« 上一頁繼續 »
would they change their seats ; so that we were treated with a long series of screams, till the winding of the channel carried us across to the opposite bank.
In the afternoon we came in sight of New Madrid, in the State of Missouri ; a scattered small place, on a green tableland. We sighed to think how soon our wonderful voyage would be over, and at every settlement we reached repined at being there so soon. While others went on shore, I remained on board to see how they looked, dispersed in the woods, grouped round the woodpiles, and seated on logs. The clergyman urged my going, saying, “ It's quite a retreat to go on shore.” This gentleman is vice-president of an educational establishment for young ladies, where there are public exhibitions of their proficiency, and the poor ignorant little girls take degrees. Their heads must be so stuffed with vainglory that there can be little room for anything else.
There were threatenings of another night of storm. The vessel seemed to labour much, and the weather was gusty, with incessant lightnings. The pilots said that they were never in such danger on the river as for twenty minutes of the preceding night. The captain was, however, very thankful for a few hours of cold weather ; for his boat was so overcrowded as to make him dread, above ali things, the appearance of disease on board. Some of us went to bed early this night, expecting to be called up to see the junction of the Ohio with the Mississippi by such light as there might be two hours after midnight. Mr. E. promised to have me called, and on the faith of this I went to sleep at the usual time. I had impressed him with my earnest desire not to miss this sight, as I had seen no junction of large rivers, except that of the Tombigbee with the Alabama. Mrs. B. would not trust to being called, but sat up, telling her husband that it was now his turn to gratisy her, and he must come for her in good time to see the spectacle. Both she and I were disappointed, however. When I awoke it was five o'clock, and we were some miles into the Ohio. Mr. E. had fallen asleep, and awaked just a minute too late to make it of any use to rouse me. Mr. B. had put his head into his wife's room to tell her that the cabin floor was so completely covered with sleepers that she could not possibly make her way to the deck, and he shut the door before she could open her lips to reply. Her lamentations were sad. “ The three great rivers meeting and all; and the little place on the point called Trinity and all; and I having sat up for it and all! It is a bad thing on some accounts to be married. If I had been a single woman, I could have managed it all for myself, I know.”
However, junctions became frequent now, and we saw two small ones in the morning, to make up for having missed the large one in the night. When I went up on deck I found the sun shining on the full Ohio, which was now as turbid as the Mississippi, from the recent storms. The stream stood in among the trees on either bank to a great depth and extent, it was so swollen. The most enormous willows I ever saw overhung our deck, and the beechen shades beyond, where the turf and unencumbered stems were dressed in translucent green, seemed like a palace of the Dryads. How some of us fixed our eyes on the shores of free Illinois! After nearly five months of sojourn in slaveland, we were now in sight of a free state once more. I saw a settler in a wild spot, looking very lonely among the tall trees; but I felt that I would rather be that man than the wealthiest citizen of the opposite state, who was satisfied to dwell there among his slaves.
At eleven o'clock on this the ninth and last day of our voyage we passed Paducah, in Kentucky, a small neat settlement on the point of junction of the Tennessee and Ohio. Preparations were going on before our eyes for our leaving the boat; our luggage and that of the Li's, who joined company with us, was brought out; cold beef and negus were provided for us in the ladies' cabin, the final sayings were being said, and we paid our fare, fifty dollars each, for our voyage of twelve hundred miles. Smithland, at the mouth of the Cumberland river, soon appeared ; and, as we wished to ascend to Nashville without delay, we were glad to see a small steamboat in waiting. We stepped on shore, and stood there, in spite of a shower, for some time, watching the “ Henry Clay" ploughing up the river, and waving our handkerchiefs in answer to signals of farewell from several of the multitude who were clustered in every part of the noble vessel.
If there be excess of mental luxury in this life, it is surely in a voyage up the Mississippi, in the bright and leafy month of May.
“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the.whirlwind." -Hosea viii., 7.
