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Their cells of purest wax, prepard with skill,
P. 153, 154.
It is to be remembered that the contents of this volume have been, in the words of the author, “Songs by the Way,' (loose numbers,' framed in the interval of an arduous avocation, and of severe study.” In the present state of literature among us, the amusements of such minds as our author's, in their hours of relaxation, may be of great benefit to the reading community. This must afford them a proud source of satisfaction, in addition to the solitary and secret pleasure, with which those who have acquired in youth the keys of learning, can unlock its choicest stores in the vacant intervals of after life ; and, in the cessation of business or study, commune with those bright intelligences, whose embodied thoughts have survived the lapse of ages, and still breathe and burn in all the freshness and brightness of their original conception.
Blessings be with them, and eternal praise,
REMARKS ON THE PUBLIC CELEBRATION OF THE ANNIVERSARY
OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE.
All nations, whether ancient or modern, that have been characterized by even the slightest advances in civilization, have been found to have established national festivals and celebrations. Not satisfied with the expression of that private feeling, in which each individual might indulge, when reflecting on such events, as might have occurred in the history of the community, tending either directly to promote
its interests, or to protect it against threatening danger, mankind seem ever to have thought, that, for a national blessing, there should be an expression of national joy; that on the recurrence of the day, which, in former times, had been signalized, by events peculiarly promoting the public good, the public voice should be raised as evidence from each member of the community to the other, and to the world, that their recollection of such events had not been impaired, nor their gratitude for them extinguished.
It may be doubted, whether, in the long range of human annals, there can be found a single exception to this observation; and if there be none, it argues strongly in favour of such a practice, since, whatever has been found uniform and universal, should seem to be in consonance with the soundest dictates of our nature.
In truth, there are but few, who, in so many words, would deny their propriety : and yet it certainly is a source of sincere regret to many, to observe the apathy and indifference, if not, indeed, the contemptuousness of tone and manner, with which the mention of the celebration of the anniversary of American Independence is sometimes received. There are those among us who appear to believe, and we fear many who do really believe, that the day should be passed over in dignified silence; and the reflections and business, and occupations of our sober and industrious citizens, be undisturbed and uninterrupted by the noise, parade, dissipation, and useless expense, so commonly attendant on its celebration. “ Where,'' they argue, " is the propriety of seducing the mechanic from his workshop, the labourer from his business, the school-boy from the restraints and discipline of his school--of turning out a whole people, men, matrons, maids and children, just to spend one day in idleness, profusion and waste ; where no earthly good is to be gained, and much loss must inevitably
Why excite the feelings of the multitude, so liable to run into excess and phrenzy, when all the purposes had in view from a public celebration, might be gained by each man's private reflections ; or, at any rate, by some solemn, but more quiet announcement of it, by the public authority.” “ Let Americans," they continue, “ cherish, indeed, the remembrance of the day, when their rights and liberties were proclaimed, but let them do it with that seriousness and silent dignity, that becomes a people at once free and enlightened." Such sentiments are more common than is sometimes imagined, and their prevalence and influence is at times observable; not merely in those general reflections which are to
he found afloat in society, but in that deadness and want of spirit, which is sometimes witnessed among certain classes on the day of the celebration.
As to “ the madness of the people,” when powerfully roused, either by military, political or religious excitement, we have evidence enough of its effects to be on our guard against it. And it is curious to the philosopher, as well as to the unlettered man, to trace the wild mazes in which human nature has been involved, when led astray by imagination, under the guidance of folly, fear or superstition. At one time man is to be seen turning reptiles into gods, or gods into reptiles ; at another, casting his offspring to the flames, or sacrificing decency, sobriety and manhood, on the altar of Bacchanalian fury. Here we behold him offering himself at the faggot, an atonement to divine displeasure—there stoning and razing to their foundations the temples of those deities who, he imagines, have neglected his prayers. In one country he is found driving virtue from the republic, by universal acclamation ; in another, dragging the car of despotism, and planting it directly in the capitol. In this age, he is beheld receiving with open arms, an enthusiast as his prophet and his king: in that, regardless of virtues and of miracles, shouting “crucify-crucify;" and even in our day, when circumstances would seem to insure a more manly and becoming spirit, the heart sickens at the sight of those degrading and disgusting rites and practices, which, in many places, the Carnival is made to sanction.
But, although these things have been, and are so still, nevertheless, the world is getting pretty well through its days of childhood. There certainly was a time when wild fancy and imagination marched in the van of society, even in its better forms, and when severe reason and the more manly intellectual virtues were less in demand than at present ; or, at least, when the exercise of them was left, almost exclusively, to those who had rendered themselves lords over the noble heritage of man.
