« PrécédentContinuer »
nor yet the soil beneath our feet and the skies over our heads, that constitute our country. It is its freedom, equality, justice, greatness, and glory. Who among us is so low as to be insensible of an interest in them? Four hundred thousand natives of other lands every year voluntarily renounce their own sovereigns, and swear fealty to our own. Who has ever known an Amĕrican to transfer his allegiance permanently to a foreign power? 6. The spirit of the laws, in any country, is a true index to the morals of a people, just in proportion to the power they exercise in making them. Who complains here or elsewhere, that crime or immorality blots our statute-books with licentious enactments? The character of a country's magistrates, legislators, and captains, chosen by a people, reflects their own. It is true that in the earnest canvassing which so frequently recurring elections require, suspicion often follows the magistrate, and scandal follows in the footsteps of the statesman. Yet, when his course has been finished, what magistrate has left a name tarnished by corruption, or what statesman has left an act or an opinion so erroneous that decent charity can not excuse, though it may disapprove? What chieftain ever tempered military triumph with so much moderation as he who, when he had placed our standard on the battlements of the capital of Mexico, not only received an offer of supreme authority from the conquered nation, but declined it?
7. The manners of a nation are the outward form of its inner life. Where is woman held in so chivalrous respect, and where does she deserve that eminence better? Where is property more safe, commercial honor better sustained, or human life more sacred? Moderation is a virtue in private and in public life. Has not the great increase of private wealth manifested itself chiefly in widening the circle of education and elevating the standard of popular intelligence? With forces which, if combined and directed by ambition, would subjugate this continent at once, we have made only two very short wars-the one confessedly a war of defence, and the other ended by paying for a peace and for a domain already fully conquered.
8. Where lies the secret of the increase of virtue which has thus been established? I think it will be found in the entire emancipation of the consciences of men from either direct or indirect control by established ecclesiastical or political systems.
Religious classes, like political parties, have been left to compete in the great work of moral education, and to entitle themselves to the confidence and affection of society, by the purity of their faith and of their morals.
9. I am well aware that some, who may be willing to adopt the general conclusions of this argument, will object that it is not altogether sustained by the action of the government itself, however true it may be that it is sustained by the great action of society. I can not enter a field where truth is to be sought among the disputations of passion and prejudice. I may say, however, in reply first, that the governments of the United States, although more perfect than any other, and although they embrace the great ideas of the age more fully than any other, are, nevertheless, like all other governments, founded on compromises of some abstract truths and of some natural rights.
10. As government is impressed by its constitution, so it must necessarily act. This may suffice to explain the phenomenon complained of. But it is true, also, that no government ever did altogether act out, purely, and for a long period, all the virtues of its original constitution. Hence it is that we are so well told by Bolingbroke,' that every nation must perpetually renew its constitution or perish. Hence, moreover, it is a great excellence of our system, that sovereignty resides, not in Congress and the President, nor yet in the governments of the States, but in the people of the United States. If the sovereign be just and firm and uncorrupted, the governments can always be brought back from any aberrations, and even the constitutions themselves, if in any degree imperfect, can be amended. This great idea of the sovereignty of the people over the government glimmers in the British system, while it fills our own with a broad and glowing light. SEWARD.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, son of Dr. Samuel S. Seward, of Florida, Orange County, New York, was born in that village on the 16th of May, 1801. He cu
Henry St. John Viscount Bolingbroke, an orator, statesman, and philosophical essayist, was born at Battersea, in Surrey, England, in 1672. He was educated at Eton and Oxford. St. John entered parliament in 1701, and was successively secretary of war and secretary of state. He
was elevated to the peerage in 1712. Unfortunately, none of the speeches delivered by him in either house have been preserved, though they are reported to have been very brilliant. He died in 1751, and a complete edition of his works, in five volumes, appeared soon after.
