Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

he gives men to mankind, and mankind to the laws of God. His position is a striking one. Eminently a child of Christianity and of the American idea, he is out of the Church and out of the State. In the midst of Calvinistic and Unitarian superstition, he does not fear God, but loves and trusts Him. He does not worship the idols of our time—wealth and respectability, the two calves set up by our modern Jeroboam. He fears not the damnation these idols have the power to inflict-neither poverty nor social disgrace. In busy and bustling New-England comes out this man serene and beautiful as a star, and shining like “a good deed in a naughty world.” Reproached as an idler, he is active as the sun, and

pours

out his radiant truth on Lyceums at Chelmsford, at Waltham, at Lowell, and all over the land. Out of a cold Unitarian Church rose this most lovely light. Here is Boston, perhaps the most humane city in America, with its few noble men and women, its beautiful charities, its material vigour, and its hardy enterprise; commercial Boston, where honour is weighed in the public scales, and justice reckoned by the dollars it brings; conservative Boston, the grave of the Revolution, wallowing in its wealth, yet grovelling for more, seeking only money, careless of justice, stuffed with cotton yet hungry for tariffs, sick with the greedy worm of avarice, loving money as the end of life, and bigots as the means of preserving it; Boston with toryism in its parlours, toryism in its pulpits, toryism in its press,

itself a tory town, preferring the accidents of man to man himself—and amidst it all there comes Emerson, graceful as Phoebus-Apollo, fearless and tranquil as the sun he was supposed to guide, and pours down the enchantment of his light, which falls where'er it may, on dust, on diamonds, on decaying heaps to hasten their rapid rot, on seeds new sown to quicken their ambitious germ, on virgin minds of youths and maids to waken the natural seed of nobleness therein, and make it grow to beauty and to manliness. Such is the beauty of his speech, such the majesty of his ideas, such the power of the moral sentiment in men, and such the impression which his whole character makes on them, that they lend him, everywhere, their ears, and thousands bless his manly thoughts.

HILDRETH'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.

The History of the United States of America, from the Dis

covery of the Continent to the Organization of Government under the Federal Constitution. By RICHARD HILDRETH. In three volumes. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1849.

At the present day, the United States present one of the most interesting and important political phenomena ever offered in the history of mankind. England has planted her colonies in New Holland, in New Zealand, in the East and the West Indies, at Cape Good Hope, and at Labrador; at Mauritius, Gibraltar, and in the Islands of the Pacific. She has forced an entrance into China; she longs to get firm footing in Borneo and Nicaragua. Wheresoever her children wander, they carry the seed out of which British institutions are sure to grow; institutions, however, which never produce their like, but nobler and better on another soil. Omitting all mention of Ireland, abundantly treated in a previous article, America was the oldest of these colonies; the first to detach itself from the parent stem, and is, perhaps, the prophecy of what most of the others are destined to become.

It must be a vigorous tribe of men which can hold so vast a portion of the earth, while themselves are so few in numbers. Three hundred years ago, in the reign of Edward the Sixth, England was a third-rate power in Europe. Her population was less than three millions, her exports were trifling, and consisted of the raw materials of her clumsy agriculture, and her mineral treasures, which the Tyrians had traversed the ocean to purchase two thousand years before. Her soil could hardly raise a salad. Scotland was independent; Ireland not wholly subject to English rule; Wales had but lately been added to her realm.

She was remarkable chiefly for the stormy seas which girt the Isle, and the chalky cliffs along her shore; for the fogs that

a

cover it; for the rudeness of her inhabitants and the tough valour of her soldiers. Now, in three hundred years, England contains some seventeen millions of inhabitants; Scotland and Ireland, ten millions more. Russia, Austria, and France, are the only nations in Europe that outnumber her in population. Turkey, with nine millions, and Spain, with twelve, are powerless beside her. Her ships are in all the oceans of the world; the sun never sets on her flag ; her subjects capture the whale at Baffin's Bay, and the elephant in India; they sport at hunting lions in South Africa. Her navigators, with scientific hardihood, explore each corner of the Northern Sea, or, locked in ice, wait the slow hand of death, or the slower sun of an arctic summer. She has climes too cold for the reindeer; climes too hot almost for the sugar-cane and the pine-apple; the lean larch of Scotland, and the banyan-tree of Hindostan, both grow in the same empire. Esquimaux, Gaboon, and Sanscrit, are tongues subject to Britain. At least an eighth part of the men now living in the world owe allegiance to the

queen of that little island. Her children came to America when the nation was in all the vigour of its most rapid growth. The progress of their descendants in population and in wealth has been without parallel. Two hundred and fifty years ago, there was not an English settler in the United States; now the population is not far from two-and-twenty millions; two-thirds of the people are of English origin. The increase of property has been more rapid than that of numbers. In fifty years, Boston has multiplied her inhabitants nearly five-fold, and her property more than twenty-five-fold in the same time. The increase of intelligence is very remarkable, and probably surpasses that of property.

