Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

exceedingly backward in all matters of tidiness about their houses and gardens, notwithstanding the almost constant advices and reprimands of the proprietor of the estate. On one occasion, the proprietor, who was very much vexed about the slovenliness of his tenantry, went to visit the estate of another proprietor, a lady of considerate and benevolent disposition. To his extreme surprise, he found all the cottages and gardens in the district neat and orderly, the gardens universally blooming with the prettiest flowers. 'How have you managed to bring all this about ?' asked the surprised visitor. "All you see,' replied the lady, - is the result, I may say, of one kind word. You shall hear how it took place. One day, happening to visit one of my cottagers, I observed in the wretched garden behind the house a single marigold: it was blooming amidst a crowd of weeds. “What a very beautiful marigold you have got there!” said I to the cottager. The man was delighted with the notion of possessing what I seemed to prize so highly; and, without recommendation on my part, commenced to dig and clean his garden, and plant flowers. Others did the same; a general improvement of taste ensued; and that man who possessed the marigold lately gained the highest prize from a society for the finest flowers grown in the district.'

LOVE IS POWER-IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS. There is no moral principle applicable to private or domestic life, which is not equally applicable in public affairs, whether between one little society and another, or between state and state. This is not generally seen or acknowledged; but as it is quite true, the world is rapidly becoming aware of the fact.

When one nation is contentious and troublesome towards another, there is the same duty upon that other nation to take calm and gentle measures, as there is upon an individual to try by soft words to turn away the wrath of his brother. And any nation which acts in this amiable manner will have as good a chance of escaping wars, as a private person by similar conduct will have of escaping common quarrels. Supposing one nation to form an unkind law or regulation with respect to the people of another state, and that other nation were to meet it with a law of quite the opposite nature with respect to its neighbour, there would be the same likelihood of the ungenerous policy being abandoned, as there is that an individual will relent when he finds that his injured or insulted neighbour returns only good for evil. Nations, in fact, are liable to exactly the same emotions as single persons. With them, too, the law of kindness has a certain and definite sway.

Unfortunately, we have as yet few instances of nations acting towards each other on the principle of love. Hitherto, they have been more accustomed to look to the hurt of their neighbour as their own benefit, than to the opposite principle, which is the only true one. We therefore can only point to illustrations of the law of hate in their case; but these are immensely numerous. The wars which have been their bane from the beginning, and the commercial hostilities which have latterly been hardly less injurious, are all of them evidences of the evils which arise to nations from not loving their neighbours as themselves.

Mrs Child, an American writer, has related an instance of the benefits of the law of kindness in an affair approaching to the character of public. She tells us that, some years ago, she met a hard-working, uneducated mechanic of the state of Illinois, who pleased her greatly by what he told her of his past life. He was one of thirty or forty New Englanders who had, about twelve years before, associated themselves as friends of a Christian peacefulness, and gone forth to make a settlement of their own in the western wilderness. In their new home they were industrious and frugal, and all things prospered under their hands. But soon wolves came near the fold in the shape of reckless unprincipled adventurers; believers in force and cunning, who acted according to their creed. The colony of practical Christians spoke of their depredations in terms of gentlest remonstrance, and repaid them with unvarying kindness. They went further-they openly announced: “You may do us what evil you may choose ; we will return nothing but good.” Lawyers came into the neighbourhood, and offered their services to settle disputes. They answered: “We have no need of you. As neighbours, we receive you in the most friendly spirit ; but for us, your occupation has ceased to exist.” “What will you do if rascals burn your barns and steal your harvests?” “ We will return good for evil. We believe this is the highest truth, and therefore the best expediency.When the rascals heard this, they considered it a marvellous good joke, and said and did many provoking things which to them seemed witty. Barns were taken down in the night, and cows let into the corn-fields. The Christians repaired the damage as well as they could, put the cows in the barn, and at twilight drove them gently home, saying: “Neighbour, your cows have been in my field. I have fed them well during the day ; but I would not keep them all night, lest the children should suffer for want of their milk."

'If this were fun, those who planned the joke found no heart to laugh at it. By degrees a visible change came over these troublesome neighbours. They ceased to cut off the horses' tails and break the legs of the poultry. Rude boys would say to a younger brother: “Don't throw that stone, Bill! When I killed the chicken last week, didn't they send it to my mother, because they thought that chicken-broth would be good for poor Mary? I should think you'd be ashamed to throw stones at their chickens." Thus was evil (Years passed on, and saw them thriving in worldly substance beyond their neighbours, yet beloved by all. From them the lawyer and the constable obtained no fees. The sheriff stammered and apologised when he took their hard-earned goods in payment for the war-tax. They mildly replied : “'Tis a bad trade, friend. Examine it in the light of conscience, and see if it be not so." But while they refused to pay such fees and taxes, they were liberal to a proverb in their contributions for all useful and benevolent purposes. At the end of ten years, the public lands which they had chosen for their farms were advertised for sale by auction. According to custom, those who had settled and cultivated the soil were considered to have a right to bid it in at the government price, which at that time was one dollar twenty-five cents per acre. But the fever of land speculation chanced then to run unusually high. Adventurers from all parts of the country were flocking to the auction, and capitalists in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston were sending agents to buy up western lands. No one supposed that custom or equity would be regarded. The first day's sale shewed that speculation ran to the verge of insanity. Land was eagerly bought in at seventeen, twenty-five, and forty dollars an acre.

