Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ In and below London the whole scene is changed. Let us view it by night Lamps are gleaming along shore, and on the bridges, and a full moon rising over the Borough of Southwark. The moonbeams silver the rippling, yellow tide, wherein also flare the shore lamps, with a lambent, flickering gleam. Barges and wherries move to and fro; and heavy-laden luggers are sweeping up stream with the rising tide, swinging sideways, with loose flapping sails. Both sides of the river are crowded with sea and river craft, whose black hulks lie in shadow, and whose tapering masts rise up into the moonlight like a leafless forest. A distant sound of music floats on the air; a harp, and a flute, and a horn. It has an unearthly sound; and lo! like a shooting star, a light comes gliding on. It is the signal lamp at the mast-head of a steam-vessel, that fits by, like a cloud above which glides a star. And from all this scene goes up a sound of human voices,-curses, laughter, and singing,-mingled with the mono. tonous roar of the city, “the clashing and careering streams of life, hurrying to lose themselves in the impervious gloom of etemity.' And now the midnight is past, and amid the general silence the clock strikes-one, two. Far distant, from some belfry in the suburbs, comes the first sound, so indistinct as hardly to be distinguished from the crowing of a cock. Then close at hand the great bell of St. Paul's, with a heavy, solemn sound-one, two. It is answered from Southwark; then at a distance like an echo; and then all around you, with various and intermingling clang, like a chime of bells, the clocks from a hundred belfries strike the hour. But the moon is already sinking, large and fiery, through the vapors of morning. It is just in the range of the chimneys and house-tops, and seems to follow you with speed, as you float down the river, between unbroken ranks of ships. Day is dawning in the east, not with a pale streak in the horizon, but with a silver light spread through the sky, almost to the zenith. It is the mingling of moonlight and daylight. The water is tinged with a green hue, melting into purple and gold, like the brilliant scales of a fish. The air grows cool. It comes fresh from the eastern sea, toward which we are swiftly gliding; and dimly seen in the uncertain twilight, behind you rises

"A mighty mass of brick, and smoke, and shipping,

Dirty and dusky, but as wide as eye
Can reach; with here and there a sail just skipping

In sight, then lost amid the forestry
Of masts; a wilderness of steeples peeping

On tip-toe, through their sea-coal canopy;
A huge dun cupola, like a foolscap crown

On a fool's head,--and there is London town.' Talfourd's 'Ion' is reviewed in the eighth article, by one well qualified, by refined taste and an evident familiarity with the best Grecian models, to judge of the pure poetry of that delightful production. Such of our readers as may have thought the praise bestowed upon this fine intellectual creation, in a late number of this periodical, profuse and unmeasured, we beg leave to refer to the review in question. They will find our views sanctioned by a writer whose fortified encomiums they cannot gainsay.

* Massachusetts Common Schools' forms the leading topic of the ninth and last article. Incidental allusion, however, and at no little length, is had to sundry collateral themes — as the reputed aristocracy of New-England, New-England tyranny of opinion, bigotry, etc. In discussing the first of these branches, a correspondent of the Knickerbocker for October last is turned up for punishment.' We had marked for insertion that portion of the article which refers to this Magazine; but our space compels us to forgo this pleasure - a pleasure which our readers would share with us, for the whole is forcibly and pleasingly written. Suffice it, however, to say, that the assertions of our correspondent, that there is an aristocracy in New-England - a reverence for rank and title, respect for birth, family pride, etc.,— are explicitly denied. But what will the reviewer, who imputes entire ignorance of New-England character to his opponent, say, when he learns that he is a son of Massachusetts, born

* Don Juan, Canto X.

