Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

which his mind is now directed, and he would be impelled to quarrel with England by a variety of considerations, should this Republic be broken up into half a dozen feeble and quarrelsome confederacies. But with the United States in existence, and powerful enough to command respect, he would not dare to seek the overthrow of the British Empire. We could not permit him to head a crusaile for England's annihilation, no matter what might be our feeling toward the mother-land. A just regard for our own interests would impel us to side with her, should she be placed in serious danger. Such was. substantially, President JefferBon's opinion, sixty years ago, when the first Napoleon was so bent upon the conquest of England; and we think that his views are applicable to the existing circumstances of the world. Where should we have been now, if England had quarrelled with and been conquered by Napoleon IIL? We must distinguish between the English nation and Englishmen,— between the English Government, which Las, perhaps, borne itself as favorably toward us as it could, and that English aristocracy which has, as a rule, exhibited so strong a desire to have us extinguished, even while it has repeatedly refused to take steps preparatory to war; and the two countries should be persuaded to understand that neither can perish without the life of the other being placed in great danger. The best answer to be made to the wordy attacks of Englishmen is to be found in success. That answer would be complete; and if it cannot bo fnade, what will it signify to us what shall be said of us by foreigners? The bitterest attacks can never disturb the dead.

One cause of the change of England's course toward us is to be found in our own change of moral position. The President's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on the first of January, 1863; and from that time the anti-slavery people of England have been on our side; and their influence is great, and bears upon the supporters of the Palmerston Ministry

with peculiar force. Had our Government persisted in the pro-slavery policy which it favored down to the autumn of 1862, it is not at all unlikely that the English intervention party would have been strong enough to compel their country to go with France in her mediation scheme, — and the step from mediation to intervention would have been but a short one; but the committal of the North to anti-slavery views, and the union of their cause with that of emancipation, threw the English Abolitionists, men who largely represent England's moral worth, on our side. The Proclamation, therefore, even if it could be proved that it had not led to the liberation of one slave, has been of immense service to us, and the President deserves the thanks of every loyal American for having issued it. He threw a shell into the foreign Secession camp, the explosion of which was fatal to that "cordial understanding " that was to have operated for our annihilation.

Such was the year of the Proclamation, and its history is marvellous in our eyes. It stands in striking contrast to the other years of the war, both of which closed badly for us, and left the impression that the enemy's ease was a good one, speaking militarily. Our improved condition should be attributed to the true cause. When, in the Parliament of 1601, Mr. Speaker Croke said that the k.ngdom of Englattd "had been defended by the mighty arm of the Queen," Elizabeth exclaimed from the throne, "No, Mr. Speaker, but rather by the mighty hand of God!" So with us. We have been saved "by the mighty hand of God." Neither "malice domestic" nor "foreign levy" has prevailed at our expense. Whether we had the right to expect Heaven's aid, we cannot undertake to say; but we know that we should not have deserved it, had we continued to link the nation's cause to that of oppression, and had we shed blood and expended gold in order to restore the system of slavery and the sway of slaveholders.

REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.

life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker, Minister of the Twenly-Eighth Congregational Society, Boston. By John Weiss. In Two Volumes. 8vo. London.'

Such a life of Theodore Parker as Mr. Parton has written of Andrew Jackson would be accepted as an American classic. For such a life, however, it is manifestly unreasonable to look. Not until the present generation has passed away, not until the perilous questions which vex men's souls to-day shall rest forever, could any competent biographer regard the "iconoclast of the Music Hall" as a subject for complacent literary speculation or calm judicial discourse. For us, this life of Parker must be interpreted by one of the family. He shall best use these precious letters and journals who is spiritually related to their writer, if not bound to him by the feebler tie of blood. And assuming the necessity of a partisan, or, as it might more gently be expressed, wholly sympathetic biographer, there is little but commendation for Mr. Weiss. With admirable clearness and strength he rings out the.full tone of thought and belief among that earnest school of thinkers and doers of which Theodore Parker was the representative. Full as are these goodly octavos with the best legacies of him whose life is written, we have returned no less frequently to the deeply reflective arguments and acute criticisms of Mr. Weiss. Let the keen discrimination of a passage taken almost at random justify us, if it may.

