Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

never can attain, for they follow and cling to her like verdure
and lilies and date-trees over the Nile, as, scattering blessings,
she rolls steadily along in majesty and usefulness, adorning and
redeeming the desert of life. Then would be find the true
application of the Shawnee's legend, that Protestantism is
Mowis; -
“Mowis, the bridegroom of snow, who won and wedded a maiden,

But, when the morning came, arose and passed from the wigwam,
Fading and melting away and dissolving into the sunshine,
Till she beheld him no more, though she followed far into the

forest." And when he has found that, let him apply to himself the farewell warning he gives to Churchill :

66

Stay, stay the present instant !
Imprint the marks of wisdom on its wings!
0, let it not elude thy grasp, but, like
The good old patriarch upon record,
Hold the fleet angel fast until he bless thee ! ”

Art. IV. - Conversations of an Old Man and his Young

Friends. No. I.

F. I HAVE been told that your views on most subjects were not always what they now are. My father says he has known you when you boasted of being a liberalist in politics and in religion, when you professed yourself a firm believer in the progress of the race, and were really a man of the modern world, sympathizing with humanity, and foremost in the various socialist movements of the day.

B. I did not, as a young man, differ much from most young men of ardent temperaments, lively sensibilities, generous impulses, and little practical knowledge ; I said and did a great many foolish things.

C. You will hardly persuade your young friends that it is foolish to sympathize with our kind, to feel that every man is our brother, to plead for the wronged, and to devote ourselves heart and soul to the progress of liberty, and the melioration of society, especially of the poorer and more numerous classes.

B. We are, till after long and sometimes bitter experience, the dupes of words and phrases. It is not difficult to disguise mischievous purposes in fine words; it is also easy, in pursuing even a laudable object, to say and do a great many foolish things. It may be very laudable to fell a tree that cumbers the ground, or hides our prospect, but not very wise to attempt to do it by climbing up and beginning at the top. It is rather foolish to cut off the branch on which we must stand. We may fall and break our necks, and not accomplish our purpose after all.

G. By which you would admonish us that our ends are not necessarily good because we express them in fine phrases, and that even good ends are wisely sought only by appropriate and adequate means?

B. Precisely, my young friend. Schiller's Marquis of Posa bids us remember, when we are old, the dreams of our youth. Some follow his direction, and remain ignorant in spite of experience. Others do not. It is not, as you youngsters suppose, that we harden with age, grow cold and selfish, and cease to interest ourselves in the welfare of others ; it is that we profit by experience, and that a wider survey of men and things, a deeper insight into the springs of human action, individual and social, enable us to see what we proposed in the ardor of youth is seldom desirable, and when desirable, seldom practicable. Youth deals mostly in generals, and rarely descends to particulars. The evils which afflict the individual and society spring chiefly from moral causes, from inordinate desires, and unrestrained passions. The methods of amelioration which our young enthusiasm proposes appeal exclusively to these for their support, and can only strengthen them, and aggravate the evils we seek to remove.

0. Pardon me, but I am a little impatient at the outcry which even you do not disdain to echo against human nature. I have never been able to see any truth or justice in this perpetual admonition to restrain our feelings and subdue our passions. The moralist seems to me to make himself the accomplice of the despot.

c. All our native instincts, unperverted feelings, and generous sentiments are for liberty. They lead us to resist the tyrant, and where they have free scope, tyranny can never gain a permanent establishment. The tyrant would repress them,

annihilate them, so that we may have no spirit or disposition to rebel against him. It is the fox preaching to the geese, the wolf to the lamb.

B. All very spiritedly said, my young friends ; but it is nothing very novel. I have in the course of my life said as much, and a great deal more. All authority appears to us in youth very hateful. We see not its reason or necessity, and we fancy that it only creates the crimes that it punishes. I thought my mother was exceedingly tyrannical, when she gave me, tben a boy some four or five years old, a severe whipping for telling a lie. I have lived long enough to thank her for that whipping over and over again; for it impressed indelibly upon my memory this important lesson, - If you speak at all, speak the truth. Indeed, all authority that restrains us, or hinders us from doing whatever we wish, seems to us tyrannical. Tyranny is always odious, and so we conclude that we ought to be freed from all restraint, and at liberty to follow our inclinations. Since our inclinations, instincts, feelings, passions, resist whatever resists them, we conclude that they are intrinsically opposed to tyranny, and that whoever would restrain them is a tyrant, deserving of universal execration. God, indeed, gives us no faculties that it is unlawful to exercise - in a lawful manner, and he requires the physical destruction of no element of that nature which he has created. All the several elements of our nature may be exercised, but they are to be exercised in the order the Creator intended, in due subordination, the lower to the higher ; or, in other words, order and harmony are to be maintained in the bosom of the individual, and between individual and individual, and you will need very little experience of practical life to learn that this is impossible without authority and self-denial. We see not this at first, but gradually it dawns on our minds, and by and by becomes clear to us, and from hot-headed radicals, clamoring for liberty, seeking the elevation of mankind and social progress by removing all restraints, and giving loose reins to appetite and passion, we become sober conservatives, insisting upon submission to authority, obedience to law, as the first lesson to be taught, and the first to be learned.

