Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

How then can it be maintained that the State Legislatures have no right to interfere with the transactions of the General Government. If that government be an union of States, (and if not an union of States, we should be glad to know of what it is an union ?) and the Legislatures of those States, by the delegated power of the people, hold the sovereign powers of such people, and the National Government hold and derive their powers under and from such delegated sovereigntieshow can it be said, with any sort of reason or consistency, that such Legislatures, or State Governments, have no right nor power to watch over and interest themselves in the performance of the very trusts which they themselves have created ? No powers belong to the General Government except those expressly given; all powers belong to the State Governments, except those expressly denied them. Here lies the difference.

No Convention, even of the people in the States, can be called, but by the Legislatures of the States. At least, it is so of South-Carolina, by the eleventh article of the Constitution ; and even the power to amend the Constitution, belongs alone to the Legislature. For the Legislature may amend it when it pleases, and may refuse to call a Convention when it pleases. (Art. XI. clauses 1 and 2.)

But, besides, the Constitution of the United States regards the Legislatures of the different States, in more points of view than one, as co-operating branches of the Confederation. How could the people control the power their State Constitutions had given to their State Legislatures, or, in other words, their State Governments, by any grant of power in the United States Constitution, if the Legislatures or State Governments had not consented to such restrictions of their power? What had the people to give, when it is admitted on all sides, that they had already given all power to their State Governments, except so much as was expressly denied to them in the State Constitution, which can in no manner interfere with the acts of the agents ? If so, what right have the people to meddle themselves with the acts and measures of their Legislature? The negation of the right strikes at the very root of the principles of representation. But will it be said that the State Legislatures are officious and intermeddling, because they busy themselves with the affairs of the General Government, and watch over and complain of attacks and breaches of the very Constitution which they themselves established, when by that very Constitution itself, the State Legislatures are fixed upon as the organs for proposing amendments to that document ? And if they are to propose amendments, we wonder how they can be denied the

power to consider the good and evil of the existing Constitution? And how are they to satisfy themselves but by inquiries into the actual effects of the Constitution as construed by the prevailing party, and into the transactions under it, of the General Government ? And having inquired, are they to hold their peace, and not dare to express their opinions ? They are to elect a president, or if they please, permit their people to do it, and yet they are not to speak of the qualifications of the candidate, or the prevailing tone of his politics in reference to the Constitution ! The Constitution of the United States guarantees to every State a republican form of government, yet the Legislatures of every State, notwithstanding the people have entrusted them with all power for their happiness and welfare, are not to open their mouths, should they see a Monarch or an Emperor forced upon them!! A State shall not be sued in the United States Court, says the Constitution, and yet if sued there, they dare not utter one word of complaint! The States are entitled to elect electors to choose the President, but they are to see Congress choose one before their votes have been received, and they must not object! A State may, with the consent of Congress, obtain leave to lay duties on their commerce, for what motive they may please, to encourage manufactures or not, and yet she dare not say one word, either to obtain this consent, or to complain of its refusal! The privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus may be suspended; a bill of attainder and ex post facto law may be passed ; a capitation and direct tax, not in proportion to the census, and a duty on exports may be laid; a preference to the ports of one State may be given over those of another; duties on vessels going from one State to another inay be imposed; and titles and appendages of nobility granted, and yet no State must open her mouth; and all, to maintain their existence, must live but to smother their degradation !!

In the course of argument in the Convention at Philadelphia, Mr. Madison asserted that “he would preserve the State rights with the same care, that he would trials by jury.” During the same day, (June 30, 1787) Judge Elsworth expressed himself in language so entirely to our mind, that we cannot but close this article in the language of that venerable man. “I am asked by my honourable friend from Massachusetts, whether by entering into a national government, I will not equally participate in national security? I confess I should; but I want domestic happiness as well as general security. A General Government will never grant me this, as it cannot know my wants or relieve my distress. My State is only one out of thirteen.

(now twenty-four!) Can they, the General Government, gratify my wishes ? My happiness depends as much on the existence of my State Government, as a new-born infant depends upon its mother for nourishment. If this is not an answer I have no other to give.”

ART. VI.--The Course of Time. A Poem, in ten books. By

ROBERT POLLOK, A. M. Second American from the third London edition, with an Index. New-York. 1828.

WHEN Racine first published Athalie-a work, with which, in our opinion, nothing that modern genius has produced in the same kind can be compared—it made no impression, and was very little read. It was thought that a tragedy, written by order of Madame de Maintenon, for the children of St. Cyr, could not possibly be just the thing for people of a fastidious taste, and men of the world wondered what could be made of a Jewish High Priest, a forgotten child, a furious beldame, surrounded by a host of Levites, preaching in the vestibule of the Temple of Jerusalem, through five mortal acts, about the house of David, and the atrocities of Jezabel. It is said to have crept into popularity from a singular incident. In one of those childish amusements, in which even the gravest and most distinguished personages of French society do not disdain to take a part, penalties were imposed for we know not what misdemeanors. Among others, a gentleman of some taste was sentenced, as we are bound to believe, for some flagrant act of omission or commission, to a couple of hours of ennui-a dreadful and almost unheard of decree in France, whose mercurial offspring “craignent l'ennui tout autant (plus ?] que la douleur.” As the best means of executing this sentence in an exemplary manner, the unhappy culprit was commanded to read Athalie. We really do not remember whether his judges, tempering justice with mercy, allowed him more than one sitting to do it in, or whether the nauseous potion was all to be swallowed down at a single draught, without stopping to take breath. But so it was, that his punishment proved, as punishments often do, a blessing instead of a curse to him. The repugnance with which

