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AMERICAN LITERATURE AND THE UNION.
IN leaving this subject, I cannot help suggesting, at the hazard
of being thought whimsical, that a literature of such writings as these, embodying the romance of the whole revolutionary and ante-revolutionary history of the United States, might do something to perpetuate the Union itself. The influence of a rich literature of passion and fancy upon society must not be denied merely because you cannot measure it by the yard or detect it by the barometer. Poems and romances which shall be read in every parlor, by every fireside, in every school-house, behind every counter, in every printing-office, in every lawyer's office, at every weekly evening club, in all the States of this Confederacy, must do something, along with more palpable if not more powerful agents, towards moulding and fixing that final, grand, complex result, the national character. A keen, wellinstructed judge of such things said, if he might write the ballads of a people, he cared little who made its laws. Let me say, if a hundred men of genius would extract such a body of romantic literature from our early history as Scott has extracted from the history of England and Scotland, and as Homer extracted from that of Greece, it perhaps would not be so alarming if demagogues should preach, or governors practice, or executives tolerate nullification. Such a literature would be a common property of all the States, a treasure of common ancestral recollections, more noble and richer than our thousand million acres of public land ; and, unlike that land, it would be indivisible. It would be as the opening of a great fountain for the healing of the nations. It would turn back our thoughts from these recent and overrated diversities of interest, these contro. versies about negro-cloth, coarse-wooled sheep, and cotton bag. ging, — to the day when our fathers walked hand in hand together through the valley of the Shadow of Death in the War cf Independence. Reminded of our fathers, we should remember that we are brethren. The exclusiveness of State pride, the narrow selfishness of a mere local policy, and the small jealousies of vulgar minds, would be merged in an expanded,
comprehensive, constitutional sentiment of old, family, fraternal regard. It would reässemble, as it were, the people of America in one vast congregation. It would rehearse in their hearing all things which God had done for them in the old time; it would proclaim the law once more; and then it would bid them join in that grandest and most affecting solemnity, -- a national anthem of thanksgiving for the deliverance, of honor for the dead, of proud prediction for the future !
THE LOVE OF READING.
LET the case of a busy lawyer testify to the priceless value
of the love of reading. He comes home, his temples throbbing, his nerves shattered, from a trial of a week; surprised and alarmed by the charge of the judge, and pale with anxiety about the verdict of the next morning, not at all satisfied with what he has done himself, though he does not yet see how he could have improved it ; recalling with dread and self-disparagement, if not with envy, the brilliant effort of his antagonist, and tormenting himself with the vain wish that he could have replied to it, --- and altogether a very miserable subject, and in as unfavorable a condition to accept comfort from a wife and children as poor Christian in the first three pages of the “ Pilgrim's Progress.” With a superhuman effort he opens his book, and in the twinkling of an eye he is looking into the full “ orb of Homeric or Miltonic song;” or he stands in the crowd -- breathless, yet swayed as forests or the sea by winds — hearing and to judge the pleadings for the crown; or the philosophy which soothed Cicero or Boëthius in their afflictions, in exile, prison, and the contemplation of death, breathes over his petty cares like the sweet south ; or Pope or Horace laughs him into good humor ; or he walks with Æneas and the Sibyl in the mild light of the world of the laurelled dead; and the court-house is as completely forgotten as the dreams of a pre-adamite life. Well may be prize that endeared charm, so effectual and safe, without which the brain had long ago been chilled by paralysis, or set on fire of insanity'
ELOQUENCE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. MEN heard that eloquence in 1776, in that manifold and
mighty appeal by the genius and wisdom of that new America, to persuade the people to take on the name of nation, and begin its life. By how many pens and tongues that great pleading was conducted ; through how many months before the date of the actual Declaration, it went on, day after day ; in how many forms, before how many assemblies, from the village newspaper, the more careful pamphlet, the private conversation, the town-meeting, the legislative bodies of particular colonies, up to the hall of the immortal old Congress, and the master intelligences of lion heart. and eagle eye, that ennobled it, — all this you know. But the leader in that great argument was John Adams, of Massachusetts. He, by concession of all men, was the orator of that Revolution, the Revolution in which a nation was born. Other and renowned names, by written or spoken eloquence, coöperated effectively, splendidly, to the grand result,
