Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

toward the redressing of a great wrong. It is only a few years since it seems to have been seriously supposed, that impurity is impurity in Greek and Latin as well as in English ; and not the less so, when the impure Greek or Latin is required to be rendered into corresponding English, by a boy, in the hearing of a whole class or school of boys. We are amazed to think what licentious stuff used to be recited to a grave instructor by his ingenuous pupils, and after it had been studied and conned by them too most diligently, word by word, and with the help, perhaps, in the case of a poet, of what was called an “ordo," which exhibited in bald prose the more elegant abominations of the poetry. What an influence must this have bad on the minds of those, who were taught at the same time to cherish the warmest enthusiasm toward every thing classical, and to look on the writers of Greece and Rome as sacred and almost superhuman characters ? The state of things is better now. In our schools and colleges we have expurgated editions of some of the ancient classics; and this change we regard as marking one step in the improvement of the age. But we agree with Mr Sullivan, that more expurgation, more of the cleansing process, is yet required.

In concluding the history of ancient Rome, the following summary is given of the character of the famed niistress of the world, which will show the author's estimate of Roman virtue and Roman glory.

“ 449. Such seems to have been the origin, the progress, the decline, and fall of Rome. Emotions of sorrow and compas-, sion arise, that Rome, and Romans, should be prostrate before an unfeeling and ignorant savage: that brutal muscular strength should usurp the abodes of Camillus, of the Scipios, and of Brutus; and the seats of patriotism, learning, eloquence, and refinement. But, what was patriotism at Rome ? Humiliation, servitude, or destruction, to all that lived but Romans. What was learning at Rome? The best of the remnants which have been saved, are mythological fancies, stories of barbarous or intestine wars, severe satires on Roman manners, or plaints of suffering under the hand of rapine : the only relief, in the picture, is the beautiful philosophy of Cicero. Of the eloquence of Rome, the finest specimens are found in the just criminations of its own profligate conspirators against the rights and liberties of their countrymen. Its refinements, with few exceptions, may all be reduced to the using of natural and

artificial products, for the mere gratification of the senses. The roads of the empire were for armies to march on. The monuments of Rome tell only of Roman cruelties and robberies, or of arrogant self-gratulation. The national integrity of Romans is found in the answer of Brennus, the Gaul; 'My right I carry at the point of my sword; all things belong to the brave. What was the sum of misery inflicted on the human race, to make Rome great and glorious! How many countries laid waste; how many cities plundered and destroyed; how many better men than Romans, and even how many illustrious FEMALES toiled after the triumphal car, to pass to the precincts of a prison, or to the hands of an executioner! After all the proud eulogies bestowed on Romans, they were, in MORALS, worse than those whom they stigmatized as barbarians; they were superior to their final conquerors, only in the refinements of selfishness.” — p. 239.

The last chapter of the volume is taken up with the institution of sonie's comparisons between ancient nations, and the people of the United States.” The result of these comparisons is to show, that we enjoy high advantages, civil, political, moral, and religious, over the states of elder times; but they are concluded by a serious warning against the abuse of these advantages, and against the influence of those men who would tempt us to abuse them. From this chapter we cannot forbear quoting the author's excellent remarks on the artificial distinctions of society.

“ 454. Among the causes of the miseries which have been noticed, in these ancient nations, was that of irrational distinction among the members of society. Birth, office, or peculiar privileges, gave a superiority to a few, over the multitude. The few were rich, luxurious, and tyrannical, the many were poor, craving, idle, and ignorant; and yet were sometimes the ultimate sovereign, especially in Rome. When the favor of such a sovereign was to be had through gifts, spectacles, and amusements, which the rich and aspiring could afford to present, it was inevitable that such a sovereign should become venal and corrupt. It was still worse, when the populace were idle and craving, and could only be kept from sedition and tumult, by being fed at public expense, and amused with splendid pageantry, or interested by sanguinary conflicts between human beings, or between men and ferocious beasts.

“455. No such causes of degradation exist in the United States. Office does not give wealth, nor the means of acquir

ing it, unless gross and abominable frauds be resorted to. There are no distinctions founded in riches, which are politically dangerous, or socially inconvenient. Riches come from inheritance, or industry; and the wealthy must use their wealth for the common good, or not use it at all. Wealth cannot be productive here, without giving employment to the various orders of society, in the known divisions of labor. There can be no accumulation of wealth, which will make it a dangerous engine. Comparing the riches which many individuals had in Rome, Greece, and the East, with those which Americans have, no man in the United States can be said to be rich. The wealth of the richest is soon divided and dissipated ; and one or two generations sink the greatest fortune to insignificance by distribution. The way to wealth is equally open to talents and industry, in whomsoever these qualities are found. But, however rich one may be, and whatever use he may desire to make of riches, for purposes hostile to the public welfare, there is no such material to work upon here, as in Greece and Rome. There is in this land no idle, corrupt populace, for a Crassus to purchase ; no hireling soldiery, for an Octavius to reward. Every member of society may be usefully and properly busy, and all worthy and reputable persons are so." - pp. 243, 244.

