Page images

more; and the result was, that he became as our pious friend lamented, "little better than a Universalist"-in fact no better. From the age of fourteen he was known wherever he lived as a champion of Universalism, though he never entered a Universalist church till he was twenty years old. By what means he managed to reconcile' his new belief with the explicit and unmistakable declarations of what he continued to regard as Holy Writ, or how anybody has ever done it, I do not know. The boy appears to have shed his orthodoxy easily. His was not a nature to travail with a new idea for months and years, and arrive at certainty only after a struggle that rends the soul, and leaves it sore and sick for life. He was young; the iron of our theological system had not entered into his soul; he took the matter somewhat lightly; and, having arrived at a theory of the Divine government, which accorded with his own gentle and forgiving nature, he let the rest of the theological science alone, and went on his way rejoicing.

Yet it was no slight thing that had happened to him. A man's Faith is the man. Not to have a Faith is not to be a man. Beyond all comparison, the most important fact of a man's life is the formation of the Faith which he adheres to and lives by. And though Horace Greeley has occupied himself little with things spiritual, confining himself, by a necessity of his nature, chiefly to the promotion of material interests, yet I doubt not that this early change in his religious belief was the event which gave to all his subsequent life its direction and character. Whether that change was a desirable one, or an undesirable, is a question upon which the reader of course has a decided opinion. The following, perhaps, may be taken as the leading consequences of a deliberate and intelligent exchange of a severe creed in which a person has been educated, for a less severe one to which he attains by the operations of his own mind:

It quickens his understanding, and multiplies his ideas to an extent which, it is said, no one who has never experienced it can possibly conceive. It induces in him a habit of original reflection upon subjects of importance. It makes him slow to believe a thing, merely because many believe it—merely because it has long been believed. It renders him open to conviction, for he cannot forget that there was a time when he held opinions which he now clearly sees to be

generous forbearance, overwhelmed Demetrius tions.


Horace was fascinated by the story. He th. Demetrius not only magnanimous and huma. Sparing the people, misguided by their let best way to make them ashamed of their way of preventing its recurrence. And and wisest on a small scale, can it be le is capable of such lofty magnanimity. man capable of it? If, in a human bei despicable, petty and vulgar, what i feelings to the beneficent Father of Athenians against Demetrius had Twice he had snatched them from had supplied their dire necessity. except the empty honors they pa had condescended to become one Athens as his wife. He had treasure to their care. Yet ... the first time it was in their he was coming to them with doubt of their fidelity, with fortunes would render him that they determined to ref gates, and sent an embassy to terfuge.

Of the offenses committed which man can seldom lift his It is to be slighted in the showed him honor in the t forgive even this. Demetri greater a man is, the less kee less difficult it is for him t teeth at every passing do

pack of

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors]

commended strongly, and advocated at a child could understand them; so refute them-arguments, in fact, prewhich the Tribune has since made familiar e message of 1822, the president repeated his : again in that of 1824. Those were the years of the South American Republics, of the Greek ayette's triumphal progress through the Union; n of Oregon, of the suppression of Piracy in the ; of the Clay, Adams and Jackson controversy. It

period we are now considering, that Henry Clay

t brilliant efforts in debate, and secured a place in the Horace Greeley, which he retained to his dying day. n, too, that the boy learned to distrust the party who be pre-eminently and exclusively Democratic. ttentively he watched the course of political events, how ly he judged them, at the age of thirteen, may be inferred Passage in an article which he wrote twenty years after, the which he stated from his early recollection of them:


[ocr errors]

first political contest," he wrote in the TRIBUNE for August 29th, in which we ever took a distinct interest will serve to illustrate this dis[between real and sham democracy]. It was the Presidential Election

Five candidates for President were offered, but one of them was wn, leaving four, all of them members in regular standing of the so: epublican or Democratic party. But a caucus of one-fourth of the " of Congress had selected one of the four (William H. Crawford) as Tublican candidate, and it was attempted to make the support of this one of party orthodoxy and fealty. This was resisted, we think most justly emocratically, by three-fourths of the people, including a large majorthose of this State. But among the prime movers of the caucus wires Furtin Van Buren of this State, and here it was gravely proclaimed and - that Democracy required a blind support of Crawford in preference to

