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Section XIII.


It is natural that the gratitude of mankind should be drawn to their benefactors. A number of these have successively arisen, who were no less distinguished for the elevation of their virtues, than the lustre of their talents. Of those, however, who were born, and who acted through life, as if they were born, not for themselves, but for their country and the whole human race, how few, alas! are recorded in the long annals of ages, and how wide the intervals of time and space that divide them. In all this dreary length of way, they appear like five or six light-houses on as many thousand miles of coast: they gleam upon the surrounding darkness, with an inextinguishable splendour, like stars seen through a mist; but they are seen like stars, to cheer, to guide, and to save. WASHINGTON is now added to that small number. Already he attracts curiosity, like a newly discovered star, whose benignant light will travel on to the world's and time's farthest bounds. Already his name is hung up by history as conspicuously, as if it sparkled in one of the constellations of the sky..


The best evidence of reputation is a man's whole life. We have now, alas! all WASHINGTON's before There has scarcely appeared a really great man, whose character has been more admired in his life time, or less correctly understood by his admirers. When it is comprehended, it is no easy task to delineate its excellencies in such a manner, as to give to the portrait both interest and resemblance; for it requires thought and study to understand the true ground of the superiority of his character over many others, whom he resembled in the principles of action, and even in the manner of acting. But perhaps he excels all the great men that ever lived, in the steadiness of his adherence to his maxims of life, and


in the uniformity of all his conduct to the same maxims. These maxims, though wise, were yet not so remarkable for their wisdom, as for their authority over his life for if there were any errors in his judgment, (and he discovered as few as any man,) we know of no blemishes in his virtue. He was the patriot without reproach: he loved his country well enough to hold his success in serving it an ample recompense. Thus far self-love and love of country coincided: but when his country needed sacrifices, that no other man could or perhaps would be willing to make, he did not even hesitate. This was virtue in its most exalted character. More than once he put his fame at hazard, when he had reason to think it would be sacrificed, at least in this age. Two instances cannot be denied: when the army was disbanded and again, when he stood, like Leonidas at the pass of Thermopyla, to defend our independ ence against France.

It is indeed almost as difficult to draw his char acter, as the portrait of virtue. The reasons are similar our ideas of moral excellence are obscure, because they are complex, and we are obliged to resort to illustrations. WASHINGTON's example is the happiest, to shew what virtue is; and to delineate his character, we naturally expatiate on the beauty of virtue much must be felt, and much imagined. His pre-eminence is not so much to be seen in the display of any one virtue, as in the possession of them all, and in the practice of the most difficult. Hereafter, therefore, his character must be studied before it will be striking; and then it will be admitted as a model, a precious one to a free republic!

It is no less difficult to speak of his talents. They were adapted to lead, without dazzling mankind; and to draw forth and employ the talents of others, without being misled by them. In this he was certainly superior, that he neither mistook nor misapplied his own. His great modesty and reserve would have concealed them, if great occasions had not cal

led them forth; and then, as he never spoke from the affectation to shine, nor acted from any sinister motives, it is from their effects only that we are to judge of their greatness and extent. In public trusts where men, acting conspicuously, are cautious, and in those private concerns, where few conceal or resist their weaknesses, WASHINGTON was uniformly great, pursuing right conduct from right maxims. His talents were such as assist a sound judgment, and ripen with it. His prudence was consuinmate, and seemed to take the direction of his powers and passions; for, as a soldier, he was more solicitous to avoid mistakes that might be fatal, than to perform exploits that are brilliant; and as a statesman, to adhere to just principles, however old, than to pursue novelties; and therefore, in both characters, his qualities were singularly adapted to the interest, and were tried in the greatest perils, of the country. His habits of inquiry were so far remarkable, that he was never satisfied with investigating, nor desisted from it, so long as he had less than all the light that he could obtain upon a subject, and then made his decision without bias.

This command over the partialities that so generally stop men short, or turn them aside in their pursuit of truth, is one of the chief causes of his unvaried course of right conduct in so many difficult scenes, where every human actor must be presumed to err. If he had strong passions, he had learned to subdue them, and to be moderate and mild. If he had weaknesses, he concealed them, which is rare, and excluded them from the government of his temper and conduct, which is still more rare. If he loved fame, he never made improper compliances for what is called popularity. The fame he enjoyed is of the kind that will last for ever; yet it was rather the effect, than the motive of his conduct. Some future Plutarch will search for a parallel to his character. Epaminondas is perhaps the brightest name of all antiquity. Our WASHINGTON resembled him in

the purity and ardour of his patriotism; and, like him, he first exalted the glory of his country. There, it is to be hoped, the parallel ends: for Thebes fell with Epaminondas. But such comparisons cannot be pursued far, without departing from the similitude. For we shall find it as difficult to compare great men as great rivers: some we admire from the length and rapidity of their current, and the granduer of their cataracts; others, for the majestic silence and fulness of their streams: we cannot bring them together to measure the difference of their waters. The unambitious life of WASHINGTON, declining fame, yet courted by it, seemed, like the Ohio, to choose its long way through solitudes, diffusing fertility; or like his own Poowmack, widening and deepening his channel, as he approaches the sea, and displaying most the usefulness, and serenity of his greatness towards the end of his course. Such a citizen would do honour to any country. The constant veneration and affection of his country will shew, that it was worthy of such a citizen.

However his military fame may excite the wonder of mankind, it is chiefly by his civil magistracy, that his example will instruct them. Great generals have arisen in all ages of the world, and perhaps most in those of despotism and darkness. In times of violence and convulsion, they rise, by the force of the whirlwind, high enough to ride in it, and direct the storm. Like meteors, they glare on the black clouds with a splendour, that while it dazzles and terrifies, makes nothing visible but the darkness. The fame of heroes is indeed growing vulgar: they multiply in every long war; they stand in history, and thicken in their ranks almost as undistinguished as their own soldiers.

But such a chief magistrate as WASHINGTON appears like the pole star in a clear sky, to direct the skilful statesman. His presidency will form an epoch, and be distinguished as the age of WASHINGTON. Already it assumes its high place in the political re

gion. Like the milky way, it whitens along its allotted portion of the hemisphere. The latest generations of men will survey, through the telescope of history, the space where so many virtues blend their rays, and delight to separate them into groups and distinct virtues. As the best illustration of them, the living monument, to which the first of patriots would have chosen to consign his fame, it is my earnest prayer to heaven, that our country may subsist, even to that late day, in the plentitude of its liberty and happiness, and mingle its mild glory with WASH


Section XIV.


It is with really great men as with great literary works, the excellence of both is best tested by the extent and durabieness of their impression. The public has not suddenly, but after an experience of five and twenty years, taken that impression of the just celebrity of ALEXANDER HAMILTON, that nothing but his extraordinary intrinsic merit could have made, and still less, could have made so deep and maintained so long. In this case, it is safe and correct to judge by effects: we sometimes calculate the height of a mountain, by measuring the length of its shadow.

That writer would deserve the fame of a public benefactor, who could exhibit the character of HAMILTON, with the truth and force that all who intimately knew him conceived it: his example would then take the same ascendant, as his talents. The portrait alone, however exquisitely finished, could not inspire genius where it is not; but, if the world should again have possession of so rare a gift, it might awake it where it sleeps, as by a spark from heaven's


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