Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and a tooth for a tooth. It professes to be an appeal from the ti

judgments of Great Britain, but to whom the appeal is made, or who are to act as umpires in this case of calumny, North America versus England, we are not yet informed. As, however, we ourselves are parties concerned; for among the “British writers” against whom a true bill has been found at Philadelphia, the British Critics are specially named,—we should feel inclined to insist upon

being satisfied as to the competency of the court and the imparE tiality of the witnesses, before we allowed the prosecutor, Mr. Walsh,

to proceed one step further in following his action for damages.

It looks ill for Mr. Walsh's cause, however, that in this country, where every desperado has protectors, and the greatest miscreant has his partisans, there is no one to think favourably of his beloved States : and seriously speaking, it is a singular fact that the public journals of Great Britain, which are seldom found to agree in any thing, differ very little in their expressed opinions of North America. Whig and Tory are equally hostile to the rising republic. Mr. Tierney and Lord Grey have as little kindness in their hearts, as their most determined antagonists, when they speak of American manners and institutions. The Edinburgh Review is as inimical as the Quarterly. Mr. B., an American federalist, and Mr. F., an English democrat, and Mr. H., a sinart young officer, say nearly the same things as to the modesty and mercantile honesty, the refinement and practical liberty of the United States. Even Cobbett, who has generally a good word to utter for every one who is not a subject of his own king, has given over all eulogy in favour of the modern Hesperia. In one word, Mr. Walsh's clients have contrived to work out, in relation to their own character and pretensions, the wonder of unanimity among a people who seem to dissent on all other matters for the mere love of disputation; and in their attempts to undermine this wonderful coalition, American writers have only exhibited against themselves a mass of prima facie evidence, which it will not be easy either to counteract or remove. A man does not go into court with a very good grace to seek redress, for any injury he may have received from the strife of tongues, when placed in circumstances which make it necessary for him to confess that nobody speaks well of him, and, moreover, that a great variety of persons, who never agreed on any point before, have consented to traduce his character and undervalue his attainments.

Mr. Walsh himself cannot but concede to us, both the inference We have now stated, and also the facts upon which it rests; for it is clearly with a view to the general and unanimous dislike of America which prevails in this country, and which is expressed occasionally in almost every journal published in either division of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the Island, that he appeals from the judgments of Great Britainthat is, we presume, from the opinion of the Whigs as well as from that of the Tories, of the high churchman as well as the low churchman, of the lord and also of the commoner. We are ready to acknowledge, however, that this system of national abuse and depreciation has been carried a great deal too far; for even admitting that there is some ground for the strictures which have been made on the foibles and bombast of the American character, it perhaps argues more of jealousy than of contempt, to be constantly dwelling upon such imperfections, and setting them forth in every point of view, for the gratification of vulgar animosity. We are at peace with America, and ought therefore to feel the obligation under which we stand, to cultivate amity towards her, in language as well as in deeds: and, in truth, it were greatly to be deplored that! the good understanding subsisting between the two countries

, should be exposed to a premature interruption, or the evils of war bereafter unnecessarily aggravated, by the childish practice of calling names, and grinning in one another's faces.

We are now going to specify the corpus delicti brought against us by the author of the appeal.

[Here a quotation is made from the work of Mr. Walsh.]

The sentences quoted [by Mr. W.] contain the sum and substance of the calumny with which we are individually chargeable; and it is worthy of remark that some of them are literal extracts from the work which we were reviewing, written too by a citizen of the United States. Mr. Bristed, the author alluded to, declares in as many words, that the merchants in that country make it a point of conscience never to pay a single stiver to a British creditor; and also that some of the States had declared it to be unconstitutional to refer to the providence of God in any of their public acts. It is from the same authority (and indeed, we gave the statement almost verbatim) that we mentioned the deficiency still felt in North America, of the usual means of religious instruction and divine worship: and if Mr. Walsh had cast his eyes over the pages of his fellow citizen, Mr. Bristed, he would have found, besides a great deal of the same kind of thing, all the ribaldry and absurdities' for which he is pleased to render us accountable.

It is to the first sentence quoted from our journal, that Mr. Walsh directs the main attention and indignation of his American readers.

* We have seen (says he) that the Edinburgh Review talks of " the ludicrous proposition of the American Congress to declare " herself the most enlightened nation on the globe. The Quarter• ly Review also descants scoffingly on this supposed proposition

, • and avers that it was withdrawn only through fear of giving un'brage to the French Convention. Mr. Alexander Baring refers

to it, in his pamphlet on the orders in council, saying, that "the 5 Bain Americans gravely debated once

in Congress whether they should ele é style themselves the most enlightened people in the world.” By O BE 'a natural progression or diversity in reading, the story now goes,

as the British critic has it; “ that the Americans debated during ut three successive days, whether they were not the greatest, wisest, 23 "bravest

, most ingenious, and most learned of mankind." This is on the shape (he concludes) in which it will doubtless be embalmed it les by the British historians.