F. I do not object to all authority ; for one needs not to have lived long to be aware that order is desirable, and that it is not possible, without authority of some sort, to maintain it. But I want order with liberty, not order without liberty.

0. The authority should be reasonable, and govern by NEW SERIES. – VOL. IV. No. I.

12

appeals to reason, not by a resort to physical force, as if man were a brute.

B. I am not learned in such matters, but I have heard it stated, that man combines in his animal nature the distinctive traits of every species of animal with which we are acquainted. Certain it is, that he has an animal nature distinct from his rational nature, and that he is often beastly in his habits, and brutish in his conduct. It is not seldom that it is necessary to treat him as a wild colt or an unruly ox. Physical force is frequently the only force that can restrain him, and corporal chastisement the only argument he is able to appreciate. The fine sentimentalisms now so common are very becoming in the young men and maidens who delight in them. One is rarely pleased to see an old head upon young shoulders. I am always afraid of a very wise youth. It is unnatural, almost monstrous. I am never displeased to hear the young and inexperienced protest against the use of the rod, and, in their sprightly way, maintain that parents and magistrates should always govern by moral suasion, — by love. It carries me back to my own spring-time of life, before I had dreamed the support for virtue which the sentiments afford is very precarious, or how hard it is, even when one's reason is fully convinced, to resist passion, or to overcome inveterate habits. Parents and magistrates should, unquestionably, govern by love, but love, if worthy of the name, is far more an affection of the rational than of the sensitive nature. It is often the highest proof of love the parent can give, to chastise his child, and the prince would show little love to his subjects, and have little claim to be called the father of his people, if he should do nothing to protect the innocent, and to repress crime by punishing the guilty.

F. I think authority, whether parental or civil, relies too little on moral power. The parent would succeed better if he would pay more respect to the reason of the child, and the prince would have less occasion to resort to physical force, if he would be more ready to treat his subjects as reasonable beings.

0. I would have authority appeal always to reason and affection. We obey cheerfully and readily, when we obey from conviction and love.

B. Authority is bound to be reasonable, and has no right to exact any thing contrary to reason or justice. Yet whatever legitimate authority commands must be presumed to be reasonable, till the contrary is established, and whether we see its reasonableness or not, it is ours to obey for conscience' sake. As long as it commands nothing contrary to the law of God, its commands are binding upon us, and cannot be lawfully disregarded. Authority is under no obligation to reason with its subjects, and I have seldom seen good come from its attempts to set forth the reasons of its acts. The parent who reasons with his child usually wastes his breath. He who is so unreasonable as to demand what is not reasonable, will seldom prove himself a good reasoner. The reasons can rarely be given, because they for the most part surpass the child's comprehension.

When my eldest son was born, I entertained the doctrine contended for by my young friends. My child was never to be crossed, no restraint was ever to be placed upon his will or inclination; I would use only moral suasion, and induce him to conform to my wishes by simple appeals to his reason and affection. It did not occur to me that moral suasion can have little efficacy with a child not yet capable of moral action. I tried, however, to carry out my theory. I soon found that it was founded in sheer ignorance, and, if practicable at all, could be so only by having two or three grown persons of extraordinary natural endowments, and rare accomplishments, whose sole business it should be to attend upon one child. I learned that, though affection in a child is early developed, and is never to be disregarded, yet it is seldom, if ever, sufficient to enable him to resist the ten thousand temptations he has to do what his own preservation requires bim not to do. He must be restrained long before he can in any possible way understand the reason of the restraint. Even when sufficiently advanced to understand it, in some measure, it is not enough to induce him to practise the requisite self-denial. My experience taught me that long moral lectures have as little effect on children as they usually have on grown people. A word, a proper word, in the proper tone, at the proper time, is useful ; beyond, the fewer words we use the better. The child must be made to obey, and obey because his father bids. “I your father bid," is the only proper reason to address to a child, at least till the habit of obedience is well formed. Taking care to be uniformly reasonable, just, and kind, the parent will have, in ordinary cases, rarely occasion to resort to coercion ; but sometimes, let him do the best he can, he will find the rod indispensable.

Men are but children of a larger growth, and are always in

« AnteriorContinuar »