« ПретходнаНастави »
their friends fall off like leaves from the trees in the first frosts of autumn. Sir Walter Raleigh, alike celebrated as a scholar, a gentleman, a statesman, a soldier, and a man of genius, in his last letter to his wife after his most unjust condemnation to death, says, “ To what friend to direct you I know not; for all mine have left me in the true time of need."
But not any longer to dwell on the scenes of high life, with which the generality of my readers have as little concern as myself, I will turn, now, to the commonalty.
In countries wliere distinction of orders is established by law, ambition runs in two different channels. With not a few, its main object is rank, titles, stars, garters, and ribands; these baubles being by them preferred greatly to mere wealth, which is eagerly pursued by those chiefly who can have little or no expectation of attaining to the high distinctions of civil, ecclesiastical, or military rank. Whereas in this free country of ours, where there is no distinction of orders and no established rank of one family above another, the undivided current of ambition is towards wealth. Avarice is the general and the ruling passion. The pursuit of gain is the only secular pursuit that is much valued or thought of; because, in the common estimation, the grand point of honor is to be rich. Mammon is the idol, to which every thing else is made to bend. Offices are sought after for their emoluments chiefly. Nay, the august seats of legislation are unhesitatingly deserted for public employments, barren of honor, but of greater profit. Men are appraised, and rated high or low, according to the magnitude of their property. The common question, what is he worth? is answered only in one way. If his estate be small, he is worth but little; if he have no estate left, he is worth nothing. It is but of small account, though he have an ample fund of moral and intellectual worth; the worth that is most eagerly sought, most highly prized, and most generally esteemed, is pecuniary worth.
In the scramble of such multitudes after riches, very many must needs be unsuccessful : for in no country whatever can wore than a comparative few arrive at wealth. By far the greater part of the candidates, falling short of their expectations, endure the pangs of disappointment, and pine under the corrodings of envy. With some, avarice defeats its own aim. Their greediness of gain, if it impel them not to deeds of fraud or vi. olence, which bring them to shame and ruin, yet it spurs them on to engage in rash and ruinous adventures. The estates of others, as Franklin's Poor Richard says, are spent in the gettiny:-Fondly anticipating a fortune, they dash away is if they really had it in hand. Others again, counterfeit the splendor of riches, that they may put themselves and their families in the ranks of honor; and, against the clear and pungent convictions of their own minds, they persist in this ruinous course, lest, as it happened to the Cardinal, when he was thought an undone man, they should be degraded at the court of Fashion, and deserted by their fashionable familiars.
Industry and frugality are republican virtues, and it is laudable to endeavor to be above want; but a scrambling for money as the chief good, is of bad omen. It produces meanness of sentiment and sordidness of disposition. A free people, whose passions are set altogether on the pursuit of gain, can hardly remain free very long; because the necessary consequence of such a spirit of avarice, is fraud in private life, and venality and corruption in the higher departments.
An able author, while treating incidentally of the fall of the Roman republic, remarks :-“ The course that a free nation runs, is from virtuous industry to wealth; from wealth to luxury; from luxury to an impatience of discipline and corruption of morals: till by a total degeneracy and loss of virtue, being grown ripe for destruction, it falls at last a prey to some hardy oppressor, and with the loss of liberty, loses every thing else that is valuable."*
Dr. Middleton on the Life of Cicero.
Of the tyranny of Fashion in laying enormous taxes upon the commonalty, and grinding the faces of the poor. EVERY one
who reads English history must know, that Richard the Third had a humped back. And, as ancient story goes, humping became quite fashionable during his reign: the courtiers, the Lords, the Ladies, and the under gentry, patterning after royalty, wore, each, a fashionable crook in the back ; so that the English of that day were “a crooked generation," sure enough. Be this, however, as it inay, in point of ridiculous absurdity it hardly exceeds what is very commonly seen among ourselves.
