and through the marsh, they launched them on the Wisconsin, bade farewell to the waters that flowed to the St. Lawrence, and committed themselves to the current that was to bear them they knew not whither,–perhaps to the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps to the South Sea or the Gulf of California. They glided calmly down the tranquil stream, by islands choked with trees and matted with entangling grape-vines; by forests, groves, and prairies,–the parks and pleasure-grounds of a prodigal nature; by thickets and marshes and broad bare sand-bars; under the shadowing trees, between whose tops looked down from afar the bold brow of some woody bluff. At night, the bivouac,–the canoes inverted on the bank, the flickering fire, the meal of bison-flesh or venison, the evening pipes and slumber beneath the stars; and when in the morning they embarked again, the mist hung on the river like a bridal veil; then melted before the sun, till the glassy water and the languid woods basked breathless in the sultry glare.
On the 17th of June, they saw on their right the broad meadows, bounded in the distance by rugged hills, where now stand the town and fort of Prairie du Chien. Before them, a wide and rapid current coursed athwart their way, by the foot of lofty heights wrapped thick in forests. They had found what they sought, and “with a joy,” writes Marquette, “which I cannot express,” they steered forth their canoes on the eddies of the Mississippi.
Turning southward, they paddled down the stream, through a solitude unrelieved by the faintest trace of man. A large fish, apparently one of the huge cat-fish of the Mississippi, blundered against Marquette’s canoe with a force which seems to have startled him; and once, as they drew in their net, they caught a “spade-fish,” whose eccentric appearance greatly astonished them. At length, the buffalo began to appear, grazing in herds on the great prairies which then bordered the river; and Marquette describes the fierce and stupid look of the old bulls, as they stared at the intruders through the tangled mane which nearly blinded them.
* * * * *
=_John Gilmary Shea, 1824-. _=
From “The History of Catholic Missions among the Indians.”
=_147._= DIFFICULTIES OF THE ENTERPRISE.
The discovery of America, like every other event in the history of the world, had, in the designs of God, the great object of the salvation of mankind. In that event, more clearly, perhaps, than it is often given to us here below, we can see and adore that Providence which thus gave to millions, long sundered from the rest of man by pathless oceans, the light of the gospel, and the proffered boon of redemption….
The field was one as yet unmatched for extent and difficulty. That region now studded with cities and towns, traversed in every direction by the panting steam-car or lightning telegraph, was then an almost unbroken forest, save where the wide prairie rolled its billows of grass towards the western mountains, or was lost in the sterile, salt, and sandy plains of the southwest. No city raised to heaven spire, dome, or minaret; no plough turned up the rich, alluvial soil; no metal dug from the bowels of the earth had been fashioned into instruments to aid man in the arts of peace and war….
The simplest arts of civilized life were unknown. In one little section of the Gila and Rio Grande, the people spun and wove a native cotton, manufactured a rude pottery, and lived in houses or castle-towns of unburnt bricks. Elsewhere the canoe or cabin of bark or hides, and the arabesque mat, denoted the highest point of social progress.
Elsewhere the whole country was inhabited by tribes of a nomadic character, rarely collected in villages except at particular seasons, or for specific objects, though here and there were found more sedentary tribes in villages of bark, encircled by walls of earth, or palisades of wood, whose institutions, commercial spirit, and agriculture, superior to that of the wild rovers, seemed to show the remnant of some more civilized tribe in a state of decadence. Around each isolated tribe lay an unbroken wilderness extending for miles on every side, where the braves roamed, hunters alike of beasts and men. So little intercourse or knowledge of each other existed, so desolate was the wilderness that a vagabond tribe might wander from one extreme of the continent to another, and language alone could tell the nation to which they belonged.
The whole country was thus occupied by comparatively small, but hostile tribes, so numerous, that almost every river and every lake has handed down the name of a distinct nation. In form, in manners, and in habits, these tribes presented an almost uniform appearance: language formed the great distinctive mark to the European, though the absence of a feather or a line of paint disclosed to the native the tribe of the wanderer whom he met.
The country itself presented a thousand obstacles: there was danger from flood, danger from wild beasts, danger from the roving savage, danger from false friends, danger from the furious rapids on rivers, danger of loss of sight, of health, of use of motion and of limbs, in the new, strange life of an Indian wigwam….
Once established in a tribe, the difficulties were increased. After months, nay, years, of teaching, the missionaries found that the fickle savage was easily led astray; never could they form pupils to our life and manners. The nineteenth century failed, as the seventeenth failed, in raising up priests from among the Iroquois or the Algonquins; and at this day a pupil of the Propaganda, who disputed in Latin on theses of Peter Lombard, roams at the head of a half-naked band in the billowy plains of Nebraska.
[Footnote 44: This writer is much distinguished for his numerous works, most of which relate to the early missions of the Roman Catholic church in America. He is a native of New York.]
* * * * *
From “Introduction to Early Voyages,” etc.
=_148._= EXPLORATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.
Many a river lives embalmed in history and in historic verse. The Euphrates, the Nile, the Jordan, the Tiber, and the Rhine typify the course of empires and dynasties. Countries have been described _per flumina_, but these streams possess renown rather from some city that frowned on their currents, or some battle fought and won on their banks. The great River of our West, from its immense length and the still increasing importance of its valley, possesses a history of its own. Its discovery by the Spanish adventurers, a Cabeza de Vaca, a De Soto, a Tristan, who reached, crossed, or followed it, is its period of early romance, brilliant, brief, and tragic. Its exploration by Marquette and La Salle follows,–work of patient endurance and investigation, still tinged with that light of heroism that hovers around all who struggle with difficulty and adversity to attain a great and useful end. Then come the early voyages depicting the successive stages of its banks from a wilderness to civilization.
The death of La Salle in Texas in his attempt to reach Illinois closes the chapter of exploration. Iberville opens a new period by his voyage to the mouth of the Mississippi, which crowning the previous efforts, gave the valley of the great river to civilization, Christianity, and progress. The river had become an object of rivalry. English, French, and Spanish at the same moment sought to secure its mouth, but fortune favored the bold Canadian, and the white flag reared by La Salle was planted anew.
… At the moment when these narratives take us to the valley of the Mississippi, that immense territory presented a strange contrast to its present condition. From its head waters amid the lakes of Minnesota to its mouth; from its western springs in the heart of the Rocky mountains to its eastern cradle in the Alleghenies, all was yet in its primeval state. The Europeans had but one spot, Tonty’s little fort; no white men roamed it but the trader or the missionary. With a sparse and scattered Indian population, the country teeming with buffalo, deer, and game, was a scene of plenty. The Indian has vanished from its banks with the game that he pursued. The valley numbers as many states now as it did white men then; a busy, enterprising, adventurous, population, numbering its millions, has swept away the unprogressive and unassimilating red man. The languages of the Illinois, the Quapaw, the Tonica, the Natchez, the Ouma, are heard no more by the banks of the great water; no calumet now throws round the traveller its charmed power; the white banner of France floated long to the breeze, but with the flag of England and the standard of Spain all disappeared we may say within a century. For fifty years one single flag met the eye, and appealed to the heart of the inhabitants of the shores of the Mississippi. Two now divide it: let us hope that the altered flag may soon resume its original form, and meet the heart’s warm response at the month as at the source of the Mississippi.
[Footnote 45: In allusion to the Rebellion.]
* * * * *
=_John Gorham Palfrey, 1796-._= (Manual, pp. 504, 532.)
From the “History of New England.”
=_149._= HAPPINESS OF WINTHROP’S CLOSING YEARS.
He was greatly privileged in living so long. Just before he died, that ecclesiastical arrangement had been made, which he might naturally hope would preserve the churches of New England in purity, peace, and strength, to remote times. Religious and political dissensions, which had disturbed and threatened the infant Church and the forming State, appeared to be effectually composed. The tribunals, carefully constituted for the administration of impartial and speedy justice, understood and did their duty, and commanded respect. The education of the generations which were to succeed had been provided for with an enlightened care. The College had bountifully contributed its ripe first-fruits to the public service; and the novel system of a universal provision of the elements of knowledge at the public cost, had been inaugurated with all circumstances of encouragement.
A generation was coming forward which remembered nothing of what Englishmen had suffered in New England for want of the necessaries and comforts of life. The occupations of industry were various and remunerative. Land was cheap, and the culture of it yielded no penurious reward to the husbandman; while he who chose to sell his labor was at least at liberty to place his own estimate upon it, and found it always in demand. The woods and waters were lavish of gifts which were to be had simply for the taking. The white wings of commerce, in their long flight to and from the settler’s home, wafted the commodities which afford enjoyment and wealth to both sender and receiver. The numerous handicrafts, which in its constantly increasing division of labor, a thriving society employs, found liberal recompense; and manufactures on a larger scale were beginning to invite accumulations of capital and associated labor.
The Confederacy of the Four Colonies was an humble, but a substantial, power in the world. It was known to be such by its French, Dutch, and savage neighbors; by the alienated communities on Narragansett Bay; and by the rulers of the mother country.
During Winthrop’s last ten years, nowhere else in the world had Englishmen been so happy as under the generous government which his mind inspired and regulated. What one mind could do for a community’s well-being, his had done. The prosecution of the issues he had wrought for was now to be committed to the wisdom and courage of a younger generation, and to the course of events, under the continued guidance of a propitious Providence.
ESSAYISTS, MORALISTS, AND REFORMERS.
=_Joseph Dennie, 1768-1812._= (Manual, p. 497.)
From “The Lay Preacher.”
=_150._= REFLECTION’S ON THE SEASONS.
“Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun.”
The sensitive Gray, in a frank letter to his friend West, assures him that, when the sun grows warm enough to tempt him from the fireside, he will, like all other things, be the better for his influence; for the sun is an old friend, and an excellent nurse, &c. This is an opinion which will be easily entertained by every one who has been cramped by the icy hand of Winter, and who feels the gay and renovating influence of Spring. In those mournful months when vegetables and animals are alike coerced by cold, man is tributary to the howling storm and the sullen sky, and is, in the phrase of Johnson, a “slave to gloom;” but when the earth is disencumbered of her load of snows, and warmth is felt, and twittering swallows are heard, he is again jocund and free. Nature renews her charter to her sons…. Hence is enjoyed, in the highest luxury,–
“Day, and the sweet approach of even and morn, And sight of vernal bloom and summer’s rose, And flocks, and herds, and human face divine.”
