[blocks in formation]

States. The vice-president receives rather less than the second clerk of the House of Commons; and all salaries, civil and military, are upon the same scale; and yet no country is better served than America! Mr. Hume has at last persuaded the English people to look a little into their accounts, and to see how sadly they are plundered. But we ought to suspend our contempt for America, and consider whether we have not a very momentous lesson to learn from this wise and cautious people on the subject of economy.

A lesson upon the importance of religious toleration, we are determined, it would seem, not to learn-either from America, or from any other quarter of the globe. The High Sheriff of New York, last year, was a Jew.* It was with the utmost difficulty that a bill was carried this year to allow the first Duke of England to carry a gold stick before the king—because he was a Catholic! —and yet we think ourselves entitled to indulge in impertinent sneers at America-as if civilization did not depend more upon making wise laws for the promotion of human happiness, than in having good inns, and post-horses, and civil waiters. The circumstances of the Dissenters' marriage bill are such as would excite the contempt of a Choctaw or Cherokee, if he could be brought to understand them. A certain class of Dissenters beg they may not be compelled to say that they marry in the name of the Trinity, because they do not believe in the Trinity. Never mind, say the corruptionists, you must go on saying you marry in the name of the Trinity, whether you believe in it or not. We know that such a protestation from you will be false: but, unless you make it, your wives shall be concubines, and your children illegitimate. Is it possible to conceive a greater or more useless tyranny than this?

In fact, it is hardly possible for any nation to show a greater superiority over another than the Americans, in this particular, have done over this country. They have fairly and completely, and probably for ever, extinguished that spirit of religious persecution which has been the employment and the curse of mankind for four or five centuries; not only that persecution which imprisons and scourges for religious opinions, but the tyranny of incapacitation, which, by disqualifying from civil offices, and cutting

The late M. M. Noah. It was objected to his election that a Jew would thus come to have the hanging of Christians. "Pretty Christians," replied Noah, "to need hanging!"

[blocks in formation]

a man off from the lawful objects of ambition, endeavours to strangle religious freedom in silence, and to enjoy all the advantages, without the blood, and noise, and fire of persecution. What passes in the mind of one mean blockhead is the general history of all persecution. "This man pretends to know better than me-I cannot subdue him by argument: but I will take care he shall never be mayor or alderman of the town in which he lives; I will never consent to the repeal of the test act or to Catholic emancipation; I will teach the fellow to differ from me in religious opinions!" So says the Episcopalian to the Catholic-and so the Catholic says to the Protestant. But the wisdom of America keeps them all down-secures to them all their just rights-gives to each of them their separate pews, and bells, and steeples-makes them all aldermen in their turns-and quietly extinguishes the fagots which each is preparing for the combustion of the other. Nor is this indifference to religious subjects in the American people, but pure civilization a thorough comprehension of what is best calculated to secure the public happiness and peace—and a determination that this happiness and peace shall not be violated by the insolence of any human being, in the garb, and under the sanction, of religion. In this particular, the Americans are at the head of all the nations of the world: and at the same time they are, especially in the Eastern and Midland States, so far from being indifferent on subjects of religion, that they may be most justly characterized as a very religious people: but they are devout without being unjust (the great problem in religion); a higher proof of civilization than painted tea-cups, water-proof leather, or broadcloth at two guineas a yard.


THOUGH America is a confederation of republics, they are in many cases much more amalgamated than the various parts of Great Britain. If a citizen of the United States can make a shoe, he is at liberty to make a shoe anywhere between Lake Ontario and New Orleans-he may sole on the Mississippi-heel on the Missouri-measure Mr. Birkbeck on the little Wabash, or take (which our best politicians do not find an easy matter) the length of Mr. Monroe's foot on the banks of the Potomac. But wo to the

[blocks in formation]

cobbler, who, having made Hessian boots for the Alderman of Newcastle, should venture to invest with these coriaceous integuments the leg of a liege subject at York. A yellow ant in a nest of red ants- -a butcher's dog in a fox-kennel- -a mouse in a beehive-all feel the effects of untimely intrusion ;- -but far preferable their fate to that of the misguided artisan, who, misled by sixpenny histories of England, and conceiving his country to have been united at the Heptarchy, goes forth from his native town to stitch freely within the sea-girt limits of Albion. Him the mayor, him the alderman, him the recorder, him the quarter sessions would worry. Him the justices before trial would long to get into the treadmill; and would much lament that, by a recent act, they could not do so, even with the intruding tradesman's consent; but the moment he was tried, they would push him in with redoubled energy, and leave him to tread himself into a conviction of the barbarous institutions of his corporation-divided country.


