THE CIRCUMSTANCES FAVORABLE TO THE
PROGRESS OF LITERATURE IN AMERICA
In discharging the honorable trust which you ave assigned to me on this occasion, I am anxious that the hour which we pass together should be exclusively occupied with those reflections which belong to us as scholars. Our association in this fraternity is academical; we entered it before our Alma Mater dismissed us from her venerable roof; and we have now come together, in the holidays, from every variety of pursuit, and every part of the county, to meet on common ground, as the brethren of one literary household. The duties and cares of life, like the Grecian states, in time of war, have proclaimed to us a short armistice, that we may come up, in peace to our Olympia.
On this occasion, it has seemed proper to me that we should turn our thoughts, not merely to some topic of literary interest, but to one which concerns us as American scholars. I have accordingly selected, as the subject of our inquiry, the circumstances favorable to the progress of literature in the United States of America. In the discussion of this subject, that curiosity, which every scholar naturally feels, in tracing and comparing the character of the higher civilization of different countries, is at once dignified and rendered practical by the connection of the inquiry with the condition and prospects of his native land.
I am aware that such inquiries are apt to degenerate into fanciful speculations and doubtful refinements. Why Asia has, almost without exception, been the abode of some form of despotism, and Europe more propitious to liberty; why the civilization of the Egyptians was of a character so melancholy and perishable; that of the Greeks so elegant, versatile, and life-giving; that of the Romans so stern and tardy, till they became the imitators of a people whom they conquered and despised, but never equalled; why tribes of barbarians, fro the north and east, not known to differ, essentially, from each other, at the time of their settlement in Europe, should have laid the foundation of national characters so dissimilar as those of the Spaniards, French, Germans, and English; are questions to which such answers, only, can be given, as will be just and safe, in proportion as they are general and comprehensive. It is difficult, even in the case of the individual man, to point out precisely the causes, under the operation of which, members of the same community, and even of the same family, grow up, with characters the most diverse. It must, of course, be much more difficult to perform the same analysis on a subject so vast as a nation, composed of communities and individuals, greatly differing from each other; all subjected to innumerable external influences; and working out the final result, often in the lapse of ages, not less by mutual counteraction, than coöperation.
But as, in the formation of individual character, there are causes of undisputed and powerful operation, so, in national character, there are causes, equally certain, of growth and excellence on the one hand, and of degeneracy and ruin on the other. It belongs to the philosophy of history to investigate these causes; and, if possible, to point out the circumstances, which, as furnishing the motives, and giving the direction, to intellectual effort in different nations, have had a chief agency in making them what they were, or are. Where it is done judiciously, it is in the highest degree curious thus to trace physical or political facts into moral and intellectual consequences, and great historical results; and to show how climate, geographical position, local relations, institutions, single events, and the influence of individuals, have fixed the characters and decided the destiny of nations.
In pursuing such inquiries, we may, for instance, be led to the conclusion, that it is the tendency of a tropical climate to enervate a people, and thus fit them to become the subjects of a despotism, though it may render them also, through the medium of a fervid temperament, formidable instruments of desolating but transitory conquest, under the lead of able and daring chiefs. We may find that a broad river, or a lofty chain of mountains, by stopping the inroads of war, or of immigration, becomes the boundary, not merely of governments, but of languages and literature, of institutions and character. We may sometimes think we can trace extraordinary skill in the liberal arts to the existence of quarries of fine marble. We may see popular eloquence springing out of popular institutions, and, in its turn, greatly instrumental in affecting the fortunes of free states. We may behold the spirit of an individual law-giver or reformer perpetuated by codes and institutions, for ages. We may trace a peculiar law of progress in colonial settlements, insular states, tribes fortified within Alpine battlements, or scattered over a smiling region of olive gardens and vineyards, and deduce the political and historical effects of these physical causes.
These topics of rational curiosity and liberal speculation, as I have already intimated, acquire practical importance, when the land in which we ourselves live is the subject of investigation. When we turn the inquiry to our own country; when we survey its natural features, search its history, and examine its institutions, to see what are the circumstances which are to excite and guide the popular mind; it then becomes an inquiry of the highest interest, and worthy the attention of every patriotic scholar. We then dwell, not on a distant, uncertain, perhaps fabulous, past, but on an impending future, teeming with individual and public fortune; a future, toward which we are daily and rapidly swept forward, and with which we stand in the dearest connection that can bind the generations of men together; a future, which our own characters, actions, and principles, may influence, for good or evil, for lasting glory or shame. We then strive, as far as our poor philosophy can do it, to read the countrys reverend auspices; to cast its great horoscope in the national sky, where some stars are waning, and some have set. We endeavor to ascertain whether the soil, which we love as that where our fathers are laid, and we shall presently be laid with them, is likely to be trod, in times to come, by an enlightened, virtuous, and free people.
I. The first circumstance, of which I shall speak, as influencing the progress of letters by furnishing the motives to intellectual effort among us, is the new form of political society established in the United States; viz., a confederacy of republics, in which, however, within the limits of the Constitution, the central government acts upon the individual citizen. It is not my purpose to detain you with so trite a topic as the praises of free political institutions; but to ask your attention to the natural operation of a system like ours on the literary character of a people. I call this a new form or political society. The ancient Grecian republics, indeed, were free enough, within the walls of the single cities, of which many of them were wholly or chiefly composed; while, toward the confederate or tributary states, their governments generally assumed the form of a despotism, more capricious, and not less arbitrary, than that of a single tyrant. Rome was never the abode of well-regulated republican liberty. The remark just made of the Grecian republics, in reference to allied states, applies to the Roman, for the greater portion of its history; while, within the walls of the city, the commonwealth fluctuated between the evils of an oppressive aristocracy and a factious populace. Since the downfall of Rome, the rudiments of a representative legislature are to be fund in the estates of some of the governments of continental Europe, and far more distinctly and effectually developed in the British Parliament; but a uniform and complete representative system, organized by a written constitution of government and unaccompanied by a powerful hereditary element, is original in this country. Here, for the first time, the whole direction and influence of affairs, and all the great organic functions of the body politic, are subjected, directly or indirectly, the executive and legislative functions directly, to free popular choice. Whatsoever quickening influence resides in public honors and trusts, and in the cheerful consciousness of individual participation in the most momentous political rights, is here, for the first time, exerted, directly, on the largest mass of men, with the smallest possible deductions; and as a despotism, like that of Turkey or Persia, is, by all admission, the form of government least favorable to the intellectual progress of a people, it would seem equally certain, that the farther you recede from such a despotism, in the establishment of a system of popular and constitutional liberty, the greater the assurance that the universal mind of the country will be powerfully and genially excited.
