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enthusiasm for imaginative excitement of all kinds, and realize how largely Art enters into their system of life. The Chinese trustfully refer you to “Old Custom," and the Turks to Fate, as the principles by which they regulate their being. It may be a fanciful notion, but I think the ordinary salutations of a people indicate, in a measure, their philosophy of living. The French greeting is literally—“ how do you carry yourself ?"-a query suggestive of egotism; that of the Italians-“how do you stand ?”—which breathes of an existence in the immediate -so characteristic of the South ; while our favorite phrase is— “how do you get along ?”—at once calling up an external and distant goal—success.
New England opinions and enterprises are so interwoven with the social agencies of the whole country, and so constantly eulogized on public occasions, that they may be justly deemed the active and prominent element of American life. It has become so much a practice, when any reference is made to the habits, manners, and principles of our nation, to indulge in selfcongratulation, that not a few shrink from the hazardous experiment of dwelling, otherwise than complacently, upon the social traits of the people. Indeed, one's patriotism is liable to be called in question if he acknowledge any other creed than implicit belief in the superiority of existent motives of action and modes of life. Such a feeling cannot obtain, however, among the candid and inquiring, or among those whose love of country is intelligent and sincere. To such the chief value of political liberty is the scope it affords for social improvement. They revert to a brave ancestry, not alone to glory in their laurels, but to emulate their fidelity, and add to the trophies of national renown. No man flatters the woman he truly loves, and that is a questionable devotion to country or friends which
is evidenced rather by blind partiality than affectionate insight, and bold recognition of truth. If any people are bound by honor and wisdom to self-criticism, it is ourselves, for we have it in our power more than any other to carry out new principles of action, to improve upon the results of experience, and immediately appropriate, as individuals, all the light that comes to us. What, then, are the ultra tendencies in our social system, taking New England philosophy, so generally quoted with admiration, as the basis of inquiry? What elements must we individually furnish, to render our culture generous ? Wherein are we liable to be perverted by the theory of life which vails?
Republics have ever been accounted peculiarly favorable to the development of character. The absence of external domination has been deemed the best guarantee for personal independence. The general confidence in this idea seems to me to have produced results of a directly contrary kind. Nowhere is the force of public opinion stronger than here. The very faith we place in our own institutions is calculated to blind us as individuals. Noble-minded men in the old world turn upon their own resources, cultivate their peculiar tastes, and rely upon their personal convictions, with the more determination, from the very despotism which surrounds them.
Our countrymen pass through Southern Europe, and casually survey the apathy which broods over human existence, the abject misery of the lower orders, and the frivolous dissipation of the higher, and turn away from the spectacle in disgust. But if they could enter the apartments of some of the true spirits scattered through those densely populated cities, they would frequently pause in admiration of the scene. They would find minds living, as it were, in the very atmosphere of heroism, holding
constant communion with the good and great of past ages, and cherishing in solitude purposes worthy of the most eminent of
We have known young men in Italy subsisting upon the scantiest incomes rather than live upon the wages of despotism, withdrawing from the gayest society rather than countenance the levity of a court, feeding their aspirations at the fountain of hallowed literature and elevating companionship, and thus atoning for their untoward lot by a quiet bravery, more impressive than the most gallant achievements. Such characters have given us a more vivid sense of human worth than the lives of successful heroes. We have thus been made to realize how much of sacredness there is in the individual, how much he can accomplish within himself, what courage and power he may display, and what energies he may unfold by manly and philosophic endurance. With us the case is so widely different, that the tendency is to spread outward from ourselves and become identified with the mass. There is a cant of reverence applied to man in the abstract, but as an individual he is seldom appreciated, except under a professional aspect. The true end of freedom is to develope manhood and womanhood, not to make authors, mechanics, or statesmen. First, let us have the human attributes in their completeness, the broad intelligence that no vocation can bound, the heart which no sect or party can absorb. Let the personal character —the living aggregate of qualities which each represents, not mere aptitudes or condition-win our interest and enlist our sympathies. It is owing to an estimate the opposite of this, that, except in the West and South, the surface of life is so level that there is little material in the way of original character in our young land, --so few, compared to the monotonously energetic mass, who stand in bold relief, distinct, consistent,
individual men, living for a great idea, like Columbus, or enduring with brave self-reliance, like Dante. The danger is ever with us that we refer our actions, thoughts, and feelings, to the idolized standard of public opinion. We believe too much in associations, and too little in ourselves. We are not inclined to concentrate mind, sentiment, and activity, but to dissipate them in generalities. Now, the actual good which the individual derives from associations is very limited. They are doubtless useful in a certain way and to a certain extent; but they ought not to blind us to nearer obligations, nor to the truth that even the cause of philanthropy may often be best promoted by personal fidelity. “Over the time, thou hast no power; to redeem a world sunk in dishonesty has not been given thee; solely over one man therein thou hast a quite absolute, uncontrollable power; him redeem, him make honest; it will be something, it will be much, and thy life and labor not in vain."
Next to the danger of subserviency to society, the unhealthy prominence of the idea of thrift is the most baneful feature in our philosophy of life. That it should be prominent in a young and commercial republic is to be expected. The great error is that there is little desire to restrain its expression within due bounds. Let it have free scope on the exchange and in the mart, but let it not continually deform our fire-side discourse, and usurp the inner sanctuary of the soul. There, at least, let not all be “base respects of thrift and none of love." Pecuniary ability is the established criterion of the value of life; circumstances are almost deified; success is exclusively desired, or rather grossly misunderstood; for if there be a single established principle of human well-being, it is that which defines the successful man as him who is true to himself—to his powers, tastes, and actual needs. It is time we not only coldly
acknowledged, but instinctively felt, that it is as barbaric to reverence wealth as to overload the limbs with ornament. The philosophy of life with us seems based on the faith that man lives by bread alone. Trade and politics completely overshadow literature and art. Invention exhausts itself upon machines and finance; our trophies may be found chiefly at the patent office. Yet the real end of all these is to procure time, and what is time, if unprovided with the resources which shall dignify and adorn it? “Poetry," says a beautiful writer, " and the principle of self, of which money is the visible incarnation, are the God and Mammon of the world.”
What intelligent mind can doubt the truth of this observation? Yet how opposed to such an idea is the spirit of our community! A New England merchant, upon leaving a picture-gallery abroad, was observed by his companion to be very thoughtful. Presently he exclaimed, “I have been thinking of nothing but making money all my life. How much there is to learn and to enjoy in this world! Henceforth no thought of business shall enter my mind, until I recross the Atlantic. I will study painting, and sculpture, and music: I will commune with nature; I will ponder the works of departed genius; I will cultivate the society of the intellectual and the gifted;"—at this point of his harangue, he suddenly left his friend's side, and darted into a shop they were passing, -apologizing, upon resuming the walk, by saying he had merely stopped to inquire the price of tallow! Leisure with us is still an anomaly. Now far be it from us to gainsay the advantages of industry, to deny that labor is man's appropriate sphere, or to lament, for a moment, the spectacle of universal activity, and consequently, of prosperity around us. Let us only contend that all labor is not obvious and tangible ; that no man who thinks, deserves to