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with models never surpassed, and perhaps not equalled. Yet they lack the ideal aspiration after Religion that appears in the literature and art, and even language of some other people, quite inferior to the Greeks in elegance and refinement. Science, also, is most largely indebted to these beauty-loving Greeks, for Truth is one form of Loveliness.
If we take the Romans, from Romulus their first king, to Augustulus the last of the Cæsars, the same traits of national character appear, only the complexion and dress thereof changed by circumstances. There is always the same hardness and materialism, the same skill in organizing men, the same turn for affairs and genius for legislation. Rome borrowed her theology and liturgical forms; her art, science, literature, philosophy, and eloquence; even her art of war was an imitation. But Law sprung up indigenous in her soil; her laws are the best gift she offers to the Human Race, - the “monument more lasting than brass” which she has left behind her. We may
take another nation, which has by no means completed its history, the Saxon race, from Hengist and Horsa to Sir Robert Peel: there also is a permanent peculiarity in the tribe. They are yet the same bold, hardy, practical people as when their bark first touched the savage shores of Britain ; not over religious; less pious than moral; not so much upright before God, as downright before men; servants of the Understanding more than children of Reason ; not following the guidance of an intuition, and the light of an Idea, but rather trusting to experiment, facts, precedents, and usages; not philosophical, but commercial; warlike through strength and courage, not from love of war or its glory; material, obstinate, and grasping, with the same admiration of horses, dogs, oxen, and strong drink; the same willingness to tread down any obstacle, material, human, or divine, which stands in their way; the same impatient lust of wealth and power; the same disposition to colonize and reannex other lands; the same love of Liberty and love of Law; the same readiness in forming political confederations.
In each of these four instances the IIebrews, the Ionians, the Romans, and the Anglo-Saxon race have had a nationality so strong, that while they have mingled with other nations in commerce and in war, as victors and vanquished, they have stoutly held their character through all; they have thus modified feebler nations joined with them. To take the last, neither the Britons nor the Danes affected very much the character of the Anglo-Saxons; they never turned it out of its course. The Normans gave the Saxon manners, refinement, letters, elegance. The Anglo-Saxon bishop of the eleventh century, dressed in untanned sheep skins," the woolly side out and the fleshy side in ;" he ate checse and flesh, drank milk and mead. The Norman taught him to wear cloth, to eat also bread and roots, to drink wine. But in other respects the Norman left him as he found him. England has received her kings and her nobles from Normandy, Anjou, the Provence, Scotland, Holland, Hanover ---- often seeing a foreigner ascend her throne; yet the sturdy Anglo-Saxon character held its own, spite of the new element infused into its blood : change the ministries, change the dynasties often as they will, John Bull is obstinate as ever, and himself changes not; no philosophy or religion makes him less material. No nation but the English could have produced a Hobbes, a Hume, a Paley, or a Bentham, – they are all instancial and not exceptional men in that race.
Now this idiosyncrasy of a nation is a sacred gift; like the genius of a Burns, a Thorvaldsen, a Franklin, or a Bowditch: it is given for some divine purpose, to be sacredly cherished and patiently unfolded. The cause of the peculiarities of a nation or an individual man we cannot fully determine as yet, and so we refer it to the chain of causes which we call Providence. But the national persistency in a common type is easily explained. The qualities of father and mother are commonly transmitted to their children, but not always, for peculiarities may lie latent in a family for generations, and reappear in the genius or the folly of a child — often in the complexion and features : and besides, father and mother are often no match. But such exceptions are rare, and the qualities of a race are always thus reproduced, the deficiency of one man getting counterbalanced by the redundancy of the next : the marriages of a whole tribe are not far from normal.
Some nations, it seems, perish through defect of this national character, as individuals fail of success through excess or deficiency in their character. Thus the Celts, - that great flood of a nation which once swept over Germany, France, England, and, casting its spray far over the Alps, at one time threatened destruction to Rome itself, - seem to have been so filled with Love of Individual Independence that they could
never accept a minute organization of human Rights and Duties, and so their children would not group themselves into a City, as other races, and submit to a strong central power, which should curb individual will enough to ensure National Unity of Action. Perhaps this was once the excellence of the Celts, and thereby they broke the trammels and escaped from the theocratic or despotic traditions of earlier and more savage times, developing the Power of the Individual for a time, and the energy of a nation loosely bound; but when they came in contact with the Romans, Franks, and Saxons, they melted away as snow in April - only, like that, remnants thereof yet lingering in the mountains and islands of Europe. No external pressure of famine or political oppression can hold the Celts in Ireland together, or give them national unity of action enough to resist the Saxon foe. Doubtless in other days this very peculiarity of the Irish has done the world some service. Nations succeed each other as races of animals in the geologi. cal epochs, and like them, also, perish when their work is done.