I am aware that it is a common notion, that, under an elective government, of very limited powers, like that of the United States, we lose that powerful spring of action which exists in the patronage of strong hereditary governments, and must proceed from the crown. I believe it is a prevalent opinion, abroad, among those who entertain the most friendly sentiments toward the American system, that we must consent to dispense with something of the favorable influence of princely and royal patronage on letters and the arts, and find our consolation in the political benefits of a republican government. It may be doubted, however, whether this view be not entirely fallacious. For, in the first place, it is by no means true that a popular government will be destitute either of the means or the disposition to exercise a liberal patronage. No government, as a government, ever did more for the fine arts than that of Athens. In the next place, it is to be considered, in this connection, that the evils of centralization are as evident, in reference to the encouragement of the general mind of the people, as they are in regard to a contented acquiescence in political administration. Whatever is gained, for those who enjoy it, by concentrating a powerful patronage in the capital, and in the central administration, is lost in the neglect and discouragement of the distant portions of the state, and its subordinate institutions. It must be recollected, that our representative systems extends far beyond the election of the high officers of the national and state governments. It pervades our local and municipal organizations, and probably exercises, in them, the most efficient and salutary part of its influence. In the healthful action of this system, whatever virtue there is in patronage is made to pervade the republic, like the air; to reach the farthest, and descend to the lowest. It is made not only to coöperate with the successful, and decorate the prosperous, but "to remember the forgotten, to attend to the neglected, to visit the forsaken." Hitherto, for the most part, men in need of patronage have had but one weary pilgrimage to perform, to travel up to court. By an improvement on the Jewish polity, which enjoyed a visit, thrice a year, to the Holy City, the theory of patronage in question requires a constant residence at the favored spot. Provincial has become another term for inferior and rude; and unpolite, which once meant only rural, has been made to signify something little better than barbarous, As it is , in the nature of things, a small part, only, of the population of a large state, which can thus bring itself, or by happy chance can fall, into the sphere of metropolitan favor, it follows, that the mass of the people are cut off from the operation of those motives to exertion, which flow from the hope or the possession of patronage.
But the beneficial effect of patronage, properly so called, its probably much overrated. This effect is not, on any system of distribution, to be sought in its direct application to the support of men of genius and learning. Its best operation is in the cheerful effect of kindly notice and intelligent audience. Talent, indeed, desires to earn a support, but not to receive a dole. It is rightfully urged, as the great advantage of our system, that the encouragements of society extend as widely as its burdens, and search out, and bring forward, whatsoever of ability and zeal for improvement are contained in any part of the land. I am persuaded, that, mainly, in this equable diffusion of rights and privileges lies the secret of the astonishing development of intellectual energy in this country. Capacity and opportunity, the twin sisters, who can scarce subsist happily but with each other, are brought together. These little local republics are schools of character and nurseries of mind. The people, who are to choose, and from whose number are to be chosen, by their neighbors, all those who, either in higher or lower stations, are intrusted with the management of affairs, feel the strongest impulse to mental activity. They read, and think, and form judgments on important subjects. In an especial manner, they are moved to make provision for education. With all its deficiencies, our system of public schools founded, in the infancy of the country, by the colonial legislature, and transmitted to our own days is superior to any system of public instruction (with possibly a single exception) which as ever been established by the most enlightened states of the Old World. Hasty prejudices, as to the tendencies of representative republics, ave been drawn from the disorders of the ill-organized democracies of the ancient world. Terrific examples of license and anarchy, in Greece and Rome, are quoted, to prove that man requires to be protected from himself, forgetting the profound wisdom wrapped up in the well-known formidable inquiry, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? But to reason, in cases like this, from the states of Greece to our constitutions of government, is to be deceived by schoolboy analogies. From the first settlement of New England, and from an early stage of their progress in many of the other states, one of the most prominent traits of the character of our population has been, to provide and to diffuse the means of education. The village school-house and the village church are the monuments of our republicanism; to read, to write, and to discuss grave affairs, in their primary assemblies, are the licentious practices of our democracy.
But, in this acknowledged result of our system of government, another objection is taken to its influence, as far as literary progress is concerned. It is urged, that, though it may be the effect of our system to excite the mind of the people, it excites it too much in a political direction; that the division and subdivision of the country into states and districts, and the equal diffusion of political privileges and powers among the whole population, with the constant recurrence of elections, however favorable to civil liberty, are unfriendly to civil liberty, are unfriendly to learning; that they kindle only a political ambition; and particularly, that they seduce the aspiring youth, from the patient and laborious vigils of the student, to plunge prematurely into the conflicts of the forum.
I am inclined to think, that, as far as the alleged facts exist, they are the necessary result of the present stage of our national progress, and not an evil necessarily incident to representative government. Our system is certainly an economical one, both as to the number of persons employed and the compensation of public service. It cannot, therefore, draw more individuals from other pursuits into public life, than would be employed under any other form or system of government. It is obvious, that the administration of the government of a country, whether it be liberal, or absolute, or mixed, is the first thing to be provided for. Some persons must be employed in making and administering the laws, before any other human interest can be attended to. The Fathers of Plymouth organized themselves under a simple compact of government, before they left the Mayflower. This was both natural and wise. Had they, while yet on shipboard, talked of founding learned societies, or engaged in the discussion of philosophical problems, it would have been insipid pedantry. As the organization and administration of the government are, in the order of time, the first of mere human concerns, they must ever retain a paramount importance. Every thing else must come in by opportunity; this, of necessity, must be provided for: otherwise, life is not safe, property is not secure, and there is no permanence in the social institutions. The first efforts, therefore, of men, in building up a new state, are, of necessity, political. The peculiar relations of the colonies to the parent state, also, called into political action much of the talent of the country, for a century before the revolution. But where else in the world did the foundation of the college ever follow so closely on that of the republic, as in Massachusetts? In the early stages of society, when there is a scanty population, its entire force is required for administration and defense. We are receding from this stage, but have not yet reached, although we are rapidly approaching, that in which a crowded population produces a large amount of cultivated talent, not needed for the service of the state.
As far, then, as the talent and activity of the country are at present called forth, in a political direction, it is fairly to be ascribed, not to any supposed incompatibility of popular institutions with the cultivation of letters, but to the precise point, in its social progress, which the country has been reached. A change of government would produce no change in this respect. Can any man suppose, other things remaining the same, that the introduction of an hereditary sovereign, an order of nobility, a national church, a standing army, and a military police, would tend to a more general and more fruitful development of mental energy, or greater leisure, on the part of educated men, to engage in literary pursuits? It is obviously as impossible that any such effect should be produced, as that the supposed producing cause should be put in action, in this country. By the terms of the supposition, if such a change were made, the leading class of the community, the nobles, would be politicians, by birth; as much talent would be required to administer the state; as much physical activity to defend it. If there were a class, as there probably would be, in the horizontal division of society, which exists under such governments, not taking an interest in politics, it would be that, which, under the name of the peasantry, fills, in most other countries, the place of, perhaps, the most substantial, uncorrupted, and intelligent population on earth, the American Yeomanry. We are not left to theory on this point. There are portions of the American continent, earlier settled than the United States, governed, from the first, by absolute power, and possessing all the advantages which can flow from what is called strong government. It may be safely left to the impartial judgment of mankind, to compare the progress, wither of general intelligence, or of higher literature, in those portions of the continent, and in the United States. Nor would any different conclusion be drawn from the contrast between the colonies and the United States, before and since the revolution.
