Page images

One would have thought, from the perilous haste with which the traveller departed, that he must have been thoroughly disgusted with all that he saw, which was by no means the case. Leaving the ball-room at Plymouth at three o'clock in the morning, he was in the railway car for Boston at four, and in the train for Concord at seven. At eleven o'clock on the same day, he embarked in a stage-sleigh for Burlington, on a voyage which could have presented few attractions when the mercury was at twenty degrees below zero, a sort of exposure which stiffens the limbs so as to make the proprietor doubtful whether they are his own, and checks the circulation of the blood in such a manner as to paralyze the energies of the mind. He passed the night at Royalton, where he was painfully sensitive to the sight of some "scowling ruffians smoking and chewing round the stove in the public room." Perhaps the traveller betrayed his emotions, which were not precisely those of satisfaction; for, on asking for a little hot water, it was denied him ; and when he requested to be called in season for the stage in the morning, he was advised to see to that matter for himself. Surely, if he met with many of these two-footed animals, he deserves great credit for the manner in which he speaks of the civility and kindness of the Americans. One is apt to mistake this occasional barbarism for the rule, when it strikes him so much because it is the exception. If many public houses were of this description, there would be few travellers to enjoy the blessing.

At the close of his work, the author, or perhaps the editor, indulges in some extended remarks on various subjects connected with our country; but they have not the interest of the journal, and are of the kind which any one might indite, without having set foot in our land. He thinks that there is a large amount of information generally diffused among us, without a proportional abundance of literature and learning. He also remarks, that we have very few intellectual names not connected with the professions, which is the same as saying that literature is not made a profession among us to any extent. This is true; and the reason of it is, that literature will not afford subsistence without some other employment which engrosses the time. If the honor of living for literature involves the necessity of starving, the candidates for its prizes must necessarily be few. Our professions are all ac

tive and laborious; it is difficult to maintain influence in any of them without industrious and incessant action. If there were time, experience proves that much might be done for literature and science in the intervals of these exertions. But there is not; and meantime the market is filled with a pestilent importation of English and French novels, which teach nothing but bad taste, bad grammar, and bad morals. Works of a higher character his own country is not able to supply in such abundance as this writer fondly believes.

We do not wonder that an unfavorable impression of American taste and cultivation is given by a great proportion of the speeches in Congress, though some of them are business-like, condensed, and intellectual, with merits of a high order. But every member must signalize his fitness for the trust by making a speech, while his idea of eloquence is too often formed from the example of a clerical writer of a former day, who said, that, when Washington ascended, all the battalia of heaven presented arms. Some of those who can put themselves forward in no other way contrive to make themselves notorious by some remarkable absurdity; for notoriety answers the purpose quite as well as fame. When an Englishman hears the chairman of an important committee in Congress saying, that, in case of war, England could

do no more hurt to America than a child in its nurse's arms," without reflecting, that, if the remark was childish, the person who made it should have the indulgence due to a tender age, he is provoked; for he infers that no creature having the use of reason would say such things, unless some others delighted to hear them. But it is not so; these explosions would wait for ever to see the light, if they depended on others to report them. The individual himself supplies a copy to the public press, where it lies unread, except perhaps from charity or affection, and only helps to swell the mass of political matter, which is already sufficiently unsavory and revolting. We are surprised to hear our traveller say that he was treated to a flourish of this kind by a young Whig, at a dinnertable in Boston, who descanted in the same style upon the probable fate of England in case of a war with this country; but when he reflected on the awful doom which he was measuring out to the motherland, he said, with a sort of forbearing humanity," But poor old England! I should be sorry, after all, if her own children should trample her under their

feet." Should this youth have occasion to travel, we trust he will give old England timely warning, that with all her infirmities she may be able to get out of the way of the march of mind as represented by these trampling feet. One of the parties must needs suffer in such an encounter, and we dare not hazard a conjecture which it would be.

The author's account of his home-bound passage in the steamer gives a strong impression of the dulness of such a voyage. He rejoiced only in the concluding dinner with which the arrival is solemnized, when the passengers, in the fulness of their hearts, deal out their formal thanks, or peradventure a piece of plate, to the captain, for the marvellous exploit of bringing them safe across the sea. The harmony of the occasion was somewhat impaired by a colored Abolitionist, who took occasion, just after rising from the prolonged session at table, when speakers grow needlessly fluent, and audiences are more prone to wrath than they might be in cooler hours, to make an address in condemnation of America. This judicious selection of time and place led on to a war of words, in which the Abolitionist, probably from long practice, had the advantage. This again was nearly followed by a conflict of blows, in which the genius of universal emancipation might have been struck down, had it not been for the efforts of some passengers who retained their senses, which is not usual in the discussion of such a theme. were to separate on the next day, never to meet again. is a good precept for the voyage of life, not to be very ready to censure and abuse the companions of our way; it makes the passage uncomfortable to all concerned; and if any one says that his conscience requires it, let him see if he has not given that high name to a quarrelsome temper and a cold and bitter heart.


