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The occurrence of the railway disaster, by fire, at Versailles, in 1842, when a number of lives were lost, in of consequence a regulation by which the passengers were locked in the cars, drew forth from Smith several characteristic letters on the subject, addressed to The Morning Chronicle and Sir Robert Peel.
The year 1843 produced Sydney Smith's famous Petition to Congress, and Letters on American Debts. The failure of several States in the midst of financial embarrassments, to make provision for the payment of interest due on bonds, with whatever extenuating circumstances it may have been attended, was a pressing evil. Judged by the lower test of expediency, it was a political blunder. The delay, fortunately, was soon enough terminated, in most of the cases, to ward off the severe verdict of the world which would have attended upon persistance in the neglect. Smith was the holder of certain Pennsylvania Bonds. He missed his semi-annual interest on pay-day; heard talk of the ill word “repudiation,” and took up his pen in illustration of the sound principles of pecuniary obligation and national faith. The cause was just, and his wit was trenchant. He made the most of the subject, as he had a right to do; indeed, he made so much of it, that the laugh was rather turned against him, when it was found over how slight a personal loss he had contrived to raise so loud a storm of indignation. He sold his shares at a discount, and was damaged a small matter by the operation. The principle, however, was the same. If the "drab-coloured men" had taken but two pence in the spirit of robbery, they would have been justly exposed to the vituperatives of all the languages of the civilized world. Sydney Smith's extravagance of statement and exaggerating invective, the riot of his humour, while increasing the efficiency, abated, however, from the acerbity of his denunciations. As to the principle involved, there could be but one opinion for both sides of the Atlantic; and it was generally considered, on this side, that Sydney Smith's Letters did good service. In other days, when America had been in need of English opinion, Sydney Smith, it should not be forgotten, had
stood forth her resolute eulogist and champion. It was with him that the very complimentary phrase applied to the United States, originated, "a magnificent spectacle of human happiness."* The entrance of the demon Repudiation on the scene disturbed the show.t
* Article, America, Ed. Rev., July, 1824. Letter to Jeffrey, Nov. 23, 1818. There is a stanza in an amusing, though reckless, English squib of the time on the topic, introducing Sydney Smith :
"A NEW SONG TO AN OLD TUNE.
Yankee Doodle spends it,
And then he snaps his fingers at
The jolly flat who lends it.
Ask him when he means to pay,
He shows no hesitation,
But says he'll take the shortest way
And that's Repudiation!
Chorus: Yankee Doodle borrows cash, &c.
"Yankee vows that every State
Is free and independent:
And if they paid each other's debts,
There'd never be an end on't.
They keep distinct till "settling" comes,
"Lending cash to Illinois,
Once was quite a mania.
Of all the States 'tis hard to say
The reverend joker of St. Paul's
And canons put together!
The Pennsylvania bonds supplied a frequent theme to Sydney Smith, in his conversations and letters, grave and gay. the American papers, and found himself a well-abused "The Americans, I see,” he said, "call me a Minor Canon. They are abusing me dreadfully to-day: they call me Xantippe; they might, at least, have known my sex: and they say I am eightyfour." To the Countess Grey, he writes: "There is nothing in the crimes of kings worse than this villainy of democracy." To Mrs. Grote: "My bomb has fallen very successfully in America, and the list of killed and wounded is extensive. I have several quires of paper sent me every day, calling me monster, thief, atheist, deist, etc. Duff Green sent me three pounds of cheese, and a Captain Morgan a large barrel of American apples."
A Captain Morgan is the Captain Morgan, of New York, late of the packet ship Southampton, whose genial personal qualities,
"He tells 'em they are clapping on
And when they come to go to war
They'd better stop our dividends,
"What's the use of moneyed friends
"Great and free Amerikee
With all the world is vying,
APPLES FROM A SOLVENT STATE.
-but as a
appreciated by many Atlantic travellers and intimates at home, have long endeared him to such honourable literary and artistic friends and acquaintances abroad, as Dickens, Thackeray, Leslie and his brother-artists of the Sketching Club of London. To Captain Morgan we are indebted for the two following letters, now first published, addressed to him by Sydney Smith-touching the apples aforesaid, and American obligations generally. The first, which we also present, in a fac-simile of the original, is dated at the writer's London residence, in December, 1843. It reads: "Sir: I am much obliged by your present of Apples, which I consider as apples of Concord not discord. I have no longer any pecuniary interest that your countrymen should pay their debtssincere friend to America, I earnestly hope they may do so." The other is dated Combe Florey, January 14, 1844: "Sir: I should have written long since to have thanked you for your Apples, but unfortunately lost your address. It lately occurred to me, that I could find you by means of our friend, Mr. Bates. The apples have been eaten with universal applause, after I had assured the company that they came from a Solvent State. My opinion (worth something, not much), is, that Pennsylvania will not pay. I heard my friend Stokes upon the subject, but his facts and his arguments led me to conclusions very opposite to his own. I sincerely hope that you have only a theoretical interest in the subject."
In spite of skepticism, the apples were doubtless eaten with good will. Sydney Smith, though tenacious of his satire and his jests, listened with interest to the representations of Mr. Edward Everett, then in England, and read with satisfaction the fair-minded letter published by Mr. George Ticknor in the Boston Daily Ad
It was this year, 1843, which brought to the Canon of St. Paul's, too late in life to add much to his usefulness or enjoyments, a large His brother Courtenay died without a will, It is given in Lady Holland's Memoir, pP··
increase of wealth.