Again, it cannot be thought a matter of little moment, that, under a purely popular government, the cultivation of letters always has been, and unquestionably always will be, deemed as honorable a pursuit as any to which the attention can be devoted. Under other forms of government, a different standard of respectability exists. Hereditary rank, of necessity, takes precedence; and all the institutions of society are made to regard the accidents of birth, as more important then personal merit. The choicest spirits of Europe, for ten centuries, have been trained up to the feeling, that government and war are the only callings worthy of noble blood. In those foreign countries, as England, where the political institutions have been most improved, and the iron yoke of feudalism most effectually broken, that is, in other words, where the people have been restored to their natural rights, we behold, as the invariable consequence, a proportionate intellectual progress. What could be more preposterous, then to attribute this progress to the operation of those remnants of the feudal system, which still remain, rather than to the free principles and popular institutions which have succeeded it; and to deny to such institutions, in their more perfect organization, in this country, a tendency to produce the same happy effects, which their partial introduction has every where else produced?
It cannot but be, that the permanent operation of a free system of constitutional and representative government should be favorable to the culture of mind, because it is in conformity with that law of Nature by which mind itself is distributed. The mental energy of a people, which you propose to call out, the intellectual capacity, which is to be cultivated and improved, has been equally diffused, throughout the land, by a sterner leveller than ever marched in the van of a revolution, the impartial providence of God. He has planted the germs of intellect alike in the city and the country; by the beaten way-side, and in the secluded valley and solitary hamlet. Sterling native character, strength and quickness of mind, the capacity for brilliant attainment, are not among the distinctions which Nature has given, exclusively, to the higher circles of life. Too often, in quiet times, and in most countries, they perish in the obscurity to which a false organization of society consigns them. And the reason why, in dangerous, convulsed, and trying times, there generally happens an extraordinary development of talent, unquestionably is, that, in such times, whatever be the nominal form of the government, necessity, for the moment, proclaims an intellectual Republic.
What happens in a crisis of national fortune, under all governments, is, in this respect, the steady and natural operation of our political institutions. Their foundation, at last, is in dear Nature. They do not consign the greater part of the social system to torpidity and mortification. They send out a vital nerve to every member of the community, however remote, by which it is brought into living conjunction and strong sympathy with the kindred intellect of the nation. They thus encourage Nature to perfect her work, on the broadest scale. By providing systems of universal and cheap education, they multiply, indefinitely, the numbers of those to whom the path is opened, for further progress; and thus bring up remote, and otherwise unpatronized, talent into the cheerful field of competition. The practical operation of popular institutions of government provides, in innumerable ways, a demand for every species of intellectual effort, not merely within the circle of a capital, but throughout the land. Inshort,wherever a man has beenplaced by Providence, endowed with rational capacities of improvement, there the genius of the republic visits him, with a voice of encouragement and hope. Every day he receives, from the working of the social systems, some new assurance that he is not forgotten in the multitude of the people. He is called to do some act, to assert some right, and to enjoy some privilege; and he is elevated, by this consciousness of his social importance, from the condition of the serf or the peasant, to that of the freeman and the citizen.
In thus maintaining that the tendency of our popular institutions, at the present stage of our national progress, to excite a diffusive interest in politics, is in no degree unfriendly tot he permanent intellectual improvement of the country, it is not intended to assert that the peculiar and original character of these institutions will produce no corresponding modification of our literature. The reverse is, unquestionably, the fact. It may safely be supposed, that, with the growth of the people in wealth and population, as the various occasions of an enterprising and prosperous community, placed on the widest theatre of action ever opened to man, call into strong action and vigorous competition the cultivated talent of the country, some peculiar tone, form, and proportion will be given to its literature, by the nature of its political institutions, and the social habits founded on them. Literature is but a more perfect communication of man with man, and mind with mind. It is the judgment, the memory, the imagination; discoursing, recording, or musing aloud, upon the materials drawn from the great storehouse of observation, or fashioned out of them by the creative powers of the mind. It is the outward expression of the intellectual man; or, if not this, it is poor imitation. What, therefore, affects the man, affects the literature; and it may be assumed, as certain, that the peculiarity of our political institutions will be represented in the character of our intellectual pursuits. Government, war, commerce, manners, and the stage of social progress, are reflected in the literature of a country. No precedent exists, to teach us what direction the mind will most decidedly take, under the strong excitements to action above described, unrestrained by the direct power of government, but greatly influenced by public sentiment, throughout a vastly-extensive and highly-prosperous country, into which the civilization of older states has been rapidly transfused.
This condition of things is, evidently, substantially new, and renders it impossible to foresee what garments our native muses will weave to themselves. To foretell our literature would be to create it. There was a time, before an epic poem, a tragedy, an historical composition, or a forensic harangue, had ever been produced by the wit of man. It was a time of vast and powerful empires, and of populous and wealthy cities. We have no reason to think that any work, in either of those departments of literature, (with the exception, perhaps, of some meagre chronicle, which might be called history,) was produced by the early Ethiopians, the Egyptians, or the Assyrians. Greece herself had been settled a thousand years, before the golden age of her literature. At length, the new and beautiful forms, in which human thought and passion expressed themselves in that favored region, sprang up, and under the excitement of free political institutions. Before the epos, the drama, the oration, the history, appeared, it would, of course, have been idle for the philosopher to form conjectures as to the paths which would be struck out by the kindling genius of the age. He who could form such an anticipation could and would realize it, and it would be anticipation no longer. The critic is ages behind the poet. Epic poetry was first conceived of, when the gorgeous vision of the Iliad, not, indeed, in its full detail of circumstances, but in the dim fancy of its leading scenes and bolder features, burst upon the soul of Homer.
