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price of innocent blood, and from the field where he hung himself in despair..
The man of genius moreover, speaks in the audience of that very inspiration whence he draws his own wisdom. He addresses himself to that moral and spiritual tribunal, which he reverences in his own soul. This fact alone bars the expression of all that is of a low and corrupting tendency, and makes the gifted author the minister of righteousness . and not of sin. The result of this is, that the moral standard of even the most indifferent literature is higher than the common standard of life and practice, and thus is continually elevating the ideal in man, exalting his conceptions of the true, the pure, the just, the honorable, the refined, the courteous, by which he is compelled to judge his own actions, and after which he is perpetually prompted to strive. Do not the common mass then, thus receive, as if by revelation, higher and nobler ideas than they otherwise would have obtained, the image of a purer and better life than they could have derived from the imperfect state of things around them?
Such is the high mission of literature and
literary men. They are the missionaries of truth and morality, wisdom and refinement. Education is yearly bringing mass after mass of society within the sphere of their regenerating influence. It is difficult to overestimate the habit of reading in its influence upon the character.
It leads directly to thought and reflection; and when you have taught a to think, you have raised him to a higher grade of existence, you have elevated him from a sensual to an intellectual being. You have given him resources within himself, which enable him to unbend and recreate his powers without resorting to those sensual gratifications which are so full of snares to innocence and peace. You have put him in a way to remedy most of the evils by which he is oppressed, for you have prepared him to reflect upon and become sensible of their causes.
Is it objected thať the masses cannot become readers and thinkers because their time is consumed in toil? I answer, such instances as the Massachusetts blacksmith, who, besides supporting a family by his sturdy strokes, has made himself master of most of the languages of the civilized world, altogether refute such
an objection. Is it said, they cannot procure the books? Their surprising cheapness and abundance take away the validity of the ex
Besides, in this very thing lies the cure of poverty. Men are poor, in this country at least, from thoughtlessness, improvidence and vice, not from any inexorable necessity of their condition. Were all the laboring classes like the Massachusetts blacksmith, we should see little either of poverty or suffering in this most favored land.
Literature and education, elevating the standard of morality, purifying and strengthening public opinion, what wonders are they destined to achieve!
To arouse and kindle the intellect of this people, to send this reading spirit into all classes, nothing is so much needed national literature. I mean by this, works of genius, taste and learning, which shall breathe the spirit of our society, and delineate man and nature as they appear in this new world. The interest that our people can take in foreign manners, institutions and modes of thought, must be but languid at best; and if nothing else is given them they will not read at all. We have materials for a national
literature. Man is not here a mere fac-simile of what he is in the old world. Society is not here the reproduction of well known forms. The human race is here commencing
career, under circumstances untried. Human nature is receiving a new development It will naturally find new modes of thought and expression, or in other words have y literature of its own.
We have indeed ou. Mount Vernon, where virtue and greatness rest in glory and in peace. To that spor patriotism will make her pilgrimage, to meditate and admire, as long as moral excellence shak be held in honor among men.
But we have as yet no Avon or Abbotsford, or Newstead, we have no spot consecrated by genius, and rendered classic by the emanations of immortal intellect. All these things are to come. But that they will come, I can
more doubs than I can my own existence. What form the productions of American genius are des tined to take it is impossible to predict Whatever form they do take will be national, will reflect our peculiarities, or they never can take the place of a popular and universal literature.
As it is, almost our only literature is our
newspapers. Of these we have the greatest profusion. Their wonderful cheapness, and the admirable arrangements of our post office, scatter them over the whole country, and bring them to the door of every cottage. The influence they have in diffusing information, and forming the young to habits of reading and reflection, is beyond all appreciation. The arrival of a fresh sheet wet from the printing office, supposed to contain a record of the most interesting events taking place in the world, is the strongest possible stimulant to curiosity, and daily engages thousands in the occupation of reading, and puts them in the way of intellectual cultivation, who would have suffered books of the most instructive character to be thrown aside and forgotten. They have hitherto however, in my judgment, been too confined in their topics. Political maneuvres and terrible accidents are not the only things capable of interesting the human mind. Able discussions on morals and political economy, would be found to attract quite as many readers, I believe, as the disgusting details of the watch house and the police.
I come in the last place, to speak of the highest influence that is brought to operate