Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

rance.

other“ a blasphemer, a malicious barking dog, full of ignorance, bestiality, and impudence, an impostor, a base corrupter of the sacred writings, a mocker of God, a contemner of all religion, an impious, lewd, crooked-minded vagabond, and a beggarly rogue,” is past, never we hope to return. These flowers of controversy have now come to be esteemed for what they are worth, as the mere rhetorical garnishing of the composition, common to both sides of the question, and therefore not likely to procure a victory for either. It is now generally admitted, that reasoning and argument are the best polemical weapons, inasmuch as they presuppose some knowledge of the matter in dispute, while noisy and abusive declamations are looked upon with some suspicion, as the easy resort of prejudice and igno

It is not within our province to enter into an examination of the arguments by which Rammohun Roy supports the view of Christianity he has embraced. They seem to be urged with distinctness and ingenuity, though it is probable that they will not strike those who are familiar with the controversy as new. Two things, however, we apprehend, will somewhat surprise the reader;—the writer's familiarity with western learning, and his great command of the English language. It is said, by the editor of the Calcutta Journal, that although some of his earlier works might have been revised by an English pen, yet he did not believe that his later writings, his controversies with the missionaries at Serampore, contained a single word that was not wholly his own. It should seem, indeed, that no revision was necessary of the writings of one “ whose fine choice of words in conversation is worthy the imitation even of Englishmen."

It seems to us that the labours of this extraordinary man cannot but have some favourable effect upon the destinies of Hindostan. His example and his instructions will not be lost upon bis countrymen. He will not, in the coming age, be mentioned as the least fortunate among those who have devoted themselves to that cause so dear to the hearts of the good and the philanthropic of all countries, the improvement of the religious and political condition of India. is certain that any system of Christian doctrine, however erroneous and imperfect, is better than the monstrous and horrible superstition to which the inhabitants of that country are enslaved. It is not in a narrow or illiberal spirit that the Baptist missionaries at Serampore speak, when they avow their conviction that the religious opinions wbich the Indian philosopher is labouring to diffuse among his countrymen, though not unexceptionable, are

useful; trusting, that when they shall have fulfilled their appointed work of assisting to break up and confound the Hindoo idolatry, they will sink into the earth to rise no more.

ART. XXXVII.-Life and Character of the Chevalier John Paul

Jones, a Captain in the Navy of the United States during their Revolutionary War. Dedicated to the Officers of the American Navy. By John Henry SHERBURNE, Register of the Navy of the United States. Wilder & Campbell. New-York, 1825.

It was our intention to have accompanied our notice of this work, with a succinct but sufficiently comprehensive account of the lise, character, and naval services of Paul Jones, and thus to have supplied, in some measure, the manifest imperfections of Mr. Sherburne's book, regarded in the light of its biographical pretensions. This we must defer until some future period, and we do so with the less reluctance, as we hope then to have it in our power to have access to some valuable manuscripts, with the existence of which, it would seem, the editor of the work before us is entirely unacquainted. Our business just now is simply to inquire, how far the present volume promises to fulfil the expectations, which its title and the numerous prospectuses and notices by which it was preceded, were calculated to excite.

The documents and letters, of which three fourths at least of this “Life and Character of John Paul Jones” actually consist, and (if we except perhaps a dozen) all that are of prior date to the close of the revolutionary war, were obtained from a citizen of New York, by whom the greater part of them were accidentally discovered, about a year ago, in the shop of a baker, who had received them as so much waste paper from a person now deceased, in whose family Mr. Taylor, a nephew of Paul Jones, was formerly an inmate. The discovery was duly noticed in the public prints, and by this means many others were obtained from a variety of sources. There is no doubt whatever, that these, along with the documents which were published in the Port Folio about the year 1804, as well as several others which were afterwards scatiered in various directions, made up the whole of the original mass of papers left twenty years ago in the hands of the late Robert Hyslop.

Soon after the MSS. were noticed in the public journals as being in train for publication, the following advertisement appeared in the Washington newspapers. “İ. H. Sherburne, of the navy department, is about to publish an authentic journal

of the cruises of John Paul Jones, written under his immediate inspection, by Lieutenant Elijah Hall, his confidential friend, and the only surviving officer that sailed with him during his cruises ; also, the correspondence between them.

The journal referred to is the log book of the Ranger, no part of which is introduced into the volume, and the correspondence is two letters of instruction from Capt. Jones to Lieut. Hall.

These comprised, strange as it may appear, the whole of the materials in the possession of Mr. Sherburne, when he announced his intention of giving to the public "an authentic narrative of the cruises of Paul Jones." Not aware that this was merely a manoeuvre to get possession of the valuable collection of which the discovery had been a short time previously announced, and confidently trusting that Mr. Sherburne was not only in possession of a large mass of interesting papers, to which those found in New-York might serve as an appendage, but that he was fully competent to discharge the task he had assumed, as well from his official station, as from the opportunities which his access to the supposed documents afforded ; and finally, believing that the promised work would come with more effect, and with better prospects of extensive circulation, from the Navy Department of the United States, than from any private source of publication; the possessor of the New-York documents did not hesitate, upon an assurance of indemnity for the trouble of collection, examination, and arrangement* to put all the papers he had discovered, to the number of several hundreds, into the hands of Mr. Sherburne, in the full assurance that they were subsidiary to an undertaking, which that gentleman was fully in the condition of performing, and in the success of which, the finder of the manuscripts felt all the interest which an American can feel, in seeing redeemed from unjust opprobrium, the name and character of one of the bravest of our revolutionary heroes.

