PHI BETA KAPPA SOCIETY
JULY 29, 1846.
BY JOEL PARKER
PRINTED AT THE DARTMOUTH PRESS.
It was not the aim of the following Address to astonish by its novelty, and I have little ambition to add to the stock of unread pamphlets. But there have been requests for its publication, other than what may be deemed the formal one of the Society; and if the truths, which it was its object to enforce, may be impressed the more strongly, even upon the minds of a few, by its circulation, its publication will not be a matter of regret.
Keene, September 15, 1846.
The present, is said to be an age of great progress. The assertion can hardly fail to be impressed upon our minds. It is iterated, and reiterated, as if it were danger that it should fail if being credited; or as if it were a particularly grateful theme on which to dwell. On every side it is a subject of exultation. It is borne to us from every point of the compass, and is wafted in every breeze. From the shop of the artisan, and the closet of the student; from the laboratory of the chemist, and the stump of the politician; from the newspaper press, and the congressional hall; on the fourth of July, and the annual thanksgiving; it is echoed, and re-echoed, until the sound of it pervades the whole land, and the conviction of its truth must be brought home to every understanding.
The reality of this progress, in many departments of life, is not to be gainsaid. In all matters relating to the physical wants of mankind, the improvement of the present age stands conspicuous. The mechanic arts have erected palaces upon our waterfalls, almost as if the artisans possessed the lamp of Aladdin; and they have filled them, not with the splendor and magnificence of empty show, but with the busy hum of successful industry. The fabrics which a few years since, in the domestic shuttle and loom, were almost of as slow progress as the web of Penelope; are constructed as if by the art of magic. Steam, of which the only known property, until recently, was to scald the fingers of the unwary housemaid, is now playing the part of Eolus, by propelling mighty vessels across the broad waste of ocean; or performing the part of a patient beast of burden, drawing at its heels hundreds of passengers, and hundreds of tons of merchandise. It is no longer our coast alone, that may be spoken of as "iron bound." The saddle, and the baggage wagon, are fast disappearing from our great thoroughfares, and the pillion has already become " an obsolete idea." Even the lightning of the heavens has been pressed into service, as the Mercury of the Exchange, carrying messages, of the rise of flour, and the fall of stocks. The population of this country, doubling in less than a quarter of a century, is extending itself to Lake Superior, and the Pacific ocean, and exhibiting, in the acquisition of wealth, and the diffusion of the blessings of free institutions.*
*It is not safe for anyone to assume the office of a prophet, if his prophecy attempts to place a limit upon scientific discovery or mechanical invention.
Schultz, whose travels in the West were published in 1810, speaking of the probable trade of that part of the country thereafter, says, "The latter," (New Orleans,) "can never send any goods to the mouth of the Ohio in less than sixty days, and at a cost of nearly six dollars on every hundred weight." Vol. 2, p. 10. Within twelve years afterwards the transportation was made in about one sixth of that time, and probably at a sixth of the expense.
Dr. Kidd, who wrote a treatise on "the adaptation of external nature to the physical condition of man," (being on of the Bridgewater treatises upon the power, wisdom, and goodness of God as manifested in creation,) after speaking of the means which the chemist, in his laboratory, has for exciting and maintaining light and heat, has this passage:-"There are few individuals, however, who have commonly such magic instruments at hand; and even if they had, it is probable that they would want both the leisure and inclination to preserve them in a state fitted to produce at any moment the intended effect; for though each successive year has of late given birth to some new form of apparatus calculated to produce instantaneous light, we find ourselves constantly recurring to the flint and steel, which our forefathers of many generations have used; and which will doubtless be the staple apparatus of our latest posterity." Chap. VI, Sec. 3, p. 61.
The dedication of the work is dated in March, 1833, and the American edition of 1836 was hardly in the hands of its readers before this "staple apparatus" was in almost entire disuse for the purpose of producing light.
It is easy to talk in this strain, and were I to pursue it, I might, perhaps, add my poor mite to the national complacency; and, perhaps, also, secure, reflectively, a small portion of the approbation which is usually bestowed upon those who minister to our self-satisfaction.
But we may dwell too exclusively on the contemplation of our progress, and thereby, form a false estimate of the real improvement of our race. If we enquire more critically, we may find that this great progress, if not confined to particular departments, is not equally conspicuous in all the avocations and relations of life; and that the adulation which we are wont to proffer to our to our race, or our nation, should I be less lavishly offered; and our exaltation at our progress in wealth, and its concomitants, be somewhat more subdued.
It is not in all the branches of mechanics, even, that the same improvements appears. The shawls of Kashmir, which were celebrated for their fineness and beauty two, and perhaps three thousand years ago, still maintain their ascendancy in female estimation. The Etruscan vase, of which the form dates back more than 2500 years, furnishes the model for the manufactures of the present time. And the splendor of the ancient dyes, if it may in some instances be equaled, is not excelled by those of modern date.
