Слике страница

rible concomitants, in the history of the tribes of Israel; when 66

every man did that which was right in his own eyes ;" when “the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through by-ways*-for fear of the swarms of robbers and murderers that infested the country

In the Heroic Ages, of ancient Greece, there was very little of government or law; mere brutal strength, united with ferocious courage, being the only passport to eminence. The Theseuses and the Herculeses, were renowned and deified for their valorous exploits against robbers.

Not that they were scrupulous of committing robbery and murder; but they were renowned and deified, because they had been the ineans of extirpating a race of banditti more execrable than themselves. The

age of chivalry, in modern Europe, bore a considerable resemblance to the heroic ages of Greece. Chivalry, or knight-errantry, had its origin in the deplorable condition of anarchy in which the countries of Europe were placed. The knights-errant, or roving knights, were professedly the protectors of the weaker part of the community, and particularly of the fair sex; whose champions they pretended to be, and whose ravishers they very often were. The licentiousness of manners, during the anarchial age of chivalry, was, if we may credit the fragments of its history, both general and shockingly enormous.

Even so far forward as the ninth century, there was no public maritime law in Europe ; and in consequence of this lawless condition of the seas, piracy was not only tolerated, but held in honor. The petty sovereigns of the nations upon the Baltic, provided each of their sons with a ship or ships, and enjoined it upon them to make their fortunes by piracy and plunder.

There is an instance comparatively recent, and yet bearing an affinity to those that have been adduced above. Scotland, it is well known, is at present, and long has been, one of the best moralled countries in the world : yet only three centuries since, for want of stable government, it was a land of robbers and ruffians.

*5th chap. of the book of Judges.

Camden, in his Britannia, speaking of the robberies committed by the Scotch Borderers, in the 16th century, says: “They sally out of their own borders in the night, in troups, through unfrequented by-ways, and many intricate windings.--All the day time they refresh themselves and their horses in lurking-holes they had pitched upon before, till they arrive in the dark, at those places they have a design upon.

As soon as they have seized upon the booty, they, in like manner, return home in the night, through blind ways, and fetching many a compass. The

more skilful

any captain is to pass through those wild deserts, crooked turnings, and deep precipices, in the thickest mists and darkness, his reputation is the greater, and he is looked upon as a man of an excellent head. And they are so very cunning, that they seldom have their booty taken from them, unless sometimes, when, by the help of bloodhounds, following them exactly upon their tracks, they may chance to fall into the hands of their adversaries. When being taken, they have so much persuasive eloquence, and so many smooth and insinuating words at command, that if they do not move their judges, nay, even their adversaries (notwithstanding the severity of their natures) to have mercy, yet they incite them to admiration and compassion.”

Two important particulars clearly follow from these historic sketches. The one is, that since we live in an age of regulated government and superior civilization, in which life, character and property, are well secured by law, we annot too highly prize these blessings; and the other, that all persons possessing any regard for religion, or morals, or even for their own personal interests, should use their best endeavors to preserve social order, and to set their faces steadfastly against all wanton violations of good and wholesome laws. Neither is it an unimportant part of christian education, to learn and habituate children to prize and venerate the wholesome institutions of government and law.

In a free republican government, such as ours, the laws are not only for, but from the People, and it is indispensably requisite that its youth should have a

general knowledge of its constitution and the most interesting parts of its code of civil and criminal law; since without it they will be but poorly qualified to act their parts properly as freemen, either in a public or even in a private capacity. Not to mention that some hapless youth, now in vile 'confinement, might have been deterred from the transgressions which brought them thither, had they been seasonably and fully aware of the penalties that would be incurred by such transgressions.


Of a disputatious temper and habit.

It is a saying often quoted as Dr. Franklin's, that " by the collision of different sentiments, sparks of trath are struck out, and light is obtained." But it seems to have been current, though in another manner of phrase, before it came from the pen of the justly celebrated Doctor. In an Almanack dated one hundred and sixteen years back, I have met with the following homely, but pithy verse :

“ But quill to quill, like flints on steel do smite,

Which kindle sparks, and those sparks give us light."* On the other hand, a writer possessed of masterly powers of reasoning, who flourished in the beginning of the last century, appears to have thought that, disputing, whether by means of the quill, or otherwise, is apt to produce a great deal less of light, than of heat and smoke.