We must own that we were not quite aware that our statement pe was so well supported by contemporaneous authorities; for in ha

zarding the remark which has given so much offence, we leant Die almost entirely on the credit of Mr. John Bristed, counsellor at

law, in the city of New-York. On the subject under consideration, this gentleman speaks as follows:

“ The national vanity of the United States surpasses that of any other country, not even excepting France. It blazes out any where and on almost all occasions, in their conversation, newspapers, speeches, pamphlets and books. They assume it as a self-evident fact

, that the Americans surpass all other nations in virtue, wisdom, 1 valour, liberty, government, and every other excellence. All Eu

ropeans they profess to despise, as ignorant paupers and dastardly slaves. Even during president Washington's administration, Congress debated three days upon the important position, that America was the most enlightened nation on earth; and finally decided the affirmative by a small majority. And our present president, in his recent tour through the union, told the people of Kennebunk, in the District of Maine, that the United States were certainly the most enlightened nation in the world.”a

We can put up with a great deal, at the hands of persons who have just drawn the first breath of independence, and felt their limbs newly disengaged from the shackles : we can tolerate their shouting and skipping, and all the extravagance incident to a complete and ulooked for change; but when a class of men who have for generations been consorting with convicted felons, on the one hand, and with negro slaves on the other, start up all at once and insist upon calling themselves the most enlightened nation in the world, our patience and gravity are alike overcome, and it is utterly impossible to abstain from a jeer. We have accordingly on one or two occasions, made a little free with the bombast and pomposity of the American mind, as displayed in public proceedings and offcial documents, and we defy the most saturnine and hypochona (Mr. John Bristed is an Englishman :-and though he has become a citizen of the United States, he has not, it is seen, changed his character.

Ed. L. & S. R.) 28

VOL. I.

driac of our order, even with all the horrors of Calvinism sitting on his heart, to read some of the papers that have fallen in our way, when perusing the annals of modern America, and to refrain from a smile. The writers of the Union have a manner of using our language which, at the best, gives it rather a foreign air; and which, when they attempt to make it the vehicle of a swelling thought, renders their composition extremely ludicrous. The author now before us, indeed, seldom ventures into the regions of the sublime, and is upon the whole one of the most correct and simple composers who have yet appeared in independent America. When, however, he allows himself to soar, one can instanily perceive by the manner of his flight that his wings were fledged beyond the Atlantic. For instance, when talking of steam-boats, those lubberly unclassical machines, he sees them in imagination, 'overcoming

with unexampled velocity the powerful currents of our mighty ri'vers, and almost accomplishing the annihilation of space and time." He exults in the ideal contemplation of a steam-frigate of gigantic

size, moving on the waters of the Hudson, with the facility and 'force of motion, and the military faculties, which will insure in

vulnerability to the seaports of his country, and may give a new • and desirable character to maritime warfare. In one or two other places besides, he hazards a rise into the firmament of tropes, and uniformly vindicates his origin, as a son of the fresh and unsophisticated school of the new Hesperia. * * * * *

[The reviewer proceeds to give an analysis of the contents of the work.-We will make one more extract from the British critic's remarks,-as we think them excellent. ]

It is not fair to extract sentences and parts of sentences from one ti volume of a review, and set them against similar extracts from another volume of the same performance, in an insulated fragment with ed form.-Nor ought the various communications in a literary journal to be tried by the same severe standard, which all men are at liberty to apply to the works of an individual author. Mr. Walsh must himself be satisfied, that in none of the leading periodicals of this country, has there been any remarkable change of opinion on the character of the Americans, whether as scholars

, gentlemen, or statesmen. He may have found in some of their pages a few verbal incompatibilities, which an industrious gleaner could set in opposite array, and clothe with the appearance of selfcontradiction; but we are confident, he has not found the general spirit in any one of them materially altered, nor, upon the whole, a more favourable judgment pronounced relative to his nativecountry,

The subjects of attack, as practised against the United States by the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, are generally speaking their want of literature-ignorance of science and the arts--barbarism in their manners, and savageness in their amusements and con

tests—arrogance and haughtiness, with an overweening self-conceit—intoxication, dirt, and slavery. Of the former journal, Mr. Walsh remarks, that it is 'jocose at our expense, through pertness and arrogance;' whilst the latter is so from national fears and monarchical antipathy:' and the leer of the one is, accordingly, only smirking, while that of the other is sardonic.'

[From the Quarterly Review.-Lond. Mar. 1820.) Art. XII.-Brutus, or the Fall of Tarquin, an Historical Tragedy. By John Howard Payne. The influence of the drama on the manners of a nation and its habits of thinking, few will question, who have considered the subject with the attention which it deserves. It is idle to calculate the extent of that influence by the number of specific characters formed, or actions done in direct imitation of dramatic personages; such are, rather, instances of mania, arising from a coincidence of irritable temperament with very favouring circumstances, and rarely to be found; in ordinary cases, the glowing enthusiasın, which the representation kindles within us, may indeed affect our dreams, but is cooled by the realities of the morrow. The moral influence, however, does not perish with it—it goes to strengthen the mass of opinions and feelings previously engendered by similar representations

. It would be too much to say that the drama has formed the national character; that undoubtedly is the result of many other, and more important circumstances : but we have no doubt, that the two act powerfully on each other; the national character is impressed strongly on the drama, while our drama is not the least potent of many agents to form and to cherish the peculiarities of our Entertaining these opinions, we watch with peculiar interest the progress of dramatic poetry, and the state of dramatic taste amongst

We confess that we have no reason to congratulate them on either. We do not remember a single good tragedy of modern date; Mr. Coleridge's Remorse and Mr. Milman's Fazio, indeed, considered merely as proofs of poetic talent, are distinguished performances, though we think them very imperfect as plays. But if the productions themselves are not honourable to their authors, their fate seems to us to be decided in a way still less creditable to their judges. Chance, caprice, party, any thing but ne principles appears to direct the judgment of a first audience, a judgment which,

When unfavourable, with peculiar, and unreasonable hardship, is both summary and without appeal. Brutus is, or has been, a favourite with the public ; and though,

pational character.

our countrymen.

« ForrigeFortsæt »