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Tickled with the flattery, like a little fool, I went to work, and bitterly did I rue the day. It was a new axe, and I toiled and tugged till I was almost tired to death. The school-bell rang, and I could not get away; my hands were blistered, and the axe was not half ground. At length, however, it was sharpened; and the man turned to me with, “Now, you little rascal, you've played truant: scud to the school, or you'll buy it!” “Alas!” thought I, “it is hard enough to turn a grindstone this cold day; but now to be called a little rascal is too much.”
It sank deep in my mind; and often have I thought of it since. When I see a merchant over polite to his customers, begging them to take a little brandy, and throwing his goods on the counter, thinks I, That man has an axe to grind. When I see a man flattering the people, making great professions of attachment to liberty, who is in private life a tyrant, methinks, Look out, good people ! that fellow would set you turning grindstones. When I see a man hoisted into office by party spirit, without a single qualification to render him either respectable or useful, alas! methinks, deluded people, you are doomed for a season to turn the grindstone for a booby.
MEMORIAL TO CONGRESS ON SLAVERY.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
From a persuasion that equal liberty was originally the portion and is still the birthright of all men, and influenced by the strong ties of humanity and the principles of their institution, your memorialists conceive themselves bound to use all justifiable endeavors to loosen the bands of slavery, and promote a general enjoyment of the blessings of freedom. Under these impressions, they earnestly entreat your serious attention to the subject of slavery; that you will be pleased to countenance the restoration of liberty to those unhappy men who alone in this land of freedom are degraded into perpetual bondage, and who, amidst the general joy of surrounding freemen, are groaning in servile subjection; that you will devise means for removing this inconsistency from the character of the American people; that you will promote mercy and justice toward this distressed race; and that you will step to the very verge of the power vested in you for discouraging every species of traffic in the persons of our fellow-men."
This may be found in the “Federal Gazette,” February, 1790, only two months before the death of the illustrious sage.
JOHN WITHERSPOON, 1722–1794.
Of the statesmen and scholars of our Revolutionary period, few did more good, or exerted a wider influence in their generation, than John Witherspoon. He was born in the parish of Yester, near Edinburgh, Scotland, on the 5th of February, 1722. His father was a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, much respected for his piety and learning; and the son, after going through the usual courses of study in the University of Edinburgh in literature, science, and theology, was licensed to preach at the age of twenty-one. He was first settled in the parish of Beith, in the west of Scotland, whence, in a few years, he removed to the flourishing manufacturing town of Paisley. Here he continued till the year 1768, when he was elected by the trustees of Princeton College the president of that institution. The fame of his talents and learning had preceded him, and consequently he brought to the college a large accession of students, and was the means of greatly increasing its funds, and placing it on a foundation of permament usefulness. Indeed, few men could combine more important qualifications for the presidency of a literary institution,-talents, extensive attainments, commanding personal appearance, and an admirable faculty for governing young men, and exciting in them a noble emulation to excel in their studies.
But he was soon to enter upon a new sphere of duty. Becoming an American the moment he landed upon our shores, he was selected by the citizens of New Jersey, in 1776, as a delegate to the immortal Congress that promulgated the Declaration of Independence, to which instrument he affixed his name. He continued to represent the State of New Jersey in the general Congress, from 1776 to 1782, and in practical business-talent and devotion to public affairs he was second to none in that body. It would be impossible, in this brief sketch, to specify the numerous services which he rendered to his country in the dark hours of her Revolutionary history; but one thing cannot be omitted,—the ability which he displayed as a member of the committee to consider the state of the currency and the finances of the country. Little did men dream that a theologian, bred in academic halls, could prepare such papers on money and finance as were presented by Dr. Witherspoon; for it is doubtful whether that most difficult subject was ever treated in a more masterly manner.
When he retired from the national councils in 1791, he married his second wife, which excited some attention, as he was in his seventieth year, and the lady, distinguished for her beauty and accomplishments, but twenty-three. He then went to his country-place, about one mile from Princeton, having two years before partially given up his duties as president of the college to the vice-president, his sonin-law, Dr. Samuel Smith. At length bodily infirmities began to fall heavily upon him; still he would not desist from the duties of his ministry, nor from attending at the college, as far as his health and strength would permit. But his
! “No man thinks of Witherspoon as a Briton, but as an American of the Americans: as the counsellor of Morris, the correspondent of Washington, the rival of Franklin in his sagacity, and of Reed in his resolution; one of the boldest in that Declaration of Independence, and one of the most revered in the debates of the Congress.”—Rev. J. W. Alexander's Princeton Address.
useful life was now drawing to a close, and on the 15th of November, 1794, in the seventy-third year of his age, he entered into his rest.
Dr. Witherspoon's works were published after his death, in four volumes, with a memoir by the Rev. Dr. John Rodgers. They consist of Sermous; an Inquiry into the Nature ama Effects of the Stage; Lectures on Moral Philosophy; Lectures on Eloquence; Lectures on Divinity; Letters on Education; Letters on Marriage; An Essay on Money as a Medium of Commerce; his Speeches in Congress; and a variety of essays on moral and political subjects. All these give abundant evidence of the learning, piety, sound judgment, and eloquence of their author. But none of them show one of the most prominent traits in his character, a remarkably ready and keen wit." Indeed, his fund of refined humor and delicate satire seemed inexhaustible, and it burst out on almost all occasions.” This made him a most pleasing and entertaining companion in private life, and the charm of every social circle.
THE PERNICIOUS EXAMPLE OF THE STAGE.
