Page images

eye. The lawyer must be able to reason from the noblest principles of human duty; and must comprehend at a glance the mighty maze of human relations, and must, at the same time, be conversant with a tissue of the most arbitrary fictions and artificial technology that ever disgraced a liberal science. The general must be capable alike of calculating for a twelvemonth in advance the result of a contest, in which all the power, resource, strength, and spirit of two great empires, on land and at sea, enter and struggle; and he must have an eye that can tell how the stone walls and trenched meadows, the barns, and the woods, and cross roads of a neighborhood will favor or resist the motions of a hundred thousand men, scattered over a space of five miles, in the fury of the advance or the agony of flight, covered with smoke, dust, and blood. The merchant must be able to look, at the same moment, at the markets and exchanges of other countries and the other hemisphere, and combine considerations of the political condition, the natural wants, the tastes, and habits of different parts of the world, and he must be very apt at figures, understand book keeping by double entry, and be as willing to look after a quarter chest of tea as a cargo of speIn like manner, the student of classical literature must be conversant, it is true, with grammar, prosody, and syntax; he must, as has been ingeniously, though invidiously said, be able to conjugate, decline, and derive; but, on the other hand, he deals more directly than any one else with the finest intellectual processes. He marks the effort of the mind to discriminate and express its most delicate perceptions; he traces the secret source of the pathetic, the sublime, the agreeable, to the deliberate or instinctive choice, now of the phrase, which gathers in the widest circle of associated images, and now of the expression, which presents the leading thought, in its most simple form; and his profession is to be the minister of the soul and understand the whole system, by which the unseen spirit converses with kindred beings and future ages. His science is not the invention of the schools, the dream of literary monks. Tenses, and modes, and conjugations were not made within the walls of a library; but by thinking, speaking, and acting men by the primitive lawgivers, the pioneers of civilization; by elder bards, poets, and prophets of infant humanity; by the mind of man struggling,


[ocr errors]

through its articulate organs, to converse with other minds. The grammarian came, ages after, found the phenomena, and gave them their names; but to suppose the structure of languages to be the grammarian's work would be to suppose that Newton made the stars or Werner the mountains. The student of classical literature, moreover, becomes acquainted with some of the most distinguished recorded efforts of the human understanding; he hears the speeches of Demosthenes, is present in the school of Plato, and listens to Cicero in the temple of Concord, with Julius Cæsar before him, and the senators around. Is it said there are translations of the Greek and of the Latin? Besides that half the worth of the study is that a man exercise himself in being his own translator, let any one sit down and try to make a written translation of one of the more elevated passages of the Greek and Latin authors, such as the description of the death of Socrates by Plato, or the passage beginning, 'it was now evening,' in the oration for the crown, and he will be prepared to say how much of an ancient classic is preserved in a version. In some schools, it is a practice to take an English poet, and write him into grammatical prose. A passage in the Paradise Lost, treated in this way, will afford an idea of an ancient author in a faithful version, as it is called. And as for a liberal version, a free translation, a poetical translation; -it is not too much to say that, beyond the mere thread of the story, Pope has come no nearer the work of Homer, in the translation of the Iliad, than in the Rape of the Lock, or the Epistle to Abelard.

But it was not our intention to enlarge so much on this point. One remark always occurs when vindicating the worth of classical studies, viz: that it is in general denied only by those, who are themselves strangers to these studies. The repetition of this remark, at the present time, calls upon us for an act of justice toward a distinguished individual of our own country, with respect to whom, on a former occasion, we inconsiderately gave currency to an error. In a light article in our number for April 1821, we quoted, with assent, the suggestion of the writer then under review,' that the late Dr Rush would not have written against the utility of the learned languages, had he not himself been ignorant of them.' Review of Mr Barrett's Grammar.


Whatever judgment we entertained of the Essay against the utility of these languages, from the pen of this distinguished philosopher, there is no reason for charging him with ignorance of these languages. Few men probably, on the contrary, actively engaged in professional pursuits, have been more familiar with languages, than Dr Rush. Besides being at home in the French, he read Spanish and Italian, with ease; and had made all that acquaintance, with the Latin and Greek, which can be formed by the careful study of them, begun in early life and never remitted. In his youthful days, Dr Rush was under the care of some of the best of the ante-revolutionary teachers, many of whom, in all parts of our country, have left a reputation not yet eclipsed by their successors, notwithstanding the general improvements in school education. At the university of Edinburgh, he still kept up his study of the languages. Dr Ramsay has particularly applauded the latinity of his thesis, with the caution that it was not the work of one of that class of literary artisans, at the capital of Scotia, who still hold out, against the express words of Ecclesiastes, and are far from ceasing because they are few. One of the earliest of Dr Rush's performances was a translation of the Aphorisms of Hippocrates, which no young physician would have undertaken, without a respectable familiarity with Greek. Notwithstanding the theories of his subsequent years, we are well informed that Dr Rush continued to the last, to draw more frequently on the classics, even in conversation, for embellishment or illustration, than is usual among merely professional men, and that he retained his recollection, particularly of the Latin poets, undiminished to the last. We have been at pains to make these statements, as we regard it our first duty to cherish the fame of our distinguished countrymen, and should esteem ourselves signally unfaithful to the public, could we acquiesce, still more could we share, in an injury done to an honorable name.

