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than the law of his own mind. It is nearly at the same season that he arrives at the period of puberty, at the stature, and in a certain degree at the strength, which he is destined to attain. He is by general consent admitted to be at years of discretion.
Though I have put all these things together, they do not, in the course of nature, all come at the same time. It is a memorable period, when the ingenuous youth is transferred from the trammels of the schoolmaster to the residence of a college. It was at the age of seventeen that, according to the custom of Rome, the youthful citizen put on the manly gown, and was introduced into the forum. Even in college-life, there is a difference in the privileges of the mere freshman, and of the youth who has already completed the first half of his period in the university.
The season of what may be denominated the independence of the individual, is certainly in no small degree critical. A human being, suddenly emancipated from a state of subjection, if we may not call it slavery, and transported into a state of freedom, must be expected to be guilty of some extrava. gancies and follies. But upon the whole, with a small number of exceptions, it is creditable to human nature, that we take this period of our new powers and immunities with so much sobriety as
The young man then, calls to mind all that he imagined at an earlier season, and that he promised himself. He adds to this the new lights that he has since obtained, and the nearer and more distinct view that he has reached, of the realities of life. He recollects the long noviciate that be served to reach this period, the twenty years that he passed in ardent and palpitating expectation ; and he resolves to do something worthy of all he had vowed and had imagined. He takes a full survey of his stores and endowments; and to the latter, from his enthusiasm and his self-love, he is morally sure to do justice. He says to himself, “ What I purpose to do will not be achieved to-day. No; it shall be copious, and worthy of men's suffrage and approbation. But I will meditate it; I will sketch a grand outline; I will essay my powers in secret, and ascertain what I may be able to effect.” The youth, whose morning of life is not utterly abortive, palpitates with the desire to promote the happiness of others, and with the desire of glory.
We have an apt specimen of this in the first period of the reign of Nero. The historians, Tacitus in particular, have treated this with too much incredulity. It was the passion of that eminent man to indulge in subtleties, and to find hidden meanings in cases where in reality every thing is plain. We must not regard the panegyric of Seneca, and the devotion of Lucan to the imperial stripling, as unworthy of our attention. He was declared emperor before he had completed the eighteenth year of his age. No occasion for the exhibition of liberality, clemency, courtesy or kindness escaped him. He called every one by his name, and saluted all orders of men. When the senate shewed a disposition to confer on him peculiar honours, he interposed; he said, “Let them be bestowed when I have deserved them b.” Seneca affirms, that in the first part of his reign, and to the time in which the philosopher dedicated to him his treatise Of Clemency, he had “shed no drop of blood.” He adds, “ If the Gods were this day to call thee to a hearing, thou couldst account to them for every man that had been intrusted to thy rule. Not an individual has been lost from the number, either by secret practices, or by open violence. This could scarcely have been, if thy good dispositions had not been natural, but assumed. No one can long personate a character. A pretended goodness will speedily give place to the real temper; while a sincere mind, and acts prompted by the heart, will not fail to go on from one stage of excellence to another d.”
The philosopher expresses himself in raptures on that celebrated phrase of Nero, Would I had never learned to write! “An exclamation," he studied, not uttered for the purpose of courting popularity, but bursting insuppressibly from thy lips, and indicating the vehemence of the struggle between the kindness of thy disposition and the duties of thy office."
" Suetonius, Nero, cap. 10. • De Clementia, Lib. I, cap. 11. a De Clementia, cap. 1.
• Ibid., Lib. II, cap. 1.
How many generous purposes, what bright and heart-thrilling visions of beneficence and honour, does the young man, just starting in the race of life, conceive! There is no one in that period of existence, who has received a reasonable education, and has not in his very nonage been trod down in the mire of poverty and oppression, that does not say to himself, “Now is the time, and I will do something worthy to be remembered by myself and by others.” Youth is the season of generosity. He calls over the catalogue of his endowments, his attainments, and his powers, and exclaims, “ To that which I am, my contemporaries are welcome ; it shall all be expended for their service and advantage.
With what disdain he looks at the temptations of selfishness, effeminate indulgence, and sordid gain! He feels within himself that he was born for better things. His elders, and those who have already been tamed down and emasculated by the corrupt commerce of the world, tell him, “ All this is the rhapsody of youth, fostered by inexperience ; you will soon learn to know better ; in no long time you will see these things in the same light in which we see them.” But he despises the sinister prognostic that is held out to him, and feels proudly conscious that the sentiments that now live in his bosom, will continue to animate him to his latest breath.
Youth is necessarily ingenuous in its thoughts, and sanguine in its anticipations of the future. But the predictions of the seniors I have quoted, are unfortunately in too many cases fulfilled. The outline of the scheme of civil society is in a high degree hostile to the growth and maturity of human virtue. Its unavoidable operation, except in those rare cases where positive institutions have arrested its tendency, has been to divide a great portion of its members, especially in large and powerful states, into those who are plentifully supplied with the means of luxury and indulgence, and those who are condemned to suffer the rigours of indigence.
The young man who is born to the prospect of hereditary wealth, will not unfrequently feel as generous emotions, and as much of the spirit of selfdenial, as the bosom of man is capable of conceiving. He will say, What am I, that I should have a monopoly of those things, which, if “well dispensed, in unsuperfluous, even proportion,” would supply the wants of all? He is ready, agreeably to the advice of Christ to the young man in the Gospel, to “ sell all that he has, and give to the poor," if he could be shewn how so generous a resolution on his part could be encountered with an extensive conspiracy of the well-disposed, and rendered available to the real melioration of the state of man in society. Who is there so ignorant, or that has lived in so barren and unconceiving a tract of the soil of earth, that has not his tale to tell of the sublime emotions and the generous purposes he