"Some people say that they are not indebted to Mr. Parker for a single thought. The word 'thought' is so loosely used that a definition of terms must precede our estimate of Mr. Parker's finggestiveness and originality. Men who are kept by a commonplace-book go about raking everywhere for glittering scraps, which they curry home to be sorted in their (esthetic junk-shop. Any portable bit that strikes the fancy is a thought. There are literary rag-pickers of every degree of ability; and a great deal of Judgment can be shown in finding the scrap or nail you want in a heap of rubbish. Quotable matter is generally considered to be strongly veined with thought. Some people estimate a writer ac

cording to the number of apt sentences imbedded in his work. But who is judge of aptness itself? What is apt for an epigram is not apt for a revolution: the shock of a witty antithesis is related to the healthy stimulus of creative thinking, as a small electrical battery to the terrestrial currents. Wellbuilt rhetorical climaxes, sharp and sudden contrasts, Poor Richard's common-sense, a page boiled down to a sentence, a fresh simile from Nature, a subtle mood projected upon Nature, a swift controversial retort, all these things are called thoughts. The pleasure in them is so great, that one fancies they leave him in their debt. .That depends upon one's standard of indebtedness. Now a penny-aliner is indebted to a single phrase which furnishes his column; a clergyman near Saturday night seizes with rapture the clue of a fine simile which spins into a 'beautiful sermon '; for the material of his verses a rhymester is ' indebted' to an anecdote or incident. In a higher degree all kinds of literary work, are indebted to that commerce of ideas be- tween the minds of all nations, which fit up interiors more comfortably, and upholster them better than before. And everything that gets into circulation is called a thought, be it a discovery in science, a mechanical invention, the statement of a natural law, comparative statistics, rules of economy, diplomatic circulars, and fme magazine-writing. It > the manoeuvring of the different arma in the great service of humanity, solid or dashing, on a field already gained. But the thought which organizes the fresh advance goes with the pioneer-train that bridges streams, that mines the hill, that feeU the country. The controlling plan puts itself forth with that swarthy set «-. leather-aproned men shouldering picks and axes. How brilliantly the uniforms defile afterward, with flashing points and rhythmic swing, over the fresh causeway, to hold and maintain a position whose value was ideally conceived! So that the brightest facings do not cover the boldest thought."

By omissions here and there, — in all not amounting to ten pages of printed matter, — these literary remains of Theodore Parker might have been made less offensive to believers in the Christian Revelation, as well as to the not small class of gentlemanly skepties who go through whatever motions the best society esteems correct. In these days, many worthy people, who are not quite sound upon -Noah's ark, or even the destruction of the swine, will wince perceptibly at hearing the Lord's Supper called " a heathenish rite." And it would be unfair to the memories of most noted men to stereotype for ten thousand eyes the rough estimates of familiar letters, or the fragmentary ejaculations of a private journal. But Mr. Par-, ker never scrupled to exhibit before the world all that was worst in him. There are few chapters that will not recall defects publicly shown by the preacher and author. The reader can scarcely miss a corroboration of a shrewd observation of Hacaulay, that there is no proposition so monstrously untrue in polities or morals as to be incapable of proof by what shall sound like a logical demonstration from ad mitted principles. Theodore Parker was a strong and honest man. Yet few strong men have so lain at the mercy of some narrow bit of logic; few honest ones have so warped facts to match opinions. We speak of exceptional instances, not of ordinary habits. He seemed unable to persuade himself that a scheme of faith which was false to him could be true to others of equal intelligence and virtue. He fell too easily into the spasmodic vice of the day, and said striking things rather than true ones. He assumed a basis of faith every whit as dogmatic as special revelation, and sometimes grievously misrepresented the creeds which he assailed. Strangers might go to the Music Hall to breathe the free air of a catholic liberality, and find nothing but the old fierceness of sectarianism broken loose against the sects. Let us make every deduction which a candid criticism is compelled to claim, and Theodore Parker stands a noble representative of Republican America. His place is still among the immortals who are not the creatures of an age, but its regenerators. For it is not the life of a great skeptic, but the work of a great believer, which is brought before us in these volumes. This uncompromising enemy of the creeds was the ally of their highest uses. His soul never lacked that dear and personal oblect of worship which is offered by the Christian Revelation in its common acceptance. He could have lived in no more jubilant confidence of immortality, had he enjoyed the tactual satisfactions of Thomas himself. No Catholic nun feels more delicious aslurance of the protection of the Virgin,

