Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

not his wickedness, wrought for our nation such shame and

woe.

Of his administration in general, we would say little. He proved by experiment that his was "a nomination not fit to be made ;" not fit to be confirmed after the convention had made it; he demonstrated by experiment the folly of putting a little man into a great man's place; the folly of taking the mere creature of a party to be the President of a nation. It was not the first time this had been done, not the last. Yet such is the structure of government and society in America, such the character of the people, so young, so free, so fresh, and strong—that not even such an administration as Mr Polk's can permanently impede the nation's march. Cattle and corn were never more abundant. Foreigners came here in great numbers, 229,483 in the year ending 30th September, 1848. Our total increase must have been considerably more than half a million a year. Not long ago men sneered at America -a Republic could not hold its own, or only with men like Washington at its head. But in 1848, when the nations of Europe were convulsed with revolutions, whose immediate failure is now the joy of the enemies of mankind, west of the ocean not less than east thereof-America stood firm, though her nominal guide was only James K. Polk. Ours is the most complicated government in the world, but it resembles the complication of the human body, not that of a fancy watch. Our increase in wealth was greater far than our proportionate growth of numbers. When trade is free, and labour free, and institutions for all men, there is no danger that men will multiply faster than bread to fill their mouths. This is God's world and not the Devil's. We

e are a new people in a new world; flexible still, and ready to take the impress of a great idea. Shame on us that we choose such leaders; men with no noble gifts of leadership, no lofty ideas, no humane aims; men that defile the continent with brother's blood most wickedly poured out! The President of the Democrats showed himself the ally of the Autocrats of the East who

“ wade through slaughter to a throne,

And shut the gates of mercy on mankind.” The good things of Mr Polk's administration we have VOL. X.-Critical Writings, 2.

13

spoken of and duly honoured ; the abomination thereofwhence came that? From the same source out of which so much evil has already come: from Slavery. A nation, like a man, is amenable to the law of God; suffers for its sin, and must suffer till it ends the sin. In the North national unity of action is preserved with little sacrifice of individual variety of action; the union of the people and the freedom of the person are carefully kept secure. Hence each man has as much freedom as he can have in the

present state of physical, moral, and social science. But in the South it is not so; there, in a population of 7,334,431 persons, there are 2,486,326 slaves; so if the average amount of freedom in the North be represented by one, in the South it will be but about two-thirds; * it is doubtful that the inhabitants of any part of Europe, except Russia and Turkey, have less. Think you, O reader, while we thus trample on the rights of millions of men, we shall not suffer for the crime ? No! God forbid that we should not suffer.

There are two things the nation has to fear-two modes of irresponsible power. One is the POWER OF PARTY ; one the POWER OF GOLD. Mr Polk was the creature of a party ; his ideas were party ideas, his measures party measures, his acts party acts, himself a party man. A party can make a President, as a heathen his idol, out of anything ; no material is too vulgar; but a party cannot make a great man out of all the little ones which can be scented out by the keenest convention which ever met. The Democratic party made Mr Polk; sustained him ; but no huzzas could make him a great man, a just man, or a fair man. No king is more tyrannical than a party when it has the power; no despot more irresponsible. The Democrats and Whigs are proof of this. One has noble instincts and some noble ideas-so had the other once; but consider the conduct of the Baltimore convention in 1844; their conduct for five years after. Consider the convention of Philadelphia in 1848, and the subsequent conduct of the Whigs ! This irresponsible power of party has long been controlled by the South, for various reasons named before. The irresponsible power of gold appears in two forms, as it is held by individuals or corporations. The power of gold when vast sums are amassed by a single individual, who owns more property than five counties

* 4,848,105

=.661 + 7,134,431

of Massachusetts, is certainly dangerous, and of an evil tendency. But yet as the individual is transient, it is not presently alarming; a wise law, unwelcome often to the rich man, limits his control to a few years. His children may be fathers of

. poor men.

But when vast sums are held by a corporation, permanent in itself, though composed of fleeting elements, this power, which no statute of mortmain here holds in check, becomes alarming as well as dangerous. This power of gold belongs to the North, and is likewise irresponsible.

