Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

The encomium passed upon the Revolutionary state papers gave us particular pleasure. With equal pleasure did we listen to the just tribute feelingly paid to the humanity and disinterestedness shown by the people of Salem, on the occasion of shutting the port of Boston. The plan of the British ministry was to punish Boston and seduce Salem; to distress some towns, to bribe others, and to terrify all; and certainly in itself the measure was well calculated to succeed.

"The temptation to profit by the punishment of Boston was strongest to our neighbours of Salem. Yet Salem was precisely the place, where this miserable proffer was spurned, in a tone of the most lofty self-respect, and the most indignant patriotism. 'We are deeply affected,' said its inhabitants, with the sense of our public calamities; but the miseries that are now rapidly hastening on our brethren in the capital of the Province, greatly excite our commiseration. By shutting up the port of Boston, some imagine that the course of trade might be turned hither and to our benefit; but we must be dead to every idea of justice, lost to all feelings of humanity, could we indulge a thought to seize on wealth, and raise our fortunes on the ruin of our suffering neighbours.'"

Among the other immediate consequences of the battle was the making of our cause and our character more generally known, and the producing of a conviction that America was in earnest, and if she fell would not fall without a struggle. This knowledge and this conviction reached the cars. and the heart of a youthful and disinterested friend, who, by the signal favor of Heaven, was now again among us, and, rising from his seat, received the following just and noble tribute of respect and gratitude:

"Sir, we are assembled to commemorate the establishment of great public principles of liberty, and to do honor to the distinguished dead. The occasion is too severe for eulogy to the living. But, sir, your interesting relation to this country, the peculiar circumstances which surround you and surround us, call on me to express the happiness which we derive from your presence and aid in this solemn commemoration.

"Fortunate, fortunate man! with what measure of devotion will you not thank God for the circumstances of your extraordinary life! You are connected with both hemispheres and with two generations. Heaven saw fit to ordain, that the electric spark of Liberty should be conducted, through you, from the new world to the old; and we, who are now here to perform this du

ty of patriotism, have all of us long ago received it in charge from our fathers to cherish your name and your virtues. You will account it an instance of your good fortune, sir, that you crossed the seas to visit us at a time which enables you to be present at this solemnity. You now behold the field, the renown of which reached you in the heart of France, and caused a thrill in your ardent bosom. You see the lines of the little redoubt thrown up by the incredible diligence of Prescott; defended, to the last extremity, by his lion-hearted valor; and within which the corner stone of our monument has now taken its position. You see where Warren fell, and where Parker, Gardner, McCleary, Moore, and other early patriots fell with him. Those who survived that day, and whose lives have been prolonged to the present hour, are now around you. Some of them you have known in the trying scenes of the war. Behold! they now stretch forth their feeble arms to embrace you. Behold! they raise their trembling voices to invoke the blessing of God on you, and yours, forever. 66 Sir, you have assisted us in laying the foundation of this edifice. You have heard us rehearse, with our feeble commendation, the names of departed patriots. Sir, monuments and eulogy belong to the dead. We give them, this day, to Warren and his associates. On other occasions they have been given to your more immediate companions in arms, to Washington, to Greene, to Gates, Sullivan, and Lincoln. Sir, we have become reluctant to grant these, our highest and last honors, further. We would gladly hold them yet back from the little remnant of that immortal band. Serus in cœlum redeas. Illustrious as are your merits, yet far, oh, very far distant be the day, when any inscription shall bear your name, or any tongue pronounce its eulogy!"

The remaining part of the address is taken up in describing the more remote consequences of this battle and of our Revolution, the progress of knowledge and rational government, the convulsions, the sufferings, and the improvement of society within these fifty years. The revolutions of France, South America, and Greece, form the leading topics of this part. The whole description of South American emancipation is beautiful and sublime, but too long for our limits. Several particular remarks have suggested themselves touching many portions of this address; but we must waive them for the present, and confine ourselves to one or two that are very general.

The first and most material one is, that this address contains, in some part or other, about all the prominent doctrines which should enter into the political creed of a citizen of this

country. It appears to us, that the feelings expressed in this discourse are those which arise naturally out of the condition and institutions of our country; that the principles put forth in it are those in which all patriotic, enlightened, and highminded Americans must cordially agree. They are not English nor French, federal nor democratic, but American. America, "our Country," is this great statesman's Shibboleth.