It is nearly impossible for me to convey to my readers an idea of the “vernal delight” felt at this period by the Lay Preacher, far declined in the vale of years. My spectral figure, pinched by the rude gripe of January, becomes as thin as that “dagger of lath” employed by the vaunting Falstaff, and my mind, affected by the universal desolation of winter, is nearly as vacant of joy and bright ideas as the forest is of leaves and the grove is of song. Fortunately for my happiness, this is only periodical spleen. Though in the bitter months, surveying my attenuated body, I exclaim with the melancholy prophet, “My leanness, my leanness! woe is me!” and though, adverting to the state of my mind, I behold it “all in a robe of darkest grain,” yet when April and May reign in sweet vicissitude, I give, like Horace, care to the winds, and perceive the whole system excited by the potent stimulus of sunshine…. I have myself in winter felt hostile to those whom I could smile upon in May, and clasp to my bosom in June.
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=_William Gaston, 1778-1844._=
From “Essays and Addresses.”
=_151._= THE IMPORTANCE OF INTEGRITY.
The first great maxim of human conduct–that which it is all-important to impress on the understandings of young men, and recommend to their hearty adoption–is, above all things, in all circumstances, and under every emergency, to preserve a clean heart and an honest purpose…. Without it, neither genius nor learning, neither the gifts of God, nor human exertions, can avail aught for the accomplishment of the great objects of human existence. Integrity is the crowning virtue,–integrity is the pervading principle which ought to regulate, guide, control, and vivify every impulse, device, and action. Honesty is sometimes spoken of as a vulgar virtue; and perhaps, that honesty which barely refrains from outraging the positive rules ordained by society for the protection of property, and which ordinarily pays its debts and performs its engagements, however useful and commendable a quality, is not to be numbered among the highest efforts of human virtue. But that integrity which, however tempting the opportunity, or however secure against detection, no selfishness nor resentment, no lust of power, place, favor, profit, or pleasure, can cause to swerve from the strict rule of right, is the perfection of man’s moral nature. In this sense, the poet was right when he pronounced “an honest man’s the noblest work of God.” It is almost inconceivable what an erect and independent spirit this high endowment communicates to the man, and what a moral intrepidity and vivifying energy it imparts to his character…. Erected on such a basis, and built up of such materials, fame is enduring. Such is the fame of our Washington–of the man “inflexible to ill, and obstinately just.” While, therefore, other monuments, intended to perpetuate human greatness, are daily mouldering into dust, and belie the proud inscriptions which they bear, the solid, granite pyramid of his glory lasts from age to age, imperishable, seen afar off, looming high over the vast desert, a mark, a sign, and a wonder, for the wayfarers though this pilgrimage of life.
[Footnote 46: A prominent lawyer and statesman of North Carolina.]
* * * * *
=_Jesse Buel, 1778-1839._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From “The Farmer’s Instructor.”
=_152._= EXTENT AND DEFECTS OF AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.
We have associated, gentlemen, to increase the pleasures and profits of rural labor, to enlarge the sphere of useful knowledge, and, by concentrating our energies, to give them greater effect in advancing the public good. In no country does the agricultural class bear so great a proportion to the whole population as in this. In England one-third of the inhabitants only are employed in husbandry; in France, two-thirds; in Italy, a little more than three-fourths; while in the United States the agricultural portion probably exceeds five-sixths. And in no country does the agricultural population exercise such a controlling political power, contribute so much to the wealth, or tend so strongly to give an impress to the character of a nation as in the United States. Hence it may be truly said of us that our agriculture is our nursing mother, which nurtures, and gives growth, and wealth, and character to our country…. Knowing no party, and confined to no sect, its benefits and its blessings, like dews from heaven, fall upon all.
… Our agriculture is greatly defective. It is susceptible of much improvement. How shall we effect this improvement? The old are _too old to learn_, or, rather, to unlearn what have been the habits of their lives. The young cannot learn as they ought to learn, and as the public interests require, because they have no suitable school for their instruction. We have no place where they can learn the _principles_ upon which the _practice_ of agriculture is based, none where they can be instructed in all the modern improvements of the art.
Much injury has been done to the cause of agriculture by sanguine speculations, which have only led to expense and disappointments; but all works on agriculture are not of that character; nor should it be forgotten that theory is the parent of practical knowledge, and that the very systems which farmers themselves adopt, were originally founded upon those theories which they so much affect to despise. Neither can it be denied that systems grounded upon theory alone, unsupported by experiment, are properly viewed with distrust; for the most plausible reasoning upon the operations of nature, without accompanying proof deduced from facts, may lead to a wrong conclusion, and it is often difficult to separate that which is really useful, from that which is merely visionary…. Prudence, therefore, dictates the necessity of caution; but ignorance is opposed to every change, from the mere want of judgment to discriminate between that which is purely speculative, and that which rests upon a more solid foundation.
* * * * *
=_Robert Walsh, 1784-1859._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From “Didactics, Social, Literary, &c.”
=_153._= FALSE SYMPATHY WITH CRIMINALS.
Whatever the impulse to guilt, some suppression or aberration of the reason may ever be alleged and admitted. In this mode, however, sentimentalists might argue or whine away the whole body of crimes and punishments. It is the duty of every true friend of humanity and order, to protest against perverted sensibilities or sophistical refinements, which find warrant or apology for depraved appetites,–for the worst distemperature of the mind, and the most fatal catastrophes,–in natural propension, and unrestrained feeling. Spurious sympathy is a more prolific evil than sanguinary rigor, useless and pernicious as the latter is, in our humble opinion. Public executions do more harm than good,–but are not worse than morbid public commiseration and entreaty for criminals, to whom the real justice of the law has been applied, after fair and merciful trial….
Many of the worst criminals, who, in different ages and countries, have justly suffered ignominious death on the wheel, the block, or the gallows, were men of “extraordinary character,” of singular acuteness, of the most decided spirit. To acknowledge this fact is not to applaud their conduct, or admire their general ultimate character….
We have constantly remembered what we early read in the works of Mr. Burke, that it is the propensity of degenerate minds to admire or worship _splendid wickedness_; that, with too many persons, the ideas of justice and morality are fairly conquered and overpowered by guilt when it is grown gigantic, and happens to be associated with the lustre of genius, the glare of fashion, or the robes of power. Against this species of degeneracy or illusion it has been our uniform endeavor to guard ourselves, and our conscientious practice to warn and exhort others. The integrity and delicacy of the moral sense, whether in individuals or communities, form a most important subject of the care of all public writers and speakers, in all transactions by which, or the history or treatment of which, the public, judgment and feelings may be affected. Hence, when mail robbers or murderers are to be tried or executed, we should be disposed to avoid all extraordinary bustle, or concern, or voluminous details about their fate; we should deem it the true policy of practical ethics to abstain from everything calculated to produce adventitious interest or consequence for the culprits. It is not with pleasure that we hear of the crowds that besiege the door of the court-room, or see in the newspapers the many columns of evidence, with an endless repetition of trifling circumstances, any more than we can rejoice for the cause of moral and social order when convicted highwaymen or murderers are carried to the gallows as _saints_, and hung amidst vast assemblages, either merely indulging a callous curiosity, or losing all the horror of their offences in emotions of compassion or admiration, awakened by the dramatic nature of the whole scene.
* * * * *
=_Thomas S. Grimke, 1786-1834._=
From “Addresses, Scientific and Literary.”
=_154._= LITERARY EXCELLENCE OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE.
The translation of the Bible, in the reign of James I., is the most remarkable and interesting event in the history of translations…. The great excellence of the translation is due to six considerations. _First_, it was made under a very solemn sense of the important duty devolved on those who were thus selected. Hence arose that prevailing air of dignity, gravity, simplicity, which is so conspicuous. _Secondly_, the translators came to the task looking to the _thoughts_, not to the _style_. Their object was not that of all other translators, to imitate and rival the beauty of _style_. Their sole object was to render faithfully, and in a plain, appropriate style, the _thoughts_ of the sacred writers. Hence they became _thoroughly imbued with the spirit_ of the original, and gave an incomparably better version of the Hebrew and Greek Testaments than any or all of them together could have done of any classic. Had each of them left us translations of some classic, I hesitate not to say they would not now have been found in any library but as mere curiosities. _Thirdly_, the number of persons employed contributed very much to prevent any _personal_ style from prevailing, and gave to the whole an air of plain, simple uniformity. _Fourthly_, the era was providential in one important view. As the translation was made before all the bitterness of sectarian spirit distracted the English Protestant church, it was executed far less with a view to party differences than could have been the case at any time afterwards. _Fifthly_, fortunately the only great religious difference that could have affected it was the dispute with the Catholic church, and, as to that, all Protestants were agreed in England on every important point. _Sixthly_, the English language was then at the happiest stage of its progress, with all the strength, simplicity, and. clearness of the elder literature, whilst, at the same time, it was free from the cant of the age of Charles I. and Cromwell, from the vulgarity and levity of that of Charles II., and from the artificial character of that of Anne.
Such a translation is an illustrious monument of the age, the nation, the language. It is, properly speaking, less a translation than an original, having most of the merit of the _former_ as to _style_, and all the merit of the _latter_ as to _thought_. It is the noblest, best, most finished classic of the English tongue.
[Footnote 47: A native of South Carolina, distinguished in the law and in literature.]
* * * * *
=_Henry C. Carey, 1793-._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From “Principles of Social Science.”
=_155._= AGRICULTURE AS A SCIENCE.
That agriculture may become a science, it is indispensable that man always repay to the great bank from which he has drawn his food, the debt he thereby has contracted. The earth, as has been already said, gives nothing, but is ready to lend everything; and when the debts are punctually repaid, each successive loan is made on a larger scale; but when the debtor fails in punctuality, his credit declines, and the loans are gradually diminished, until at length he is turned out from house and home. No truth in the whole range of science is more readily susceptible of proof than that the community which limits itself to the exportation of raw produce must end by the exportation of men, and those men the slaves of nature, even when not actually bought and sold by their fellow men.
… With the growth of commerce, the necessity for moving commodities back, and forth steadily declines, with constant improvement in the machinery of transportation, and diminution in the risk of losses of the kind that are covered by insurance against dangers of the sea, or those of fire. The treasures of the earth then become developed, and stone and iron take the place of wood in all constructions, while the exchanges between the miner of coal and of iron–of the man who quarries the granite, and him who raises the food–rapidly increase in quantity, and diminish the necessity for resorting to the distant market.
* * * * *
=_Edmund Ruffin, 1793-1863._=
From “An Essay on Calcarcous Manures.”
=_156._= IMPROVEMENT OF ACID SOILS.
