« السابقةمتابعة »
of the Russian officers, assumed the command of the Imperial forces engaged in the Caucasian war. He began by opening friendly intercourse with the chiefs of the Western Circassians, making them rich presents and winning their confidence; he also prudently overlooked a few predatory excursions and allowed the sale of children to the Turks. By this policy he almost pacified them. Meanwhile he hemmed Schamyl in by a line of fortified posts and by cutting roads through the mountains and the forests, occupying all the important points permanently. This strategy was ultimately successful. In December, 1859, Schamyl was surprised on the plateau of Gounib by a superior force. He defended himself furiously for a long time; of the 400 men, who were with him, only 47 survived. Driven back into a house cut in a rock, the Imaum at length surrendered to Prince Bariatinsky, who promised him his life, and sent him prisoner to St. Petersburg. The Emperor Alexander treated him with generosity. In an interview which he had with him, he desired him to retain his weapons, and assigned him a residence in the city of Kalonga, with a pension of 10,000 rubles. Thither, accordingly, he removed with his harem, and with the households of his two sons, and passed the remainder of his life in tranquil resignation to his lot, in the observance of the strictest simplicity and sobriety, and in the exercise of inexhaustible charity.
He had inaugurated a series of political changes among his countrymen, in the administration of public affairs, and in the apportionment of lands and offices. These judicious reforms enabled him to support the contest with the Russians for twenty-five years; but he failed in his attempts to introduce certain arts and manufactures. His people were not sufficiently advanced in intelligence or education to learn how to cast cannon and fabricate rifles, which was what he chiefly aimed at. They had never progressed far in civilization, nor during the whole of their history had they manifested any desire or aptitude for it. Their nobles prided themselves on their ignorance, and the people preferred the life of a bandit or pirate to that of an artisan or trader. Under the iron hand of Russia, however, they will no longer be permitted to plunder their neighbors, and, perhaps, when they shall have been repressed a sufficient length of time to make them forget their old habits, they will turn their attention to the arts of peace, and become respectable citizens, releasing their women from seclusion, and raising them to their proper sphere. They are better off under the Russians than they could have been under their own semi-barbarous government.
Art. VIII.—Biographical Sketches in the Newspapers and
TIME and death, says Seneca, are the most faithful vindicators of gifted men. There is a volume of truth and philosophy embraced in this quaint remark. The most careless reader of history needs but a slight exercise of his memory in order to recall a hundred illustrations of it. It is a strange but undeniable fact that, in nine cases out of ten, it is those who have contributed most to human progress that have been most reviled. Most of this class have not been merely misrepresented and abused; often, when most active in doing good, their lives have been embittered by persecution. Sometimes nothing less than the blood of their benefactors has satisfied the thougthless multitude, rendered ferocious by selfish demagogues.
This is a sad commentary on human nature; but, happily, the picture has its bright side. Frequently, those who have been most reviled and persecuted in life have been most honored in death. Sometimes the same generation that have executed them like common felons have erected magnificent monuments to their memory. At first sight this seems a useless whim, since the voice of approbation comes too late to the ear closed in death. Still, it is not merely a redeeming quality; it does not merely show a disposition in humanity to make all the amends in its power for its errors, for it consoles the victim while he is suffering most and doing most good. Many a bitter pang has been softened-many a briny tear wiped away-by the reflection that the day would come when truth and justice would prevail, and make honor and fame take the place of defamation and opprobrium.
We are in no hurry to show how much the life and labors of Mr. James Gordon Bennett serve to illustrate these views. The daily press, for whose development he has done more than any other man, living or dead, has told his story, and told it eloquently and well; and, to their honor be it recorded, it is his chief and ablest rivals—those journals opposed to him most persistently and most zealously, from the first day they were issued until the day of his death, which, now that he can no longer speak for himself, have done him most ample justice.