The magnificence of the palaces of the renowned city of Babylon, with their hanging gardens, and pleasure grounds, throws into the shade all the royal residences of the monarchs of the present time. And the grandeur of the pagan temple of Belus, in the same city, and of those ancient Thebes, far surpassed that of any of the temples, which in our days are consecrated to the service of the living God.
We raise our national monuments with much effort, and send them, as mementos of national triumph, "to meet the sun in his coming;" but the pyramids of Egypt show that a people once existed who could erect mightier monuments than those of our days, and who probably were not obliged to resort to "ladies' fairs" to finish the evidences of their renown, although they perhaps did to means more exceptionable.
We point with exultation to the walls of granite on either side of our rail road tracks, and indulge in al laudable pride while we comment upon the energy and perseverance which have forced their way through such formidable obstacles; but the city of Petra, with its houses, and palaces, and temples, cut in the solid mountain, is an enduring testimonial of labors and toils, in this respect, far beyond any of those of modern days.
Even in the cities of our dead, we cannot come into competition with those of a remote age. The pride with which we contemplate Pere la chaise, and Mount Auburn, may well be chastened by a recollection of the catacombs of the East, or those of Italy.
If it be answered, that in many of the matters to which a brief reference has just been made, it is not desirable that the present day should run a race of diligence with a distant antiquity; let us turn to the fine arts, and enquire how the present stands with the past, in reference to them.
If we seek of Poetry the "thoughts that breathe and the words that burn," we shall not find those of the most powerful character among the writings of the author of Childe Harold, nor in the contrast furnished by the "Lake school."
Music numbers among her professors, in our time, names of great distinction; but if we ask for one of her grandest choruses, or some of her softest and sweetest strains, she may point us to the age which has past.
If we search for the most valuable specimens of Painting, we shall be referred to a still earlier date.
Sculpture inscribes, with a just pride, upon the roll of her great names, that of one whose birth-place is almost within the circle of our present vision;* but he has gone to study the works of the great artists of other centuries
*Powers was born in Woodstock, Vt.
The standard orders of Architecture, will not be found in the capitols, or state-houses, or city-halls, erected at the present time.
And the art of Engraving, in some of its branches, was carried to as great perfection thousands of years since, as it is in our day.
It may be said, in relation to the fine arts, that there is, in some respects, a standard of excellence which cannot be surpassed, and that it has already been reached in many particulars; or if not so, that it has been so nearly approached, that only the most gifted minds, such as appear but once in a hundred, or a thousand, years, can come into the competition. And it may be urged, that it would be unjust to compare the present, consisting of its single age, with the long past, numbering its thousands of years; and to condemn it, because the single age does not present a roll of great names, or a record of great achievements, equal to those of all former times. It would be so.
Leaving then all the memorials of ancient ages respecting which an attempt at emulation might not be regarded as useful progress, and waiving the further consideration of all those matters where it may be supposed that our predecessors have attained, or approached, the desirable standard; let us turn our enquiries towards the character and progress of the race, in some departments, respecting which no such uselessness can be alleged, and non such pretensions of the excellence of former times advanced.
With the Christian world, generally, this earth carries a date of something more than 5800 years.
Whether the speculations of some geologists have shown that the period, thus stated, is not to be measured by the ordinary signification attached to the terms of such a computation; or whether they have proved, that before the chaos which preceded it, this globe had been inhabited by some organized forms of matter, is not material to our present purpose; nor, it may perhaps be said, to any other useful purpose. And it may be added, that a law of life, which should lead to progress from one genus of animated existence to another, would be little less miraculous than an independent creation.
The "vestiges of the natural history of creation," however distinctly they may appear to some to be marked, and however clearly they may be supposed to show organic progress, present to us nothing, of an early date, relating either to physical of moral man. It is only through the medium of the Scriptures, that we possess the knowledge of his early existence, and the history of his acts for many centuries after we are thus taught that he was created. These exhibit him, during that period, in his religious, moral, and social character, and incidentally mark his progress, or his want of progress in civilization. And with this, the only record, before us, we can have non desire to believe that the race has existed for a longer period than that assigned to it by that record, reckoning according to the usual mode of computation.
The history of the first two thousand years of the world, is written upon a few pages of the sacred volume, from which we learn, that during that period the earth was corrupt and full of violence. It needs no pen of inspiration, to lead to the belief that this record is true. If we allow this two thousand years to be sufficient time for what has been called the boyhood of race, (and it is quite enough if we live, as we are inclined to believe, in its manhood,) and if we then enquire respecting its advance towards its meridian; we shall trace the people of Israel destroying nations more corrupt than themselves; and subsequently the different division of that people making relentless war upon each other, sparing neither age, sex, or condition. And we are tempted to exclaim, if these are the people whom God chose out of all the nations, as a people to serve him, what must have been the moral conditions of the heathen, by whom they were surrounded.