Sometimes the two help balance, and counteract one another. It was so in the administration of Jackson and Van Buren. Jackson set the power of party to smite the power of gold. Even Mr Polk did so in two remarkable instances. But this is not always to be expected: the two are natural allies. The feudalism of birth, depending on a Caucasian descent, and the feudalism of gold, depending on its dollars, are of the same family, only settled in different parts of the land; they are true yoke-fellows. The slaveocracy of the South, and the plutocracy of the North, are born of the same mother. Now, for the first time for many years, they have stricken hands; but the Northern power of gold at the Philadelphia convention was subjugated by the Southern power of party, and lent itself a willing tool. Together they have selected the man of their choice, confessedly ignorant of politics, of small ability, and red with war; placed him on the throne of the nation. The slaveocracy and the plutocracy each gave him its counsel. By his experiment he is to demonstrate his fitness, his impotence, or his crime. He is on trial before the nation. It is not ours to judge, still less to pre-judge him. Let General Taylor be weighed in an even balance. We trust that some one, four years hence, will report on his administration with as much impartiality as we have aimed at, and with more power to penetrate and judge. wish there might be a more honourable tale to tell of the first mere military chief the nation ever chose. There are great problems before the nation-involving the welfare of millions of men. We pause, with hope and fear, for the Whigs to solve them as they can.

We

THE WRITINGS OF RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

1. Nature, 8c. Boston: 1836. 1 vol. 12mo. 2. Essays. By R. W. EMERSON. Boston: 1841. 1 vol.

12mo. 3. Essays : Second Series. By R. W. EMERSON. Ibid. :

1844. 1 vol. 12mo. . 4. Poems. By R. W. EMERSON. Ibid. : 1847. 1 vol. 12mo. 5. Nature, Addresses and Orations. By R. W. EMERSON.

Ibid.: 1849. 1 vol. 12mo. 6. Representative Men : Seven Lectures. By R. W. EMER

Ibid. : 1850. 1 vol. 12mo.

SON.

WHEN a hen lays an egg in the farmer's mow, she cackles quite loud and long: "See,” says the complacent bird, .

, see what an egg I have laid !” all the other hens cackle in sympathy, and seem to say, "what a nice egg has got laid! was there ever such a family of hens as our family ?” But the cackling is heard only a short distance, in the neighbouring barnyards ; a few yards above, the blue sky is silent. By and by the rest will drop their daily burden, and she will cackle with them in sympathy—but ere long the cackling is still ; the egg has done its service, been addled, or eaten, or perhaps proved fertile of a chick, and it is forgotten, as well as the cackler who laid the ephemeral thing. But when an acorn in June first uncloses its shell, and the young oak puts out its earliest shoot, there is no noise ; none attending its growth, yet it is destined to last some half a thousand years as a living tree, and serve as long after that for sound timber. Slowly and in silence, unseen in the dim recesses of the earth, the diamond gets formed by small accretions, age after age. There is no cackling in the caverns of the deep, as atom journeys to its fellow atom and the crystal is slowly getting made, to shine on the bosom of loveliness, or glitter in the diadem of an emperor, a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

[ocr errors]

As with eggs, so is it with little books; when one of them is laid in some bookseller's mow, the parent and the literary barnyard are often full of the foolishest cackle, and seem as happy as the ambiguous offspring of frogs, in some shallow pool, in early summer.

But by and by it is again with the books as with the eggs; the old noise is all hushed, and the little books all gone, while new authors are at the same work again.

Gentle reader, we will not find fault with such books, they are as useful as eggs; yea, they are indispensable; the cackle of authors, and that of hens—why should they not be allowed ? Is it not written that all things shall work after their kind, and so produce; and does not this rule extend from the hen-roost to the American Academy and all the Royal Societies of lierature in the world ? Most certainly. But when a great book gets written, it is published with no fine flourish of trumpets; the world does not speedily congratulate itself on the accession made to its riches; the book must wait awhile for its readers. Literary gentlemen of the tribe of Bavius and Mævius are popular in their time, and get more praise than bards afterwards famous. What audience did Athens and Florence give to their Socrates and their Dante ? What price did Milton get for the Paradise Lost? How soon did men appreciate Shakspeare ? Not many years ago, George Steevens, who "edited” the works of that bard, thought an “ Act of Parliament was not strong enough” to make men read his sonnets, though they bore the author up a great height of fame, and he sat where Steevens “durst not soar." In 1686, there had been four editions of Flatman's Poems; five of Waller's; eight of Cowley's; but in eleven years, of the Paradise Lost only three thousand copies were sold; yet the edition was cheap, and Norris of Bemerton went through eight or nine editions in a quite short time. For forty-one years, from 1623 to 1664, England was satisfied with two editions of Shakspeare, making, perhaps, one thousand copies in all. Says Mr Wordsworth of these facts : “ There were readers in multitudes; but their money went for other purposes, as their admiration was fixed elsewhere.” Mr Wordsworth him. self furnishes another example. Which found the readiest welcome, the Excursion and the Lyrical Poems of that

to

« AnkstesnisTęsti »