Слике страница
PDF
ePub

reason doubtless is, that they have had to bear up on one hand against much obloquy and injustice, and on the other against certain airs of affected superiority on the part of the nations of Europe, equally offensive. Those who are perpetually assailed, are perpetually called upon to defend themselves; and what in other cases would be an offensive pretension, is, in ours, simply self-defence. It is not boasting, but a manly assertion of what is due to ourselves, in reply to those who take from us what is our right. But even if the charge of national pride were true, we are among those who rather approve than lament it. National pride is a commendable and manly feeling ; it is the parent of virtue and greatness—the foundation of a noble character; and if the nation which has led the way in the bright path of freedom--which, young as it is, has become already the beacon, the example, the patriarch of the struggling nations of the world—has not a fair right to be proud, we know not on what basis national pride ought to erect itself.

For these reasons, we feel no hesitation in calling the attention of the people of the United States, to a work eminently calculated to awaken the most lofty anticipations of the destiny which awaits them. Nothing but good can come of such contemplations of the future. They will serve to impress upon the nation the necessity of being prepared for such high destiny; of fitting herself to maintain it with honour and dignity; of attaching herself, heart and hand, body and soul, to that sacred union of opinions, interests, and reflections, which alone can lead us steadily onward in the path of prosperity, happiness, and glory.

“The 4th of July in the year 1776,” observes Dr. Von Schmidt, “points out the commencement of a new period in the history of the world. Not provoked to resistance by the intolerable oppression of tyrannical power, but merely roused by the arbitrary encroachments upon well earned, and hitherto publicly acknowledged principles, the people of the United States of North America declared themselves on that memorable day independent of the dominion of the British Islands, generally speaking mild and benevolent in itself, and under which they had hitherto stood as colonies, in a state, not of slavish servitude, but of partial guardianship, under the protection of the mother country.”

The author has here marked the nice and peculiar feature which distinguishes the American Revolution from all others, and confers on it a degree of philosophical dignity. It was not a ferment arising from momentary impatience of existing and operating hardships ; nor the result of extensive distresses pressing upon a large mass of the nation. When the people of the United Colonies rose in resistance to the mother country, they were in possession of a greater portion of all the useful means of happiness, than the mother country itself. It was not therefore a revolution originating in the belly, but the head; it was a revolution brought about by principles, not by distresses. The early emigrants to the new world

[ocr errors]

a

brought these principles with them from England ;-every year added to their strength, and every accession of strength, brought the crisis nearer to maturity. The annals of each one of the colonies, exhibit every where evidence of the existence of this leaven of freedom, which was perpetually rising and agitating the surface; and, although like the eruption of a volcano, it broke forth at first in one particular spot, it was only from accidental causes. The whole interior was equally in a ferment, and the boiling mass must have forced a vent somewhere, and soon. It had long been evident, that, wherever the pressure should be greatest, there would be the point of resistance.

That the American revolution, though unquestionably precipitated, was not produced by a sudden excitement originating in any particular measure of the British government, we think must appear to all those who read with attention the early records of our colonial history. As long ago as the year 1635, representations were made to the government of England, touching the disloyalty of the people of Massachusetts.

“ The Archbishop of Canterbury," says Hutchinson, “the famous High Churchman Laud, kept a jealous eye over New England. One Burdett of Piscataqua, was his correspondent. A copy of a letter to the Archbishop, wrote by Burdett, was found in his study, aud to this effect : 'That he delayed going to England, that he might freely inform himself of the state of the place as to allegiance, for it was not new discipline which was aimed at, but sovereignty; and that it was accounted perjury and treason in their general court, to speak of appeals to the king.'

But to return to the immediate subject before us. Dr. Von Schmidt-Phiseldek, after stating the result of this declaration in the establishment of our independence, proceeds to notice the second war between the United States and England, in which the former successfully maintained the positions she had assumed, as the grounds of hostility :

“ By these occurrences," he says, “which we have only cursorily touched upon, the North American confederacy had tried her strength, preserved her dignity by the rejection of illegal pretensions, and vigorously proved and main. tained her right as an active member in the scale of nations, to take part in the grand affairs of the civilized world. From that moment, the impulse to a new change of events, ceased to proceed exclusively from the old continent, and it is possible that in a short time it will emanate from the new one."

The author then proceeds to deduce the attempts of the South American Provinces, which, however, at that period, had not been consummated, from the example of North America, which had inspired them with the desire of emancipation :

« This word, as intimating the resistance of a people feeling themselves at maturity, to their wonted tutelage, and desirous of taking upon themselves the management of their own affairs, most suitably expresses the spirit of the times, which, being called to light in 1776, has spread itself over the new and old world."

* Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, Vol. I, pages 84, 85.

a

Having indicated his belief, that the South American States will acquire independence, Dr. Von Schmidt-Phiseldck gives it as his opinion, “that the similitude of their constitutional forms, and an equal interest in rejecting the European powers, will unite these new states in a close compact with the North American confederacy; and, if a quarter of a century only elapsed before North America began to act externally with vigour, it may be presumed that the younger states of the Southern Continent, endowed with more ample resources, and more ancient culture, will require a shorter period to arrive at a state of respectable force.