It would be equally impossible to mark out, beforehand, the probable direction in which the intellect of this country will move, under the influence of institutions as new and peculiar as those of Greece, and so organized as to secure the best blessings of popular government, without the evils of anarchy. But if, as no one will deny, our political system brings more minds into action, on equal terms, and extends the advantages of education, more equally, throughout the community if it provides a prompter and wider circulation of thought; if, by raising the character of the masses, it swells to tens of thousands and millions those "sons of emulation, who crowd the narrow strait where honor travels," it would seem not too much to anticipate new varieties and peculiar power in the literature, which is but the voice and utterance of all this mental action. The instrument of communication may receive improvement; the written and spoken language acquire new vigor; possibly, forms of address wholly new will be devised. Where great interests are at stake, great concerns rapidly succeeding each other, depending on almost innumerable wills, and yet requiring to be apprehended in a glance, and explained in a word; where movements are to be given to a vast population, not so much by transmitting orders as by diffusing opinions, exciting feelings, and touching the electric chord of sympathy; there language and expression will become intense, and the old processes of communication must put on a vigor and a directness adapted to the condition of things.
Our country is called, as it is, practical; but this is the element for intellectual action. No strongly-marked and high-toned literature, poetry, eloquence, or philosophy, ever appeared, but under the pressure of great interests, great enterprises, perilous risks, and dazzling rewards. Statesmen, and warriors, and poets, and orators, and artists., start up under one and the same excitement. They are all branches of one stock. They form, and cheer, and stimulate, and, what is worth all the rest, understand, each other; and it is as truly the sentiment of the student, in the recesses of his cell, as of the soldier in the ranks, which breathes in the exclamation,
"To all the sons of sense proclaim,
One glorious hour of crowded life
Is worth an age without a name;"
crowded with emotion, thought, utterance, and achievement.
Let us now inquire how history and experience confirm the foregoing speculations. Here we shall be met again at the outset, and reminded of the splendid patronage which has been bestowed by strong governments on literature; patronage of a kind which necessarily implies the centralization of the resources of the state, and is consequently inconsistent with a representative system. We shall be told of the rich establishments, and liberal pensions; of museums founded, libraries collected, and learned societies sustained; by Ptolemies, Augustuses, and Louises, of ancient and modern times. Then we shall be directed to observe the fruit of this noble patronage, in the wonders of antiquarian and scientific lore which it has ushered into the world; the Thesauruses and Corpuses, from which the emulous student, who would understand all things, recoils in horror, and in the contemplation of which, meek-eyed Patience folds her hands in despair.
When we have reflected on these things, and turn our thoughts back to our poor republican land; to our frugal state treasuries, and the caution with which they are dispensed; to our modest private fortunes, and the thrift with which they are, of necessity, hoarded; to our scanty public libraries, and proportionably limited private collections, we may be apt to form gloomy auguries of the influence of free political institutions on letters. Here, then, we may fairly scrutinize the real character of this vaunted patronage, and inquire what it has actually done for the pure original literature of any people. How much was unfruitful pomp and display, and how much mere favoritism; and of the expensive literary enterprises, to which I have alluded, how many may be compared to the Pyramids stupendous monuments of industry, labor, and power, of little value to the eye of taste, and of no benefit to man?
But let us examine, more carefully, the experience of former ages, and see how far their political institutions, as they have been more or less popular, have been more or less productive of intellectual excellence. When we make this examination, we shall be gratified to find, that the clear precedents are all in favor of liberty. The greatest efforts of human genius have been made where the nearest approach to free institutions has taken place. Not one ray of intellectual light shone forth, as far as we know, to cheer the long and gloomy ages of the Memphian and Babylonian despots. Not an historian, not an orator, not a poet, as has been already observed, is heard of in their annals. When we ask what was achieved by the generations of thinking beings,-the millions of men, whose natural genius may have been as bright as that of the Greeks, nay, who forestalled the Greeks in the first invention of many of the arts, we are told that they built the pyramids of Memphis, the temples of Thebes, the tower of Babylon; and carried Sesostris and Ninus upon their shoulders, from the west of Africa to the Indus. Mark the contrast in Greece. With the first emerging of that country into the light of political liberty, the poems of Homer appear. Some centuries, alike of political confusion and literary darkness, follow, and then the great constellation of their geniuses seems to rise at once. The stormy eloquence and the deep philosophy, the impassioned drama and the grave history, were all produced for the entertainment of the "fierce democratie" of Athens.
Here, then, the genial influence of liberty on letters is strongly put to the test. Athens was certainly a free state, free to licentiousness, free to madness. The rich were arbitrarily pillaged to defray the public expenses; the great were banished to appease the envy of their rivals; the wise sacrificed to the fury of the populace. It was a state, in short, where liberty existed, with most of the imperfections which have sometimes led the desponding to love and praise despotism. Still, however, it was for this lawless, merciless, but free people, that the most chaste and accomplished literature which the world has known, was produced. The philosophy of Plato was the attraction which drew the young men of this factious city to a mornings walk in the olive gardens of the academy. Those tumultuous assemblies of Athens, which rose in their wrath, and to a man, and clamored for the blood of Phocion, required to be addressed in the profoundly studied and exquisitely wrought orations of Demosthenes.
No! the noble and elegant arts of Greece grew up in no Augustan age. Unknown before in the world, strangers on the Nile, and on the Euphrates, they sprang at once into life, in a region not unlike our own New England,-iron-bound, sterile, but free. The imperial astronomers of Chaldć went up almost to the stars in their observatories; but it was a Greek who first foretold an eclipse, and measured the year. Some happy genius in the East invented the alphabet, but not a line has reached us of profane literature, in any of their languages; and it is owing to the embalming power of Grecian genius, that the invention itself has been transmitted to the world. The Egyptian architects could erect structures, which, after three thousand years, are still standing in their uncouth, original majesty; but it was only on the barren soil of Attica, that the beautiful columns of the Parthenon and the Theseurn could rest, which are standing also.
With the decline of liberty in Greece began the decline of her letters and her arts, though her tumultuous democracies were succeeded by liberal and accomplished princes. Compare the literature of the Alexandrian with that of the Periclean age; how cold, pedantic, and imitative! Compare, I will not say the axes, the eggs, the altars, and the other frigid devices of the pensioned wits in the museum at Alexandria, in a far subsequent age, but compare their best productions with those of independent Greece; Callimachus with Pindar, Lycophron with Sophocles, Aristophanes of Byzantium with Aristotle, and Apollonius the Rhodian with Homer. When we descend to Rome, to the Augustan age, the proverbial era of Mćcenas, we find one uniform work of imitation, often of translation. The choicest spirits seldom rise beyond a happy transfusion of the Grecian masters. Horace translates Alcćus, Terence translates Menander, Lucretius translates Epicurus, Virgil translates Homer, and Cicero, I had almost said, translates Demosthenes and Plato. But the soul of republican liberty did burst forth from the lips of Cicero; her inspiration produced in him the best specimens of a purely original literature, which the Romans have transmitted to us. After him, their literary history is written in one line of Tacitus: gliscente adulatione, magna ingenia deterrebantur. The fine arts revived a little, under the princes of the Flavian house, but never rose higher than a successful imitation of the waning excellence of Greece, executed by her fugitive artists. With the princes of this line, the arts of Rome expired, and Constantine the Great was obliged to tear down an arch of Trajan for sculptures, to adorn his own. Finally, a long period of military and barbarous despotism succeeded, which buried letters and arts in one grave with national independence.