The works of tourists in America, excepting always De Tocqueville, are not of any considerable value. The natural desire to know what others say of us, which is as strong in one nation as another, gives interest to a traveller's story; but the attraction is apt to disappear before we reach the end of the book. We often find, even in persons of talent, Miss Martineau, for example, so little power of observing to any good purpose, and such a disposition to judge of every thing from the manner in which self happens to be affected by it, that their books are worthless either for counsel or VOL. LXIV. - No. 134.


warning; and, after affording a week's topic of conversation, they are quietly and unanimously consigned to the receptacle' of things that have been. To write a sensible book on America must be a difficult thing, if we may judge from the little that has been accomplished in this way; and we are disposed to give credit to one, who, though his visit was limited and hasty, formed some just ideas, where most of his predecessors had none, of the strength and weakness, the faults and virtues, the glory and shame, of our people.


1. The Scholar, the Jurist, the Artist, the Philanthropist. An Address before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard University, at their Anniversary, August 27, 1846. By CHARLES SUMNER. Second Edition. Boston: W. D. Ticknor & Co. 1846. 8vo. pp. 72.

In this Address, which, as many of our readers will remember, was received with distinguished approbation by the intelligent audience before whom it was pronounced, Mr. Sumner has deviated from the beaten track of anniversary declamation, and imparted a personal interest to an occasion which has usually been devoted to topics of a more general character. Taking a happy advantage of the publication, after an interval of four years, of a catalogue of the members of the Fraternity which he addressed, he has reviewed the characters and services of four of its departed brothers, whose names are among the most honored on its illustrious roll. The titles of Scholar, Jurist, Artist, and Philanthropist suggest at once the names of Pickering, Story, Allston, and Channing. The Address is composed of four parts, one of which is assigned to each of these distinguished men.

The occasion being one of grateful and fraternal commemoration, the discourse is professedly eulogistic. "Let us praise famous men" is its motto, though not announced with the formal frankness of the son of Sirach. In productions of this class, we expect little criticism from the speaker, except that which tends to kindle the sympathy and heighten the admiration of his hearTo demand of an avowed panegyrist a perfectly accurate measurement of those merits which it is his business to extol


would be equally uncharitable and absurd. We would have him give large measure, "pressed down and running over." The speaker, who praises a brother among brothers, may fairly exercise the prerogatives of brotherhood, which are limited in the matter of commendation only by the possibility, or at most the probability, of its truth. We exact of him nothing more than a qualified veracity, and relieve him from the irksome task of making those deductions which would deprive his labor of love of all its charm, though it might add to its historical value. While, however, this latitude is conceded on the score of quantity, the critic will be less indulgent in regard to quality. The encomiast, if he pleases, may exalt his hero to the skies; but it must be for the right thing. To use the illustration of the Roman satirist, none but a headlong flatterer would compliment a puny invalid by likening his gaunt neck to the brawn of Hercules.

The kindly tone of good feeling which inspires this performance allures the reader to the same mood, and makes the act of criticism an ungracious office. And, indeed, though Mr. Sumner is very liberal and even exuberant in his praises, he has seldom, in the present case, transgressed the proper limits of his province. In a few instances, however, his admiration must be considered, after all allowances, as somewhat hyperbolical. The assertion, for example, that "under the hands of Mr. Justice Story we behold the beginning of a new study, the science of Comparative Jurisprudence," unsupported, as Mr. Sumner has left it, by any proof, is to us quite extraordinary. No intelligent student in any profession can easily avoid breaking out of positive into compara. tive science; and no lawgiver or jurist of comprehensive views can confine himself to the study of a single system. The rudiments, at least, of comparative jurisprudence are found as far back as Grotius, and are somewhat developed in D'Aguesseau and Black. stone. Mr. Sumner has also, we think, rather strained his con trast between the judge and the jurist, in order to exalt the voca tion of the latter. A judge of the first class must be a jurist, whether he bears the name or not, and we know no better educa. tion for the jurist's chair than the experience of the judge's bench. Again, when Mr. Sumner says of Dr. Channing, "it is probable that, since Washington and Franklin, no American has exerted an equal influence on his fellow-men," we hesitate to adopt so broad

a statement.

In regard to the quality of the commendation bestowed on the individuals eulogized in this Address, we see little to object to, and much to applaud. The respective claims of these eminent men are easily distinguished, and it is impossible to mistake the peculiar vocation of either. Mr. Sumner, we think, has been very

« PreviousContinue »