Nearly all the woodland now remaining in lower Virginia, and also much of the land which has long been arable, is rendered unproductive by acidity; and successive generations have toiled on such land, almost without remuneration, and without suspecting that their worst virgin land was then richer than their manured lots appeared to be. The cultivator of such soil, who knows not its peculiar disease, has no other prospect than a gradual decrease of his always scanty crops. But if the evil is once understood, and the means of its removal are within his reach, he has reason to rejoice that his soil was so constituted as to be preserved from the effects of the improvidence of his forefathers, who would have worn out any land not almost indestructible. The presence of acid, by restraining the productive powers of the soil, has, in a great measure, saved it from exhaustion; and after a course of cropping, which would have utterly ruined soils much better constituted, the powers of our acid land remain not greatly impaired, though dormant, and ready to be called into action by merely being relieved of its acid quality. A few crops will reduce a new acid field to so low a rate of product, that it scarcely will pay for its cultivation; but no great change is afterwards caused, by continuing scourging tillage and grazing, for fifty years longer. Thus our acid soils have two remarkable and opposite qualities,–both proceeding from the same cause; they can neither be enriched by manure, nor impoverished by cultivation, to any great extent. Qualities so remarkable deserve all our powers of investigation; yet their very frequency seems to have caused them to be overlooked; and our writers on agriculture have continued to urge those who seek improvement, to apply precepts drawn from English authors, to soils which are totally different from all those for which their instructions were intended.
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=_Francis Wayland, 1796-1865._= (Manual, pp. 487, 502, 504.)
From “The Limitations of Human Responsibility.”
=_157._= SUPERIORITY OF THE MORAL SENTIMENTS.
It is a common remark, that, whenever it has been thought necessary to arouse the mind of man to enterprises of great pith and moment, the appeal has always been made to his moral sentiments. Hence, among the most ancient nations, it was the invariable custom to accompany the declaration of war with religious ceremonies; and if, in later times, this custom has become somewhat less usual, the change itself, in a more remarkable manner, illustrates the tendency of our nature…. But let victory declare for the assailed, let the invader become the invaded, let it become necessary to stimulate men to put forth the highest effort of human daring, and the sacred names of conscience, of duty to family, to country, and to God, are universally invoked, and the Supreme Being is urgently appealed to, to succor the cause of a sinking commonwealth. It is, perhaps, worth while to remark, in passing, that this consciousness of right is a source of power which belongs specially to the oppressed, and which, other things being equal, will always insure to them the victory; and, when other things are not equal, it is frequently sufficient, of itself, to outweigh a vast preponderance of physical force. It is, moreover, efficient in proportion to the purity of the moral principle of a people. We hence perceive the elements of superiority which, by the constitution of our nature, have been bestowed upon virtue.
Another illustration of the power of the moral principle, is seen in the sentiments with which we contemplate the character of confessors, martyrs, and men of every age, who have sacrificed every thing else for the sake of adherence to righteousness. The highest glory of human nature is to love right better than life, and to obey the dictates of conscience at every conceivable hazard. Even falsehood, when sealed with blood, acquires not unfrequently, for a time, an irrepressible power. Truth, when uttered from the stake, or on the scaffold, becomes absolutely irresistible. We admire Plato, surrounded by listening princes, and vieing with them in oriental magnificence; but we venerate Socrates in his dungeon, patiently suffering death for holding forth the truth; and the dictates of our own bosoms spontaneously assign to him the highest place among the uninspired teachers of wisdom. Or, to turn to more awful examples, the foundations of the Christian religion were laid in blood. The Captain of our salvation “was obedient unto death, the death of the cross.” The martyrdoms of the early age of the church gave to the world examples of the love of right, of which it had never before conceived even the possibility, and thus set on foot a moral reformation, which is destined to work in the character of man a universal transformation.
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=_Horace Mann, 1796-1859._= (Manual, p. 532.)
From “Lectures on various Subjects.”
=_158._= THOUGHTS FOR A YOUNG MAN.
In this country most young men are poor. Time is the rock from which they are to hew out their fortunes; and health, enterprise, and integrity, the instruments with which to do it. For this, diligence in business, abstinence from pleasures, privation even, of everything that does not endanger health, are to be joyfully welcomed and borne. When we look around us, and see how much of the wickedness of the world springs from poverty, it seems to sanctify all honest efforts for the acquisition of an independence; but when an independence is acquired, then comes the moral crisis, then comes an Ithuriel test, which shows whether a man is higher than a common man, or lower than a common reptile. In the duty of accumulation–and I call it a _duty_, in the most strict and literal signification of that word–all below a competence is most valuable, and its acquisition most laudable; but all above a fortune is a misfortune. It is a misfortune to him who amasses it; for it is a voluntary continuance in the harness of a beast of burden, when the soul should enfranchise and lift itself up into a higher region of pursuits and pleasures. It is a persistence in the work of providing goods for the body after the body has already been provided for; and it is a denial of the higher demands of the soul, after the time has arrived, and the means are possessed, of fulfilling those demands…. Because the lower service was once necessary, and has, therefore, been performed, it is a mighty wrong, when, without being longer necessary, it usurps the sacred rights of the higher.
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=_Orestes A. Brownson, 1800-._= (Manual, p. 480.)
From “New Views.”
=_159._= THE DUTY OF PROGRESS.
Progress is the end for which man was made. To this end it is his duty to direct all his enquiries, all his systems of religion and philosophy, all his institutions of politics and society, all the productions of his genius and taste, in one word, all the modes of his activity. This is his duty. Hitherto, he has performed it but blindly, without knowing, and without admitting it. Humanity has but to-day, as it were, risen to self-consciousness, to a perception of its own capacity, to a glimpse of its inconceivably grand and holy destiny. Heretofore it has failed to recognize clearly its duty. It has advanced, but not designedly, not with foresight; it has done it instinctively, by the aid of the invisible but safe-guiding hand of its Father. Without knowing what it did, it has condemned progress while it was progressing. It has stoned the prophets and reformers, even while it was itself reforming and uttering glorious prophecies of its future condition. But the time has now come for humanity to understand itself, to accept the law imposed upon it for its own good, to foresee its end, and march with intention steadily towards it. Its future religion is the religion of progress. The true priests are those who can quicken in mankind a desire for progress, and urge them forward in the direction of the true, the good, the perfect.
* * * * *
From “The Convert.”
=_160._= POLITICS OF CATHOLIC EUROPE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY DESPOTIC.
In France, Spain, Portugal, and a large part of Italy, all through the seventeenth century, the youth were trained in the maxim, The prince is the State, and his pleasure is law. Bossuet, in his politics, did only faithfully express the political sentiments and convictions of his age, shared by the great body of Catholics as well as of non-Catholics. Rational liberty had few defenders, and they were exiled, like Fenelon, from the court. The politics of Philip II. of Spain, of Richelieu, Mazarin, and Louis XIV. in France, which were the politics of Catholic Europe, hardly opposed, except by the popes, through the greater part of the sixteenth and the whole of the seventeenth centuries, tended directly to enslave the people, and to restrict the freedom, and efficiency of the church. Had either Philip, or, after him, Louis, succeeded, by linking the Catholic cause to his personal ambition, in realizing his dream of universal monarchy, Europe would most likely have been plunged into a political and social condition as unenviable as that into which old Asia has been plunged for these four hundred years; and it may well be believed that it was Providence that raised and directed the tempest that scattered the Grand Armada, and that gave victory to the arms of Eugene and Marlborough.
* * * * *
=_Theodore Dwight Woolsey, 1801-._=
From his “Introduction to the Study of International Law.”
=_161._= IMPORTANCE OF THE STUDY.
From all that has been said it has become apparent that the study of international law is important, as an index of civilization, and not to the student of law only, but to the student of history. In our land, especially, it is important, on more than one account, that this science should do its share in enlightening educated minds. One reason for this lies in the new inducements which we, as a people, have to swerve from national rectitude. Formerly our interests threw us on the side of unrestricted commerce, which is the side towards which justice inclines, and we lived far within our borders with scarcely the power to injure or be injured, except on the ocean. Now we are running into the crimes to which strong nations are liable. Our diplomatists unblushingly moot the question of taking foreign territory by force if it cannot be purchased; our executive prevents piratical expeditions against the lands of neighboring States as feebly and slowly as if it connived at them; we pick quarrels to gain conquests; and at length, after more than half a century of public condemnation of the slave-trade, after being the first to brand it as piracy, we hear the revival of the trade advocated as a right, as a necessity. Is it not desirable that the sense of justice, which seems fading out of the national mind before views of political expediency or destiny, should be deepened and made fast by that study which frowns on national crimes?
And, again, every educated person ought to become acquainted with national law, because he is a responsible member of the body politic; because there is danger that party views will make our doctrine in this science fluctuating, unless it is upheld by large numbers of intelligent persons; and because the executive, if not controlled, will be tempted to assume the province of interpreting international law for us. As it regards the latter point it may be said, that while Congress has power to define offences against the laws of nations, and thus, if any public power, to pronounce authoritatively what the law of nations is, the executive through the Secretary of State, in practice, gives the lead in all international questions. In this way the Monroe doctrine appeared; in this way most other positions have been advanced; and perhaps this could not be otherwise. But we ought to remember that the supreme executives in Europe have amassed power by having diplomatic relations in their hands, that thus the nation may become involved in war against its will, and that the prevention of evils must lie, if there be any, with the men who have been educated in the principles of international justice.
I close this treatise here, hoping that it may be of some use to my native land, and to young men who may need a guide in the science of which it treats.
* * * * *
=_Taylor Lewis, 1802-._=
From “The Six Days of Creation.”
=_162._= UNITY OF THE MOSAIC ACCOUNT.
Another striking trait of the Mosaic cosmogony is its unbroken wholeness or unity…. Be it invention or inspiration, it is the invention or the inspiration of one mind. Other cosmogonies, though bearing unmistakable evidence of their descent from the Mosaic, have had successive deposits, in successive series, of mythological strata. This stands towering out in lonely sublimity, like the everlasting granite of the Alps or the Himalaya, as compared with the changing alluvium of the Nile or the Ganges. As the serene air that ever surrounds the head of Mont Blanc excels in purity the mists of the fen, so does the lofty theism of the Mosaic account rise high above the nature-worship of the Egyptian and Hesiodean theogonies. “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth. And the earth was waste and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God brooded over the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and it was light. And God saw the light that it was fair, and God divided the light from the darkness. And thus there was an evening and a morning–one day!” What is there like it, or to be at all compared with it, in any mythology on earth? There it stands, high above them all, and remote from them all, in its air of great antiquity, in its unaccountableness, in its serene truthfulness, in its unapproachable sublimity, in that impress of divine majesty and ineffable holiness which even the unbelieving neologist has been compelled to acknowledge, and by which every devout reader feels that the first page in Genesis is forever distinguished from any mere human production.
[Footnote 48: Born In New York; a prolific writer, eminent for his profound scholarship, his wide acquaintance with Oriental and Biblical literature, and his originality and freedom of mind: long Professor of Greek in Union College.]
* * * * *
From “State Rights.”
