Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

contended, are detached from them, are coming to our sphere, an astrologer must know the precise time of their arrival, in order to decide rightly upon their effect. If, on the other hand, the influences are perpetual, with what wonderful speed they must rush through the vast extent of space! How marvellous, too, must be the alliance they form with those vivacious passions whence originate the principle actions of our lives! For if the stars regulate all our feelings and all our proceedings, their influences must work with the same rapidity as our wills, since it is by them that our will is determined.

Here is a young man who takes it into his head to have nothing more to do with a young lady he loves, because she bestows a tender glance on a rival. What a number of influences must be at work, and how quickly too! As quick as the glance the lady shoots from her eyes, as swift as the thought of the lover who takes offence, for it is these influences which determine the lady to tenderness and the young man to jealousy. Is this too mean a matter to consider ? Oh, no! Astrologers maintain that the most insignificant things are ruled by the stars. The quarrels and reconcilations of lovers are quite in this way, nay they make their best market out of them: they have no such faithful followers as lovers. Who is so anxious to consult the astrologer as a young man in love? and as to the fair sex-we all know how much more inquisitive they are than ourselves. No, no! the makers of horoscopes have no such constant customers as lovers. Astrologers and lovers! What a union! Both how deceitful! If the fair would be advised, I should counsel them to guard themselves more against the predictions of astrologers than the insinuating attentions of gay and gallant young men.

What has been said of planets may be said of comets. For a long time it was believed, even by the wise and great, that the appearance of a comet indicated evil. Evils will certainly happen after the coming of a comet; why, yes, just as they will happen after the rising and setting of the sun; for it is in the ordinary course of things that there should always be great calamities in some part or other of the world. The influence of a comet is no greater than that of a man putting his head out of a window to look at people passing along the street. His looks have no influence on the people passing, and they would all pass the same, whether he put his head out of the window or not. In the same manner a comet has no influence over events, and every thing would have happened as it did, whether it appeared or not.

People in the past generations were believers in these influences. That superstition has now gone out and is supplied by a variety of new kinds of impostures, but there is no necessity of endeavouring carefully to refute them !"

After this manner my father sought to persuade his worthy brother-in-law of his illogical, chimerical views. Vain was the effort. My uncle never recanted, but died a firm believer in the religious tenets, principles, and faith he imbibed from the gifted lady who became his wife. Though unconvinced by my father, he must have derived no small amount of information from his conversations; it could not have been otherwise, for his common discourse abounded in learning, wit, and knowledge. I shall always regret my inability, consistently with the scope of this memoir, to do ampler justice to the virtues of one who filled so considerable a place in Virginia with honour and credit, and thus, while erecting a memorial to his memory dictated by filial affection, to hold out an example of good qualities for the imitation of others. Survivors owe this much of a debt to departed worth; and if ordinary friendship imposes this duty upon us, how much more binding is the obligation when the friend and survivor is a son.

N

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Among the interesting questions at this time dividing the political parties in America, was that of the proper distribution of the money arising from the sales of the public lands.

When, in 1783, the treaty was signed by Great Britain, recognizing the independence of the American colonies, and the United States were admitted into the family of nations, the Confederacy owned no public lands whatever. It is true that lying within its borders was a large tract of unoccupied territory, amounting, in the aggregate, to about 226,000,000 acres; but this land belonged to the individual States, not to the Federal Government. The English charters had given to several of the colonies the coast of the Atlantic as their eastern boundary, and had defined, though loosely, their northern and southern limits; westward, however, their territorial rights stretched across the continent to the Pacific. The French possessions, on the other hand, extended from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico; their eastern boundary was not very clearly defined, but the line drawn not only ignored the claims of the English colonists to the western territory, but even infringed upon the limits of some of the colonies themselves. In support of their pretensions, the French erected forts and block-houses, at intervals, from the Great Lakes through the western part of Pennsylvania, to the Ohio ; then along the banks of that stream to its junction with the Mississippi; whence their chain of military posts followed the course of the latter river to its mouth. The English colonists found themselves, by these proceedings of the French, hemmed in, and, in defiance of what they considered their just rights, prevented all expansion westward. A conflict between the two races was, under these circumstances, sooner or later inevitable. A collision, in fact, took place so early as 1753, on the banks of the Ohio, between some English settlers and the garrison of one of the forts already referred to. Both parties to the quarrel hastened to lay the story of their injuries before their respective governments. The consequence was a long and sanguinary war between England and France, in which half Europe became involved.

In the New World, Braddock's defeat temporarily delayed, but could not avert, the final catastrophe. The superior numbers and indomitable resolution of the Anglo-Saxon in the end prevailed; Canada was conquered ; and the forts on the Ohio were necessarily abandoned. France, it is true, still retained Louisiana, ? which comprehended not simply the present area of the State bearing that name, but a vast tract of territory,

« ElőzőTovább »