IN all new and distant settlements the forms of law must, of course, be very limited. No justice's warrant is current in the Dismal Swamp; constables are exceedingly puzzled in the neighbourhood of the Mississippi; and there is no treadmill, either before or after trial, on the Little Wabash. The consequence of this is, that the settlers take the law into their own hands, and give notice to a justice-proof delinquent to quit the territory-if this notice is disobeyed, they assemble and whip the culprit, and this failing, on the second visit they cut off his ears. In short, Captain Rock has his descendants in America. Mankind cannot live together without some approximation to justice; and if the actual government will not govern well, or cannot govern well, is too wicked or too weak to do so-then men prefer Rock to anarchy.


AMERICA seems, on the whole, to be a country possessing vast advantages, and little inconveniences; they have a cheap government, and bad roads; they pay no tithes, and have stage-coaches without springs. They have no poor laws and no monopolies―

[blocks in formation]

but their inns are inconvenient, and travellers are teased with questions. They have no collections in the fine arts; but they have no lord-chancellor, and they can go to law without absolute ruin. They cannot make Latin verses, but they expend immense sums in the education of the poor. In all this the balance is prodigiously in their favour: but then comes the great disgrace and danger of America—the existence of slavery, which if not timously corrected, will one day entail (and ought to entail) a bloody servile war upon the Americans—which will separate America into slave states and states disclaiming slavery, and which remains at present as the foulest blot in the moral character of that people. A high-spirited nation, who cannot endure the slightest act of foreign aggression and who revolt at the very shadow of domestic tyranny-beat with cart-whips and bind with chains, and murder for the merest trifles, wretched human beings who are of a more dusky colour than themselves; and have recently admitted into their Union a new State, with the express permission of ingrafting this atrocious wickedness into their constitution! No one can admire the simple wisdom and manly firmness of the Americans more than we do, or more despise the pitiful propensity which exists among government-runners to vent their small spite at their character; but on the subject of slavery, the conduct of America is, and has been, most reprehensible. It is impossible to speak of it with too much indignation and contempt; but for it, we should look forward with unqualified pleasure to such a land of freedom, and such a magnificent spectacle of human happiness.*

* Smith previously expressed this sentiment in a letter to Jeffrey (Foston Nov. 23, 1818), who appears to have been suspicious of his friend's levity and satire in handling the Americans in the Review: — "My dear Jeffrey, I entirely agree with you respecting the Americans, and believe that I am to the full as much a Philo-Yankeeist as you are. I doubt if there ever was an instance of a new people conducting their affairs with so much wisdom, or if there ever was such an extensive scene of human happiness and prosperity. However, you could not know that such were my opinions; or if you did, you might imagine I should sacrifice them to effect; and in either case your caution was proper."





THE first thing to be done in conducting the understanding is precisely the same as in conducting the body—to give it regular and copious supplies of food, to prevent that atrophy and marasmus of mind, which comes on from giving it no new ideas. It is a mistake equally fatal to the memory, the imagination, the powers of reasoning, and to every faculty of the mind, to think too early that we can live upon our stock of understanding—that it is time to leave off business, and make use of the acquisitions we have already made, without troubling ourselves any further to add to them. It is no more possible for an idle man to keep together a certain stock of knowledge, than it is possible to keep together a stock of ice exposed to the meridian sun. Every day destroys a fact, a relation, or an inference; and the only method of preserving the bulk and value of the pile is by constantly adding to it.


THE prevailing idea with young people has been, the incompatibility of labour and genius; and, therefore, from the fear of

*From the Lecture on the Conduct of the Understanding, Part I. This and the following selections embrace nearly the whole of the author's two lectures on the subject. They are here presented in paragraphs for convenience and for better effect; the passages being, in fact, short essays on the separate topics. The sequence has been preserved, though little importance was attached to that by the lecturer who commences with the remark: "As the general object of my lecture will be to guard against the most ordinary and flagrant errors committed in the conduct of the understanding, and as I sce no use in preserving any order in their enumeration, I shall put them down only in the order in which they happen to occur to me."

« ElőzőTovább »