Our next remark goes to the style and manner. Mr Webster, as an orator, is decidedly of the Demosthenian school; and we have more than once, in other places, designated him as the Demosthenes of America, and we may add, of Greece also. It is extremely difficult to institute a comparison between illustrious orators of ancient and modern times, on account of the different states of science and general education, the very different manner of conducting the administration at home, and negotiations and wars abroad. What was eloquence then, is not necessarily so now; what was eloquence at Athens, may or may not be eloquence here. We well recollect a sensible and liberal remark, with which one of our cotemporaries at the university closed a successful prize dissertation on this subject. After a general view of the characteristics of ancient oratory, and of the manner and style of its two great ornaments, and after comparing them with some distinguished British orators, he concludes, that "Chatham and Burke, though different from both, were not inferior to either." If the structure and arrangement of Mr Webster's sentences were equal to the beauty and grandeur of his conceptions, he would be, in our times, facile princeps, clearly the first. We have heard most of the celebrated orators of this generation, and we have no hesitation in saying, that in native vigour and grasp of intellect, in the powers of comprehension and concentration, in that majestic movement of spirit, which bears onward the reason and the feelings of the hearer, he is without a rival on either side of the Atlantic. We however feel it due to our critical character to mention one fault, which occurs more or less in all this gentleman's performances; namely, dryness, jejuneness. The barrenness of his language often presents a strange contrast with the richness of his thoughts. We are aware that we expose ourselves to have a favourite poet cited against us. But we appeal to the decision of all nations, civilized and savage, to settle the point. Their decision is, that the most beautiful person should be dressed with some degree of art and ornament. To a truly

beautiful and majestic person, all dress is deformity, and it belongs to art and taste to diminish that deformity as much as possible. So a man's thoughts, if they be just, dignified, and beautiful, cannot be conveyed to others through the medium of language (however they may be by painting, sculpture, and gesture) so strongly and so perfectly as he conceives them in his own mind; and he should endeavour to diminish. the inconvenience arising from the imperfection of all language, as much as possible; he should study, habitually, such a choice and arrangement of words and sentences, as will give the truest and most agreeable expression to the thoughts of his mind and the feelings of his heart. This is the business of labour and art; and it was precisely in this, that Demosthenes excelled all other men; and it is in this, that Mr Webster is deficient. We do not mean that he is greatly so, or that we had not rather err with him, than to be right with some other men; "Errare mehercule malo cum Platone, quàm cum istis vera sentire." We only mean to intimate that, in our opinion, there is, in this respect, room for improvement.

Some persons appear to have been disappointed, that none of those sudden and surprising effects, which we read of in the annals of ancient oratory, were produced on this occasion. We think this fact can be explained without the least disparagement of the speaker's general powers, or of the merits of this address. If we look into the history of the times to which those effects belong, we shall find that the minds both of the audience and of the orator were agitated by the strongest passions. The fears of invasion, defeat, captivity, and death; the hope of victory in a doubtful strife, and of salvation from these last of human calamities; the love of personal and national glory; the horror of contempt and infamy; the hatred of foreign foes, plunderers, and destroyers; the attachment to country, friends, wives, children, and home-these, or like passions, were heaving and struggling in the breasts of both the people and the speaker. Is it strange, that, under such circumstances, great and memorable effects should have been produced by accomplished masters of that living lyre, the human heart? At Bunker Hill, all was matter of calm retrospection and cool reflection. The events, which formed the appropriate topics of the occasion, were numbered with those before the flood. There was no present enemy to denounce, no pressing and imminent danger to guard against, no lives of

men, no sacrifices of substance, to be called for; no husband nor son to be torn from wife, parent, and home, to be devoted to country, to death, and to fame; no hostile hatred, ambition, and cruelty, to portray; nothing, in short, so far as regarded the subject, which in itself was calculated to produce any sudden and violent emotion, any more than the ordinary topics of a sacrament sermon. Yet uncommon effects were produced, and we think it fair to say, that those effects were more to be attributed to the talents of the speaker, than to the circumstances under which he spoke. In addition to these disadvantages, it may be remarked, that expecation was raised to the highest pitch both from the known and well tried talents of the orator, and from the singular and sublime, yet tranquil and pacific character of this sober celebration.

We would not have our readers suppose, that, in these remarks, we are answering objections of our own, and trying to work ourselves up, invitâ minervâ, into an intense and unnatural admiration of a performance to which our feelings are indifferent or repugnant. They are intended merely as a reply to those who demand, without regard to circumstances, not a production which should rival in its excellence, but one which should equal in its immediate effects, the most renowned efforts of ancient eloquence. Such an expectation was unnatural, unreasonable, unphilosophical, and ought to have been disappointed. This address, however, needs not our commendation or defence. It is already travelling to the four quarters of the world. It is transcribed on the hearts of the thousands who heard it, and will be on those of the millions who will read it.

Reform of Harvard College.

(For the Titles, see No. 6 of this Gazette.)

[CONTINUED.]

BESIDE the resident Professors already mentioned, there are two others, who are not concerned in the instruction of undergraduates, and whose salaries add nothing to the expense of instruction. On these, therefore, it is unnecessary to remark at present.

Having shown that the expense of the establishments of the resident Professors, may be partially diminished at present, and

« НазадПродовжити »