Times and circumstances, however, have materially changed; and individuals at large have begun to think more for themselves.-10 reflect before they act, and to indulge in doubts, however authoritatively dogmas may be announced. The more dangerous and combustible materials of society have been pretty much burnt out. The consequence of all this is, that we live in an age, and more particularly, in a country, (for it is to this country that these remarks are intended specially to be applied,) which has with some accuracy, been denominated one of matter-of-fact. There can be no doubt, that, on the
whole, mankind are to be benefitted by this change; and that, indeed, this peculiar genius of the times, is the first fruit and offspring of an advancement towards a higher state of maturity. But, perhaps, it may still be apprehended, whether this over-nice matter-of-fact spirit may not be carried to an injudicious extreme; and whether, in the attempt to appear very wise and philosophical, we may not be sacrificing many of those delights and enjoyments, which were kindly intended to smooth the ruggedness of life ; whether, in truth, with all our good sense and practical wisdom, we may not be led to conceive man too much a creature of business ; and, forgetting the compound nature of his constitution, philosophize away half that makes him a happy one.
That, on the celebration of the anniversary of the declaration of our Independence, as on all other occasions, when men set themselves about their pleasures, as contra-distinguished from their business, excesses may be committed, and follies displayed by individuals ; that they may occasionally overshoot the mark which good sense and strict propriety may point, is certainly not to be denied ; but that, therefore, any justification or apology is to be found therein, for that overweening conceit of dignity, that affected elevation above vulgar excitement, that pretty show of fatigue at crowds and bustle, or that cold, calculating spirit of profit and loss, which would put down, or even tend to enfeeble an universal and hearty burst of national enthusiasm and joy on this day of pride, is by no means to be admitted.
All objections of this kind, when advanced against matters founded in sound principle, and supported by all those feelings in which the virtuous bosom must delight, although accompanied by incidental evils, should be met fairly, and at once, by that good sense and enlarged observation, that innate sense of propriety, which at once founds a firm and sufficient basis for our judgment in all the occupations and decisions of life, and spurns that minuteness of detail and calculation, which belongs only to the cold arithmetic of the miser or the ascetic. Every thing is subject to objection, and nothing without its evils. The most rational enjoyments of men must be forsaken, if weighed in such a balance; and we shall be convinced, upon reflection, that there is an extreme in this system as well as in the other. To avoid the dangers arising from heterogeneous collections of men, political and religious meetings of all kinds, nay, the very system of society itself must be abandoned; tó escape the loss which may result from occasional cessation from labour, not only must all the agreeable and interesting
socialities of life, but even the very institution of the Sabbath be relinquished. And by tracing this notion in all its bearings, we shall find that whilst we are aiming to grasp too much, we are, in truth, in danger of losing what we have. Such general objections as are found sometimes started on this subject, are far too mean and insignificant to command much attention, and therefore are not worthy of being hunted down in detail. If the heart does not at first feel their feebleness, the head never can be convinced of it. We can trace the operation of the same principle in the proposal to reduce the salary of our Presidents to that of a ball-pay drummer in the British army, and to make honour, and not a yearly stipend, the reward of our judges.
If the society in which we live, cannot bear up under the loss resulting from an occasional relaxation from the store or the workshop, it must, indeed, be reduced to a most pitiable condition ; and if it cannot find in itself sufficient command of principle, information, good sense and virtue, far to outweigh the inducements to, or even the consequences of, the mere temporary extra excitement of a day, it is hardly worth while to waste much time in attempts to prop its decaying pillars. Without enthusiasm, nothing great was ever accomplished: and although, unless under proper guards and restrictions, it may be a dangerous power, yet the engine of state in this country is quite strong enough to bear a pretty high pressure. In this, as in many other cases of vital importance, we must trust to the good sense of the community, and look to the sterling mass of national virtue as the safety-valve of the state. If outrages against the laws are committed, let the law raise its own powerful arm : in this country, thank God, it is strong enough for the putting down of any thing engaged against it. And if individuals here and there are to be found weak or wicked enough to be hurried into excesses, why let them pay the costs attendant on such actions, in the broken or the aching head, the empty purse, or the reflections and sensations of a day or two of sobriety. Besides such things on public occasions are more particularly noticed, only because they are somewhat more aggregately and openly exhibited.
For our own part, notwithstanding all the cant and affected lamentations which we have been accustomed to hear on the riots and dissipations attending our national festival, we freely declare our conviction that very little, if any more is witnessed on that day, than by a slight investigation might be traced out every day, and more especially on some esteemed rather more holy. We can bear honourable testimony to the good order, good