If we pursue this enquiry through sacred, or profane history, we shall find that the possession of power, (and wealth as the means of its possession,) have been considered, in all ages, the matters most worthy of attainment. And if we seek to know how power has been used when possessed, we must be told, that among nations, its most usual manifestations have been in waging war, and among individuals, in inflicting oppression.
Successful war has been generally considered to be the greatest glory of kings, and those who have acquired the surname of Great, are, usually, those who have destroyed the greatest numbers of their race. Alexander the Great is said, in his early youth, to have showed the marks of a great character, for when he heard of the victories of Phillip, he exclaimed, "my father will not leave me anything to do." The indications of a great character, it seems, therefore, are to be found in this early opinion, that battle, carnage, and the prosecution of conquests, were the only occupations fit for the monarch. And in accordance with this opinion, from the period when the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, to the pacification of Europe on the downfall of Bonaparte, and even to the present time, there have been, almost constantly, in one quarter of the world or another, the sounding of trumpets, the neighing of war-horses, the shouting of captains, and all the pomp and circumstance of, what is usually termed, "glorious war."
Ages and ages before the intelligence of man had acquired knowledge of the fact that the blood circulated through the human system, his violence had spilled oceans of it, and drenched the earth with ????.
National glory has been made to consist almost together in the success of national arms. No matter what the occasion;-no matter how unjust the quarrel;-success has been glory. The greater the havoc the greater the glory. Thousands and thousands of men have been swept from the earth in a single day, by a great battle, and the cries of the widows and orphans have been regarded as of no greater ??????? than the wailing of a child. They have been drowned in the shouts of victory and rejoicing.-Whole provinces have been devastated, and the unoffending inhabitants have been driven from their homes, their habitations destroyed, and their fields wasted;-fire, murder, and desolation marked, at every step, the progress of the invaders;-but the world took little thought of these things, while bestowing its admiration upon the energy, and warlike accomplishments, of the great captain who directed the operations.-Cities have been beleaguered; men, women and children, shut up within the walls, and subjected to all the horrors of bombardment, starvation, storm, sack, and pillage; and the nation which has done the deed has raised the shouts of jubilee, and the songs
of 'Te Deum.'
The spirit of warfare has pervaded, in a greater or less degree, the length and breadth of the whole world. "All high titles," it has been said, "come hitherto from fighting." And some of the most favorite metaphors of the church, are those which represent the Christian as "girding on his armor," "pressing forward to the battle," "engaging in the conflict," "and contending for victory." And this again operates reflectively to excite a similar spirit in those engaged in the daily avocations of life.
Notwithstanding the lapse of more than eighteen centuries, since the promulgation of the peaceful precepts of Christianity, it is to this day one of the greatest boasts of a nation, that is renowned in arms.* And by this part of its vainglory, it is not meant, merely, that it is resolute and successful in protecting itself from aggression.-The present century has certainly witnessed some of the most stupendous, and wholesale, butcheries, which have ever been perpetrated; and the leaders in them have been almost idolized, and worshiped, not by their respective nations alone, but by great portions of the rest of what is called the civilized world.
*Mr. Van Zandt, in a diplomatic despatch addressed to Mr. Webster, speaks of a war conducted on Christian principles! It may well be asked, what war was ever so conducted, on both sides, or on either side?
Our own country has not escaped from the excitement attendant upon this love of warfare and military fame. Beginning with a pardonable, and I am willing to admit a laudable, pride in the success of our struggle for freedom; and following that achievement with the bells, bonfires, and shoutings, with which it was predicted that the anniversary of our memorable declaration would be celebrated; we have not been content with the rejoicings which might commemorate the patriotism and heroism of the fathers, fighting in defense of their just rights; and which might thus inspirit the sons to maintain them with equal determination, and if necessary with still greater sacrifices.-Passing this limit, we have been prone to indulge in arrogant boastings of our strength; in ridiculous, were it not mischievous, ????????? with regard to other nations; and in the cultivation of a martial spirit, no in defense of our altars and hearths, but on which was ready, and seemed somewhat desirous, to meet the world in arms, when, how, and upon whatever occasion it dared.
The gratitude, which delighted to honor the fast failing remnant of those who rallied around the standard of freedom in its day of imminent peril, has been pressed into service of military renown acquired upon other fields: and the time seems to be approaching, if it has not already arrived, when the huzzas which chronicle warlike exploits, are to be regarded as so many suffrages to invest the military commander with civil office.
It is already stamped upon our history, in indelible characters, that in this government of the people, (which should certainly be the best government in the world,) the candidates of both of the great political parties which divide the country have been selected, with especial reference to the popularity which they have possessed as successful warriors; and the appeals which have been made to the people to elect them to the highest civil office in the nation, have been met with an enthusiasm which must be very naturally excite in other aspirants a desire for new fields of conflict, on which new claims to favor may be sought and won. And it is but within a few days, that successful battles, although necessarily upon a small scale, have been heralded through the country with almost as great rejoicing as if the national safety depended upon the result, and meetings were forthwith called for the purpose of nominating the commanding general as a candidate for the Presidency; one of which it is understood carried that purpose into effect.
