صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

first, a wooden cross, as the symbol of an unexplained gospel, and calling on the wondering multitudes to bow down and worship ; and then, in their bowed-down posture, loading them with every form and with every extreme of intolerable wrong. Instead of Christianizing, the process exterminated. In the West Indies, the whole native population became speedily extinct; the ten millions of that almost unearthly race, the gentle Charibs, vanished, like a morning mist, before their oppressors. They bled in war ; they wasted away in the mines; they toiled in death in the sugar-mills; they were torn in pieces by trained squadrons of ferocious dogs ; and they pined and died in the dens and caves, whither they had fled from the foot of their civilized persecutors, until, at length, their native lands held not in life a single remaining trace of their once beautiful forms. They had disappeared from the earth ; and as their spirits vanished, they went full of execrations upon the very name of Christianity, which should have been the instrument of both their temporal and their eternal salvation.

“In Mexico and Peru, history records that the Spanish sword drank the blood of forty millions of their sons. The whole Indian race in Newfoundland is extinct. Entire tribes in South Africa and in North America are no more. While, in numerous lands and islands, great races of aboriginal and pagan men are wasting away to weakness and nothingness before the relentless approach of a power bearing the ensign of life, but doing the work of death!

“ And even where this power has not exterminated, it has wrought evils of a perhaps darker character. It has actually rendered the living savage more savage, and the living heathen more heathen than ever. It has made, not Christianity, for of this little or nothing has been carried by the agents of this power-but the name of Christianity, an offence and a loathing to the whole pagan world. Through all the realms of heathenism, it has made that name synonymous with hypocrisy and deceit, cunning and fraud, oppression and cruelty, avarice and extortion, pollution and crime. In this state of things, let the true missionary of the cross approach, and offer the genuine religion of the gospel as a light from Heaven, and as the only means of purity and of salvation to benighted man; and with what answer is he met ? Go home and convert your own countrymen ;


your own seamen ; regenerate the agents of your death-dealing commerce, and thus show that your

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]


religion is the boasted blessing which you represent. Then come to us and we will listen to your instructions, and examine the claims of the gospel which you bring.'

No intelligent person will deny the truth of this, dark and gloomy as the picture is. And does it not show us that it is not strange, after all, that the Greeks and Romans held business men of all classes in such contempt? If men, professing Christianity, will set truth, honesty, and honor at defiance, whenever they find it profitable to do so, what wonder is it that Pagans should have rendered themselves odious by the same means ? How many of our business men of the present day could deny that the satire, for example, of Horace, in which he advises money to be sought before virtue, &c., is as applicable to them, though they may go three times to church every Sunday, as it was to the fraudulent mercatores and negotiatores of Pagan Rome? The satirist makes the distinction, that if money can be acquired fairly, good and well; if not, let it be got in any way:

Se possis recté; si non quocunque modo rem. The satirist of the nineteenth century may omit the first clause, and tell our dishonest business men that they need · care nothing about the means they employ, as long as they are successful in making money. They may lie and cheat as they like, especially if they put on an air of sanctity; if they have plenty of money, they are “substantial men,”

men of position,” &c. In the most degenerate days of Greece and Rome, we do not read of men writing books to publish to the world their own infamy-boasting of the cleverness and success with which they had imposed habitually for years on their fellow-citizens by false representations and the lowest species of cunning, and then, after an interval of a year or two, unblushingly resuming the same species of trickery. Even in Nero's time, the finger of scorn would have pointed at the charlatan capable of such baseness, so that he would have lied in vain for the rest of his life, except he shifted the scene of his operations. Now, it is different. The question in our day is, not what a man is, or has been, but what he has. Let him be a model of all the Christian virtues, he is an insignificant person if he does not possess, or be supposed to possess, a certain amount of gold, or its value. In short, the latter makes the most contemptible liar and swindler an honest man, while the want of it makes the honest man a rogue—the truthful man a liar.


Let those who doubt this, wait until there is litigation between the poor man and the rich man. Before any witnesses are called on either side, which, in such a case, is most likely to be believed ? Suppose the two have made a bargain without any witness. One is to perform a certain amount of labor; the other is to pay for that labor. The former does his part, and calls on the latter to do his. But, instead of paying, he pretends there was no bargain—that in fact he promised nothing; and he would give nothing; or if he would, it is some trifle, to offer which is to add insult to injury. An altercation ensues; the party swindled remonstrates; the swindler is indignant; he asks the bystanders, is it likely a man in his position would cheat his employé for a paltry matter of a few dollars ? This logic is conclusive; and the party who fully performed all that he promised that wanted not one penny but what he had honestly and honorably earned, is denounced as having attempted to obtain money under false pretences !