In modern times, the question as to the distinct effect of political institutions on learning, has become greatly complicated, in consequence of the large number of separate states, into which the civilized world is divided, and the easy and rapid communication between them. The consequence is, that a powerful impulse, given to mind in one country, under the influence of causes favorable to its progress, may be felt to some extent in other countries, where no such causes exist. Upon the whole, however, the modern history of literature furnishes many illustrious examples, which may well awaken a doubt whether much has been effected by direct patronage, whether of arbitrary or liberal governments, for the encouragement of letters. Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, "the all Etruscan three," were citizens of the Florentine republic, to which they owed nothing but exile, confiscation, and persecution. The Medici rendered important services in promoting the revival of letters, but Machiavelli was pursued for resisting their tyrannical designs; Guicciardini composed his history in exile; and Galileo confessed, in the prisons of the Inquisition, that the earth did not move. Ariostos princely patron, when presented with a copy of the Orlando, asked, "Where did you pick up this trumpery, Ludovico?" and the "magnanimous Alfonso" confined Tasso in a madhouse, till he became a fitting inmate for it. Cervantes, after he had immortalized himself, in his great work, was obliged to write on, for bread. The whole French Academy was pensioned, to crush the great Corneille. Racine, after living to see his finest pieces derided as cold and worthless, died of a broken heart. The divine genius of Shakespeare found its best patronage in popular favor. It gave him fortune, but it raised him to no higher rank than that of a subaltern actor in his own and Ben Jonsons plays. The immortal Bacon made disastrous wreck of his greatness, in a court, and is said (falsely, I trust) to have begged a cup of beer, in his old age, and begged it in vain. The most valuable of the pieces of Selden were written in that famous resort of great minds, the Tower of London. Milton, surprised by want, in his infirm old age, sold one of the first productions of the human mind for five pounds. The great boast of English philosophy was expelled from his place in Oxford, and kept in banishment, "the king having been given to understand," to use the words of Lord Sunderland, who ordered the expulsion, "that one Locke has, upon several occasions, behaved himself very factiously against the government." Dryden presents his translation to his patron, as "the wretched remainder of a sickly age worn out with study and oppressed with fortune, without other support than the constancy and patience of a Christian." Otway was choked with a morsel of bread, too ravenously swallowed aftcr a long fast. Johnson, after the publication of his Dictionary, was released by Richardson from arrest for debt; and Goldsmith, at one period of his career, took refuge from actual starvation among the beggars of London. When we consider these facts, and the innumerable others of which these are a specimen, we may probably be led to the conclusion that the appearance of eminent geniuses, under the forms of government subsisting in Europe, furnishes no decisive proof that they are the most friendly to intellectual progress.
II. The next circumstance, worthy of mention, as peculiarly calculated to promote the progress of improvement, and to furnish motives to intellectual exertion, in this country, is the extension of one government, one language, and, substantially, one character, over so vast a space as the United States of America. Hitherto, in the main, the world has seen but two forms of political government free governments in small states, and arbitrary governments in large ones. Though various shades of both have appeared, at different times, in the world, yet, on the whole, the political ingenuity of man has never before devised the method of extending purely popular institutions beyond small districts, or of governing large states by any other means than military power. The consequence has been, that the favorable effect of free institutions on intellectual progress, has never been developed, on a very large scale. But, though favorable to the improvement of the mind, under any circumstances, it is evident, that, in order to their full effect, in bringing forth the highest attainable excellence, they must be permanently established, in an extensive region and over a numerous people. Such is the state of things existing in this country, and for the first time in the world, and for which we are indebted to the peculiar nature of our government, as a union of confederated republics. Its effect upon literature must eventually be, to give elevation, dignity, and generous expansion to every species of mental effort. A nationality at once liberal and great is the parent of great thoughts. The extent, the resources, and the destiny of the country are imaged forth in the conception of its leading minds. They are but the organs of the race from which they are descended, the land in which they live, and the patriotic associations under which they have been educated. These prompt their language and elevate their thoughts. Under an impulse like the prophetic enthusiasm of old, they feel and utter the sentiments which are inspired by the system of which they are the members. As the mind goes forth to enter into communion or conflict with millions of kindred spirits, over a mighty realm, it dilates, with a noble consciousness of its vocation. It disdains mean conceptions, and strives to speak a noble word, which will touch the heart of a great people.
This necessary connection between the extent of a country and its intellectual progress, was, it is true, of more importance in antiquity than it is at the present day, because, at that period of the world, owing to political causes, on which we have not time to dwell, there was, upon the whole, but one civilized and cultivated people, at a time, upon the stage; and the mind of one nation found no sympathy, and derived no aid, from the mind of another. Art and refinement followed in the train of political ascendency, from the East to Greece, and from Greece to Rome, declining in one region as they rose in another. In the modern world, a combination of political, intellectual, and even mechanical causes, (for the art of printing is among the most powerful of them,) has produced an extension of the highest civilization over a large family of states, existing contemporaneously in Europe and America. This circumstance might seem to mould the civilized portion of mankind into one republic of letters, and inake it, comparatively, a matter of indifference to any individual mind, whether its lot was cast in a small or a large, a weak or a powerful, state. It must be freely admitted, that this is, to some extent, the case; and it is one of the great advantages of the modern over the ancient civilization. And yet a singular fatality immediately presents itself, to neutralize, in a great degree, the beneficial effects of this enlarged and diffused civilization on the progress of letters in any single state. It is true, that, instead of one sole country, as in antiquity, where the arts and refinements find a home, there are, in modern Europe, seven or eight, equally entitled to the general name of cultivated nations, and in each of which some minds of the first order have appeared. And yet, by the multiplication of languages, the powerful effect of international sympathy on the progress of letters has been greatly impaired. The muses of Shakspeare and Milton, of Camoens, of Lope de Vega and Calderon, of Corneille and Racine, of Dante and Tasso, of Gthe and Schiller, are comparative strangers to each other. Certainly it is not intended that these illustrious minds are unknown beyond the limits of the lands in which they were trained, and to which they spoke. But who is ignorant that not one of them finds a full and hearty response from any other people but his own, and that their writings must be, to some extent, a sealed book, except to those who read them in the mother tongue? There are other languages besides those alluded to, in which the works of a great writer would be still more effectually locked up. How few, even of well-educated foreigners, know any thing of the hircrature of the Hungarian, Sclavonian, or Scandinavian races! to say nothing of the languages of the East.