It is a known truth, established by the experience of all ages, that bad example has a powerful and unhappy influence upon human characters. Sin is of a contagious and spreading nature, and the human heart is but too susceptible of the infection. This may be ascribed to several causes, and to one in particular which is applicable to the present case, that the seeing of sin frequently committed must gradually abate that horror which we ought to have of it upon our minds, and which serves to keep us from yielding to its solicitations. Frequently seeing the most terrible objects renders them familiar to our view, and makes us behold them with less emotion. And from seeing sin without reluctance, the transition is easy to a compliance with its repeated importunity, especially as there are latent remaining dispositions to sinning in every heart that is but imperfectly sanctified. It will be difficult to assign any other reason why wickedness is always carried to a far greater height in large and populous cities than in
In this he was excelled by none of his contemporaries, except the learned Charles Nisbet, D.D., the first President of Dickinson College; and many a keen encounter is said to have taken place between the two rival wits and divines. One particularly occurs to me. At a casual meeting in the streets of Philadelphia, Dr. Nisbet replied to the question put by his companion about his health, that he did not feel very well,—that he had a kind of “ringing in his head.” “Well, and don't you know what that's the sign of?” said Dr. Witherspoon. “No, sir: what is it?” “It’s a sign that it's hollow.” “Why, sir, does yours never ring 2" said Dr. Nisbet. “No, never,” replied his friend. “And don't you know what that's the sign of?” “No : what is it?” “It's a sign that it's cracked.”
* For instance; when Burgoyne's army was captured, General Gates despatched one of his aids to Congress to carry the intelligence. But he suffered himself to be delayed on the way, so that when he reached Philadelphia he found the news had got there some days before. When, therefore, Congress was about to vote the messenger a sword, Dr. Witherspoon rose and begged leave to move that instead of a sword they should present him with a pair of golden “pure.
the country. Do not multitudes, in places of great resort, come to perpetrate, calmly and sedately, without any remorse, such crimes as would surprise a less knowing sinner so much as to hear of Ż Can it then be safe to be present at the exhibition of so many vicious characters as always must appear upon the stage 7 Must it not, like other examples, have a strong though insensible influence, and indeed the more strong because unperceived 2
CHARACTER OF THEATRICAL REPRESENTATIONS.
Where can the plays be found, at least comedies, that are free from impurity, either directly or by allusion and double-meaning? It is amazing to think that women who pretend to decency and reputation, whose brightest ornament ought to be modesty, should continue to abet, by their presence, so much unchastity as is to be found in the theatre. How few plays are acted which a modest woman can see consistently with decency in every part | And even when the plays are more reserved themselves, they are sure to be seasoned with something of this kind in the prologue or epilogue, the music between the acts, or in some scandalous farce with which the diversion is concluded. The power of custom and fashion is very great in making people blind to the most manifest qualities and tendencies of things. There are ladies who frequently attend the stage, who, if they were but once entertained with the same images in a private family with which they are often presented there, would rise with indignation, and reckon their reputation ruined if ever they should return. With what consistency they gravely return to the same schools of lewdness, they themselves best know.
CHARACTER OF ACTORS.
The life of players is not only idle and vain, and therefore inconsistent with the character of a Christian, but it is still more directly and grossly criminal. Not only from the taste of the audience must the prevailing tendency of all successful plays be bad, but, in the very nature of the thing, the greatest part of the characters represented must be vicious. What, then, is the life of a player? It is wholly spent in endeavoring to express the language, and exhibit a perfect picture, of the passions of vicious men. For this purpose they must strive to enter into the spirit and feel the sentiments proper to such characters.
Thus, their character has been infamous in all ages, just a living copy of that vanity, obscenity, and impiety which is to be found in the pieces which they represent. As the world has been polluted by the stage, so they have always been more eminently so, as it is natural to suppose, being the very cisterns in which this pollution is collected and from which it is distributed to others. Can it be lawful, then, in any one to contribute in the least degree to support men in this unhallowed employment? Is not the theatre truly and essentially what it has been often called rhetorically,–the school of impiety, where it is their very business to learn wickedness? And will a Christian, upon any pretended advantage to himself, join in this confederacy against God, and assist in endowing and upholding the dreadful seminary 7
PRINCIPLES REGULATING MONEY."
I will now sum up, in single propositions, the substance of what has been asserted, and I hope sufficiently proved, in the preceding discourse. 1. It ought not to be imputed to accident or caprice that gold, silver, and copper formerly were, and the two first continue to be, the medium of commerce; but to their inherent value, joined with other properties, that fit them for circulation. Therefore, all the speculations formed upon a contrary supposition are inconclusive and absurd. 2. Gold and silver are far fron, being in too small quantity at present for the purpose of a circulating medium in the commercial nations. The last of them—silver—seems rather to be in too great quantity, so as to become inconvenient for transportation. 3. The people of every nation will get the quantity of these precious metals that they are entitled to by their industry, and no more. If by any accident, as plunder in war, or borrowing from other nations, or even finding it in mines, they get more, they will not be able to keep it. It will in a short time find its level. Laws against exporting the coin will not prevent this. Laws of this kind, though they are still in force in some nations supposed to be wise, yet are in themselves ridiculous. If you import more than you export, you must pay the balance, or give up the trade. 4. The quantity of gold and silver at any time in a nation is no evidence of national wealth, unless you take into consideration the way in which it came there, and the probability of its continuing. 5. No paper of any kind is, properly speaking, money. It ought never to be made a legal tender. It ought not to be forced upon anybody, because it cannot be forced upon everybody. 6. Gold and silver, fairly acquired and likely to continue, are
* This is at the close of his very able and learned “Essay on Money as a Medium of Commerce; with Remarks on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Paper admitted into General Circulation.”