and educated, if we mistake not, within sound of the bells of Boston and Cambridge ? For our own part, we honor New-England; and we have not been wanting, on occasion, as our readers well know, in the expression of this sentiment. Yet NewEngland is not every thing that is good; she does not stand alone, par excellence; she is not wholly sans reproche ; and we cannot altogether applaud that sectional feeling, which would induce one of her sons, like the enthusiastic admirer of roast beef, who ate up the spit, to swallow every thing connected with her history and condition, as in all respects savory and palatable. It is this spirit which our offending contributor rebukes, in the annexed hasty response, which has been written and forwarded to us since the article in the North American met the writer's eye, but not in season for its appropriate place, in the department of original papers:

There were several causes which conspired to create a Republic, at the time these l'nited States were born. One cause, and a prominent one, was the increased purity of the Christian Religion, which, when rightly embraced, places man on so high an elevation, that he cannot be a slave; he cannot compromise his conscience; he cannot swear allegiance to a king he does not respect, or worship and appear to countenance, a form of religion he is utterly averse to. The Christian Religion, in its purity, acts on the heart; in its corruptions, it acts chiefly on the outer man. In its purity, it enlightens man as to his own nature ; it gives him new views of the earth and the land; it teaches him that he has a higher birth-right than territory and earthly glory. In proportion as these views gain ground, they dimininish the blind love of country. It has been said that the Pilgrims had no idea of a republic. No; but they were led on by general principles that could not fail to establish one.

Another cause was the invention of Printing, which scattered thought in the world, and sowed seeds of knowledge, that brought forth, some an hundred fold, and some fifty. The Fifty was love of liberty, which lies almost first in the strata of ideas that nature piles up in every man, ready for use, will he but take the trouble to examine this natural wealth, of which Thought is the treasurer. The two causes mentioned, combined with distance from the land of thrones, which left them free to act, gave birth to Freedom. A republic came up, emerged from the womb of Time, with irrepressible energy, as the strong plant shoots out of the earth, pushing aside the dross and dead weeds that would encumber it.

If republics are founded on such principles, to continue, they must adhere to all modifications of them. (Indulgent Reader, bear with us for a moment: we do not pretend to special sanctity; we do not intend to stuff you with assumptions and pretensions — but we mean what we say, and feel interested in this matter.) When it is time for a wide, free government to exist, it is time for men to cherish humble views of themselves, and kind feelings for others. A charity, a philanthropy, never so broad, must be the basis of a permanent republic. If all men govern, all men must agree to love each other in differences. What self-discipline, what watchfulness must nurture and bring out such liberality? What contentions with our selfishness and petty pride — what denial of the passions, and correction of prejudice, must pre cede such a result?

• The enemies of liberty are still in doubt whether a republic can exist; and they excuse their doubts, by pointing to our stormy debates and violent animosities. They ground their hopes of our dissolution upon our sectional feeling. But in proportion as we become an intellectual people, so much is our faith assured. We include in intellectual feeling, religious feeling, which is the best prompter of thought, in all the operations of mind, running through them like a golden-sanded river; in plenty and

treasures.

full flow, an ornament and glory, and in poverty and drought, unfolding hidden

For liberty, being the gift of God, a gift that can only be claimed and enjoyed by Thought, every new thinker strengthens the ramparts against error, and lessens the danger of relapse, either from internal foes, or foreign invasion. But who is to be considered the intellectual man for this great purpose? Is a mere reader and collector of facts, the student of languages, the follower of abstruse science, such? Not necessarily. Though he have the gift of tongues, and though he understand mysteries, and have all faith, and have not charity, he is but a sounding brass and tiukling cymbal. The intellectual man for our purpose, must be one who, by some means, it matters not by what, has been raised into respect for himself — that is his nature — and for truth. Some may attain it by solitary thought, as they plough the land or the sea, without the aid of books. Some gain it by sorrow and bitter experience. Many have it written on their hearts by the pen of nature, ever drawing lines on the soul. We may remark here, that it is highly desirable that a distinction should be made between mere learning, or the improper application of learning, and sense. The world has been long enough under the influence of the opinions of us whose only claiin to being heard, is, the knowing of something people in general do not know.