"The Christian colony had small hopes of retaining their farnis. As first settlers, they had chosen the best lands; and persevering industry had brought them into the highest cultivation. Its market value was much greater than the acres already sold at exorbitant prices. In view of these facts, they had prepared their minds for another remove into the wilderness, perhaps to be again ejected by a similar process. But on the morning that their lot was offered for sale, they observed with grateful surprise that their neighbours were everywhere busy among the crowd begging and expostulating -“Don't bid on these lands! These men have been working hard on them for ten years. During all that time they never did harm to man or brute. They are always ready to do good for evil. They are a blessing to any neighbourhood. It would be a sin and a shame to bid on their lands. Let them go at the government price.' The sale came on; the cultivators of the soil offered one dollar twenty-five cents, intending to bid higher if necessary. But among all that crowd of selfish, reckless speculators, not one bid over them. Without one opposing voice, the fair acres returned to them! I do not remember a more remarkable instance of evil overcome with good. The wisest political economy lies folded up in the maxims of Christ.

With delighted reverence,' says Mrs Child, 'I listened to this unlettered backwoodsman as he explained his philosophy of universal love. “What would you do,” said I, “if an idle, thieving vagabond came among you, resolved to stay, but determined not to work ?” “We would give him food when hungry, shelter him when cold, and

always treat him as a brother.” “Would not this process attract such characters? How would you avoid being overrun with them?" “ Such characters would either reform, or not remain with us. We would never speak an angry word, or refuse to minister to their necessities; but we would invariably regard them with the deepest

ludness, as we would a guilty but beloved son. This is harder for the human soul to bear than whips or prisons. They could not stand it: I am sure they could not. It would either melt them, or drive them away. In nine cases out of ten, I believe it would melt them." I felt rebuked for my want of faith, and consequent shallowness of insight. That hard-handed labourer brought greater riches to my soul than an eastern merchant laden with pearls.'

To this day, when a civilised people go into a savage country to form settlements in it, they do not in general take much care to conciliate the natives. Either they take the land from them by force, or they do not bargain for it in such a way as to satisfy the original people; and thus the hostility of these rude beings is secured at the very first. Where a satisfactory arrangement has not been made at first, the settlers are almost sure to fall sooner or later into disputes with the natives. These they seek to determine by the law of force; and thus wars arise, which are sure to retard their progress, and occasion them great misery. An invariable course of justice and kindness, and a total abstinence from warlike practices, would have a very different effect, as was proved in the noble instance of William Penn and his followers when they founded the state of Pennsylvania.

Penn, who was one of the society of Friends or Quakers, went to America in the reign of Charles II., determined to deal with the Indians as he would with any of his own people. To quote Mr Montgomery's volume : 'He bought their land, and paid them; he made a treaty with them, and observed it; and he always treated them as men. As a specimen of the manner in which he met the Indians, the following instance is very striking. There were some fertile and excellent lands which, in 1698, Penn ascertained were excluded from his first purchase; and as he was very desirous of obtaining them, he made the proposal to the Indians that he would buy those lands if they were willing. They returned for answer that they had no desire to sell the spot where their fathers were deposited ; but, 'to please their father Onas,' as they named Penn, they said that he should have some of the lands. This being decided, they concluded the bargain, that Penn might have as much land as a young man could travel round in one day, 'beginning at the great river Cosquanco (now Kensington), and ending at the great river Kallapingo (now Bristol);' and as an equivalent, they were to receive a certain amount of English goods. Though this plan of measuring the land was of their own selection, yet they were greatly dissatisfied with it after it had been tried; for the young

Englishman chosen to walk off the tract of land, walked so fast and far as to greatly astonish and mortify them. The governor observed this dissatisfaction, and asked the cause. “The walker cheated us," said the Indians. “Ah, how can that be?” said Penn. “Did you not choose yourselves to have the land measured in this way?" “True," replied the Indians; “but white brother make a big walk.”

Some of Penn's commissioners waxing warm, said the bargain was a fair one, and insisted that the Indians ought to abide by it; and if not, should be compelled to it. “Compelled !” exclaimed Penn; “ how can you compel them without bloodshed? Don't you see this looks to murder ?Then turning with a benignant smile to the Indians, he said: “Well, brothers, if you have given us too much land for the goods first agreed on, how much more will satisfy

[ocr errors]

'This proposal gratified them; and they mentioned the quantity of cloth and the number of fish-hooks with which they would be satisfied. These were cheerfully given; and the Indians, shaking hands with Penn, went away smiling. After they were gone, the governor, looking round on his friends, exclaimed: “Oh, how sweet and cheap a thing is charity! Some of you spoke just now of compelling these poor creatures to stick to their bargain; that is, in plain English, to fight and kill them, and all about a little piece of land."

"For this kind conduct, manifested in all his actions to the Indians, he was nobly rewarded. The untamed savage of the forest became the warm friend of the white stranger. Towards Penn and his followers they buried the war-hatchet, and ever evinced the strongest respect for them. And when the colony of Pennsylvania was pressed for provisions, and none could be obtained from other settlements—which scarcity arose from the increasing number of inhabitants not having time to raise the necessary food—the Indians cheerfully came forward and assisted the colony by the fruits of their labours in hunting.'

When the French took possession of what is now the colony of Algeria, it was by force of arms. The war which they carried on for this purpose was attended by frightful evils on both sides. The villages of the natives were destroyed, thousands of the French troops perished, and a vast sum of money was expended annually, with but a doubtful prospect of ultimate benefit to France. It is a most fatal plan thus to go into the country of a half-barbarous people with arms in our hands. It will be found that the true means of conciliating such a people is to appeal to the gentler feelings, of which the merest savages have their share, as well as the most civilised nations. It is very common, when such a doctrine is advanced, for persons to say: 'Oh, that is all well-meaning enthusiasm : it has not experience in its favour : experience proves quite the contrary. But this is far from being true; for, while we

« ForrigeFortsæt »