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stand ? Has his fame grown brighter than it was ? and will he yet be one of that noble band, whose good name will be associated with the origin of the United States, to the end of recorded time? Who can hesitate to answer these questions unfavorably? And what doubt can there be, that the sentence of his own generation will not be fully confirmed by posterity ?
Yet it may be possible, that the retribution, which was visited upon Burr during his later life, was, although perhaps not greater than he deserved, still much more severe than has fallen to the share of others, who were in fact not a whit better than he. The popular voice has perhaps at other times been more lenient, or more mistaken. It ought not to be forgotten, that Burr's name, scorched as it was by the censure of Washington, came very near being placed upon the same level with his, in the list of those to whom their fellow-citizens have awarded the highest mark of their confidence. Had it been ordained, that Aaron Burr should become President of the United States, and had his ambition, unchastened as it proved to be, exhausted its force in the legitimate channels afforded by the country's institutions, he might have escaped the heavy condemnation he now receives, and have been lauded for virtuous and patriotic motives of action which he never entertained. We may admit, that, in this point of view, history may be often, although we know not that it has been, defective. We are conscious, that
“Gilded wood will many worms enfold,” and that the principles of man are often the mere consequence of the situation in which he is placed. But what is this to Mr. Burr ? Another fate might have made him appear to us better than he was, but it does not entitle him to complain of that which shows him as no worse. This might justify him in contemning that history, which exalts some into patriots and statesmen, who in other circumstances would have been what he was; but not in moving to arrest the true judgment, which his own thoughts, words, and deeds have brought down upon him.
of the moral character of Burr, we fear that we have not much to say in praise. With ihe records of his notorious and abandoned profligacy, which he prided himself in preserving all his life, with the view of giving them afterwards
to the world, we are very glad that Mr. Davis took effective measures to prevent our having any acquaintance. In this, if in nothing else, he has done a great service to the public morals. As a domestic man, we see little to condemn, if not much to praise. Of his wife we find a few letters, which breathe the most ardent affection for him, and a better general spirit, than we should have expected. They are answered by him in terms, at first apparently quite as strong, cooling gradually down until they cease with her death, after which, in all the letters to his daughter, and in his Journal, we do not remember a single instance of recurrence to her memory. Not a sigh at her death, — not a moment set apart as a tribute to her worth. The letters to his daughter go right on, as if nothing had happened. She appears to have taken up all the room he gave to domestic attachment. She became the pride of bis heart and the darling of his affections. So far as we may be qualified to judge of her from the perusal of her letters, which form a part of the works before us, we should pronounce her to have been worthy of much regard. The education, which she had received, was, in many respects, peculiar, and grew out of her father's notions on the subject. He prized the masculine virtues much, and hence maintained, that boys and girls should be treated, in youth, upon the same plan. To him, religion seems to have been no essential, and morality rather important as a rule of expediency, than of abstract right. He held the want of genius, which he confessed he perceived in the great number of the female sex, to spring from errors of bringing up, from the force of prejudice and habit, rather than from natural constitution. And the weakness, which he had made it the study of his life to play upon, he declared, could be cured by thorough intellectual developement. In compliance with this system, we perceive him assiduous in overseeing his daughter's studies in Greek, and Latin, and French, her composition, and her external accomplishment, but utterly indifferent to the progress of her social or religious affections. He appears to have wished her to be a politician as bold and as unscrupulous as himself. Mrs. Alston must have been possessed of much native character, to resist, so successfully as she did, the errors of her father's plan of instruction. Her letters, though energetic, do not lose the feminine character, nor fail to show in her, that art cannot wholly weed out
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the seeds which nature plants. There is a vein of melancholy running through them all, which makes one sensibly feel, that there was a void at her heart, which her father had created, and which she could not fill. That void was the absence of all inculcated religious principle. So that, when her greatest trial came, and she was deprived of her only child, whom she had made the object of her idolatry in this world, she looked round, and saw nothing more to fear or to hope. - Omnipotence,” she says, " could give her no equivalent for her boy.” Neither could her father, at that awful moment, compensate her for his failure to teach what alone can have any effect in soothing such a tone of despair, or in producing any resignation to that decree of Omnipotence, the justice of which she so boldly impugns. We can easily understand the desolateness of her condition, and sympathize with the first outpourings of a mother's heart ; but, in the midst of it, we cannot fail to ask, what to her, at that instant, would be worth all the schemes, for her, of her father's worldly ambition, compared with the single drop of balm which he had neglected or forgotten to put within her reach. The catastrophe which immediately followed, in the loss of her at sea, comes upon us with little regret, when we remember how few were her remaining motives to live. We look upon her story with much the same feeling, as one might witness the performance of some of those Greek dramas, in which the characters suffer too much by acts which they cannot control, to make it disagreeable to arrive at the end. The scene is too darkly shaded to afford even a ray of sunlight to relieve the gloom
And after his daughter and his grandson had gone from this world, and Burr thus became a lone man, taking little part in the hopes or fears of his fellows, earning a paltry subsistence by weaving the filmy cobwebs of the law, disliking and disliked, he still continued unchanged in the frivolity of his pursuits, and unsubdued by the severity of the lessons he had been taught. His vicious propensities appear at last to have completely smothered all latent sparks of ambition, until he became nothing more than a living monument of his past history, — an old man whom nobody respected. The case is as singular as it is melancholy. We would fain not say of it so much as we are compelled to think. It is always painsul to observe the latter days of any man of note passed without the honor due to age and services ; and this, even when we are conscious that the cause is to be found in himself. Our pity for Burr is, perhaps, more than he himself would have thought to be called for. The solitary oak which stands for years, after the lightning has furrowed its stem and scathed its summit, turning it to decay, is not a more fitting emblem of desolation, than the moral vegetation of such a human being.
