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Dicey, Edward. Six Months in the Federal States, Vol. II . London: MacMillan and Co., 1863. [format: book], [genre: travelogue]. Permission: Newberry Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=dicey2.html


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Homeward Bound.

OF my voyage home I have to say but little. The moment I had stepped upon the deck of the good ship Europa, which was to bear me back, my connexion with the New World was severed. In truth, the first walk up and down the quarter-deck of a homeward-bound Cunard steamer, lying alongside an American quay, affords a curious and, to an Englishman, not an unpleasing sensation. A couple of steps across the narrow gangway and you have passed from the New World into the Old. America is still in full view, almost within arm's reach. The great steam ferries are ploughing through the waters round you; the street-railroads are bringing down their heavy loads close to the wharves; the old-fashioned hackney-coaches are lumbering along, loaded with trunks of Transatlantic volume; the air is filled with the shouts of Yankee news-boys; the quays are crowded with sallow American faces, and, perhaps, if you are lucky, amongst the crowd you may see the countenances of kind friends,

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who have made the New World feel like home to you. The day is hot, as only American days are hot, with a dull dead heat; and the sky is blue, as English skies never are blue. And yet, in spite of all this, you are in England; you are lying, it is true, in American waters, you are subject still to the laws of the United States, and three thousand long, dreary, watery miles stretch between you and home; but you are as much in England as if your vessel was a floating island, just detached from the Land's End or the North Foreland. The stewards treat you with that admixture of obsequious politeness and chilling indifference peculiar to English waiters. The officers of the ship, down to the boatswain, regard the natives with a supreme and undisguised conviction of superiority, not given to any one not born within the four seas to attain to. And the captain — well, any country might be proud of him — but by no human possibility could he have been produced anywhere except in England! So by the time you have got out to sea, you begin, almost before the low coast of the eastern sea-board is out of sight, to doubt whether you have ever been away from home, and whether the receding vision of the New World is not a dream. Especially when the vessel begins to roll, an impression grows upon you, that America itself is a sort of "Fata morgana," and that it is an open question whether Columbus really did discover anything beyond that waste of waters.

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That impression has often come over me again in writing these pages. I experience a good deal of that kind of feeling which most of us, I dare say, have felt when we jump off a bathing-machine, and happen to turn the wrong way, so that when the salt water has got out of our eyes, we cannot see the machine we imagined to be close to us. It has struck me frequently since my return, that what I recollect, or fancy I recollect, seeing, must be a delusion of the mind. I saw a country rich, prosperous, and powerful, and am told that I have returned from a ruined, bankrupt, and wretched land. I saw a people eager for war, full of resolution, and confident of success, and learn that this selfsame people has no heart in the straggle, and longs for foreign interference to secure a humiliating peace at any price. I saw great principles at stake, great questions at issue, and learn that in this contest there is no principle involved. These are matters of opinion, in which I may be mistaken; but so much I do know for a fact, that I saw vast armies, composed of as fine troops as the Old World could show — not Irish, nor Germans, but native born Americans; — that I came across the track of great battles, and learnt, by only too palpable an evidence, how bloody and how hard-fought had been the contest; that I knew myself of hundreds and thousands of men of wealth, and station, and education, who had left home, and family, and business, to risk their lives for the cause which, right or wrong, they believed to be

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that of their country. And yet I am still informed that I must be mistaken, because it is notorious that the Americans do not fight at all, that their soldiers are hired mercenaries, and that such qualities as courage and love of country do not exist north of Mason and Dixie's line. I am constrained, therefore, to think, that, as my objectors are wrong in matters of fact, they may be wrong also in matters of opinion. If the impression left upon my mind as to the outlook of the war should differ from the one popularly received in England, I trust I may be excused, on the ground that things look very differently near at hand from what they do at a distance; which view is more likely to be the correct one, I do not presume to say. I never heard so much dogmatic discussion on the comparative beauties of different kinds of scenery as I once did at the baths of Grafrath, where all the company were purblind.

Of this I am convinced, that the one thing required to keep America and England on friendly terms is, that each country should know the other better. It is rare to find an Englishman, who has lived long in America, or an American who has passed much time in England, who has not a feeling of affection for the country which was for a space his home. I lived long enough in the States to understand this feeling. I was prepared, when I went there, to find a great country and a powerful people; but I was not prepared to find a people so kindly and easy-natured, or a country so like our own.

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I should, indeed, be ungrateful, if my recollections of the North were anything but pleasant ones, or my wishes for her welfare not very heartfelt. I know that on the pleasant banks of Staten Island, in the dusty streets of Washington, in the wooded suburbs of Boston, in quiet New England villages, on the banks of the Mississippi, and on the shores of the Western lakes, there are households where these pages will be read, and where the readers, I trust, look upon the writer as a friend. To the inmates of those dwellings, and to all the multitude of persons from whom I received kindnesses in the States, I would take this opportunity of expressing my kindly recollections. Owing in great measure to the assistance I thus received, I was enabled to see the North under more favourable circumstances than falls to the lot of ordinary travellers. It was thus my fortune to behold a great country in a great crisis of its history. The longer I lived there, the more clearly I learnt to see that the cause of the North was the cause of right, and order, and law. Very fast, too, rather by the workings of God's laws than by man's wisdom, it is becoming the cause of freedom and of human rights. There is much, I grant, to offend one in the language of the North — not a little to dishearten one in what has not been done, something to condemn also in what has been done. Still, in this world, you must take the greater good with the lesser evil; and those who believe in freedom and in human progress, must, I think, wish the North God-speed.

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This conviction of mine is independent of the fortunes or misfortunes of war. Success is not the ultimate test of the righteousness of a cause. And thus, since my return, the course of events has strengthened, not impaired, the force of my conviction. I had hoped, indeed, that before these pages were published, I should have had to record some glad augury of success for that free North I have learnt to know and esteem so well. Unfortunately, the fates hitherto have been adverse. If, however, I have been successful in writing anything that may tend, in however small a measure, to allay the unnatural feeling of alienation that exists between two kindred people, who were meant to be the support and protection of each other, I shall be content. With that wish — farewell!

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Dicey, Edward. Six Months in the Federal States, Vol. II . London: MacMillan and Co., 1863. [format: book], [genre: travelogue]. Permission: Newberry Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=dicey2.html
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