« PreviousContinue »
creation, among those primitive instincts which were wrought into the very fabric of our existence, by the hand of the Creator himself. The right of self-defence de. pends on no law made by man: for, unless it were a law of nature, and brought into existence with life itself, there must have been a time when, because no such law had been enacted by man, he could have had no such right; and to have defended his own life would have been a crime against his own nature. Now, by the common consent of all mankind, and without any law enacted for that purpose, every man is, by every human tribunal, justified in using so much violence in defence of his own life as will preserve himself, and prevent the assailant from attempting further aggression. Nay, Sir, this great law of our nature creates and places an obligation on every man to defend that life bestowed on him by his Creator; and if, when assailed, he does not do this by all the means in his power, he consents to his own murder, and is guilty of a crime, in the forum of conscience, equal, at least, in its enormity, to that of suicide itself.”
This "principle of self-defence” would have fully authorized, we think, those who were listening to the above establishment of it, to shut their ears and turn their attention to someth else before it was half completed. How different the mode in which Cicero demonstrates the same proposition, although compression is certainly not his predominant trait. The passage is worth extracting here, by way of contrast, often as it may have been quoted:
“ Est igitur hæc, Judices, non scripta, sed nata lex: quam non didicimus, accepimus, legimus; verùm ex naturâ ipsà arripuimus, hausimus, expressimus: ad quam non docti, sed facti; non instituti, sed imbuti sumus: ut si vita nostra in aliquas in. sidias, si in vim, si in tela aut latronum, aut inimicorum incidisset, omnis honesta ratio esset expediendæ salutis. Silent leges inter arma, nec se exspectari jubent; cùm ei, qui exspectare velit, antè injusta pæna luenda sit, quàm justa repetenda."
Who would not be more disposed to acquiesce in the Roman, than in the American orator's assertion? The very pains which are taken to prove its truth by Mr. Burges, seem to involve it in doubt; whilst the careless boldness with which it is urged in the other place, may be said to compel conviction. A few powerful strokes, by the hand of the master, and the object to be made manifest is brought out into the fullest relief, vivid with light, and resistless in its impression; whilst all the elaboration and minuteness of the less gifted pencil serve only to distract attention and weaken the effect.
This same fault of diffuseness is also too often observable in the logic of Mr. Burges, energetic and powerful as it frequently is, to enable us to apply to his oratory the remark of Hume upon the eloquence of Demosthenes, that “ It is vehement reasoning without any appearance of art: it is disdain, anger, boldness, freedom, involved in a continued stream of argument"--or that of Fenelon: “C'est un raisonnement serré et pressant, ce sont des sentimens généreux d'une ame qui ne conçoit rien que de grand, c'est un discours qui croît et qui se fortifie à chaque parole par des raisons nouvelles, c'est un enchaînement de figures hardies et
touchantes; vous ne sauriez le lire sans voir qu'il porte la république dans le fond de son cæur: c'est la nature qui parle elle-même dans ses transports; l'art est si achevé, qu'il n'y paroît point; rien
égala jamais sa rapidité et sa vehemence.”* These two descriptions, by the way, of the resistless reasoning of the prince of ancient orators, might furnish a sufficient refutation of the plea which has been urged in support of the superiority of modern eloquence, that it is the eloquence of reason, whilst that of Greece and Rome is the eloquence of passion. The latter is replete with the most severe and cogent logic; ratiocination of the strongest kind is the basis of its principal master-pieces, as in the oration on the Crown and that for Milo; and it is only because its impassioned parts are so much more strikingly affecting and brilliant from their very nature, that some plausibility has been given to the assertion we have mentioned, of the inferiority of its argumentative excellence. No eloquence, indeed, whose essence is mere passion, can exert any durable
sway. The mind cannot be long maintained in a state of high-wrought excitement; and constant appeals to the feelings soon begin to lose their force. Their grand effect results from their superinducement, if we may so speak, upon argument--when they are brought in to finish the work which argument has commenced, by causing that to be felt of which the judgment has been convinced. It was on this account that the ancient writers on eloquence insisted that philosophy was a constituent portion of it, in order that the orator might, in the first place, be able to discover and exhibit truth, and then to awaken affection for her charms. The speaker who should always endeavour to effect this, before he has accomplished the other object, could never obtain any permanent influence with any society of men in either ancient or modern days.
