« PreviousContinue »
The determination to make this publication was brought about by frequent calls on me for one or another of the articles embraced in it. Sometimes a gentleman has written to me for a copy of an address or lecture, which he wished to send to his son in college. Another person would ask for an article on a scientific subject, while many sought descriptions of portions of the mountainous regions of North Carolina. Politicians expressed a desire to have a copy of a particular speech which was remembered as having been made in one of the Houses of Congress.
Not being able otherwise to comply with such wishes, I decided to put a number of the articles sought for in the form of a book. To many of the Congressional speeches I have added explanatory remarks that will serve to indicate the condition of affairs which seemed to render such a speech necessary. Important facts can thus be made known, and additional interest be given to what was said. Earnest debates, presenting the prominent points at issue, being a part of the res gesta, with proper explanations of the conditions then existing, are far more interesting than any subsequent history, prepared as they usually are. It was the younger Pitt, I think, who said that he would rather have one of Bolingbroke's speeches as delivered than the lost books of Livy's great history.
The most important results are often produced by events known only to a few actors concerned in them, which no outsider will ever understand except through explanations made by those conversant with the transactions.
In making up the political portions of this publication, such matter only has been selected as may, in my judgment, throw light on points that are still interesting to the public.
In the selections it will be seen that there has been no effort to support any particular theory or line of policy. Nor is there any purpose to establish political consistency in the speaker. The only consistency worthy of consideration is consistency to a man's convictions. To be true to the principles recognized as important, is the only object to be desired.
Mere devotion to party, instead of being a merit, is a reproach to a statesman. In fact, no man ever did acquire the character of a statesman who was the mere devotee of a party. To assume, for example, that because a man in 1840 supported General Harrison as the nominee of the Whig party, he was thereby bound to vote for General Scott in 1852, or for Seward, Giddings or Lincoln in 1860, if thus nominated, would be scarcely less absurd than it would be to affirm that because the Mississippi river at its source was limpid, it must be equally clear at its mouth; or to insist that a man who was seen planting corn in April, was inconsistent because he did not continue planting it in December.
By the general judgment of those who knew him intimately, Mr. Clay was regarded as the most public-spirited and patriotic man of his time; and yet, I never knew a man who seemed to be more gratified by receiving applause, nor who appeared more anxious to win in whatever he undertook to accomplish. Nevertheless, whenever the public interest seemed to demand it, he did not hesitate to change his line of action. Repeatedly, in the course of a few weeks, he would modify his position on a most important issue. This, however, was always done to obtain what he deemed the greatest good that could be accomplished.
Again, I have often, when an important issue was presented to a man, heard him say, “this may be right, but I took ground last year against it before my people, and I cannot go for it now.” Another would oppose it because in some former speech he had expressed a different opinion.
Such men, who were always looking back at their own tracks, struck me as being vastly more contemptible than the peacock, that, while it struts, seems to be gazing admiringly at its own tail. In fact, those individuals who claim that they had never been able to discover new facts to modify their opinions, are universally regarded as the most conceited and stupid of mankind.
In the explanatory statements and notes which follow, I speak in the first person, for two reasons. Insincerity even in what is, perhaps, its most harmless form, affectation, is always disgusting to me. It is also futile, because subterfuges or stratagems to conceal egotism, only serve to render it more conspicuous, as the vanity of the Greek philosopher was seen the more plainly through the holes in his coat.
Again, speaking in the first person is not only more natural, but it also makes a narrative clearer and more interesting. No one regards Benjamin Franklin as especially vain, because he wrote, for publication, a narrative of his life in that style. Sir Samuel Baker's Journey up the White Nile is far more interesting than it would have been if written as histories usually are. When one speaks of what he saw or heard said, he necessarily represents himself as present, and, to some extent, a party to the transactiou.
In what I may say, I shall endeavor to avoid repeating anything in the line of mere personal commendation or compliment. If, in some instances such things should be supposed to be intimated, it will, I think, be found that the purpose of the reference was to present some consideration, more or less instructive or interesting in itself, or to illustrate the character of some prominent actor.
With respect to transactions before the late civil war, I feel at liberty to speak with as much freedom of the conversations of persons in relation to public matters, as I would do with reference to the declarations of Julius Cæsar. The transactions of that period have been finished, and are now but the subject of history, and no man has a right to complain of references to his course on public questions, provided he is fairly represented as he then stood or spoke. On the contrary, if he expressed his real opinions, he ought to feel gratified by this reproduction and publication.
Most of what I shall state has either been made public in some mode, or is known to persons now living. If there are some exceptions, then those who are personally acquainted with me know that I will not state as a fact anything, the accuracy of which I have any reason to doubt. Strangers will give such weight to my statements as they may think proper. .
My purpose is to present important facts that may prove instructive, whether they may be deemed advantageous or hurtful to the reputations of individuals. If persons who write histories and biographies would speak with the same impartiality that the Bible manifests, such publications would not only be more truthful than they are, but they would be far more instructive. A fair examination or criticism of a man's life is much more interesting than a mere eulogy.
The first of these papers is intended for humanity; the second for the young men of the United States; and the third is addressed more particularly to the young men of North Carolina.
The miscellaneous articles which follow are arranged without reference to the time of their first publication, but rather in such succession as may be most agreeable to the reader.
The Congressional speeches of course follow in the order of their delivery, as that mode is best calculated to give a just idea of the current of events. The publication as a whole is presented in the hope that it may prove interesting and instructive to the young men of the country.
SCIENCE AND CHRISTIANITY.
DELIVERED IN NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, RALEIGH, AND
AT OTHER POINTS.
By T. L. CLING MAN
The subject I am now about to present, was strikingly brought to my mind by a casual conversation in a law office in the city of Washington A scientific and highly educated foreigner said that no scientific man in Europe believed in the truth of the Christian religion, and that any such person, by expressing a belief in its divine origin, would lose the respect of all men of science in that enlightened part of the world.
After hearing this remark, as I was passing to New York, on the next day, my reflections took the form I am now about to present. To show the relations existing between Modern Positive Science and Christianity, I will present a series of statements and propositions.
First, let it be supposed than an Esquimaux Indian has been brought to the city of New York in mid-winter. Having lived in the Arctic regions where no trees grow, he has only seen wood in the form of a spar from a ship, and been accustomed to regard it as a thing of the highest value. He is, therefore, greatly astonished at the number and size of the trees in the parks, and looks with wonder on their great trunks and leafless limbs. By one of those mishaps that sometimes occur, he is cast into prison, and remains closely immured for a long period.
At length he is released and walks abroad. It is now, however, midsummer, and he is amazed with the change. The trees, all covered with the green foliage of the season, present their broad leaves to his gaze. Remembering their appearance in winter, the present scene seems like the work of magic.
He soon finds himself in the presence of an intelligent and dignified gentleman, a Professor in the University, and thoroughly instructed in all the sciences. Attracted by the intelligence and benevolence of his countenance, the Indian thus addresses him: