Page images
PDF

1831.]

THE ALCHEMIST.

157

For the Register of Pennsylvania. THE ALCHEMIS’t. No. XXVII. ON AMERICAN CRITICISM, [second ART1cle.] Such once were Critics' such the happy few Athens and Rome in better ages knew '-Pope. How far do the reviewers of the present age and country correspond with the character to which allusion is made, in the above warm and impassioned exclamation? To what extent would their merits be acknowledged by the critic bard; the powerful and commanding genius, who published his maxims of authorship in early life, and then proved them correct by the unparalleled success of his productions? In the unchecked succession of desultory amusement, or the heat of controversy, it is beneficial to resort occasionally to first principles, to recur to those fixed rules the truth of which has been felt in ages the most remote and climates the most dissimilar, and which have been from time to time committed to the written page by those whom the common consent of mankind has invested with the character of permanent authorities in criticism. I shall therefore, without further preface, or any apology, copy the whole of the passage; an extract which expresses, better than any other language can do, the office and duty of a critic, and which I think so valuable as to be well worthy of a renewed perusal, although it has already served for a motto to one of my former essays.” “But where's the man who counsel can bestow, Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know? Unbiass'd or by favour or by spite; Not dully prepossess'd, nor blindly right; Though learn'd, well-bred; and though well-bred, sincere; Modestly bold, and humanly severe; Who to a friend his faults can freely show, And gladly praise the merit of a foe; Blest with a taste exact yet unconfin'd, A knowledge both of books and humankind; Gen’rous converse; a soul exempt from pride, And love to praise with reason on his side?” To the importance of the office of a reviewer I have already alluded in my last number; and it will not be unreasonable to ascribe to such a charge a correspond. ing dignity. A criticis, in reality, what the word imports, a judge; and he is unquestionably bound to preserve all the impartiality and calmness of the character. Independently of matters of mere taste, his judgment is occasionally of quite as much importance to the private rights of individuals as that of the corresponding legal officer. The estimate set upon the merits of an author has the most powerful influence not only upon the comfort of his existence, but upon his pecuniary interest, and sometimes, in fact, brings in question the existence of life itself. Proportionable to this responsibility is

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

dent that the fairness of the judicial office has been 'forgotten, and that thuse who are in reality the advocates have been allowed quietly to seat themselves upon the bench. Journals have been instituted, large sums of money lavished, and the first talents of a great nation secured, with the object, in a literary point of view, not of judging impartially among the successive productions of the day, and making their various degrees of merit more widely known, but of writing up or writing down particular sets of men, and assisting in the efforts of well known political and business combinations. In order to avoid being misunderstood, I will at present confine myself to what 'we witness among the great periodicals of the British islands. In the partiality shown to the volumes produced by a whig author, the severity used towards tories, the almost indiscriminate praise of all Scotchmen,and the various preferences and dislikes ascribable to the private feelings of its editors, but visible in its pages, enough may surely be found to convict the Edinburgh Review of being, instead of a candid and just tribunal, the mere rostrum of a set of determined, able, eloquent and persevering pleaders, whose side, in relation to most points which may be brought into dispute, is already taken,and whose efforts are continually and resolutely bent to the extension and perpetuation of their already powerful empire. In connexion with this, various interests are to be promoted and opposed, as their mutual co-operation...and reaction may indicate, or as may gratify individual feelings; interests which are well known to the world, and which it is not necessary for me to stop to enumerate. In like manner, the Quarterly is guided by partialities of an opposite class, and which are carried to so absurd an extent as to give rise, in the midst of papers exhibiting the most resplendent talent, to outburstings of a strange and extravagant hatred towards republican institutions of all ages and countries. In the warmth of their support to oligarchy, the writers in that journal

seem to carry a feeling of personal and individual resentment, such as generally belong to a private and interested partisanship, into the highest antiquity and the most remote locality; they enter into a furious political quarrel with the Athenian dicasts, and, upon the institututions and customs of the United States, they insert those extraordinary effusions which have so often attracted the wonder, indignation and ridicule of our staring countrymen. If we examine further, we shall find an extension of the same principle. The Westminster Review is the distinct promulgator and defender of the doctrines of Jeremy Bentham; and to omit minor journals, the only important exception seems to be the Foreign Quarterly, which professedly undertakes the protection of the too much neglected literature of the continent of Europe; a task perhaps, the most useful and just of them all. What then is the cause of this insidious creeping of the advocate upon the bench of justice? Is some concealed advantage sought for by thus adding to what would otherwise weary as didactic dissertation, all the piquancy and interest of an animated personal discussion? Here then is much reason to believe lies the real