The peculiar character of a nation does not appear nakedly, without relief and shadow. As the waters of the Rhone, in coming from the mountains, have caught a stain from the soils they have traversed which mars the cerulean tinge of the mountain snow that gave them birth, so the peculiarities of each nation become modified by the circumstances to which it is exposed, though the fundamental character of a nation, it seems, has never been changed. Only when the BLOOD of the nation is changed by additions from another stock is the idiosyncrasy altered.
Now, while each nation has its peculiar Genius or character which does not change, it has also and accordingly a particular Work to perform in the economy of the world, a certain Fundamental Idea to unfold and develop. This is its national task, for in God's world, as in a shop, there is a regular division of labor. Sometimes it is a limited work, and when it is done the nation may be dismissed, and go to its repose. Non omnia possumus omnes is as true of nations as of men; one has a genius for one thing, another for something different, and the Idea of each nation and its special Work will depend on the Genius of the nation. Men do not gather grapes of thorns.
In addition to this specific genius of the nation and its corresponding work, there are also various Accidental or Subordinate Qualities, which change with circumstances, and so vary the nation's aspect that its peculiar genius and peculiar
duty are often hid from its own consciousness, and even obscured to that of the philosophic looker on. These subordinate peculiarities will depend first on the peculiar Genius, Idea, and Work of the nation, and next on the Transient Circumstances - geographical, climactic, historical, and secular - to which the nation has been exposed. The past helped form the circumstances of the present age, and they the character of the men now living. Thus new modifications of the national type continually take place ; new variations are played, but on the same old strings and of the same old tune. Once circumstances made the Hebrews entirely agricultural, now as completely commercial ; but the same Trust in God, the same National Exclusiveness appear, as of old. As one looks at the history of the Ionians, Romans, Saxons, he sees Unity of National Character, a Continuity of Idea and of Work; but it appears in the midst of Variety, for while these remained ever the same to complete the economy of the world, subordinate qualities - sentiments, ideas, actions - changed to suit the passing hour. The nation's course was laid towards a certain point, but they stood to the right hand or the left, they sailed with much canvas or little, and swift or slow, as the winds and waves compelled ;-nay, sometimes the national ship“ heaves to," and lies with her " head to the wind,” regardless of her destination ; but when the storm is overblown resumes her course. Men will carelessly think the ship has no certain aim, but only drifts.
The most marked characteristic of the American nation is LOVE OF FREEDOM; of Man's NATURAL RIGlts. This is so plain to a student of American History, or of American Politics, that the point requires no arguing. We have a Genius for Liberty: the American idea is Freedom, Natural Rights. Accordingly, the work providentially laid out for us to do seems this: TO ORGANIZE THE RIGHTS OF MAN. This is a problem hitherto unattempted on a national scale, in human history. Often enough attempts have been made to organize the Powers of Priests, Kings, Nobles, in a Theocracy, Monarchy, Oligarchy—powers which had no foundation in human Duties, or human Rights, but solely in the selfishness of strong men. Often enough have the Mights of Men been organized, but not the Rights of Man. Surely there has never been an attempt made on a national scale to organize the Rights of Man as Man, Rights resting on the nature of
things ; Rights derived from no conventional compact of men with men ; not inherited from past generations, nor received from Parliaments and Kings, or secured by their parchments, - but Rights that are derived straightway from God, - the Author of Duty and the Source of Right, — and which are secured in the Great Charter of our Being.
At first view it will be said, the peculiar genius of America is not such, nor such her fundamental idea, nor that her destined work. It is true that much of the national conduct seems exceptional when measured by that standard, and the nation's course as crooked as the Rio Grande ; it is true that America sometimes seems to spurn Liberty, and sells the freedom of three million men for less than three million annual bales of cotton ; - true, she often tramples, knowingly, consciously tramples, on the most unquestionable and sacred Rights. Yet, when one looks through the whole character and history of America - spite of the exceptions, nothing comes out with such relief as this Love of Freedom, this Idea of Liberty, this attempt to organize Right. There are numerous subordinate qualities which conflict with the nation's Idea and work, coming from our circumstances, not our soul, as well as many others which help the nation perform her providential work. They are Signs of the Times, and it is important to look carefully at the most prominent among them, where, indeed, one finds striking contradictions.
The first is an Impatience of Authority. Every thing must render its reason, and show cause for its being. We will not be commanded, at least only by such as we choose to obey. Does some one say, “ Thou shalt,” or “ Thou shalt not,” we ask, “Who are you?” Hence comes a seeming irreverence. The shovel hat, -- the symbol of authority, which awed our fathers, is not respected unless it covers a man, and then it is the man we honor, and no longer the shovel hat. “I will complain of you to the government!” said a Prussian nobleman to a Yankee stage-driver, who uncivilly threw the nobleman's trunk to the top of the coach. “Tell the government to go to the Devil !” was the symbolical reply.
Old precedents will not suffice us, for we want something anterior to all precedents; we go beyond what is written, asking the cause of the precedent, and the reason of the writing Our fathers did so,” says some one.