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Letter from the Poet Cowper to Mrs. King.
October 11, 1788.
You are perfectly secure from all danger of being overwhelmed with presents from me. It is not much that a poet can possibly have it in 'his power to give. When he has presented his own works, he may be supposed to have exhausted all means of donation. They are his only superfluity. There was a time-but that time was before I commenced writer for the press-when I amused myself in a way somewhat similar to yours; allowing, I mean, for the difference between masculine and female operations. The scissors and the needle are your chief implements; mine were the chisel and the saw. In those days, you might have been in some danger of too plentiful a return for your favors. Tables, such as they were, and joint-stools, such as never were, might have travelled to Perton-hall in most inconvenient abundance. But I have long since discontinued this practice, and many others which I found it necessary to adopt, that I might escape the worst of all evils, both in itself and in its consequences—an idle life. Many arts I have exercised with this view, for which nature never designed me; though among them were some in which I arrived at considerable proficiency, by mere dint of the most heroic perseverance. There is not a 'squire in all this country who can boast of having made better squirrel-houses, hutches for rabbits, or bird-cages, than myself; and in the article of cabbage-nets, I had no superior. I even had the hardiness to take in hand the pencil, and studied a whole year the art of drawing. Many figures were the fruit of my labors, which had, at least, the merit of being unparalleled by any production either of art But before the year was ended, I had occasion to wonder at the progress that may be made, in despite of
natural deficiency, by dint alone of practice; for I actually produced three landscapes, which a lady thought worthy to be framed and glazed. I then judged it high time to exchange this occupation for another, lest, by any subsequent productions of inferior merit, I should forfeit the honor I had so fortunately acquired. But gardening was, of all employments, that in which I succeeded best; though, even in this, I did not suddenly attain perfection. I began with lettuces and cauliflowers: from them I proceeded to cucumbers; next to melons. I then purchased an orange
tree, to which, in due time, I added two or three myrtles. These served me, day and night, with employment during a whole severe winter. To defend them from the frost, in a situation that exposed them to its severity, cost me much ingenuity and much attendance. I contrived to give them a fire heat; and have waded, night after night, through the snow, with the bellows under my arm, just before going to bed, to give the latest possible puff to the embers, lest the frost should seize them before morning. Very minute beginnings have sometimes important consequences. From nursing two or three little evergreens, I became ambitious of a green-house, and accordingly built one; which, verse excepted, afforded me amusement for a longer time than any expedient of all the many to which I have fled for refuge from the misery of having nothing to do. When I left Olney for Weston, I could no longer have a green-house of my own; but in a neighbor's garden I find a better, of which the sole management is consigned to me.
Moral Destiny of the United States.-JEREMIAH EVARTS.
LOOKING at the present condition of mankind with the light of history alone, there are three suppositions, which
may be made, not without some plausibility, in regard to the character of the people of North America, who shall speak the English language, when the whole continent shall be full of inhabitants. The first of these suppositions is, that the proportion then existing between morality and vice, truth and error, honesty and crime, religion and impiety, will be the same, or nearly the same, as at present; -the second, that infidelity and wickedness will prevail, while the friends of God are reduced to a very small number, and driven into obscurity ;—and the third, that religion will pervade the land, in the length of it and the breadth of it, till opposition shall have ceased, and the whole vast community shall wear the aspect, and exemplify the reality, of a nation, or rather a cluster of nations, consecrated to God, the grateful recipients of his bounty, and the honored instruments of conveying his beneficence to other nations, rising to an equal state of glory and happiness.
The first of these suppositions is the least plausible of the three; but still it is the one which most naturally strikes the mind, and it therefore deserves particular consideration. What, then, will be the condition of this country in future times, if the proportion between religion and irreligion, the church and the world, should remain as it now is?
It has been computed, after a careful estimate of the capabilities of America, that, with the present degree of knowledge, and without any reliance upon future discoveries in agriculture and the arts, this whole continent will sustain at least two thousand millions of inhabitants, in circumstances of comfort. Let it be supposed, then, that, after a hundred years from this time, the population shall be doubled in thirty years instead of twenty-five. At this rate, the descendants of the present inhabitants of the United States, in one hundred and seventy years from this day, will amount to one thousand millions. If we keep in view the fundamental position, that religious restraints are not to be
diminished, this conclusion is in no degree improbable. But the calculation founded on this position will certainly be safe, if the descendants of the present inhabitants of British America be thrown into the scale, and if it be considered that the emigration from Europe to America is constantly and rapidly increasing, and is likely to increase still more rapidly. For obvious reasons, the inhabitants of Spanish America will not increase so fast as the people of the United States. It may be assumed, then, that, if the power of religious principle be not weakened among us and our descendants, there will be on this continent, in the year 1880 (when the young children now around our tables and in our schools will not have ceased to take an active part in human affairs), fifty millions of human beings, speaking the English language; and in fifty years more (when some of our grandchildren will be spectators, if they shall have ceased to be actors), there will be two hundred millions; and in seventy years more, one thousand millions. The condition of this amazing mass of human beings must, according to the established laws of the divine government, be more or less affected by the principles and conduct of the present generation. If, according to the supposition, the relative power of religion be not diminished, the diminution will be prevented, with the favor of Heaven, by the strenuous efforts of the friends of God.
Of the twelve millions and a half, who now compose our population, about five millions are men and women; the rest are children, or persons in early youth. Of the adults, enlightened charity can hardly go further than to suppose, that one million will include all who are truly pious, and all who live habitually under a sense of personal responsibility to God for their conduct. The remaining four millions, though not under the direct influence of religious considerations, are, to a great extent, restrained by fears respecting the world to come, and by the example, exhortations and prayers of the religious part of the community. The general influence of their lives, however, is unfavor
able to religion; and vast multitudes are vicious and abandoned, diffusing a moral pestilence all around them, perpetrating enormous crimes, eluding human law, or suffering ⚫ its penalties.
These four millions, who may be comprehended under the general denomination of people of the world, have six millions of children and youth under their direct control, and exposed to their constant example; and the other million of adults, who are habitually influenced by religious considerations, and who, to avoid circumlocution, may be denominated the church, have under their direct control, and subject to the influence of their constant example, a million and a half of children and youth. It is to be observed that, though the restraining influence of the church upon the world is in a high degree salutary, so far as the preservation of order in a free country is concerned, and so far as the tone of general morality is regarded, yet it is at present such as by no means to satisfy the desires of a benevolent mind. The church itself is burdened with many unsound and unprofitable members. There is much jealousy, suspicion, error, bigotry, and much defective morality too, within its pale. Compared with what ought to be seen, there is little zeal, devotedness, self-denial and spiritual vigor.
If the proportion between religion and irreligion is to remain the same, the god of this world will number among his followers, in the United States, fifty years hence, no fewer than sixteen millions of adults, having under their direction twenty-four millions of children and youth; while the church the divided, weak, inefficient church, comprising all who act under a constant sense of religious responsibility, though many of these belong to no regularly organized body of disciples, and many others exhibit no very consistent example, the church, thus rent and disfigured, will contain but one fourth as many adults, and a proportionate number of children and youth under its direction.
Where one theatre, with its purlieus of vice and infamy, now allures to destruction, four of these noxious semina