With the merits or demerits of our recent and present controversies with other nations, involved as they are in the political strifes of the day, I have nothing to do upon this occasion. But the spirit of the cry which has lately rung through the country, "The whole of Oregon or none," and which has pressed our claims to the extremest limit, reckless of consequences, is one which calls for the profound consideration of all who desire that their country should be peaceful and just, as well as powerful.-Our title to territory has, within a short period, and in the halls of our national legislature, been based upon our alleged destiny; and the example of the Great Frediric, who sent his ambassador to urge stale claims to a coveted province, and at the same time entered the province with his army, carrying havoc and devastation among its inhabitants, has been there cited, if not by way of example for our action, at least by way of illustration of the spirit which could actuate us.
There is another cry, which is, even at this time, spreading through the country, and which carries upon its face a specious appearance of patriotic zeal; but it has its prototype in the elevated morality of the Scotch sutler woman, who, upon the eve of a battle, rebuked the prayer of her companion, that God would stand by the right, as a wicked wish: and put her own fervent ejaculation, "God stand by Hamilton's army, right or wrong."
As we might well expect from the belligerent and selfish spirit which has characterized mankind, we hear little of national benevolence. And although national justice is ever upon the tongues of monarchs, and chief magistrates, and legislators; it is in truth more often invoked by the weaker, than carried into exercise by the stronger party. National justice is not often permitted to stand in the way of national aggrandizement, if no more powerful obstacle be interposed.*
What progress the present age has made in regard to war, and right, and justice, may be learned, among other things, from the subjugation of Poland by Russia;-the invasion of Algiers, by the French;-and the expatriation of the Cherokees, and Seminoles, by the United States. And if other subjects of a kindred character are sought, they may be readily found.
I shall not be misunderstood. There is much in our free government, and its administration that may well elicit the heartfelt exclamation,
"This is my own land, my native land."
I would not have that land powerless, and unable to repel aggression. The percept, that if smitten on one cheek we should turn the other also, was not, in my view, intended as a literal command never to resist injustice. It is no part of my belief that the American Revolution was, of itself, at war with the injunctions of the gospel;-or that Poland was bound tamely to submit to subjugation, without a struggle for her existence;-or that the Cherokees were required, by Christianity, to be driven, unresistingly, like Hagar, into the wilderness, with little more than a crust of bread, and a bottle of water for their sustenance. The Jew who asked his pound of flesh, because it was so nominated in the bond, had at least the voluntary obligation of him whom be pursued, but the bond to the free and enlightened nation which held the destiny of the Cherokees
THE COURSE TO BE PURSUED.-The Charleston Courier says "we must, __ ___ ____ for past injuries, and to protect ourselves from future aggression, "___ Mexico," and then MAKE OUR OWN TERMS. Let us then be ______ as the most extended philanthropist might desire. Let the weakness of Mexico then come into account. If we have acted unjustly or rapaciously towards her this would be the period to acknowledge it. But we repeat, "Conquer Mexico _____.
If we acted unjustly or rapaciously towards Mexico, burn her towns, lay her _____ waste, kill thousands of her inhabitants, and then, having through __ strength and weaknesses reduced to her subjection, acknowledge the injustion and rapacity which proceeded all this, and make our own terms.
The Charleston Courier is a paper of some note, and doubtless claims to be respectable.
in its hand, was an obligation of a much more questionable character.
It is well for us all to recollect upon which occasion, and by whim, it was said, "My eyes have grown dim in the service of my country, but I never doubted its justice." Can we, at this day, give utterance to the same expression of confidence; or shall we forced to adopt the language of an eminent statesman of another land, and exclaim,"I tremble for my country, when I reflect that God is just."
The prophet of old, in describing the merchandise, and magnificence, and pride, of ancient Tyre, enumerates, among her merchants, those who "traded the persons of men in her market."* Do we enquire what progress has been made, in the thousands of years which have intervened, towards the suppression of the odious traffic; which disregarding the rights of the weak, wrests them forcibly from the homes and their friends, loads them with fetters, casts them into prisons, and crowds them into vessels too small to furnish them the breath of life;-which fills up their passage across the ocean with horrors too numerous, and too revolting to be detailed;-and finally disposes of them, like breasts of draught and burden in the markets of other countries?-We too shall be told of the glorious efforts of Great Britain for the suppression of trade, and the fact that it has been declared piracy by the most powerful maritime nations, our own included. Our attention will be called to the hundreds of thousands who have been manumitted in the British colonies, and to the memorable self-evident truths set forth in our declaration of independence, "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with the certain inalienable rights," and "that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
And we shall discover, also, that these powerful maritime nations, "whose large flags are thrown aloft upon every ocean, and whose canvass swells to every breeze," although they permit no other piracy long to continue, have not succeeded in suppressing this kind;-that the hand which is apparently stretched out against it, often appears to be stricken, as it were, with paralysis; while great efforts have made to prove, that the emancipation of the slaves in the British West India islands has been attended with ruin to slave, as well as to the master.
