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settled by the very speedy and potent interference of King Mob, rather than by the cool and sage reason of statesmen and patriots.
All this has what may be considered its peculiar advantages; and yet, on the whole, is a subject of deep regret. It may be thought to arise from our peculiar circumstances; to contribute to our rapid growth and developement; and to be a sign of youth, and strength, and life. But order and security being, as we think, the great value of every system of government, and the best constituents, too, of their vigour and health, we should see with a livelier satisfaction a state of things which held out the promise of more fondness for the cultivation of the intellect, greater reverence for institutions of learning, and more sacredness attendant upon the tenure of property.
While, therefore, periodical literature is, and is likely to be for a length of time, most consonant to the tastes of the people, it should be the aim and desire of all well-wishers of their country to elevate it to as high a standard as possible. The daily press of course exercises the most potent influence; that of publications appearing at stated intervals of a month or a quarter must be proportionably less. The effect, indeed, of these last, will be felt more in correcting and checking the excesses of the former, and in holding out the promise of a higher tribunal, by which to be judged and to which to appeal, than in any direct immediate effect upon popular taste and feeling. The circulation of such works is confined to the more educated and higher classes ; and it is therefore only through these, so far as they are impelled to exert their influence and means in restraining popular excesses, and guiding the popular will, that the good effects of such productions, when properly managed, can be appreciated. The different classes of social life are operated upon in different ways and through different agents—and they must all be approached through the channel appropriate to each. All should be affected,—all made to feel their direct personal interest in the concerns and condition of the society in which they live, if it be at all expected or desired that that society should prosper.
The wealthy, the educated, the refined, and the intellectual classes in the United States have, in the present state of their country, much to do; much more than at any former era was necessary;, and much more, we fear, than they have any conception of themselves. They are invoked, if they desire their own preservation, and that of their country, by every consideration which can address itself to them as men and as patriots, to throw their weight into the scale of order and peace. They are asked not merely to give a silent or an indifferent vote, but to exhibit an active participation in the political struggles of their
time. They can do this without lowering their dignity, or descending to the vile arts of their unprincipled opponents. They can exercise their franchises as citizens of our great republic without sullying the purity of their private character, or mortifying the lofty independence of their minds. They must do this, if they wish to stem the headlong current of disorder and dishonesty, and to prevent America from becoming the grave of peaceful liberty.
We have spoken of the influence of the daily press. Upon this the persons we have alluded to can most surely operate, and through it, upon the people at large; and thus, even if their nature and habits keep them back from the arena of party strife, they may, in some degree, discharge the duty which every man with us owes to his country. They can withhold their patronage from those papers which minister to the bad passions of the populace, and they can accord it lo those publicutions whose tendency is to encourage security, repose, and rational freedom. Fortunately, a disorganizing faction rarely numbers in its ranks those who are blessed with a large share of this world's goods; their wild schemes generally perish for lack of sustenance, unless open robbery supply an exhausted treasury. Here and there an individual possessing a large estate may be seen in the ranks of the faction, blinded by his ambition, or seduced by flattery, or enticed by the illusions of power, to raise his arm, in order to give additional force to a blow
which will certainly, in the end, recoil upon his own head. But these are rare instances-rari nantes in gurgite vasto—which serve but to “point a moral” whose importance, we trust, will not be disregarded by others.
The mass of revolutionists are the mob. Under this designation may be comprised all who are either swayed by their unregulated passions, or are misled by their ignorance. They can be governed but in two ways; by the terror of force, wielded by the determined friends of order; or by the milder process of enlightening and improving them. The former is the only resource in seasons of sudden rebellion and outrage, such as occasionally we have unfortunately beheld in our own country; and should be applied with no sparing hand when the emer
arises. The latter is the nobler remedy, and it may be effectually offered through the press.
Newspapers should be made the vehicles of sound political doctrine, and of correct religious principle—the advocates of the purest morality, and the undeviating, unflinching supporters of order and justice. Their editors should aim, moreover, at cultivating the literary taste of their readers; and endeavour to sustain the real dignity of their calling. They should be alive to the great responsibilities of their stations; and such patronage should be extended to them by those who have the means, as to
secure the services of men whose high talents could not be better employed than in improving the condition of their country.
With such a press as we have attempted to describe, enlightened, regulated, and free, and with the best talents of her best sons enlisted in her service, what has America to fear? Her high offices would be filled by men worthy to fill them. Literature, the arts and sciences, education in its largest sense—in a word, the best interests of the country, and not the mere benefit of any particular party, would be fostered and promoted, and in the far future, the second sight of even the most croaking prophet would spy nothing to dread. But with a press corrupted and enslaved, the purest and most enlightened citizens shrinking or driven from the contest, unprincipled demagogues grasping all the fruits of possession, and instigating the worst passions of the mob, in order to further their own selfish designs, what has our country not to fear? She has to fear disorder, agrarianism, the reign of ignorance and of terror, the destruction of fondly cherished hopes, and the dread reality of anarchy. To avert these may well demand the patriot's exertion.
