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call a moment's attention. We apprehend that literature is to make progress through an important change in society, which civilization and good institutions are making more and more apparent. It seems to us, that, through these causes, political life is less and less regarded as the only or chief sphere for superior minds, and that influence and honor are more and more accumulated in the hands of literary and thinking men. Of consequence, more and more of the intellect of communities is to be drawn to literature. The distinction between antiquity and the present times, in respect to the importance attached to political life, seems to us striking; and it is not an accidental difference, but founded on permanent causes which are to operate with increased power. In ancient times, every thing, abroad and at home, threw men upon the public, and generated an intense thirst for political power. On the contrary, the improvement of later periods inclines men to give importance to literature. For example, the instability of the ancient republics, the unsettled relations of different classes of society, the power of demagogues and orators, the intensity of factions, the want of moral and religious restraints, the want of some regular organ for expressing the public mind, the want of precedents and precise laws for the courts of justice, these and other circumstances gave to the ancient citizen a feeling as if revolutions and convulsions were inseparable from society, turned his mind with unremitting anxiety to public affairs, and made a participation of political power an important, if not an essential, means of personal safety.
Again, the ancient citizen had no home, in our sense of the word. He lived in the market, the forum, the place of general resort, and of course his attention was
very much engrossed by affairs of state. Again, religion, which now more than all things throws a man upon himself, was in ancient times a public concern, and turned men to political life. The religion of the heart and closet was unknown. The relation of the gods to particular states, was their most prominent attribute; and to conciliate their favor to the community, the chief end of worship. Accordingly, religion consisted chiefly in public and national rites. In Rome, the highest men in the state presided at the altar, and, adding to their other titles that of Supreme Pontiff, performed the most solemn functions of the priesthood. Thus the whole strength of the religious principle was turned into political channels. The gods were thought ́to sustain no higher office than a political one, and of consequence this was esteemed the most glorious for Once more, in ancient times political rank was vastly more efficient, whether for good or for evil, than at present, and of consequence was the object of a more insatiable ambition. It was almost the only way of access to the multitude. The public man held a sway over opinion, over his country, perhaps over foreign states, now unknown. It is the influence of the press and of good institutions to reduce the importance of the man of office. In proportion as private individuals can act on the public mind; in proportion as a people read, think, and have the means of expressing and enforcing their opinions; in proportion as laws become fixed, known, and sanctioned by the moral sense of the community; in proportion as the interests of the state, the principles of administration, and all public measures, are subjected to free and familiar discussion, government becomes a secondary influence. The power passes into
the hands of those who think, write, and spread their minds far and wide. Accordingly, literature is to become more and more the instrument of swaying men, of doing good, of achieving fame. The contrast between ancient and modern times, in the particulars now stated, is too obvious to need illustration, and our great inference is equally clear. The vast improvements, which, in the course of ages, have taken place in social order, in domestic life, in religion, in knowledge, all conspire to one result, all tend to introduce other and higher influences than political power, and to give to that form of intellectual effort, which we call literature, dominion over human affairs. Thus truth, we apprehend, is more and more felt; and from its influence, joined with our peculiar condition and free institutions, we hope for our country the happiness and glory of a pure, deep, rich, beautiful, and ennobling literature.
1. Fourth ANNUAL REPORT to the AMERICAN UNITARIAN ASSOCIATION, read and accepted May 26, 1829, with the ADDRESSES at the Annual Meeting.
2. The Second ANNUAL REPORT of the Executive Committee of the AMERICAN SOCIETY for the PROMOTION of TEMPERANCE, presented January 28, 1829.
3. First ANNUAL REPORT of the GENERAL UNION for Promoting the OBSERVANCE of the CHRISTIAN SABBATH, adopt ed May 12, 1829.
WE have affixed to this article the titles of several reports of societies, not so much for the purpose of discussing the merits of the several institutions whose labors they celebrate, as with the more general design of offering some remarks on the disposition which now prevails to form associations, and to accomplish all objects by organized masses. A difference of opinion on this point has begun to manifest itself, and murmurs against the countless societies which modestly solicit or authoritatively claim our aid, which now assail us with fair promises of the good which they purpose, and now with rhetorical encomiums on the good they have
done, begin to break forth from the judicious and well disposed, as well as from the querulous and selfish. These doubts and complaints, however, are most frequently excited by particular cases of unfair or injurious operations in societies. As yet no general principles have been established, by which the value of this mode of action may be determined, or the relative claims of different associations máy be weighed. We will not promise to supply the deficiency, but we hope to furnish some help to a sounder judgment than yet prevails on the subject.
That the subject deserves attention, no man who observes the signs of the times can doubt. Its importance forces itself on the reflecting. In truth, one of the most remarkable circumstances or features of our age, is the energy with which the principle of combination, or of action by joint forces, by associated numbers, is manifesting itself. It may be said, without much exaggeration, that every thing is done now by societies. Men have learned what wonders can be accomplished in certain cases by union, and seem to think that union is competent to every thing. You can scarcely name an object for which some institution has not been formed. Would men spread one set of opinions, or crush another? They make a society. Would they improve the penal code, or relieve poor debtors? They make societies. Would they encourage agriculture, or manufactures, or science? They make societies. Would one class encourage horse-racing, and another discourage travelling on Sunday? They form societies. We have immense institutions spreading over the country, combining hosts for particular objects. We have minute ramifications of these societies, penetrating everywhere