And, by the way of commentary upon our recorded declaration of rights, we shall be made conscious that a portion of these United States, if ti cannot rival the magnificence of Tyre; if ti spreadeth forth no "sail of fine linen, with broidered work, from Egypt, "nor covereth itself "with blue and purple from the isles of Elishah;" can yet compete with that renowned city in trading the persons of men in its markets;-that it holds three millions of them in bondage; and devotes its most vigorous efforts, to extend an "area of freedom" of this very peculiar character. And we may, perhaps, also believe, that we are entitled to the pre-eminence of being the first nation, in which the mighty intellect of some of its prominent statesman has been devoted to a formal justification of this revolting relation of compulsory personal servitude.
We boast of the extension of commerce;-of the opening of new __ for merchandise;-of new sources of wealth;-and of the civilization consequent upon this commercial intercourse. And to a certain extent this is matter for gratulation.-But the luxury of commerce, and the selfishness of commerce, unless counteracted by some more powerful antidote than has yet been applied to them, so far as the uses of its followers are concerned, may make this extension of ___ a curse, instead of a blessing, to the nations.
We have seen something of this extension of commerce, within a very short period, by the opening of the ports of China, to a more extensive traffic. The effects of it upon the Chinese character remain to be developed. But the means through which the greater commerce with China has been obtained, and the occasion which gave rise to the use of those means, must remain an enduring reproach upon one of the most civilized nations of the earth.
If the civilization of commerce is to be extended, by smuggling a deleterious and intoxicating drug into a country in violation of its laws, and then by a war waged against that country on account of its exertions to enforce those laws, resulting in a compulsory introduction of the means of intoxication and death; we might also say, better, far better, were it , that the benefits of commerce should never be extended to her borders.
The people of China, notwithstanding her heathenism, have been governed by principles which may well put to blush the most civilized or religious nation upon the earth. And it is a melancholy reflection, that the extension of commerce, and a greater intercourse with Christian nations, will not give her a purer system of morals, or more magnanimous principles on which to conduct the matter of bargain and sale.
National morals of trade, as exhibited by the Defender of the Christian Faith, in the instance of China, have found, a counterpart on a smaller scale, in the proceedings of His most Christian majesty, or those of his subjects, in the Pacific.-Civilization has been carried to a small island in that ocean, not by opium in the sword, but by the peaceful labors of the missionaries of the cross. The debased and degraded savage, upon whose passions no principle imposed any restraint, and whose social and intellectual condition was but to remove above that of the brutes, rose from his degradation, instituted a government, administered laws, rendered to hi neighbor the things that were his, and claimed a humble rank among the nations. And to secure himself in this position, he endeavored to exclude the exciting cause of much of his former vice and brutality.-And in what spirit has this effort been met, by the morals of trade, among those who boast of the name of Christian?-I pass by the attempts on the part of individuals to counteract this peaceful spread of civilization, and present to you the authorities of France, compelling this people to admit the means of intoxication, manufactured in that country, because a profit would thus accrue to the subjects of his most Christian Majesty. Alas! If by the term Christian nation, it be meant one that attempts in any remote degree to regulate its intercourse with others by the precepts which the gospel prescribes to individuals, we may well exclaim that there is not a Christian nation upon the face of the earth.
But we need not seek the morals of trade, as they exemplify themselves in our day, in China, or in the islands of the Pacific. We have seen, within our own borders, a mighty effort for the improvement of mankind, in this same particular, by suppressing the means of intoxication. Proof upon proof has been accumulated of its agency in producing crime, misery, and death. And how this effort has been met, in general, by the morals of trade, you are all very well aware.
I must not detain you by adducing farther evidences to show, that the spirit of accumulation, in the latter ages of the world, although it must be admitted that it is more active, and has more votaries, is actuated by no higher or holier motives than it possessed in past ages. With all our progress, we have not elevated our morals of trade. Our inventions do not reach to this. At this day, as in more ancient times, "It is nought, it is nought, saith the buyer," but it is not always, after he has gone his way, that he boasteth of the good bargain that he has made. The seller of our time is as dexterous in recommending his wares, as is the purchaser in depreciating them.
