Page images
PDF
EPUB

souls to accomplish great achievements: by its potent energy the reluctant wild-wood has been found to recede before the advancement of art; and "fields waving with the fruits of agriculture and ports alive with the contributions of commerce," diversify the before unbroken wildness of nature. All is prosperity: earth yields gladly her blushing tribute: Heaven gilds brightly with its encouraging smile. But there's a Satan looking "askance with eye malign, "upon this growing Eden: man's arch-foe, Oppression, sees, and envies, and would destroy. This time God sent a Redemer before the ruin was accomplished.

Again the scene changes; it is a battle-field. There gleams the lurid flash, and a quick cloud succeeds, darkening the face of day, enshrouding the sun in its murky folds, and wrapping many a hero in his winding sheet. There peals a deep tone that " counterfeits the immortal Jove's dread, clamerous thunder-bolt." It is Bunker Hill, where right and liberty and hope made a triumphant stand against wrong and slavery and despair; where the fainting genius of humanlty caught another breath of Heaven's inspiration, and breathed it out, a blasting whirlwind, against the minions of quaking, death-struck despotism; where man took a new step, and like the fabled Titan, raised one more sacred mount to assist in the ascent to his desired independence.

It is now time to introduce our great actor. We have seen man struggling upward, buoyed by his elevated nature: we have seen the strong arm of tyrannic power strained to repress that noble aspiration: a crisis, for centuries hastening from the future has now reached the present. He has summoned strength in his new manhood, to assert his selfevident right. But who shall be his champion? who shall maintain that glorious declaration ? who shall draw his

fearless sword against ancient error and established power, and rescue man from his degradation, and teach his enemy to fear and tremble? The work was mighty-the strife unequal-the interest at stake, all that was dear to the hearts of noble and enlightened men. At such a juncture of the world's affairs, Washington appeared upon the stage of action. Undismayed by the threatning aspect of all around and before him, unmoved by terror of the approaching storm, unshaken by the frowns of gigantic opposition, he marched boldly forward to his heaven-appointed task. When the tide of desolating war was rolling its black, greedy waves over the face of all our fair native land, his arm dauntlessly withstood its progress, and his voice, with impressive majesty, commanded, "Thus far and no farther shalt thou go!" Dark was the night, but the pilot of that tempestuous voyage lost not, in its dismal clouds, the pole-star of his hope it ever beamed above him: even the smoke of defeat could not quench its heavenly ray. Other men of perspicacious vision gazed wistfully into the midnight sky, and saw only solid dark; but his eye pierced through it to the light, and followed onward, through peril and apparent ruin, to safety and ultimate success.

:

Thus does the great God of nations anoint a priest and king where he wills to employ one. He appeared to Moses in a burning bush, the figurative description of a growing hope amidst the flame of passion, and told him, go back to his chain-chafed brethren and incite them to rebellious flight. An answer was given to all his fearful objections, and he went.

The exode, the whole afterhistory of Judea, and the oriental religion of Christendom, tell the result of his patriotic labor.

God spake to Numa, and the king of a bandit horde went out and in solitude communed with nature and his soul, till

the blood of Marathon, Salamis, Platea, and a thousand other places on the verdant field and azure wave, conseerated and immortalized by the disinterested patriotism and noble deaths of the bravest heroes and most faithful sons of

a generous nation. We can still hear "the blind king of epic grandeur," sing with his deathless harp the praise of those indomitable spirits whose sons were too proud of their paternal blood to be enslaved, and the prince of orators thunders forth defiance to oppression. By sympathy we catch something of the Athenian's spirit, when he shouted, "Lead us to Philippi's lord, let us conquer him or die," and glow with the heroism of Leonidas, when, raising an altar of his Persian foes, he offered himself upon it to his country—a sacrifice admirable to men, approved by heaven. We in fancy

"Go where the Nile, to slake the torrid sand,
Leaps from his bed and overflows the land;"

and we find upon the time-wrinkled front of that "fatherland," deep traces of thought, worn while the world was young and green in hope of its golden age. There too the mind of man worked up and wrote records on tall pyramids, which will remain unerased when twice forty cen turies look down on some greater Napoleon. Egypt sleeps deeply while the waning crescent sinks toward the western horizon; but a voice steals from her slumbers, and its low sigh is "Onward," to the mail-shod cycles.

Then next

"We visit the neglected site

Where Carthage rose in majesty and might;"

and the lone desert tells a tale not all of wo, as the bright Mediterranean wave breaks on its shore, chanting

the old joyous song of freedom in the same mocking tone that vexed proud Xerxes' ear, when he hurled in those famous, foolish fetters. Hannibal is no longer the glory of his belligerent nation, whose laurel crown is buried deep in the lonely sand; but he left not the earth till he had fulfilled his mission, and his country did not perish till its history was written in deeds that can never die. We bestow a passing thought upon the history and fate of all "those solemn cities of the dead," which though

"Bereft

Of brightness and of being, yet have something left-
A power to wake the pulses of the soul
And back the darkling tide of ages roll:
A magic lamp, that sheds redeeming day
On desolation, darkness and decay."

Had we time carefully to trace the record of antiquity, we should observe a regular "forward march" of man, from his wild state of nature to the highest civilization. Nor was his onward progress stopped or even checked by the overthrow of those states which fell and were dragged off from the stage, having acted their part in the great drama of time. The so-called Dark Ages ought not to be regarded as a blank, but by far the most interesting page in the history of mankind; because, through them were at work continually two several chains of events, having a mutual relation to and influence upon each other; the one consisting in the gradual combination of those latent causes which conspired to produce the modern social sys tem, which lies concealed except from the eye of keen investigation; the other, of those external facts detailed on the scroll of every unthinking annalist. We may regard the Reformation as the junction of these two streains

when they intersected each other's course, producing an ●ffervescence which enlivened the spirit and restored the tone of moral health, or at least, communicated increased intellectual activity to Christian Europe. This excitement immediately spread, like the circles of agitated water, awakening to fresh vigor the mental powers of man after so protracted a night of slumber. The birth of modern enterprise may perhaps not incorrectly be dated from the discovery of the New World by Columbus; and in the emigration to it of such spirits as our pilgrim fathers, we can but recognize the progressive nature of humanity seek ing a wider sphere for its development than was offered by the artificial and constrained social system of feudal Europe. Civilization demanded a new center from which to send out its regenerating rays over the earth. In its all wandering way it came across the ocean's wave, and found a New England welcome to cheer the feelings and arouse the hopes of the almost despairing philanthropist. The old world's soil was barren with the salt of hlood and trodden hard by the hoof of oppression; no new growth of any generous vegetation could flourish till the field had lain fallow and been watered by the dews of heaven. From fresh land must the good seed spring, which in due season, scattered over the prepared world, shall yield its harvest of an hundred fold. The winds blew a little grain across the water, and it fell not by the way-side nor on stony ground.

When we cast a retrospective glance over the scenes of our country's history, our imagination, be it ever so dull, A but body forth a vivid picture: far in the back-ground is exhibited the landing of the pilgrims-the first act in our grand drama. Yonder we spy the May Flower, cradle ci ur iufant empire, rocked by the wild Atlantic surge.

« PreviousContinue »