Imágenes de páginas

higher degree of moral guilt, and are more corrupting in their tendencies. Open murders and highway robberies are less seductive as examples to young minds, than are successful and lucrative frauds.

When the public and private morals of a nation are in the best condition, indignation is felt towards criminals, and punishment is made adequate. The old English Judge was, perhaps, not far out of the way when he denied the claim of the French to be greater than his own countrymen, and asserted that England was unquestionably superior, because more men were hanged in England in one month than in a whole year in France. Lord Chatham while commending the steel-clad barons of the olden times, declared that he would not give three words of their barbarous Latin for all the classics of the silken barons of his day.

There is with us at present, not only a relaxation of morals, but the very tendency of public discussions as often conducted, seems calculated to lower the tone of the community. Demagogues attempt to palm off on the ignorant portion of their audiences, buffoonery for wit, and by coarse images win the applause of those whom Shakespeare has denominated "barren spectators." They forget that the effect of such counterfeit eloquence is easily removed by the next clown who may chance to come along. Even when public positions are thus won, the officer frequently derives as little credit from his success as the public does advantage. Though Esop's ape, by his antics, carried the day against the fox, and became king of the beasts, yet his reign was neither felicitous to himself nor honorable to his subjects. It is little less discreditable to an officer to disgust the public by his incompetence, than it is for him to be ejected for official corruption.

When, too, the compensation of members of Congress was only onefifth of what it has since been made, there were no charges of bribery against them. As all the great men I have named served at the low rate of compensation, it is idle to pretend that competent men can only be obtained by large salaries. By offering money as the inducement, you catch the avaricious and the greedy. How, then, are we to resist the downward tendency? A mere profession of Christianity will not avail, for the modern Italians do not present us with such examples of heroic fortitude as did the early martyrs. Education undoubtedly shapes the human mind, but all educations are not alike. It required as severe training to render the Spartan content with his black broth, or to induce the Mohawk Indian to travel for weeks on parched corn, as it does in our day to make the finished opera dancer, or the voluptuous fop who imagines himself the perfection of humanity.

When the youth of the country are trained to consider wealth, luxury and refinement as the chief objects of man's existence, are we to be astonished that they do not present us with examples of heroic self-denial and noble patriotism?"Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?" When tares are industriously sown, can the husbandman expect an abundant crop of wheat?

While considering the subject of popular oratory, it is well to remind the young men of the country that those minds that are capable of

retaining impressions permanently, are not to be carried away by mere buffoonery, and recitals from the jest book. The men who are to control the destinies of the country are chiefly to be influenced by appeals to their intelligence and higher moral feelings. Religious movements are impelled by such earnest advocates as Peter the Hermit, Luther, Knox and Wesley; Senates are controlled by the grand eloquence of a Demosthenes, and the lofty appeals of a Chatham. Revolutions are inaugurated and driven forward by the fiery enthusiasm of a Henry or a Mirabeau. Those in our day who seek to advance the welfare of the country and to acquire honor for themselves must select these high models for their imitation. With a purpose to aid such aspirations, I have presented for your consideration the great triumvirate, who sought not power by shedding the blood of their countrymen, but only to occupy the domain of intellect, of eloquence, and of patriotism.





When attempting a compliance with the invitation given me, I am not insensible to the difficulties of the undertaking. Many such views and suggestions as are, at the same time, truthful and appropriate to an occasion like this, have doubtless been presented by previous speakers. By going out into the boundless fields of error and fallacy, one might easily find novelty. Perhaps the utmost that could be hoped for, would be to present just considerations in such a manner as to render them interesting and impressive. Even if, therefore, I should unintentionally repeat something that had already been said by another, your time might not be entirely misspent. The agriculturist finds that it is not sufficient for him to have gone once only over his ground, but that constant effort is necessary to keep in subjection the rebellious forces of nature. So in the intellectual and moral world, to combat adverse influences, true views must be presented and urged from time to time. Unless this be done, the most important facts and principles pass from the human mind.

