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minded Edmund Burke. But, after all, this orator hardly answers to one's conception of a historian. His diction is

a too splendid, and his mind roves too far after the gaudy images of his own fertile conception, to pursue the beaten path of narrative. It is dangerous to say what a great man can do, or to attempt to limit his power ; but it is not, perhaps, superfluous superstition, to express a fear that Burke's history, like Homer's Fame, would not even have walked the ground, without sometimes hiding its head in the clouds.

But never was there a mind, of equal power, less fitted for the task, than that of David Hume. I can imagine Sir Isaac Newton writing novels, in the style of Richardson ; I can imagine Thomas Moore writing pious hymns, as he did, though it must be confessed he makes sad work of it; I can

; imagine Mr. Locke translating the epigrams of Martial ; I can almost imagine Milton, (horresco referens,) writing comedy, in the style of Congreve-I say I can imagine all these things, more easily than I could imagine the supersensuous and high-principled history of England, with all its spiritual lights and shades, falling into the grasp of such an animalized being as David Hume-if it had not actually taken place. What is it? It is the serpent of seduction, crawling beneath the flowers of paradise.

In the first place, his unfitness for the task was seated in the very tissue of his soul. He had no perception of the sublime and beautiful in morals. He could follow the patriot to his agony of glory, and the martyr to his stake, without one touch of sympathy with the generosity of the one, or the devotion of the other. His conception, as well as his heart, seems to have been defective. We often find that men of very imperfect lives, and gross in their pleasures, still preserve a bright apprehension of moral beauty. Thomson, the poet, if his biographers have not been unjust to his memory, was on the whole a luxurious and sensual man, loving a good supper better than the morning landscape, which he so finely describes. However low his pleasures might have been, (and I am afraid they were much lower than we should be willing to remember, while reading the Seasons,) he still preserved in his mind the bright ideal of moral beauty. There was a discord and divorce between his fancy and his heart. But it was not so with Hume. There was a dreadful harmony between them. No glowing forms of spiritual life flitted before his mind ; no high con

man race.

ceptions of man's final destiny and social improvement visited his waking or sleeping dreams. He was the most impassive being that ever crawled among the reptiles of lower life. It was said by Rosseau, that when a man begins to reason, he ceases to feel; and I believe it is strictly true, that when a man begins to reason sophistically, he loses his heart in his sophistry. Hume never seems to sympathize with the selfsacrifices which the patriot makes; he sees men pleading, suffering, dying, in the cause of the best interests of mankind, and never catches one spark of the flame. He puts down, with a caustic satire, some of the most generous hearts that ever beat and bled for the elevation or felicity of the hu

He loves repose ; he wants all things to continue as they were ; he is always ready to make a treaty with bigots and tyrants, on the terms of uti possidetis. Now such a man has abilities, and is fit for something. Let him go and write his metaphysical essays ; let him prove to his own satisfaction, if he can, that it is doubtful whether bread will nourish, or the next morsel of meat, however well killed and cooked, may not prove rank poison ; let him raise his skeptical doubts, until he doubts his own being; and give a skeptical solution of these doubts, until he begins to think he does exist—all this is legitimate quarry for such a mind—but oh, let him not come within the awful limits of English history! It is consecrated ground. There are suns which he never saw, and flowers which he cannot smell. He can scarce write a line, without satirizing the subject, and throwing a deeper satire on his own heart.

In the second place, Hume was, by nature and disposition, a sophist-a race of men who have always existed, but the last men who ought to deal in facts. The sophists are a sort of men, who arose in Greece, and are often alluded to by the best writers of antiquity. A sophist is not a man who, misled by subtleties and the darkness of his own mind, falls into error because he honestly mistakes it for truth. Such a man is the dupe of sophistry. But he is one, who considers words as counters, to prove any sum which he may wish to pass current.

He is one, who has no object but to excite admiration by showing his ingenuity. He purposely chooses the wrong side, and defends it with all the plausibility in his power. A paradox is his delight ; he covets and purloins the robes of truth, only to polish them, and fit them, with the nicest adjustment, to the wen-spotted and distorted limbs of delusion. An idea of the sophist may be obtained from the speeches of Hippias, in the 5th book of the Memorabilia of Xenophon, 4 c. When Hippias came to Athens, Socrates was, as usual, discoursing on moral subjects; and was lamenting that, while every man knew where to send his son to learn to make a shield, or tame a horse, yet it was so very hard to know where to go to learn righteousness. O, said Hippias, laughing and jeering at him, you are sawing on the same old string ; I think I have heard all this before. Yes, said Socrates, and what is worse, O Hippias, when my subject is the same, I always treat it in the same manner, that is, I always use the same arguments to accomplish the same conviction. But you, Hippias, are an original genius. You, I suppose, never support the same truth by the same arguments.

