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England puritans, who were descended from the bigoted fanatics of Old England, who were great readers of the Bible, and, consequently, IGNORANT, PREJUDICED, COLD-BLOODED, FALSE AND CRUEL; but could never be fastened on the more enlightened, liberal and philosophical inhabitants of Louisiana, the descendants of Frenchmen.”—p. 394.
The system of public education (if system it may be called) is precisely what those precious fruits of it may be supposed to indicate. With other feelings than those of satisfaction we cannot but advert to the small number of books published in America, (where, as we learn from Mr. Bristed, the number of readers is so considerable,) which have any tendency to improve the mind or enlighten the understanding. It is true that many of our most popular writings are reprinted in the United States; but, if we might venture to judge at this distance, we should say that the valuable part of our productions are less widely disseminated than those of a light, a worthless, or a pernicious tendency. Ages may pass away before America will find either leisure or inclination for the study of Bacon, Locke and Newton; but in the interim fitter substitutes might surely be procured for them than the polluted trash of our Jacobinical press. The evil, however, is deeply rooted. In every part of this vast country, the institutions for education are evidently on too low a scale: they can do no more than create mediocrity in learning; and, indeed, till the country, by being more thickly peopled, causes a greater division of labour than yet exists, till there shall be a sufficient field for men of learning to acquire reputation and rank by their talents, independent of the pecuniary advantages which may or may not arise from them, America can scarcely be expected to make any very considerable advancement in literature. Meanwhile she may derive what consolation she can from the reflection that this low state of education, with all its concomitant vices, is the natural consequence of that spirit of republicanism on which she mainly prides herself. The early independence which it encourages has, according to Mr. Bristed, a most injurious and wide-spreading effect.
Strictly speaking, indeed, (he says,) there is no such thing as social subordination in the United States. Parents have no command over their children, nor teachers over their scholars, nor lawyers nor physicians over their pupils, nor farmers over their labourers, nor merchants over their clerks, carmen and porters, nor masters over their servants. All are equal, all do as they list, and all are free not to work, except the master, who must himself be a slave if he means his business to prosper, for he has no controul over any other head, eyes, or hands than his own. Owing, perhaps, to the very popular nature of our institutions, the American children are seldom taught that profound reverence for, and strict obedience to, their parents, which are at once the basis of domestic comfort and of the welfare of the children themselves. Of course, where there is no parental authority there can be no discipline in schools and colleges. If a preceptor presume to strike or effectually punish a boy, he most probably loses at least one scholar, perhaps more. And, as no inconvenience attaches to a boy's being expelled from school or college, the teachers have no authority, nor learning no honour, in the United States.'-p. 459.
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While America, with a perversity which cannot be too much regretted, has deserted her model in the grave and important instances which we have just mentioned, she has chosen to copy it in one of its most defective parts. Our system of poor laws is radically bad. There is scarcely a statesman or philosopher in this country who would advocate their re-establishment if they were once abolished. The conviction of the injury done by them to the industry, to the prudence, to the regard for reputation, to the charities of domestic life, and to the sobriety and honesty of the poor, is strong and universal, and the general study is, how to remove the evil with as little inconvenience as is compatible with the interests created by such long existing institutions, and with as little temporary suffering as possible. Whilst by ages of painful experience we have arrived at this conviction, America has just commenced the ruinous system; and is beginning to feel the evils which it must produce, and which will spread there with even greater rapidity than they have done with us.
Some of our States,' says Mr. Bristed, particularly that of New York, have borrowed the English system of poor laws. On account of their extensive territory, comparatively with their population, abundance of employment and sustenance, the United States do not suffer so much from the poor laws as England. But as far as they go, they produce substantial evil unmingled with any good.