=_163._= CRUEL INTESTINE WARS CAUSED BY NATIONAL DIVISION.
If it were Death alone! But “Hell follows hard after.” What a heaving Tartarus was Greece, when all hope of a true nationality was given up! From Corcyra to Rhodes, from Byzantium to Cyrene, one bloody scene of faction, “sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion.” In the cities, in the isles, in the colonies, banishments, confiscations, ostracisms, and cruel deaths. The most ferocious parties everywhere, fomented in the smaller States by the influence of the larger, and kept alive in the leading cities by the continual presence of foreign emissaries. With us it would be far more like Satan’s kingdom, inasmuch as our states are more numerous, relatively more petty, and, from the increased powers of modern knowledge and modern invention, capable of the greater mutual mischief.
We are not prophesying at random. Here is our old guidebook. The road is all mapped out, the way surveyed, by which we march to ruin. All the dire calamities of Greece may be traced to this word autonomia.
… Greece presented the first great proof of a fact of which we are now in danger of furnishing another and more terrible example to the world. It is the utter impossibility of peace, in a territory made by nature a geographical unity, inhabited by a people, or peoples, of one lineage, one language, bound together in historical reminiscences, yet divided into petty sovereign States too small for any respectable nationalities themselves, and yet preventing any beneficent nationality as a whole. No animosities have been so fierce as those existing among people thus geographically and politically related. No wars with each other have been so cruel; no home factions have been so incessant, so treacherous, and so debasing. The very ties that draw them near only awaken occasions of strife, which would not have existed between tribes wholly alien to each other in language and religion.
[Footnote 49: State sovereignty.]
* * * * *
=_Horace Greeley, 1811-1873._=
From a “Lecture on the Emancipation of Labor.”
=_164._= THE PROBLEM OF LABOR.
The worker of the nineteenth century stands a sad and careworn man. Once in a while a particular flowery Fourth of July oration, political harangue, or Thanksgiving sermon, catching him well filled with creature comforts, and a little inclined to soar starward, will take him off his feet, and for an hour or two he will wonder if ever human lot was so blessed as that of the free-born American laborer. He hurrahs, and is ready to knock any man down who will not readily and heartily agree that this is a great country, and our industrious classes the happiest people on earth…. The hallucination passes off, however, with the silvery tones of the orator, and the exhilarating fumes of the liquor which inspired it. The inhaler of the bewildering gas bends his slow steps at length to his sorry domicile, or wakes therein on the morrow, in a sober and practical mood. His very exaltation, now past, has rendered him more keenly susceptible to the deficiencies and impediments which hem him in: his house seems narrow, his food coarse, his furniture scanty, his prospects gloomy, and those of his children more sombre, if possible; and as he hurries off to the day’s task which he has too long neglected, and for which he has little heart, he too falls into that train of thought which is beginning to encircle the globe, and of which the burden may be freely rendered thus: “Why should those by whose toil all comforts and luxuries are produced, or made available, enjoy so scanty a share of them? Why should a man able and eager to work, ever stand idle for want of employment in a world where so much needful work impatiently awaits the doing? Why should a man be required to surrender something of his independence, in accepting the employment which will enable him to earn by honest effort the bread of his family? Why should the man who faithfully labors for another, and receives therefor less than the product of his labor, be currently held the obliged party, rather than he who buys the work and makes a good bargain of it? In short, why should Speculation and Scheming ride so jauntily in their carriages, splashing honest Work as it trudges humbly and wearily by on foot?” Such, as I interpret it, is the problem which occupies and puzzles the knotted brain of Toil in our day.
[Footnote 50: The well-known journalist of New York; conspicuous for his many writings on social and political reform, his reminiscences, &c.; a native of New Hampshire.]
* * * * *
From an Address on Success in Business.
=_165._= THE BENEFICENCE OF LABOR-SAVING INVENTIONS.
There is, if not an ever-increasing need, an ever-increasing consciousness of need, of labor-saving inventions and machinery. And, if those inventions should render labor twenty times as productive as it is to-day, should make this a general rule, that all human labor shall produce twenty times as much as it does to-day–there would be no glut of products, as so many mistakenly apprehend. There would only be a very much fuller and broader satisfaction of human needs. Our wants are infinite. They expand and dilate on every side, according to our means–often very much in advance of our means,–of satisfying them. If labor shall become–as I doubt not it will become at an early day, far more productive, far more effective, than it is now, we shall hear nothing like a complaint that there are no more wants to be satisfied, but the contrary. And yet, we know the fact is deplorably true, that the time is scarcely yet remote when the laboring class, distinctively so called, set its face resolutely against new inventions–set to work deliberately to destroy labor-saving machinery, and so to act as more and more to throw labor back into the barbaric period when probably every yard of cloth cost a day’s labor, as did every bushel of grain. England herself, it is computed now does the work, by means of steam and machinery, of eight hundred millions of men. And yet English wants are no more satisfied to-day than they were a thousand years ago. I do not say they are altogether unsatisfied; but I say that the consciousness of want, the demand for products, is just as keen to-day; and I have not a doubt that if inventions could be introduced into China whereby the labor of her people should be rendered fifty times as effective as it is to-day, you would find not a dearth of employment as a consequence, but rather an increase of activity and an increased demand for labor. To-day British capital and British talent are fairly grid-ironing the ancient plains and slopes of Hindostan with British canals, irrigating, and railroads. It is their _gold_ they say; but it is not British capital, so much as British genius and British confidence, that are required. There is wealth enough in India, more gold and silver and gems, probably to-day than in Europe, for the precious metals always flow thither, and they very seldom flow thence.
* * * * *
From “Recollections of a Busy Life.”
=_166._= LITERATURE AS A VOCATION; THE EDITOR.
No other public teacher lives so wholly in the present, as the Editor; and the noblest affirmations of unpopular truth,–the most self-sacrificing defiance of a base and selfish Public Sentiment that regards only the most sordid ends, and values every utterance solely as it tends to preserve quiet and contentment, while the dollars fall jingling into the merchant’s drawer, the land-jobber’s vault, and the miser’s bag,–can but be noted in their day, and with their day forgotten. It is his cue to utter silken and smooth sayings,–to condemn Vice so as not to interfere with the pleasures, or alarm the consciences of the vicious,–to praise and champion Liberty so as not to give annoyance or offence to Slavery, and to commend and glorify Labor without attempting to expose or repress any of the gainful contrivances by which Labor is plundered and degraded. Thus sidling dexterously between somewhere and nowhere, the Able Editor of the Nineteenth Century may glide through life respectable and in good case, and lie down to his long rest with the non-achievements of his life emblazoned on the very whitest marble, surmounting and glorifying his dust.
There is a different and sterner path,–I know not whether there be any now qualified to tread it,–I am not sure that even one has ever followed it implicitly, in view of the certain meagerness of its temporal rewards, and the haste wherewith any fame acquired in a sphere so thoroughly ephemeral as the Editor’s, must be shrouded by the dark waters of oblivion. This path demands an ear ever open to the plaints of the wronged and the suffering, though they can never repay advocacy, and those who mainly support newspapers will be annoyed and often exposed by it; a heart as sensitive to oppression and degradation in the next street as if they were practised in Brazil or Japan; a pen as ready to expose and reprove the crimes whereby wealth is amassed and luxury enjoyed in our own country at this hour, as if they had only been committed by Turks or Pagans in Asia, some centuries ago. Such an Editor, could one be found or trained, need not expect to lead an easy, indolent, or wholly joyous life,–to be blessed by Archbishops, or followed by the approving shouts of ascendant majorities; but he might find some recompense for their loss, in the calm verdict of an approving conscience: and the tears of the despised and the friendless, preserved from utter despair by his efforts and remonstrances, might freshen for a season the daisies that bloomed above his grave.
* * * * *
From “The Crystal Palace and its Lessons.”
=_167._= TRANQUILITY OF RURAL LIFE.
As for me, long tossed on the stormiest waves of doubtful conflict and arduous endeavor, I have begun to feel, since the shades of forty years fell upon me, the weary tempest-driven voyager’s longing for land, the wanderer’s yearning for the hamlet where in childhood he nestled by his mother’s knee, and was soothed to sleep on her breast. The sober down-hill of life dispels many illusions, while it developes or strengthens within us the attachment, perhaps long smothered or overlaid, for “that dear hut, our home.” And so I, in the sober afternoon of life, when its sun, if not high, is still warm, have bought me a few acres of land in the broad, still country, and bearing thither my household treasures, have resolved to steal from the city’s labors and anxieties at least one day in each week, wherein to revive as a farmer, the memories of my childhood’s humble home. And already I realize that the experiment cannot cost so much as it is worth. Already I find in that day’s quiet, an antidote and a solace for the feverish, festering cares of the weeks which environ it. Already, my brook murmurs a soothing even-song to my burning, throbbing brain; and my trees, gently stirred by the fresh breezes, whisper to my spirit something of their own quiet strength and patient trust in God. And thus do I faintly realize, though but for a brief and flitting day, the serene joy which shall irradiate the Farmer’s vocation, when a fuller and truer education shall have refined and chastened his animal cravings, and when Science shall have endowed him with her treasures, redeeming Labor from drudgery, while quadrupling its efficiency, and crowning with beauty and plenty our bounteous, beneficent Earth.
* * * * *
=_Theodore Parker_,= about =_1812-1860_=. (Manual, p. 531.)
From “Lessons from the World of Nature,” &c.
=_168._= WINTER AND SPRING.
In the hard, cold winter of our northern lands, how do we feel a longing for the presence of life! Then we love to look on a pine or fir tree, which seems the only living thing in the woods, surrounded by dead oaks, birches, maples, looking like the gravestones of buried vegetation: that seems warm and living then; and at Christmas, men bring it into meetinghouses and parlors, and set it up, full of life, and laden with kindly gifts for the little folk. Then even the unattractive crow seems half sacred, through the winter bearing messages of promise from the perished autumn to the advancing spring–this dark forerunner of the tuneful tribes which are to come. We feel a longing for fresh, green nature, and so in the shelter of our houses keep some little Aaron’s rod, budding alike with promise and memory; or in some hyacinth or Dutchman’s tulip we keep a prophecy of flowers, and start off some little John to run before, and with his half-gospel tell of some great Emmanuel, and signify to men that the kingdom of heavenly beauty is near at hand. Now that forerunner disappears, for the desire of all nations has truly come; the green grass is creeping everywhere, and it is spangled with many flowers that came unasked….
What if there was a spring time of blossoming but once in a hundred years! How would men look forward to it, and old men, who had beheld its wonders, tell the story to their children, how once all the homely trees became beautiful, and earth was covered with freshness and new growth! How would young men hope to become old, that they might see so glad a sight! And when beheld, the aged man would say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”
* * * * *
From an “Installation Sermon,” January 4th, 1846.