, Jackson, or Clay, all of the Democratic party, who were competitors e station. A Legislature was chosen as 'Republican' before the people erally had begun to think of the Presidency, and, this Legislature, it was ubtingly expected, would choose Crawford Electors of President. But the ds of the rival candidates at low to bestir themselves and dea direct vote of the peond was vehemently re.

that the New York Electo

and not by a forestall

ther. She went en masse for Jackson, of course. When he came in, she proceeded at once to extend her jurisdiction over the Cherokees in very deed. They remonstrated--pointed to their broken treaties, and urged the President to perform his sworn duty, and protect them, but in vain. Georgia seized a Cherokee accused of killing another Cherokee in their own country, tried him for and convicted him of murder. He sued out a writ of error, carried the case up to the U. S. Supreme and there obtained a decision in his favor, establishing the utter illegality as well as injustice of the acts of Georgia in the premises. The validity of our treaties with the Cherokees, and the consequent duty of the President to see them enforced, any thing in any State-law or edict to the contrary notwithstanding, was explicitely affirmed. But President Jackson decided that Georgia was right and the Supreme Court wrong, and refused to enforce the decision of the latter. So the Court was defied, the Cherokee hung, the Cherokee country given up to the cupidity of the Georgians, and its rightful owners driven across the Mississippi, virtually at the point of the bayonet. That case changed the nature of our Government, making the President Supreme Judge of the Law as well as its Chief Minister-in other words, Dictator. "Amen! Hurrah for Jackson!" said the Pharisaic Democracy of Party and Spoils. We could not say it after them. We considered our nation perjured in the trampling down and exile of these Cherokees; perjury would have lain heavy on our soul had we approved and promoted the deed."

On another occasion, when Silas Wright was nominated for Governor of the State of New York, the Tribune broke forth: "The 'notorious Seventeen '-what New-Yorker has not heard of them? -yet how small a proportion of our present voting population retain a vivid and distinct recollection of the outrage on Republicanism and Popular Rights which made the ‘Seventeen' so unenviably notorious! The Editor of the Tribune is of that proportion, be it small or large. Though a boy in 1824, and living a mile across the Vermont line of the State, he can never forget the indignation awakened by that outrage, which made him for ever an adversary of the Albany Regency and the demagogues who here and elsewhere made use of the terms 'Democracy,' 'Democrats,' 'Democratic party,' to hoodwink and cajole the credulous and unthinking -to divert their attention from things to names-to divest them of independent and manly thought, and lead them blindfold wherever the intriguers' interests shall dictate-to establish a real Aristocracy under the abused name of Democracy. It was 1824 which taught many beside us the nature of this swindle, and fired them with un

conquerable zeal and resolution to defeat the fraud by exposing it to the apprehension of a duped and betrayed people."

These extracts will assist the reader to recall the political excitements of the time. And he may well esteem it extraordinary for a boy of thirteen-an age when a boy is, generally, most a boy-to understand them so well, and to be interested in them so deeply. It should be remembered, however, that in remote country places, where the topics of conversation are few, all the people take a degree of interest in politics, and talk about political questions with a frequency and pertinacity of which the busy inhabitants of cities can form little idea.

Horace's last year in Westhaven (1825) wore slowly away. He had exhausted the schools; he was impatient to be at the types, and he wearied his father with importunities to get him a place in a printing-office. But his father was loth to let him go, for two reasons: the boy was useful at home, and the cautious father feared he would not do well away from home; he was so gentle, so ab sent, so awkward, so little calculated to make his way with strar gers. One day, the boy saw in the "Northern Spectator," a weekly paper, published at East Poultney, eleven miles distant, an advertisement for an apprentice in the office of the "Spectator" itself. He showed it to his father, and wrung from him a reluctant consent to his applying for the place. "I have n't got time to go and see about it, Horace; but if you have a mind to walk over to Poultney and see what you can do, why you may."

Horace had a mind to.

« PreviousContinue »