Billeder på siden

me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day.' *

What took place on this occasion is accordant with what we know of human nature in all ages and nations. Seneca relates an anecdote of the Roman emperor Augustus, which comes to precisely the same purpose. After many plots had been formed against him, and suppressed by the usual forcible means, the emperor was informed of one planned by Cinna, for putting him to death when engaged at sacrifices in the temple. He was greatly disquieted ; and the more so, as a young nobleman, for whom he had a regard, was engaged in the conspiracy. It distressed Augustus to find that the taking of his life should be thought good service by however small a portion of the Roman people. He almost thought it would be better for him to die at once, than retain a life which only could be preserved by continually visiting others with death. Finding him so much troubled, his wife Livia entreated that he would for once hear a woman's counsel. Do,' said she, “like a physician who, when common remedies fail, tries the contrary. You have got nothing hitherto by severity. Try now what mercy will do. Forgive Cinna, who, being discovered, can now do you no harm. The act will reward itself in reputation. (It is a pity she thought not of superior motives.)

Augustus resolved to follow his wife's advice. He called Cinna before him, and, dismissing all attendants, told him that the plot was discovered. He then reminded him of former clemency, and lectured him on the folly as well as wickedness of his design. 'Well, Cinna,' said he at last, the life I gave you once as an enemy, I will now give you as a traitor and parricide, and this shall be the last reproach I shall ever address to you. For the time to come, there shall be no other contention betwixt you and me than which shall outdo the other in point of friendship.'

The intending parricide was confounded by this generosity. Promoted by Augustus to the consulship, he became faithfully attached to him, and in the end made the emperor his heir. And this was the last conspiracy ever formed against Augustus.

During the early years of the reign of Louis Philippe in France, similar conspiracies were of continual occurrence, and the intending assassin was invariably punished with death. At length a more merciful plan was adopted ; the criminal was only condemned to imprisonment. From that time, as in the case of Augustus, attempts to cut off the king's life totally ceased. What force could not do, was accomplished by gentleness.

To shew the same principle in a totally different sphere of life, we quote from the Manchester Times an anecdote of the late William Grant, of the firm of Grant Brothers, a man remarkable for the great liberality of his nature. “Many years ago, a warehouseman published a scurrilous pamphlet, in which he endeavoured, but very unsuccessfully, to hold up the house of Grant Brothers to public ridicule. William remarked that the man would live to repent what he had done; and this was conveyed by some tale-bearer to the libeller, who said : “Oh, I suppose he thinks I shall some time or other be in his debt; but I will take good care of that.” It happens, however, that a man in business cannot always choose who shall be his creditors. The pamphleteer became a bankrupt, and the brothers held an acceptance of his which had been indorsed to them by the drawer, who had also become a bankrupt. The wantonly libelled men had thus become creditors of the libeller! They now had it in their power to make him repent of his audacity. He could not obtain his certificate without their signature, and without it he could not enter into business again. He had obtained the number of signatures required by the bankrupt law, except one. It seemed folly to hope that the firm of "the brothers” would supply the deficiency. What! they who had cruelly been made the laughingstocks of the public, forget the wrong, and favour the wrong-doer? He despaired. But the claims of a wife and children forced him at last to make the application. Humbled by misery, he presented himself at the counting-house of the wronged. Mr William Grant was there alone, and his first words to the delinquent were : “Shut the door, sir!”-sternly uttered. The door was shut, and the libeller stood trembling before the libelled. He told his tale, and produced his certificate, which was instantly clutched by the injured merchant. You wrote a pamphlet against us once?" exclaimed Mr Grant. The supplicant expected to see his parchment thrown into the fire. But this was not its destination. Mr Grant took a pen, and writing something upon the document, handed it back to the bankrupt. He, poor wretch, expected to see rogue, scoundrel, libeller," inscribed ; but there was, in fair round characters, the signature of the firm. “We make it a rule," said Mr Grant, never to refuse signing the certificate of an honest tradesman, and we have never heard that you were anything else.” The tears started into the poor

1 Samuel, xxiv. 8-13.

“Ah,” said Mr Grant, “my saying was true! I said you would live to repent writing that pamphlet. I did not mean it as a threat ; I only meant that some day you would know us better, and be sorry you had tried to injure us. I see you repent of it now. “I do, I do!" said the grateful man ; “I bitterly repent it.” “Well, well, my dear fellow, you know us now. How do you get on? What are you going to do?” The poor man stated that he had friends who could assist him when his certificate was obtained. “But how are you off in the meantime?" And the answer was, that, having given up every farthing to his creditors, he had been compelled to stint his family of even common necessaries, that he might be

man's eyes..

enabled to pay the cost of his certificate._ “My dear fellow, this will not do ; your family must not suffer. Be kind enough to take this ten-pound note to your wife from me. There, there, my dear fellow. Nay, don't cry, it will be all well with you yet. Keep up your spirits, set to work like a man, and you will raise your head among us yet.” The overpowered man endeavoured in vain to - express his thanks : the swelling in his throat forbade words. He put his handkerchief to his face, and went out of the door crying like a child.'

Still further to vary the ground, and yet shew the principle triumphant, let us cite a little story which originally appeared in an American school journal. At a common school convention in Hampden county, Dr Cooley stated that, many years ago, a young man went into a district to keep a school, and before he had been there a week, many persons came to see him, and kindly told him that there was one boy in the school whom it would be necessary to whip every day ; leading him to infer that such was the custom of the school, and that the inference of injustice towards the boy would be drawn whenever he should escape, not when he should suffer. The teacher saw the affair in a different light. He treated the boy with signal kindness and attention. At first this novel course seemed to bewilder him : he could not divine its meaning : but when the persevering kindness of the teacher begot a kindred sentiment of kindness in the pupil, his very nature seemed transformed. Old impulses died, and a new creation of motives supplied their place.