* No, by no means, replied Hippias, I always try to say something new. Πειρώμαι καινόν τι λέγειν αεί. Well, now, said Socrates, let us take a subject most level to our faculties. Suppose, now, a painter were to ask you how big I am, and what is my color and shape. Would you answer one thing at one time, and another at another? Or, suppose an arithmetician were to ask you how much twice five is. Would you say to-day it is ten, and to-morrow fifteen? O, said Hippias, on these subjects, to be sure, 1 always say the same thing. But when I come to the essence of morals, I think I can show you that it is right to vary. Socrates goes on to show him, by irresistible induction, that here, too, truth is immutable. He appeals to the laws of all nations, and especially to the unwritten laws of eternal justice. I quote this, to show, from the mouth of Hippias, the very spirit of a sophist- alov 11—that is his sole object. He is a kind of intellectual rope-dancer, whose only aim is to astonish mankind at the feats he can perform.

Now, this propensity was engraved in the very genius of Hume. It was an impulse, which, though sometimes he tries to suppress it, is always rising to overpower his resolution, and fill the channel of his favorite passion. Now sophistry, on some subjects, is harmless and amusing. It is pleasant to trace the vagaries of the human mind, and to see to what startling conclusions our deductions may lead us. I,

* It will be seen by the Greek scholar, who chooses to consult the original, that my translation is intentionally free.

for my part, never read a novel, with half the interest that I have some of the dialogues of Bishop Berkley, who was a sophist, with an honest heart. But the sophist and the historian are incompatible characters. Facts are plain things; the moment you throw fine-spun speculation around them, they cease to be facts. What a broad, plain, roundabout mind had Thucydides and Xenophon ; and this constitutes their excellence. They seem to talk like an honest witness on the stand in a court of law; and the chief elegance of their language is its simplicity. Hume was a different man; he was used to refining; and if he had tried to be honest, I doubt whether it would have been possible.

The last fault in Hume was, his want of diligence. He had not the spirit of an antiquarian. His mind was too acute and mercurial for that. It is very rare, that a man of genius is a good searcher. Hume differed from Gibbon, in this respect. He supplied, by rapid surmises, the place of that knowledge which only investigation can bestow. It is not my intention to enter into detail ;* but his partial statements and his absurd omissions have, by recent abler writers, been fully exposed.

Yet, after all, there are few books which contain their own confutation more fully than Hume's history. He admits on one page, what would require all his acute powers to reconcile with what he says on another. Thus he says, in drawing the character of Charles the First, that the most malignant scrutiny will find no reason to question his sincerity and good faith. In short, that he was a man who always kept his word. Yet, on another page, he acknowledgest that he only intended to comply with his engagements, as far as he easily could. A fine instance of good faith in a monarch, whose throne might have been preserved, if his people could have had confidence in his keeping his word ! On one page, he laughs at the parliament, " for pretending to handle questions, for which the greatest philosophers, in the tranquillity of retreat, had never been able to find a satisfactory solution.”

But, on another page, we find there never were greater men than the leaders of this very parliament.* Sometimes the people are actually aggrieved, and have reason to suppose their liberties are snatched from them; and anon, these grievances amount to nothing. Sometimes the ancient charters are sufficiently clear in favor of liberty; and then again all pretences to a free constitution are innovations. It is not necessary, here, to enter into the thorny question, so much debated in England, and so useless in this country, whether English liberty can be supported by precedents. I have always supposed, that consulting their ancient statues and precedents, is very much like consulting the ante-nicene fathers, in supporting a doctrine. You are always sure to seek successfully what you are determined to find; and, thanks to God, liberty rests on reason and religion, and not on the parliaments of a half enlightened age. But, however this may be, we lose some of our confidence in the historian who crosses his own track, and admits of facts at war with his own conclusions.

* It is well known, that his history of the Stuarts was written before the previous narrative. He ran it over very hastily-wrote it merely to help out his other work. Cretan against Cretan; Gibbon despatches his critique on Hume in three words : Ingenious, but superficial.

+ See Hist. Great Britain, chap. ii. page 180, London ed. 1769.

Like Buonaparte, Hume's tactics depend on one great manæuvre; and it would be easy to give a recipe for writing history on his plan, which, whenever it is understood, ceases to deceive. Set up an unfounded hypothesis ; then admit half a dozen facts, which overthrow that hypothesis ; and then go on and reason as if the hypothesis must be true, and you were totally unconscious of your own concessions.

For example : the death of Stephen M. Clark, the boy who fired the town of Newburyport, is well known ; and no one, in that vicinity, I suppose, doubts his guilt, or that he was legally and justly executed. Now, suppose I should wish to impress on my readers the conviction that he was unjustly hanged, and should imitate the style of Hume-I should write thus :

It was about this time that this youthful and unfortunate victim was sacrificed to the absurd bigotry and groundless fears of the inhabitants of Newburyport. He was led, a sad and silent spectacle, to the place of execution, in despite of his blooming youth, his fine talents, his enterprising abilities, and the tears and agonies of his afflicted parents and friends. We may venture to say, there has seldom been committed a greater outrage on the feelings of justice and humanity. His guilt is more than doubtful. Indeed, the

* See page 136, London ed. 1769.

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