Page images
PDF
EPUB

ments, have had a powerful influence on the common and positive laws of Christendom. Bradford and Livingston, with many others, entitled themselves to gratitude by efforts to overthrow the tyranny of Revenge, which until recently has been the first principle in criminal legislation. Their influence has been widely acknowledged in Europe as well as in America. I need but refer to the great Marshall, to Hamilton, “the first of our constitutional lawyers ;''* to Parsons, who had no superior in the common law; to Kent, whose decisions are “ more signally entitled to respect than those of any English chancellor since the American Revolution, with the single exception, perhaps, of Lord Eldon;" | to the voluminous and able works of Story; or to those of Livingston, Wheaton, Stearns, Duer, Verplanck, Philips, Greenleaf, Binney, and others whose names are associated with these in the memories of the legal profession.

In archæological, oriental and classical learning our scholars may claim an equality with any contemporaries except the Germans. In Biblical Criticism the names of J. A. Alexander, Albert Barnes, George Bush, Charles Hodge, Andrews Norton, Edward Robinson, Moses Stuart, § James H. Thornwell, and others, are everywhere honourably distinguished. Professors Lewis, Felton, and Woolsey have published editions of Greek classics eminently creditable to themselves and their respective universities, and Dr. Robinson had acquired an enduring fame as a Hellenist before he established a new era in the study of sacred antiquities. || Few Americans have written much in the Latin language. I The occasions for its use are less frequent than formerly. It is commonly taught however in our schools, and numerous works of unquestionable

* 3 Sergeant and Rawle, 194.

Justice Gibson : 3 Rawle, 139. Our American neighbours are really outstripping us in Biblical Literature.-Samuel Lee, Professor of Arabic and Hebrew in the University of Cambridge.

$ Bloomfield, in his Notes, Critical, Philological and Exegetical upon the New Testament—the most elaborate and popular work of its sort produced in England in the present age—acknowledges that he has made large use of Stuart; and he might say of his last edition that it owes its chief value to Stuart and Robinson.

| Professor Ritter, of Berlin, wrote, on reading Dr. Robinson's Researches Now just begins a second great era in our knowledge of the Promised Land."

( The number of Latin orations before our colleges has been very large. Among the principal other Latin works by natives of the country are the Pietas et Gratulatio addressed to George III. by the President and Fellows of Harvard College ; Telemachus, in hexameter verse, by the Abbe Veil, of New Orleans; the Life of Washington, by Francis Glass, of Ohio; and a System of Divinity, by Bishop Kendrick, of Pennsylvania.

[ocr errors]

merit, among which those of Mr. Leverett and Dr. Anthon may be particularly referred to, have appeared here to facilitate its study.

The philological labours of Dr. Webster are universally known and appreciated. After the devotion of nearly half a century to his Dictionary he saw it become the most generally approved standard of English orthography.* The services of the late Dr. John Pickering and others in this department are likewise honourable to American scholarship.

The Crania Americana of Dr. Morton, a work of immense research, in which are described the cranial peculiarities of many races which in this respect were little known, is one of the most important ethnographical works produced in this age. Mr. Gallatin-on many accounts one of the most remarkable of men-is perhaps to be longest remembered for his profound investigations of the languages of the American continent. To the laborious and ingenious Schoolcraft future ages are to owe the most valuable part of their knowledge of the habits and intellectual character of the Indian race. Mr. Catlin, Mr. Hodgson and other American travellers, and our noble company of missionaries, whose heroism puts to shame all that is recorded of the ages of chivalry, have likewise contributed very largely to our knowledge of the families of mankind.