=_169._= THE TRUE IDEA OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
The saints of olden time perished at the stake; they hung on gibbets; they agonized upon the rack; they died under the steel of the tormentor. It was the heroism of our fathers’ day that swam the unknown seas; froze in the woods; starved with want and cold; fought battles with the red right hand. It is the sainthood and heroism of our day that toils for the ignorant, the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the wicked. Yes, it is our saints and heroes who fight fighting; who contend for the slave, and his master too, for the drunkard, the criminal; yes, for the wicked or the weak in all their forms…. But the saints and the heroes of this day, who draw no sword, whose right hand is never bloody, who burn in no fires of wood or sulphur, nor languish briefly on the hasty cross; the saints and heroes who, in a worldly world, dare to be men; in an age of conformity and selfishness, speak for Truth and Man, living for noble aims, men who will swear to no lies howsoever popular; who will honor no sins, though never so profitable, respectable, and ancient; men who count Christ not their master, but teacher, friend, brother, and strive like him to practice all they pray; to incarnate and make real the Word of God, these men I honor far more than the saints of old…. Racks and fagots soon waft the soul to God, stern messengers, but swift. A boy could bear that passage,–the martyrdom of death. But the temptation of a long life of neglect, and scorn, and obloquy, and shame, and want, and desertion by false friends; to live blameless though blamed, cut off from human sympathy, that is the martyrdom of to-day. I shed no tears for such martyrs. I shout when I see one; I take courage and thank God for the real saints, prophets and heroes of to-day…. Yea, though now men would steal the rusty sword from underneath the bones of a saint or hero long deceased, to smite off therewith the head of a new prophet, that ancient hero’s son; though they would gladly crush the heart out of him with the tombstones they piled up for great men, dead and honored now; yet in some future day, that mob penitent, baptized with a new spirit, like drunken men returned to sanity once more, shall search through all this land for marble white enough to build a monument to that prophet whom their fathers slew; they shall seek through all the world for gold of fineness fit to chronicle such names. I cannot wait; but I will honor such men now, not adjourn the warning of their voice, and the glory of their example, till another age! The church may cast out such men; burn them with the torments of an age too refined in its cruelty to use coarse fagots and the vulgar axe! It is no loss to these men; but the ruin of the church. I say the Christian church of the nineteenth century must honor such men, if it would do a church’s work; must take pains to make such men as these, or it is a dead church, with no claim on us, except that we bury it. A true church will always be the church of martyrs. The ancients commenced every great work with a victim! We do not call it so; but the sacrifice is demanded, got ready, and offered by unconscious priests long ere the enterprise succeeds. Did not Christianity begin with a martyrdom?
* * * * *
From “Historic Americans.”
=_170._= CHARACTER OF FRANKLIN.
His was the morality of a strong, experienced person, who had seen the folly of wise men, the meanness of proud men, the baseness of honorable men, and the littleness of great men, and made liberal allowances for the failures of all men. If the final end to be reached were just, he did not always inquire about the provisional means which led thither. He knew that the right line is the shortest distance between two points, in morals as in mathematics, but yet did not quarrel with such as attained the point by a crooked line. Such is the habit of politicians, diplomatists, statesmen, who look on all men as a commander looks on his soldiers, and does not ask them to join the church or keep their hands clean, but to stand to their guns and win the battle.
Thus, in the legislature of Pennsylvania, Franklin found great difficulty in carrying on the necessary measures for military defence, because a majority of the Assembly were Quakers, who, though friendly to the success of the revolution founded contrary to their principles, refused to vote the supplies of war. So he caused them to vote appropriations to purchase bread, flour, wheat, _or other grain_. The Government said, “I shall take the money, for I understand very well their meaning,–other grain is gunpowder.” He afterwards moved the purchase of a fire-engine, saying to his friend, “Nominate me on the committee, and I will nominate you; we will buy a great gun, which is certainly a fire engine; the Quakers can have no objection to that.”
Such was the course of policy that Franklin took, as I think, to excess; but yet I believe that no statesman of that whole century did so much to embody the eternal rules of right in the customs of the people, and to make the constitution of the universe the common law of all mankind; and I cannot bestow higher praise than that, on any man whose name I can recall. He mitigated the ferocities of war. He built new hospitals, and improved old ones. He first introduced this humane principle into the Law of Nations, that in time of war, private property on land shall be unmolested, and peaceful commerce continued, and captive soldiers treated as well as the soldiers of the captors. Generous during his life-time, his dead hand still gathers and distributes blessings to the mechanics of Boston, and their children. True is it that
“Him only pleasure leads and peace attends, Whose means are pure and spotless as his ends.”
But it is a great thing in this stage of the world to find a man whose _ends_ are pure and spotless. Let us thank him for that.
* * * * *
From “Historic Americans.”
=_171._= CHARACTER OF THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Of all those who controlled the helm of affairs during the time of the Revolution, and while the Constitution and the forms of our National and State Institutions were carefully organized, there is none who has been more generally popular, more commonly beloved, more usually believed to be necessary to the Legislation and Administration of his country, than Thomas Jefferson. It may not be said of him that of all those famous men he could least have been spared; for in the rare and great qualities for patiently and wisely conducting the vast affairs of State and Nation in pressing emergencies, he seems to have been wanting. But his grand merit was this–that while his powerful opponents favored a strong government, and believed it necessary thereby to repress what they called the lower classes, he, Jefferson, believed in Humanity; believed in a true Democracy. He respected labor and education, and upheld the right to education of all men. These were the Ideas in which he was far in advance of all the considerable men, whether of his State or of his Nation–ideas which he illustrated through long years of his life and conduct. The great debt that the Nation owes to him is this–that he so ably and consistently advocated these needful opinions, that he made himself the head and the hand of the great party that carried these ideas into power, that put an end to all possibility of class-government, made naturalization easy, extended the suffrage and applied it to judicial office, opened a still wider and better education to all, and quietly inaugurated reforms, yet incomplete, of which we have the benefit to this day, and which, but for him, we might not have won against the party of Strong Government, except by a difficult and painful Revolution.
* * * * *
=_Wendell Phillips, 1811-._=
From “A Lecture delivered in December, 1861.”
=_172._= THE WAR FOR THE UNION.
I would have government announce to the world that we understand the evil which has troubled our peace for seventy years, thwarting the natural tendency of our institutions, sending ruin along our wharves and through our workshops every ten years, poisoning the national conscience. We know well its character. But democracy, unlike other governments, is strong enough to let evils work out their own death–strong enough to face them when they reveal their proportions. It was in this sublime consciousness of strength, not of weakness, that our fathers submitted to the well-known evil of slavery, and tolerated it until the viper we thought we could safely tread on, at the touch of disappointment, starts up a fiend whose stature reaches the sky. But our cheeks do not blanch. Democracy accepts the struggle. After this forbearance of three generations, confident that she has yet power to execute her will, she sends her proclamation, down to the Gulf–freedom to every man beneath the stars, and death to every institution that disturbs our peace, or threatens the future of the republic.
[Footnote 51: A native of Massachusetts: a vigorous thinker and speaker on the great moral and political topics of the day, and the most eloquent of the Anti-Slavery leaders.]
* * * * *
From His “Speeches, Lectures.” &c.
=_173._= CHARACTER OF TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTURE.
Above the lust of gold, pure in private life, generous in the use of his power, it was against such a man that Napoleon sent his army, giving to General Leclerc,–the husband of his beautiful sister Pauline,–thirty thousand of his best troops, with orders to re-introduce slavery. Among these soldiers came all of Toussaint’s old mulatto rivals and foes.
* * * * *
Mounting his horse, and riding to the eastern end of the island, Samana, he looked out on a sight such as no native had ever seen before. Sixty ships of the line, crowded by the best soldiers of Europe, rounded the point. They were soldiers who had never yet met an equal, whose tread, like Caesar’s, had shaken Europe,–soldiers who had scaled the Pyramids, and planted the French banners on the walls of Rome. He looked a moment, counted the flotilla, let the reins fall on the neck of his horse, and, turning to Christophe, exclaimed: “All France is come to Hayti; they can only come to make us slaves; and we are lost.” He then recognized the only mistake of his life,–his confidence in Bonaparte, which had led him to disband his army. Returning to the hills, he issued the only proclamation which bears his name and breathes vengeance: “My children, France comes to make us slaves. God gave us liberty; France has no right to take it away. Burn the cities, destroy the harvests, tear up the roads with cannon, poison the wells, show the white man the hell he comes to make”; and he was obeyed. When the great William of Orange saw Louis XIV. cover Holland with troops, he said, “Break down the dykes, give Holland back to ocean”; and Europe said, “Sublime!” When Alexander saw the armies of France descend upon Russia, he said: “Burn Moscow, starve back the invaders”; and Europe said, “Sublime!” This black saw all Europe marshalled to crush him, and gave to his people the same heroic example of defiance.
* * * * *
=_Thomas Starr King, 1824-1864._= (Manual, p. 532.)
From “Patriotism and other Papers.”
=_174._= GREAT PRINCIPLES AND SMALL DUTIES.
If we go to Nature for our morals, we shall learn the necessity of perfection in the smallest act. Infinite skill is not exhausted nor concentrated in the structure of a firmament, in drawing the orbit of a planet, in laying the strata of the earth, in rearing the mountain cone. The care for the bursting flower is as wise as the forces displayed in the rolling star; the smallest leaf that falls and dies unnoticed in the forest is wrought with a beauty as exquisite as the skill displayed in the sturdy oak. All the wisdom of Nature is compressed and revealed in the sting of the bee; and the pride of human art is mocked by the subtile mechanism and cunning structure of a fly’s foot and wing. However minute the task, it reveals the polish of perfection. Omnipotent skill is stamped on the infinitely small, as on the infinitely great. It is a moral stenography like this which we need in daily life…. The lesson of Christianity, then, urged and enforced by Nature, is the inestimable worth of common duties, as manifesting the greatest principles; it bids us attain perfection, not by striving to do dazzling deeds, but by making our experience divine; it tells us that the Christian hero will ennoble the humblest field of labor; that nothing is mean which can be performed as duty; but that religious virtue, like the touch of Midas, converts the humblest call of conscience into spiritual gold.
The Greek philosopher, Plato, has left an instructive and beautiful poetic picture of the judgment of souls, when they had been collected from the regions of temporary bliss and pain, and suffered once more to return to the duties and pleasures of earthly life. The spirits advanced by lot, to make their choice of the condition and form under which they should re-enter the world. The dazzling and showy fortunes, the lives of kings and warriors and statesmen were soon exhausted; and the spirit of Ulysses, who had been the wisest prince among all the Greeks, came last to choose. He advanced with sorrow, fearing that his favorite condition had been selected by some more fortunate soul who had gone before him. But, to his surprise and pleasure, Ulysses found that the only life which had not been chosen was the lot of an obscure and private man, with its humble cares and quiet joys; the lot which he, the wisest, would have selected, had his turn come first; the life for which he had longed, since he had felt the folly and meanness of station, wealth, and power….