'Indeed, it is true, that the great danger which threatens us, is a narrow sectional feeling — narrow in this age and in this country. It is natural that every man should love his home. The land of our birth, the haunts of childhood, the church in which we were christened, and the grave-yards where our friends and kindred lie buried — tender recollections ! This is the by-play of the religious nature. Such thoughts purify us; they spiritualize us; and, if we do not grow maudlin, these very tendernesses invigorate to strong action, and put us in train to act nobly for others. But this is not sectional feeling. We will show you some of it. You will see a strong dash of it in the April number of the North American Review, art. ix. We speak of this periodical with a kind of educated respect. We read 1. before we understood it, as we did the Bible, because it looked so neat and good, and because, too, its fine periods charmed our musical ear. But all this only creates the more pain and surprise, that it should prove the very charges it would refute. The writer of the article referred to, seems to undertake to prove that New-England is all perfection; that nothing exists within her boundaries that should not; that all who dare to think to the contrary, are entitled to no sort of credit. If they entertain any views contrary to this imaginary perfection, they must either be the result of ignorance, malice, or of a head half crazed by unexpected good fortune at the west.

We would acknowledge that the article in question is written with a power and force that, at first view, would seem to disarm all objection. There is an aptness of style to the subject, a choice of facts and arguments, and a lofty forgiveness, a pitying kind of condescension, that if it were felt, must touch a heart of stone. There are appeals to this very sectional feeling, that works in the weak hearts of us all; and truth is so adroitly mingled up with error, that we confess we feel almost ashamed that we ever said, “There is an aristocracy-a petty aristocracy — in New-England; a family pride, select circles, upper and lower class doctrine, at war with the spirit of our institutions, and the general advancement of that section in intelligence, manners, and refinement.' This is true. There are reasons for it. At the time of the revolution, that an aristocracy existed, no one doubts. Principles may change; habits are not so easy of eradication. In a single hour or minute, a man may be convinced that he is wrong, and it may take him years to conform his conduct to his principles. In New-England, unfortunately for that region, and the safety of republican principles, and in all the eastern states, vestiges of this aristocracy exist. Virginia is notorious for old families, who are as stately and exclusive as the large family coach-horses. If the thraldom of habit is true in individuals, much more is it true in communities, which are slower in their movements and reforms. Beside, prosperous communities are constantly tending to aristocracies. The wealthy, in the acquisition of their fortunes, have lost sight, been dazzled out of sight, of the common things of earth; they have grown proud and exclusive, by the sight of the servility and poverty which serves them; they have been pushed and flattered into self-consequence, by the designing and wary, for their own purposes. Behold an aristocracy!- men unmindful of the public wants, their own political duty, and insensible to all impressions, but those of their own grandeur and importance.

“But eastern people read. The literature of England has been the food for this people. The female mind, which has so much to do with the laws of society, has been crammed with the fashionable novels of England. Can these things be without their effect? Why, we ask, is Miss Sedgwick’s ‘Poor Rich Man, and Rich Poor Man' so much read and caressed ? Because it is a novelty, a curiosity. It is because it is written in a republican spirit. We are surprised to find high virtue, noble generosity, and fervent piety, in a cartman. So little do our fashionables and aristocrats know of this class of people, by any actual contact or interchange of sentiment with them, that the book is almost as popular with them as the story of the Brobdignags and Lilliputians used to be with children. Then the poor and the hard working have sentiments, and feel affection and pity, and they show principle, and manly virtue ! How new and delightful! And then what a dear, delightful, nice little place they lived in; and how delightful to be poor and good; and Aunt Lottie — dear, good soul — what a pity she was sick!' ete. And this is the slang of admiration.

'Happy would it have been for our country, if such books had formed a larger part of the reading of our children. We have many 'poor rich men,' whose influence is deadly to our principles ; and they, for the most part, constitute the accused aristocrats. We have many rich poor men,' whose influence and example saves us from the corruptions of wealth and luxury. Happy is the American author, who has so richly benefitted her country in a production which breathes the true spirit of republican freedom and manly independence.

