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Before passing to our theme, we wish to say a word respecting the works mentioned. Of the Colonial histories, that by Dr. Grahame exhibits a greater sympathy with the religious principles and spirit animating the early settlers, in the particular forms in which they held and asserted them ; while that of Mr. Bancroft, viewing these somewhat generally and vaguely, develops more fully their action in securing the enfranchisement and political liberty of the people. Both works are excellent in style and tone, entering con amore upon their great theme, and pursuing it with an easy mastery of the numerous details and the general flow of life, to its termination in the Revolutionary War. Thorough inquirers, and especially followers of the ancient New England faith, should become familiar with the former of these works, as well as the latter.
Mr. Vice-President Stephens is well qualified by talent, and by position as a leading statesman of his section, as well as by perfect frankness, to interpret the principles and spirit of the Southern Confederacy; while the work of De Gasparin shows that the position of the North is sufficiently prononcé to be comprehended by any and all who care candidly to inquire after it. The uprising of the people in November 1860, and the yet mightier uprising of April 1861, are events conspicious in the view of all the world.
Historical inquirers find in the lives of nations this process of development. First, there is a period devoted to growth. Under energies always acting, within and around, the great work is to develop native elements, mature inherent powers, and prepare to act. Next, maturity arrives ; the period to manifest the kind of life nations possess and what results they are fitted to accomplish in the world. They reveal themselves as true or false to their fundamental principles, act on others according to their characters, and commit their names to the scrolls of history. There is another stage. In the course of providence, exigencies arise ; sudden danger springs up within ; hostile powers assail from without; life and all held dear are about to be lost. Prompt effort is necessary. Self-sacrifice is demanded. Life must be put at stake. This is the period of heroism, the stage of noblest life.
At such junctures, recorded honors gather around the names of the patriotic and true, while the unfaithful are consigned to contempt.
Two centuries and a half ago, the original materials of the United States were transported to the shores of the New World ; – the men, the principles, and the animating spirit. For a century and a half, the special work of the nation was to grow and develop native traits and powers; to assimilate and crystallize on colonial centres, and then unite.
Somewhere about fourscore years ago, the Republic was organized under the present constitution of government.
The time since elapsed constitutes the period of the nation's manhood. Mature powers have been displayed ; and, with organic unity and force, the nation has acted on the world. As to the character of the influence exerted, opinions differ.
Carlyle we may suppose to be a fair representative of the best sentiment of Europe : “ Brag not yet,” he says, “ of our American cousins. Their quantity of cotton, dollars, industry, and resources, I believe to be almost unspeakable ; but I can by no means worship the like of these. What great human soul, what great thought, what great noble thing, that one could worship or loyally admire, has been produced there? None! The American cousins have yet done none of these things.” This is characteristically, but not quite correctly, said. A not incompetent British authority, Lord Brougham, has recorded his judgment, that George Washington is “ the greatest man of our own, or of any age.” That name, at least, America has given to the world. Edwards the elder, serenest, subtlest, grandest thinker of his age, educator of great minds, and layer of foundations essential alike to governments and morals, America has given to the world. And not a few others; not least among them, Daniel Webster, king of men and pillar of the Republic, the product and pride of New Hampshire; these, the “ American cousins ” have reared and given to mankind.
Yet the allegation made by the European critic, we must admit, is not altogether incorrect. The exhibitions of American character, the past three-fourths of a century, in general, have been commonplace and unheroic. The energies of the people have been exerted mainly in the line of material interests; in an exceptional way, only, have they wrought in the higher domain of intellect and spirit. Still, it is well to consider that this was the very work necessary to be performed. · To have attempted the advanced work, or anticipated the full results of European refinement, under the recent institutions of the United States, would have been only to repeat the primitive folly of sending“ decayed gentlemen and goldsmiths " to settle the wilderness of the Chesapeake, and then demand that the colony keep from starvation. Such folly has not been committed.
But now, upon so brief a manhood, plainly the hour of destiny has struck. The Republic is authoritatively summoned to its heroic period, and with eager minds the people have heard the voice sublime. Is there not an unwonted power stirring in the deep domain of the nation's heart? Down beneath the sphere of business, pleasure, ambition, where the grand powers and passions dwell, is there not the uprising of hitherto unconscious energies, the awakening of new aspiration and resolve, the felt prophecy of deeds to be performed that shall tell on the the ages, and shine resplendent over the whole field of history? So, at least, we read the scenes enacting around us.