GENERAL AND POLITE LITERATURE.
=_William Wirt, 1772-1834._= (Manual, pp. 487, 490.)
From the “Life of Patrick Henry.”
=_175._= HENRY’S EXAMPLE NO ARGUMENT FOR INDOLENCE.
I cannot learn that he gave in his youth any evidence of that precocity which sometimes distinguishes uncommon genius. His companions recollect no instance of premature wit, no striking sentiment, no flash of fancy, no remarkable beauty or strength of expression, and no indication however slight, either of that impassioned love of liberty, or of that adventurous daring and intrepidity, which marked so strongly his future character. So far was he indeed from exhibiting any one prognostic of this greatness, that every omen foretold a life at best, of mediocrity, if not of insignificance. His person is represented as having been coarse, his manners uncommonly awkward, his dress slovenly, his conversation very plain, his aversion to study invincible, and his faculties almost entirely benumbed by indolence. No persuasion could bring him either to read or to work. On the contrary, he ran wild in the forest like one of the _Aborigines_ of the country, and divided his life between the dissipation and uproar of the chase, and the languor of inaction.
His propensity to observe and comment upon the human character, was, so far as I can learn, the only circumstance which distinguished him advantageously from his youthful companions. This propensity seems to have been born with him, and to have exerted itself instinctively, the moment that a new subject was presented to his view. Its action was incessant, and it became at length almost the only intellectual exercise in which he seemed to take delight. To this cause, may be traced that consummate knowledge of the human heart which he finally attained, and which enabled him when he came upon the public stage, to touch the springs of passion with a master hand, and to control the resolutions and decisions of his hearers with a power almost more than mortal.
From what has been already stated, it will be seen how little education had to do with the formation of this great man’s mind. He was indeed a mere child of nature, and nature seems to have been too proud and too jealous of her work, to permit it to be touched by the hand of art. She gave him Shakespeare’s genius, and bade him, like Shakespeare, to depend on that alone. Let not the youthful reader, however, deduce from the example of Mr. Henry, an argument in favor of indolence, and the contempt of study. Let him remember that the powers which surmounted the disadvantage of those early habits, were such as very rarely appear upon this earth. Let him remember, too, how long the genius even of Mr. Henry was kept down, and hidden from the public view, by the sorcery of those pernicious habits; through what years of poverty and wretchedness they doomed him to struggle; and let him remember, that at length, when in the zenith of his glory. Mr. Henry himself, had frequent occasions to deplore the consequences of his early neglect of literature, and to bewail the ghosts of his departed hours.
* * * * *
From “Eulogium on Adams and Jefferson.”
=_176._= JEFFERSON’S SEAT AT MONTICELLO.
Approaching the house on the east, the visitor instinctively paused, to cast around one thrilling glance at this magnificent panorama, and then passed to the vestibule, where, if he had not been previously informed, he would immediately perceive that he was entering the house of no common man. In the spacious and lofty hall which opens before him, he marks no tawdry and unmeaning ornaments, but before, on the right, on the left, all around, the eye is struck and gratified with objects of science and taste, so classed and arranged as to produce their finest effect. On one side, specimens of sculpture set out in such order as to exhibit … the historical progress of that art, from the first rude attempts of the aborigines of our country up to that exquisite and finished bust of the great patriot himself, from the master-hand of Ceracchi. On the other side, the visitor sees displayed a vast collection of specimens of Indian art–their paintings, weapons, ornaments, and manufactures; on another, an array of the fossil productions of our country, mineral and animal, the polished remains of those colossal monsters that once trod our forests, and are no more; and a variegated display of the branching honors of those “monarchs of the waste,” that still people the wilds of the American continent.
From this hall he was ushered into a noble saloon, from which the glorious landscape of the west again bursts upon his view, and which within is hung thick around with the finest productions of the pencil–historical paintings of the most striking subjects from all countries and all ages, the portraits of distinguished men and patriots both of Europe and America, and medallions and engravings in endless profusion.
While the visitor was yet lost in the contemplation of these treasures of the arts and sciences, he was startled by the approach of a strong and sprightly step; and, turning with instinctive reverence to the door of entrance, he was met by the tall, and animated, and stately figure of the patriot himself, his countenance beaming with intelligence and benignity, and his outstretched hand, with its strong and cordial pressure, confirming the courteous welcome of his lips; and then came that charm of manner and conversation that passes all description–so cheerful, so unassuming, so free, and easy, and frank, and kind, and gay, that even the young, and overawed, and embarrassed visitor at once forgot his fears, and felt himself by the side of an old and familiar friend.
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=_Timothy Flint, 1780-1840._= (Manual, p. 490.)
From “Recollections of the Mississippi Valley.”
=_177._= THE WESTERN BOATMAN.
Three is no wonder that the way of life which the boatman, lead, in turn extremely indolent and extremely laborious, for days together requiring little or no effort, and attended with no danger, and then on a sudden laborious and hazardous beyond the Atlantic navigation, generally plentiful as it regards food, and always so as it regards whiskey, should always have seductions that prove irresistible to the young people that live near the banks of the river. The boats float by their dwellings on beautiful spring mornings, when the verdant forest, the mild and delicious temperature of the air, the delightful azure of the sky of this country, the fine bottom on the one hand, and the romantic bluff on the other, the broad, and smooth stream rolling calmly down through the forest, and floating the boat gently forward,–all these circumstances harmonize in the excited youthful imagination. The boatmen are dancing to the violin on the deck of their boat. They scatter their wit among the girls on the shore, who come down to the water’s edge to see the pageant pass. The boat glides on until it disappears behind a point of wood; at this moment, perhaps, the bugle, with which all the boats are provided, strikes up its note in the distance, over the water. These scenes, and these notes, echoing from the bluffs of the beautiful Ohio, have a charm for the imagination, which, although I have heard a thousand times repeated, and at all hours, and in all positions, is even to me always new, and always delightful. No wonder that to the young, who are reared in these remote regions, with that restless curiosity which is fostered by solitude and silence, who witness scenes like these so frequently,–no wonder that the severe and unremitting labors of agriculture, performed directly in the view of such scenes, should become tasteless and irksome.
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=_Washington Irving, 1783-1839._= (Manual, pp. 478, 498.)
From “Knickerbocker’s History of New York.”
=_178._= FROM “TITLE AND TABLE OF CONTENTS.”
A history of New York, from the beginning of the world to the end of the Dutch dynasty,… being the only authentic history of the times that ever hath been or ever will be published, by Diedrick Knickerbocker…. Book I., chap. i. Description of the World…. Book II., chap. i…. Also of Master Hendrick Hudson, his discovery of a strange country…. Chap. vii. How the people of Pavonia migrated from Communipaw to the Island of Manhattan…. Chap. ix. How the city of New Amsterdam waxed great under the protection of St. Nicholas, and the absence of laws and statutes. Book III., chap. iii. How the town of New Amsterdam arose out of mud, and came to be marvellously polished and polite, together with a picture of the manners of our great-great-grandfathers…. Book IV., chap. vi. Projects of William the Testy for increasing the currency; he is outwitted by the Yankees. The great Oyster War…. Book V., chap. viii. How the Yankee crusade against the New Netherlands was baffled by the sudden outbreak of witchcraft among the people of the East … Book VII., chap. ii. How Peter Stuyvesant labored to civilize the community. How he was a great promoter of holydays. How he instituted kissing on New Year’s Day…. Chap. iii. How troubles thicken on the province. How it is threatened by the Helderbergers,–the Merrylanders, and the Giants of the Susquehanna.
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=_179._= THE ARMY AT NEW AMSTERDAM.
First of all came the Van Bummels, who inhabit the pleasant borders of the Bronx. These were short, fat men, wearing exceeding large trunk-breeches, and are renowned for feats of the trencher; they were the first inventors of suppawn, or mush and milk…. Lastly came the Knickerbockers, of the great town of Schahticoke, where the folks lay stones upon the houses in windy weather, lest they should be blown away. These derive their name, as some say, from _Knicker_, to shake, and _Beker_, a goblet, indicating thereby that they were sturdy tosspots of yore; but in truth, it was derived from _Knicker_, to nod, and _Bocken_, books, plainly meaning that they were great nodders or dozers over books; from them did descend the writer of this History.
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From the “Tales of a Traveller.”
=_180._= A MOTHER’S MEMORY.
A part of the church-yard is shaded by large trees. Under one of them my mother lay buried. You have no doubt thought me a light, heartless being. I thought myself so; but there are moments of adversity which let us into some feelings of our nature to which we might otherwise remain perpetual strangers.
I sought my mother’s grave: the weeds were already matted over it, and the tombstone was half hid among nettles. I cleared them away, and they stung my hands; but I was heedless of the pain, for my heart ached too severely. I sat down on the grave, and read, over and over again, the epitaph on the stone.
It was simple,–but it was true. I had written it myself, I had tried to write a poetical epitaph, but in vain; my feelings refused to utter themselves in rhyme. My heart had gradually been filling during my lonely wanderings; it was now charged to the brim, and overflowed, I sunk upon the grave, and buried my face in the tall grass, and wept like a child. Yes, I wept in manhood upon the grave, as I had in infancy upon the bosom, of my mother. Alas! how little do we appreciate a mother’s tenderness while living! how heedless are we in youth of all her anxieties and kindness! But when she is dead and gone; when the cares and coldness of the world come withering to our hearts; when we find how hard it is to find true sympathy;–how few love us for ourselves; how few will befriend us in our misfortunes–then it is that we think of the mother we have lost. It is true I had always loved my mother, even in my most heedless days; but I felt how inconsiderate and ineffectual had been my love. My heart melted as I retraced the days of infancy, when I was led by a mother’s hand, and rocked to sleep in a mother’s arms, and was without care or sorrow. “O my mother!” exclaimed I, burying my face again in the grass of the grave, “O that I were once more by your side; sleeping never to wake again on the cares and troubles of this world.”
I am not naturally of a morbid temperament, and the violence of my emotion gradually exhausted itself. It was a hearty, honest, natural discharge of grief which had been slowly accumulating, and gave me wonderful relief. I rose from the grave as if I had been offering up a sacrifice, and I felt as if that sacrifice had been accepted.
I sat down again on the grass, and plucked one by one the weeds from her grave: the tears trickled more slowly down my cheeks, and ceased to be bitter. It was a comfort to think that she had died before sorrow and poverty came upon her child, and all his great expectations were blasted.
