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a man's external deportment, his politeness, or his hospitality, if he will seduce my wife, my sister or my daughter; if he will take my money from me at the gaming table, or my life in a duel, he is destitute of the first requisites of a gentleman—justice, humanity, benevolence and real dignity of mind. Under a polished exterior, he conceals the heart of a barbarian.
On the subject of duelling, I would farther observe, that the practice, far from exhibiting unequivocal proof of true courage, evinces, in my view, the most disgraceful cowardice. It proves a man to be more afraid of the scorn of perverted minds, than of the wrath of heaven, or the vengeance of the law--more afraid of incurring the contempt of unprincipled men, than of forfeiting the favor of the most perfect judge of right and wrong, and of the most virtuous of his fellow-citizens—more afraid of a temporary stigma on his own reputation, than of sacrificing all his obligations to his family and friends, and of plunging his parents, his wife, his children, and his brethren in the deepest distress--nay, if married, more afraid of popular odium incurred by manly rectitude, than of violating his solemn marriage vows, which have pledged his veracity and his honor, to provide for his consort, and to cherish her with tenderness. This speeies of cowardice, this miserable, this mean obsequiousness to popular prejudice, is evidence of a degraded mind, and an indelible stain on the human character.
There is another view of this subject which ought not to be overlooked. Duels almost always originate in a defect of true politeness—and a challenge accepted is presumptive evidence that the parties are not gentlemen, in the sense in which the word should always be understood, and in which alone it can be correctly used. A real gentleman never voluntarily gives offense; and if he offends without design, he instantly acknowledges his error. The offended party, if a real gentleman, will as promptly accept this acknowledgment.
If the parties differ as to the nature and aggravation of the offense, and the value of the atonement offered, if they are really gentlemen, they will readily submit the decision of the question to an impartial friend, and rest satisfied with his decision. In nine cases of ten, perhaps in every case of an appeal to arms, to obtain satisfaction for injuries or affronts, it may be clearly seen by the impartial world that the affair has proceeded from a defect of real honor and good breeding in one party or in both. Instead therefore of vindicating their honor by arms, they manifest to the world that they are destitute of the genuine principles of good breeding, and of the real magnanimity which is characteristic of gentlemen.
In selecting books for reading, be careful to choose such as furnish the best helps to improvement in morals, literature, arts and science; preferring profit to pleasure, and instruction to amusemett. A small portion of time may be devoted to such reading as tends to relax the mind, and to such bodily amusements as serve to invigorate muscular strength and the vital functions. But the greatest part of life is to be employed in useful labors, and in various indispensable duties, private, social and public. Man has but little time to spare for the gratification of the senses and the imagination. I would therefore caution you against the fascinations of plays, novels, romances, and that species of descriptive writing which is employed to embellish common objects, without much enlarging the bounds of knowledge, or to paint imaginary scenes, which only excite curiosity, and a temporary interest; and then vanish in empty air.
The readers of books may be comprehended in two class
- those who read chiefly for amusement, and those who read for instruction. The first, and far the most numerous class, give their money and their time for private gratification ; the second employ both for the acquisition of knowledge, which they expect to apply to some useful purpose.The first, gain subjects of conversation and social entertainment; the second, acquire the means of public useful
ness, and of private elevation of character. The readers of the first class are so numerous, and the thirst for novelty so insatiable, that the country must be deluged with tales and fiction; and if you suffer yourself to be hurried along with the current of popular feeling, not only your time, but your mind will be dissipated; your native faculties, instead of growing into masculine vigor, will languish into imbecility. Bacon and Newton did not read tales and novels; their great minds were nourished with very different aliment.