-secret. For the sake of gaining the air of novelty, and

158

TAXATION,

[SEPTEMBEm

a personal interest in the criticism, the writer leaves his
proper station, and, from a judge, becomes a relentless
partizan. The occasion is not forgotten for the laud-
able task of puffing a friend or even a countryman;
but the principal zest of the banquet is to be derived
from the more stimulating condiments. An entire meal
of sweet things would sicken the most liquorish palate:
and a relish must be obtained for the confectionery by
the previous methodical application and adequate sup-
ply of pepper,mustard and vinegar. The consequence
is, that this mode of writing, instead, of a source of calm
and philosophical instruction to mankind,becomes a chan-
nel for the free indulgence of the most violent dislikes
and antipathies. Hence the furious passions into which
the reviewer puts himself with the offending author,
the style of utter denunciation, the declaration that
such a brood of writers or such a body of doctrines,
must be extinguished; &c. &c., with other marks both
of an existing despotism and of a tyrannical administra-
tion of it. The public mind gradually becomes accus-
tomed to the compound, and learns to consider it a thing
of course. The character of Messrs Gall and Treacle,
the reviewers, have been happily ridiculed in the well
known and amusing novel of Headlong Hall; but the
bitter and the molasses have become habitual with the
reading community, and the satire of our novelist flashes
harmless against a mound, to penetrate which to any
dangerous extent is far beyond its keenness.
To the influence of the above periodical works, ex-
tensively read, and much imitated on this side of the
Atlantic, is probably mainly owing the habit, so gene-
rally indulged among us, of imagining bad authors wor-
thy of excessive severity. We catch our opinions and
practices from England, both directly and by imitative
works published in our own country. That this is the
real source of the evil, may perhaps be denied by some.
Thus, it is not unfrequently argued that the self conceit
of a scribbler reaches such a pitch, that nothing but the
last degree of severity can ever make an impression on
a substance so impassive. It is enough, in reply to this
merely to observe, that, in repelling scribblers, not only
is mild satire inefficient, but that which is most power-
ful and severe is scarcely ever productive of the least
effect. Those against whom it is aimed, are generally
in want of the means of daily support; they apprehend
themselves unlikely to succeed in any other pursuit; and
it is impossible to persuade men to relinquish the efforts
by which they are endeavouring to obtain the necessary
comforts of life for their families. And whether, in a
given instance, this be or be not the case, experience
generally shows that it is not the blockhead, but the
man really eudowed with taste and feeling, that suffers
with the blow. The individualso effectually under the
influence of self-conceit as to be thereby debarred from
progressive improvement and the ultimate chance of
distinction, escapes unhurt, and suffers the lash to fall
upon those who possess keener sensations.
That personal and unmannerly reviewing is altogether
unnecessary, may be proved by the example of France.
In that country, satirical comment, though less frequent
than in England,is occasionally practised to its full extent;
the whip is applied vigorously, although generally with

judgment and discrimination. Yet calling names, per-
sonal attacks upon the author, and utter denunciations,
are just as rare in French reviews as similar offences are
in French society, and the whole system of criticism
seems to be strictly controlled by the national polite-
ness. By thus preserving their temper, French review-
ers are enabled frequently to extract useful materials
from publications which we have been accustomed to
consider as of a very insignificant class. This may be
seen by referring to the pages of the Revue Encyclopé-
dique; in which articles are continually to be met with,
furnished by the most learned hands, and giving an ac-
count of volumes which in England or with us would
be considered far below the dignity of the critical tri-
bunal. School books, pamphlets, and local publica-
tions are there constantly made the source from which
valuable facts and reflections are drawn for those who
know how to use them. And certainly, I need not fear
to suggest the question whether the literature and sci-
ence of France, are inferior in their tone to those of
England or America, or rather, whether they are not
decidedly superior? Illnatured reviewing, if I am cor-
rectly informed, is not prevalent either in Germany or
Italy; seeming to be the peculiar growth of the English
and Scotch soils; and there is certainly nothing, in the
unexampled learning and scientific eminence of the
three continental nations which I have just named, at
all calculated to exhibit them as having suffered in the
comparison from the want of an adequate severity in
criticism.
If leisure and inclination suffice, I may, at some fu-
ture day, take up this subject again, and commit to pa-
per some further remarks upon the present state of our
poetry and poetical criticism; and I may possibly select
a volume or two in exemplification. p.

