Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lord Acton on William Batchelder Greene

I just read through Acton In America (Shepherdston: Patmos Press, 1979; S. W. Jackman, ed.). It's a delightful, predictably opinionated read. It describes Lord Acton's visit to the US in 1853, with entries covering New York, Boston and Emmitsburg, Maryland. Naturally, he met many of the prominent citizens of the cities. He seems to have liked Orestes Brownson as well as anyone he met. Richard Henry Dana took him to see the workings of the Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention, where he met William B. Greene. He apparently did not see Greene give the speech on the qualification of voters which I wrote about some time ago, but we know exactly to what use he put the passages from Aristotle which Acton mentions.

These are the men, [Dana] says, who made the Revolution. A shoemaker who has made 100,000 dollars was heard with attention though a bad speaker, for he has some influence as a man of business: one half-madman made a loud speech for the equality of all things. Another man shouted a violent speech. Mr. Greene, a doctrinaire, a horrid-looking fellow, shewed Mr. Dana the passages in Aristotle about slavery, which he had copied out of the translation. He advocates women voting and such like.

The official journals tell a slightly different story, but perhaps, in another post, it would be fun to try to identify the "half-madman" and such.

No comments: