« AnteriorContinuar »
SETTLERS OF PENNSYLVANIA.
BY PETER M'CALL.
Poets of all countries, in embodying their thoughts of man as he ought to be, not as he is, have described a period of the world, an age of purity, happiness, and peace, which never had existence but in the rainbow colours of their own beautiful fancy. The picture of the primitive society of Pennsylvania needs but the touch of this enchanting pencil to elevate it to a golden age. The belief in mysterious and supernatural agency, and the discussion of subtile points of theology, literally rent New England in pieces. A single trial for witchcraft, which ended, however, in an acquittal, stands upon the records of Pennsylvania, as the Keithian controversy was the only one that disturbed the harmony of the Society of Friends. Indeed it is a striking feature of that society, that will doubtless recommend it to the good opinion of not a few, rather studiously to avoid than to invite or willingly engage in polemical discussion.
Eminently calculated to diffuse a spirit of harmony and order, to systematise society, and to promote that tranquillity which is the great motive of its institution, the end and object of its laws, the principles of the Friends inculcated a deep and solemn veneration for the constituted authorities of government.
6 Government,” says Penn,“ seems to me a part of religion itself, a thing sacred in its institution and end." Thus regarded as an
emanation of divine power, and invested with a religious reverence, the moral guilt of arresting or disturbing its functions enhanced the civil crime.
The spirit of private litigation is perhaps more fatal to the peace of society, than the daring outrage which openly insults the majesty of the law. It unseals the bitter fountain of evil passion; it saps the morals, it weakens the energies of a community. The early inhabitants of Pennsylvania endeavoured to set bounds to an evil that militated with their pacific principles, and made frequent legislative efforts to check and control what they could not wholly exterminate. In illustration of their peaceful character, it is related that the adversary of the venerable Pastorius, a name honourably distinguished in our annals, to deprive him of all professional assistance, retained the entire bar of the province. Happy age! when such a stratagem could be effected; when Pennsylvania required the services of but three lawyers.
An honest and straightgoing simplicity, a simplicity truly republican, adorned the path of our fathers. In dress, habits, manners, accomplishments, learning, legislation, in every sphere and department of life, in public and in private, this is the pervading beautiful characteristic.
In the statute book, it is seen to reject with an unsparing hand, the cumbrous forms and artificial processes which time, not reason, had consecrated in the mother country. While it never flattered vanity at the expense of truth, nor sacrificed utility to senseless show, the simplicity of our ancestors was entirely aloof from the ascetic severity of gloomy fanaticism ; it claimed no kindred with the sanguinary spirit which dictated the blue laws of a sister province. Springing, not from the physical necessities of a new settlement, but from the purer source
of religious principle, it continued to adorn their conduct, when wealth unlocked her stores, and invited them to banquet.
It requires no depth of penetration to discover, that the simplicity and pacific disposition enjoined by the testimonies of the Friends, must have powerfully contributed to the preservation of social order. Could principles like these--principles which, by chaining the passions, restrain the chief agents of human misery, be brought into general and effectual operation, our jails would be empty, our criminal tribunals deserted, and prison discipline matter of curious speculation, rather than as now a subject of immense practical importance.
What, indeed, on the score of morals and social improvement, might not be hoped for from a system which sought to destroy the current, by stopping up the source of vice ? How profound and practical is the wisdom of that memorable provision of the first laws, which dictated that all children of the age of twelve years “ be taught some useful trade or skill, to the end that none may be idle, but the poor may work to live, and the rich, if they become poor, may not want !” A specific is here furnished for the maladies which the political physician is required to treat, more sovereign and effectual than sanguinary edicts, or the rigid sanctions of penal enactments.
It may, perhaps, be thought that a state of society so pure, so simple, so regular, is congenial only to the limited scale of a narrow and unambitious community. It is true, indeed, that the theories of political experimentalists have seldom been fairly tested on an extensive scale. In not a few of its features, the system established by the Friends of Pennsylvania resembles the beautiful model attributed to the genius of the humane and enlightened Berkeley. If it did not exhibit the rich colourings, the
high-wrought mouldings, the splendid ornaments of some other systems, its arrangements were more convenient, its foundations were deeper, its materials more solid; it was better calculated to resist the shocks of faction, and the wayes of time.
It is but a just tribute to her Quaker rulers to say, that under their mild and equable administration, Pennsylvania, the youngest of the colonial sisters, advanced with unparallelled rapidity in her career of prosperous improvement. Commerce poured her treasures into the peace.
The canvass of her merchants whitened the most distant waters. Long before the Parrys and the Franklins of our day had achieved immortality by their heroic enterprise, the ship Argo, equipped by the merchants of Philadelphia, sailed on the perilous voyage of polar discovery.
With reference to our present and our future interests, the review of that portion of our annals to which your attention has been invited, is not without profitable instruction. If there be any truth in experience, any moral in history, any lesson inscribed on the tombs of empire, it is that virtue is the life of free institutions. Virtue was emphatically the glory of our fathers; may it long continue to be that of their sons ! means of preserving a heritage so inestimable, let us reverence the memory, and cherish the principles, and emulate the actions of those wise and good men, who planted the tree that now covers us with its broad shade. To look back upon their institutions, to retrace with historic step the paths they trod, will not fail to animate, invigorate, and refresh. Thus, gentlemen, may your society fulfil a higher and a nobler purpose than the mere gratification of literary curiosity. It may fulfil an important duty to our common country.
And as a
BY J. K. MITCHELL.
“ There remaineth, therefore, a rest (Sabbatismos) for the people of God."
THE Sabbath morn is calm and clear,
Around the cottage door;
Behold the pious poor.
The weekly toil is over now,
Of him who loves to trace
She has her mother's face!
While little Will stands silent by,
And meditative air;
The well-committed prayer.
See saucy Sally, stick in hand,
To Snap, at home to stay;