« ForrigeFortsett »
The young men of America have a responsibility, which none but a thoughtful mind can fully appreciate. The present is a period of no small interest in the history of this Republic, and it is not rash to say, that this interest is greatly increased in view of the character and training of the youth of the nation. Any effort to place before them worthy motives and ends, in the pursuit and accomplishment of which ambition may have its fullest play, is certainly worthy of regard, whatever may be its results. Books, at the present day, are multiplied without number, yet good books need no apology. To reproduce the thoughts of the master-minds of the past, is no less a good work, than to bring forth gems from the stores of living genius. And there are times when the voice of the past has more influence than the voice of the present. Those who have passed into their graves are generally less the subjects of suspicion than those who now live, and are actively engaged in the world's affairs. Passion and prejudice may shut out the proper weight of the influence of the living, but passion and prejudice tread lightly on the sanctuaries of the dead.
The principles and influences which have conspired to make us what we are, as a nation, ought to be engraven on the tablet of every heart. They belong not to any one generation, nor to a single period of time, but to all generations and all ages. We find those principles put forth and defended by the master-spirits of our own revolutionary period, but the germ we can trace back to the greatest and best minds of our fatherland. There were ties of friendship, no less than of kindred, which endeared the colonies to the mother country, and which led to that noble exposition and defence of our rights, which cannot fail to make us proud of our heritage. The privileges of freemen were discussed in the British Parliament previous to the existence of a Continental Congress, and there is not extant, a more noble defence of those rights, for which our fathers bled, than was there produced. There was a disinterestedness of feeling, noble as was ever manifest, which struggled for the right, and was content thus to struggle, assured that truth, which is ever mighty, must prevail.
While the feelings are raised to their sublimest elevation in the contemplation of the past, it cannot be denied, that they are somewhat depressed in the contemplation of the present. Though liberty be not less dear, ambition is more powerful. Liberty has been cherished around the fireside until it has become a household word, and the most reckless would be loath, to see it depart; but passions and prejudices are suffered to arise and creep in, which tend to subvert it, or make it but an empty name. Those who exercise the least love, manifest the most pretension. There is a standpoint, from which we can calmly look over the ground, and see what it contains. We can know, now, as well as our fathers, the true principles of civil government, and the proper dimensions of human freedom. An eye to the present, will, however, convince us, that the spirit of those fathers is growing less. There is not that pure patriotism which looks only at great principles, which it is desirable, and even necessary, should exist. It seems to be a rule of the times to conform to the circumstances in which one is placed, and not unfrequently, those circumstances call for a most curious warping of principles to meet their demands. The path of the politician is often as wonderfully zigzag as the most difficult ascent of the mountain Alps. This feature of political life is too painfully evident to be overlooked, and too alarmingly frequent not to cause serious apprehensions. So far is it practised by the would-be leaders of both political parties, and by those who sustain them, that a breach of truth is scarcely deemed a breach of propriety. It seems to be taken for granted, that anything which will advance their interests is perfectly legitimate, whatever, in other respects, may be its character or tendency. This is but too true of men and things, as they are at the present day. Their example we cannot but wish the young men of this land to shun, in proportion as we love our country and her institutions. No one can feel indifferent between the choice of that present expediency which would rule, though it eventually ruin, and those pure principles of patriotism which would rule to prevent ruin.
At such a period it cannot fail to be appropriate to reproduce, as it were, the sterling integrity which was exhibited in the time that tried men's souls. There needs this precious influence intermingling with the present, to raise the body politic to a healthier tone.
There must be something of powerful action to expel from the political system those corrupt bumors which otherwise, perchance, may generate disease beyond the help of physical skill. To this end there must be a healthful education of the young men of the land. Present success must not be allowed to triumph over right, and the universal good. We have an illustration of this truth in the councils of the British King during our struggle for independence. It was there thought that the resources of the nation were sufficient to compel submission, whether right or wrong. Most truthfully was the result portrayed by her wisest legislators, but royal pride would not be instructed. Repeated insolence led to the shedding of blood, and let loose the god of war. For seven long years did he reign in his wildest fury, but no sooner was he dethroned, and the black clouds which marked his desolating course cleared away, than there was revealed the brightest and happiest of lands.
We may thence learn that power and authority are not always the sure presages of success. If there be a disregard to right, no authority, however potent, shall long succeed. What an admonition to designing men, from every section of our Union, who insist upon sectional interests above the universal good. Had they the power, it would doubtless be used for the prosecution of those interests, and we should soon see civil discords, under which this Republic could not stand. All the boasted rights of a free people would then be exposed to a severer ordeal than fell to the lot of our fathers.
Let designing men take warning, and stay their course ere we come to such a crisis. Who would not choose the fame of Chatham, of Pitt, of Burke, and of Fox, and their triumph too, though in the minority, to that of all who ingloriously opposed them in the defence of our rights, and who would not choose the fame of the instruments of our present blessings, to that fancied glory which some would acquire, though compelled to on the wreck of a nation's greatness. The warm sympathy of every American kindles at the recital of their eloquence, and its last dying echoes seem yet falling upon our ears, and the just indignation of every freeman