It is certain, however, that more of that faculty which is called genius is requisite for moving the passions than for convincing the understanding, and that even if the ancients were inferior to the moderns in ratiocination, their superior power of influencing the affections would entitle them to the palm of eloquence. How many comparatively are there who can show us what is true; how few are there who can entice or impel us to feel and act in accordance with it! It is our passions much oftener than the errors of reason, that interfere with our perception and observance of truth, and to operate upon those is essential for the removal of the impediment;
* “ It is close and urgent reasoning; it is the expression of the generous sentiments of a soul which conceives nothing but what is great; it is a discourse which grows and strengthens at every word by fresh reasons; it is a chain of bold and impressive figures: you cannot read him without perceiving that he carries the republic in the depths of his heart. It is nature that speaks herself in his transports; art is so perfect that it does not appear; nothing ever equalled his rapidity and vehe. mence."
but how difficult is it to strike the proper chords, so as to cause them to return the desired sounds. Pectus est, according to Quintillian, quod disertum facit—it is the bosom which makes the eloquent man--and in the same way, the noblest eloquence must have reference to the bosom. From it spring the sublimest thoughts, and to it such thoughts must be addressed. The mere understanding cannot
them. The oratorical weapon which Mr. Burges wields with the greatest efficacy, and which he seems most fond of employing, is sarcasm. In the use of this, he is perhaps unsurpassed in the United States; yet it is oftener, in his hands, a weapon like the massive broad-sword with which Richard the lion-hearted, in the admirable scene in “ The Talisman,” cleaves the bar of iron in twain, than resembling the keen and polished scymitar with which Saladin accomplishes the more difficult feat of severing the pliant cushion. His satire frequently wants the edge which refinement would impart to it, and at times it proceeds to a degree of coarseness altogether inexcusable. Nothing, for instance, can extenuate his famous retort upon Randolph-not even the provocations which that eccentric individual was wont to give. It trespasses beyond the utmost allowable bounds; and might be affirmed to speak almost as strongly against the utterer of it, as against the person at whom it was directed.
We have dwelt thus freely on the defects which appear to us to detract from the eloquence of Mr. Burges, because we deem him no common man-one whose influence is justly considerable. Of such individuals, it is doubly important that the faults should be pointed out and understood, in order that these may be hindered, as far as possible, from doing that harm which their association with excellence might enable them to inflict. As to his merits, we could easily, if we had space, adduce abundant evidence of them from his productions in the volume before us; but they have already spoken to the world for themselves, in language far too eloquent and convincing, to require our humble aid in the way of emblazonment.
ART. VII.—A Tour through North America; together with a com
prehensive view of the Canadas and United States, as adapted for Agricultural Emigration. By PATRICK SHIRREFF, Farmer, Mungoswells, East Lothian. Edinburgh: 1835.