This city (in which Mr. Bristed himself resides) contains about one hundred thousand inhabitants of various colours and countries. During the winter of 1817, fifteenthousand of them, he says,' or one seventh of the whole population, received aid from the hand of public and private charity, and the number of destitute poor' averaged an augmentation far exceeding the rate of its actual increase in population. Nor can it be concealed that the leprosy of wickedness and crime has tainted the lower class of citizens in an awful degree. Here are three thousand houses licensed to sell spirituous liquors, and, in addition, great numbers of cellars and vaults where ardent spirits are vended without licences; wbilst in London, with more than ten times its population, the number scarcely exceeds four thousand.
Whilst lamenting this dreadful aggregation of wretchedness, Mr. Bristed is not inattentive to the political effects which the laws thus blindly borrowed from us must inevitably produce.
It is unnecessary (he says) to expatiate on a fact established by the experience of all history; namely, that whenever the lower orders of the community are generally corrupted in their morals, the death-warrant of their civil and religious liberties is already signed. And if such an event has uniformly taken place in the governments of the old world, where the people are not suffered to exercise any great share of political power, or enjoy any great portion of political rights and previleges, how much more certain and speedy must be the desolation in the United States, all of whose governments have their soundations laid broad and deep on the popular sovereignty, and all of whose institutions rest, ultimately, upon the basis of popular opinion? It requires no prophetic inspiration to foretel the rapid dissolution of a government, planted in the soil of universal suffrage, when once its electors have become deaf to the calls of duty, by the long continued habit of iniquity, and when the mere sale of their votes to the highest bidder may be considered as one of the least dark in the long catalogue of their accustomed crimes.' .
During the thirty-five years which have elapsed since the recognition of their independence, the population of America has advanced from two and a half to nearly eight millions: a great increase ; but considering the vast emigration caused by the tempestuous state of Europe and her settlements, not so rapid as that which preceded their independence. The increase of the slaves and people of colour appears to have been in a much greater proportion than that of the white population, and it is not improbable that in a few generations the negro race will exceed the whites in all except the eastern states. The number of slaves in the United States is now above two millions, and, including the free negroes, the black population of America constitutes more than one fourth part of the whole. This is weakness, not strength; for, besides deducting their own numbers, some portion of the effective power of the community must ever, in war, be employed in watching and guarding them. Mr. Bristed remarks, • Whilst the slave-holding system exists, the division of the negroes, the vigilance of the overseer, the fear of the driver's lash, and the horrible torments inflicted upon servile contumacy, may prevent the blacks from uniting and exterminating their masters. Although Mr. Randolph on the floor of Congress, declared, that even now, whenever the midnight bell tolls the alarm of fire in any of the towns or cities of Virginia, every mother clasps her infant to her bosom, in agonizing expectation that the tocsin is sounding the cry of a general negro insurrection; and warning the devoted victims of the near approach of indiscriminate pillage, rape, unurder and conflagration.'--p.390.
“ The free blacks, (he adds) which swarm in our northern and middle states, are generally idle, vicious, and profligate, with no sense of moral obligation. For some winters past a gang of free blacks used to amuse themselves in the city of New York, by setting fire to whole rows of houses, for the purpose of pilfering amidst the confusion and horror of
the the flames. In the winter of 1816-17 a negro was hanged for this crime, and fires have been proportionally scarce ever since. A hint this, which might be rendered profitable,' in other countries besides America) 'if our state legislators would strengthen the criminal code, and recommend our house-breakers, highway-robbers, and forgers to the gallows, instead of providing them with a comfortable domicile in the state prison for a season, and then letting them out to renew their depredations upon the public.'
