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The principal excellences of a language consist in copiousness, meaning by that word distinct expressions for distinct things; in variety, or different expressions for the same thing; in precision; in ductility; in energy and in harmony. The English language, on the whole, will probably sustain comparison with any ever spoken by man. In ductility and in power of transposition it yields to Greek and German; and to many other languages in some one point or other. But few have ever combined all the excellences of language in so high a degree. Coleridge doubts whether it yields to the Greek and German even in those points in which their superiority has been generally conceded. It may be doubted,' says he, on one occasion, • whether a composite language like the English is not a happier • instrument of expression than a homogeneous one like the « German;' and on another he declares, “As to mere power of
expression, I doubt whether even the Greek surpasses the • English.'
When we reflect on the enormous breadth both of the Old World and of the New, over which this noble language is either already spoken, or is fast spreading, and the immense treasures of literature which are consigned to it, it becomes us to guard it with jealous care as a sacred deposit - not our least important trust in the heritage of humanity.* Our brethren in America must assist us in the task.
* Mr. Harrison's volume contains many instructive observations on the structure of the language, and a very copious and useful collection of illustrations on most points connected with English syntax and composition ; but as regards the history of the language, and its relation to the other members of the Teutonic family, his work is far inferior to that of Dr. Latham. The latter is in fact only too full and profound for young students; and we think the author would confer an important favour on such (especially on that increasing class of youths who require a manual for the matriculation examinations of the London University), by inserting in a future edition of his Elementary Grammar' those chapters of the larger work which strictly bear on the history of the English language and its dialects. Like Grimm's Deutsche Grammatik, to which Dr. L. so frankly acknowledges his obligations, the larger volume largely overlaps his immediate subject.
The United States.
ART. II. — 1. A Second Visit to the United States of America.
By Sir CHARLES LYELL. 2d edit. 2. The Western World, or Travels in the United States in
1846–7; exhibiting them in their latest development social, political, and industrial - including a chapter on California. By ALEXANDER MACKAY, Esq., of the Middle Temple,
Barrister-at-Law. 3 vols. 1849. 3. Reed and Matheson's Visit to the American Churches. 2 vols.
1835. 4. Tenth Annual Report of the Massachusetts System of Common
Schools. Boston : 1849. 5. Speech of the Hon. Daniel Webster upon the Subject of
Slavery, delivered in the Senate of the United States, March
7. 1850. IF F books are now like the sea sand, good and true books are
but as the rarer shells; and voyages and travels, having passed on beyond the interest of mere discovery, are to be estimated by those deeper qualities which make civilised nations truly acquainted with each other.
To this end, judgment and candour are more than all the arts of composition, and true candour is perhaps even more than judgment. "Sir Charles Lyell's books upon the inexhaustible field of America are distinguished by both these qualities, but more especially by the last, and are worthy therefore to be studied for real increase of knowledge.* They comprise observations upon every thing in that theatre of great experiments which would naturally attract the attention of a liberal and cultivated Englishman, possessing those advantages of access and intercourse which were at the command of a man not only eminent in science, but conversant with the best society of Europe, a gentleman by station, and a gentleman by nature. He has visited the United States twice (which it would not be so pleasant for many writers upon them to do), and had the advantage, therefore, of revising his first impressions, and also of noting many signs of progress made during his absence, which indicate how fast the social tree will grow in virgin soil. Mr. Lyell crossed the Atlantic first in pursuit of his geological vocation; and we can imagine the interest of the New World to him in its mere physical features
for a geologist looks at a continent as an anatomist looks at
* We can very honestly say the same for both Mr. Mackay, and Messrs. Reed and Matheson.
an animal — he sees with his mind's eye the internal organisation, and the fire and the water in digestive action, and the peristaltic earthquakes, and thinks he knows what the monster was like in its infancy and youth, and what it will be like in its old age -- he sees the valleys rising from the sea, and the mountains rising from the plain — he sees nature laying in her coal measures, and commonwealths coming down in the mud of primeval rivers — he looks backward to the Saurian aborigines, and onward perhaps to undefinable developments of the type of man. A geologist thus full of the great generalisations of his proper science will hardly confine himself within the sensible horizon when he comes to the historical period. The kingdoms, constitutions, creeds, and rituals of men, he will be apt to regard as less permanent than Niagara, — which is itself no immortal cascade. Yet, these he investigates as phenomena, with the fidelity of a naturalist, and applies the inductive method to thoughts no less than to things. There can be no doubt of the light, as well as the impulse, which physics have lent to metaphysics, and nature to divinity, since Pascal declared for Galileo and Newton became a saint in the English calendar, and since the Protestant schools and churches have given so many professors to geology
The sun at the centre, and the earth among the stars, and that star of ours in unccasing mutation and development, are suggestive of thoughts which are themselves but developments - which must revolve with man, who must revolve with his world, which is invisible from the Great Bear. Geology includes the whole visible creation, and is neutral ground on which all students meet, and all philosophies must adjust themselves to Nature's dimensions — and historians and politicians learn to recognise other occult agencies and dynamic forces, besides the climate of Montesquieu, underlying the institutions and controlling the schemes of men! It is, at any rate, unquestionable that political speculations are now largely turned from the dramatic, dynastic, and personal interests of history, to the life of nations, the destinies of races, and the ultimate prospects of mankind
our fathers' generation and our own have been marked by changes so vast and rapid as to strike the least imaginative minds withi an anxious sense of temporal instability, and to fill the most imaginative with solemn instincts of an undeveloped providence, and dim visions of a future which no theorems of the schools and the churches will contain. So much for the aptitudes, in our estimate, of a geological professor to report upon the social stratification of the great North American Republics.