Samuel Adams, Samuel Chase, Jefferson, Henry, James Otis in an earlier stage. Each of these, and a hundred more, within circles of influence wider or narrower, sent forth, scattering broadcast, the seed of life in the ready virgin soil. Each brought some specialty of gift to the work : Jefferson, the magic of style, and the habit and the power of delicious dalliance with those large, fair ideas of freedom and equality, so dear to man, so irresistible in that day; Henry, the indescribable and lost spell of the speech of the emotions, which fills the eye, chills the blood, turns the cheek pale, — the lyric phase of eloquence, the -- fire-water," as Lamartine has said, of the Revolution, instilling into the sense and the soul the sweet madness of battle ; Samuel Chase, the tones of anger, confidence, and pride, and the art to inspire them. John Adams's eloquence alone seemed to have
demand of the time; as a question of right, as a ques tion of prudence, as a question of immediate opportunity, as a question of feeling, as a question of conscience, as a question of historical and durable and innocent glory, he knew it all through and through , and in that mighty debate, which, beginning in
Congress as far back as March or February, 1776, had its close on the second and on the fourth of July, he presented it in all its aspects, to every passion and affection, — to the burning sense of wrong, exasperated at length beyond control by the shedding of blood ; to grief, anger, self-respect ; to the desire of happiness and of safety; to the sense of moral obligation, commanding that the duties of life are more than life; to courage, which fears God, and knows no other fear; to the craving of the colonial heart, of all hearts, for the reality and the ideal of country, and which cannot be filled unless the dear native land comes to be breathed on by the grace, clad in the robes, armed with the thunders, admitted an equal to the assembly of the nations ; to that large and heroical ambition which would build States, that imperial philanthropy which would open to liberty an asylum here, and give to the sick heart, hard fare, fettered conscience of the children of the Old World, healing, plenty, and freedom to worship God, — to these passions, and these ideas, he presented the appeal for months, day after day, until, on the third of July, 1776, he could record the result, writing thus to his wife : “Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America ; and a greater, perhaps, never was, nor will be, among men.”
Of that series of spoken eloquence all is perished ; not one reported sentence has come down to us. The voice through which the rising spirit of a young nation sounded out its dream of life is hushed. The great spokesman, of an age unto an age, is dead.
And yet, of those lost words is not our whole America one immortal record and reporter? Do ye not read them, deep cut, defying the tooth of time, on all the marble of our greatness : How they blaze on the pillars of our Union! How is their deep sense unfolded and interpreted by every passing hour! How do they come to life, and grow audible, as it were, in the brightening rays of the light he foresaw, as the fabled invisible heart gave out its music to the morning !
Yes, in one sense, they are perished. No parchment manu. script, no embalming printed page, no certain traditions of living or dead, have kept them. Yet, from out and from off all things
our laughing harvests, our songs of labor our com
merce ou all the seas, our secure homes, our school-houses and churches, our happy people, our radiant and stainless flag, how they come pealing, pealing, Independence now, and Independence forever!
1 RIBUTE TO WEBSTER. THEY say he was ambitious ! Yes, as Ames said of Hamil .
ton, “there is no doubt that he desired glory; and that, feeling his own force, he longed to deck his brow with the wreath of immortality.” But I believe he would have yielded his arm, his frame to be burned, before he would have sought to grasp the highest prize of earth by any means, by any organization, by any tactics, by any speech, which in the least degree endangered the harmony of the system.
They say, too, he loved New England! He did love New Hampshire — that old granite world — the crystal bills, gray and cloud-topped ; the river, whose murmur lulled his cradle ; the old hearthstone ; the grave of father and mother. He loved Massachusetts, which adopted and honored him — that sounding sea-shore, that charmed elm-tree seat, that reclaimed farm, thai choice herd, that smell of earth, that dear library, those dearer friends ; but the “sphere of his duties was his true country.” Dearly he loved you, for he was grateful for the open arms with which
you welcomed the stranger and sent him onwards and up. wards.
But when the crisis came, and the winds were let loose, and that sea of March “ wrought and was tempestuous," then you saw that he knew even you only as you were, American citizens ; then you saw him rise to the true nature and stature of American citizenship ; then you read on his brow only what he thought of the whole Republic; then you saw him fold the robes of his habitual patriotism around him, and counsel for all - for all.
So, then, he served you “ to be pleased with his service was your affair, not his."
And now what would he do, what would he be if he were here to-day? I do not presume to know. But what a loss we have in him!