With all this, however, Mr. Bristed pronounces that the American people possess the materials of moral greatness superior to those of any other country'! We know that wherever there are human beings, Providence has furnished materials for happiness to those who erect a firm foundation, and use those materials with skill and judgment. Whether the Americans are likely to do so, it will be early enough to inquire when the following 'important objects, which, with many others, (notwithstanding the superabundance of building matter,) their panegyrist enumerates as still wanting to perfect this paramount structure of 'moral greatness,' shall be erased from the list of desiderata. 1.• To augment the power of the general government. 2.To tighten the cords and strengthen the stakes of the federal union. 3. " To organise a judicious system of national finance. 4. ·To provide for the more general diffusion of religious worship. 5. • To enlarge and elevate the system of liberal education:' and, 6. • To increase the dimensions, and exalt the standard of their literature, art, and science. How this is to be accomplished we are not told, and we cannot comprehend. It strikes us, however, that with such a formidable catalogue of indispensable requisites'—to the supply of which (by his own admission) the selfishness, vanity, ignorance, and profligacy of the people oppose the most invincible obstacles, Mr. Bristed might, without much peril to his consistency, have adopted a more modest tone in vaunting of the superior materials for moral greatness possessed by the Americans.
Possessing an extensive territory, with an insufficient quantity of capital to occupy it, America must necessarily be an agricultural country until labour shall become more abundant than land; a period not likely to arrive for some centuries. The tide of population, at present, is rapidly extending itself towards the banks of the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Missouri; there it spreads over a vast surface, and finding sufficient to satisfy the animal wants, it increases the numbers, without adding much to the disposable wealth of the community, and still less to the strength of the government. In the rude state of husbandry in which the explorers of new lands are placed, little is raised, from even the most fertile soil, beyond what suffices for their immediate
demands, other rapid advances which the United States have made, that their foreign commerce has increased,' and that already their mercantile navy is within a few thousand tons of our own;' and have grounded upon this notable discovery the prophecy,'' that in two or three years they must overtake and outstrip us.'* We have stated the tonnage of the merchant ships of America at 1,350,000 tons; but Mr. Pitkin, an acute statistical writer and a member of Congress, observes that of this amount only 1,250,000 were actually navigated, which employed about 62,000 men. This was the highest point to which the mercantile navy ever rose. Since the return of Europe to a state of peace, it has rapidly declined. The foreign tonnage has been reduced half, and the domestic, which includes the fisheries, sensibly diminished.
Whilst the mercantile vavy of America has been thus dwindling down to that natural state which its limited capital and sınali surplus of productions will support, that of Great Britain has increased with unesampled rapidity. In the year 1811, it amounted to 2,474,774 tons, and employed 162,547 men and boys to navigate it: within the seven years which have since elapsed, a great accession has taken place, and the tonnage now amounts to '2,783,940, navigated by 178,820 men. Whilst America, in the most flourishing state of her commerce, could only draw supplies for a fighting navy from 62,000 men, we have 178,000 from which to obtain the rea quisite recruits, without taking into our calculation the numerous maritime inhabitants who are employed in the smaller craft, which are unregistered; in the fishing boats which surround every part of our coasts; and in the boats, barges, and lighters, which conduct the commercial lading from the sea to the interior.
As the deficiency of seamen, and of the power to obtain the service of such as they have, for the navy, is an obstacle to any formidable increase of the maritime power of America, financial reasons will also be found equally to obstruct a great or rapid progress. The annual average expense of maintaining the viaval force of Great Britain, during a war, may be taken at eight or ten millions sterling.
To create such a force, to accumulate stores of all kinds sufficient to keep it up to its high standard, to construct arsenals, docks, and machinery, and fortifications for its defence, must far exceed any
* Edinburgh Review, No. LIX. p. 137.
+ It appears from the declaration of Mr. King, member for Massachusetts, that in Ja. nuary 1817 more than half the shipping which had prosecuted foreign commerce was
dismantled at the wharfs and literally rotting in the docks, and that many of their seainen were reluctantly compelled to seek employ in foreign countries. Their shipcarpenters, destitute of employ, are obliged for a living, to go into the British provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, there to cut timber, for the royal navy of England, and to build vessels to carry it to Great Britain.' This is more than sufficient to cucourage us to hope that in the next edition of the journal just mentioned, for' within a few thousand tons of our own,' we shall be directed to read within a few million. .