Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XIV
EMERSON'S PLAN FOR PEACE (1848)

ON Sunday, 9.7.48, in the house of Arthur Helps, to continue Emerson's report,1 we had much discourse on a very rainy day. My friends asked whether there were any Americans--any with an American idea,2--any theory of the right future of that country? Thus challenged, I said:--

"Certainly, yes: but those who hold it are fanatics of a dream which I should hardly care to relate to your English ears, to which it might be only ridiculous,--and yet it is the only true." So I opened the dogma of no-government and non-resistance, and anticipated the objections and the fun, and procured a kind of hearing for it. I said, it is true that I have never seen in any country a man of sufficient valour to stand for this truth, and yet it is plain to me that no less valour than this command my respect. I can easily see the bankruptcy of the vulgar musket-worship,--though great men be musket-worshippers;--and 'tis certain, as God liveth, the gun that does not need another gun, the law of love and justice alone, can effect a clean revolution. I fancied that one or two of my anecdotes made some impression on C'--which would be very "like him," for ever reverent of reality,--'and I insisted that the absurdity of the view to English feasibility could make no difference to a gentleman; the soul might quote Talleyrand'--the ancient retort: "But I must live, Sir.""I do not see the necessity."

This is very Emersonian indeed. The original quip referred to the life of another, and meant,--I do not see the need for you to live. It was prehistoric--the natural idea of a savage ready to kill any one not on his side. As Emerson

____________________
1
Emerson's Works Vol. IV, English Traits, Chapter XVI.
2
Italics added.

-50-

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