tered Union College in 1816. After completing his course with distinguished honor, he studied law at New York with John Anthon, and afterward with John Duer and Ogden Hoffman. Soon after his admission to the bar he commenced practice in Auburn, New York, where he married in 1824. He rose rapidly to distinction in his profession. In 1828 he first took a prominent part in politics, when he labored for the reelection of John Quincy Adams to the presidency. He became a member of the State Senate in 1830, where he remained for four years. He made a tour in Europe, of a few months, in 1833, during which he wrote a series of letters, which were published in the "Albany Evening Journal." He was elected governor of the State by the whig party in 1838; reelected in 1840; but in 1842, declining a renomination, retired to the practice of his profession. He was chosen United States senator in 1849, by a large majority; and, on the expiration of his term in 1855, he was reelected to the same body. When Mr. Lincoln became president, Mr. Seward was appointed secretary of State. In 1853 an edition of his works was published in New York, in three octavo volumes, containing his speeches in the State and national Senate, and before popular assemblies, with his messages as governor, his forensic arguments, miscellaneous addresses, letters from Europe, and selections from his public correspondence. His writings and speeches are models of correct composition; their grammatical construction, rhetorical finish, and accurate arrangement, rendering them well-nigh faultless. Though not remarkable for oratory, his classic style, his perfect self-control, his truthful manner, his uncommon sense, and his thorough knowledge of the leading questions of the day, command the attention and admiration of the hearer. The above extract is from his address at Yale College, 1854.
166. TO A SKYLARK.
AIL to thee, blithe spirit!-bird thou never wert,— That from heaven, or near it, pourèst thy full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
2. Higher still, and higher, from the earth thou springèst Like a cloud of fire; the blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost (dust) söar, and soaring ever, singèst.
3. In the golden lightening of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are brightening, thou dost float and run,
4. The pale purple even melts around thy flight: Like a star of heaven, in the broad daylight Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight.
5. Keen are the arrows of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows in the white dawn clear Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there. 6. All the earth and air with thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare, from one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed. 7. What thou art we know not what is most like thee? From rainbow clouds there flow not drops so bright to see, As from thy presence showers a rain of melody. 8. Like a poet hidden in the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden, till the world is wrought
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower.
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view. 11. Like a rose embowered in its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered, till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves. 12. Sound of vernal showers on the twinkling grass, Rain-awakened flowers, all that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.
13. Teach us, sprite or bird, what sweet thoughts are thine : I have never heard praise of love or wine That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
14. Chorus hymenĕ'al, or triumphal chant,
Matched with thine would be all but an empty vauntA thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want. 15. What objects are the fountains of thy happy strain? What fields, or waves, or mountains? what shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain? 16. With thy clear keen joyance languor can not be: Shadow of annoyance never came near thee:
Thou lovèst; but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.
17. Waking or asleep, thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream? 18. We look before and after, and pine for what is not :
Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught :
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. 19. Yet if we could scorn hate, and pride, and fear; If we were things born not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever could come near. 20. Better than all measures of delight and sound,
Better than all treasures that in books are found,
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, a poet of admirable genius, the son and heir of a wealthy baronet in Sussex, England, was born in that county in 1792. He was educated first at Eton, and afterward at Oxford, where he studied hard, but irregularly; incessantly speculated, thought, and read; became entangled in metaphysical difficulties, and, at the age of seventeen, published, with a direct appeal to the heads of the colleges, a pamphlet entitled "The Necessity of Atheism." He was immediately expelled; and his friends being disgusted with him, he was cast on the world a prey to the undisciplined ardor of youth and passion. At the age of eighteen he printed his poem of "Queen Mab," in which singular poetic beauties are interspersed with many speculative absurdities. Shortly after this he married a young woman of humble station in life, which completed his alienation from his family. After a tour on the continent, during which he visited some of the most magnificent scenes of Switzerland, he settled near Windsor Forest, where he composed his poem, Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude," which contains descriptive passages excelled by none of his subsequent works. His domestic unhappiness soon after induced him to separate from his wife, and the unhappy woman destroyed herself. This event subjected him to much misrepresentation, and by a decree of chancery he was deprived of the guardianship of his two children, on the ground of immorality and atheism. Not long after his wife's death he married the daughter of Godwin, authoress of "Frankenstein," and other novels. They resided for a few months in Buckinghamshire, where they made themselves beloved by their charity for the poor. Here he composed the "Revolt of Islam," a poem still more energetic than "Alastor." In the spring of 1818 he and his family removed to Italy, where they at length settled themselves at Pisa. In that country, with health already failing, Shelley produced some of his principal works, in a period of four years. In July, 1822, he was drowned in a storm which he encountered in his yacht on the Gulf of Spezzia. In accordance with his own desire, his body was burned, under the direction of Lord Byron and other friends, and the ashes were carried to Rome and deposited in the Protestant burial-ground, near those of a child he had lost in that city. A complete edition of "Shelley's Poctical Works," with notes by his widow, has been published. The above ode to the Skylark bears, perhaps, as pure a poetical stamp as any of his productions,