The cultivation of purely mechanical and natural science has been carried much too far in this country, or rather has been made too exclusive and absorbing. It is not the highest science, for it concerns only that which is around us—which is altogether outward. Man is greater than the world of nature in which he lives, and just as clearly must the science of man, the philosophy of his moral and intellectual being, rank far above that of the soulless creation which was made to minister to his wants. When, therefore, this lower science so draws to itself the life of any age, as to disparage and shut out the higher, it works to the well being of that age an injury. Still it is only thus in comparison with a nobler and more lofty study, that the faintest reproach should be cast upon that natural science, which in no slight degree absorbs the intellectual effort of the present generation. Regarded as related to, and a part of, a complete system of education, with a powerful influence

* The American Dictionary of the English Language was published in two quarto volumes in 1828, after more than thirty years' laborious study by the author. It contained about twelve thousand words and more than thirty thousand definitions not found in any similar work. Dr. Webster soon after commenced a new edition, which he completed and published in 1841.

upon the purely æsthetical character of the people, it becomes most important and necessary, and its cultivation even to apparent excess a source of the highest hope.

In Mathematics our first names are Rittenhouse, Bowditch, and Nulty. The great work of Bowditch is his translation of the Mécanique Céleste of La Place, which, with his commentary, was published in four very large quarto volumes in the years 1829, 1832, 1834 and 1838. It is more than half an exposition of the original, which was complex and obscure, and a record of new discoveries. It was remarked in the London Quarterly Review, on the appearance of the first volume, that the “idea savoured of the gigantesque,” and that even if not completed, the work should be considered « highly creditable to American science, and as the harbinger of future achievements in the loftiest fields of intellectual prowess."

The study of Meteorology has been pursued with more success in the United States than in any other country. At least here the most splendid results have been reached in this important branch of philosophy. The grand discoveries of Franklin in electricity are of course familiar, but it is not so generally known that some of his observations contain germs of the more recent doctrines of storms. The investigations of this subject by Mr. Redfield and Mr. Espy, and their ingenious theories, have commanded the respect and admiration of scholars ;t and though some of the principles of each are still subjects of controversy, it is everywhere acknowledged that those they have established are of the highest interest and importance. The writings on Meteorology by Dr. Hare and Mr. Loomis, and the theory of Dew by Dr. Wells, are also most honourable to our science.

In Chemistry it is necessary only to refer to the labours of Rumford, Webster, Silliman, Hare and Henry; in Mineralogy, to those of Cleveland, Dana, and Beck; in Geology,t to those of Maclure, Hitchcock, Silliman, Mather,

• His genius ranks him with the Galileos and the Newtons of the old world.—Lord Brougham.

The most rational of philosophers. No individual, perhaps, ever possessed a juster understanding, or was so seldom obstructed in the use of it by indolence, enthusiasm, or authority.—Lord Jeffrey.

Antiquity would have raised altars to this mighty genius.- Mirabeau.

+ See article vi. Edinburgh Review, No. cxxxiii. by Sir David Brewster; Proceedings of British Association, 1840; Report on Mr. Espy's Theory to the French Academy by MM. Arago, Pouillet and Babinet.

The explorations which have been made by authority of the local governments into the Geology and general Natural History of the principal states of the Union are among the proudest achievements of the present day, and I believe are altogether unparalleled in other countries. The published Reports, in nearly one hundred large volumes, are splendid monuments of intelligent enterprise in the cause of science. They will be of incalculable value to students and inquirers for ages to come.

Emmons, Vanuxem, Rogers, Jackson, Troost, Percival, Houghton, and Hall; and in Botany to those of Bartram, Barton, Elliott, Bigelow, Gray, Torry, and Darlington. There have been no European Ornithologists during this century to be ranked before or even with Wilson and Audubon.* The works on Entomology by Mr. Say and Mr. Le Conte, on Herpetology by Dr. Holbrook, on Icthyology by Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Holbrook and Dr. Storer, on Mammalogy by Dr. Bachman, and on Conchology by Mr. Lea,t have very great merits, which have been universally acknowledged. The writings of Godman, Hays, and other zoologists have likewise merited and received general applause.

