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seas of the east was alleged to draw the nails, and bolts, and iron fastenings from the timbers of every vessel that sailed by it
On prend à toutes mains le siécle où nous sommes ;
The money-changers, who were driven from the Temple, have acquired the sovereignty over the nations; the issues of peace and war, the fortunes and the lives of thousands, the hopes, the anxieties, and the fears of men, the sustenance of populations, are in the hands of the Jews, and Greeks, and Gentiles, and depend not upon their serious sagacity or the contemplation of the large interests of communities, but on the accidental or premeditated changes of their game of hazard. All the elements of national prosperity and existence are tossed about without solicitude, as merely the counters of speculation :
Si signoreggia al mondo l'avarizia. *
The nineteenth century boasts of its political sagacity, and points with pride to its advancement in political philosophy, and to its practical application of the precepts of political economy, but it is the wisdom handed down from old time that nations flourish only by the general welfare of the masses, and not by the magnitude of the special gains of the few. Yet, how can the multitude prosper, or even survive, under the operation of the complicated financial machinery which grinds them at every turn of its wheels! It has already been shown that the profits of speculation are derived from no actual or corresponding angmentation of either products or values; that they result only from the change of the holders of the values; and that their gains are ultimately abstracted from the fruits of the industrial labours of the
poorer and unspeculating classes, who lose in greater proportion than others gain. Such is the commercial wisdom of this nineteenth century ; yet even in the confusion of the sixth, amid all the darkness and chaos of ostrogothic invasion, the fatal error of such proceedings was recognized. “ Ultra omnes credulitatus est, divitem velle fieri, de exiguitate mendici.” +
The interruptions of agriculture in Europe, and the strange waywardness of the seasons everywhere during the recent years, have augmented the operations, the risks, the profits, and the losses of speculators in grain and other provisions, for which there has been an irregular and unusual demand in consequence of the late disturbances in Europe. Most branches of industry have been
* Sannazzaro. Ecloga. vi. + Cassiodorus. Var. lib. xii. Edict. xxii, tom. i, p. 18. col. 6. Ed. Garet. Venet.
feverishly stimulated, but have been, at the same time,
thrown into disorder, and rendered more than ordinarily perilous. The immenso increase of commercial and other operations, accompanied with the augmentation of their risks and contingent profits, has given excessive impetus to corporate industry. This social tendency has been manifested in England by the late legislation on limited partnerships, and by the rapidly advancing consolidation of railroads; and still more signally on the continent of Europe, by the continued expansion of that most dangerous instrument of finance, La Société de Crédit Mobilier, in France, by the extension of its gigantic transactions into Spain, and by the introduction or proposal of similar establishments in Venice, Vienna, and Turin. The companies organized in this country for oceanic steam navigation, with their clamorous demands on Congress for extravagant appropriations; the numerous projects proposed, with the contemplation of liberal grants of land for railroad communication with the Pacific coast; and many of the schemes of internal improvement in the Western States and territories, exhibit the type which the general disease of the times has assumed in America. Nor is the infection confined to the Great Republic in the northern part of the western hemisphere, but its virulence has extended even to the stagnant or retrograde communities of the southern portion. The symptoms of the plague are largely discernible in the charters granted by the Emperor of Brazil, and the Republic of Bolivia, for the introduction of steam navigation on the Amazon, and the development of the commercial and industrial resources of the vast valley drained by that mighty river.
The moral or immoral effects of these speculating tendencies have been glaringly displayed in the trial of Messrs. Strahan, Paul and Bates, for fraud and embezzlement; in the exposures consequent upon the death of John Sadleir, M. P. ; in the copious commentaries of the English press on that startling event; in the abundant revelations relative to the adulteration and sophistication of nearly all articles of food, and of numerous manufactures; in the Rugeley and similar murders, and in the prospective impracticability of life. Assurances, in consequence of the terrific frauds and crimes which they provoke and reward; in the frequency of murder by poisoning, a hundred instances of which were stated by Dr. Taylor to have come within his own cognizance during the year; in the speculation and malfeasance connected with the management of railroad companies, as specially exemplified by the Southwestern Railway Company, and the late meetings of the Eastern Counties Railway Company;* in the continual indications
* Railway Morals and Railway Policy. By Robert Spencer. London. 1855. Postscript. Pp. 59–75.
afforded by English, and we might add, other journals of habitual and systematic frausls in the ordinary routine of business. There were also sundry rumours and some authenticated facts concerning the transactions of the great Greek houses in England, engaged in the grain trade, (luring the Turko-Russian war, which do not suggest a favourable estimate of the morality or beneficial effects of
speculation, even when occupied with the exchange or production of real material values. Nor do the allegations of the extensive bribery and corruption, practised in Congress, and openly charged upon its members, permit us to believe that the higli places in our own government are removed from the general contamination. Indeed, every position taken by us can be readily sustained and extended by the abundant evidence of current transactions, if any pains be taken to collect, compare, and preserve the business annals of the time.
Even the suggestion of the prospective scarcity of the materials and aliment of inachinery has not been left entirely without recent corroboration. Our attention has been attracted by the anxieties of France, relative to the deficiency of its coals, and by the consequent transference of a large part of the iron tradle of Europe to Prussia. Everywhere great influences are silently working towards a grand explosion; the separate steps of advancing dangers are almost unheeded; in the bustle and activity of cager industry or of inebriating speculation, immediate effects are so exclusively contemplated as to prevent the attention from ranging får into the future, and from combining together, into one general inference, the numerous discommected testimonies which furnish the true oracles of the passing age.