We have but a single word to add ; and this relates to his critical and literary judgment. With a mind possessing acute powers of reasoning, without any definite moral basis, it cannot be wondered at, that he should often be struck with the new rather than the true. Jeremy Bentham and Mary Wolstoncraft seem to have been the great authorities in politics and morals to which he bowed. Whether he borrowed from the former his definition of law, which we have already quoted, we do not know, or whether it was original with himself ; but, in either case, the scale of his moral developement may be equally well understood. His letters to his daughter communicate little beyond the detail of his love affairs, and allusions to local and temporary matters. They are clearly written and vigorously expressed; for Burr through life thought clearly, however fond of mystery in his actions. But they do not exalt him in our estimation. To sum up all, we think, after regarding him in every light, whether as an officer, a lawyer, a politician, or a citizen, we cannot agree with Mr. Davis in calling him a great man, and shall never think him to have been a good one. Nor can we wonder, that the pure and patriotic mind of Washington should have shrunk from contact with one so decidedly its opposite, or that he should have exercised his influence, in its whole extent, to prevent its evil influence upon our public affairs.
ART. VII. - The Life and Character of the Reverend
Samuel H. Stearns. Second Edition. Boston: J. A.
A BRIEF notice was taken of the “ Life and Select Discourses” of Mr. Stearns in our number for July, 1838. The second edition of the work is wholly in the form of
a Memoir, the Discourses being omitted, with a view, as we are informed in the Preface, to the publication, hereafter, of a larger collection of Discourses by themselves. We would repeat our recommendation of this book as a pleasant biography of an interesting man. We have thought, in reading it, of the importance of self-cultivation in the Christian ministry. We shall aim at nothing more in our present remarks, than a few obvious suggestions upon this point.
A minister's thoughts and concern are officially and necessarily for others. He has his congregation before his mind in his solitary study. He judges of the fitness of a consolation or reproof by the condition and feelings of some of his flock; he determines even what to think upon, or what to write, by his knowledge of the moral state of others. In the pulpit, he thinks, he feels, he speaks, for others; he tries to help the devotions of others in his prayers. He recollects what he has said in public with reference to its probable effect on others, and goes amongst his flock to repeat his instructions and exhortations. If a minister's heart were impressible like wax, and each character he comes in contact with, could stamp it, it would sometimes look like one of Quarles's Emblems; and, again, it would be like a registry on a mountain, where the various travellers have inscribed their joyful, or querulous, or pathetic, or sublime, or ludicrous impressions. Every week he has to be imprinted afresh. New cases of interest continually occur to make a deeper impression than the former. He must go through the houses of his people, if from no better motive, to forestall the half affectionate and half murmuring complaint at his long absence. Though
“ Wide is his parish, and houses fer asоnder,
Yet he must leave nought for no rain ne thonder." It is evident, that no man can give himself up to such cares and influences without losing all originality and freshness of character and feeling, unless, by a determined and systematic effort, he makes the cultivation of his own mind a prominent object of his life. He cannot for a long time profit others without it. But this is not the motive which we would at present urge. He owes it to himself ; he must not neglect himself in caring for others; he is of as much importance as any other individual, considered as an intelligent being ; his