• But farther, our writer places great reliance in his public school system, and says some very pretty things here about their levelling character, at the same time that he shows in his statistics, that 146,539 boys and girls are educated at the public schools at an expense of $439,587,40, while 28,752 boys and girls are educated at private schools, at an expense of $326,642,56. What, we ask, levels down these 28,762 boys and girls ? — or by what process are the former levelled up to these latter favored sons and daughters of wealth ? Our own impression is, (for we boast, with the rest of the world, respectable parentage, now for the sake of the argument,) that it was considered a kind of disgrace to go to the public school. Not in Boston, for the public Latin School educates many of the sons of the rich for college, and contains as many incipient aristocrats as any school in the country. From these combined causes, the example and habits of her ancestry, her literature and system of private instruction, we think we find causes for wide distinctions in society. But then we only take these as collateral evidence to our senses, which show such to be the truth. We do not say these causes do not exist in other parts of our country. There is undoubtedly the greatest inconsistency in the political views and conduct of many American

citizens. We doubt not but thousands are in our midst, who, not from design, but from criminal negligence, suffer themselves to be carried along by their passions, their pride, their vanity, and love of show, in direct opposition to the good of their country. We think many such are to be found in New-England — men who are placed above all want, by the circumstances they were born to, who care nothing for the country, and know little or nothing about its interests. Many may be found in any old state. New-York, as a state, possesse, comparatively few such. She is new and modern, and purer of this vice in her population.

‘But perhaps the writer in the North American does not go much into society himself. Perhaps he prefers seclusion. Men who write as he does, do not have large circles of acquaintances. They cannot stand it; it is too wearisome to their taste. Perhaps he has only mingled with the really intellectual, and refined, and is so well content with his condition, that he thinks all is right about him. He knows well enough what New-England and all our country ought to be, and he hopes it is so. In order to see whether things are level or not, we must take sight, and neither look from a lower nor a higher station. He, we are convinced, has not brought himself to the proper level of observation.

* We are not concerned to wage war with the stately North American Review. We only wish to protect ourselves in our opinions. We honor and respect New-England. We are alive to all her virtues and privileges. We love to look at her monuments, and to listen to her divines, her poets, and her statesmen. But we do not love her aristocracy; we do not love her sectional feeling; and most of all do we regret to see this weakness and vice fostered and cherished by the leading periodical of our country.

"If we have been unjust to New-England, we heartily regret it. We supposed we might, though born there, point out her faults, and commend her virtues. We still suppose she is fallible. We still suppose she is lacking in attention to her political interest. We suppose, too, that the North American Review is far from being the voice of the people in New-England. We suppose that many of the writers in that periodical are men who deal with the people more in theory than in practice. Its articles come oftener from the cloister than the exchange, and the opinions expressed are perhaps drawn more from books than from observation.

• But to return to our subject. This local sectional feeling is the supporter of existing abuses, all the world over. It may have been necessary, as a step in civilization, as we can hardly imagine a migratory civilized nation. Strong local attachments, first induced by necessity or convenience, kept men in one spot, and urged all exertion for its improvement and adorning, until it was loved, for bearing upon its surface marks of its possessors. Each new generation was held by the old ties transmitted to them, and by new ones of their own creating. This love of place and institutions has supported despotisms, and love more than fear has borne with the oppressions of a tyrant. This feeling stands but poorly in the place of religious principle, and philosophical regard. Loyalty no longer claims our respect, when it is an argument against conscience and truth. The richest legacy the past has left us are the names of those who, for truth's sake, have perished on the scaffold, while the base politician can find patterns to rise by, in those who have been raised to a disgraceful prosperity by sins against reason, conscience, and God.'

J. N. B,

« PreviousContinue »