This evil is so great and obvious, that for nearly two centuries after the revival of letters, the Latin language was adopted, as a matter of course, by the scholars of Europe, in works intended for general circulation. We see men like Luther, Calvin, Erasmus, Bacon, Grotius, and Leibnitz, who could scarce have written a line without exciting the admiration of their countrymen, driven to the use of a tongue which none but the learned could understand. For the sake of addressing the scholars of other countries, these great men, and others like them, in many of their writings, were willing to cut themselves off from all sympathy with the mass of those whom, as patriots, they must have wished most to instruct. In works of pure science and learned criticism, this is of the less consequence; for, being independent of sentiment, it matters less how remote from real life the symbols by which their ideas are conveyed. But, when we see a writer, like Milton, who, as much as any other that ever lived, was a master of the music of his native tongue; who, besides all the beauty of conception and imagery, knew better than most other men how to breathe forth his thoughts and images,
"In notes with many a winding bout
Of linked sweetness long drawn out,
With wanton heed and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running,
Untwisting all the chains that tie
The hidden soul of harmony;"
when we see a master of English eloquence, thus gifted, choosing a dead language, the dialect of the closet, a tongue without an echo from the hearts of the people, as the vehicle of his defence of that peoples rights; asserting the cause of Englishmen in the language, as it may be truly called, of Cicero; we can only measure the incongruity, by reflecting what Cicero would himself have thought and felt, if compelled to defend the cause of Roman freedom, not in the language of the Roman citizen, but in that of the Grecian rhetorician, or the Punic merchant. And yet, Milton could not choose but employ this language i for he felt that in this, and this alone, he could speak the word "with which all Europe rang from side to side."
There is little doubt that the prevalence of the Latin language, among modern scholars, was a great cause, not only of the slow progress of letters among the people at large, but of the stiffness and constraint of the vernacular style of most scholars themselves, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. That the reformation in religion advanced with such rapidity is, in no small degree, to be attributed to the translations of the Scriptures and the use of liturgies in the modern tongues. The preservation, in legal acts, in England, of a foreign language, I will not offend the majesty of Rome by calling it Latin, down to so late a period as 1730, may be one reason why reform in the law did not keep pace with the progress of reform in some other departments. With the establishment of popular institutions under Cromwell, among various other legal improvements, many of which were speedily adopted by our plain-dealing forefathers, the records of the law were ordered to be kept in English; "a novelty," says the learned commentator on the English laws, "which, at the restoration, was no longer continued, practisers having found it very difficult to express themselves so concisely or significantly in any other language but Latin."
Nor are the other remedies for the evil of a multiplicity of tongues more efficacious. Something, of course, is done by translations, and something by the study of foreign languages. But that no effectual transfusion of the higher literature of a country can take place in the way of translation, need not be urged; and it is a remark of one of the few who could have courage to make such a remark, Madame de Stael, that it is impossible fully to comprehend the literature of a foreign tongue. The general preference, given till lately, to Youngs Night Thoughts and Ossian, over all the other English poets, in many parts of the continent of Europe, corfirms the Justice of this observation. It is unnecessary, however, to repeat, that it is not intended to apply to works of exact science, or merely popular information.
There is, indeed, an influence of exalted genius, coëxtensive with the earth. Something of its power will be felt, in spite of the obstacles of different languages, remote regions, and other times. The minds of Dante and of Shakspeare have, no doubt, by indirect influence, affected thousands who never read a line of either. But the true empire of genius, its sovereign sway, must be at home, and over the hearts of kindred men. A charm, which nothing can borrow, and for which there is no substitute, dwells in the simple sound of our mother tongue. Not analyzed, nor reasoned upon, it unites the simplest recollections of early life with the maturest conceptions of the understanding. The heart is willing to open all its avenues to the language in which its infantile caprices were soothed; and, by the curious efficacy of the principle of association, it is this echo from the faint dawn of intelligence, which gives to eloquence much of its manly power, and to poetry much of its divine charm.
What a noble prospect presents itself, in this way, for the circulation of thought and sentiment in our country! Instead of that multiplicity of dialect, by which mental communication and sympathy between different nations are restrained in the Old World, a continually expanding realm is opened to American intellect, by the extension of one language over so large a portion of the Continent. The enginery of the press is here, for the first time, brought to bear, with all its mighty power, on the minds and hearts of men, in exchanging intelligence, and circulating opinions, unchecked by diversity of language, over an empire more extensive than the whole of Europe.
And this community of language, all important as it is, is but a part of the manifold brotherhood, which already unites the growing millions of America, with a most powerful influence on literary culture. In Europe, the work of international alienation, which begins in diversity of language, is consummated by diversity of race, institutions, and national prejudices. In crossing the principal rivers, channels, and mountains, in that quarter of the world, you are met, not only by new tongues, but by new forms of government, new associations of ancestry, new, and often hostile objects of natiorial pride and attachment. While, on the other hand, throughout the vast regions included within the limits of our republic, not only the same language, but the same national government, the same laws and manners, and common ancestral associations prevail. Mankind will here exist and act in a kindred mass, such as was scarcely ever before congregated on the earths surface. What would be the effect, on the intellectual state of Europe, at the present day, were all her nations and tribes amalgamated into one vast empire, speaking the same tongue, united into one political system, and that a free one, and opening one broad, unobstructed pathway, for the interchange of thought and feeling, from Lisbon to Archangel? If effects must bear a constant proportion to their causes; if the energy of thought is to be commensurate with the masses which prompt it, and the masses it must penetrate i if eloquence is to grow in fervor with the weight of the interests it is to plead, and the grandeur of the assemblies it addresses; in a word, if the faculties of the human mind are capable of tension and achievement altogether indefinite ;
"Nil actum reputans, dum quid superesset agendum;"
then it is not too much to say, that a new era will open on the intellectual world, in the fulfilment of our countrys prospects.
If it should be objected, that the permanent and prosperous existence of a commonwealth so extensive is not to be hoped for, I reply, that by the wise and happy partition of powers between the national and state governments, in virtue of which the national government is relieved from all the odium of internal administration, and the state governments are spared the conflicts of foreign politics, all bounds seem removed from the possible extension of our country, but the geographical limits of the continent. Instead of growing cumbrous, as it increases in size, there. never was a moment, since the first settlement in Virginia, when the political system of America moved with so firm and bold a step, as at the present day. Should our happy Union continue, this great continent, in no remote futurity, will be filled up with the mightiest kindred people known in history; our language will acquire an extension which no other ever possessed; and the empire of the mind, with nothing to resist its sway, will attain an expansion, of which, as yet, we can but partly conceive. The vision is too magnificent to be fully borne; a mass of two or three hundred millions, not chained to the oar, like the same number in China, by a stupefying despotism, but held in their several orbits of nation and state, by the grand representative attraction; bringing to bear, on every point, the concentrated energy of such a host; calling into competition so many minds; uniting into one great national feeling the hearts of so many freemen, all to be guided, moved and swayed, by the master spirits of the time!