I leaned my cheek upon my hand, and looked upon the landscape. Its quiet beauty soothed me. The whistle of a peasant from an adjoining field came cheerily to my ear. I seemed to respire hope and comfort with the free air that whispered through the leaves, and played lightly with my hair, and dried the tears upon my cheek. A lark, rising from the field before me, and leaving as it were a stream of song behind him as he rose, lifted my fancy with him. He hovered in the air just above the place where the towers of Warwick castle marked the horizon, and seemed as if fluttering with delight at his own melody. “Surely,” thought I, “if there were such a thing as a transmigration of souls, this might be taken for some poet let loose from earth, but still revelling in song, and carolling about fair fields and lordly towers.”
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From “The Life and Voyages of Columbus.”
=_181._= COLUMBUS A PRISONER.
The arrival of Columbus at Cadiz, a prisoner, and in chains, produced almost as great a sensation as his triumphant return from his first voyage. It was one of those striking and obvious facts, which speak to the feelings of the multitude, and preclude the necessity of reflection. No one stopped to inquire into the case. It was sufficient to be told that Columbus was brought home in irons from the world he had discovered. A general burst of indignation arose in Cadiz, and its neighboring city, Seville, which was immediately echoed throughout all Spain…. However Ferdinand might have secretly felt disposed towards Columbus, the momentary tide of public feeling was not to be resisted. He joined with his generous queen in her reprobation of the treatment of the admiral, and both sovereigns hastened to give evidence to the world, that his imprisonment had been without their authority, and contrary to their wishes.
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=_182._= HIS ARRIVAL AT COURT.
He appeared at court in Granada, on the 17th of December, not as a man ruined and disgraced, but richly dressed, and attended by an honorable retinue. He was received by their majesties with unqualified favor and distinction. When the queen beheld this venerable man approach, and thought on all that he had deserved, and all that he had suffered, she was moved to tears. Columbus had borne up firmly against the rude conflicts of the world; he had endured with lofty scorn the injuries and insults of ignoble men; but he possessed strong and quick sensibility. When he found himself thus kindly received by his sovereigns, and beheld tears in the benign eyes of Isabella, his long-suppressed feelings burst forth. He threw himself upon his knees, and for some time could not utter a word for the violence of his tears and sobbings.
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From Wolfert’s Roost.
=_183._= “A TIME OF UNEXAMPLED PROSPERITY.”
Every now and then the world is visited by one of these delusive seasons, when “the credit system,” as it is called, expands to full luxuriance; every body trusts every body; a bad debt is a thing unheard of; the broad way to certain and sudden wealth lies plain and open, and men are tempted to dash forward boldly, from the facility of borrowing.
Promissory notes, interchanged between scheming individuals, are liberally discounted at the banks, which become so many mints to coin words into cash; and as the supply of words is inexhaustible, it may readily be supposed what a vast amount of promissory capital is soon in circulation. Every one now talks in thousands; nothing is heard but gigantic operations in trade, great purchases and sales of real property, and immense sums made at every transfer. All, to be sure, as yet exists in promise; but the believer in promises calculates the aggregate as solid capital, and falls back in amazement at the amount of public wealth, “the unexampled state of public prosperity!”
Now is the time for speculative and dreaming or designing men. They relate their dreams and projects to the ignorant and credulous, dazzle them with golden visions, and set them maddening after shadows. The example of one stimulates another; speculation rises on speculation; bubble rises on bubble; every one helps with his breath to swell the windy superstructure, and admires and wonders at the magnitude of the inflation he has contributed to produce.
Speculation is the romance of trade, and casts contempt upon all its sober realities. It renders the stock-jobber a magician, and the exchange a region of enchantment. It elevates the merchant into a kind of Knight-errant, or rather a commercial Quixote. The slow but sure gains of snug percentage become despicable in his eyes: no “operation” is thought worthy of attention, that does not double or treble the investment. No business is worth following, that does not promise an immediate fortune. As he sits musing over his ledger, with pen behind his ear, he is like La Mancha’s hero in his study, dreaming over his books of chivalry. His dusty counting-house fades before his eyes, or changes into a Spanish mine; he gropes after diamonds, or dives after pearls. The subterranean garden of Aladdin is nothing to the realms of wealth that break upon his imagination.
When a man of business, therefore, hears on every side rumors of fortunes suddenly acquired; when he finds banks liberal, and brokers busy; when he sees adventurers flush of paper capital, and full of scheme and enterprise; when he perceives a greater disposition to buy than to sell; when trade overflows its accustomed channels, and deluges the country; when he hears of new regions of commercial adventure, of distant marts and distant mines, swallowing merchandise and disgorging gold; when he finds joint stock companies of all kinds forming; railroads, canals, and locomotive engines, springing up on every side; when idlers suddenly become men of business, and dash into the game of commerce as they would into the hazards of the faro table; when he beholds the streets glittering with new equipages, palaces conjured up by the magic of speculation; tradesmen flushed with sudden success, and vying with each other in ostentatious expense; in a word, when he hears the whole community joining in the theme of “unexampled prosperity.” let him look upon the whole as a “weather breeder,” and prepare for the impending storm.
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From The Life of Washington.
=_184._= DEATH AND BURIAL OF BRADDOCK.
The proud spirit of Braddock was broken by his defeat. He remained silent the first evening after the battle, only ejaculating at night, “Who would have thought it!” He was equally silent the following day; yet hope still seemed to linger in his breast, from another ejaculation: “We shall better know how to deal with them another time!”
He was grateful for the attentions paid to him by Captain Stewart and Washington, and more than once, it is said, expressed his admiration of the gallantry displayed by the Virginians in the action. It is said, moreover, that in his last moments, he apologized to Washington for the petulance with which he had rejected his advice, and bequeathed to him his favorite charger and his faithful servant, Bishop, who had helped to convey him from the field.
Some of these facts, it is true, rest on tradition, yet we are willing to believe them, as they impart a gleam of just and generous feeling to his closing scene. He died on the night of the 13th, at the Great Meadows, the place of Washington’s discomfiture in the preceding year. His obsequies were performed before break of day. The chaplain having been wounded, Washington read the funeral service. All was done in sadness, and without parade, so as not to attract the attention of lurking savages, who might discover and outrage his grave. It is doubtful even whether a volley was fired over it, that last military honor which he had recently paid to the remains of an Indian warrior. The place of his sepulture, however, is still known, and pointed out.
Reproach spared him not, even when in his grave. The failure of the expedition was attributed both in England and America, to his obstinacy, his technical pedantry, and his military conceit. He had been continually warned to be on his guard against ambush and surprise, but without avail. Had he taken the advice urged on him by Washington and others, to employ scouting parties of Indians and rangers, he would never have been so signally surprised and defeated.
Still his dauntless conduct on the field of battle shows him to have been a man of fearless spirit; and he was universally allowed to be an accomplished disciplinarian. His melancholy end, too, disarms censure of its asperity. Whatever may have been his faults and errors, he in a manner expiated them by the hardest lot that can befall a brave soldier, ambitious of renown–an unhonored grave in a strange land: a memory clouded by misfortune, and a name for ever coupled with defeat.
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=_185._= BARON STEUBEN IN THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY.
The committee having made their report, the baron’s proffered services were accepted with a vote of thanks for his disinterestedness, and he was ordered to join the army of Valley Forge. That army, in its ragged condition and squalid quarters, presented a sorry aspect to a strict disciplinarian from Germany, accustomed to the order and appointments of European camps; and the baron often declared, that under such circumstances no army in Europe could be kept together for a single month. The liberal mind of Steuben, however, made every allowance; and Washington soon found in him a consummate soldier, free from pedantry or pretension.
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For a time, there was nothing but drills throughout the camp, then gradually came evolutions of every kind. The officers were schooled as well as the men. The troops, says a person who was present in the camp, were paraded in a single line with shouldered arms; every officer in his place. The baron passed in front, then took the musket of each soldier in hand, to see whether it was clean and well polished, and examined whether the men’s accoutrements were in good order.
He was sadly worried for a time with the militia; especially when any manoeuvre was to be performed. The men blundered in their exercise; the baron blundered in his English; his French and German were of no avail; he lost his temper, which was rather warm; swore in all three languages at once, which made the matter worse, and at length called his aide to his assistance, to help him curse the blockheads as it was pretended–but no doubt to explain the manoeuvre.
Still the grand marshal of the court of Hohenzollern mingled with the veteran soldier of Frederick, and tempered his occasional bursts of impatience; and he had a kind generous heart, that soon made him a favorite with the men. His discipline extended to their comforts. He inquired into their treatment by the officers. He examined into the doctor’s reports; visited the sick; and saw that they were well lodged and attended.
He was an example, too, of the regularity and system he exacted. One of the most alert and indefatigable men in the camp; up at day-break if not before, whenever there were to be any important manoeuvres, he took his cup of coffee and smoked his pipe while his servant dressed his hair, and by sunrise he was in the saddle, equipped at all points, with the star of his order of knighthood glittering on his breast, and was off to the parade, alone, if his suite were not ready to attend him.
The strong good sense of the baron was evinced in the manner in which he adapted his tactics to the nature of the army and the situation of the country, instead of adhering with bigotry to the systems of Europe. His instructions were appreciated by all. The officers received them gladly and conformed to them. The men soon became active and adroit. The army gradually acquired a proper organization, and began to operate, like a great machine; and Washington found in the baron an intelligent, disinterested, truthful coadjutor, well worthy of the badge he wore of the Order of _Fidelity_.
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=_Richard Henry Wilde, 1789-1847._= (Manual, pp. 501, 521.)
From “Conjectures concerning Torquato Tasso.”
=_186._= INTEREST OF TASSO’S LIFE.
There is scarcely any poet whose life excites a more profound and melancholy interest than that of Torquato Tasso.
His short and brilliant career of glory captivates the imagination, while the heart is deeply affected by his subsequent misfortunes. Greater fame and greater misery have seldom been the lot of man, and a few brief years sufficed for each extreme.
An exile even in his boyhood, the proscription and confiscation suffered by his father deprived him of home and patrimony. Honor and love, and the favor of princes, and enthusiastic praise, dazzled his youth. Envy, malice, and treachery, tedious imprisonment and imputed madness, insult, poverty, and persecution, clouded his manhood. The evening of his days was saddened by a troubled spirit, want, sickness, bitter memories, and deluded hopes; and when at length a transient gleam of sunshine fell upon his prospects, death substituted the immortal for the laurel crown.
Mystery adds its fascination to his story. The causes of his imprisonment are hidden in obscurity; it is still disputed whether he was insane or not.
Few points of literary history, therefore, are more interesting, or more obscure, than the love, the madness, and the imprisonment of Tasso.
