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The profession you have chosen, and so honorably pursued to distinction, has been favorable for the study of human nature; but it seldom happens, in this busy age, among this mercurial people, that one who has happily caught the lineaments of the P
of the minds about him, can command the requisite time to portray them. I ask you to cast your eyes upon these sketches, in some breath
is inter's—for Sprin lik oor ud suit they have in inem any features of nature, or faithfulness to the relations of society.
With ardent wishes for your health and happi
Your Obliged Friend, and Hum. Ser.,
SAMUEL L. KNAPP.
When the far-famed Talleyrand, now Prince Benevento, was travelling in the United States during the French Revolution, his conversation was considered a philosophical treat by the wise men of our nation. On the affairs of his own country, he conversed like a seer who looked far a-head; but his remarks often excited a smile, when discussing the prospects and character of America. “ The United States," said he, never be a naval power; for there is not oak timber enough in the country to make two ships of the line.” Another of his profound remarks was—“You can never be instructed by poetry or fiction of your own; for by your laws all men are.put upon an equality, and to form differences of character, there must be many acknowledged grades in society.” Timber has, however, been found sufficient for a more extended purpose;
poetry and fiction have commenced a course that has proved the futility of the wise man's remarks. He thought we had no romance in our history: he had never read Hubbard's or Penhollow's Indian Wars. I have stated this, to show that no man can judge of the character of a people, without being well acquainted with their history, however shrewd he might be on general subjects. The foreigner says that there can be but little difference in persons similarly situatedthat for strong features of character, you must go to nations who have hereditary distinctions—nations agitated by avarice, ambition, and thirst of blood-rising, and falling, or dashing against each other with every wave of fortune. It must be confessed, that in such a people you can find more readily incidents to illustrate the character you attempt to exhibit
, than in a quiet community. It is not in the difference of pursuits, but in the elements of character, that contrasts and peculiarities are seen. The Apostles, who followed one Master in the same great cause, exhibited the greatest variety of disposition and temper.
It may seem tame to those heated by fictions of other lands, in which the worst of crimes are set in the strongest lights—where murders by dagger and bowl are found in every legend-to trace the lines of nature and truth among a moral, quiet, and industrious people; but he who examines human nature closely, will find that there is a greater variety in the latter than in the former state of society. Courtiers are all of one class; the avaricious and ambitious are governed by a few strong impulses; and all know, that whatever may be the component parts of a mob, its spirit is violent and vindictive ; but when every one is under the guidance of his own reason, infinite varieties of thought and action shoot out for examination.
A healthy appetite in literary matters is taking place of a literary dispepsia, which has deranged us for a long time. Such novels as Lewis's Monk now give place to the Vicar of Wakefield, and the day of simplicity is dawning. I could have found subjects of greater interest in the history of my country ; but I have left those for others to expatiate upon, and seized these found in the common pathway of life.
Our primitive fathers are subjects not yet exhausted, or in fact hardly touched upon. The red men, strange as it may seem, have taken precedence of them: but no matter; the habits—the feelings—the moral and religious character of our forefathers will, in the end, yield to no other topic.
If we look carefully into what is called a heroic age, we shall find that the deeds of the sword are transient, unless embalmed by the pen. The record that a light
. was kindled, lives longer than the light itself. No one man can do much for a nation's fame; that must be built up as the monument to Kosciusko's memory
in Poland, where, to accomplish the great object of creating a pyramid, every citizen threw a stone on the pile. He who describes his own country must depend on his own countrymen for a favorable reception of his works, for foreigners in general cannot fairly judge of their merits. If we have the same language as is spoken in England, our manners and habits are essentially our own, and have grown out of the peculiarities of our situation. Englishmen have written clear histories of us, but they cannot seize the traits of individual character. We see imitations of Buckskin and Yankee characters, and your Nimrod Wildfires of the West : but a shrewd observer will at once see that they are not true to nature, but caricatures of those they intend to represent. If these imitations were closely examined, the ignorance of the writers would be as easily detected as that of an English sailor impressed to serve in the West India squadron, who insisted that he was an American born citizen, and fixed the place of his birth at Marble-head--a town famed for being the cradle of oceanheroes. He was thought to be an American citizen by his examiners, until Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin called
“Well, my lad, if you were born in Marblehead,” said he, "you can tell me of what materials the steps of the bishop's palace are composed.” “Why, of marble,” was the reply!