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MR. BENJAMIN BUCKEYE'S VISIT TO PARIS.
MR. Benjamin Buckeye-I ought, in justice, to call him the Honorable Mr. Buckeye, for he had been a justice of the peace and church-warden in his time --but there are so many honorables now-a-days among us republicans, that one more or less is of no sort of consequence-Mr. Benjamin Buckeye was a gentleman of education and fortune, for he had been at college, and was proprietor of a large landed estate containing three towns actually laid out on the map, each one commanding a stupendous water-power. Being fond of study, and of a retiring disposition, and without any ambition to figure in public life, he lived altogether out of the world, devoting himself to reading and contemplation. Having an excellent memory, and possessing the rare faculty of digesting his knowledge, he had at the age of fifty amassed a vast fund of learning, both in science, philosophy, history, and languages. In short he had become what is called a ripe scholar.
Thus he lived contented and happy in his retirement, until unluckily it one day occurred to him that in his present situation, all his acquisitions were lost to the world. His neighbors were all occupied in pursuits entirely different from his own, and all his scholarship was thrown away upon them. If he talked to any one about the Roman Republic, he began to expatiate on his pigs, and when he debated on the beauties of the Greek and Latin languages, he was stultified with declarations about railroads, steam-engines, and water'power. "I will no longer stay among these clodhoppers," thought he; "I'll go to Paris, where they understand these matters, and estimate men by their intellectual acquirements, without regard to railroads, steam-engines, or water-power."
Accordingly, all things being prepared, he took his passage for Havre, carrying letters of introduction from some of his learned correspondents to distinguished savans at Paris, which he delivered on his arrival, and met a gracious reception. He found, after mixing a little while with the most learned Thebans, that they were all in a state of great excitement on the subject of Mesmerism and clairvoyance. A committee of the Academy of Sciences had been appointed to investigate the wonders of this new mystery; everybody was in a fever of impatience to hear their report, and nothing else was talked of among the savans of Paris.
Mr. Buckeye was quite at home here. He had, among his other studies, dipped pretty deeply into Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa, and others, and could talk glibly of Necromancy, Pyromancy, Tyromaney, Chiromaney, Stitchomancy, and the Lord knows what. He accordingly soon became an oracle in the Literary circles, and would have been delighted with Paris, had it not been for what may be called his domestic troubles. He had, on his first arrival, taken lodgings at a splendid hotel, where he had a handsome suite of rooms, for which he paid pretty handsomely, and where he dined by himself, for which he paid still more handsomely.
On first taking possession, the hotel-keeper received him with a profusion of bows, calling him Milor, and nothing could exceed the attentions of the valet he had hired to wait on him. When, however, he sat down to his first dinner and began to eat, the valet seemed struck with horror. He stared at him with
431 eyes wide open, dropt the plate he held in his hand, and precipitately left the room, slamming the door after him. Mr. Buckeye did not know what to make of all this. He rang the bell over and over again, but the valet returned no more. At length the master of the hotel appeared, and without making his customary bow, courteously informed Monsieur that he could not entertain him in his house any longer. Mr. Buckeye was astonished and indignant. He demanded the reason of such extraordinary conduct; but mine host only continued sputtering an unintelligible jargon of epithets, among which he distinguished "Diable," "Sacre," and "Fourchette."
Not wishing to contest the matter, Mr. Buckeye took other lodgings, but the same thing happened to him there, and at many other places where he sought an asylum. "Strange," thought he-"I always heard Paris spoken of as the Paradise of strangers, but this is more like Purgatory." At last, however, he found a resting-place at a very indifferent lodging-house, kept by a lonely widow who had no other boarder but himself. The first time they dined together, the good lady was so shocked that she almost fainted, but was brought to, by a glass of water Mr. Buckeye threw in her face. She however triumphed over these shocks by degrees, and they got on comfortably together afterwards.
During these various transitions, Mr. Buckeye was gradually rising in the world of science, though he had been rapidly sinking in the world of eating and drinking. The Academy of Sciences had been deeply engaged in a sulject that occupied its attention almost to the exclusion of all others, The ques tion was, "Why fish living in salt water were always fresh." Two of the most distinguished members, who had weathered many a knotty enquiry, lost their wits in the investigation, and the subject was about being tabooed on account of its mischievous consequences, when Mr. Buckeye solved the riddle in the most satisfactory manner by informing the gentlemen that the whole secret consisted in the words in and on, he having ascertained by various exper iments that though fish died when brought out of water in the air, they lived on air in the water, and therefore it was not of the least consequence whether the water was fresh or salt. Hereupon he was unanimously elected an honorary member of the Academy. This may be thought no mighty matter by some ignorant people; but they may be assured that it is of great consequence, insomuch that when a member dies, he is entitled to a funeral oration, in which it is the duty of the orator to exhaust the French language in praise of his talents and virtues. Besides, he is sure to be invited to a sumptuous dinner at least once a year on the anniversary of the society.