The tendency of political action in the United States is undoubtedly towards ultra-radicalism. The fears of many well-inforrned and intelligent men, in the outset of our career, of a propensity to aristocratic results, have proved altogether groundless. The admirable structure of our political institutions, the universality of the right of suffrage, and the frequency of elections, are an all sufficient safeguard against danger upon that side of the precipice. And, indeed, the principle of aristocracy in our country, iso far as the influence of wealth, of education, and refinement, is embraced in that much. abused term,) has been so peeled down that nothing but its decidedly beneficial characteristics, we mean the support it yields to the security of property and social order, has been left. As to a tendency to monarchy, or even the supposable contingency of such an event, so far from any dread being entertained, the soi-disant prophet, who should predict it, would be merely laughed at. The nature of our people would first have to undergo a radical change before such a condition would seem less strange than would a plain countryman decked in the gaudy finery of spangled garments; and even if the insane ambition of any one should impel him to attempt an establishment of kingly rule in his own person, the result would speedily demonstrate that the spirit of the younger Brutus still breathed in many a bosom. Against
, however, the opposite danger, as we have hinted, less precaution has been taken. Sufficient calculation was not made upon the selfish properties of man's nature; in fact, the information to be derived from the
lights of experience was in some degree slighted. If the majority of men were influenced by a love of virtue, or regarded merely the good of their country without reference to self, there could be no bar to the onward progress of this Union; the machine of government would play with undisturbed harmony. But it was not recollected that there are, in every nation, and proportionably more so in a republic, disorderly and selfish spirits, who, knowing that in the regular operation of affairs they have little to gain, or nothing more than their neighbours enjoy, seek, in the confusion and plunder consequent upon turmoil and anarchy, the gratification of their unholy passions. It was not remembered that on the level arena of a pure republic there is a wide and open space for the full action of the arts of demagogues ; and that these arts may be, perhaps, successfully cultivated before the perception of good citizens becomes keen enough to scent the danger.
Is the press in the United States sufficiently independent ? Is a fearless expression of opinion in either politics, morals, or literature, sustained by that of the public, evinced in an unhesitating and decided way? Does the press boldly avow its sentiments, conscious of their integrity, and leave the result to the good sense of the community, careless of the consequences? Or is a dictum upon any topic weighed and measured by what is supposed to be consonant to the views and interests of the mass of subscribers ? Does an editor ever, for the purpose of sailing along with a prosperous wind and tide, fall in with the prejudices or passions of the mass; or does he boldly and invariably stem the current when it sets counter to reason, religion, morality, and the public good? We should fear the decision of an upright and independent man upon this question-fear for the credit of the press of our country. An editorial Curtius is not likely soon to be seen. But if such be the conclusion, to what is it attributable ? We apprehend that much must be charged upon the supporters of the press themselves. They do not evince as much of decision and energy in the cause they both advocate, and feel to be the best, as do their opponents in the support of their unrighteous aims. The press in America is content to follow the course of popular opinion at the moment, without seeking to direct its progress in the ways of justice and reason.
In a country, then, constituted as ours, where the laws and constitution prohibit any other check, recourse must be had to the only one that is left-one, which, by the blessing of heaven, may prove amply sufficient—the warning society of its danger, and so enlightening the mass that they inay fully comprehend and knowingly meet the emergency. In our humble sphere, this duty will never be shunned ; on the contrary, we trust to
be ever found the wary sentinels of the gates of liberty. We have pointed out the mode in which every man may lend a hand in the good work; and should the daily as well as the periodical press be found undeviatingly on the side of order and true liberty, the foes of both may batter the walls of the social edifice in vain ; its firm foundations will resist all their impotent efforts at destruction.
The foregoing remarks are well suggested by the times, though our attention was more immediately called to the subject by the life of the late William Hazlitt. He was for many years connected with the press in England, and identified with the more radical portion of the whig party in that country. He was a reporter and then a contributor to the Times and Morning Chronicle, and also to the Edinburgh Review, New Monthly Magazine, and other celebrated journals. His life was a fair specimen of that of a literary man dependent upon his pen alone for support; not marked by any very striking peculiarities, but checkered by alternate disappointment and success, family disquietude and poverty. To no one department of letters were the efforts of his pen confined; but theatrical criticisms, dramatic writings, history, theology, politics, metaphysics, and men and manners, all supplied materials for the exercise of his talents. His merits in these different walks of literature, were various; and to some of them, as not generally known in this country, we propose directing the brief attention of our readers.
Hazlitt was born on the 10th of April, 1778; he was the son of a dissenting minister of the Unitarian persuasion, and was destined by his father to the same profession. At the age of fifteen, with this object in view, he was entered as a student at the well known college of that sect at Hackney; and his first production was a defence of their great Apollo, Dr. Priestley. This publication was distinguished by more zeal than talent; and indeed his earlier productions were written in a very inelegant style, which he bitterly regretted, and which it cost him many years of hard labour to correct.
His attention at school was soon turned to nietaphysical studies, which for some years engrossed all his attention. His learning in this department was very great, and his acuteness as a metaphysician not a little remarkable. These are studies not generally popular, and yet, when at all in accordance with the taste of an individual, or pursued to any extent, become allcaptivating, and are apt to exclude most other intellectual pursuits. When not too much attended to, their effect upon the reasoning powers is very beneficial, and they are among the very best species of mental discipline. It is beside our purpose to enter into the metaphysical arguments which Hazlitt discusses in some of the essays to be found in the volume whose