Having traced a rapid sketch of the situation and prospects of the new world, the author next turns his attention to the old governments of Europe, of which he gives a masterly analysis :

The new spirit which had been called to life on the other side of the Atlan. tic, and the universal fermentation it caused, happened at a period in which the most excessive laxity reigned predominant on the old continent. The political existence of the people was for the most part extinguished; their active industry had been directed abroad, and the governmeuts finding no opposition or dangerous collisions internally, followed with the stream. Commerce, exportations, colonial systems, every means of acquiring money, were cherished and protected, -riches presenting the only possibility of investing the low with consideration and influence, and the high with power and inordinate dominion. The maxims by which the nations were governed, lay less in the ground pillars of an existing constitution, than in the changeable systems of the cabinets, and the character of their rulers; there remained, for the most part, nothing for the great body of the people, but to be spectators.

“Germany, the grand heart of Europe, presented now nothing more than the shadow of a political body united in one common confederacy; the imperial governments, as also the administration of the federal laws, were without energy, and united efforts to repel invasions from abroad, had not been witnessed since the fear of Turkish power had ceased to operate. The larger states had outgrown their obedience, and often ranged themselves in opposition to the head, which was scarcely able to protect either itself or the weaker states against injuries.

“ The internal affairs of the individual vassal states, were exclusively conducted according to the will of their regents; the energy and importance of the representative popular states, were become dormant, and the standing armies which had been introduced by degrees even into the smallest principalities, since the peace of Westphalia, being perfectly foreign to the hearts and dispositions of the people, threw an astonishing weight into the scale of unlimited sovereignty. Being mercenary soldiers recruited from every nation, modelled upon a system of subordination, and raised by Frederick of Prussia to the highest pitch of perfection, they had been accomplices in diffusing this system of despotism over all the relations of the state, and in leaving the people who were freed from military services, nothing but the acquisition of gain.

Agriculture, agreeably to the direction given it, had been improved, and with a population increased ; industry supported by the progress of the mechanical arts, had also been considerably extended. But each separate state had its own little jealous feelings of aggrandisement, its own petty internal policy, viewing its neighbour with a jealous eye; and the whole of Germany never reaped any beneficial result from a system, which, had it been general, would have conduced highly to the wealth and power of the confederated states, of which it was composed. All these various institutions, at the same time that they conflicted with each other, were reared on loose foundations, and it was evident must fall together, on the first external shock,-circumstances like these were incapable of producing an universal national character. There, where no reci. procal tie binds the individuals of a state together, who, living under the equal laws of one community, ought to form one solid whole, the spirit of the nation loses itself in different directions; the attainment of individual welfare is possi. ble in such a state of things, but never will a sense of what is universally good and great, be promoted.

“jf in Germany,” proceeds the author, “where the imperial crown represented a mere shadow, deprived of power and consequence, the mighty vassals were all; in France the crown was every thing, after it had subdued the powerful barons of the country. The people represented, indeed, one body, but were deprived, like the several German states, of all political weight, and were arbitrarily subjected to every impulse of the government. The same was the case with Spain and Portugal, where religious intolerance more powerfully suppressed every utterance of contrary opinions, and every doctrine which might lead to a deviation from the maxims of the state, so intimately connected with those of the priesthood. The latter, chained since Methuen’s celebrated treaty, to the monopoly of Engand from which it had vainly attempted to free itself under Pombal's administration, was nearly sunk to the condition of a British colony working its gold mines in the Brazils for the benefit of the proud islanders.

“Italy, parcelled out amongst different powers, presented upon the whole, the same political aspect as Germany, only with this difference, that it was totally divested of the shadow of unity, which the latter at least appeared to present. Upper, and a great part of middle Italy, being dismembered, were entirely subservient to foreign impulse. The lower part, with the fertile island on the other side of the Pharos, presented, to be sure, since 1735, the outward appearance of one national whole, but was too weak to withstand the fate of the more powerful Bourbon families, from which, according to treaties, it had derived its sovereigns. There reigned in the papal state alone, which could not derive its weight from its worldly sovereignty, but from the spiritual supremacy of its ruler, the ancient maxims of the Romish pontificate, with the economical state faults of a clerical government. But the consideration and the power of the former were visibly sunk; the journeys of the pope of that period to Vienna, were like the contemporary ones of the Hierarch of Thibet to China, rather prejudicial, than favourable to spiritual dignity; and the faulty internal administration of the state seemed to invite every attempt at innovation. The republics on the east and the west of the Adriatic Gulf, were, since the rise of the other great naval states, only the ruins of past glory, sinking daily into insignificance. But notwithstanding this, neither was the image of former greatness blotted from their memories, nor a proper feeling for it extinguished in the minds of the inhabitants of the luxuriant peninsula. The pride of the more noble, fed itself on the sublime remains of Roman antiquity; and the monuments of the golden age of the family of Medicis indemnified a people given to the arts, and full of imagination for the loss of present grandeur, and kept up a lively anticipation of a better futurity, founded on the merits of its ancestors.

“Helvetia, hemmed in between Italy, Germany, and France, by its mountains, continued in the peaceable enjoyment of its liberties through the respect its venerable age had universally diffused. Nevertheless, the disturbances at Geneva, and the increased spirit of emigration, were sufficient to indicate that a people who become indifferent to the present order of things, would willingly have recourse to a system of innovation, and that the ancient ties which had held the Swiss nation so many centuries together, were gradually relaxing:

“The dissolution of the existing form of government, in the north-western Netherlands, which ought never to have been separated from the German corporation, was more visibly approaching: The unwieldiness of their disorganized union had no remedy to administer to the decline of their commerce, and naval power, which became more and more felt, being a natural consequence of the daily concentration of the larger states; and it was evident that the fate of the republic would be decided by a blow from abroad.

"The British islands, at that time the only country in Europe which united under a monarchical head, moderate, but on that account more solid principles of freedom, with an equal balance of the different powers of the state, were at

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »