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As independent mind is a treaiare—a noble one; it is the capital of character. No man that has it can be poor, though he wants gold. Without it the rich and great and learned are pitable objects. Many a well-intentioned man has made shipwreck because he had no independent helm, and so drifted with the current . A lack of independence cannot be compensated by ability. Great genins, swayed by foreign influences, is often as unreliable as the leaf in the whirlwind's grasp. The rock of character to which it should he anchored is wanting. It is the meteor of an hoar. It is the pliant tool of others. It is a vine with rich clusters fallen from its prop. A thousand intruding influences that it ought to look down upon, trample it under foot . Its creed is in other men's books. Its courage depends on foreign applause. A frown terrifies it . A sneer unmans it . It is a piece of wax, on which each man may successively stamp his own seal. The last impression shows. We might mention the names of men whose lack of independent character has lost them to themselves and to the world. Some of them were splendid wrecks. A convivial party or a political caucus set them adrift from their moorings, if indeed they had any. A bottle of champagne was their Delphic oracle. Their principles were like cloth in the hands of a tailor, cut to fit others' backs. They were moral ciphers, that could be hung on the arm of digits, and give them value, without having any of their own. Like the ivy, they could climb and clasp any thing that stood firm in their neighborhood. Their sentence might oe, "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." Some therefore, unwilling to be regarded as void of independence of character, go to the other extreme. Averse to such a reputation, they acquire one scarcely less enviable. They adopt a mulish immobility that assimilates them to a block. They root themselves like a tree to the "oil where they have grown. They cling to an obsolete notion like a dog to a bone. Like a swine, yon must attempt to drive them the wrong way, that they may take the right. They
j meet arguments as they would bullets, behind ; the stone fort of their obstinacy. I It is easy to see that in shunning one extreme j they have gone to the other. The mdependence I of a man is not the independence of a stump. I Mind is of a different nature from a clod or a j stone. The law of gravitation answers for one, but not for the other. The views of the truly j independent man are not formed or adopted cut j of spite. He does not disagree with everybody else, just to be alone. He does not fling away the staff of other men's thoughts, if they can help him walk better himself. He does not dispute every position, and turn his hand against every man, just to be an Ishmael. He does not refuse to, learn of those that are wiser than himself, for fear their learning should steal away his independence. If he does not adopt the views of others, simply because they hold them, neither does he reject them for that reason, if they can approve themselves to his judgment .
The independent man is he who has principles of his own, and sense of his own to apply them in practice. If he is thrown among strangers, he carries his individuality with him. He is not one thing at the poles and another at the tropio That was a noble independence in John Jay, when in a company of French infidels, who sneered at Christianity, and when he remained silent, asked him derisively, if he believed in Jesus Christ . "I do; and I thank God that I do," was the manly reply. Such independence won respect, and Jay was troubled with no more sneers. %
The truly independent mind pursues a straightforward course. It does not lose itself, nor destroy all progress by zigzags. It has its definite aim and object . From this it cannot be drawn aside by the truant fancies of others. It moves on like the noble steamer, against wind and tide, impelled by a power within itself.
The truly independent man has principles— not volatile, but fixed as the rock of ages. They are such as he dare avow—such as will endure the wear of time—such as he will carry with
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRIFLES.
him to the grave. He expects to hold them when death has relaxed his grasp on every earthly possession. Beneath the surface of things he has discovered the unchangeable. Duty to him is a word of permanent meaning. Right is his definition of expedient, for he knows that nothing else is, can be, expedient. To him you may apply the lines,
"Hii band the good man fastens on the skies,
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRIFLES.
Nothing is more common than to speak lightly of trifles. And yet, as mountains consist of atoms, and ages of moments, they are often component part* of circumstances the most important, and lead to consequences pregnant with interest We remember an anecdote of a Quaker, who, when negotiating with a person in the way of trade, was told, with reference to certain particulars, that they were only trifles, about which they doubtless should not disagree; and they had better, therefore, postpone the consideration of Them: to which the Quaker replied, "Then, friend, I think we had better attend to them First, aa trifles are frequently the most difficult matters to be settled." And there was much of reason in the importance which he attached to them. For although trifles, in themselves considered, may be unworthy of notice, and ought not to be tenaciously adhered to, yet in their bearings and results they often assume a very different aspect
That which a superficial observer may regard, or an interested individual represent as inconsiderable, will perhaps prove the keystone of an arch over chasms of difficulty, and conduct to fields of investigation hitherto unexplored, if not altogether unknown. In Science this is obviously the case. The intelligent consideration and collateral evidence of facts, minute and comparatively inconsiderable, as taken separately, constitute the basis of that inductive philosophy to which science owes so much, and of which the immortal Bacon 'was the patron and father. And proceeding on the data which he laid down, the no less illustrious Newton engaged in speculations of gigantic extent, and arrived at conclusions characterized by all the certainty of mathematical demonstration. The falling of an apple
from a tree, which to an ordinary mind would have appeared as unworthy of consideration, was with him an object of intense interest, involving speculations the most profound, and leading to the establishment of the doctrine of gravitation. In like manner the casual observance of light issuing through an aperture in a window-shutter has given rise to the most interesting experiments in Opties. And to the trifling circumstance of noticing some movements in the limbs of a dead frog, Galvanism, or animal electricity, owes its discovery.
The wary politician and the skilful warrior, also, are careful to turn to advantage every circumstance, however minute. Of the gallant Nelson it is said, at the bombardment of Copenhagen, the Danes ceased firing at the moment when his own ammunition was nearly exhausted. The admiral immediately wrote despatches commanding them to surrender, and containing his terms of capitulation; but when the officer who was charged with their conveyance was departing, Nelson called him back, stating that he had only wafercd the letter, and this circumstance might indicate haste arising from his want of resources, and in consequence prove fatal to the enterprise: he therefore proceeded deliberately to seal it with the British arms; and thus avoiding all suspicion on the part of the enemy, hia terms were accepted.
Again: trifles have often been sources of great encouragement ami consolation under circumstances the most trying. When Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, had retreated to one of the miserable places of shelter in which he could venture to take some repose after his disasters, he lay stretched on a handful of straw, and abandoned himself to his melancholy meditations. He bad now been defeated four times, •and was on the point of resolving to abandon all hopes of further opposition to hia fate, and to go to the Holy Land. It chanced his eye, while thus pondering, was attraoted by the exertions of a spider, who, in order to fix its web, endeavored to swing itself from one beam to another above his head. Involuntary he became interested in the pertinacity with which the insect renewed its exertions after foiling six times. At the seventh it gained its object; and Bruce in consequence was encouraged to persevere until he carried his own.
In the intercourse of society and endearments of friendship, too, their value is apparent "Trifles!" said a profound observer of men and manners, "why, life is made up of trifles." Who