صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

ENGLISH WRITERS

ON

AMERICA.

Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation, rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: methinks I see her as an eagle, mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her endazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam.

MILTON ON THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS.

It is with feelings of deep regret that I have noticed the literary animosity daily growing up between England and America. Great curiosity has been awakened of late with respect to the United States, and the London-press has teemed with volumes of travels through the republic; but they seem intended to diffuse error rather than knowledge ; and so successful have they been, that, notwithstanding the constant intercourse between the nations, there is none

concerning which the great mass of the British people have less pure information, or more prejudices.

English travellers are the best and the worst in the world. Where no motives of pride or interest intervene, none can equal them for profound and philosophical views of society, or faithful and graphical descriptions of external objects ; but when the interests or reputation of their own nation come in collision with those of another, they go to the opposite extreme, and forget their usual probity and candour, in the indulgence of spleen, and an illiberal spirit of ridicule.

Hence their travels are more honest and accurate, the more remote the country described. I would place implicit confidence in an Englishman's description of the regions beyond the cataracts of the Nile ; of unknown islands in the Yellow Sea; of the interior of Africa; or of any other tract which other travellers might be apt to picture out with the illusions of their fancies; but I would cautiously receive his ac

[ocr errors]

count of his immediate neighbours, and of those nations with which he is in habits of most frequent intercourse. However I might be disposed to trust his probity, I dare not trust his prejudices.

But it has been the peculiar lot of our country to be visited by the worst kind of English travellers. While men of philosophical spirit and cultivated minds have been envoys from England to ransack the poles, to penetrate the deserts, and to study the manners and customs of barbarous nations, with which she can have no permanent intercourse of profit or pleasure; her oracles concerning America are the broken down tradesman, the scheming adventurer, the wandering mechanic, the Manchester and Birmingham agent: from such sources she draws her information respecting a country in a singular state of moral and physical development; where one of the greatest political experiments in the history of the world is now performing, and which presents the most profound and momentous studies for the statesman and the philosopher.

That such men should give prejudiced accounts of America is not a matter of surprise. The themes it offers for contemplation are too vast and elevated for their capacities. The national character is yet in a state of fermentation: it may have its frothiness and sediment, but its ingredients are sound and wholesome : it has already given proofs of powerful and generous qualities, and the whole promises to settle down into something substantially excellent. But the causes that are operating to strengthen and ennoble it, and its daily indications of admirable properties, are all lost

purblind observers, who are only affected by the little asperities incident to its present situation. They are capable of judging only of the surface of things; of those matters which come in contact with their private interests and personal gratifications. They miss some of the snug conveniences and petty comforts which belong to an old, highly finished, and over populous state of society, where the ranks of useful labour are crowded, and many make a painsul

upon these

and servile subsistence, by studying the very caprices of appetite and self indulgence. These minor comforts, however, are all-important in the estimation of narrow ininds; and they either do not perceive, or will not acknowledge, that they are more than counterbalanced among us, by great and generally diffused blessings.

Or, perhaps, they have been disappointed in some unreasonable expectation of sudden gain. They may have pictured America to themselves an El Dorado, where gold and silver abounded, and the natives were lacking in sagacitywhere they were to become strangely and suddenly rich, in some unforeseen, but easy man

The same weakness of mind which indulges absurd expectations, produces petulance in disappointment. They become embittered against the country on finding that there, as every where else, a man must sow before he can reap ; that he must win wealth by industry and talent; and must contend with the common difficulties of nature, and vie with the shrewdness of an intelligent and enterprising people,

ner.

« السابقةمتابعة »