1850. Protestantism the Basis of New England Freedom. 341
The book, in point of arrangement, like Sir C. Lyell's account of his former visit, is of the nature of a diary, taking up subjects as they arose by the way, or were suggested in conversation. But as his first visit was chiefly scientific, his second is chiefly popular, the mixture of geology and natural history giving the same variety of interest to the reader which it must have given to the daily progress of the traveller. It is an • agreeable novelty,' he says, to the naturalist to combine the • speed of a railway, and the luxury of good inns, with the sight • of the native forest; the advantages of civilisation, with the . beauty of unreclaimed nature: no hedges, few ploughed fields, • the wild plants, trees, birds, and animals undisturbed.'
Landing at Boston, he begins with the New England States, where lies the interest that most comes home to us. The foresight of Bacon could not have predicted what would come of those Pilgrim Fathers within 200 years: But observers of far inferior penetration, on looking back, may discern and trace downwards a natural expansion from that vigorous root. There was cast at once into fresh earth the seed of civil liberty, and the seed of independent belief, both included in that indomitable Protestantism which fled from the bondage of Europe to worship God in the wilderness. The Mayflower carried over to new shores the germ of a great nation, wherein, physically, there was nothing strange to experience; but she carried over also a spiritual venture of vaster capabilities under less visible promise -universal toleration latent in the most inhuman of schoolborn theologies — universal religion in a husk of Calvinism! No rational observer of the United States will now overlook that grain of mustard-seed in studying the moral phenomena of the Anglo-American nations.
Anglo-Saxon America is the land of progress, whatever the end of it is to be; and in that respect, and not for any results yet attained, is so deserving of our attention. The vigour of population corresponds there to the scale of nature. All the wants of civilised men are developed, and all the means of satisfying them are within reach; the war against the wilderness keeps all energies alive, feeding them with victory and hope; and all the experience of the Old World comes in aid to guide, to encourage, and to warn. If freedom be doomed to end in rebellion against God and anarchy among men, America will unteach the world an error of 2000 years. If, on the contrary, self-government be the secret of society, or the right way towards it, America is the land of promise, and the object of highest hope as well as of liberal curiosity. But without presuming to decide this momentous question, VOL. XCII. NO. CLXXXVIII.
or to assume it, let us hear Sir Charles Lyell's evidence. He is very curious about all religious manifestations, as every wise man must be, who knows how much may be inferred from them as to popular intelligence, and the state of education, and the moral heart of a community. The faiths of the multitude must be studied by those who would know their own times, and the thoughts of the wise by those who would foresee the coming time. The convictions of the many are the laws of the living world—the negations of the few mark the spiritual path which the next generations will follow; for the fear of God in the hearts of the wise tends ever to enlarge itself, to reject school definitions, and to purge the popular creed. To the ancient vates every part of nature was a separate God; to the modern poet universal nature is but a part of God. Consider the decline of faith, yet the progress of truth, in the Church, the schools, and the world, from Tertullian to Bishop Butler, from Ptolemy to Sir J. Herschel, from St. Louis to the King of Prussia! Now sectarianism is the beginning of the end of a blind reverence for human authority; and as Old England is the land of sects, compared with Europe, so New England is the land of sects compared with Old England; and the sects of America, like her factions, have the salient energy of youth. It requires a true philosopher to report of them fairly; and the habits of a natural philosopher to investigate them calmly and piously, -as he would the interesting peculiarities of animals. Behold, these are some of God's creatures, and these are some of their ways.
New England is in truth a museum of sectarian curiosities; no maternal church keeps down fanaticism, and no court manners suppress or chasten the free expression of it by word and by deed. Here, if any where, we must be careful to learn what such a state of things naturally comes to — whether to internecine war, or to mutual forbearance and gradual comprehension. It is a most practical question for all Christendom. At Portland, in Maine, Sir C. Lyell found a happy family' of sects — all, except the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, of Puritan derivation — but all without exception reconciled to live and eat together in the same cage. The late governor had been a Unitarian, the present governor was a Roman Catholic! Now according to the theory of exclusive truth, and a State conscience, either these sectaries can not be sincere in their differences, or they have no sense of the awful gulph that lies be'tween the Church and the world ;--- and in either case, that State has no conscience. Yet, judging the tree by its fruit, here is an impartial observer, who finds himself bound to report well of it,