Forty Years of American Life, 1821-1861

Forty Years of American Life, 1821-1861

Forty Years of American Life, 1821-1861

Forty Years of American Life, 1821-1861

Excerpt

The first edition of FORTY YEARs OF AMERICAN LIFE was published in 1864, in two octavo volumes. The civil war began in the Spring of 1861, and in the Autumn of the same year I came to England. I did not like the war; and having abandoned the practice of my profession for the more congenial pursuits of literature, I took refuge in England, like so many others in like circumstances. It was useless then, in America, to write about anything but the war; and somewhat dangerous for a Northern man to write what did not suit the Government. The freedom of the press was, for the time, suspended. If a newspaper doubted that the South could be conquered in ninety days, it was excluded from the mails. If it questioned the right or the policy of invading the South and restoring amity and unity by ravage and plunder, it was seized by the police. If the editor persisted in his delusion that the press was free, he was sent down to Fort Lafayette, on an island in New York Bay, lodged in a casemate and fed on the rations of a common soldier, until the Government forgot who he was and for what he had been imprisoned. The liberty of speech even was precarious. A German in East New York, who expressed in gutturals his disgust of coercive fraternity -- this was before Prince Bismarck-found himself with a rope round his neck suddenly elevated to the limb of a tree. A Democrat, pleading in a public house for peace, was shot by a Republican who held that powder and lead were the only means of settling differences of opinion, and restoring amicable relations between individuals or States. The Government became a military despotism; and when Mr. Seward ordered that no citizen should leave the country without a passport, I came to England. America was a prison, with Mr. Seward for jailor.

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