he took up the book, yielded gradually, and was at length turned into enthusiastic admiration ; so that what he had at first read by compulsion, he straightway returned to and read over again for pleasure. Feeling it to be a duty to put as many persons as he could in the way of the same enjoyment, he spared no pains to reveal his marvellous discovery, and Athalie soon asserted the lofty place, which it has ever since occupied, in the literature of France.

We do not pretend to any thing like the same influence (even if it were wanted here) which the French critic seems to have possessed, nor is Mr. Pollok's book equal to the noblest specimen of the classic drama that modern genius has ever produced. But without provoking an odious comparison, we may be allowed to say, that we made our author's acquaintance in much the same way, and had the same change of opinion wrought in us by a compulsory perusal of his verses. We undertook this adventure, not without dismal anticipations as we cast a wistful glance over the close printed pages of the volume. “Natheless, we so endured, till on the beach of that inflamed sea we stood”-until we saw that there were visions of glory and lofty raptures in the “Course of Time," which, beyond all doubt, challenge for it a place among the lasting monuments of genius, and would do so, even were its defects much more numerous and considerable than they really are.

In the review of Mr. Montgomery's poem “On the Omnipresence of the Deity,” (by the bye he is not the Mr. Montgomery we took him to be) we remarked that we thought such subjects could not be successfully treated by men of less than transcendent genius. Our ideas of every thing connected with religion, have been raised to too high a pitch by those sublime and ravishing strains of Hebrew poetry, which are become the common property of Christendom, and by the inspired men who have, in later times, invoked the muse from her dwelling "in Heaven among the blessed quires,” or “on the secret top of Oreb or of Sinai.” Of the many who have attempted such subjects in our language, only three at present occur to us, who have acquired a wide-spread, permanent reputation, viz. Milton, Young and Cowper, and the two last of these (Cowper especially) rarely venture beyond the region of an elevated, it is true, but rather didactic and unimaginative morality.

Milton's great poem, while it has surpassed all the creations of genius-except the Divina Commedia-in sublimity and force of imagination, has, like that wonderful work, been comparatively neglected by the generality of readers. This has been owing to the very excellencies we have just mentioned.

There is in “ Paradise Lost," nothing (except in distant perspective) of this wicked, but interesting world, with its pursuits and passions, its weaknesses, its tears and its agonies, its hopes and fears, its joys, its sympathies, its love, its madness. The feeling with which we are inspired, from first to last, is admiration-wonder-even amazement, at the creative power of the poet's genius, and the solemn and austere moral grandeur that accompanies it every where. But there is something cold, and as it were, desolate in this feeling. The burning lake, the Archangel ruined, but still rebellious, Pandæmonium with its infernal council, the starless darkness wbich involved the realm of Chaos and Old Night, the battle of the Angels, so improbable and even worse—these daring conceptions are all bodied forth with infinite power of language and imagery, and such as it is not possible for poetry to surpass—but there is nothing there for the heart of man to sympathise with. These devils are, no doubt, most heroic and godlike personages—they are what fallen angels may very well be conceived to be-but there is nothing touching in the iron tears which flow down the cheek of their leader; their harangues are beautiful rhetoric and close logic, but withal a little prosing, and certainly any thing but heartfelt and affecting eloquence. This picture of Hell strikes every one as a fancy piece—it is not regarded as the place which is to receive those who are to be damned, but only those who have been already damned—as a pit especially adapted to the inhabitants it then contained-so that it has no terrors for the sinful reader. This cold distance and abstraction--this air of "an unreal mockery”—pervades the whole poem. Sin and Death are creatures of the imagination-set forth in dreadful and even horrible and revolting portraiture, but the generality of readers stop at the description of the visible monstrosity, and it is the task of a metaphysician, and a deep one too, to look into the accuracy of the likeness and the moral of the allegory. Paradise itself-the only spot of this earth which we catch more than a transient glimpse of, seems not to belong to it. It is not the Fortunate Islands—the sweet and blooming Elysium of ancient poetry, with its tepid and balmy zephyrs, for which a fond heart might in a moment of illusion sigh. Its “airs, vernal airs” do not breathe the smell of field and grove”-its flowers, though worthy of Paradise, have not the voluptuous odour of a mere earthly spring. The whole garden, if not laid out, is got up with nice art and curious research. It is planted with all trees of the noblest kind, for sight, smell, taste-but then we are reminded that they are plants of an unearthly growth, for in the midst of them stands the tree of life, blooming

« AnteriorContinuar »