Let it be understood that I speak of the general rule, and not of the many noble exceptions to that rule, when I say that parental education has a direct influence, if not by verbal recommendation, yet by the ____ of example, and its accompanying influences, to train up the child to selfishness and unworthy ambition, often to fraud, and sometimes to crime.--The chances are ten to one, I had almost said ten thousand to one, that the motive first presented tot he infant mind, as soon as it is capable of understanding and acting upon a motive, will be a selfish motive. He is thus taught to be shrewd in his little traffic with his fellows, and he is fully prepared, on his entrance into manhood to act upon the maxim of political economy, that we should buy cheap and sell dear. The individual thus taught, if he possess more than an average share of intellect, unless he overreaches himself, is continually accumulating by means of his good bargains; which are often but another name for contracts in which he has overreached some less shrewd neighbor;--and numbers, (perhaps nearly one tenth part,) of the community, in this land of equal rights and equal laws, are we kept constantly struggli8ng for a subsistence, during a whole life, by the good bargains which are purchased from them, either in their property or labor, by the greater sagacity of those with whom they deal.
It must not be supposed that what I have said of the morals of trade is intended to apply exclusively, or even principally, to mercantile me;-or that I deem mercantile pursuits less worthy than any other of the occupations of life. The morals of trade, to which I refer, exhibit themselves among all classes and conditions of the community. The pursuit of wealth, for the sake of wealth, among al classes, is as ardent and unscrupulous, and is made the final end and aim of existence to as great an extent now, as it has been in any age. The apostolic injunction, that no man should "seek his own, but every man another's wealth," is literally obeyed, by great multitudes, as they seem to understand it.
I condemn not the pursuit of wealth as a means to noble ends;-as a means wherewith the hungry may be fed, the naked clothed, public institutions fostered, and the gospel preached to the poor;-but that pursuit which seeks money from the desire to lavish it on luxury and pride, or to hoard and gloat over it with a miser's affection.
How few of the great fortunes, which are accumulated by the toil of a life of business, do other than contract the spirit, or pamper the pride of the possessor; give him the means of personal indulgence according to his taste, and furnish the source of quarrels and extravagance among his heirs. We meet, at rare intervals, and Earl of Dartmouth, a Phillips, a Hall, a Reed, and an Appleton;* men who understand the true uses of wealth; but where the world is blessed with one such benefactor of his race, hundreds crowd its thoroughfares, who with ample means to aid in the true progress of mankind, yet die "and leave no sign."
*Benefactors of Dartmouth College.
We exalt in the discovery of the art of printing, and the multiplication of books, periodicals, and newspapers, and we see in this powerful means for the diffusion of intelligence, a sure guaranty against the return of the dark ages.
But the Goths were not altogether ignorant; and it has been questioned whether their barbarism was not preferable to the Roman civilization of that period. And it yet remains to be proved, that the diffusion of knowledge, by means of the art of printing, will prevent war, violence, and oppression, or purify and elevate the morals of a corrupt civilization.
The pres is a mighty engine for good; but if once enlisted in the cause, it is equally potent for evil; and it will lend its influence to the former, or the latter, as other influences shall be brought to bear upon it. Its Paul Cliffords, and Jack Sheppards, may do more to corrupt the morals of youth, than can be counteracted by twice the number of pages devoted to intellectual and moral improvement.
Besides, if the eighteenth century was rightly characterized as the age of superficial learning, because, among other things, of the unprecedented circulation of magazines, literary journals, abridgments, epitomes, &c., particularly during the last half of it; what shall be said of the present, when novels, magazines, tales, and newspapers make up of the sum of the reading of a great portion of the reading community. It is not too much to say, that in this country, at the present time, a respectable public library, of standard literature, cannot be sustained out of the walls of our literary institutions, or the limits of some of the larger cities; or if perchance there may be here and there one maintained, by the benevolent contributions of a few, it is to stand in a great measure unread.
In forming an estimate of the present compared with the past, we must not forget the efforts now made, to educate the mass of people, of which so much is said and written. But how few comparatively take much thought in this matter. It may, perhaps, not consist with our self complacency, to enquire, too curiously, how far, even we of New England, are indebted to the spirit and example of the Pilgrim fathers, for the incitement to what is here accomplished, at the present time. And were to compare what was effected in their days, with what was done but a few years ago, we might well blush that our efforts corresponded so little with the enlarged means which were at our disposal.
Nor must we be unmindful of the benevolent efforts which have been made, in our own day, to spread civilization, and Christianity, among distant nations. I would not forget that self-sacrificing spirit of those, who have braved the "perils of the deep," and "perils among the heathen;" taking their lives in their hands, an offering, if need be, on the altar of their faith. Among these halls of learning, and especially with some of us assembled upon the present occasion, Poor, the missionary of the cross, and subsequently the President of a college at Battycotta, in Ceylon, may claim a high and fresh remembrance. But along with the contemplation of those efforts to advance the intellectual and moral condition of the world, comes again the reflection, how small a portion of the community take any active interest in them; and that, in many instances, the aid which is afforded will not come within the pale of that love which we are taught to believe id bestowed upon a cheerful giver.-The fact that it costs about twenty-five percent of the benevolent contributions of the country, to collect them, may serve to show to what an extent even benevolence is "forced to go to a volunteer."