From the Bradford Settler.
TAXATION. -
To the Taxable Inhabitants of Bradford County.

FELLow Citizens:–The time is fast approaching when it will be our duty to elect Assessors in the several townships, whose duty it will be, together with the commissioners of the county, to fix upon some uniform standard for the value of property made taxable by law, which when established will be a governing principle as to the amount of taxes to be paid by each citizen for three years: At a time then, when our county rates are likely to be increased by the establishment of two weeks court, and other causes; and in addition thereto a state tax is to be levied and property not heretofore taxable is to be taxed for state purposes—it behoves us to call our minds to the subject in order that the law which assuredly directs an equitable valuation should be strictly complied with. The law requires the commissioners and assessors when met, to form “a standard to ascertain the bona fide value of all property made taxable; taking into consideration improvements, proximity to market and other advantages of situation, so that the same relative value may be observed as it respects wards, townships, &c., that is observed in the valuation in the same township. See act of 28th March 1808, which is one of the supplements of the act of April 11th, 1799; which last mentioned “Act” requires the assessors and their assistants to value the property made taxable at what it will “bona fide sell for in ready money.” It is very evident therefore, that the Legislature intended, what justice requires, to wit: that property made taxable, should be rated in assessments at its cash value;

1831.1 - *

STEAMBOAT EXPLOSIONS. o

159

and that the supplement of 1808 was intended to bring into a general view of all concerned, (and equalize) the relative value of real estate in different townships in the same county, taking into consideration “proacimily to market and other advantages of situation.”

Having called your attention to the simple fact that the law requires justice, and believing that justice is desired by all, I now ask you to take into consideration the standard previously formed in this county, and I will attempt to show in a few words that they neither conform to justice or law. 4.

Firstly, Unseated lands throughout the county have been valued at one dollar and fifty cents per acre. Now I am bold to affirm, that every man acquainted with unimproved lands in this county, to any considerable extent, knows that simply considering their quality, there are many tracts worth five dollars per acre, and many that are not worth fifty cents. Where then I ask, in the name of justice or law, is the propriety of putting them all at one price? Again—every person knows that a tract of unseated land situated on a public road, a stream of water, near a settlement, a mill and a market is worth four times as much in ready money, by the acre, as a tract of the same quality of land situated six or eight miles from any settlement, stream, market or road and separated from them by hills almost impassable. Where then is the propriety of disregarding the advantages of situation? I do not attempt to say that the aggregate valuation of unseated lands is too high; but I do say that their relative valuations appear to me palpably uniust.

&ndly, Townships have usually been classed in three classes; and the seated lands in each township or class rated in three rates. By the standard last formed, which is now before me, it appears that in the first class of townships, improved land is rated, and valued by the acre, as follows, viz. First rate, $25 00–2d rate $18 00–3d rate $500.

Second Class.
First rate, $12 00–2d rate $800—3d rate $400.
Third Class.

First rate, $10 00–2d rate $5 00–3d rate $3 00.
A resolution passed at the meeting which formed the
standard rates as follows, viz: Resolved, That the Asses.
sors have power to value personal property, trades and
occupations, either over or under the average price as
the true value may be; by which it appears conclusively
that no discretion is left with the assessors and assistant
assessors respecting real estate, but renders the power of
assistants wholly nugatory.

This appears to me to be wholly wrong; first, in fact, as it is unreasonable for men to fix a value upon lands which nine-tenths of them are unacquainted with, as is generally the case with the assessors aggregately: Secondly, in law, as they exercise a power manifestly given by law to the several assessors and their assistants: Thirdly, in equity, as it fixes the price of improved lands at three prices not to be departed from when it is obvious that the cash value of lands is as various almost as the number of farms. One simple fact will illustrate the impropriety of that mode of classing townships and rating lands. Towanda township is in the first class of townships—first rate of land $25 per acre. Monroe township is in the second class—first rate of land $12: Towanda creek is the line between the two townships. A tract of intervale lands of like quality is divided by the creek. That part of said intervale lying in Towanda is valued at $25 per acre, and consequently is taxed more than double of the same quality in Monroe but a few perches from it, as that cannot be valued above $12 per acre. Another fact will show its unjust operation in another point of view: The assessor and assistants feel bound by the standard to rate the several lots of improved land in their township according to quality and improvements; by which means proximity to market and advantages of situation have no weight in fixing the value at which it is assessed. Enough has now been said to awaken attention: A remedy for these evils it

