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her children as would the soonest learn to understand and repeat it? His Mother, repeating the promise, with a smile of joy at the question, he took the book, found out an instructor, and learnt to read it. When his industry had crowned his wishes with success, he recited it to her. To this important, though seemingly trivial incident, we owe all the intellectual cultivation, and all the literary works of Alfred, as well as all the benefit which by these he imparted to his countrymen. If this family conversation had not occurred, Alfred would probably have lived and died as ignorant, as unimportant, and as little known, as his three brothers.”
The thirst thus excited by his Mother was not to be soon satisfied. In future life, therefore, he was to be seen inquiring for teachers on every subject, or teaching himself where these could not be procured. He was to be seen searching most eagerly for books, and sparing no cost in procuring them. For one book on cosmography, Alfred is said to have given a very large estate!
This strong desire after learning, so effectually implanted by Judith, may, however, be traced to some circumstances in early life, and then his Father appears. Certainly he had neglected his education, so far as the mechanical art of reading goes ; but of Alfred he had been particularly fond. When only about five years of age, he had sent him to see the world, under proper care, as far as Italy; and before he had reached his eighth year, his father himself went with him, through France, a second time, as far as Rome. The survey of the Capitol, as well as all that he had seen elsewhere, must have produced
strong impressions even on a child, especially such a child, and must have engendered, in a mind like his, great eagerness for knowledge, and the cultivation of his mind.
At a subsequent period of his life, while a young man, there is no doubt that Alfred was a very different character, and often fell into such misery, that none of his subjects knew where he was; and it seems equally evident, that, during his seclusion and afflicted state, in a little islet, formed by the stagnated waters of the Thone and Parret, in Somersetshire, called Athelway, a great change was effected in his mind. Indeed after this he appears a new character, and, in future life, the subject of such varied excel. lencies, as the grace and power of God alone can produce; but still the parents of this man may, and must, be allowed their share in forming his mind, and even sowing the seeds of his future eminence.
The greatness of some men, however, consists merely in cultivating their own minds; but to do this, mainly with a view to benefit others, is a much higher character. If it is a great thing to be truly blessed, it is greater still to be a blessing. Such a man was Alfred. With his code of laws and trial by jury; his arrangements for enlightening and civilizing his whole kingdom ; his foreign correspondence; and the never-to-be-forgotten sentiment expressed by him in his will, “ IT IS JUST THAT THE ENGLISH SHOULD FOR EVER REMAIN FREE AS THEIR OWN THOUGHTS ;" with any of these we cannot interfere-domestic economy being our present object. Now it so happens, that, in the arrangement and order of his family ; in the distribution of his time; in the disposal of his property; and in the education and training of his children ; Alfred was as eminent an example to posterity as he was in any one of the excellencies already mentioned. Several of his chile dren died in infancy, but five survived him; and he lived to be rewarded in a great degree for all his vigilant superintendence. His eldest daughter, Ethel. fleda, was an extraordinary woman, and is extolled as having been “the wisest lady in England.” His youngest son, Ethelweard, became celebrated for his learning. His eldest son and successor, Edward, and his daughter Alfritha, were educated at home, under his own eye, with the utmost care. It was to this son that Alfred, at the close of all his greatness, in this world, addressed his patriarchal adieu, so finely descriptive of his character as a man, a monarch, and a parent:
“ Thou,” quoth Alfred, “ my dear son, set thee now beside me, and I will deliver thee true instructions. My Son, I feel that my hour is coming : my countenance is wan; my days are almost done. We must now part. I shall to another world, and thou shalt be left alone in all my wealth. I pray thee (for thou art my dear child), strive to be a father and a lord to thy people. Be thou the children's father, and the widow's friend. Comfort thou the poor, and shelter the weak; and with all thy might, right that which is wrong. And, Son, govern thyself by law; then shall the Lord love thee, and God, above all things, shall be thy reward. Call thou upon Himi to advise thee in all thy need, and so shall He help thee the better to compass that which thou wouldest."*
GEORGE WASHINGTON.To that of Alfred, I would fain add some notice of another ruler, in modern
* See Spelman's Life, and the History of the Anglo-Saxons, by Sharon Turner ; 3d edition. A most interesting work.
times; but the information in regard to his earlier years is still very scanty: though, so far as it goes, it tends to the confirmation of all that has been advanced. I refer to that extraordinary man, to whom, above all others, America is indebted, at this moment, for all her civil and religious privileges. The
close of his public life may be taken as a specimen of what must have preceded it. The resignation of high and commanding power, but a few years after it had, in a great degree, by a man's own energy, been acquired, is almost singular in the history of our species; but the manner of doing so will mightily contribute to increase our admiration.
“ The acceptance of,” said Washington, in his farewell address, " and continuance hitherto in the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your de. sire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn."- " The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the Government, the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience, in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence in myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me, more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.”
Still anxious, in the highest degree, for the health and prosperity of his country, he then tendered much faithful, and sound, and solemn advice, of which the following is a single specimen :
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, the firmest props of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it be simply asked, Where is the security for property-for reputationfor life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be main. tained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference on attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric ? Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”
To that retirement to which he had looked forward with eager desire, Washington was now about to withdraw ; but before bidding his adieu to Congress for ever, he concluded his unprecedented address in the following terms :
66 Though, in reviewing the incidents of administration, I am un. conscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects, not to think it probable that I may have committed many er. rors. Whatever they may be, 1 fervently beseech the ALMIGHTY to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend ! I shall also carry with me the hope, that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life de