It is readily seen, from this hasty, and necessarily imperfect review, that the progress of the world in ethics has not kept pace with its mechanical inventions, and its scientific discoveries. And if we seek for an explanation of the fact, we may find it, in no small degree, at least, in the motive power which has incited to the progress of which we boast. No small portion of that progress, it is apparent, has its rise not in the greater influence of morals or religion;-not in any higher patriotism or love of country;-nor in any greater benevolence;-but in a greater desire in the many for the acquisition of wealth, and in the few for the possession of distinction also.
It is the latter which fills the legislative halls of this, and other nations, with those patriots who are ready to embroil their country upon some cavil about "the ninth part of a hair," and then blazon forth as their patriotic motto, "our country right or wrong."-It is this, which furnishes to the ranks of anti-slavery societies, some of those, who in their efforts to "go a little farther than he who goes the farthest," denounce all the constitutions and laws, which recognize the existence of involuntary servitude, as of no binding force; and call upon the magistrates, sworn to the faithful execution of the laws as they exist, to disregard their official oaths and duties.-It is this, which is loudest in its appeals to juries to set aside the law of the land, (no matter whether upon the subject of capital punishment, or temperance, or military lines, or any other subject,) because those laws conflict with the particular notions of right entertained by the party making the appeal; and which, in the pursuit of notoriety, would thus introduce anarchy and confusion into the administration of justice.-It is this, which provides the non-resistants with some of those prominent file-leaders, who resist everything but their own peculiar modes of thinking, and who put the non-resistent powers of others to a test beyond their endurance.-And it is this, which fills the country with ultraisms of other descriptions, religious, political, social, and agrarian.
Let us not deceive ourselves. We shall have ill read the lessons of the past if we study only those which administer to our self-gratulation manufactories that spring up upon our waterfalls;-it is not the commerce that finds its way to all the ports of the earth;-it is no in the improved modes of tillage;-it is not in the greater population that the earth is supporting by means of these improvements;-it is not even in improved modes of intellectual cultivation; nor in the facility for the diffusion of knowledge through the medium of the press; nor is it in the greater personal freedom that may exist; or the military glory that may be acquired:-it is not in any, nor all of these, that we can surely find the progress of man to his true dignity. They are all of them, in themselves, consistent with the worst possible state of society, and the most corrupt condition of the race.
Nor is there in any, nor in all of these things, any sure guaranty for the stability of the progress which we may make. The world, from its creation, has been marked by change, in all things relating to the political and social condition of mankind.-Empires have risen and flourished, as it were but the more signally to mark the catastrophes by which they have been overwhelmed.-The sands of the desert are swallowing the ruins of the wonderful temple of Thebes; and the royal sepulchers in the mountains around her, splendidly adorned with paintings and sculpture, serve as a shelter for the miserable Arab with his dogs and goats.-Of the lives of the embalmed tenants of those sepulchers, no intelligible record remains to elucidate their history.-Babylon and great, the glory of kingdoms, with all its population, and wealth, and magnificence, has passed away; and its site is a harborage for bats, and owls, and wild beasts.-Petra, in the lonely desolation of arid sands, and sterile mountains, stands a most impressive, but almost unknown monument of the utter significance of such labors, for the enduring prosperity of a people.-And the literature and eloquence of Greece, and the civilization and refinement of Rome, furnished no protection to their political institutions.
The promptings of ambition alone will not teach man what is real progress, nor instruct nations in what true honor consists.-An overweening estimation of our self-importance, and a principle of right which regards exclusively our own convenience, will not lead to our own improvement, nor aid in that of our fellows.-And it is not by fostering national pride, nor boasting of national strength, nor relying upon that strength to sustain national glory, that we shall promote national justice, or any other national virtue.
It must be admitted that the considerations which I have thus pressed upon your attention have nothing of novelty in them, and are not of a very flattering character; but they are presented from no disposition to indulge in a tirade against humanity, or to gratify any moroseness of spirit. The end and the purpose of them is, to counteract, so far as the occasion may admit, the vain and boasting humor, and the pervading selfishness, which constitute such formidable impediments to true progress; and to lead to the enquiry whether there be any hope of a redemption from the causes which produce such results; and if there be, from what source the impulse must come:-where is the mighty lever which may move the world.
Upon the first branch of this enquiry, I would that the signs of the times were more suspicious. I would that there were not so many evidences, even in our own country, to support the belief that there is no counteracting influence, short of miraculous interposition, of sufficient power to effect that redemption.
But there is still a foothold whereon to stand, at least for the effort. It is not the work of a day. It will not be accomplished in our time, nor in that of any generation that shall soon follow;-but there are omens and promises of final success, which encourage to perseverance in making the attempt.
And how may this work possibly be accomplished?-Not appeals to manhood, to cast aside the selfishness and ambition which education has made part of its very nature.-Not by calling upon him who is already engaged in the active strifes and competitions of the world, and who already regards those who interests are not coincident with his own, as antagonists, and enemies, to convert the bitterness which has been engineered by those clashing interests, into affection and respect.-Not by arguments addressed to the successful politician, excited by the strife of the recent canvass, to induce him to make the golden maxim the rule of his administration.-As well might we ask the warrior, while on the battle-field, flushed with his recent victory, to sign the constitution of a peace society, and turn his armory of death into the instruments of peaceful labor.