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=_George Ticknor, 1791-1871._= (Manual, p. 502.)
From “The History of Spanish Literature.”
=_187._= DESIGN OF CERVANTES IN WRITING DON QUIXOTE.
His purpose in writing the Don Quixote has sometimes been enlarged by the ingenuity of a refined criticism, until it has been made to embrace the whole of the endless contrast between the poetical and the prosaic in our natures,–between heroism and generosity on one side, as if they were mere illusions, and a cold selfishness on the other, as if it were the truth and reality of life. But this is a metaphysical conclusion drawn from views of the work at once imperfect and exaggerated; a conclusion contrary to the spirit of the age, which was not given to a satire so philosophical and generalizing, and contrary to the character of Cervantes himself, as we follow it from the time when he first became a soldier, through all his trials in Algiers, and down to the moment when his warm and trusting heart dictated the Dedication of “Persiles and Sigismunda” to the Count de Lemos. His whole spirit, indeed, seems rather to have been filled with a cheerful confidence in human virtue, and his whole bearing in life seems to have been a contradiction to that discouraging and saddening scorn for whatever is elevated and generous, which such an interpretation of the Don Quixote necessarily implies.
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At the very beginning of the work, he announces it to be his sole purpose to break down the vogue and authority of books of chivalry, and at the end of the whole he declares anew in his own person, that “he had no other desire than to render abhorred of men the false and absurd stories contained in books of chivalry;” exulting in his success as an achievement of no small moment. And such, in fact, it was, for we have abundant proof that the fanaticism for these romances was so great in Spain, during the sixteenth century, as to have become matter of alarm to the more judicious….
To destroy a passion that had struck its roots so deeply in the character of all classes of men, to break up the only reading which at that time could be considered widely popular and fashionable, was certainly a bold undertaking, and one that marks anything rather than a scornful or broken spirit, or a want of faith in what is most to be valued in our common nature. The great wonder is, that Cervantes succeeded. But that he did there is no question. No book of chivalry was written after the appearance of Don Quixote, in 1605; and from the same date, even those already enjoying the greatest favor ceased, with one or two unimportant exceptions, to be reprinted; so that, from that time to the present, they have been constantly disappearing, until they are now among the rarest of literary curiosities–a solitary instance of the power of genius to destroy, by a single well-timed blow, an entire department, and that, too, a flourishing and favored one, in the literature of a great and proud nation.
The general plan Cervantes adopted to accomplish this object, without, perhaps, foreseeing its whole course, and still less all its results, was simple as well as original. In 1605 he published the first part of Don Quixote, in which a country gentleman of La Mancha, full of genuine Castilian honor and enthusiasm, gentle and dignified in his character, trusted by his friends, and loved by his dependants–is represented as so completely crazed by long reading the most famous books of chivalry, that he believes them to be true, and feels himself called on to become the impossible knight-errant they describe,–nay, actually goes forth, into the world to defend, the oppressed and avenge the injured, like the heroes of his romances.
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=_James Hall, 1793-1868._= (Manual, p. 510.)
From “Statistics of the West.”
=_188._= DESCRIPTION OF A PRAIRIE.
Imagine a stream of a mile in width, whose waters are as transparent as those of the mountain spring, flowing over beds of rock or gravel. Fancy the prairie commencing at the water’s edge–a natural meadow covered with grass and flowers, rising, with a gentle slope, for miles, so that in the vast panorama thousands of acres are exposed to the eye. The prospect is bounded by a range of low hills, which sometimes approach the river, and again recede, and whose summits, which are seen gently waving along the horizon, form the level of the adjacent country…. The timber is scattered in groves and strips, the whole country being one vast illimitable prairie, ornamented by small collections of trees…. But more often we see the single tree, without a companion near, or the little clump, composed of a few dozen oaks or elms; and not unfrequently, hundreds of acres embellished with a kind of open woodland, and exhibiting the appearance of a splendid park, decorated with skill and care by the hand of taste. Here we behold the beautiful lawn enriched with flowers, and studded with trees, which are so dispersed about as not to intercept the prospect, standing singly, so as not to shade the ground, and occasionally collected in clusters, while now and then the shade deepens into the gloom of the forest, or opens into long vistas and spacious plains, destitute of tree or shrub.
When the eye roves off from the green plain, to the groves, or points of timber, these also are found … robed in the most attractive hues. The rich undergrowth is in full bloom. The red-bud, the dog-wood, the crab-apple, the wild plum, the cherry, the wild rose, are abundant in all the rich lands; and the grape-vine, though its blossom is unseen, fills the air with fragrance. The variety of the wild fruit and flowering shrubs is so great, and such the profusion of the blossoms with which they are bowed down, that the eye is regaled almost to satiety.
The gayety of the prairie, its embellishments, and the absence of the gloom and savage wildness of the forest, all contribute to dispel the feeling of lonesomeness which usually creeps over the mind of the solitary traveler in the wilderness. Though he may not see a house nor a human being, and is conscious that he is far from the habitations of men, he can scarcely divest himself of the idea that he is traveling through scenes embellished by the hand of art. The flowers so fragile, so delicate, and so ornamental, seem to have been tastefully disposed to adorn the scene. The groves and clumps of trees appear to have been scattered over the lawn to beautify the landscape; and it is not easy to avoid that illusion of the fancy which persuades the beholder, that such scenery has been created to gratify the refined taste of civilized man.
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=_Henry R. Schoolcraft, 1793-1864._= (Manual, p. 504.)
=_189._= THE CHIPPEWA INDIAN.
Of all the existing branches of the Algonquin stock in America, this extensive and populous tribe appears to have the strongest claims to intellectual distinction, on the score of their traditions, so far at least, as the present state of our inquiries extends. They possess in their curious fictitious legends and lodge-tales, a varied and exhaustless fund of tradition, which is repeated from generation to generation. These legends hold, among the wild men of the north, the relative rank of story-books; and are intended both to amuse and instruct. This people possess also the art of picture writing in a degree which denotes that they have been, either more careful, or more fortunate, in the preservation of this very ancient art of the human race. Warriors, and the bravest of warriors, they are yet an intellectual people.
… They believe that the great Spirit created material matter, and that He made the earth and heavens, by the power of His will…. He made one great and master-spirit of evil, to whom He also gave assimilated and subordinate evil spirits having something of his own nature, to execute his will. Two antagonist powers, they believe, were thus placed in the world, who are continually striving for the mastery, and who have power to affect the lives and fortunes of men. This constitutes the ground-work of their religion, sacrifices, and worship.
They believe that animals were created before men, and that they originally had rule on the earth. By the power of necromancy, some of these animals were transformed to men, who, as soon as they assumed this new form, began to hunt the animals, and make war against them. It is expected that these animals will resume their human shapes, in a future state, and hence their hunters feign some clumsy excuses for their present policy of killing them. They believe that all animals, and birds, and reptiles, and even insects, possess reasoning faculties, and have souls. It is in these opinions, that we detect the ancient, doctrine of transmigration.
One of the most curious opinions of this people is their belief in the mysterious and sacred character of fire. They obtain sacred fire, for all national and ecclesiastical purposes, from the flint. Their national pipes are lighted with this fire. It is symbolical of purity. Their notions of the boundary between life and death, which is also symbolically the limit of the material verge between this and a future state, are revealed in connection with the exhibition of flames of fire. They also make sacrifices by fire of some part of the first fruits of the chase. These traits are to be viewed, perhaps, in relation to their ancient worship of the sun, above noticed, of which the traditions and belief are still generally preserved. The existence of the numerous classes of jossakeeds, or mutterers (the word is from the utterance of sounds low on the earth), is a trait that will remind the reader of a similar class of men in early ages in the eastern hemisphere. These persons constitute, indeed, the Magi of our western forests.
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=_Edward Everett, 1794-1865._= (Manual, pp. 487, 531.)
From “Orations and Speeches.”
=_190._= ASTRONOMY, FOR ALL TIME.
There is much by day to engage the attention of the observatory; the sun, his apparent motions, his dimensions, the spots on his disk (to us the faint indications of movements of unimagined grandeur in his luminous atmosphere), a solar eclipse, a transit of the interior planets, the mysteries of the spectrum–all phenomena of vast importance and interest. But night is the astronomer’s accepted time: he goes to his delightful labors when the busy world goes to its rest. A dark pall spreads over the resorts of active life; terrestrial objects, hill and valley, and rock and stream, and the abodes of men, disappear; but the curtain is drawn up which concealed the heavenly hosts. There they shine and there they move, as they moved and shone to the eyes of Newton and Galileo, of Kepler and Copernicus, of Ptolemy and Hipparchus; yea, as they moved and shone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. All has changed on earth; but the glorious heavens remain unchanged. The plough has passed over the remains of mighty cities, the homes of powerful nations are desolate, the languages they spoke are forgotten; but the stars that shone for them are shining for us; the same eclipses run their steady cycle; the same equinoxes call out the flowers of spring, and send the husbandman to the harvest; the sun pauses at either tropic, as he did when his course began; and sun and moon, and planet and satellite, and star, and constellation, and galaxy, still bear witness to the power, the wisdom, and the love of Him who placed them in the heavens, and upholds them there.
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=_191._= DESCRIPTION OF THE SUNRISE.
Much, however, as we are indebted to our observatories for elevating our conceptions of the heavenly bodies, they present even to the unaided sight, scenes of glory which, words are too feeble to describe. I had occasion, a few weeks since, to take the early train from Providence to Boston; and for this purpose rose at two o’clock in the morning. Everything around was wrapt in darkness and hushed in silence, broken only by what seemed at that hour the unearthly clank and rush of the train. It was a mild, serene, midsummer’s night,–the sky was without a cloud,–the winds were whist. The moon, then in the last quarter, had just risen, and the stars shone with a spectral lustre, but little affected by her presence. Jupiter, two hours high, was the herald of the day; the Pleiades, just above the horizon, shed their sweet influence in the east; Lyra sparkled near the zenith; Andromeda veiled her newly-discovered glories from the naked eye, in the south; the steady pointers, far beneath the pole, looked meekly up from the depths of the north, to their sovereign.
Such was the glorious spectacle as I entered the train. As we proceeded, the timid approach of twilight became more perceptible; the intense blue of the sky began to soften; the smaller stars, like little children, went first to rest; the sister beams of the Pleiades soon melted together; but the bright constellations of the west and north remained unchanged. Steadily the wondrous transfiguration went on. Hands of angels, hidden from mortal eyes, shifted the scenery of the heavens; the glories of night dissolved into the glories of the dawn. The blue sky now turned more softly gray; the great watch-stars shut up their holy eyes; the east began to kindle. Faint streaks of purple soon blushed along the sky; the whole celestial concave was filled with the inflowing