« ZurückWeiter »
ishing, as it is humiliating and disgraceful. And that the murderer should afterwards be countenanced, and even caressed, and honored with places of public trust and emolument; is shocking to every man, who has a proper sense of moral obligations. He who can calmly make
his mind to take the life of his fellow man, on the field of false honor, is an enemy to God and the human race, and, if he succeeds in his cowardly purpose, should be treated as an outlaw, and have the mark of Cain branded, in blazing capitals, on his bloodstained forehead. The man who has not genuine courage enough to refuse a challenge, forfeits his native dignity, insults Deity, violates reason, betrays the trust reposed in him by his great Creator, and is guilty of prolonging this barbarous practice. By refusing, he punishes him who seeks his life, in the severest manner. The man who refuses the first challenge, is seldom annoyed with a second. Those who are known to be opposed to this hellish practice, are not interfered with by the gentlemen “ bears" of false honor. Let public opinion, uniformly and universally, point the finger of withering scorn at the duellist—this would do more to cure him of his fighting mania, than any other thing, except the want of subjects.
I recollect many cutting answers to challenges, that inflicted severer wounds than to be shot with the blue pill. Here is one, “Sir, Your desire to have me shoot you, cannot be complied with. My father taught me, when a boy, never to waste powder on game not worth bringing home.” Another, “ Sir, I am opposed to murder in any form of course I cannot consent to shoot you, or volunteer to be shot myself. To grátify your strong desire for burning powder, mark out my full length portrait on a barn-if you can hit that, consider me shot, and your honor vindicated.” Another, “Sir, I fear not your sword, but the sword of God's anger. I dare venture my life in a good cause, but cannot venture my soul in a bad one. I will charge upon the cannon's mouth for my country, but I want courage to storm hell." No man, who is engaged in duelling, is a Christian or a philosopher.
In one of my former publications, I referred to the increasing errors on this subject—that of overshooting the mark. Too many have imbibed the idea, that to obtain a sufficient education to enable a man to appear advantageously upon the theatre, especially of public life; his boyhood and youth must be spent within the walls of some classical seminary of learning, that he may commence his career under the high floating banner of a collegiate diploma-with them, the first round in the ladder of fame.
That a refined classical education is desirable, and one of the accomplishments of a man, I admit—that it is indispensably necessary, and always makes a man more useful, I deny. He who has been incarcerated, from his childhood, up to his majority, within the limited circumference of his school and boarding room, although he may have mastered all the classics, is destitute of that knowledge of men and things, indispensably necessary to prepare him for action, either in private or public life. Classic lore and polite literature, are very different from that vast amount of com
mon intelligence, fit for every day use, that he must have, to render his intercourse with society pleasing to himself, or agreeable to others. He is liable to imposition at every turn he makes. He may have a large fund of fine sense, but if he lacks common sense, he is like a ship without a rudder. Let boys and girls be taught, first and last, all that is necessary to prepare them for the common duties of life-if the classics and polite literature can be worked between the coarser branches, they will be much safer—as silk goods are, enclosed in canvass, or a bale. I wish not to undervalue high seminaries of learning—but rather to stimulate those to persevere in the acquirement of science, who are deprived of the advantage of their dazzling lights. Franklin, Sherman, and others, emerged from the work shop, and illuminated the world as brightly, as the most profound scholar from a college. In this enlightened age, and in our free country, all who will, may drink, deeply, at the pure fountain of science. Ignorance is a voluntary misfortune. By a proper improvement of time, the apprentice of the mechanic may lay in a stock of useful knowledge, that will enable him, when he arrives at manhood, to take a respectable stand by the side of those who have grown up in the full blaze of a collegiate education--and with a better prospect of success at the start, because he is much better stocked with common information, without which, a man is a poor helpless animal.
That I may not stand alone in my views on the subject of genuine eloquence, I will give those of that able statesman, John Adams, and those of one of his cotemporaries, whose name I do not find with the extract. Mr. Adams remarked, “Oratory, as it consists in the expression of the countenance, graces of attitude and motion, and intonation of voice, although it is altogether superficial and ornamental, will always command admiration, yet it deserves little veneration. Flashes of wit, corruscations of imagination, and gay pictures; what are they? Strict truth, rapid reason, and pure integrity, are the only essential ingredients in oratory. I flatter myself, that Demosthenes, by his "action! action! action!' meant to express the same opinion."
The other writer observes, “Clearness, force and earnestness, are qualities that produce conviction. True eloquence, indeed, does not consist in speech. It cannot be brought from far. Labor and learning may toil for it; but they toil in vain. Words and phrases may be marshalled in every way; but they cannot compass it. It must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the occasion. Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire after it, but they cannot reach it. It comes, if it comes at all, like the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force. The graces taught in schools, the courtly ornaments and studied contrivances of speech, shock and disgust men, when their
own lives, and the lives of their wives and children, and their country, hang on the decision of an hour. Then, words have lost their power; rhetoric is vain, and all elaborate oratory contemptible. Then, even genius feels rebuked and subdued, as if in the presence of higher qualities. Then, patriotism is eloquent ; then, self devotion is eloquent. The clear conception, outrunning the deductions of logic; the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit, speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature, and urging the whole man onward-right onward to his object--this, this is eloquence, or rather, it is something greater than eloquence—it is action, noble, sublime, and god-like action.”
Rhetoric, as taught in our seminaries, and by itinerant elocutionists, is one thing; genuine, heart-thrilling, soul-stirring eloquence, is a very different thing. The one is like the rose in wax, without odor; the other, like the rose on its native bush, perfuming the atmosphere with the rich odors, distilled from the dew of heaven. The one is the finely finished statue of a Cicero or Demosthenes, more perfect in its lineaments than the original; pleasing the eye and enrapturing the imagination; the other is the living man, animated by intellectual power, rousing the deepest feelings of every heart, and electrifying every soul, as with vivid lightning. The one is a picture of the passions all on fire; the other is the real conflagration; pouring out a volume of words, that burn, like liquid flames, bursting from the crater of a volcano. The one attracts the admiring gaze, and tickles the fancy of an audience; the other sounds an alarum, that vibrates through the tingling ears to the soul, and drives back the rush