III. Let me not be told that this is a chimerical imagination of a future indefinitely removed; let me not hear repeated the poor jest of an anticipation of "two thousand years," of a vision that requires for its fulfilment a length of ages beyond the grasp of any reasonable computation. It is the last point of peculiarity in our condition, to which I invite your attention, as affecting the progress of intellect, that the country is growing with a rapidity hitherto without example in the world. For the two hundred years of our existence, the population has doubled itself in periods of less than a quarter of a century. In the infancy of the country, and while it remained within the limits of a youthful colony, a progress so rapid as this, however important in the principle of growth disclosed, was not yet a circumstance strongly to fix the attention. But, arrived at a population of ten millions, it is a fact of extreme interest, that, within less than twenty-five years, these ten millions will have swelled to twenty; that the younger members of this audience will be citizens of the largest civilized state on earth; that, in a few years more than one century, the American population will equal the fabulous numbers of the Chinese empire. This rate of increase has already produced the most striking phenomena. A few weeks after the opening of the revolutionary drama at Lexington, the momentous intelligence that the first blood was spilt reached a party of hunters beyond the Alleghanies, who had wandered far into the western wilderness. In prophetic commemoration of the glorious event, they gave the name of Lexington to the spot of their encampment in the woods. That spot is now the capital of a state as large as Massachusetts; from which, in the language of one of her own citizens, one of the brightest ornaments of his country, the tide of emigration still farther westward is more fully pouring, than from any other in the Union.
I need not say that this astonishing increase of numbers is by no means the best measure of the countrys growth. Arts, letters, agriculture, all the great national interests, all the-sources of national wealth, are growing in a ratio still more rapid. In our cities, the intensest activity is apparent; in the country, every spring of prosperity, from the smallest improvement in husbandry, to the construction of canals and railroads across the continent, is in vigorous action. Abroad, our vessels are beating the pathways of the ocean white; on the inland frontier, the nation is moving forward with a pace more like romance than reality.
These facts and influences form one of those peculiarities in our countrys condition, which will have the most powerful effect on the minds of the people. The population of most of the states of Asia, and some of Europe, has apparently reached its term. In some it is declining, in some stationary; and in the most prosperous, under the extraordinary impulse of the last part of the eighteenth century, it doubles itself but about once in seventy-five years. In consequence of this, the process of social transmission is heavy and slow. Men not adventitiously favored come forward late in life, and the best years of existence are exhausted in languishing competition. The man grows up, and, in the stern language of one of their most renowned economists, finds no cover laid for him at Natures table. The assurance of the most frugal subsistence commands the brightest talents and the most laborious studies; poor wages pay for the unremitted labor of the most curious hands; and it is a small part of the population only that is within the reach even of these humiliating springs of action.
We need not labor to contrast this state of things with the teeming growth and rapid progress of our own country. Instead of being shut up, as it were, in the prison of a stationary, or a slowly progressive community, the emulation of our countrymen is drawn out and tempted on by an horizon constantly receding before them. New nations of kindred freemen are springing up, in successive periods, shorter even than the active portion of the life of man. "While we spend our time," says Burke, on this topic, "in deliberating on the mode of governing two millions in America, we shall find we have millions more to manage." Many individuals are in this house who were arrived at years of discretion when these words of Burke were uttered; and the two millions which Great Britain was then to manage have grown into ten, exceedingly unmanageable. The most affecting view of this subject is, that it puts it in the power of the wise and good to gather, while they live, the ripest fruits of their labors. Where, in human history, is to be found a contrast like that which the last fifty years have crowded into the lives of those favored men, who, raising their hands or their voices, when the feeble colonies engaged in a perilous conflict with one of the most powerful empires on earth, have lived to be. crowned with the highest honors of the republic which they established? Honor to their gray hairs, and peace and serenity to the evening of their eventful days!
Though it may never again be the fortune of our country to bring within the compass of half a century a contrast so dazzling as this, yet, in its grand and steady progress, the career of duty and usefulness will be run by all its children, under a constantly increasing excitement. The voice which, in the morning of life, shall awaken the patriotic sympathy of the land, will be echoed back by a community, vastly swelled in all its proportions, before that voice shall be hushed in death. The writer, by whom the noble features of our scenery shall be sketched with a glowing pencil, the traits of our romantic early history gathered up with filial zeal, and the peculiarities of our character delineated with delicate perception, cannot mount so rapidly to success, but that ten years will add new millions to the numbers of his readers. The American statesman, the orator, whose voice is already heard in its supremacy from Florida to Maine, whose intellectual empire already extends beyond the limitsof Alexanders, has yet new states and new nations starting into being, the willing subjects of his sway.
This rapid march of the population westward has been attended by circumstances in some degree novel in the history of the human mind. it is a fact, somewhat difficult of explanation, that the refinement of the ancient nations seemed comparatively devoid of an elastic and expansive principle. With the exception of the colonies in Asia Minor, the arts of Greece were enchained to her islands and her coasts; they did not penetrate far into the interior, at least not in every direction. The language and literature of Athens were as much unknown to the north Of Pinclus, at a distance of two hundred,miles from the capital of Grecian refinement, as they were in Scythia. Thrace, whose mountain tops may almost be seen from the porch of the temple of Minerva, at Sunium, was the proverbial abode of barbarism. Though the colonies of Greece were scattered on the coasts of Asia, of Italy, of France, of Spain, and of Africa, no extension of their population far inward took place, and the arts did not penetrate beyond the walls of the cities where they were cultivated.
How different is the picture of the diffusion of the arts and improvements of civilization, from the coast to the interior of America! Population advances westward with a rapidity which numbers may describe, indeed, but cannot represent, with any vivacity, to the mind. The wilderness, which one year is impassable, is traversed, the next, by the caravans of industrious emigrants, carrying with them the language, the institutions, and the arts of civilized life. It is not the irruption of wild barbarians, sent to visit the wrath of God on a degenerate empire; it is not the inroad of disciplined banditti, put in motion by reasons of state or court intrigue. It is the human family, led out by Providence to possess its broad patrimony. The states and nations which are springing up in the valley of the Missouri, are bound to us by the dearest ties of a common language, a common government, and a common descent. Before New England can look with coldness on their rising myriads, she must forget that some of the best of her own blood is beating in their veins; that her hardy children, with their axes on their shoulders, have been among the pioneers, in this march of humanity i that, young as she is, she has become the mother of populous states. What generous mind would sacrifice to a selfish preservation of local preponaerance the delight of beholding civilized nations rising up in the desert; and the language, the manners, the principles in which he has been reared, carried, with his household gods, to the foot of the Rocky Mountains? Who can forget, that this extension of our territorial limits is the extension of the empire of all we hold dear; of our laws, of our character, of the memory of our ancestors, of the great achievements in our history? Whithersoever the sons of the thirteen states shall wander, to southern or western climes, they will send back their hearts to the rocky shores, the battlefields, the infant settlements of the Atlantic coast. These are placed beyond the reach of vicissitude. They have become already matter of history, of poetry, of eloquence.