To us there is nothing new in the highest tributes which the death of Mr. Bennett has elicited from his contemporaries. They ascribe to him no better qualities or more brilliant talents than we knew him to possess twenty years ago, when the habit of reviling him was most prevalent. This, however, is the first time that we have written one line for publication relative to Mr. Bennett's character. Feeling, like himself, that time would vindicate him—that, indeed, he required no other arguments in his favor than the fruits of his labors, as they reveal themselves in a thousand forms in every channel of American industry and enterprise-we have always confined ourselves to a passing remark in conversation, such as we would take the liberty of making, in the language of civility, for the purpose of removing any other erroneous and unjust impression.
Even now, when Mr. Bennett's most intelligent and ablest contemporaries have so nobly acquitted themselves, not a few that are neither intelligent nor able would sneer at the assertion that several of the Greek philosophers rendered their names imperishable by works and results much less important and less beneficial to mankind than those conféssedly accomplished by the founder of the Herald.
We thus return for a moment to the current of thought with which we started, because we think no lesson is more useful than that which shows that no amount of abuse or obloquy should discourage us from persevering in the pursuit of an object we believe to be good and worthy in itself. Still less should we be deterred, when it is so easy to ascertain that in all ages and countries it is the greatest thinkers who have been most persistently assailed and misrepresented. We should rather remember, that whatever may be the faults of men who think for themselves, and have the courage and ability to express their thoughts forcibly for the general good, those faults are magnified a hundred-fold; so that what would be deemed scarcely worthy of notice, if attributed to an obscure or insignificant person, who has no idea beyond his daily task, is held up against the benefactor of his country, as something too horrible to contemplate.
It is in vain that moralists and philosophers point out the narrow-mindedness and injustice of this, showing that great talents are generally, if not invariably, accompanied by strong passions, and that if those passions are not often exhibited, it is because culture enables their possessor to restrain them. But there is no evidence that Mr. Bennett has ever been the slave of any evil passions; on the contrary, it is universally admitted that he was entirely free, throughout life, from all degrading vices. Socrates, judging from his own admissions, was much more prone to vice. As already intimated, we are quite aware that some may smile at this comparison; and yet, it would be difficult to show that Socrates, even with the aid of his faithful reporter, the divine Plato, did more for the Athenians than Mr. Bennett has done for the Americans. There are none who set a higher value on what the Greek philosophers have done for their fellow-citizens than we; nor are there any of those philosophers whose character we admire more than we do that of Socrates. But, when we come to the question, Did the ancient philosopher contribute more to the enlightenment and material well-being of his fellow-citizens, during his life, than the modern editor has? we do not hesitate to answer, No; and still less do we hesitate as to the relative amount of intellectual and material progress produced by Diogenes and Mr. Bennett. We maintain that that for which credit must be given to the latter is vastly greater.
Anaxagoras, also, is justly celebrated for what he taught the Athenians. There is no doubt but he enabled them to rid themselves of many degrading superstitions; but, had he lived in our time, all that he accomplished, or was capable of accomplishing, would hardly have been sufficient to distinguish him from the crowd of intelligent readers who devote their leisure hours partly to literature and partly to science and the arts. Pythagoras, we are informed, travelled into various countries in search of knowledge, and, no doubt, he brought back with him, especially from Egypt, a considerable amount of it. But it is a fact as capable of demonstration as any proposition in Euclid, that the corps of reporters and correspondents organized by Mr. Bennett, and sent to all parts of the world -corps including men not merely liberally educated, but more or less eminent in literature, science, and the arts-have collected more information, and made a larger addition to the general stock of knowledge, in one year, than Pythagoras did in all his wanderings.
Let those who regard this comparison as unduly favorable to the prince of journalists look for a moment to their own time, without reference to Greek or Roman. For several centuries the institution which has most distinguished itself for its laudable zeal in the pursuit of knowledge is the French Academy of Sciences. Modern civilization is vastly indebted to this learned body for the expiditions it has sent to all parts of the world in search of knowledge, for the good it has accomplished by these means alone is incalculable. Next to this among the great institutions of its kind in Europe, is