Though we should be called a christian people, it is a fact, as notorious as sad, that an antichristian deity is worshipped among us in town and country, and by immense numbers of all classes and of both sexes. Look where you will, you see all ranks bowing, cringing, bending the knee-to what? to Fashion. This is the goddess of their idolatry. They yield implicit obedience to her laws, however absurd and barbarous; and though she changes as often as the moon, they follow her in all her changes, and ape her in all her freaks humping whenever she humps. They are brought to endure cold and nakedness, when, but for having followed her mandates, they might be comfortably clad. They reject and despise the diet which she forbids, though wholesome and palatable, and best suited, as well to their constitution as to their circumstances. They pay tythes to her of all they possess. Tythes did I say? It were well if only a tenth would satisfy her: she often claims more than one half. Did she tax only the rich, who are able to pay, it would not be so bad; but she lays her rapacious hands on the middling classes, and even upon the poor. Nay, the knavish huzzy seizes what ought to be laid up against old age and sickness, and also what ought to go to the creditor.
By the decree of fashion, this republican, and otherwise free nation, is thrown into castes, as really, in some respects, as the Hindoos have been by their brahmius; and the only way to gain admission, or maintain a standing, in the higher castes, is to dress gorgeously and fare sumptuously, no matter by what means. Hence the general struggle.
The rich march foremost in the ranks of fashion, and the others keep as close to their heels as possible, following on, in a long train, like files of geese. This is comic in appearance, but tragic in reality. It is amusing at first thought, to see families in varrow circumstances, struggling to make the appearance of high life; to see them vying, not only with one another, but with the rich, to exceed in finery and splendor; to see how much pains they take and how many arts they use, to dazzle the eyes of the beholder with the mockery of wealth. But on due reflection, one finds more reason to be sad than merry. When we consider that these deluded people are following a phantom that is leading them to ruin, that they are incurring expenses which they are utterly unable to support, that they are bartering away solid comforts for an empty show, that by striving to live splendidly they are losing the means of living decently and comfortably; when we consider that they are bringing wretchedness upon their children, by leaving them to the buffetings of poverty, aggravated highly by their early acquaintance with fashionable life; when we consider, finally, that some of them are defrauding their creditors, by sacrificing on the altar of fashion what is needed for the payment of their just debts ;when we put these considerations together, we find them enough to excite deep regret and sorrow.
It is questionable whether great wealth conduces, on the whole, even to worldly happiness. It cannot cure an aching head, nor sooth an aching heart; it is no shield from the shafts of misfortune, nor from the arrows of death; it brings to the possessor an addition of cares as well as of comforts; and is often the means of bringing moral ruin upon his children; and while it increases his power and influence, it increases also his responsibility. The rich have, however, one exclusive privilege : they have a right to make a splendid appearance in the world, because their circumstances can well afford it. Fine houses, expensive furniture, stately equipage, and sump
tuous fare, are within the bounds of their real means, and therefore not censurable in them. In one point of view the profusion of their expenses is beneficial to community, as it gives employment and affords sustenance to industry. Yet there can be shown a more excellent way. Frugality is comely even in the rich. Not that frugality which degenerates to parsimony, and causes the rich to wear the garb of poverty, from a sordid spirit of penuriousness; nor yet that frugality which saves merely to increase a hoard already too large; but it is a prudent saving from the grasp of profusion for the purpose of charity and beneficence.—Take the following example:
Benevolus has both an ample fortune and a liberal heart. Content with his present worldly store, he is now resolved that his expenses shall about equal his in
He lives daily in the style of affluence, but never in the style of extravagance : and what he saves by frugality, he bestows in charity. To the children of misfortune and want, he is a friend and a father; of every useful and laudable undertaking, he is a bountiful encourager.-Does Benevolus aspire to be a leader of fashion? Yes : with all the weight of his influence he tries to make industry, prudent economy, and frugality, fashionable; to make the moral and christian virtues fashionable ; to make it fashionable to behave well, and to do good.-Happy man! happy the children of such a father, and the community that has such a pattern!
As the richest families may be beggared by extravagance, much sooner will it consume one's all, when that all is but little :-and what avails the ruffle without the shirt ?—Persons who are but in small circumstances, must prudently husband what they have, or it will quickly slip out of their hands. How unwise is it for them to make an ostentation of wealth which they do not possess, or to pursue fashion “when she runs faster than they can follow !” If you follow fashion beyond your real means, depend upon it the skittish jade will throw you into the mire at last.