant in its proper light recorded in the text. It would be vain to plead public duty as the motive for this publication; for public duty would dictate the relation of the whole, instead of a part, of the case, and especially that part only which implies an unjust disgrace upon a meritorious officer. Of this pretext, however, shallow as it is, Captain Wilkes has deprived himself. He has, for reasons best known to himself, omitted to speak of the trial of an officer in Oahu; and it would be idle to argue, that, if he may exercise his private will to suppress such a fact in one instance, he can do so in others. This last act was the one thing wanting to establish the cruelty and injustice of his conduct. Now, there may be some persons who will regard this wanton contempt for the character and feelings of others, this taste for insult and contumely, as exhibiting a lofty tone of mind, and a fearless independence of opinion; but for our own part, whether we view it in respect to magnanimity, justice, or humanity, whether we consider the wrong done to private character, or the injury inflicted upon the naval reputation of the country, we see in it only a want of wisdom very near akin to that of the fool who maketh a mock at sin.

The reader will be prepared for the conclusion, that Captain Wilkes was deficient in some of the requisite qualities of a good commander. What those qualities are, generally, we need not stop to inquire; but one of them certainly is the power to secure the respect and win the confidence of inferiors, without which no enterprises of great pith or moment have ever been successfully prosecuted. How far he was endowed with this essential qualification may be learned from the record of the court-martial before which he was arraigned after the expiration of the cruise.*

Raised, "contrary to all law and precedent," to a position entirely above his rank,† and surrounded by young officers

* We make no apology for referring to these trials, Captain Wilkes having mentioned them in the " Narrative" of the Expedition.

Captain Wilkes was a lieutenant, while in command of the Exploring Expedition. This fact, highly honorable to himself, he endeavours, with singular bad taste, to conceal, by assuming the title of "Esquire in the list of officers, (an addition, one would think, pertaining to the scientific gentleman, if to any body,) and appearing in the frontispiece in the uniform of

who were brave, ambitious, generous, and indefatigable, he enjoyed an opportunity of creating personal attachments stronger than the bonds of death; instead of which, he has managed to make quarrels and excite bitter feelings, the recollection of which will continue in the navy with the present generation of young officers.


One defect of Captain Wilkes's character as a commander appears to have been a want of true dignity, a puerile irritability of temper, such as wears out the heart of loyalty by the perpetual droppings of discontent, non vi, sed sæpe cadendo. Another was an ignorance of the spirit of the profession, which is unaccountable. Before the courtmartial, he produced, very reluctantly, a secret authority for disregarding the "fantastic claims of rank," as they were termed. And what are the fantastic claims of rank? Lieutenant Wilkes regards the claims of Lieutenant Johnson as fantastic. But we imagine that it would enlighten his apprehension of the truth of the sentiment expressed by the naval committee, that "rank is the most sacred among military principles," if this point of honor, which no officer ever voluntarily sacrifices without suffering for it, were assailed in his own person.

It is due, however, to the navy to say, that the selection of Captain Wilkes for this most responsible and distinguished post was not directed by any peculiar fitness he was supposed to possess as a naval commander, but, as we understand it, by his skill as a hydrographer, and his proficiency in the manipulation of magnetic and astronomical instruments, qualifications very respectable and useful, but not those the country will look to when it shall need the services of its naval captains. Captain Wilkes's occupations have been chiefly out of the strict line of the profession. From a "statement" in the report of the naval committee, before quoted, we find, that, of the first forty lieutenants on the list in February, 1843, including Mr. Wilkes,

a commander, to which rank he has been promoted since his return. In order, however, more perfectly to exemplify the story of the lawyer and the countryman, when he has occasion to introduce the name of another officer, then a lieutenant in command, like himself, he gives him the style of Lieutenant Commandant, although this gentleman is now above Captain Wilkes on the list of commanders. We have been scrupulous to preserve the title of Captain, adopted by Mr. Wilkes throughout the book.

thirty-eight had seen more sea-service than himself; and, knowing this, it is less a matter of surprise, that he has shown himself so ignorant of the genius of the naval service, and so incompetent to administer its discipline. But it is a question, whether this instance of the violation of " all law and precedent" in naval appointments has not resulted well, by working ill. The example, if frequently repeated, would inevitably lead to the subversion of all discipline, by excluding from their proper positions those officers at the head of the register, whose achievements, together with those of their predecessors, constitute, after all, the real fame and true honor of the navy.

