« PoprzedniaDalej »
vise the repository of his glory-It is to these writers we allude it is these et omnia ejusmodi pecora we would delibe. rately immolate on the altar of detestation, when we complain that our country has been flagitiously defamed. And it is for his spirited and masculine stand against the deluge of obloquy which has flowed from their pens, that Inchiquin is entitled to the gratitude of Americans.
These writers have all visited the new world, have travelled through a part of it, and, if not blinded by prejudice, have beheld it as it is. They have had an opportunity to survey the grandeur of its outline, and the magnificence of its stupendous and imposing features-Its natural productions in all their im. mensity, variety and beauty could not have failed to attract their notice-They have had time, at least before writing they should have taken time, to study the character of its inhabitants, in relation to morals, manners, industry, literature, and civil polity.-They ought to have become perfectly acquainted with the powers and state of cultivation of their minds, the virtues and charities of their hearts, and with all their qualities and endowments whether personal, social, or intellectual, calculated to contribute to the worth and dignity of the individual, the comfort and polish of society, and to the strength, security, and wellbeing of the state. Of all these circumstances, besides a variety of others of minor consideration, it was the indispensable duty of the tourists in question to have acquired an intimate and commanding knowledge, by accurate observation and a series of deliberate attention and study, before they had presumed to offer instruction to the world on the subject of America. Having accomplished this, it was their last, their first, their must sacred duty, to discard from their minds prepossession and prejudice and every consideration that might enlarge or diminish or distort the features of their narrative.
But is it probable that this motley corps of writers (some of whoni were evidently hired and had covenanted to conceal and violate the truth, while others were almost famishing for bread) --Is it probable, we say, that thus circumstanced, these writers submitted to so laborious a system of discipline to prepare themselves for the performanre of the tasks they had in vier?
Did they in a spirit of candour and fidelity make an actual collection of materials for their work? And having made such coltection, were they, while writing, careful to discriminate between the result of observation and the illusions of fancy-the discolourings of prejudice and the dictates of truth? Were they solicitous to represent nature and society truly, as they appeared to the eye of unclouded discernment? Or did they not rather draw the distorted picture from images engendered in their own jaundiced vision and alienated minds? Did they not rather give a dark and disgusting portrait of their own wishes, their own prejudices, their own evil passions and ungenerous feelings, than of nature and society in the western world? After the most attentive perusal of their writings, and a careful comparison of them with every thing around us, we deliberately and firmly believe that they did. We believe that these works exhibit a picture of their authors; we are sure it is not a picture of America.
Let us take a momentary survey of the physical circumstances of the western hemisphere, and judging from the well known laws and immutable principles of nature, say, if the continent of America could have been intended by its Creator to be in any respect inferior to the other quarters of the globe? If we are not deceived, such a survey will convince us, that, as far as appearances are to be trusted, as far as they are to be received as the language of nature, it is stamped with the characters of a decided superiority-characters which announce it to be intended as the place, where the greatness and excellence of man are destined to reach their highest perfection on earth.
In contemplating the mighty fabric of the American continent, we perceive that it greatly surpasses the continents of the old world in the boldness and illimitable extent of its outline. Running from north to south, it feels the influence of four zones, and seems to have meditated the formation of a solid highway from pole to pole. With this intent it shoots its highlands into the vast austral Pacific, far beyond the southernmost extremes of Asia or Africa, while its northern boundary lies concealed in the impassible regions of frost. Nor are its internal features less stupendous and magnificent than its external dimensions,
Its mountains are more gigantic, its. rivers more majestic and extensive, and its lakes by far more numerous and spacious, than any thing the eastern hemisphere can boast. Corresponding to these in magnitude and grandeur are its natural productions. The richness, depth, and majesty of an American forest are unparalleled in any other quarter of the globe. The same thing is true with regard to our vegetable kingdom in general, For variety, beauty, and excellence it is without a rival. So exuberant are our mines of the precious metals, that compared to them the mines of other countries shrink into poverty and dwindle to a
Our climate, though in some places variable and subject to extremes, is in other parts equable, mild, and delightful. And on the score of health, though we will not assert that we surpass the countries of the old world, yet, were the present a proper occasion for engaging in the enterprize, we would not shrink from the task of proving by unquestionable documents that we are not inferior to them. This fceble picture, however militant it may be with the pride and partialities of Europe, is notwithstanding true to nature.