no Protestant maiden knows a more blissful consciousness of the Saviour's marital affection towards her particular church, than felt this Theodore Parker in the fatherly and motherly tenderness of the Great Cause of All. Certainly, few doubters have ever doubted to so much purpose as he. Men who are skeptical through the intellect in the Christian creeds seldom live so sturdily the Christian life. Yet we cannot think that the fervent faith with which he wrought came from what was exceptional in his belief; it was rather a good gift of native and special sort. For it is a true insight which leads Tennyson to warn him whose faith does not trust itself to form, that his sister is "quicker unto good" from the hallowed symbol through which she receives a divine truth. Many who flatter themselves that they have outgrown the need of a human embodiment of the Father's love have only induced a , plasticity of mind which prevents the life from taking shape in any positive affirmation. "It is a strong help to me," writes a Congregational minister, " to find a man, standing on the extreme verge of liberal theology, holding so firmly, so tenaciously, to the one true religion, love to God and man." But may all men stand there, and cling to it as resolutely as he did'

The ancestors of Theodore Parker seem to have been creditable"offshoots from the Puritan stock. They were men and women of thrift and sagacity. Of his mother there are very sweet glimpses. He describes her as "imaginative, delicateminded, and poetic, yet a very practical woman." She appears to have been thoroughly religious, but without taste for the niceties of dogmatic theology. Piety did not have to be laboriously put into her, before it could generously come out . "I have known few," writes her son, "in whom the religious instincts were so active and profound, and who seemed to me to enjoy so completely the life of God in the soul of man." And again he says, "Religion was the inheritanoe my mother gave, — gave me in my birth, — gave me in her teachings. Many sons have- been better born than I, few have had so good a mother. I mention these things to show you how I came to have the views of religion that I have now. My head is not more natural to my body, has not more grown with it, than my religion out of my soul and with it. With me religion was not carpentry, something built up of dry wood, from without; but it was growth, — growth of a germ in my soul." Thus we see that Parker was not singular in his sources of goodness and nobility: here also have the strong and worthy men of s11 time received their inspiration. The mother's sphere is never confined to the household, but expands for joy or bitterness through the world at large. A youth of farm - work, snatches of study, and school-teaching, seem to be the appointed uni, iilum for our trustworthy men. In addition to this, Theodore achieves a slight connection with Harvard, — insufficient for a degree, yet enough for him, if not for the College. Then he teaches a private class in Boston, and presently opens school in Watertown. Here, for the first time, comes a modest success after the world's measurement. He has soon thirty-five, and afterwards fifty-four scholars. And now occurs an incident which is unaccountably degraded to the minion type of a note. It is, however, just what the reader wants to know, and deserves Italies and double - leading, if human actions are ever sufficiently noteworthy for these honors. The Watertown teacher receives a colored girl who has been sent to him, and then consents to dismiss her in deference to the prej udices of Caucasian patrons. Simon Peter denied the Saviour for whom he was aftervards crucified with his head hanging down. One day we shall find this schoolmaster leaving most cherished work, and braving all social obloquies, that he may stand closer than a brother to the despised and ignorant of the outcast race. The colored girl was amply avenged. But the teacher is here, as ever after, a learner, and his leisure is filled with languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, Spanish, and French. During his-subsequent stay at the Cambridge Divinity School, there are added studies in Italian, Portuguese, Icelandic, Chaldaic, Arabic, Persian, and Coptic. - Of his proficiency in this Babel of tongues the evidence is not very conclusive. Professor Willard is said to have applied to the young divinity-student for advice in some nice matters of Hebrew and Syriac. Theology there can be no doubt that he thoroughly mastered. After a brief season of itinerancy through Mas

sachusetts pulpits, he is settled at West Roxbury. And here begins that agony of doubt dismal and unprofitable to contemplate, when it is not redeemed by a manly ardor which searches on for attainable grounds of trust. But in this young minister the faith of a little child cannot

,be superseded by the advents of geology and carnal criticism. Some of the Biblical conceptions of the Deity may be found inadequate, but Nature and the human soul are full of His presence and glow with His inspirations. Within the limits of capacity and obedience, every man and woman may receive direct nourishment from God. At length the South-Boston sermon of 1841 separates the position of Theodore Parker from that of his Unitarian brethren. After this, his life belongs

'to the public. He is known of men as an assailant of respectable and sacred things, a bitter critic of political and social usages. That these manifestations were but small portions of the total of his life, the public may now discern.