[ocr errors]

The "Narrative of the Exploring Expedition," in its mechanical finish, surpasses, probably, any large work ever published in the United States. It is filled with steel engravings and wood-cuts, executed in the most perfect style of the art and doing great honor to the artists, while they illustrate beautifully and appropriately the course of the story. An atlas, very useful to the studious reader, accompanies the five volumes. Two editions have been published; one, a quarto, where a "rivulet of text meanders through a meadow of margin," is intended for presentation to foreign governments; the other, a large octavo, containing the same engravings, is entered for a copyright by Captain Wilkes.* Seeing, however, that he has been munificently rewarded by his country, he ought not to receive the profits of this edition. The journals of the cruise belong either to the government, or to the officers by whom they were kept; and in neither case, it seems to us, can the commander claim their exclusive use for his private gain.

We have been compelled to omit all notice of the concluding chapter on Currents, which may become a subject of investigation hereafter, if we should notice the volume on Physics. We here close our present labors, saying, merely, that it has been our principal aim to do justice to the great interest of the "Narrative," and at the same time, with a strict regard to truth, and a just consideration of the claims of American science and the honor of the navy, to point out the errors and mistakes of the writer, in order that the dis

* A cheaper edition is also announced.

credit, if any is thought to be deserved, should attach where it properly belongs, and not to our common country.

ART. IV. Life of the Hon. Jeremiah Smith, LL. D., Member of Congress during Washington's Administration, Judge of the United States Circuit Court, Chief Justice of New Hampshire, etc. By JOHN H. MORISON. Boston Little & Brown. 1845. 12mo. pp. 516.

IN August, 1838, Dr. Benjamin Abbot completed the fiftieth year of his services as principal instructer in Phillips Exeter Academy. A large number of his former pupils, many of whom had attained the highest honors in professional and public life, assembled once more within the walls of the Academy to pay a fitting tribute of gratitude and respect to their venerated teacher at this golden period of his life. The Abbot Festival, as it was called, was a remarkable meeting, wholly unprecedented in character, and as honorable to the feelings of those who engaged in it with great interest and zeal, as to him whose protracted and highly useful labors in the cause of moral and intellectual culture were there brought to a close. Other instructers had remained as long at the desk; but we have heard of no one who has been so fortunate in the honor reflected upon him through the high distinctions subsequently acquired by his pupils, or in the pleasant and vivid recollection which every scholar entertained of his kind affections, bland and courteous manners, earnest moral and religious counsels, firm and judicious discipline, and accurate and scholarlike instruction. Not merely his immediate pupils, but all his countrymen, owe a debt of gratitude to the man who has in this way left the stamp of his own excellent character on the minds of so many who were afterwards to exert a leading influence on the destinies of a whole people.

Mr. Webster presided at the dinner which was given on the occasion, and led the way in the hearty and eloquent expression of the sentiments entertained by the whole assem

bly towards his and their old "master." Members of all the professions, judges and distinguished scholars, ambassadors and members of Congress, followed, each with a tribute of admiration and respect for his former teacher, or with some pleasant reminiscence of his schoolboy days. One white-headed man rose and claimed a distinction, "which," he said, "could belong to no other man living. You were his scholars, I, his teacher. It was little that I had to impart; but that little was most cheerfully given. I well remember the promise he then gave; and Providence has been kind in placing him in just that position where his life could be most usefully and honorable spent." This former instructer of one who had been the teacher of others for half a century was the Hon. Jeremiah Smith, a member of Congress from 1791 to 1797, and afterwards chief justice, and subsequently governor, of New Hampshire. In early life, he had been an assistant instructer at the academy in Andover, Massachusetts; and among his pupils he could mention two presidents of Harvard College, Dr. Kirkland and Mr. Quincy, besides the venerated principal of Phillips Exeter Academy. Dr. Abbot still lives in a serene old age, rejoicing in troops of friends and in the retrospect of a long life faithfully and successfully devoted to the best interests of mankind. Judge Smith died in September, 1842, at the ripe age of eighty-two. A very interesting biography of him, by his relative, Mr. Morison, is now before us. Before giving any account of its contents, we would speak of the Judge as he appeared during the last twelve or fifteen years of his life.

He resided in Exeter, which was his home for more than forty years. The period of active exertion was over, as he had retired from the bar in 1820, having acquired a competent fortune entirely by his own exertions, and being disposed to give the remainder of his days to literary and domestic enjoyments. His wealth might have been much increased, for his practice was large and lucrative, and no failure either of mind or body had admonished him to retire. But his desires were moderate, and having enough for his own wants and to satisfy the reasonable demands of his family, neither ostentation nor the mere thirst of gain could prompt him to seek for more. Indolence was not the cause of his retirement; for his mind craved incessant occupation,

« 上一頁繼續 »