Fortunately, there are not many who are guilty of such contemptible conduct-probably not more than one out of every ten of those engaged in any respectable business; but even this is too large a proportion. One bad man can do more to disgrace a profession or calling, than nine good men can do to retrieve its character, for the obvious reason that the evil travels farther, is more talked of, and longer remembered than the good. Honest merchants and business men should bear this in mind, and treat the dishonest with the scorn and contempt they deserve. If, instead of pursuing this course, they seek to screen the evil-doers, as members of the same profession with themselves, their sense of right becomes vitiated insensibly, until they fall themselves into the same vice--that is,

“They first endure, then pity, then embrace.” It is pleasant to observe, that in proportion as any particular business is more or less intellectual in its character, those engaged in it are more or less honest and honorable in their dealings. Of course there are exceptions; but, as a general rule, the proposition is undoubtedly correct. Sometimes men engage in business for which they are not qualified, either by nature or education; it is not to be expected that the conduct of such will be equal to that of men possessed of the necessary qualifications; and accordingly, it is ten to one, that they

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

will bring discredit on their brethren of the same calling. This is well illustrated in the case of book publishers, who, it must be admitted, are, in general, honorable men. That there are some amongst them who are as unscrupulous cheats as are to be found in any other business whatever, is but too true and too well known-men whose whole course is a system of lying and imposition--whose statements are as little to be relied upon as those of the mock auctioneers; than whom, too, they are much more dangerous members of society. But in nine cases out of ten, these are illiterate persons--persons better qualified for the trade of the butcher or the cobbler, than for the book trade. The wonder would be, if publishers of this class would publish good books in good faith. If ever so well inclined, what do they know about a good book? Often they may believe that the worst book is the best, because it is just the kind they would read themselves—if, indeed, they could be induced to read anything more intellectual than an account of a prize fight, or of the execution of an assassin. Thus far, they are not to blame; their ignorance and want of taste are rather their misfortune than their crime. But it is different when they rechristen a worthless book that has failed to sell, and represent it not only as a new book, but the best ever published. Let us suppose, for charity's sake, that they think it is the best ; but if they represent that forty thousand copies have been sold, when not more than a score have been called for, no amount of charity can set aside the fact that they are impostors. It is, perhaps, no more than should be expected, that publishers of this character should regard criticism, even in its mildest form, as a crime never to be forgiven, send threatening letters to the critic, and do all in their power to crush him.

On the other hand, those who publish the best books, and who pay for them, when they need not do so, but reprint them, like others, are invariably the most polite, as well as the most honest, and the most tolerant of criticism. We could easily illustrate these facts in a manner that would be satisfactory to all; but we leave our readers to form their own opinions, feeling certain that no intelligent person need be told who the representatives are of either class—who they are that cheat and lie to the end of the chapter, or who they are that would suffer the ruin of their business rather than be guilty of any fraud, either on author or public. Let us hope, in passing, that the former, and all like them, will learn honesty, if not decency, from the depressing effects of the war on their pernicious traffic, adopting, as the future rule of their conduct, the memorable precept of Solon

" The flow of riches though desired,
Life's real goods, if well acquired,
Unjustly let me never gain,

Lest vengeance follow in their train." In all countries and ages, publishers have been influenced by the character of the community in which they reside, and for whose tastes they undertake to cater. It is not the largest, but the most enlightened cities of the Old World that have the most publishers of the better class. London and Paris form no exception to this ; because, if they are the most populous cities of England and France respectively, they are also the most intellectual and most enlightened. The same rule holds good in this country. In New York, indeed, there are respectable publishers--as honorable business men as are to be found anywhere; but are there as many in proportion to the population as there are in Boston ? Certainly not. Scarcely one to three. If, upon the other hand, it is asked, are there as many “sensation ” publishers in Boston, in proportion to the population, the same negative answer must be given, and still more emphatically than in the opposite case. If there be three good publishers in Boston for every one in New York, in proportion to the population, there are six bad publishers in the latter for one in the former. Indeed, we are not quite sure that there are more. than one “sensation ” publisher in the Modern Athens, altogether; while it can boast at least half a dozen of as respectable publishing houses as any other city in the world-which, we must confess, is twice as many of the same character as we can claim for New York, the remainder of whose publishers are, in all conscience, since the truth must be told, an exceedingly shabby party-certainly, no credit to the cause of literature, or to any other cause, save, perhaps, that of charlatanism. If we take Philadelphia and Baltimore into the comparison, we shall find the same relative state of facts, in still bolder relief. The people of the Quaker City, as a whole, are more enlightened than those of New York, but less than those of Boston; they are also less numerous than the former, and more numerous than the latter; the precise difference in this respect, it is not necessary to state here. Suffice it to say, that Philadelphia contains more first-class publishers than New York, in proportion to her population, and less of the same than

« السابقةمتابعة »