Divisions may spring up, ill blood may burn, parties be formed, and interests may seem to clash; but the great bonds of the nation are linked to what is past. The deeds of the great men, to whom this country owes its origin and growth, are a patrimony, I know, of which its children will never deprive themselves. As long as the Mississippi and the Missouri shall flow, those men, and those deeds, will be remembered on their banks. The sceptre of government may go where it will; but that of patriotic feeling can never depart from Judah. In all that mighty region which is drained by the Missouri and its tributary streams, the valley coëxtensive, in this country, with the temperate zone, will there be, as long as the name of America shall last, a father that will not take his children on his knee, and recount to them the events of the twenty-second of December, the nineteenth of April, the seventeenth of June, and the fourth of July?
This, then, is the theatre on which the intellect of America is to appear, and such the motives to its exertion; such the mass to be influenced by its energies; such the glory to crown its success. If I err in this happy vision of my countrys fortunes, I thank Heaven for an error so animating. If this be false, may I never know the truth. Never may you, my friends, be under any other feeling, than that a great, a growing, an immeasurably expanding country is calling upon you for your best services. The name and character of our Alma Mater have already been carried by some of our brethren hundreds of miles from her venerable walls; and thousands of miles still farther westward, the communities of kindred men are fast gathering, whose minds and hearts will act in sympathy with yours.
The most powerful motives call on,.us, as scholars, for those efforts which our common country demands of all her children. Most of us are of that class who owe whatever of knowledge has shone into our minds to the free and popular institutions of our native land. There are few of us who may not be permitted to boast, that we have been reared in an honest poverty, or a frugal competence, and owe every thing to those means of education which are equally open to all. We are summoned to new energy and zeal, by the high nature of the experiment we are appointed in providence to make, and the grandeur of the theatre on which it is to be performed. At a moment of deep and general agitation in the Old World, it pleased Heaven to open this last refuge of humanity. The attempt has begun, and is going on, far from foreign corruption, on the broadest scale, and under the most benignant prospects; and it certainly rests with us to solve the great problem in human society; to settle, and that forever, the momentous question, whether mankind can be trusted with a purely popular system of government.
One might almost think, without extravagance, that the departed wise and good, of all places and times, are looking down from their happy seats to witness what shall now be done by us; that they who lavished their treasures and their blood, of old, who spake and wrote, who labored, fought, and perished, in the one great cause of Freedom and Truth, are now hanging from their orbs on high, over the last solemn experiment of humanity. As I have wandered over the spots once the scene of their labors, and mused among the prostrate columns of their senate houses and forums, I have seemed almost to hear a voice from the tombs of departed agesi from the sepulchres of the nations which died before the sight. They exhort us, they adjure us, to be faithful to our trust. They implore us by the long trials of struggling humanity; by the blessed memory of the departed; by the dear faith which has been plighted, by pure hands, to the holy cause of truth and man; by the awful secrets of the prison houses, where the sons of freedom have been immured; by the noble heads which have been brought to the block; by the wrecks of time, by the eloquent ruins of nations, they conjure us not to quench the light which is rising on the world. Greece cries to us by the convulsed lips of her poisoned, dying Demosthenes; and Rome pleads with us in the mute persuasion of her mangled Tully. They address us, each and all, in the glorious appeal which was made by Milton to one who might have canonized his memory in the hearts of the friends of liberty, but who did most shamefully betray the cause: "Reverere tantam de te expectationem, spem patrić de te unicam. Reverere vultus et vulnera tot fortium virorum, quotquot pro libertate tam strenue decertârunt, manes etiam eorum qui in ipso certamine occubuerunt. Reverere exterarum quoque civitatum existimationem de te atque sermones; quantas res de libertate nostrâ tam fortiter partâ, de nostrâ republicâ tam gloriose exortâ sibi polliceantur; quć si tam cito quasi aborta evanuerit, profecto nihil ćque dedecorosum huic genti atque periculosum fuerit."
Yes, my friends, such is the exhortation which calls on us to exert our powers, to employ our time, and consecrate our labors, for the honor and service of our native land. When we enlgage in that solemn study, the history of our race; surveying the progress of man, from his cradle in the East to these limits of his wandering; when we behold him forever flying westward from evil and religious thraldom, over mountains and seas, seeking rest and finding none, but still pursuing the flying bow of promise to the glittering hills which it spans in Hesperian climes; we cannot but exclaim, with Bishop Berkeley, the generous prelate, who bestowed his benefactions, as well as blessings, on our country,
"Westward the course of Empire takes its way;
The four first acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day;
Times noblest offspring is the last."
This exclamation is but the embodiment of a vision, which the ancients, from the earliest period, cherished of some favored land beyond the mountains or the seas i a land of equal laws and happy men. The primitive poets placed it in the Islands of the Blest; the Doric bards dimly beheld it in the Hyperborean region; the mystical sage of the Academy found it in his lost Atlantis; and even the stern spirit of Seneca dreamed of the restoration of the golden age in distant worlds, hereafter to be discovered. Can we look back upon these uninspired predictions, and not feel the weight of obligation which they imply? Here must these bright fancies be turned into truth; here must these high visions be realized, in which the seers and sages of the elder world took refuge from the calamities of the days in which they lived. There are no more continents to be revealed; Atlantis hath arisen from the ocean; the farthest Thule is reached; there are no more retreats beyond the sea, no more discoveries, no more hopes.
Here, then, a mighty work is to be performed, or never, by mortals. The man who looks with tenderness on the sufferings of good men in other times; the descendant of the Pilgrims, who cherishes the memory of his fathers; the patriot, who feels an honest glow at the majesty of the system of which he is a member; the scholar, who beholds, with rapture, the long-sealed book of truth opened for all to read without prejudice; these are they, by whom these auspices are to be accomplished. Yes, brethren, it is by the intellect of the country that the mighty mass is to be inspired; that its parts are to communicate and sympathize with each other; its natural progress to be adored with becoming refinements; its principles asserted and its feelings interpreted to its own children, to other regions, and to after ages. . . .