Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, February 11, 1890

     5.35 P.M. I found W., his hands folded, a towel upon his lap (he uses a towel for a napkin; always washes mouth and hands after a meal)—contemplating the hazy, dampened western sky. He greeted me in his wonted way— "Ah! it is Horace!"—hand extended. Said he had been out—more than an hour.

     A letter on the table from McClure, of the newspaper syndicate. "He writes that he has somewhere a department for young folks—in his charge to fill—wants something from me. I am not at all certain I can move myself—or will be moved—to some utterance, reminiscence, statement. We shall see: see what we see," he continued.

     He was quite "riled," as he said, "to see that Charles Emory Smith's place as Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia is assured." Adding: "Minister Plenipotentiaries are humbugs anyway—thorough shows, shams, superfluities—undemocratic. A good charge d'affaires would serve all the purposes of such a minister: the ornamentation could very well be abated." And he instanced "Marcy's pronunciamento, so to call it, 25 years ago or more—I forget who was President then—Marcy absolutely directed that our ministers were not to wear dress suits on reception days." &c. And he told of one of his own friends, a diplomat, "who went to the King of France in his dress suit—to France, the best of all with the

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right to be called proper, if propriety can anywhere be predicated."
Ministers were "remnants of our older era—survive because they had been known for a thousand years and no one here was brave enough to attack it—as [also] the electoral college, which rose out of fears of the populace. But America is assured, apart from politicians, pro or con—or ministers—or bluster. In the masses [there is] no want of virility—sanity—that is America's hope."

     W. asked amusingly: "What would we do without the sinners? Take them out of literature and it would be barren."

     He had taken much interest in the accounts of Sherman's 70th birthday. Spoke of Johnston as "still a youth, though grey: a characteristic American of the sort that never grow old—are intrepidly young to the end." Gave me Morse's letter, which he had laid aside as promised. I read him a letter received from Brinton today in which B. spoke of the various requests to print his Bruno essay as a pamphlet—that he had resolved to do so—and wished through me to ask W. for a line or two to go along with it. W. said: "I shall keep that in mind and do it if I can—if the spirit moves me. You see how my Quakerism persists!"

      "As with a child—so with America: so much consists not in what is going on today, or tomorrow—but in a man's, a nation's genesis—what he brings for thousands of years back—what natively enriches, buttresses, him."


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