The effect of sound teaching is, in part, to anticipate experience. If wisdom herself were to speak to-day, you would not, perhaps, be willing to adopt her views. But as a student, who has carefully read the proper books, will by practice rapidly acquire knowledge necessary to make him a first-rate lawyer, so if sound theories are clearly and for

cibly presented to you, the consideration of not many facts will be sufficient to bring your minds to a just conclusion. When a law in mechanics, or chemistry, is stated, a few trials are sufficient to establish its truth, and you are relieved from the necessity of groping in the dark through a multitude of experiments.

In some of the past ages, the mind of man seems to have been regarded as an empty vessel, into which one thing might be put as easily as another. In the monkish period, even if natural propensities and faculties were recognized, it was supposed that they might be eradicated or entirely suppressed We should, in fact, destroy a young vine by striving to press it back into the earth, but its course and form may be easily modified and directed. Instead of the paradox of Bacon, that "you can only govern nature by obeying her laws," I would say, that we only derive advantage from the natural laws when we act in accordance with them.

Our present systems of education are still faulty in this respect: that they do not sufficiently recognize the diversities of the human constitution and intellect. The most stupid wagoner knows that if he bestows as many blows with his whip on the spirited horse as he does on the sluggish one, the finer animal will be destroyed. In like manner, if the boy of quick intellect and nervous excitability is stimulated, instead of being restrained, from the over exercise of his mental faculties, he is liable to be broken down early in life. Many a youth of genius is thus utterly ruined for the want of as much knowledge of his bodily and mental organization as a month's proper study would give him. The same amount of labor which invigorated the robust constitution of Benjamin Franklin, would have destroyed Lord Bacon early in life. Many a young man, after he has sustained irreparable injury, learns, but too late, that which, if earlier known, would have saved him from ruin.

But young gentlemen, you who now stand, as it were, on the threshold of active life, and, like the trained courser, are eagerly waiting the tap of the drum that you may start away on the career which lies before you, I know your thoughts and feelings. You desire to attain. the greatest good, to secure to yourself the largest share of human happiness. Diverse as may be the objects you seek, they are chosen upon the supposition that they are capable of furnishing what you desire. You perhaps believe that there is some one thing, which, if attained, will make you happy. The sooner you dismiss such an illusion, the less your disappointment.

Those who, after acquiring great wealth by their own efforts, have sought merely to enjoy it, avow their complete disappointment, and are usually obliged to re-embark in business. Several wealthy young men, whom I knew in college, afterwards assured me that they would gladly give away all their property, if by so doing they could acquire the capacity for cheerful labor that some others possessed. If man's faculties were as limited as are those of the swine, wealth alone would give him all the happiness of which his nature was capable; but be assured that there is no one thing which can of itself render man happy. The only enjoyment we are capable of is that resulting from

the exercise of some of our faculties. Recall, if you please, every sensation of pleasure you have ever experienced, and you will find it was the result of the exercise of some bodily or mental power. Sometimes it is delightful to use the muscles in walking, dancing, or the canter of a spirited horse. Music, intellectual perceptions, theatrical representations and novel reading, by calling into action, successively, various faculties, furnish us a large number of our most agreeable emotions. The gratification of our animal passions and tastes, and the exercise of the domestic affections, give us many of our greatest enjoyments. There can be no pleasure to humanity except from such


But again, every one of these faculties may be so fatigued by continued exertion, that painful sensations will result. If over-work has been long continued, and the pain has become great, then rest alone. gives high pleasure. Every one knows how delightful it is after a fatiguing walk, merely to lie down. But the most important law of ail in this connection, is usually lost sight of. There can be no high. degree of happiness without previous want. If a man were to resolve that he would live merely for the pleasure of eating, what ought he to do? If he remained at home and ate the finest viands as often as his appetite could bear them, he would find little enjoyment. Clearly it would be of advantage to him to fast for a season. When one has for a time been deprived of food, he will experience more real pleasure from a single meal than he would from a month's regular feeding. The traveler, the hunter, the fisherman, all by their experience, will confirm this truth. How delightful it is, when one has been long suffering from thirst, to take a draught of pure water! You will readily admit that it is true that our animal appetites are easily gorged, but a similar law operates with respect to all our faculties. The finest concert, if indefinitely continued, would become painful. To enjoy greatly the comforts of home, one must have been absent for a time. The sublimity of Milton, and the wit of Hudibras, fatigue us by long continuance.