Instructers of youth must decide, whether this Class Book is peculiarly adapted, as we cannot help thinking it is, to the use of schools. Although this is a point which we cannot decide for them, we can at least recommend the work to their perusal, that they may make an impartial trial of it for themselves.

ART. VI. — Memoir of Roger Williams, the Founder of the

State of Rhode Island. By JAMES D. KNOWLES, Professor of Pastoral Duties in the Newton Theological Institution. Lincoln, Edmands, & Co. Boston. 1834. 12mo. pp. xx. and 437. We are indebted to Professor Knowles for a valuable contribution in this work to the history and biography of our country. A life of Roger Williams, we had occasion to know, had been once and again proposed, as it had also been much desired. It is exhibited in this volume with faithfulness and impartiality. The author has evidently

ality. Theted in this vol, had also

spared no pains in collecting the requisite materials, which both Dr. Belknap, our American biographer, and Mr. Southey in England, had sought without success, and which, scattered and imperfect as they were, required no small industry and skill to assemble and arrange. We are particularly gratified by the spirit of candor and sober discrimination, which pervades the volume, and is among its highest recommendations. It has established beyond all reasonable question the claims of Roger Williams to a place not only with the founders of its independent states, but with the honored Fathers of New England; with that illustrious race of men, of whom Lord Brougham, the present Chancellor of England, in his work on Colonial Policy, thus speaks: “ The first settlers of all the colonies were men of irreproachable characters. Many of them fled from persecution ; others on account of an honorable poverty; and all of them with their expectations limited to the prospect of a bare subsistence in freedom and peace. All idea of wealth or pleasure was out of question. The greater part of them viewed their emigration as a taking up of the cross, and bounded their hopes of riches to the gifts of the spirit, and their ambition to the desire of a kingdom beyond the grave. A set of men more conscientious in their doings and simple in their manners never founded a commonwealth. And,” concludes he, “it is the peculiar glory of North America, that, with a very few exceptions, its empire was originally founded in charity and peace.” · It is a common fault in biography to magnify beyond all just proportion the merits of its subjects; especially, when, as in this instance of Roger Williams, ancient prejudices are to be removed, and disputed honors conferred, the biographer almost of necessily becomes the zealous advocate. And in the fervor of defence, perhaps too from the mere contemplation, in its fairer exhibitions, of the character of his hero, he is naturally betrayed into extravagance and enthusiasm. Should it also happen, that local or professional partialities conspire to aggravate this tendency, it would be rare indeed to find, and it would be alınost unreasonable to look for simple truth. Hence the difference so often perceived between the memoirs of eminent men and the men themselves. Hence the distrust, at least the qualified confidence, with which the cautious and reflecting read the lives VOL. XVI. — N. S. VOL. XI. NO. I.

10

of saints, of heroes, and of pious children. That, which was of itself in no way remarkable, or which to the impartial eye or daily observation, might have appeared a defect, shall, with a little imagination and dressing up, be held out as an eminent gist or virtue. From these faults the Memoir before us is uncommonly free. We believe Mr. Knowles has been faithful to history and truth, without coloring or overstatement. And, what in these days of bitterness and exclusiveness is certainly no vulgar praise, would that it were so, -in vindicating the claims of the founder of his native state, he has neither overlooked nor depreciated the merits of his opponents, even when justice to them would seem to involve reproach upon him. To Mr. Cotton of Boston, and other congregational ministers, who could not but disapprove the conduct as well as the opinions of Williams; to Governors Winthrop and Winslow, who, notwithstanding their personal friendship, were required by their official stations to execute the public will against him; and to the character of the Puritan fathers in general, whose views of religion and state-policy took their impression not less from the necessities of their condition than from the spirit of the times,— Professor Knowles is throughout this Memoir, and we take pleasure in acknowledging it, invariably just, candid, and honorable.

Of the style of this book we might speak in commendation, if we except an affectation of classic allusion, occasion. ally betraying itself, and not always of the most graceful kind. We are not studious of selecting examples, nor are there many. In referring, however, to Mr. Williams's hospitality to the fugitive Gorton, the author takes care to show us, that he was no stranger to Virgil, or Virgil no stranger to him ; for he tells us, that Mr. Williams “had himself tasted of the cup of sorrow, and, like Dido,(that love-sick lady of old), “had been taught by suffering to succour the miserable”!- This is somewhat of an approach to the pedantry of days that are past, when few boys went to college, and they that did were willing to show that they had been there.

In the following extract from his Preface the writer introduces the subject of his history with acknowledgments of the sources,* whence he had gathered his materials. After

** The Rev. Mr. Greenwood formed the design of preparing a memoir, at the suggestion, I believe, of Mr. Southey. He had collected

« FöregåendeFortsätt »