may be difficult to prescribe. I take it however, that the true value of improved land is just that sum that it will pay the interest of after deducting from the proceeds the sum necessary to keep it in repair, to pay the expense of cultivation; and expenses of preparing for and carrying to market—and these expenses will depend much upon the local situation as well as the quality of the land. I cannot but believe, therefore, that every reflecting citizen will see the necessity of selecting for assessors on the triennial year those men who will be most likely to comprehend this complex subject, and who possess coolness and firmness to enable them to act with prudence, judgment, and a steady eye to the great object of equal taxation in forming the standard. To fix upon the value of a few lots of improved land of which the quality of sale or productiveness, advantages of situation, expense of cultivation, &c. are clearly defined, as a standard of comparison for the assessors and their assistants in the respective towns to be guided by, appears to me to be all that is necessary on that point; which, with others governed by the same rule, would put an end to the complaints so frequently and justly made against unequal taxation. A FRIEND TO EQUITY. Towanda, August 5, 1831.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

To cash received of F. Erringer, in full

of taxes for 1828, 86 97 To do. of Henry Benner, do. for 1828, 111 60 11. To do. for fees on vessels omited, 100 00 Dec. To do. for rent of part of lot, 10 00 To do. of Joseph Pryor, clerk for interments in Blockley burying g’d, 38 00 For seven bills of health, 3 50 41 50 To cash received of William Mandry, Health Officer. Fees on vessels from foreign ports, 3176 25 Fees on vessels coastwise, 1858 50 Fees, head money on passengers, 3.148 50 Do. sundry persons for poudrette, 871 50 Do. for removing nuisances, 1350 19 Total, $12,930 27 1830. CR. Dec. 31. By cash paid, orders drawn by the Board of Health, No. 1 and 153, and charged to the following accounts, viz. HEALTH CfFIce, for Port Physician, Health Officer, Clerk, and Messengers salaries, Bargemen and Superintendents of Poudrette Lots' wages, Collectors on the Delaware and Schuylkill, Rent of Health Office, repairs of Poudrette Lots, Auditor's Bill, Carriage Hire, Interest of Money, Lumber for Lots, Wood for the Office, Printing, Advertising, and incidental expenses, $5129 27 LAzARETTo,for Steward, Physician, and Quarantine Master's salaries, Bargemen and Gardener's wages, Steward's Bill of Supplies for the Institution, : Lumber, Carpenter's Bill, Furniture, Taxes, New Boats, Paint and Oil, Wood, Carrying the Mail, and Incidental expenses for the year, 5975 60 CITY Hospital. Bill of repairs, 96 52 I.o.ANs. Repaid, 1000 [ . Charged to sundry persons for removing Nuiscance, 468 02 12669 41 From which deduct a balance in favour of Joseph Pryor, Clerk, which will be accounted for in 1831, 18 95 12650 46

Balance in favor of the Board, 279 81

Dollars 12,930 27

Statement of the debits and credits of the Board of Health. 1830–1)ecember.

To one quarter's rent of Health Office, due
the Trustees of the University,

Loans for the Board's Notes, remaining unpaid
December 31, 1830,

A balance due Joseph Pryor, December 31,
1830,

Balance in favour of the Board,

$100 00 2000 00

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1830–IDecember.

By outstanding Taxes, due from

John Mease, for the year

1814,

Liberty Browne, 1814, By balance due from Jacob Gardi

ner, on account of Health Tax,

for the year 1828, Penn Town

ship, By amount due from sundry persons for removing nuisances, amount of Duplicates of Health Tax, for the Districts of east and west Southwark, and township of Moyamensing, for 1828, By Suspense Account,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

IHI AZ AIR ID 7S REGISTER of PENNs YLVAN: A.

DEW otre D TO The PRESERVATION OF EVERY KINI) or useful, INFORMATION RESPECTING The state.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

From the Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
SoME Account of The
EARLY POETS AND POETRY
O F P E N N S Y L V A NIA,
[Continued from page 156.]

