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f brick-bats and Christian goodrorated, we are o see the operaore fearful than
the prevalence lic and sobervently hope, if
characterize iples, rightly of our repubstate, but by ring the true | the uneasy lissent and this higher is not been omination, cho think Connell,) of
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universal regard wherever the true principles of the American Revolution are appreciated.
One word, however, as to the study of revolutionary history, and especially of revolutionary biography. We attach great importance to it, and for many reasons. The times we live in are times of presumptuous speculation and arrogant self-sufficiency. Our public men, wantonly defying authority, however sacred, (we speak now of course merely of secular concerns,) not only judge for themselves, but seem to consider it an especial merit, and a peculiar badge of honesty and single-minded patriotism, if their self-regulated judgment can be made to differ from that of the great and good who have preceded them. There is a principle of sceptical dissent at work, which is undermining all prescriptive influence, and, not unlike the principle of excessive dissent in more sacred matters, is making us a nation of doubters and deniers, and is changing public opinion, which, on certain great principles of government, should have all the steadiness which a decent reverence for authority gives, to a fluctuating, flickering sentiment, that sheds no steady light when light is most needed. If public opinion, or even the judgment of public functionaries, on questions which time has placed at least beyond the reach of inconsiderate controversy, were made to rest on more secure foundations than it appears to do, if we could but realize that its real and safest basis is primitive authority, the precepts and practices of the early days of the republic, and that this authority is too sacred to be lightly questioned, there would be a conservative influence at work, in which sober-minded men would have great reason to rejoice. This is no anti-democratic sentiment which we utter. The times we call the best times, are those when pure democracy prevailed — when the people spoke with their own lips, an organ more miraculous far than a prostituted and venal press—when the unassisted, undisciplined strength of the people burst the chains which bound them, and by its direct agency built up the institutions under which they were content to live, and that their children should live alter them. It is the precepts and practice of those days to which we appeal as authority. It is authority to which we can freely bow without derogation to the most sensitive republicanism.
But not only do we live in times of arrogance in matters of opinion, but our days are those of most absurd self-complacency in matters of public conduct. Every thing is
1842.] Study of the Revolution isporlant.
3 exaggerated. The merits, the endurance, the sacrifices of these days of puny trouble, soar far beyond the flight of ordinary praise. The sufferings of the people, a healthy and vigorous people, with its energies unimpaired, are described as beyond all ordinary sympathies. The noble army of martyrs is a mere crowd, and extreme agony has become a chronic affection of the system. Now, all this is very absurd.
The actual sufferings of the people, in moments of perplexity rather than endurance, the actual services and sacrifices of our public servants, we are far from despising. It would be cruel to deny their measurable existence. But it is measurable, and relatively it is as nothing. Relatively, we are a happy, and should be a contented people. Relatively, our public servants, those who represent us in public office, deserve no credit, no praise for what they do, no pity for all they are supposed to suffer. This, however ungracious it may seem, is doctrine rich with comfort. It is doctrine which strengthens our institutions, for, holding fast to it, we can trample under foot all doubt and despair, all fear as to the fate for which, under Providence, the republic is reserved. Let him who differs from this consolatory theory, and believes that these are our worst times, and that the condition of things, moral, economical, and political, is utterly hopeless, open the volume of revolutionary history — let him open almost at random the volumes now before us — let him learn, for doubtless there will be novelty in it for him, what was the condition of this country at certain periods of the war, or at that more gloomy period when, after the war was over and the military triumph won, the disorganized masses of the state governments, bursting from the moorings of a feeble confederation, were floating wildly about, or let him take individual instances of suffering, and he will begin to realize what we have hinted at. It is a subject of most appropriate consideration. It is a wholesome study for our boys at school, and might be made as useful for some of the grown-up boys who assume higher trusts.