WHEN it was known that M. A. de Humboldt was soon to set out to make researches concerning the institutions and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of America, there was a general expectation of an important addition to modern science. The Baron was familiar with most of the branches of human knowledge. To a practical acquaintance with physics and astronomy, he united the opposite acquirements of an antiquary and a philologist
. He had long been remarkable for an ardent love of truth, for his amiable and pure philosophy, and for his indefatigable and systematic industry. Scientific men had, therefore, reason to expect much from his travels; and their expectations were not disappointed. Voyage de Humboldt et Bonpland," is a work of almost unparalleled extent and richness, and is also a remarkable record of human courage and perseverance. Had M. de Humboldt travelled in the northern, instead of the southern continent of America, his researches would have been more useful to civil society, and could hardly have been less important to natural science. He passed through some parts of the United States, on his way back to Europe, but his sojourn was very short, and this country may never again be visited by an author approaching to him in character or attain ments. Travelling in our republic, seems to have been monopolized by literary pretenders and needy adventurers. In ancien times, Thales, Pythagoras, and Plato, visited distant regions in order to increase their knowledge and benefit their countrymen Their absence was protracted to years, and the result of thei laborious observation given with modesty and caution. But now with the assistance of steamboats and railways, the vast territory of the United States is traversed in a few weeks; the manners and customs of its inhabitants, its political and economical institutions are all gathered up in this hasty flight; its present condition is full described and explained, and what is more, its destinies are boldl traced. The number of books about America, now thrown o the English press, is extraordinary, and the load of scandal an abuse heaped upon us from all sides, has really become awfu But our sturdy citizens have, notwithstanding, gone on to gathe their crops, to fill their warehouses, and freight their ships. Th blessings of tranquillity and contentment have not been taken awa from us; and while many of the governments of Europe seem to tering to their fall, our republic exists unmoved, prosperous ar independent.
From the censure implied in these remarks, must be excepte
the book of Mr. Patrick Shirreff, which we are about to notice. It is not intended to compare him
with M. de Humboldt. He tells us himself, that he is only a plain East Lothian farmer; but he has evidently studied agriculture as a science, and, to use his own phraseology, practised it as an art; his statements and observations on that subject are, therefore, deserving of serious attention.
His book begins with a short and sensible preface, some parts of which will best explain the object of his travels.
It has been said that I was appointed by a party of East Lothian farmers to visit and report on the Canadas and the United States; but nothing could be more unfounded. A younger brother having expressed a wish to try his fortune as an American farmer, I resolved to explore the country for the purpose of enabling me to give an opinion on the step which he contemplated. With this single object in view, my transatlantic excursion was originally planned, and afterwards performed, unfettered and unassisted by any party whatever.
“ Having been led to travel from a sense of fraternal duty, I would have willingly remained satisfied with simply accomplishing the object of my journey, being aware how recently some individuals of the highest attainments had published works on America, and how ill qualified I am, in some respects, to convey an accurate impression of a country and people so interesting. But the solicitations of friends induced me to give my opinions to the public, and the result will, perhaps, prove their partiality to have been greater than their discernment.
Having passed much of my time apart from fashion and politics, the position which I occupied in the world may not have been favourable to an impartial view of all which came under my notice. My acquaintance with agriculture enabled me, however, to judge of American farming without relying on the opinions of others, and, while listening patiently to much which was told me, I drew conclusions only from wh
"In measuring the advantages of the different parts of the country by the standards of nature, and the reward of agricultural industry by produce, I hope to have departed from custom without having been led into error. Nature is the most general and invariable of agricultural tests.
“Want of information is a complaint which has been brought against treatises on emigration, and the charge in all probability arises from diversity of human character; one mind being incapable of furnishing all requisite information to another, without previously knowing what is required. The first part of this publication is intended to show the opportunities which I had of seeing the country, and the second part to aid in forming an opinion of the different places of settlement. I have aimed only to impress the understanding of the reader, and should any of my representations and conclusions be found to differ from reality, I shall regret having written a word on the subject.”
Being a farmer in the strictest sense of the word, and having written the volume at intervals snatched from professional duties, I make no pretensions to correctness, much less to elegance of composition. My only aim has been to state plainly and freely what appeared to be truth, and I trust this will be received as an apology for any inaccuracies of style which may be discovered, and for such dogmatical and homespun expressions as may be considered inconsistent with good taste."
The best part of Mr. Shirreff's volume is an appendix of about one hundred pages, which he entitles “ A View of the Canadas and the United States, as adapted for Agricultural Emigration.” His travels were confined to the north and western states, as far back as Illinois, and to the Canadas. He landed at New York May 30th, 1833, and sailed again for Liverpool the following November. He seems then to have spent about five months in his