Theatrical entertainments have strong attractions, especially for the young and the thoughtless. They are vindicated as a rational and instructive amusement, and men of sober judgement and sound morals sometimes attend them—not, however, I believe, with the expectation of gaining useful knowledge; but for the purpose of being entertained with seeing the powers of the actors. They are pleased to see one man imitate another, and the more exact the imitation, the more are they delighted. The representation of elevated characters has a show of dignity; the low scenes are mere vulgar buffoonery. Very few plays, however, are free from sentiments which are offensive to moral purity. Many of them abound with ribaldry and vulgarity, too gross for exhibition before persons of delicacy and refined manners.Before I can believe the stage to be a school of virtue, I must demand proof that a single profligate has ever been reformed, or a single man or woman made a christian by its influ
And let me ask, what sort of entertainment is that in which a thin partition only separates the nobleman from his lackey, and the duchess from her kitchen-maid; in which the gentleman and the lady associate at the same board with the footman, the oyster-man, and the woman of the town, and all partake of the same fare! With what sentiments must superior beings look down on this motley school of morality?
In forming your connections in society, be careful to select for your companions, young men of good breeding, and
of virtuous principles and habits. The company of the profligate and irreligious is to be shunned as poison. You cannot always avoid some intercourse with men of dissolute lives; but you can always select, for your intimate associates, men of good principles and unimpeachable character. Never maintain a familiar intercourse with the profane, the lewd, the intemperate, the gamester, or the scoffer at religion. Towards men of such character, the common civilities of life are to be observed beyond these, nothing is required of men who reverence the divine precepts, and who desire, to keep themselves unspotted from the world.”
I would advise you never to become a member of any association, the object of which is concealed. If times and circumstances, in any country and at any period of the world, bave rendered such associations necessary for the protection of
person or property, or for the reformation of public abuses, no longer tolerable, such circumstances do not exist in this country. Secret societies or clubs may have innocent and even good objects in view; but concealment always exposes them to suspicion; and it seems incompatible with true dignity of character to expose ones self voluntarily to such suspicions. A good man; a man of truly philanthropic principles, will always direct his views to valuable objects of public or private utility and these require no secrecy. Associations for intellectual improvement, for executing useful undertakings, and for combining and giving effect to exertions of benevolence, are highly laudable. But always bear in mind this important fact, that men are all members of one great family, and benevolence should know no bounds, but the limits of this family. It should therefore be our aim not to attempt to narrow the limits of benevolence which God himself has prescribed. It may well be questioned whether, as society is now constituted, the partialities of men, originating in distinctions, national and local ; political and religious; do not contract the benevolent principles of our nature, within much narrower limits, than is consistent with christian mo
rality. No philanthropist can see, without pain, nations and states, parties and religious sects, perpetually struggling to secure, each to itself, some exclusive or superior advantages, in property, power or influence; and often by means, base and dishonorable. This conduct usually originates in pride or seltish views, as unfriendly to social happiness, as they are repugnant to the will of our common father. Whether in politics or religion, this is an odious trait in the human character.
When we consider that men are all brethren of the same family, all created with similar capacities, and vested with the same natural rights; and in this country, all enjoying equal civil and religious rights, under the protection of law; all equally entitled to security and public privileges; all placed under the same moral discipline, and all destined to the same end-how disgusting is it to see one party or one sect arrogating to itself superior merit, or proud distinction, and saying to others, “ stand by thyself—come not near me, for I am holier than thou!" Yet such is the language of parties; often in religion-always in government. When the fundamental principles of government or our holy religion are assaulted, good men must unite to defend them. But the most numerous and most violent parties that trouble society, spring from private ambition and interest, when no principles are in jeopardy-or from an undue attachment to speculative opinions in politics, or to the externals of religion; and in such parties, the human character is displayed in all its depravity and degradation. In the tranquil condition of affairs in this country, when our citizens enjoy all the privileges which good men can desire, and more than many can enjoy without abuse, a disposition to exalt one class of citizens and to depress another, is a foul reproacb to men—a fouler reproach to Christians.
Never, my dear friend, degrade yourself by an unhallowed alliance with a political party that assumes the right of controlling all public affairs, to the exclusion of other citizens