Is the new world, then, in all respects equal--in most points, superior to the old, in beauty, grandeur, and excellence, and does it sustain such a blot in its chief glory, the character of its inhabitants? Has it come from the hand of nature, the chef d'æuvre of her power and skill, to be peopled only by a race of men but half made up-a race belittled and degraded, profligate and rude? Has it been made, in many parts, but little less than a terrestrial paradise, that it might be occupied and half cultivated only by a description of human beings but little supcrior in their standing to brutes? Is its natural scenery striking, romantic, picturesque and bold? And cannot this, as in other countries, elevate the human mind to a corresponding level, and imprint on it somewhat of a corresponding character? Is the sun in his passage over the Atlantic shorn of his beams? Can he not infuse into the souls of Americans as liberal a portion of his ethereal fire as he imparts to the inhabitants of the old world? Is not the serene heaven, the pure elastic air of the new world as likely to cherish the infant spark and ultimately evolve the frame of genius, as the liazy sky and foggy atnro
sphere of Britain, and certain parts of the continent of Europe? Are not many tracts of country in America mountainous, rugged and healthful-alpine in appearance, alpine in character? And are not these capable, as elsewhere, of producing and nourishing an alpine race ?-A race of inen active, hardy, vigorous, and intrepid ?--Free and ethereal minded themselves, formed to become the soldiers and guardians of freedom to others? Have we within, and contiguous to, the new world, rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans of unparalleled extent? And must not these as in other places, engender, have they not already engendered, all the unshrinking hardihoodi and dauntless enterprize of maritime adventure? Have we not, through the medium of commerce, an extensive and unrestrained intercourse with the most civilized, polished, and cultivated nations of the world? And must we not hence become assimilated to them in manners? Must we not become master of their learning, their knowledge, their refinements and all their improvements that are worthy of adoption?-Will not vigour of mind and vigour of body smens sana in corpore sano”—will not also cultivation of intellect, manners and taste, spring from the same sources in the west as in the east? Are the laws of nature so far suspended or perverted in relation to the new world, that the same causes which are effective elsewhere prove inoperative here-or, if they act at all, produce only effects inferior or opposite? Either these glaring inconsistencies, these palpable contrarieties in the operations of nature--these manifest deviations from her uniforn principles of action, must occur in the continent of America, or else the man of the west is physically and morally on a level with the inhabitant of the east--the natives of the new world with the natives of the old. For we repeat, that as far as the whole range of physical causes can be operative in the production of human excellence whether corporeal or mental, our own country may proudly challenge a comparison with any other inhabited section of the globe. To this not even ancient Greece, the once famed nursery of all that is elegant in form, marvellous in strength, daring in spirit, and exalted in intellect, presents an exception. So much, then, for physical and first principles, according to the fairest interpretation of which Ameri,
cans, instead of being constitutionally a race of degraded mortals, are second to no people that have ever existed in their chance for attaining the summit of human perfection. It will, , we trust, appear hereafter, that the tendency of most other causes, whether national or local, moral or political, to which we are subject, is to rear us to the same elevated standing. But to return to the Letters of Inchiquin.
These Letters are eight in number. The first four, though in no ordinary degree entertaining, and necessary to complete the fabric of the work, are notwithstanding greatly inferior to those that follow. Indeed like a well written and orthodox tragedy, the interest and real importance of the piece rise by degrees till we are conducted to the close. The judicious reader, therefore, who is pleased with the first part of the performance, will be delighted with the last.
The general purport of the four first letters is, to exhibit a view striking and practical of national attachments and national prejudices--to make manifest the tendency of the amor patriæ to bind men to the land of their fathers and kindred, even in the midst of privations, dangers, and distresses, and to demonstrate in them the existence of a disposition to under-rate and disparage other countries, though superior to their own in every possible point of comparison. But the particular intention of these four letters, and that with which we are, at present, more immediately concerned, is to present to the reader a living picture of some of the gross errors under which Europeans labour, and the unwarrantable prejudices which they consequently cherish, in relation to America.
With this twofold object in view, and keeping his eye fixed on these never-failing springs of national sentiment and affection, Inchiquin represents his correspondents from France as hot only attached to their native, soil, but glorying in their birthright, and giving a decided and proud preference over every other to the state of things in that devoted country. Even the Conscription itself, the most galling and oppressive establishment that the spirit of mischief in hostility to man, ever devised and put in operation, is spoken of in terms of approbation and applause. In the hands of Napoleon, who is extravagantly, yet