The poets who have been already named in this pa. per, were many of them Englishmen by birth, of respectable but humble families, though frequently of extensive acquirements, who had sought in our province that competence and ease which might enable them to gratify their taste, and prosecute the studies of their youth. The rest were young Americans of the better provincial families, who, though not deeply learned, discovered in their boyish verses a tincture of the letters which their fathers had brought with them from Britain. An acquaintance with the classics of Rome, and with the popular authors of England, is undoubtedly to be inferred from these compositions; and though they lie under the usual disadvantage of imitations, they not only often emulate the ease and elegance of their models, but at times seem even to have caught no small degree of their spirit. The extent to which poetry was cultivated by our early inhabitants, and the encouragement which it received in all classes, will astonish those who have adopted the current opinions as to our primitive illiteratenss; when they recollect that all this was previous to the establishment of our Library and our College, and before even the warmest admirers of Franklin can pretend that Philadelphia received that impulse in every species of improvement which is generally attributed to him. This is the more gratifying, as I do not believe there is one of us who has not been often mortified at the insinuation, that our ancestors owed their very civilization to a single stranger. I have already mentioned the anonymous pieces which appeared in our newspapers. The merit of several of them is of a very high order; superior certainly to that of most of the acknowledged poems which were printed, and I might refer to three productions of the year 1731, entitled “A Journey from Petapsco to Annapolis,” “Verses on the Art of Printing,” and “A Fable, the Dog and the Fox,” with a confidence that they would do more than justify my assertion. Several other poems of that period, prove that their authors were the possessors of most of the poetic qualifications, and well deserved the favour with which our ancestors received them. The Latin poetry which was written in our colony is not to be passed unnoticed. I recollect but few instances where modern poetry has been able to clothe itself gracefully in Latin verses; and 1 am certain, I do not hazard much in asserting, that the taste of Horace or Quinctilian would not be satisfied with any modern composition in their native language. Our ignorance of many of its idiomatic niceties has been admitted by the most accomplished scholars, and always render hopeless any competition with our Roman masters; still, we must admire the fluency and accuracy which distinguish the Latin productions of many European scholars, and applaud the success of schoolboys in one of their most difficult and useful exercises. Our early Professors of Humanity were not behind their European brethren in their classical compositions; and, without doubt, their WoL. VIII, 21

well used birches would often set upon their feet the stubborn hexameters of their pupils. But it is time to notice Thomas MAkIN. He must have been one of the earliest settlers in our colony; for, in 1689, we find him named as an usher under George Keith, in Friends’ public gramunar school; and in the following year, he succeeded Keith as head master. After this, he was several times chosen clerk of the provincial assembly. Of his obscure and quiet life we have few other particulars. His school in Philadelphia was not very lucrative, and he abandoned it, I believe, for one of the settlements in the interior, where

Pueros elementa docentem Occupat extremis in vicis balba senectus.

In 1728 and 1729, he dedicated to James Logan two Latin poems, which are still in the collection of MSS. at Stenton, and “which seem to have been written,” says Robert Proud, “chiefly for amusement in his old age.” One is entitled “Encomium Pennsylvaniae,” and the other “In laudes Pennsylvaniae poema, seu descriptio Pennsylvaniae.” These poems celebrate the institutions, the productions, and the scenery of our province; in alternate hexameters and pentameters, which have been called rude, but which, at least, deserve praise for metrical correctness and descriptive fidelity. Some extracts from these pieces are to be found in the 2d vol. of Robert Proud’s history, who has added a translation in English rhyme. About the year 1741 lived WILLIAM Lou Ry, the author, it is supposed; of several Latin odes which were at that time published. His history is entirely unknown, and his name would have been equally so, had it not been subscribed to a piece which has the following title— “De morte luctuosa celeberrimi Andreae Hamiltonis Armigeri, qui obiitiv Augusti MDCCXLI. This was printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette of Feb’y 17th, 1742. Another piece which I am inclined to attribute to the same author, is a Carmen Gratularium to Governor Thomas, which appeared the previous year in Franklin's Universal Magazine. The poetry of these compositions I am unable to praise, for it must be admitted that their author has pronounced * “In deep parade of language dead What would not on his own be read;” but I should do him injustice, were I not to commend his knowledge and adaptation of the Roman idiom, which, like the weighty panoplies of our ancestors, can never again be used with gracefulness. But by far the best Latin verses which have been pubished in Pennsylvania are those of Mr. John BEveRIDGE. He was a native of Scotland, and taught at Edinburgh a Grammar school under the patronage of the celebrated Ruddiman. Amongst his pupils was the blind poet Thomas Blacklock, to whom he sends in some English verses his own 1 easons for writing poetry, and whose fine Paraphrase of the 104th Psalm he rendered into Latin verse. It appears that he emigrated to New England in 1752, where he remained five years, and contracted friendships with the famous Dr. Jonathan Mayhew and other eminent scholars. In 1758 he was appointed Professor of Languages in the College and Academy of Philadelphia. His knowledge of Latin was accurate and pro

« PreviousContinue »