If the hope of improvement is ever to end in fruition, it must be by reform in the systems of education, which are, in fact, chargeable with much of the evil.-It must be by the beginning with the child, and eradicating from the mind of infancy the selfishness which exhibits itself among its first actions;-by training the youth to a just estimate of the rights of others, as well as of his own;-by instilling into his mind an abhorrence of that love of self, which leads to injustice to his fellow men;-by inducing him to regard with loathing that ambition which seeks its gratification by paltry triumphs, or appeals to the passions and prejudices of the people, instead of a fair, honest, and magnanimous course;-and by sending him forth, a candidate for manhood, thoroughly imbued with a love of honor, justice, and peace, at the same time that he is thoroughly versed in science, and literature;-willing to follow the right , and the true, when seemingly in conflict with the expedient;-and thus to seek the accomplishment of noble ends, by means of a similar character. And this is consistent with a worthy ambition, and a reasonable desire of office, honors and distinction.
It has recently been urged that there should be a greater infusion of morals into the education of our common schools, and this has been inculcated with a force and ability not to be surpassed.*
This is, however, only part, and a small part of the reform which is required. There must also be a better ethical training around the domestic fireside, and in the daily transactions of life. Parents must be made more fully aware of the influences they themselves exert. but the impulse to this reform in education must not be sought, in the ______, under the parental roof. That must be elevated and enlightened from other sources, and when this shall be done, it will become a most efficient, as it is an essential, auxiliary, in carrying onward the great work.
Nor can we look to the primary schools as the pioneers in a successful ______.-When the instructors of those schools shall have become fully imbued, as they are beginning to be, with its principles, they will have a vast and an abiding influence in pressing it forward to its completion.
If such a reformation in the modes of education is to be accomplished the impulse must be given by the higher institutions of learning and by those who go forth from their hallowed precincts.* There is the place to stand.
*It gives me great pleasure to be able to adduce, in the following extract, a very distinguished authority, in support of some of the views I have expressed.
"The understanding in every department of speculative or practical knowledge has advanced of late years with a vigor and success beyond what the world has attained at any other period; but I cannot suppress a painful impression that the intellectual improvement has not exerted, and is not exerting, its natural influence in purifying the moral character of the age. I cannot subdue the finding, that our modern Christendom, with all its professions, and in all its ______, is ______ into a practical heathenism, which needs a great work-I had almost and a new dispensation-of reform, scarcely less than the decrepid ____ of Greece and Rome. Christians as we are, we worship, in America and in Europe, in the city and the field, on the exchange and in the senate, and here I can add in the academy and in the church, some gods as bad as those of the Pagans[?]. In individual and national earnestness, in true moral heroism, and ___ ________ unalloyed by mysticism, the age in which we live__________________ progress; but rather, perhaps, with all its splendid ___ asscience and art, is plunging deeper into the sordid worship of
"the least erected spirit that fell
From heaven, for even in heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward beat, admiring more
The riches of heaven's pavement,-trodden gold,-
__ sought divine or holy else enjoyed
"It may be feared that a defect of this kind, if truly stated and sufficiently ________ the character of an age, will prove too strong for any corrective ___________ of public calamity, and what are called, in our expressive national phrase, "the times that try men's souls." But I have long thought , that if, in a period of prosperity and by gentle influences, any thing can be effected toward the same end, the work must be begun in our seminaries of liberal education, and they have a duty to perform , in this respect, which cannot be too strongly urged nor too deeply felt." Inaugural Address of Hon. Edward Everett, as President of the University of Cambridge, p. 55.
The influence which those institutions have heretofore exerted, in this respect, if it has not in some instances been positively adverse to a sound ethical education, has been neutralized by the mode in which intellectual cultivation has been too exclusively pressed. But if they will make a united effort to improve the system of education, they may move the whole earth. And if all be not, forthwith, realized, which may be desired, incalculable benefit must result from the attempt. The influence of such effort will be immediately felt in the school of the domestic fireside; and in all other places where youth are trained, wherever they may be found. Literature will be purified from its stimulus to seek for national glory through war and violence;-from its incitement to the acquisition of distinction, without regard to the means by which it is to be reached;-and from its encouragement to the pursuit of wealth as an end, instead of a means.
Union of purpose, and union of action, among those institutions may be attained, whenever a profound conviction of its importance and necessity shall pervade them.
And may we not hope that the Institution around which we are gathered, and whose anniversary we have come hither to celebrate, in its efforts to suppress undue emulation, has already taken the first step in reformation; and that the work itself shall go on, prospering and to prosper, until its beneficent effects shall extend over the whole land, and be carried to the remotest corners of the habitable globe.