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Si partem tacuisse velim, quodcumque relinquam,
Veteres actus, primamque juventam
Armati referam vires ? Plus egit inermis. CLAUDIAN.* If I desire to pass over a part in silence, whatever I omit, will seem the most worthy to have been recorded. Shall I pursue his old exploits and early youth? His recent merits recall the mind to themselves. Shall I dwell on his justice? The glory of the warrior rises before me resplendent. Shall I relate his strength in arms? He performed yet greater things unarmed.
“THERE is something,” says Harrington,† “ first in the making of a commonwealth, then in the governing of it, and last of all in the leading of its armies, which, though there be great divines, great • lawyers, great men in' all ranks of life, seems to be peculiar only to the genius of a gentleman. For so it is in the universal series of story, that if any man has founded a commonwealth, he was first a gentleman.” Such also, he adds, as have got any fame as civil governors, have been gentlemen, or persons of known descents. Sir Alexander Ball was a gentleman by birth ; a younger brother of an old and respectable family in Gloucestershire. He went into the navy at an early age from his choice, and as he himself told me, in consequence of the deep impression and vivid images left on his mind by the perusal of Robinson Crusoe. It is not my intention to detail the steps of his promotion, or the services in which he was engaged as a subaltern. I recollect many particulars indeed, but not the dates, with such distinctness as would enable me to state them (as it would be necessary to do if I stated them at all) in the order of time. These dates might, perhaps, have been procured from other sources ; but incidents that are neither characteristic nor instructive, even such as would be expected with reason in a regular life, are no part of my plan; while those which are both interesting and illustrative I have been preeluded from mentioning, some from motives which have been already explained, and others from still higher considerations. The most important of these may be deduced from a reflection with which he himself once concluded a long and affecting narration ; namely, that no body of men can for any length of time be safely treated otherwise than as rational beings; and that, therefore, the education of the lower classes was of the utmost consequence to the permanent security of the empire, even for the sake of our navy. The dangers, apprehended from the education of the lower classes, arose (he said) entirely from its not being universal, and from the unusualness in the lowest classes of those accomplishments, which he, like Dr. Bell, regarded as one of the means of education, and not as education itself.* If, he observed, the lower classes in general possessed but one eye or one arm, the few who were so fortunate as to possess two would naturally become vain and restless, and consider themselves as entitled to a higher situation. He illustrated this by the faults attributed to learned women, and that the same objections were formerly made to educating women at all ; namely, that their knowledge made them vain, affected, and neglectful of their proper duties. Now that all women of condition are well-educated, we hear no more of these apprehensions, or observe any instances to justify them. Yet if a lady understood the Greek one-tenth part as well as the whole circle of her acquaintances understood the French language, it would not surprise us to find her less pleasing from the consciousness of her superiority in the possession of an unusual advantage. Sir Alexander Ball quoted the speech of an old admiral, one of whose two great wishes was to have a ship's crew composed altogether of serious Scotchmen. He spoke with great reprobation of the vulgar notion, the worše man, the better sailor. Courage, he said, was the natural product of familiarity with danger, which thoughtlessness would oftentimes turn into foolhardiness; and that he had always found the most usefully brave
* De Laud. Stilic. i. 13.-Ed. | Preliminaries to Oceana, p. i.-Ed.
sailors the gravest and most rational of his crew. The best sailor he had ever had, first attracted his notice by the anxiety which he expressed concerning the means of remitting some money which he had received in the West Indies to his sister in England ; and this man, without any tinge of methodism, was never heard to swear an oath, and was remarkable for the firmness with which he devoted a part of every Sunday to the reading of his Bible. I record this with satisfaction as a testimony of great weight, and in all respects unexceptionable ; for Sir Alexander Ball's opinions throughout life remained unwarped by zealotry, and were those of a mind seeking after truth in calmness and complete self-possession. He was much pleased with an unsuspicious testimony furnished by Dampier. “I have particularly observed,” writes this famous old navigator,* there and in other places, that such as had been well-bred, were generally most careful to improve their time, and would be very industrious and frugal where there was any probability of considerable gain; but on the contrary, such as had been bred up in ignorance and hard labor, when they came to have plenty would extravagantly squander away their time and money in drinking and making a bluster.” Indeed, it is a melancholy proof, how strangely power warps the minds of ordinary men, that there can be a doubt on this subject among persons who have been themselves educated. It tempts a suspicion, that unknown to themselves they find a comfort in the thought that their inferiors are something less than men: or that they have an uneasy half-consciousness that, if this were not the case, they would themselves have no claim to be their superior. For a sober education naturally inspires self-respect. But he who respects himself will respect others; and he who respects both himself and others, must of necessity be a brave
The great importance of this subject, and the increasing interest which good men of all denominations feel in the bringing about of a national education, must be my excuse for having entered so minutely into Sir Alexander Ball's opinions on this head, in which; however, I am the more excusable, being now on that part of his life which I am obliged to leave almost a blank.
