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The Education of Henry Adams

Indian Summer (1898-1899)
The summer of the Spanish War began the Indian summer of life to one who had reached
sixty years of age, and cared only to reap in peace such harvest as these sixty years had
yielded. He had reason to be more than content with it. Since 1864 he had felt no such
sense of power and momentum, and had seen no such number of personal friends
wielding it. The sense of solidarity counts for much in one's contentment, but the sense of
winning one's game counts for more; and in London, in 1898, the scene was singularly
interesting to the last survivor of the Legation of 1861. He thought himself perhaps the
only person living who could get full enjoyment of the drama. He carried every scene of
it, in a century and a half since the Stamp Act, quite alive in his mind -- all the
interminable disputes of his disputatious ancestors as far back as the year 1750 -- as well
as his own insignificance in the Civil War, every step in which had the object of bringing
England into an American system. For this they had written libraries of argument and
remonstrance, and had piled war on war, losing their tempers for life, and souring the
gentle and patient Puritan nature of their descendants, until even their private secretaries
at times used language almost intemperate; and suddenly, by pure chance, the blessing
fell on Hay. After two hundred years of stupid and greedy blundering, which no argument
and no violence affected, the people of England learned their lesson just at the moment
when Hay would otherwise have faced a flood of the old anxieties. Hay himself scarcely
knew how grateful he should be, for to him the change came almost of course. He saw
only the necessary stages that had led to it, and to him they seemed natural; but to
Adams, still living in the atmosphere of Palmerston and John Russell, the sudden
appearance of Germany as the grizzly terror which, in twenty years effected what
Adamses had tried for two hundred in vain -- frightened England into America's arms --
seemed as melodramatic as any plot of Napoleon the Great. He could feel only the sense
of satisfaction at seeing the diplomatic triumph of all his family, since the breed existed,
at last realized under his own eyes for the advantage of his oldest and closest ally.
This was history, not education, yet it taught something exceedingly serious, if not
ultimate, could one trust the lesson. For the first time in his life, he felt a sense of possible
purpose working itself out in history. Probably no one else on this earthly planet -- not
even Hay -- could have come out on precisely such extreme personal satisfaction, but as
he sat at Hay's table, listening to any member of the British Cabinet, for all were alike
now, discuss the Philippines as a question of balance of power in the East, he could see
that the family work of a hundred and fifty years fell at once into the grand perspective of
true empire-building, which Hay's work set off with artistic skill. The roughness of the
archaic foundations looked stronger and larger in scale for the refinement and certainty of
the arcade. In the long list of famous American Ministers in London, none could have
given the work quite the completeness, the harmony, the perfect ease of Hay.
Never before had Adams been able to discern the working of law in history, which was
the reason of his failure in teaching it, for chaos cannot be taught; but he thought he had a
personal property by inheritance in this proof of sequence and intelligence in the affairs
of man -- a property which no one else had right to dispute; and this personal triumph left
 
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