« PreviousContinue »
comiasts, are only spots upon the sun,' the mere shading of a flood of glory.
Of byperbole, we offer the following specimens. But when the foremost men of the world are deposited in the dust, and the features of immortality itself are obliterated by the fingers of decay, where shall individual grief find place, how shall the note of private lamentation be heard ? A wailing people celebrate their obsequies. A country is clad in the funeral garb of woe. Over the insensible marble which covers their ashes, a nation bows prostrate in the lowly attitude of mourning.' 'Let not the deep sense of our bereavement, be unmingled with consolatory reflections.'-—But cold is the breast, and poor is the soul, that now, in the greenness of our untented sorrow at the catastrophe of their death, &c.'— National joy is now turned into national sorrow.'--The hand of God was seen by all, and a whole people are now falling upon their knees to acknowledge Him the wise Ruler of the universe. All this may pass well enough in the sable
pomp and circumstance of funeral eulogy, because it is understood : but who of all these twelve millions of mourners, saving their near kindred and particular friends wept for grief, when the astonishing tidings were received, that Adams and Jefferson both expired on the fourth of July ? How very sorry, on the contrary, would thousands of their warmest encomiasts have been, had they lingered but one day longer. The contagion of this hyperbolical woe, however, has not spread so far over this selection as might have been expected. Most of the writers introduce the catastrophe' with judgment and propriety.
We mean nothing disrespectful in these reniarks, either to the living or the dead. Few statesmen, we believe,
have been regarded with more heart-felt veneration in the long and tranquil evening of their lives, than Adains and Jefferson. And certain it is, that their demise on the same day, and while the trumpet of the Jubilee was yet sounding in the ears of a great and happy people, produced emotions of no ordinary character-more sacred perhaps than grief itself, but very different from it. We reason from the settled principles of human nature ; and however often we repeat the process, are brought to the same conclusion. Here were two venerable men, who had shoulder to shoulder, breasted the surges which had fifty years before rolled in upon their country from the Atlantic. And they had lived not only to see those surges retire and lash the opposite shore, but to see a great nation of freemen rising up to inherit the fruit of their daring and their toils. But now they were far advanced in age. Infirmities were gathering about them in their chambers. The generation which they had served was gone.
The decree' unto dust shalt thou return' could not be reversed ; and when ten thousand glad sounds and voices waked the Jubilee, it required but one slight stroke more to take the tabernacle down. It was struck while the sun of that day was yet rejoicing in his race, and who will say, that the breast of the nation either was, or ought to have been stricken with sorrow by the event ?
But we have not quite done with hyperbole. Neither of these great men could have died at any time without leaving an immense void in our American society.'-' If the moral virtues gave proportion to the form, here Phidias might sculpture perfection, and Stuart know that his models surpassed those of ancient Greece.'--' On that memorable day, twelve millions of people raised their united voices to God.' And again : In that voice of gratitude which has since burst from twelve millons of people, there is a moral sublinity which overwhelms the mind.'
If Adams and Jefferson have gone to a bright reward in Heaven, of which many of these writers express the strongest assurance, it is very certain they must have been far from believing themselves perfect; for no real Christian can think that he has kept the whole law, whatever may be the flattering award of friends, or partisans. The voice of gratitude bursting at once from twelve millions of people, must indeed be overpowering in moral sublimity. But when did such a chorus, louder than the voice of mighty waters, go up to fill the ear of heaven? Was it on the fourth morning of last July, to usher in a nation's Jubilee? Were not two millions out of the twelve, at that very moment slaves ? And how could they unite in the resounding symphony of praise to God for the blessing of liberty? We fear, that instead of this, many an accusing discord rose on that day from the bitterness of hard and hopeless bondage. And what if, perchance, a drove of manacled Africans had been driven past the. Capitol, or the shrill voice of the auctioneer, or the deep groan of the prisoner for the crime of a colored skin, had broken in upon the great concourse while Mr. Wirt was so eloquently portraying the gratitude of twelve millions of freemen? We do not mean to reproach our brethren of the South for that national stigma which was bequeathed to them with their lands, and which multitudes of them would gladly wipe away if they could; but we do say, that it is bitter mockery to call upon two millions of bond-men and bond-women, to join in the chorus of the Jubilee.
We shall now, without hesitation, or apology, avail ourselves of the opportunity which this publication affords, to comment upon certain objectionable words and phrases not because they occur more frequently here, than in the popular harangues of fourth-of-July patriots, (for to the credit of the book be it spoken, they do not occur near so often ;) but because we think it our duty to bear our humble testimony against this abuse of sacred things, in whatever form or degree it may exist. Will not,' demands Gov. Tyler, in a rhapsody of adulation, will not the author' [of tlfe declaration of Independence,] ‘be hailed,' [by emancipated nations] “as the benefactor of the Redeemed ?' Now we seriously object to the use of the word redeemed'in this connection, not as unauthorised by philologists ; but as consecrated by scripture and the best usuage to denote a divine and spiritual agency. Surely the occasion did not demand this breaking in upon a sacred enclosure. The phrase "holy cause of the Revolution' which occurs in the same eulogy, though not so ungrateful to our ear, is liable in a degree to the same objection. We cannot indeed deny, that the word holy is sometimes secularized by serious and even pious writers. But this only goes to show the extent of the abuse complained of. The term belongs exclusively to the department of theology. The inspired writers use it to designate those persons and things only, that are set apart for sacred purposes, or solemnly dedicated to the service of God. With this scriptural and technical use there is no need of interfering; and we maintain that it is a violation of good taste, no less than of philological propriety.
A similar but still stronger objection lies against the following sentence. • The Apostles of liberty have ful
filled their mission; and leaving the scene of their generous toils below, are gone above to receive their reward.' p. 22. With the last clause of this rhetorical method of sending men to heaven, we have nothing to do at present. Our strictures will be confined to the first part of the sentence; and we feel constrained to enter our solemn protest against this abuse of sacred terms. The Apostles were men specially called and commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ, and by him invested with extraordinary powers, adequate to the exigencies of the Christian church, in its infant and forming state. But they left no
The office itself expired at their death, and God has never since revived it. Elliot, and Swartz, and Brainerd, and a few others, are indeed sometimes called Apostles to the heathen, on account of their extraordinary zeal and success in preaching the gospel where Christ had not been named. But the case before us is widely different. Adams and Jefferson were not missionaries but statesmen; and ardent as their devotion was civil rights of mankind, it would not entitle them to be called Apostles.
We are sorry any longer to continue this strain of animadversion upon
the selection before us; but there are other similar invasions of sacred ground, which we think it our solemn duty to repel. Thus at p. 72, Jefferson and Adams are styled, 'Holy Patriarchs of the revolution.' This sort of poetic license cannot be justified, and for the reasons which have already been given. It is a gross perversion of sacred terms, to call the most venerable statesman, or patriot in the world—' holy patriarch.' It is easy to say that in these strictures we are righteous over-much,' and we are fully aware of the displeasure and contempt which they are calculated to excite in cer