Page images

and heart; the rarest of virtues, not the peculiar virtue of our countrymen, very apt to confound the absence of wholesome restraint with liberty; whereas true freedom is for the loyal soul, — liberty in law. The loyal spirit feels restraint as a woman wears the bracelet on her white arm; the rebel spirit, as the culprit the handcuffs on his galled and swollen wrists.

Again: we remark, that the gathering and training of this army of the reserve is the easiest and cheapest way of conducting, not a great war only, but the campaign of life.

If a man means to do any thing in this world to win the battle of life, it is easier to be than to seem. In the long-run, reality is easier than sham, wisdom than cunning, the king's highway than the by-path or cross-cut. It is often a simpler thing to acquire strength than to conceal the lack of it. Nothing indeed is more exhausting than the shifts to cover up ignorance; the craft required to seem to know what a man knows not; the constant caution, lest our hollow wares should come to the light; the everlasting repetition “ of wise saws and modern instances;” the perpetual dread of being found out, — that the blown bladder may be pierced by some shaft of ridicule, and collapse for ever; to say nothing of the sinking of the knees, thé drooping of the head, and the suffusion of blood upon the brain.

“ The easiest way,” said Sir Boyle Roche, “ to avoid danger, is to meet it plump. If there is work in a man's way, the best possible thing that can be done is to go through it, and on a man's own feet. If he ride round it, nine chances out of ten he must come back, and walk straight through it.” It often costs less labor to do work than to avoid it. Looking at a specific work or duty, the simplest and best thing is to do it, and do it well if you can. Looking at life as a whole, the truth of the remark becomes yet clearer. The doing of a thing well not only prevents the necessity of doing it again, but adds to the mind's reserved force, and renders the doing of the next thing easier and simpler. The resisting of one temptation helps to disarm the power of the second. It is not long before labor and self-denial become positive enjoyments, and this without including the gaudia certaminis, or the highest of all possible satisfactions, the purest of all possible delights, the consciousness of duty discharged.

There can be no real comfort or satisfaction in a campaign in which you have to rely upon raw, undisciplined, not to say mutinous forces, hastily conscripted, acting without system or concert. You must feel there is a reserved force, well appointed and trained, upon which you can draw in a moment of need; whose strength you have measured; and which, great or small, is reliable and forthcoming

For example: A young man is to study law. It is his business to understand it, and expound. it to others. Fidelity to his clients and to his oath of office requires this. He cannot, with decent self-respect or as an honest man, assume to say what the law is, unless he has diligently sought to know what it is. The best, the cheapest thing he can do for his campaign of life, is to bring to the study of the law a mind well trained and enriched by liberal culture, and then to set about the mastery of its principles. This training, this culture, this mastery of principles, will make up a glorious army of the reserve, the worth of which, his life long, can never be overrated; the want of which, his life long, can never be supplied. Men of genius and untiring industry have, indeed, a measure of success without them. But they, of all men, most deeply regret their lack; for they, of all men, best understand what larger victories might have been gracefully won with their aid.

How common, on the other hand, utter failure from the want of this reserved power !

А. young man of fair powers, but of little or no training, is anxious, restless, for active life. He would enter upon the arena not only unarmed, but incapable of bearing the weight of armor. He will have only practical knowledge. When the occasion comes, he will study for it. He has what are called promising qualities ; qualities which seldom or never pay. He has a certain facility of acquisition, but retains nothing save the confidence which such facility is apt to beget. He talks fluently, never hesitates for a word, and seldom gets the right one. He writes with perfect ease, and therefore never writes well. He never doubts, and therefore never understands.

His wished-for opportunity comes. He gets up a great array of cheap learning and cheaper eloquence; enters upon the contest with drum beating and banner flying. Difficulties spring up he had not foreseen, and he has no reserved force to meet them. He shrivels, and his client's cause with him. The way of life is strewn with sprouts like this. “Having no root in themselves, they endure but for a time.”

It is obvious to remark, that, in life as in war, the force which may suffice for ordinary service may be wholly inadequate for its larger exigencies, for its decisive moments. In almost every life, those decisive moments come, when the question of victory or defeat, of pressing onward or lingering behind, must depend upon our reserved power ; when the door of opportunity is swung open, and, if ready, we may enter; if not, the door closes upon us.

Great occasions do not make great men. (Of this the country needs no proof.) They find them out, and give them larger development and a broader theatre of action. Great men make great occasions. They impart to them a strength, a beauty, a glory of their own. They bathe and irradiate them with the light of their genius. They give to them of their own immortality. Nay, more: great men are great occasions, the great events of history; not merely the beacon-lights on the line of human progress, but the efficient motive-powers, the causc causantes : they make, they constitute history. Their hands bend the arch of the new heaven, and mould the new earth, if so be that they feel the Divine Arm around them and upholding them, and do the work of God with the armor of God. I have no great faith in “ village Hampdens” or the “mute, inglorious Miltons” that rest in country churchyards. If a man has a lever to move the world, the chances are that he will find a place to put it. Genius is very apt to crop out: so men of large reserved power are apt to find occasions to bring it into action, to give it effective utterance.

The introduction, into the Senate of the United States, of a resolution in relation to the sale of the public lands, was not a great occasion. The debate upon it for some days dragged heavily. The vast reserved power of one man made it the event of our history for a generation.

The second speech of Mr. Hayne, to which Mr. Webster was called upon to reply, was able and brilliant, its constitutional argument specious, its attack upon New England and upon Mr. Webster sharp even to bitterness. But Mr. Hayne did not understand this matter of reserved power. He had seen Mr. Webster's van and corps of battle, but had not heard the firm and measured tread behind.

It was a decisive moment in Mr. Webster's career. He had no time to impress new forces; scarcely time to burnish his armor. All eyes were turned to him. Some of his best friends were depressed and anxious. calm as a summer's morning ; calm, his friends thought, even to indifference. But his calmness was the repose of conscious power, the hush of nature before the storm. He had measured his strength. He was in possession of himself. He knew the composition of his “ the reserve.” He had the eye of a great commander, and he took in the whole field at a glance. He had the prophetic eye of logic, and he saw the end from the beginning. The exordium itself was the prophecy, the assurance, of victory. Men saw the sun of Austerlitz, and felt that the Imperial Guard was moving on to the conflict. He came out of the conflict with the immortal

He was

army of

name of the Defender of the Constitution.

« PreviousContinue »