Immediately on the receipt of the manuscripts thus obtained, in January last, Mr. Sherburne issued his prospectus promising " a life of the Chevalier J. P. Jones, with an appendix of let tersand documents illustrating the same;" assuring the public," that as the sources from which he draws his facts are rich in anecdote and fruitful in illustrations of revolutionary scenes, the work would possess in some degree the charm of ro

* It has been stnted to us, on competent authority, that since the publication of the work, Mr Sherburne has inforned the person from whom he received the MSS. that the agreement between thrm was rendered rod in consequence of his having obtained without consideration, from Mr. Lowdon, a nephew of Com. Jones, authority to collect and appropriate towards the work all the papers be could find that were left in Mr. Hyslop's care, in August, 1797..

mance, and the contrast of his earlier and later fortunes would give to his life all the attractions of the most agrecable and touching inventions of genius. The work to be comprised in one volume of 350 to 480 pages, on fine white paper, and to contain a likeness of the hero, and a representation of the engagement between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis. Price $1 50."

Such a magnificent flourish of trumpets was of course naturally looked upon by the public, as the prelude to a work of extraordinary character. The reader will judge for himself how far the book before us can be said to justify the extravagant pretensions of its editor. It is for him to say whether a dull collection of disjointed documents is likely “to possess all the charm of romance, and all the .attractions of the most agrecable and touching inventions of genius.” For ourselves, we do not hesitate to declare it our opinion that Mr. Sherburne has unfairly disappointed the expectations he had so industriously excited, and has not dealt justly by him who yielded his half finished labours, as he thought, into abler hands, and who now finds that instead of the accurate, elaborate, and interesting biography he was made to anticipate, the book consists almost entirely of the materials wbich he furnished, thrown together without order, without taste, without judgment, and without care, containing nothing in the shape of a "Life" but a few pages copied nearly verbatim from the Edinburgh Encyclopædia, and some half a dozen others, which indicate an ignorance of history, and a crudeness of style, only pardonable in a work of the most moderate pretensions. The want of method and discrimination manifest in the selection of the letters, induces us to believe, that they were taken blindfold from the mass to complete the complement of pages, and instead of the “ fine paper” and “ engraving” we were given to expect, the work is printed on as bad a paper as we remember ever to have seen; a wretched caricature of Jones's face, being substituted, at the same time, for the promised print of the action between the Serapis and Bon Homme Richard. In short, it is very palpably, a money-making concern, and Mr. Sherburne, the editor, and Mr. Van Zandt, the cornpiler, are probably the only persons not disappointed in the speculation.

As there is scarcely any original writing in the volume, our remarks must be confined to a very cursory notice of the manner in which the materials have been flung together. The documents, of whatever kind, such as the Honourable Captain Chevalier Jones, Esq.'s own letters--the resolutions of Congress—the letters of the Marine Committee—the letters of His Excellency, the Honourable Dr. Franklin, Esq.-long lists of

killed, wounded, and surviving—letters to His Excellency the Honourable Monsieur Major General Marquis La Fayette, Esq.-proceedings of Court Martials--addresses, interrogatories and concordats, follow each other with a very commendable regard to the order of date, but with little attempt at clearness or appropriateness; while, to keep up the appearance of a legitimate biography, a few words in the manner of "continuances," are interspersed at cautious intervals, and with economical proportions, between the separate subjects and necessary divisions of the manuscripts.

In the account of the cruise of the Ranger, great pains are taken to excite the reader's prejudice against the character of the first lieutenant, Mr. Siinpson, with a view to bring into notice Lieut. Elijah Hall, (the father-in-law of Mr. Sherburne,) the most important of whose services appears to have been the conducting a prize-ship into port, while under convoy of the Ranger. Captain Jones complained in unequivocal terms of the conduct of both Lieutenants Simpson and Hall, during this cruise, as appears by a document in his own hand writing, which passed with the MSS into the hands of Mr. Sherburne, and was particularly noticed in the catalogue which accompanied them. The misunderstanding between Captain Jones and Lieut. Simpson was quite a temporary affair; for in six weeks from the time of the rupture, we find the latter in command of the Ranger, at the particular request of Captain Jones, who well knew how to appreciate the services of a meritorious officer;* while Lieut. Hall, however deserving, did not rise in his profession, although, as Mr. Sherburne's book informs us," he never resigned his commission." We cannot believe that Mr. Hall will sanction this injustice to the memory of a deceased brother officer; and we are inclined to regard it merely as an intended apology for smuggling into the volume, under favour of Captain Jones, (with whom he sailed only a five months cruise,) - a Biographical Sketch of Lieut. Elijah Hall," by his son-in-law.

The official account of the capture of the Serapis, together with the documents and letters respecting it, fill about one hundred pages, which might well have been compressed into ten, without danger of giving offence to the most exacting lover of detail. The same remark is equally applicable to the charges

Captain Simpson's appointment was confirmed at home, and he distinguished himself as commander of the Ranger in capturing part of the Jamaica fleet of 150 sail, July, 1779, in presence of the convoy, consisting of a seventy-four giin ship, several frigates, and sloops of war.

« ZurückWeiter »