The greatest advantage of long life, at least to those who know how and wherefore to live, is the opportunity which it gives of seeing moral experiments worked out, of being present at the fructification of social causes, and of thus gaining a kind of wisdom which in ordinary cases seems reserved for a future life. An equivalent for this advantage is possessed by such as live in those critical periods of society when retribution is hastened, or displayed in clear connexion with the origin of its events. The present seems to be such an age. It is an age in which the societies of the whole world are daily learning the consequences of what their fathers did, the connexion of cause and effect being too palpable to be disputed ; it is an age when the active men of the New World are beholding the results of their own early counsels and deeds. It seems, indeed, as if the march of events were everywhere accelerated for a time, so as to furnish some who are not aged with a few complete pieces of experience. Some dispensation like the political condition of France, for instance—will still be centuries in the working out; but in other cases—the influence of eminent men, for example-results seem to follow more closely than in the slower and quieter past ages of the world. It is known to all how in England, and also in America, the men of the greatest intellectual force have sunk from a higher to a far lower degree of influence from the want of high morals. It seems as if no degree of talent and vigour can long avail to keep a man eminent in either politics or literature, unless his morals are also above the average. Selfish vanity, double-dealing, supreme regard to expediency, are as fatal to the most gifted men in these days, and almost as speedily fatal, as intellectual capacity to a pretender. Men of far inferior knowledge and power rise over their heads in the strength of honesty; and by dint of honesty (positive or comparitive) retain the supremacy, even through a display of intellectual weakness and error of which the fallen make their sport. This is a cheering sign of the times, indicating that the days are past when men were possessed by their leaders, and that the time is coming when power will be less unfairly distributed, and held on a better tenure than it has been. It indicates that traitors and oppressors will
. not, in future, he permitted to work their will and compass their purposes at the expense of others, till guilty will and purpose are prostrated on the threshold of eternity. It indicates that that glorious and beautiful spectacle of judgment may be beheld in this world which religious men have referred to another, when the lowly shall be exalted; when, unconscious of their dignity, they shall, with amazement, hear themselves greeted as the blessed of the Father, and see themselves appointed to a moral sovereignty in comparison with whose splendour
“ Grows dim and dies
Of all the mighty, withered and consumed." However long it may be before the last shred of tinsel may be cast into the fire, and the last chaff of false pretence winnowed away, the revolution is good and secure as far as it goes. Moral power has begun its long series of conquests over physical force and selfish cunning, and the diviner part of man is a guarantee that not one inch of the ground gained shall ever be lost. For our encouragement, we are presented with a more condensed evidence of retribution than has hitherto been afforded to the world. Moral causes seem to be quickened as well as strengthened in their operation by the new and more earnest heed which is given to them.
In the New World, however long some moral causes may be in exhibiting their results, there have been certain deeds done which have produced their consequences with extraordinary rapidity and an indisputable clearness. May all men open their eyes to see them, and their hearts to understand them !
The people of the United States were never under a greater temptation to follow temporary expediency in preference to everlasting principle than in the case of the admission of Missouri, with slave institutions, into the Union. To this temptation they yielded, by a small majority of their representatives. The final decision rested, as it happened, in the hands of one man, Mr. Clay ; but it is to the shame of the North (which had abolished slavery) that it did so happen. The decision was made to prefer custom and expediency to principle; it was hoped that, if the wind were once got under confinement, something would prevent its bursting forth as the whirlwind.
The plea of slaveholders, and a plausible one up to the year 1820, was that slavery was not an institution of their choice or for which they were answerable : it was an inherited institution. Since the year 1820 this plea has become hypocrisy; for in that year a deliberate vote was passed by Congress to perpetuate slavery in the Union by admitting a new state whose institutions had this basis. The new states northwest of the Ohio were prohibited from introducing slavery by the very act of cession of the land ; and nothing could have been easier than to procure the exclusion of slavery from Missouri by simply refusing to admit any new state whose distinguishing institution was one incompatible in principle with the principles on which the American Constitution was founded. Missouri would undoubtedly have surrendered slavery, been admitted, and virtuously flourished, like her neighbour Illinois. But there was division of opinion; and, because the political device of the Union seemed in danger, the eternal principles of justice were set aside, and protection was deliberately pledged to slavery, not only in Missouri, but, as a consequence, in Arkansas and Florida. The Constitution and Declaration of Rights of Missouri, therefore, exhibit the following singular mixture of declarations and provisions. It will be seen afterward how they are observed.
“ The general assembly shall not have power to pass laws,
“1. For the emancipation of slaves without the consent of the owners; or without paying them, before such emancipation, a full equivalent for such slaves so emancipated ; and,
"2. To prevent bona fide emigrants to this state, or actual settlers therein, from bringing from any of the United States, or from any of their territories, such persons as may there be deemed to be slaves, so long as any persons of the