We can recall no published correspondence of the century which combines more excellent and diverse qualities than this with which Mr. Weiss has plentifully filled his pages. Occasions for which the completest of Complete Letter - Writers has failed to provide are met by Mr. Parker with consummate discretion. His letters are to Senators, Shakers, Professors, Doctors, Slaveholders, Abolitionists, morbid girls, and heroic women: they are all equally rich in spontaneity, simplicity, and point. Keen criticisms of noted men, speculations upon society, homely wisdom of the household, estimates of the arts, and consolations of religion, all packed in plain and precise English, seem to have been ever ready for delivery. If Mr. Parker had not chosen the unpopularity of a great man, he could have had the abundant popularity of a clever one. Let us see how he outlines the Seer of Stockholm for an inquiring correspondent: —

"Swedenborg has had the fate -to be worshipped as a half-god, on the one side; and on the other, to be despised and laughed at. It seems to me that he was a man of genius, of wide learning, of deep and genuine piety But he had an abnormal, queer sort of mind, dreamy, dozy, clairvoyant, Andrew-JacksonBavisy; and besides, he loved opium and strong coffee, and wroU under the influence of those drugs. A wise man may get many nice bits out of him, and be the healthier for cnch eating ; but if he swallows Swedenborg whole, as the fashion is with his followere, — why, it lays hard in the stomach, and the man has a nightmare on him all his natural life, and talks atxiut . the Word,' and 'the Spirit,' 'correspondences,' 'receivers.' Yet the Swedenborginns have a calm snd religious beauty in their lives which is much to be admired."

The deeply affectionate nature of Theodore Parker glows warmly through the Correspondence and Journal. His friends were necessities, and were loved with a devotion by no means characteristic of Americans. He could give his life"to ideas, but his heart must be given to persons, young and old. Turning from liis task of opposition and conflict, he would yearn for the society of little children, whose household loves might dull the noise and violence and passion through which he daily walked. "The great joy of my life," he writes, "cannot be Intellectual action, neither practical work. Though I joy in botH, it is the affections which open the spring of mortal delight. But the object of my affections, dearest of all, is not at hand. How strange that I should have no children, and only get a little sad sort of happiness, not of the affectional quality! I am only 'm old maid in life, after all my bettying about in literature and philanthropy." And in a letter to Dr. Francis there comes nn exclamation of which the arrangement is very pathetic in its significance, — "I have no child, and the worst reputation of any minister in all America!"

We are in no position to estimate with any exactness either the adaptation of Theodore Parker to our national wellbeing or his positive aid to the mental and moral progress of New-England society. Violent denunciations in the interest of the various sects and policies that he attacked will fnr the present be levelled against him. Neither will there be wanting extravagant eulogiums from personal friends, fellow-religionists, and zealous reformers. Only the distant view of a generation yet tii bu cnn see him in just relation to the men of this time. In judging the weight and work of a contemporary, we attach an over-importance to the number •nd social position of his nominal adherents; while, in estimating the utility of an historic leader, we instinctively feel

that these things are almost the last to be considered. For the greatest influence for good has come from men who have struggled in feeble minorities, — ever alienating would - be friends by an invincible honesty, or even by an invincible fanaticism. Not to the excellences or extravagances of a handful of persons who precisely agree with his views of Christianity may we look for the influence of Theodore Parker which to-day works among us. We might find it in greater power in Brownson's Catholic Review, in the humane magnetism of orthodox Mr. Beecher, in the Episcopal ministrations of Dr. Tyng. For any intelligent Christian must allow that those chuming to represent the Church of Christ have too often sided with the oppressor, fettered human thought in departments foreign to religion, and inculcated degrading beliefs, which scholars eminent in orthodoxy declare indeducible from any Biblical precept. It is not the incredibleness of a metaphysical belief, but a laxity or cowardice of the practice connected with it, which can point the reformer's gibe and wing his sarcasm. Theodore Parker virtually told the Christian minister that he must reprove profitable and popular. sins, or else stand at great disadvantage in the trial between Rationalism and Supematuralism which is vexing the age. In rich and prosperous communities Christianity has been too prone to degenerate into a mere credence of dogma; it must reassert itself as the type of ethies. It is also good that the clergy, intrusted with the defence of the faith delivered to saints, be compelled to place themselves on a level with the ripest scholarship of the day. For ends such as these the life of this critic and protester has abundantly wrought. If he has pulled down a meeting-house here and there, we are confident that he has been instrumental in building up many more to an effective Christianity..

Peculiar. A Tale of the Great Transition. By Epes Sargent. New York: G. W. Carleton. 12mo.

There seems to be an element of luck in i I if . production of highly successful plays and novels. To succeed in this department of imaginative writing, it is not

« ZurückWeiter »