« PreviousContinue »
The man who is blessed with original presence of mind, will exhibit it on his first exposure to sudden and imminent danger, and the greater the danger, the more brightly will this quality shine. At a single glance, the peril and the remedy are lighted up before him, as with a lightning flash in the darkness of night, and his energies of action receive a supernatural vigor, and are nerved to double the strength he could exert on ordinary occasions. At fires, on the water, at raising buildings, on the highway, and in numerous other situations of peril, I have witnessed feats of strength, performed at a moment when life was in jeopardy, that clearly proved my assertion. Other instances I have witnessed, where safety depended upon a single momentary act, not of strength, but the result of pure presence of mind—the only thing that could have been done to save life, so far as human judgment could determine.
From what I have seen, heard related, and read; I am inclined to believe this quality is more common in the female than in the male sex; and so designed by an all wise Providence, for the protection of our species, when in a helpless state. An instance occurred in India about thirty years ago, of remarkable presence of mind in a lady. Several ladies and gentlemen went on shore, and had seated themselves near a junglethe lady in question sitting a few feet farther out than the rest. Suddenly, a huge tiger sprang at her-she instantly spread an umbrella in his face, which so discomfitted him, that he retreated, and the party escaped unhurt. In the history of the early settlement of our country, and of the border wars, many thrilling instances of presence of mind are recorded, on the part of both the settlers and savages. These were not unfrequently exhibited, in a remarkable degree, by females, especially mothers.
In the time of battle, both on land and water, this quality has often decided the contest against all previous probabilities. Among those who possessed this natural gift to a high degree, were Washington and Napoleon, men whose dispositions and desires were at perfect antipodes to each other. In the midst of the din of battle and the clash of arms, at a single glance, they could see the position of the contending armies, and coolly calculate the advantages to be gained by sudden changes and maneuvres, and as quickly order them. A commander who has this quality, has a decided advantage over one who has not, and, with an inferior force, often achieves astonishing victories, especially if his officers and men are imbued with the same gift. Perry could leave his disabled ship, and, calm as a summer morning, pass to another vessel in an open boat, through a storm of iron hail, and weave for himself a wreath of glory, enduring as the pages of history.
In other spheres of life, not fraught with dangers to the body, presence of mind is an indispensable requisite to success. Shining wit is a species of presence of mind.
This quality should be possessed by the judge on the bench, the lawyer at the bar, the orator in the forum, the minister in the pulpit, who preaches, and does not read his sermons, the physician, with whom we trust our lives, and the surgeon, in his responsible operations.
Those who practice humbuggery successfully, are found to have a large share of this quality, coupled with impudence and dishonesty of a high order. It is also possessed, in a preëminent degree, by successful blacklegs, pickpockets, burglars, robbers, and others who stand high on the calendar of crime. Like other strong qualities, when perverted from good to evil purposes, this gift becomes a dangerous agent with those who are corrupt in principle and practice.
My advice is, to keep cool under all circumstances, if possible. Much may be effected by cultivation--we should learn to command our feelings and act prudently in all the ordinary concerns of life—this will better prepare us to meet sudden emergencies with calmness and fortitude. If we permit our feelings to be ruffled and disconcerted in small matters, they will be thrown into a whirlwind, when big events overtake us. Our best antidote is, implicit confidence in God.
No one can too highly appreciate the magic power of the Press, or too deeply deprecate its abuses. As newspapers have become the great highway of that intelligence, which exerts a controlling power over our nation, catering the every-day food of the mind, I will confine my remarks to these vehicles of knowledge, and their conductors.
No course of reading is better calculated to show the present state of society, than the perusal of the various newspapers of the day. The variety and quality, size and quantity, have increased to a mighty flood. Comparatively, we have the omnibus, that admits every thing for money ; the stage coach, a little more particullar; and the private coach, neat, cleanly, and uncontaminating. We have the political party sheets, some of whose editors are often goaded on by demagogues, to the most disgraceful venality; acrimonious, calumniating; assailing persons, more than measures; placing party interests above public good. The political discussions of the present day, are seldom characterized by reason, logic, courtesy, or common sense. This is an evil that editors can, and should correct. They can give a harmonious, or a discordant tone to society. But few of the corps editorial, seem to feel the high responsibility resting upon them. Their whole aim should be, to enlighten and improve mankind, and avoid all publications, calculated to produce ill blood, ur lead to erroneous conclusions. Their
should be standards of truth, promoters of peace, cementers of union, inculcaters of pure morality, disseminators of sound logic; free from personal invectives and animadversions on private character, and rigidly just, in their discussion of public men; chaste in language, free from scandal and calumny; calculated to improve the mind, correct the head, and better the heart. Public good never requires an editor to expose domestic relations, and exaggerate minor faults, promulgate false charges, or echo inuendoes. Politics, as conducted by some of the leaders of the parties of the present day, have become disgusting to the genuine patriot, who deems the good of his country, paramount to party triumph. The old landmarks of '76, have been discarded by many, and too frequently are our laws, and even revised, and new state constitutions, based on party principles ; if not a sandy, at least, a very problematica. foundation.
It is a law of nature, that each mass of matter, contains the materials to effect its own destruction. The destructive material once put in motion, the work of dissolution is done. Let editors lay this to heart, and, if they love our country, and its free institutions as they should, they will banish all venality from the press, and send forth a pure stream of light; the rays of burning truth, that will purify our political and moral atmosphere, and make our nation healthful, vigorous, and strong.
The silken cords of our Union have several times been strained to their utmost tension. We have an accumulating mass of combustible, destructive materials in our midst. Our bond of union has been put at issue by demagogues—the virtue and intelligence of the people at large, can alone preserve it. A little more steam upon the locomotive of Division—a little more fuel from the north, and fire from the south; may burst the boiler, and destroy the beautiful engine of our LIBERTY which, if preserved, will yet give FREEDOM to the nations of the old world. Editors, more than any other class, can insure the perpetuity of our UNION.
How important, then, that the Press shall be preserved pure and undefiled, and send forth no bitter waters, no fire brands, no error. Let every sheet, issued from the Press, be a bright and shining light, to guide us in the path of wisdom and virtue, which is the only path of safety. Let editors soar above all selfish, personal, and demagogue influences. Let them be men of reflecting and analyzing minds; expansive and liberal views ; pure and lofty principles ; men of general intelligence; students of human nature; philosophers of mind; cool, deliberate ; firm in purpose