European Days and Ways.
Cincinnati: Jennings & Pye; New York: Eaton & Mains,
James Fowler Rusling, after service in the Union Army
during the American Civil War that saw him rise to the rank of Brevet
Brigadier General, returned to his New Jersey law practice in 1867.
More than thirty years later, towards the end of a long and distinguished
career, Rusling took his first tour of Europe with his wife, son, and
daughter during the summer of 1899. An author best known for his travel
narrative of post-Civil War western America, he took the opportunity
to chronicle this journey as well. The result is an interesting set
of reactions, from a life-long proponent of American greatness and "Manifest
Destiny," to the habits, sights, and cultures of the continent
with which his country now was competing across the world in trade and
empire. Rusling recaptured easily his skills of observation and commentary
seen in his earlier books. Interestingly, he also included in the volume
personal photographs, holiday "snaps," taken with an early
The tour begins with a landing in Naples, directly from New York by
steamship, and proceeds through the great cities of Italy to Lake Como,
through the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and on into Germany. Munich and
Heidelberg left behind, the family travels down the Rhine, all the way
to Amsterdam. The Ruslings visit Brussels, with a side trip to the plains
of Waterloo, and go on to Paris, and finally to England and Scotland.
They reach home in early October 1899. The scenery that seems to make
the deepest impression is in the Alps - Rusling says that one must experience
them to believe them - and the party stays on Lake Como for a week after
only planning a day. The houses and farms of the Rhine valley remind
him of York and Lancaster Counties in Pennsylvania. The peoples of Europe
he divides between the "awake" and the dozing. Milan is "wide
awake" for Italy, for example, while the Swiss are the "Yankees
of Europe" and thus are a "hard working, frugal, religious,
brave, kindly race." Meanwhile, the "modern German is a wide
awake man and will bear watching, even by Brother Jonathan." (p.232)
Political comparisons and the gauging of imperial competition can be
seen in several comments, especially concerning Germany, which Rusling
considers an imperial rival in the Pacific, seemingly still smarting
that the United States has beaten them to the Philippines and Samoa.
Holland, he pronounces, would be better off as a part of Germany.
Comments on culture reveal the quite typical American Puritanism of
his class. Rusling appreciates the art he sees, rarely missing an
to visit a gallery or museum - he finds his favorite in Titian's Assumption
of the Virgin in Venice - but in Paris he "grew tired of
their everlasting worship of the nude . . . the French seem to forget
that a little drapery is sometimes in order - if only a fig leaf or
(p.314) He hears that the Germans of Munich drink 566 liters of beer
per head per year, and Rusling's response is "One of these days,
let us hope, [Munich] will find a better business and a humaner industry."(p.208)
He sees the lack of restraint in the huge outdoor restaurants of
with both men and women smoking and drinking, as "something new
and un-American." He seems in wonder, too, at the two young English
girls his party met who were walking the Alps alone, traveling very
light and covering up to eighteen miles a day. He considers it sad
that there is no collection of memorials to the dead on the battlefield
Waterloo as at Gettysburg, saying, "Only a republic knows how
to treat men as men."
Current events also come in for commentary; he sees a large meeting
in Trafalgar Square on the eve of the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War,
and writes with some passion on the Dreyfus Case - "that hideous
French nightmare" - then rocking France. Catholicism has hurt France,
he opines, and he speaks out on religion, and his hope for Methodism
in Europe. The Ruslings attend services every Sunday on their journey,
even in Catholic churches when no Protestant or English Church is available.
The highlight remains the final stop in England where the family visits
its ancestral village in Lincolnshire and meets with relatives. Arriving
in the British Isles is like being "once more in God's country."
The final two weeks are spent in London, which he calls the greatest
and richest city ever. He does say, though, that as time passes New
York City will have its own Westminster Abbey. Announcing Britain the
best of all nations behind the United States, he confidently predicts
the emergence of a republic there in a few decades.
For wealthy Americans, the grand tour of Europe was not a rare event,
and many others have written of their travels. Rusling, though, as his
other works show, has an observant eye and no hesitation to comment
from his particularly northeastern "Yankee" viewpoint. He
is a patriot who judges all he sees by his homeland and he remains the
spokesman for Manifest Destiny that he was when he wrote his Across
America a quarter-century before. From this point of view, his 1902
volume is - like his Kodak photographs - a valuable snapshot of Europe,
or at least those parts of Europe on the "grand tour," at
the end of a remarkable century of change.