The Americans are now trying a political experiment which has hitherto been looked on with great suspicion and even horror. Here is a democracy on a large scale; a church without a bishop ; a state without a king ; society (in the Free States) without the theoretical distinction of patrician and plebeian. What is more surprising, the experiment succeeds better than its most sanguine friends ever dared to hope. The evils which were apprehended have not yet befallen us. The “Red Republic,” which hostile prophets foretold, has not come to pass; there are

а

red” monarchies, enough of them, the other side of the world, born red; doomed, we fear, to die in that sad livery of woe; but in America, the person of the citizen is still respected quite as much as in Austria and England ; and nowhere in the world is property safer or so much honoured; the lovers of liberty here are lovers of order as its condition. Even Mr Carlyle, accustomed to speak of America with bitterness and contempt, and of the ballot-box with loathing and nausea, confesses to the success of the experiment so far as wealth and numbers are concerned. Indeed, it is a matter of rejoicing to warm-hearted men, that we have cotton to cover and corn to feed the thousands of exiles who yearly are driven by hunger from England, to seek a home or a grave on the soil of America. It is interesting to study the growth of the American people; to observe the progress of the idea on which the government rests, and the attempts to make the idea an institution.

This is one of the few great nations which can trace its history back to certain beginnings; there is no fabulous period in our annals ; no mythical centuries, when

Οι πρώτα μεν βλέποντες έβλεπον μάτην,
Κλύοντες ουκ ήκουον· αλλ' όνειράτων
'Αλίγκιοι μορφαίσι, τον μακρόν χρόνον
"Εφυρον είκή πάντα, κούτε πλινθυφείς
Δόμους προσείλους ήσαν, ου ξυλουργίαν"
Κατώρυχες δ' έναιον, ώστε αήσυροι

Μύρμηκες, άντρων έν μυχούς άνηλίοις. To be rightly appreciated, American history requires to be written by a Democrat. A Theocrat would condemn our institutions for lacking an established church with its privileged priesthood; an Aristocrat, for the absence of conventional nobility. Military men might sneer at the smallness of the

army
and
navy ;

and aesthetic men deplore the want of a splendid court, the lack of operatic and other spectacles in the large towns. The Democrat looks for the substantial welfare of the people, and studies America with reference to that point. At present, America is not remarkable for her literature or her art; she has made respectable advances in science, but her industrial works and her political institutions are by far her most remarkable achievements hitherto. We are not sanguine enough to suppose that all the advantages of all the other forms of

[ocr errors]

government are to be secured in this, but yet trust that the most valuable things will be preserved here. In due time, we doubt not, the higher results of civilization will appear, and we shall estimate the greatness of the nation not merely by its numbers, its cotton, its cattle, and its corn. But “that is not first which is spiritual.” First of all, the imperious wants of the body must be attended to,—the woods are to be felled, the log-cabins built, the corn got into the ground, the wild beasts destroyed, the savages kept at peace. There must be many generations between the woodsman who erects the first shanty of logs, and the poet who sheds immortal beauty on logs and lumberers. Were there not ages between the wooden hut of Arcadian Pelasgos

in Greece and the Parthenon ? From mythical Cecrops to Aristophanes, the steps are many, each a generation. The genius of Liberty only asks two things-time and space. Space enough she has, all America is before her

r; time she takes possession of fast enough, only a second at once; and in the course of ages, we think she will make her mark on the world. Up to this time the achievements of America are, taken as a whole, such as we need not much blush at. Some things

there were and are to be ashamed of -not of the whole. That dreadful blot of slavery remains yet, an Ireland in America; among the whites, on the one hand, causing the most shameful poltroonery which modern times can redden at, and, on the other, calling forth heroism, that seems almost enough to redeem the wickedness which has brought it to light. But, turning to that half of the nation free from direct personal contact with this sin of the state, forgetting for a moment the foolishness of “political sages,” the cowardice of those leaders who never dare enact justice as a statute, but take the responsibility of making iniquity a law, and omitting the defalcation of men who forsake their habitual worship of a calf of gold, to bow down before a face of dough,—there is certainly a gratifying spectacle. Here are some fifteen millions of free men, trying the voluntary system in church and state, richer than

any other people of the same numbers in the world, and with the aggregate wealth of the nation more equally distributed; a nation well fed, well clothed, well housed, industrious, temperate, well governed, and respecting one another and themselves; that certainly VOL. X.-Critical Writings, 2.

17

a

« AnkstesnisTęsti »