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OUR native artists have produced several truly national statues. Among them is "the dying Indian;" emblem of a noble, simple race of savage chiefs, over whose undefined empires another dominion is now extended; into whose inheritance the stranger has entered; and on whose sepulchre the white man now rears his dwelling. Another introduces us to the pioneer settler; tall and brawny; of frank and generous countenance; altogether pervaded with the dignity of conscious manhood. Yet another is "California," with smiling face, holding before her, in one hand, the divining-rod which points to the golden loadstone at her feet, and concealing behind her figure, in the other hand, a scourge. Perhaps still another emblematic statue might be made, representing the Genius of America, young, bold, elastic; rather firm and nervous than graceful; with an earnest, forward gaze, indicating the attractive influence of those brilliant prospects of wealth and power which the future presents; while he scarcely notices the venerable figure of Wisdom, who holds to his view a mirror reflecting the Past.
The wise will welcome every judicious effort to create among us a taste for history; for they well know that "Young America" cannot dispense with it; since he cannot thoroughly
understand the present, without a perception of its relations to the past. Among the most undesirable developments of our national character, is our self-confident, reckless adoption of new political theories; our habit of settling great principles of policy by a few commonplace deductions from the fundamental doctrine of personal equality. We aspire to be rulers, before we have qualified ourselves for the momentous task. We venture to lead a nation into the future, without securing for our guidance the concentrated light of the world's political experience. Indeed it may be said with truth, that while no civilized people on earth have more need of historical knowledge than we, none are moving forward to the future more regardless of its lessons.
Our progress in science has been very respectable, and our progress in the material arts wonderful. The Schools are elevating the standard of literature; but our unconscious deficiency is in historical science. Too little zeal seems to be manifested for that knowledge of man, of humanity as a unit, which includes the entire history of civilization, and which is supremely important to us.
It was not so, however, at the beginning; and well for us that it was not. The Constitution of the Republic was framed by men who had a thorough mastery of political science; which is only a knowledge of what has been done in previous ages, for the government of society.
The following course of lectures makes no large pretensions. It is a small contribution to our stock of knowledge, by a genial and generous Frenchman. He invites us to review with him a very important period of his nation's history; partially in its political, chiefly in its literary features. And it makes its appearance opportunely, when present circumstances are tending to increase our respect for his country, and to awaken in us
higher expectations of its future influence on the progress of human affairs.
The internal history of France, since the days of Louis XIV., has, on the whole, greatly abated that degree of admiration which had been inspired by his reign; or rather, by the early part of that reign. Yet it is very manifest from her connection with the affairs of Europe since that period, that the Gallic race still stands among the dominant powers of the Christian world. And the present war is giving her a moral triumph over Great Britain, which is even more impressive than their united gallant achievements at Alma and Inkerman. How can a nation with a commerce so inferior to that of England; with no vast colonial market for her industrial products; just emerging from a series of political revolutions that shook the foundations of society; how can such a nation appear at the head of that great defensive league of Southern Europe, and modern civilization, against Northern despotism, and Cimmerian barbarism, unless that nation contains great moral resources within itself? France was prompt in meeting the aggressive movements of the Czar, and in comprehending his policy, while England was still lingering; either duped, or doubting what she ought to have known with certainty. Amid the horrid scenes of the Crimea the French have proved themselves masters of that practical sense, which we have generally supposed to be monopolized in Britain. France has as judiciously defended her troops against the tempestuous climate of the Black Sea, as they have bravely defended her cause against the Russians; while England has left her troops to fight her enemies, unfed, unsheltered, unsupplied with medicines or munitions of war. The explanation of this shameful treatment of her army is obvious. But it involves the conclusion, either that despotism is a better defence of a nation than freedom; or that France, in practical sense, is
in advance of Britain.
Her present position is, therefore, giving a peculiar interest to every judicious effort to increase our acquaintance with her history.
A Frenchman is, then, inviting us, citizens of the American Protestant Republic, to go back with him, and look again upon the age of the mighty Catholic despot of France, whose will was the strongest human element in the seventeenth century, after Richelieu's will had ceased to act on earthly events. He invites us to imagine ourselves transported back in time, to the year 1638; and over in space, to the capital of France. We shall find it, however, a very different city from the Paris of the present day. There are no asphaltic pavements; no Rue Rivoli; no gaudy Magdalen Church, in which the elder babies of Paris amuse themselves; no Place de la Concorde, as seen at this day. The garden of Plants, the Tuilleries, the Louvre, the Invalides, the Pantheon, all unfinished; and the Boulevards, and streets, hereafter to be the most elegant in the world, are yet in a very primitive condition. Louis XIII. is on the
throne; his mother, Maria de Medici, in banishment; the Huguenots are subdued; the Montmorenci party crushed; Richelieu, all-powerful, and hated alike by the king and the king's enemies, is still ascendant, because Louis cannot govern without him. The French queen, daughter of Spain, named Anne of Austria, has now for twenty years hoped, as with the longings of a Jewish matron, to become the mother, as she was the daughter and the wife of a king. At length her prayer is heard, and on the 5th of September, 1638, she gives birth to an infant. The palace is now full of joy; and the nation, not so wise as La Fontaine's frogs, who shall yet be introduced to us, are rejoicing with the court. Looking back to that day with our republican predilections, we can enter but partially into the joy that a man-child is there born into the world.