A Dialogue in Hadesby James Johnstone
General Wolfe:—I can assure you, sir, I was equally impatient to
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The Marquis de Montcalm:—Having ardently desired a conversation with you, sir, upon the operations of a campaign which proved to both of us so fatal, I have sought you continually amongst the shades ever since I descended here, where I soon followed you.
General Wolfe:—I can assure you, sir, I was equally impatient to meet with you. Some of my countrymen, arrived here since the battle of the 13th September, informed me that there was only an interval of a few hours in our sharing the same hard fate. They gave me some accounts of that event which joined Canada to the British dominions; but as they had a very imperfect knowledge of the circumstances, and entirely ignorant of your plan of operations, I have little information from them, and I am heartily glad that chance at last has procured me the pleasure of seeing you.
Montcalm:—Will you permit me, sir, before our conversation becomes serious, to offer some reflections upon the difference in our destiny. Your nation rendered you the greatest honours; your body was conveyed to London, and buried there magnificently in Westminster Abbey, amongst your kings. Generous Britons erected to your memory a superb monument over your grave, at4 public expense; and your name, most dear to your countrymen, is ever in their mouths, accompanied with praise and regret. But in my country what a strange indifference? What sensation did my death make upon my compatriots? My conduct denounced and censured without measure, is the continual subject of conversation for gossiping fools and knaves, who form the majority in all communities, and prevail against the infinitely small number to be found of honest, judicious, impartial men, capable of reflection. The Canadians and savages who knew the uprightness of my soul, ever devoted to the interests of my beloved king and country, they alone rendered me justice, with a few sincere friends, who, not daring to oppose themselves openly to the torrent of my enemies, bewailed in secret my unhappy fate, and shed on my tomb their friendly tears.
Wolfe:—In this blessed abode, inaccessible to prejudice, I vow to you, sir, I envy your condition, notwithstanding the horrible injustice and ingratitude of your countrymen. What can give more pleasure and self-satisfaction than the esteem and approbation of honest men? You were severely regretted and lamented by all those who were capable of discerning and appreciating your superior merit, talents, and eminent qualities. Disinterested persons of probity must respect your virtue. All officers versed in the art of war will justify your military tactics, and your operations can be blamed only by the ignorant. Were my army consulted, they would be as many witnesses in your favour. Your humanity towards prisoners won you the heart of all my soldiers. They saw with gratitude and veneration your continual care and vigilance to snatch them from out of the hands of the Indians, when those barbarians were ready to cut their throats, and prepared to make of human flesh their horrible banquets; refusing me even tears at my death, they weeped and bewailed your hard fate; I see in my mausoleum the proof only of5 human weakness! What does that block of marble avail to me in my present state? The monument remains, but the conqueror has perished. The affection, approbation and regret of the worthiest part of mankind is greatly preferable and much above the vain honours conferred by a blind people, who judge according to the event, and are incapable to analyse the operations. I was unknown to them before the expedition which I commanded in Canada; and if fortune, to whom I entirely owe my success, had less favoured me, perhaps, like Byng, I would have been the victim of a furious and unruly populace. The multitude has and can have success only for the rule of their judgment.
Montcalm:—I am much obliged to you, sir, for your favourable opinion of me. Let us leave weak mortals to crawl from error to error, and deify to-day what they will condemn to-morrow. It is at present, when the darkness is dispelled from before our eyes, that we can contemplate at leisure the passions of men, who move as the waves of the sea, push on each other and often break upon the rocks; and in our present state, when all prejudices are at an end, let us examine impartially the operations of 1759, which was the epocha of the loss to France of her northern colonies in America.
Wolfe:—Most willingly, sir, and to show my frankness, I own to you I was greatly surprised on arriving with the English fleet at Quebec without meeting with any opposition by the French in the river St. Lawrence.
Montcalm:—You had reason to be so. It was not my fault that you did not meet with many obstacles in your way.
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