The law seems to be that we can only derive enjoyment by the alternate exercise and rest of the several faculties. If you desire a high degree of pleasure, you must abstain for a long period. Should you, on the contrary, be satisfied with a low stage of happiness, a sort of vegetable existence, then you may continually call on your faculties. The bow, perpetually bent, expands with little force, and every one may, therefore, decide for himself whether he will take a high enjoyment, with great exertion, or be content with a low state of pleasure, obtained by a languid existence.

But again, all the human faculties must be exercised to insure a healthy condition of the system. If any one piece in the complicated machinery of a steam engine should give way, mischief results, because there is no part of the engine that is not necessary to its successful working. În like manner, there are no useless organs in the human body, or faculties in the mind; and hence, if any one of them were destroyed, injury would result to the constitution as a whole. But, with striking resemblance between the two, there is, for man, an unfor

tunate difference. Even if parts of the steam engine remain at rest, they retain their full strength, but in the case of the man, any one of his organs or faculties, not exercised, loses its power; and hence, the whole system suffers.

It would seem, therefore, that any one who selects an occupation that his judgment approves, ought to have the same chance for happiness in life; but while most persons will admit the truth of such a proposition, there is a constant tendency in the human mind to ignore it. If a man should seek to find an exception to the law of gravity, or to invent perpetual motion, he excites ridicule, because it is clearly seen that there are no exceptions to the physical laws. But men constantly act as though they hoped to find exceptions to the moral laws. Many hug the delusion that distinguished position, high public eminence, will give more happiness than is to be found in the walks of private life. This means to the ambitious American mind that it is well to become a member of Congress, a president, or a distinguished military leader. As so few persons can be thus gratified, it is of the utmost importance that such a delusion should, if possible, be dispelled and countless disappointments be prevented.

During sixteen years, I had in Congress an opportunity of knowing much of the members, and though they were generally men of worth and industry, I am satisfied that their enjoyments were not above those of the average of their fellow-citizens. They usually left public life with the conviction that their labors had brought them neither the thanks of their countrymen nor happiness to themselves. Six of the presidents were personally known to me, and I have no hesitation in saying that of all the public functionaries I ever knew, they were during their terms of office, the least happy. No one else had so much care and vexation, was compelled to labor more incessantly, had so few thanks, or seemed so thoroughly disgusted with his position. Unless they left the office with the consolation that they had done their duty, they were the least fortunate of men. Even in that event they had no advantage over any private citizen who is able to say, I have done my duty honestly through life.

But you may say these were not great men, or they were unlucky, and you may promise yourself something better. Let us then for a moment consider the first Napoleon, unquestionably the most wonderful man of modern times, in the opinion of many, of all times. His extraordinary achievements, his long and brilliant career, are too familiar to need recital. But he led an army into Egypt, and when the clouds of disaster lowered upon him, he secretly abandoned it. He conducted five hundred thousand men in an expedition to Moscow, and leaving them to perish, he again sped back to Paris. At Leipsic, after a decisive defeat, abandoning all to McDonald and Poniatowski, he for the third time fled away. When his star went down forever at Waterloo, leaving his old guard to die for their own honor, a fourth time he carried in person to his capita! the news of his defeat. In all these cases he abandoned the men whom he had led into danger. If one man were to follow you into an enterprise attended with peril, could you desert him and save yourself by flight? Is there one

« AnteriorContinuar »