Never was there a more diligent, obedient, and successful pupil. Now, said the reverend gentleman, in concluding his narrative, that boy is the chief-justice of a neighbouring state. The relator of this story, though he modestly kept back the fact, was himself the actor. If the Romans justly bestowed a civic crown upon a soldier who had saved the life of a fellow-comrade in battle, what honours are too great for a teacher who has thus rescued a child from ruin?

The author of an excellent little book,* into which the above story has been transferred, expresses his belief, and we think justly, that 'there was never yet an instance in which kindness has been fairly exercised, but that it has subdued the enmity opposed to it. Its first effort may not succeed, any more than one shower of rain can reclaim the burning desert; but let it repeatedly shed the dew of its holy influence upon the revengeful soul, and that soul will soon become beautiful with every flower of tenderness. An individual can no more oppose the kindness which is continually and steadily manifesting itself towards him, than he can fan the flame of violent anger in his soul when the most pure and charming music is flooding his senses with its rich harmony. He will as certainly submit to

* Illustrations of the Law of Kindness. By the Rev. G. W. Montgomery. Republished by Wiley and Putnam. London, 1845.

its winning power, as the compass-needle yields to the influence of magnetism." It is not in human nature to withstand a long course of kindness. Pride and stubbornness may for a time stay the tide of better feelings, like the waters of the stream pent up by gathering masses of ice; but those better feelings will accumulate and increase, until they break down pride and stubbornness, and cause the repentant to exclaim, like one of old : “Thou knowest that I love thee!”. Let any person put the question to his soul, whether, under any circumstances, he can deliberately resist continued kindness ? and a voice of affection will answer, that good is omnipotent in overcoming evil. If the angry and revengeful person would only govern his passions, and light the lamp of affection in his heart, that it might stream out in his features and actions, he would soon discover a wide difference in his communion with the world. The gentle would no longer avoid him, friends would not approach him with a frown, the weak would no longer meet him with dread, children would no longer shrink from him with fear; he would find that his kindness wins all by its smile, giving them confidence, and securing their friendship. Verily I say to you, that kindness is mightier than the conqueror ; for the conqueror subdues or the body-kindness subdues the soul.'

The general truth of these observations will, we think, be generally acknowledged. How much must it, therefore, be lamented, that not only do individuals remain sources of terror and vexation to each other, in consequence of hostility, when they might interchange such blessings merely by a little mutual kindness, but that large sections of people, calling themselves political parties, or religious sects, and even whole nations, do thus deprive themselves of much happiness. The very history of the quarrels, litigations, party bickerings, and national jealousies which are daily occurring, has a bad effect in keeping up the idea that it is the natural and only possible course of human conduct. Who would think, for instance, from what we hear of the Irish peasantry, that any kind feeling could ever be interchanged between them and the English soldiery, who are stationed here and there all over their country to keep them in a kind of forced peace? Yet these parties are, after all, men. They have, on both sides, the ordinary human sympathies; and the officer who to-day, perhaps, could hardly appear singly in a lonely part of the country without danger of life, might to-morrow, if standing in a different relation to these people, find them his faithful friends. Only a few years ago, the following paragraph, illustrating a possibility of this kind, appeared in a newspaper, entitled the Westmeath Guardian : 'We learn that Captain Atkinson, the celebrated sportsman, who some years ago resided at Clanhugh, in this neighbourhood, and afterwards at the Cottage, Rathowen, was surrounded by a large party of the Molly Maguires, whilst shooting on a bog in the neighbourhood of Carrick-on-Shannon, last week, and ordered to

deliver up his fowling-piece. This he refused to do, and drew a pistol from his breast to fire at the fellows; it missed fire, and the Mollies immediately wrested both the gun and pistol from him, and would in all probability have given him something not very agreeable in return, had not a resident on the bog come to the rescue with a short gun, and swore he would shoot some of the party if the arms were not restored; telling them at the same time of the generosity of the captain towards him and his wife. The gallant captain and true sportsman, it appeared, was on the bog a week previously, and “convenient" to the hut of this poor man (whose wife was in her confinement at the time). He requested that the captain would not fire “convenient" to the house, explaining the delicate state of his wife. Captain Atkinson instantly retired to a distant part of the bog, and after returning home from his day's sport, despatched a messenger to the hut with many comforts that the poor family were strangers to, and called a few days after to inquire for the patient. On hearing of his generous kindness to the poor man, the Mollies instantly returned the arms to Captain Atkinson, and cheered him lustily, promising to protect the game for him, and that no person would be allowed to shoot there but himself. The Mollies then straight betook themselves away, wishing him long life, and cheering him as they went along.'


There is a prevalent notion that the only way to manage inferiors properly is to keep them in strong subjection by severe, or at least rigid treatment. This we believe to be a prejudice, arising in this way-namely, that in the midst of a generally bad management of inferiors, any relaxation is usually attended by bad consequences. The cause is here in the bad management, not in the relaxation. Supposing inferiors to be treated uniformly on the principles of justice and kindness, with judgment and good sense as regulating powers over all, it will never be found that the kindness does any harm, but rather the reverse.

In England, complaints regarding servants are often heard. But as far as these are even ostensibly well founded, the cause may be discovered in the whole relation of the class of servants towards the class of masters and mistresses. There is too great a space between them as members of the human family. Placed so far away from the sympathies of their employers, and from the more direct influence which the higher and more cultivated natures are designed to have over the rest, servants labour under a deficiency of motive to cordial good service, to cleanliness, to integrity, or any of the other virtues desired in their situation. In America, whose institutions promote self-respect among the humbler classes, there is an independence of feeling in servants which English people generally behold

« ForrigeFortsæt »