Mr. Locke, in his Treatise of Education, observes, “ If the use and end of right reasoning be to have right notions and a right judgment of things; to distinguish betwixt truth and falsehood, right and wrong, and to act accordingly, be careful not to let your son be bred up in the art and formality of dispụting:"-And, as a reason for that conclusion, he goes on to describe the wretched manner in which disputes were generally

* Daniel Leed's Almanack, published in New-York, 1704.

managed :-“Whether pertinent or impertinent, sense or nonsense, agreeing with or contrary to, what he had said before, it matters not: for this, in short, is the way and perfection of logical disputes, that the opponent never takes any answer, nor the respondent ever yields to any argument. This, neither of them must do, whatever becomes of truth or knowledge, unless he would pass for a poor baffled wretch, and lie under the disgrace of not being able to maintain whatever he has once affirmed, which is the great aim and glory of disputing.”

Here we find a collision of different sentiments," on the very question, whether disputing tends to advance correct knowledge or retard it.

Now, to do justice to both sides, it must, I think, be granted, that each is in the right, provided allowance be made for the opposite views in which the subject presents itself.

Were disputing conducted as it ought, with sincere and paramount love of truth, and a benignity of temper, there might spring from it much good, without any considerable mixture of evil. But conducted, as most commonly it has been, with acrimonious feeling, and the fierceness and obstinacy of pugilists, rather than with the honest candor that is willing in all cases to yield to evidence; it too often serves but to exasperate and mislead: so that nothing is less desirable in youth, or less to be encouraged, than a disputatious or cavilling temper.

In certain memoirs of the life of Frederick the Great, it is related, that aspiring after the fame of a philosophical reasoner, he was much inclined to exercise his talents now and then in disputing with the learned men of his court. Accordingly he used, at his leisure, to send for the philosophers whom he kept in waiting, to reason with them; professing, mean while, that he laid by the monarch and put himself on equal footing, and encouraging them to be free and do their best. But if any one

of them happened to invalidate his own arguments, or to get the better of him in any way, he instantly flew into a violent passion, and bestowed upon the offender the most scurrilous epithets. moirs further relate, that at one of his literary enter

The me

tainments, when, in order to promote free conversation, he reminded the circle that there was no monarch pres. ent, the conversation chanced to turn upon the faults of different governments and rulers.

General censures were passing from mouth to mouth with a kind of freedom which such hints were calculated, and apparently intended, to inspire. But Frederick presently put a stop to the topic, by exclaiming, "Hold your peace, gentlemen, be upon your guard, else the king will be among you.".

This instance, while it speaks the imperious, insolent despot, is characteristical of our general nature. Of disputants, in all ages of the world, there have been but few that were scrupulous of using all the means in their power, to baffle, bear down, and silence, their opponents; but few, whose unfairness of manner and bitteriiess of temper have not furnished clear proof that they were more actuated by the proud desire of victory than by a

ere regard to truth; very few, who have shown themselves willing, in all cases, to give truth fair play. Men, that are naturally, or by custom, of a disputatious temper, seldom are so, for truth's sake. Generally, something else than the love of truth, has the strongest hold of their hearts.

Perilous, in this respect, is the moral condition of that class of men, whose professional business of disputing, and whose fame and renown depend upon success in gaining their causes, just or unjust

An indiscriminate defence of right and wrong, contracts the understanding, while it corrupts the heart.This short sentence of the celebrated Junius, is deserving of the serious attention of young men of ingenuous dispositions, who have recently entered, or are about entering, upon the profession of the law. One, accustomed to argue indiscriminately for and against truth and right, and whose main road to distinction lies in his talent “ to make the worse appear the better reason,” needs, of all men, to keep a careful watch over his moral fiame.

Theological disputes, are of a nature that would seem to secure them from the aberrations incidental to those of worldly men. The theologian stands upon hal


« ПретходнаНастави »