This took place just after Mr. Buckeye's election, and of course he was invited, and received as one of the most distinguished foreign literati. Nothing could exceed the courtesies accorded him, and being a new member he was seated at the right hand of the president at dinner. He had scarcely tasted a mouthful, when the president dropt his knife and fork and began to stare at him. Mr. Buckeye at the same time, or at least a short time afterwards, saw, the members earnestly whispering to each other, and the eyes of all his neighbors fixed upon him; whereupon he felicitated himself on being a lion. Soon, however, he noticed that the President scarcely replied to him when he spoke, and that not one of the members asked him to take a glass of wine. Finally, when the party broke up, the members all scuttled away one after the other, the waiters following, and the poor gentleman was left alone, as it were, like
one howling in the wilderness. But this was not the worst. At a meeting called expressly for the purpose, Mr. Buckeye was expelled the society, and the member who proposed him publicly reprimanded for so doing. He demanded to know the reason for this summary process, but could understand nothing but "Diable," "Cochon," and "Fourchette." "I always heard," thought Mr. Buckeye, "the French were a capricious people, but this exceeds everything. However, I don't care much about it, only I should like to have had a funeral oration."
Shortly after this catastrophe, Mr. Buckeye had the good fortune to rescue a lady and gentleman from imminent danger. Their carriage had been overturned by some accident, and as it was nobody's business in particular, the good people stood looking on very quietly, while the horses were struggling and kicking furiously. Mr. Buckeye had the generosity as well as presence of mind to relieve the persons inside at some risk to himself, and was rewarded by many thanks from the gentleman, still more from the lady. They insisted on receiving his card, and the next day the gentleman called to invite him to dinner. The lady received him with great cordiality, and kissed him on both cheeks, whereupon Mr. Buckeye thought he had made a conquest. But his usual fate pursued him. The very first mouthful he swallowed after his soup, the lady exclaimed, "O! ciel !" and sunk back on her chair. Monsieur, too, seemed horror-struck, and though they continued to treat him with a constrained civility during the rest of the dinner, he saw they were anxious to get rid of him, and took leave at the first opportunity. Madame never kissed him again on both cheeks, and Monsieur grew so near sighted that he never recognized him afterwards.
"What have I done?" said Mr. Buckeye to a little rusty Frenchman who had stuck by him in all his misfortunes, and occasionally borrowed his money; "What have I done, to merit such treatment from the politest people of the politest city of the politest nation of the world?" The little man approached him cautiously, placed his mouth close to his ear, and whispered in a hollow voice, "YOU EAT WITH A KNIFE INSTEAD OF A SILVER FORK.
"Heavens?" exclaimed Mr. Buckeye; "Is it possible they treat me thus for such a trifle?"
"Trifle," replied the little man, "trifle do you call it, Monsieur? You may gamble, drink, fight, swear, and break all the ten commandments, but you must not eat with a knife instead of a silver fork. You are a lost man if you do."
"Well!" said Mr. Buckeye, "I am glad I know the cause of my misfortunes at last. From this time I shall make a point of eating with a silver fork, and if one won't do I will eat with two. I shall soon recover my lost ground." The little Frenchman shook his head mournfully, and replied with solemn emphasis, "Impossible, Monsieur, impossible. You have lost caste, and can never recover it in Paris till all history and tradition are lost."
"Then I think I had better make tracks towards home as soon as possible." Assurement, Monsieur," replied the little Frenchman, who bade him an affectionate farewell, embraced him, kissed him on both cheeks, and took leave after making a last demonstration on Mr. Buckeye's pocket.
Mr. Buckeye accordingly returned home, and instead of adopting the silver fork, incontinently swore he had rather turn Turk and eat with his fingers, or Chinese and flourish the chopsticks.
