Слике страница
PDF
ePub

quadrennial scramble after office which so peculiarly characterise the “Home Affairs” of the United States.

The Southern States of America cherish slavery, not merely as a vast investment of personal wealth, but also as a source of political power under a clause of the Federal Constitution, whereby the representation of slaveholders in the National Congress is based, in part, upon the number of their slaves. To increase their

power

in the Federal Government, therefore, as well as to insure the perpetuity of slavery, by extending the system from the old wornout lands which it has impoverished, and where, in the course of time, it would perish from inanition, to virgin soil, it is and ever has been their policy to acquire new territory, to be cut up, in due season, into new slave states; and this they call “extending the area of Freedom !" It was this policy which led to the conquest of Texas, a province of Mexico where slavery bad been abolished, and the subsequent annexation of Texas to the Union. A still further acquisition of Mexican territory was then demanded, and a pretext for a war with that Government was sought and found. The war was opposed, not only by the Abolitionists, but by the Whig party—then the great opposition party of the country, as the Republican is now—as a war for the extension of slavery, wicked, irrational, and disgraceful in a free country.

It was at this period, and in antagonism to this war, and the principle of slavery which accompanied it, that The Biglow Papers were written. They at first appeared in the newspapers of the day, where they attracted immediate attention, exerting considerable influence upon the people, as was the case with the famous Letters of Major Jack Downing, the humor of which, by the way, is very meagre when compared with the present collection. On one occasion, the election of a Governor for the State of Massachusetts was decided by a few of these witty Biglow verses appearing in a local journal. They favored the return of a Mr. Briggs; the laugh was turned against his opponents, and he was chosen as Governor. *

The principal characters introduced are Hosea Biglow and his father, Ezekiel Biglow, both commonsense but home-spun farmers of New England; Birdofredum Sawin, a volunteer in the Mexican army; and the Reverend Homer Wilbur, an elderly gentleman," with infinite faculty of sermonizing, muscularized by long practice”—a modern Parson Adams. The “ Notices of an Independent Press” at the

* See page 54.

a

end are not the least amusing part of the book, and exhibit admirable examples of the various styles of Western newspaper criticism. The critique from The World-Harmonic-Æolian-Attachment is perfect

in its way.

As an exponent of the tone of thought, popular humor, and dialect of New England, in which phraseology these papers are written, the work is by far the most meritorious that has ever appeared. The peculiar colloquialisms, however, it is only just to add, though common enough in the rural districts of the six North-Eastern States of the Union, no more characterise the people as a whole than those of Yorkshire do the people of the United Kingdom.

The editor of the present edition has added here and there a few notes explanatory of persons and subjects peculiarly American. These are enclosed within brackets, and bear his initials. Should the reader meet with an obscure or foreign expression, unexplained by any foot-note, the Glossary at the end had better be consulted.

JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN.

Piccadilly, Oct. 25th, 1859.

THE

B i glow Pape r s,

EDITED,

WITH AN INTRODUCTION, NOTES, GLOSSARY,

AND COPIOUS INDEX,

BY

HOMER WILBUR, A.M., PASTOR OF THE FIRST CHURCH IN JAALAM, AND (PROSPECTIVE) MEMBER OF MANY LITERARY, LEARNED AND SCIENTIFIO SOCIETIES,

(for which see page xiii.)

The ploughman's whistle, or the trivial flute,
Finds more respect than great Apollo's lute.

Quarles's Emblems, B. 11. B. 8.
Margaritas, munde porcine, calcâsti : en, siliquas accipe.

Jac. Car. Fil. ad Pub, Leg. $ 1.

[blocks in formation]

LONDON : REPRINTED BY JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN,

PICCADILLY.

1861.

« ПретходнаНастави »