But the study of the Revolution has other uses yet. It is middle and sacred ground, on which men of all kinds of extremes can meet in friendly sympathy. The American public is in constant danger of extreme and proscriptive feeling. Political acerbity is especially extreme. We are becoming a nation of heated partisans, and, as in the whirl of our popular system, political contests follow each other in rapid succession, the public mind never has time to cool. Each conflict, too, seems more violent than that which preceded it, and at the end of each is exhibited, not the goodhumored display of transient temper which was wont to characterize such contests, but the really ghastly spectacle of social, and even familiar relations wounded or fatally severed, families and friends at variance, and the “one people” divided into factions glaring with fierce hostility at each other. On every thing of later date than the peace of 1783, or the adoption of the Constitution, for even the merits of General Washington's administration were not exempt from it, the taint of political prejudice more or less rests; and it is only within the walls on which the pictures of revolutionary deeds are painted in bright and enduring colors, that we can be sure that the democrat and the federalist, the whig and the radical, can meet without quarrelling outright. This may be scoffed at as a mere theory, but to us it has rich significance.
We think, too, that there are sown the seeds of new excitements which promise no alleviation of the asperities to which we are now exposed. It will not be long before the curse of religious politics will be visited upon us, and, mingled with ordinary political strife, will be ihe bitterness of sectarian animosity. We hope our forebodings may be false, but the signs of this new element are full of significance; and while the leaders of those sects which inay be characterized as moderate and tolerant, of that denomination of Christians especially, which, we believe, professes doctrines of essential truth, and a discipline of high authority, are, by a fatal error of judgment, and a semi-monastic scruple, withdrawing themselves from all secular concerns, the soldiers of the sects militant are burnishing or even brandishing their arms, and taking sides in the political warfare which is waging. The movement in our own state on the public school question; the Irish repeal associations throughout the United States; the ultraism of certain Protestant pulpit controversialists, very indiscreet, though no doubt very conscientious individuals, who deem abuse of idolatry, and offensive comparisons from the Apocalypse, to be the best antidotes to popery, who never refer to that venerable, and very respectable sovereign the Pope, without an allusion to a typical lady in the New Testament not quite so respectable — who are beating the drum polemic throughout the land, and striving 1842.]
Sectarian Spirit suppressed.
to preach themselves into a martyrdom of brick-bats and rotten eggs; all these plainly show, that if Christian goodwill and toleration be not enforced and invigorated, we are destined, in our future political differences, to see the operation of new elements of strife, worse and more fearful than any we have yet witnessed.
of course, the only sure antidote to this is the prevalence of a true Christian spirit—that spirit of catholic and soberminded tolerance which is destined, we fervently hope, if ultraism be not predominant there also, to characterize American Churchmen, and to make their principles, rightly understood and applied, the great conservator of our republican institutions — not by any union with the state, but by influence on the minds of the people, in preserving the true balance of the popular mind, and saving it from the uneasy and perilous see-saw to which the extremes of dissent and submission must expose it. But with all regard to this higher influence, there are others to which due import has not been attached. Let the deluded sectary of whatever denomination, (excepting always our freshly-imported zealots, who think Washington far less worthy of the canon than Mr. O'Connell,) who desires or is tempted to turn the red heat of proper politics into the white heat of religious animosity, take up ihe history of the Revolution and study it thoroughly and considerately, see what ample room and natural inducement there was then for the indulgence of sectarian prejudice, and its influence on political action, and yet how promptly it was frowned down, and with what perfectly tolerant concord the patriots of all sects labored in the common cause, and he will be ashamed, even of the secret inclination, to degrade the institutions which those patriots built up, by the introduction of the pestilent passions with the fruits of which we are now-a-days threatened.
We have been struck with frequent illustrations of what we here but allude to in passing in the volumes before us. Both John Adams and his wife were Puritans of the straitest sect, with all the feelings, opinions, and prejudices of the New England generation which almost immediately succeeded that which found Sir Harry Vane heterodox and was near burning Mrs. Hutchinson. The controversy as to the American Episcopate was fresh, and the eloquent and denunciatory pamphlets of Chauncy and Mayhew were part of New England's household literature. This was not a con