On the first of March 1861, the country was an ocean becalmed: the winds were dead, the tide-pulses had ceased: all was profound quiet, except where, at the South, crafty treason had reared its head, and was stealthily creeping over the land. The supreme government was treacherous or asleep, and the Republic without earthly guardian or protector, was passing unconsciously forward into the toils of death. Like old King Duncan crossing the threshold of Macbeth's castle, under the power
of infernal incantations and unhallowed ambition, assassins were about to destroy its life. A stilling air filled the land. The young, vigorous nation seemed about to die and make no sign. But treason miscalculated; Providence had other designs.
On the twelfth of April, in the early morning, there arose, on the darkness covering the harbor of Charleston, S. C., a line of light, springing from the Southern horizon, piercing the vault above, and falling, with an explosion, on the waters. It was a signal gun, and the precursor of a fierce storm-sleet of iron and
fire, from the batteries of insurgent hosts. Gathered under the folds of the national banner, there were fourscore men occupying a little fortress, striving to maintain the nation's honor, and protect its life. But, for thirty-four successive hours, the storm fell on the valiant band; the flag, that had floated over the harbor from the origin of the government, was shot away; the
; fortress fell, and treason prevailed. Traitors deemed their object assured, their power consolidated, the national capital in effect taken, the government overthrown. But those guns not only, as intended, awoke the energies of the aristocratic and slaveholding sections, they reverberated over the entire land; they awoke the power of the insulted government, and a loyal host of twenty millions rose up armed for the conflict. Henceforth, heroism or cowardice, honor or infamy, is to mark the character of the land.
The science of history teaches that the law of cause and effect holds sway in every part and department of its immense domain ; that no great changes are causelessly, or even suddenly, wrought in human societies ; and that, sooner or later, the external aspects of nations and communities conform to the underlying principles, and the forces, residing in them.
In explaining the present convulsed condition of the country, some have found the cause in the existence and arrogant assumptions of domestic slavery. Others have discovered the irritating element in the lawless tongues of abolitionists and the immeasurable abuse heaped upon the slaveholding sections. By others, other causes still have been suggested, of various degrees of potency, even down to that said to have been assigned by a certain Washington court-preacher, who detects the root of the evil in the abolition of capital punishment by the legislatures of certain Northern States.
We believe that causes broader and deeper than any and all these are necessary to meet the conditions of the problem. To comprehend the great struggle we must include in the scope of our thought such inquiries as these: What were the individual and social forces thrown into this country, when it was colonized from the Old World ? What modifying influences from without acted upon them in their new location? How did the interior social forces act upon one another ? What institutions sprang
up, embodying the principles and spirit of the people, and giving them organic power to act on the world? How has time influenced the development of the great community ? Any view of less scope and thoroughness than these questions suggest, it seems to us must fail to give mastery of the momentous topic. We will proceed, then, to examine these points.
The nation that most extensively engaged in colonizing the territory of the United States was Great Britain. The United Netherlands, France, Spain, Sweden, and some other European countries, also participated in the work. Those nations bestowed on America men of such natural stamina and moral qualities as had been reared on their soil. This we assign as their merit, and the sum total of their merit, in the case. Europe, “magna mater virum,” furnished the men adequately endowed for the heroical enterprise of founding States in the newly opened Western world.
The impelling power that colonized Virginia was the love of enterprise, of glory, and of gold; this was done under impulses communicated by Sir Walter Raleigh and others, and in emulation of the achievements of Spain. Discussions not unfrequently arise, as between the North and the South, regarding race and stock. It is worth noticing as the deliverance of history on the point, that the early settlers of Virginia were composed mainly of the impoverished English gentry and their dependents ; and that, in the first three companies of immigrants, the debased elements largely predominated : that Lord Delaware arrived with the fourth immigration, just in time to save the colony from extinction; and that with him came a deep sense of piety, and the spirit of colonists. The influence of those original settlers on morals, manners, industry, and social condition is felt in the Ancient Dominion to this day.
The settlement of Maryland was effected under Lord Baltimore, by Roman Catholic gentlemen and their servants, and furnishes one of the most beautiful colonial enterprises recorded in history. Persecuted in England and Ireland, the colonists established free institutions on the borders of the Chesapeake, and there exemplified the principles of toleration and religious liberty.
It was some time subsequent that the Carolinas were settled,