The field of romantic fiction has for a quarter of a century been thronged with labourers. I do not know how large the national stock may be, but I have in my own library more than seven hundred volumes of novels, tales and romances by American writers. Comparatively few of them are of so poor a sort as to be undeserving a place in any general collection of our literature. Altogether they are not below the average of English novels for this present century; and the proportion which is marked by a genuine originality of manner, purpose, and feeling, is much larger than they who have not read them are

aware.

Charles Brockden Brown, the pioneer in this department of our literature, was a gentle, unobtrusive enthusiast, whose weak frame was shattered and wrecked by the too powerful pulsations of his heart. He was no misanthrope, but the larger portion of his life, though it was passed in cities, was that of a

• Audubon's works are the most splendid monuments which art has erected in honour of Ornithology. -Cuvier.

He is the greatest artist in his own walk that ever lived.-Professor Wilson.

† Mr. Lea has been much the largest contributor to the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, having elaborate and important papers upon his favourite science in all the volumes from the third to the tenth. This is a publication of great value and interest, not only on account of the intrinsic excellence of the papers it contains, but because it furnishes an authentic record of the progress of science in America. Voluntary associations of men devoted to scientific investigations, such as the American Philosophical Society, are the only means for extending and rendering vigorous that spirit of research and that intellectual enthusiasm upon which these studies rely for prosperous and beneficent cultivation ; for unhappily in the United States such men can look with slight confidence to the local or federal governments for aid or encouragement. The late National Exploring Expedition under Captain Wilkes, and the scientific surveys of the different states, however, are indications that a better spirit is prevailing in the legislatures. The published Transactions of several other societies, and the important Journal of Professor Silliman, and other periodicals, deserve also to be mentioned as repositories of our scientific literature. The papers by Mr. Lea, referred to in the begonning of this note, are the most valuable contributions that have been made to the study of Conchology in this century.

recluse. He lived in an ideal and had little sympathy with the actual world. He had more genius than talent, and more imagination than fancy. It has been said that he outraged the laws of art by gross improbabilities and inconsistencies, but the most incredible of his incidents had parallels in true history, and the metaphysical unity and consistency of his novels are apparent to all readers familiar with psychological phenomena. His works, generally written with great rapidity, are incomplete, and deficient in method. He disregarded rules, and cared little for criticism. But his style was clear and nervous, with little ornament, free of affectations, and indicated a singular sincerity and depth of feeling

Mr. Paulding's novels are distinguished for considerable descriptive powers, skill in character writing, natural humour, and a strong national feeling, which gives a tone to all his works. The Dutchman's Fireside and Westward Ho! have the fidelity of historical pictures, and they are the best we have of the early settlers of New York and Kentucky.

Timothy Flint is better known by other works than his novels, but Francis Berrian and the Shoshonee Valley are books of merit. Their dramatic interest is not very great, but they are marked by an unstudied naïveté and freedom from pretence; they abound in striking and graphic descriptions; and their characters are clearly drawn and well sustained. In every department in which this author wrote at all, he wrote like a scholar, a man of feeling, and a gentleman.

While the author of The Spy receives the applause of Europe ;* while the critics of Germany and France debate the claims of Scott to be ranked before him or even with him, his own countrymen deride his pretensions, and Monikin critics affect contempt of him, or make the appearance of his works occasions of puerile personal abuse. I shall not discuss the causes of this feeling, further than by remarking that Mr. Cooper is a man of independence; that he is aware of the dignity of his position ; that he thinks for himself in bis capacity of citizen; and that he has written above the popular taste, in avoiding the sickly sentimentalism which commends to shop-boys and chamber-maids one half the transatlantic novels of this age. In each of the departments of romantic fiction in which he has written, he has had troops of imitators, and in not one of them an equal. Writing not from books, but from nature, his descriptions, his incidents, his

• The Empire of the sea has been conceded to him by acclamation ; in the lonely desert or untrodden prairie, among the savage Indians or scarcely less savage settlers, all equally acknowledge his dominion. « Within this circle none dares walk but he.”—Edinburgh Review, cxxiii.

« EelmineJätka »