To return to our author; we have time to notice but one more of his Essays, that on 'duelling;' with regard to which he adopts an opinion, not usual with writers on the subject, and is disposed to think the practice of use to society. After urging, with sufficient ingenuity, the arguments on this side of the question, often heard in conversation, he closes his Essay, with the following remarks:

'Besides the preceding considerations, which are common to the whole civilized world, there are some which are peculiarly applicable to ourselves, and which will not be disregarded by those who are not content with first appearances, and who are not indifferent to the interests of their country in a distant futurity. Nations, in their progress towards wealth and refinement, are in danger of becoming enervated, and of losing with their ferocity, that courage and energy of character which are essential to their defence. The sense of honor, however, is found to supply their place; and, when aided by discipline, to make every modern civilized nation, however luxurious, an over match for any savage nation, however fierce and brave. Should we not be careful, then, how we weaken that sentiment which contributes so largely towards national security? And this the rather, because, insulated as we are from the rest of the world, we are not likely to be often involved in war, so that the military spirit may go to decay among us, for want of occasions to exercise it; and after a long period of time, having neither foreign wars nor sufficient causes of internal rivalship, to call forth our energies, we may gradually sink into supineness, and either become a tempting object of attack to military enterprize or defend ourselves from subjugation, by the jealous and unsocial policy of the Chinese. If this view of our situation be correct; the practice so vehemently decried, and so liable to partial abuses, may perhaps be regarded as the institution which perpetuates the vestal flame of honor among us; and preserves, in undiminished force and purity, that courage, and courtesy, and generosity, and fidelity to engagements, which our commercial habits, and possibly some of our political institutions have a tendency to weaken. These virtues constitute the real "Corinthian capital" of civilized society, which I trust may exist, as well in a commonwealth of equal citizens, as in a state compounded of different ranks and grades.


The southern states, too, should beware how they hazard the diminution of those elevated and honorable feelings which are supposed to characterize them, and which go so far to redeem them from the reproach for one of their institutions, that has been so lavishly heaped upon them.

Upon the whole, we may say that, should the practice of duelling be deemed instrumental in preserving those virtues which constitute honor, it seems somewhat unreasonable to complain, that half a dozen brave men are sacrificed in a year, for the sake * At least such seems to have been the opinion of Goldsmith, when he says, "Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails,

And honor sinks where commerce long prevails."


of cherishing and maintaining the best features of our national manners, when we feel no hesitation in devoting thousands to destruction, in any petty matter of national dispute.'

This Essay, we are informed in the preface, is among those recently written; but we apprehend that if our author had it now to write, he would hold a different language; and cease to exhort our brethren of the south to cherish the institution of duelling, as redeeming them from the reproach of slavery. Two subjects filled a considerable space in the public attention during the last season, one connected with the subject of slavery, and one with that of duelling, as they exist severally in the southern states. With regard to the first of them, the conduct of the magistrates and citizens of Charleston, on the delicate and trying occasion of the last summer, was marked with every thing, which prudence and humanity could dictate, and will not suffer in the comparison with what has been done, in any important and difficult crisis, in any part or period of our country. One thing only, in reference to this event, which could have been avoided, is matter of regret, that it should have been officially associated with the Missouri question, and that the liberty should have been taken of implicating one of the most distinguished citizens in our country, by tracing any part of the conspiracy to the sentiments expressed by him, when discharging, in the public counsels, his duty as a public servant. But with respect to the event itself-distressing and deplorable as in its nature it may be every thing was done, that could have been asked of high minded, honorable, and merciful men. As to the other of the two events, to which public attention has been drawn the last season, no language is strong enough to express the disdain, with which the public mind has been affected. There is scarce any subject of interest enough to find its way into the public papers, where men do not take sides. A general burst of indignation has in this instance been heard; and any early feeling of partiality, which might have disclosed itself, has been wholly absorbed in the shame and humiliation of the sequel. Till now there was a kind of plausibility in remarks, like our author's, on duelling. Such remarks were often heard in conversation, and it was thought that the public peace was promoted, by subjecting him, who violated it in the article of honor, to this responsibility. In New Series, No. 13.


« PreviousContinue »