Imágenes de páginas

of others wanders into all the extravagances and the gaudy phraseology which distinguish our western orientalism. The result is, that our public affairs are in danger of becoming wholly unintelligible-concealed rather than explained, as they often are, in long harangues which few who can escape will hear, and in massive documents which all who see will shun. For this idle waste of words -at once a political evil and a social wrong-the only remedy is study. The last degree of refinement is simplicity; the highest eloquence is the plainest; the most effective style is the pure, severe, and vigorous manner, of which the great masters are the best teachers.

But the endearing charm of letters in a statesman, is the calmness and dignity which they diffuse over his whole thoughts and character. He feels that there are higher pursuits than the struggles for place. He knows that he has other enjoyments. They assist his public duties—they recruit his exhausted powers, and they fill, with a calm and genuine satisfastion, those hours of repose so irksome to the mere man of politics. Above all, and what is worth all, they make him more thoroughly and perfectly independent. It is this spirit of personal independence which is the great safeguard of our institutions. It seems to be the law of our physical and of our moral nature, that every thing should perish in its own excesses. The peculiar merit of free institutions is, that they embody and enforce the public sentiment—the abuse which has destroyed them is, that they execute prematurely, the crude opinions of masses of men without adequate reflection, and before the passions which excited them can subside. Opinions now are so easily accumulated in masses, and their action is so immediate, that unless their first impulses are resisted, they will not brook even the restraints which, in cooler moments, they have

imposed on themselves, but break over the barriers of their own laws. Their impatience is quickened by the constant adulation from the competitors for their favour, till, at last, men become unwilling to hazard offence by speaking wholesome truth. It is thus that the caprice of a single individual, some wild phantasy, perhaps, of some unworthy person, easily corrected, or, if there were need, easily subdued at first-when propagated over numerous minds, not more intelligent than the first, becomes, at length, commanding—and superior intellects are overawed by the imposing presence of a wide-spread folly, as the noxious vapor of the lowest marsh, may poison, by contagion, a thousand free hills. That is our first danger. The second and far greater peril is, when these excited masses are wielded by temporary favorites, who lead them against the constitution and the laws. For both these dangers, the only security for freedom is found in the personal independence of public men. This independence is not a mere abundance of fortune, which makes place unnecessary-for wealth is no security for personal uprightness—but it is the independence of mind, the result of talents and education, which makes the possessor conscious that he relies on himself alone_that he seeks no station by unworthy means—will receive none with humiliation-will retain none with dishonor. They take their stand accordingly. Their true position as that where they can best defend the country equally from this inflamed populace and their unworthy leaders on the one hand, resisting this fatal weakness—the fear of losing popular favor-and, on the other, disdaining all humiliating compliances with men in power.

Of the ancient and modern world, the best model of the union of the man of letters and the statesman was he, with whose writings your studies have made you familiar

-Cicero. The most diligent researches, the most various acquirements, prepared him for the active career of public life, which he mingled with laborious studies, so as never, for a moment, to diminish the vigor of his public character. How often, and how well he served his country all history attests. When the arts and the arms of Cataline had nearly destroyed the freedom of Rome, it was this great man of letters who threw himself into the midst of that band of desperate conspirators, and by his single intrepidity and eloquence rescued the republic.

When that more noble and dangerous criminal, Cæsar, broke down the public liberty, after vainly striving to resist the tide of infatuation, Cicero retired to his farm, where he composed those deep philosophical works which have been the admiration of all succeeding time. But they could not avert his heart from his country—and on that day-on that very hour, when the dagger of Casca avenged the freedom of Rome, he was in the Senate, and the first words of Brutus on raising his bloody steel, were to call on Cicero—the noblest homage, this, which patriotism ever paid to letters.

Let it not diminish your admiration that Cicero was proscribed and put to death. They who live for their country must be prepared to die for it. For the same reason, hatred to those who enslaved his country, his great predecessor, Demosthenes, shared a similar fate. But both died in their country's service-and their great memories shall endure for ever, long after the loftiest structures of the proudest-sovereigns. There were kings in Egypt who piled up enormous monuments with the vain hope of immortality. Their follies have survived their history. No man can tell who built the pyramids. But the names of these great martyrs of human liberty have been in all succeeding time the trumpet call to free

dom. Each word which they have spoken is treasured, and has served to rally nations against their oppressors.

Trained by these studies and animated by the habitual contemplation of the examples of those who have gone before you, as a true American statesman, you may lay your hand on your country's altar. From that hourswerved by no sinister purpose, swayed by no selfish motive-your whole heart must be devoted to her happiness and her glory. No country could be worthier of a statesman's care. On none has nature lavished more of the materials of happiness and of greatness-as fatal if they are misdirected, as they must be glorious when rightly used. On the American statesman, then, devolves

solemn charge of sustaining its institutions against temporary excesses, either of the people or their rulers -and protecting them from their greatest foes—which will always lie in their own bosom. You can accomplish this only by persevering in your own independence-by doing your duty fearlessly to the country. If you fail to please her, do not the less serve her, for she is not the less your country. Never flatter the people—leave that to those who mean to betray them. Remember that the


the most luxurious entertainments to the Roman people, was the same who immediately after destroyed their freedom. That was Julius Cæsar. Remember that the most bloody tyrant of our age was the meanest in his courtship to the mob, and scarcely ever spoke without invoking for his atrocities what he called “the poor people.” That man was Robespierre. Never let any action of your life be influenced by the desire of obtaining popular applause at the expense of your own sincere and manly convictions. No favor from any sovereign-a single individual, or thirteen millions, can console you for the loss of your own esteem. If they are

man who

offended, trust to their returning reason to do you justice, and should that hope fail, where you cannot serve with honor, you can retire with dignity. You did not seek power and you can readily leave it, since you are qualified for retirement, and since you carry into it the proud consolation of having done your duty.

But should you ever be called to act the stern, yet glorious part which these patriot statesmen performed, you will not fail in the requisite energy. It may be, that, not as of old, another robust barbarian from Thrace, like Maximin-not a new gladiator slave, like Spartacus but some frontier Cataline may come up with the insolent ambition to command you and your children. More dangerous still, the people may be bartered away as other sovereigns have been, by faithless favorites, just as the very guards at Rome sold the empire at open auction to the highest bidder, Julian. The same arts which succeeded of old, may not be unavailing here-a conspiracy of profligate men, pandering to the passions of the people, may inflame them to their ruin—and the country, betrayed into the hands of its worst citizens, may be enslaved with all the appearances of freedom. Should that day come, remember never to capitulate-never to compromise—never to yield to the country's enemies. Remember that crime is not the less guilty—it is only the more dangerous by success. If you should see the cause betrayed by those who ought to defend it, be you only the more faithful. Never desert the country-never despond over its fortunes. Confront its betrayers, as madmen are made to quail beneath the stern gaze of fearless reason. They will denounce you. Disregard their outcries—it is only the scream of the vultures whom you scare from their prey. They will seek to destroy you. Rejoice that your country's enemies are yours. You can

« AnteriorContinuar »