During his lieutenancy, and after he had perfected himself in the knowledge and duties of a practical sailor, he was compelled by the state of his health to remain in England for a considerable
* Vol. II. P. ii. p. 89.-Ed.
length of time. Of this he industriously availed himself for the acquirement of substantial knowledge from books; and during his whole life afterwards, he considered those as his happiest hours, which, without any neglect of official or professional duty, he could devote to reading. He preferred, indeed he almost confined himself to, history, political economy, voyages and travels, natural history, and latterly agricultural works : in short, to such books as contain specific facts, or practical principles capable of specific application. His active life, and the particular objects of immediate utility, some one of which he had always in his view, precluded a taste for works of pure speculation and abstract science, though he highly honored those who were eminent in these respects, and considered them as the benefactors of mankind, no less than those who afterwards discovered the mode of applying their principles, or who realized them in practice. Works of amusement, as novels, plays, and the like did not appear even to amuse him ; and the only poetical composition, of which I have ever heard him speak, was a manuscript* poem written by one of my friends, which I read to his lady in his presence. To my surprise he afterwards spoke of this with warm interest; but it was evident to me, that it was not so much the poetic merit of the composition that had interested him, as the truth and psychological insight with which it represented the practicability of reforming the most hardened minds, and the various accidents which may awaken the most brutalized person to a recognition of his nobler being. I will add one remark of his own knowledge acquired from books, which appears to me both just and valuable. The prejudice against such knowledge, he said, and the custom of opposing it to that which is learnt by practice, originated in those times when books were almost confined to theology and to logical and metaphysical subtleties; but that at present there is scarcely any practical knowledge, which is not to be found in books : the press is the means by which intelligent men now converse with each other, and persons of all classes and all pursuits convey, each the contribution of his individual experience. It was therefore, he said. as absurd to hold book-knowledge at present in contempt, as it would be for a man to avail himself only of his own eyes and
Though it remains, I believe, unpublished, I can not resist the temptation of recording that it was Mr. Wordsworth's Peter Bell. 1817.
ears, and to aim at nothing which could not be performed exclusively by his own arms. The use and necessity of personal experience consisted in the power of choosing and applying what had been read, and of discriminating by the light of analogy the practicable from the impracticable, and probability from mere plausibility. Without a judgment matured and steadied by actual experience, a man would read to little or perhaps to bad purpose; but yet that experience, which in exclusion of all other knowledge has been derived from one man's life, is in the present day, scarcely worthy of the name—at least for those who are to act in the higher and wider spheres of duty. An ignorant general, he said, inspired him with terror ; for if he were too proud to take advice he would ruin himself by his own blunders; and if he were not, by adopting the worst that was offered. A great genius may indeed form an exception ; but we do not lay down rules in expectation of wonders. A similar remark I remember to have heard from an officer, who to eminence in professional science and the gallantry of a tried soldier, adds all the accomplishments of a sound scholar and the powers of a man of genius.
One incident, which happened at this period of Sir Alexander's life, is so illustrative of his character, and furnishes so strong a presumption that the thoughtful humanity by which he was distinguished was not wholly the growth of his latter years, that, though it may appear to some trifling in itself, I will insert it in this place, with the occasion on which it was communicated to
In a large party at the Grand Master's palace, I had observed a naval officer of distinguished merit listening to Sir Alexander Ball, whenever he joined in the conversation, with so marked a pleasure, that it seemed as if his very voice, independently of what he said, had been delightful to him : and once as he fixed his eyes on Sir Alexander Ball, I could not but notice the mixed expression of awe and affection, which gave a more than common interest to so manly a countenance. During his stay in the island, this officer honored me not unfrequently with his visits; and at the conclusion of my last conversation with him, in which I had dwelt on the wisdom of the Governor's*
* Such Sir Alexander Ball was in reality, and such was his general appellation in the Mediterranean: I adopt this title, therefore, to avoid the ungraceful repetition of his own name on the one hand, and on the other the confusion which might arise from the use of his real title, namely,“ His