Everywhere many (langerous tendencies are now pressing forward to the speedly development of national disaster. IIowever divergent in principle, or dissimilar in aspect, they are acting in concert for the production of a common result. Of these, speculation is the most iinmediately pernicious, and perhaps the least remediable. It admits of indefinite amplification, and almost infinite dissemination; like a high-pressure engine, its energy increases after the point of security is passed, and is augmented until the moment of final explosion. Then ruin ensues, and the danger is realized in its full extent, almost before it is suspected by any one. Such seems to us the condition of modern trade, and such the prospective result of modern speculation. So far as we have yet perceived, the only check on its dillusion is the existence of slavery; for this institution, and the social system determined by it, have hitherto repelled its ravages, and even its extensive adinission in the Southern States.
The latest incident connected with this subject which has come to our knowledge, is the autograph letter of the Emperor Louis Napoleon, addressed to M. Ponsard, to acknowledge his services
in the cause ef virtue and the public weal, by his recent comedy, La Bourse. It is well that the stage is at length assailing this monster, and directing public indignation and ridicule against it. But the imperial commendations are very suspicious, since the Emperor is believed to dabble largely in the funds, and to be deeply interested in the Société de Crédit Mobilier.
ART. II.-IRVING'S LIFE OF WASHINGTON.
Life of George Washington. By WASHINGTON IRVING. In three
volumes. [Unfinished.] New York: G. P. Putman & Co. 1855-1856.
ADVANCING years seem to accumulate fresh lustre and increasing honours on the name of Washington. Time, which consigns so much else to oblivion, and dims so much of what once dazzled mankind, imparts to his fame a more luminous projection, and reveals it in new and outstanding proportions. As we more deeply search and better understand the other personages of history, wo learn the better to understand and appreciate Washington. In thein, we discern only so many foils and tests, rather than rivals or doubles of his renown. The contemporaries, who gazed on him near, could not comprehend his relative and proportional greatness, Swayed by the passions of the hour, they sometimes questioned his far-reaching and prophetic policy ; but results generally exchanged his enemies into friends, and dissidents became his converts. He was at once the representative of the glorious past, and the herald of a brighter future. War and peace, the eagle and the dove, perch together on his escutcheon. He stands at the head of that small catalogue, which itself occupies the van of worldly greatness; we mean the class of warrior-statesmen. Therefore, we are not attracted to a new life of Washington by the ordinary interest and instruction to be derived from history or biography; we expect and demand from it fresh illustrations of immortal principle, of the better genius of our country, and of the happier type and promise of humanity.
The title-page of the work now to be noticed, presents a strikingly felicitous collocation of names. From its first announcement, it rang like a fitting harmony on every cognizant ear. It told that the writer, who, on the whole, seems best to deserve the combined appellation of the father of American literature, and the
most favourite American author at home and abroad, devotes the sunset of his brilliant career to the biography of the father of his country, and of the most popular man of the world's history. By a sort of characteristic modesty and propriety, he undertakes not his labour, until he has, in a manner, educated and matured himself into an appropriate capacity for the task. IIad Mr. Irving attempted the life of Washington thirty years ago, the admirers, both of himself and of his hero, might have apprehended a deficiency of certain qualities indispensable to the specific undertaking. True, they would have safely looked for every charm of thought, and every grace of style and narrative. But, there was at that time wanting to the compositions of this distinguished author, a certain nervous and masculine ruggedness, necessary to the complete historian or biographer. The exquisite polish, the melting lusciousness, the studied beauty of almost every sentence, although adapted to purposes of high intellectual refinement, appeared to be not the most suitable drapery of historic truth. The favourite veins, also, which the author hal hitherto wrought, were not closely kivdred with a sturily research into matters of fact. Speculations on general life and manners, humorous satire, quaint and piquant narrative, the very essence, in short, of excellence in essay-writing, constituted not the promise of an ideal biographer of Washington. Accordingly, by some prophetic instinct, impelling him towards that lofty function, he seems to have trained and chastened himself by a long intermediate elaboration of various histories and lives, into that precise degree of breadth of conception and stern intellectual muscularity which the task required. The result is, that the style of the work before us, with a very few exceptions, is all that could be desired. The narrative is captivating and entrainant; the admiration for the hero olescribed is more enthusiastically exhibited than by any preceding biographer; the various topics are marshalled and dwelt upon with artistic felicity and tact; and while the elements of poetry and eloquence are superinduced upon the merits of his predecessors, the author's determination to present exact historical truth everywhere, overrides and extinguishes the mere inclination to produce effect. Fancy and imagination are only allowed to be the handmaids of his severe l'esearch. That
say is evidently his predominant aim; how to say it, though not neglected, is but a subordinate purpose, for which, however, nature and genius have amply provided. Although the author must be somewhat advanced in years, the only marks of age, betrayed throughout his work, are the wisdom, truth, and justice of his manifold conceptions.
It is rather an embarrassing task to approach the critical examination of a yet unfinished production. Every work of a fragmentary nature seems to preclude the exercise upon it of a complete and equitable judgment. The true scope of an author can rarely