Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

305

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

THE

CHRISTIAN EX A MINER.

No. LXI.

NEW SERIES — No. XXXI.

MARCH, 1834.

ART. I. An Address delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa

Society in Yale College, New Haven, August 20, 1833. By EDWARD EVERETT. Published by request of the Society. New Haven. Hezekiah Howe & Co. 1833. 8vo. pp. 35.

of thored with eles appro his liutore

MR. EVERETT is not one of those orators whose eloquence tells only on the ear, and is forgotten with the occasion which called it forth. His printed performances approve themselves not less to our deliberate judgment than his living word does to our immediate sympathy. The oration before us fully sustains the impression made by its delivery. It is a rich and powerful production. We read it not without a sensation of regret that its author should ever have exchanged the province of letters, that peaceful kingdom in which he possesses so rich an inheritance, for the narrow and noisy world of politics. Surely there are minds enough, less richly endowed and less philosophically cast, to whom the business of legislation may be entrusted with safety. In a country like ours, statesmen are never wanting, they are the natural produce of the soil; but we are poor in scholars, and our literature suffers for want of thein. It is difficult to say why so large a portion of the talents of the nation is spent in politics. The rewards, which that service holds out, present, one would think, but little temptation. Who that is capable of better things could be content to struggle through long years of strife and contumely and soul-wasting unrest, for no other returns than the barren sceptre and the fruitless crown of a republican government. Nor does patriotism

VOL. XVI. -- N. S. VOL. XI. NO. I.

demand this sacrifice ; for, surely, the training of the public mind to literary excellence is a task nowise less worthy the lover of his country, than the adjustment of its foreign relations or its internal broils. No:hing can explain the fact of which we are speaking, but ihat passi"nate love of excitement which seems to be a rul ng principle of this age. It was not, however, our intention to enter into any discussion of this sort; re meant merely to express our regret that a mind like Mr. Everett's, – a gem of such rare water, should be, as it seems to us, so unprofitably set.

To return to the oration before us;- is subject is "the nature and efficacy of Education as the great human instrument of improving the condition of man.” Mr. Everett proves education to have been formerly a thing apart from the participation of the great mass of mankind. “It was the training of a privileged class.” But now it has become a universal concern, the business and the privilege of the whole community. He next proceeds to explain the philosophy of education, and shows that it rests won the broad and eternal basis of natural love." It is a duty necessarily resulting from that great natural revolution, which in the course of a few years is to supplant all the present actors on the stage of life by a new race of beings. It is a work to be performed by one generation on that which is to succeed it, -" the mind of this age acting on the mind of the next.The effects of education are beautifully illustrated by a comparison between the condition of a New Zealand savage and that of the European or American navigator who visits his shores; and again by a comparison between that state of ignorance and helplessness in which we all enter into life, and the attainments of after years. In the application of the principles unfolded, to the present condition and the future prospects of society, which occupies the remainder of the Address, the author confesses himself an enthusiast. “And here I am willing to own myself an enthusiast, and all I ask is that men will have the courage to follow the light of general principles, and patience for great effects to flow from miglity causes.”_"We have now in our possession three instruments of civilization unknown to the ancients, of power separately to work almost any miracle of improvement, and the united force of which is adequate to the achievement of any thing not morally and physically impossible. These are, the art of printing, - a

qualities regulation free

hary of spring of a fountain and

tion." satisfactorilor all of threat

sort of mechanical magic for the diffusion of knowledge ; free representative government, -- a perpetual regulator and equalizer of human condition, the inequalities of which are the great scourge of society; -and, lastly, a pure and spiritual rel gion, – the deep fountain of generous enthusiasm, the mighty spring of bold and lofty designs, — the great sanctuary of moral power.” The want of one or all of these instruments, Mr. Everett thinks, satisfactorily explains the vicissitudes of ancient civilization. In proof of this assertion, various instances are cited from the history of ancient eropires. The example of Greece, in particular, is dwelt upon as furnishing, in some respects, an exception to the other nations of antiquity.

“Greece indeed fell. But how did she fall? Did she fall like Babylon ? Did she fall 'like Lucifer, never to hope again?' Or did she not rather go down, like that brighter luminary, of which Lucifer is but the herald ?

•So sinks the day-star in the ocean's bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and, with new spangled ore,

Flames in the forehead of the morning sky.' “ What, but the ever-living power of literature and religion, preserved the light of civilization and the intellectual stores of the past, unextinguished in Greece, during the long and dreary ages of the decline and downfall of the Roman empire? What preserved these sterile provinces and petty islets from sinking, beyond redemption, in the gulf of barbarity, in which Cyrene, and Egypt, and Syria, were swallowed up? It was Christianity and letters, retreating to their fastnesses on mountain-tops and in secluded valleys, – the heights of Athos, the peaks of Meteora, the caverns of Arcadia, the secluded cells of Patmos. Here, while all else in the world seemed swept away, by one general flood of barbarism, civil discord, and military oppression, the Greek monks of the dark ages preserved and transcribed their Homers, their Platos, and their Plutarchs. There never was, strictly speaking, a dark age in Greece. Eustathius wrote his admirable commentaries on Homer, in the middle of the twelfth century. That surely, if ever, was the midnight of the mind; but it was clear and serene day in his learned cell; and Italy, proud already of her Dante, her Boccaccio, and Petrarch, - her Medicean patronage and her reviving arts, — did not think it beneath her to sit at the feet of the poor fugitives from the final downfall of Constantinople.” – p. 24.

Then, aster describing the condition of this country previous to the last revolution, he continues,

“Such was Greece thirteen years ago, and the prospect of throwing off the Turkish yoke, in every respect but this last, was as wild and chimerical, as the effort to throw off the Cordilleras from this continent. In all respects but one, it would have been as reasonable to expect to raise a harvest of grain from the barren rock of Hydra, as to found a free and prosperous state, in this abject Turkish province. But the standard of liberty was raised, on the soil of Greece, by the young men who returned from the universities of western Europe, and the civilized world was electrified at the tidings. It was the birthplace of the arts, — the cradle of letters. Reasons of state held back the governments of Europe and of America frorn an interference in their favor, but intellectual sympathy, religious and moral feeling, and the public opinion of the age, rose in their might, and swept all the barriers of state logic away. They were feeble, unarmed, without organization, distracted by feuds; an adamantine wall of neutrality on the west; an incensed barbarian empire, - horde after horde, - from the confines of Anatolia to the cataracts of the Nile, — pouring down upon them, on the east. Their armies and their navies were a mockery of military power, their resources calculated to inspire rather commiseration than fear. But their spirits were sustained, and their wearied hands upheld, by the benedictions and the succours of the friends of freedom. The memory of their great men of old went before them to battle, and scattered dismay in the ranks of the barbarous foe, as he moved, like Satan in hell, with uneasy steps, over the burning soil of freedom. The sympathy of all considerate and humane persons was enlisted in behalf of the posterity, however degenerate, of those, who had taught letters and humanity to the world. Men could not bear, with patience, that Christian people, striking for liberty, should be trampled down by barbarian infidels, on the soil of Attica and Sparta. The public opinion of the world was enlisted on their side, - and Liberty herself, personified, seemed touched with compassion, as she heard the cry of her venerated parent, the guardian genius of Greece. She hastened to realize the holy legend of the Roman daughter, and send back from her pure bosom the tide of life to the wasting form of her parent.

• The milk of his own gift ;- it is her sire

To whom she renders back the debt of blood,
Born with her birth; - no, he shall not expire.'

« FöregåendeFortsätt »