BROTHER JONATHAN-though a chip of the old block-has had his habits and character modified by being placed in a different position, and subjected to a new system of discipline from that of the races from whence he sprung. Superficial travellers in America have pronounced the people of the United States to be a heterogeneous medley, without any general features of resemblance or family likeness in habits, manners or character. Never was there a greater blunder. There is no Christian people in the world, of equal numbers, so nearly homogeneous. With a few trifling exceptions, which are not permanent, they all speak one language with a degree of uniformity observed in no other great nation, and their dialect differs much less in the different States than that of England, Scotland and Ireland, or even the adjoining counties of the former. It is the same with all the great continental powers of Europe. In France the old provincial distinctions still remain, in spite of the division into Departments; the inhabitants of the different Provinces or Kingdoms of Spain are indignant at being called Spaniards; Italy is divided into different discordant minor States; Germany comprises nations speaking sixteen different languages; and Russia is half European half Asiatic, half Christian half Pagan, and as the Mississippi boatmen say, a little of the Mussulman. In respect to all the distinctive characteristics that constitute nationality, the United States, though constituting separate sovereignties, at least in regard to their reserved rights, are emphatically one great people, acting in concert in all their foreign relations. Though of an infinite diversity of sects, they are all Christians, believing in one God and one Saviour, and recognising all without exception or preference. Though descended from the most illustrious nations of the world, and having many fathers, whatever trifling differences may prevail among them at first, they in a little time disappear, and the entire mass becomes cemented together by the indissoluble tie of Liberty and Equality. There is no excitement to national jealousies or antipathies where all are equal; and though the Corkonians and Far Downers may occasionally break each other's heads in the indulgence of a national propensity, these distinctions vanish, like spectres at the dawn of day, the moment they begin to feel at home in this world of freedom. The title of American Citizen supersedes all others, and the foreigner, like the lamb in the Fable, chooses for his mother, not the land of his birth, but that of his adoption.
All the great empires of the world have been formed by conquering and incorporating, as far as possible, different nations into one incongruous mass of discordant materials, which being only held together by force, separated into their original identity the moment that force was withdrawn. The wonder is that they lasted so long-not that they did not last longer. The United States, on the contrary, embrace no conquered people-the Indians being removed by purchase-and the late acquisitions from Mexico comprise so small a portion of Spaniards dispersed over an immense surface, that in another generation they will be lost in the deluge of North Americans which will overflow the country. Bound together by a common interest, in one VOL. I.-NO. V.
great joint-stock company, the native and the adopted citizen become gradually fused into one mass, in which the former distinctly predominates. Having none of those homebred causes of collision which distracted them at home, and being no longer stimulated by their rulers to dissensions for political purposes, they forget their old traditional antipathies, and come to live together like brothers of one blood and one lineage. The emigrants slide into the great current, just as the tributary streams of the great father of waters enter that mighty river and are lost forever.
In regard to the sectional divisions of East, West, North, and South, with one exception, there is, we think, but little danger to be apprehended, so long as all continue to enjoy an equal degree of prosperity. The dissensions arising from conflicts of interests, often imaginary, may be likened to those which sometimes occur in family circles, occasioning temporary interruptions of harmony that are soon overpowered by the sense of a common interest in matters of a thousand times more consequence to their prosperity and happiness. When not carried to extremes, these differences rather operate to strengthen the confederation by preserving something like an equilibrium in legislation, and preventing one section from establishing a permanent system of policy injurious to another; for though the stronger party may attempt to impose on the weaker, all experience proves that a combined minority is generally an overmatch for a loose majority. The more people, the more likely they are to be divided; but a minority is almost always kept together by a common interest, and a sense of weakness, unless its leaders are corrupted. But in the midst of these bickerings, which are for the most part only little whirlwinds blown up by ambitious pettifogging politicians, there is among all classes in the United States, except a few whose old colonial feelings are not yet extinct, an innate instinctive attachment to the Union, which can only be extinguished by gross and palpable outrages on the interests, feelings, and character of particular classes or sections. This feeling originates in national pride and national patriotism, combined with a conviction, that, except in extreme cases, no advantages that can possibly result from a dissolution of the Union would in any degree compensate for the evils that would follow in its train. The danger is not so much of a separation of the States, as that they may be bribed into a surrender of their most important rights, by grants of land for purposes of improvements, and other legislative boons, and become absorbed in the great vortex of consolidation. We, for our part, are not afraid of a happy people, who, while enjoying their rights, cherish a perfect confidence in their capacity to maintain them. They may grumble a little occasionally. They may threaten a separation, but will never apply for a divorce.
Foreigners accustomed to the dead calm of despotism, which is only at times interrupted by earthquakes and tornadoes, are perpetually confounded by the language of our newspapers during the progress of an electioneering struggle. They believe that every Presidential contest which, in our popular language, "convulses the whole nation," is the prelude to speedy dissolution. When they hear of a great "Waterloo defeat," and of the enemy being routed, horse, foot, and dragoons, and utterly annihilated, they think there is a great civil war raging, and that a bloody battle has been fought between the contending parties. If not this, they are convinced that every man, if not every woman and child in the United States, is so near a state of spontaneous combustion,