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And with new notions,
let me change the rule, Don't strike the iron till it 's slightly cool.
"Choose well your set; our feeble nature seeks
Your weight of metal and your size of ball.
"If the wild filly, Progress,' thou wouldst ride,
But, wouldst thou stride the stanch old mare, Success,'
pp. 17 – 19.
If we did not respect the author's privilege of copyright, we should end by transferring the whole poem to our pages. But we have quoted enough to excite the curiosity of our readers to see the remainder, and to give some idea of the variety and productiveness of the poet's resources. shown much versatility of power, and we hope, on greeting him again, to find that he has been wandering in some of the higher walks of poesy. Let him not seek excuse for keeping his wings folded, on the ground that his daily pursuits confine him to the prosaic side of life. He gives a laughing sketch, indeed, of the incongruity between the subjects of thought that are commended to him by his profession, and these furtive offerings to the Muse. But Esculapius was the favorite son of Apollo, and the two deities were often worshipped at the same shrine. They will not quarrel with each other, if our author's homage is divided between them; nor can he be said to abandon the healing art who worships also the god of the silver bow, the slayer of the Python, and the author of the oracular responses given at Delphi. There are golden hours of leisure even in the practice of a successful physician, and these at least may be consecrated to more ambitious uses.
ART. VIII.· The Library of American Biography. Conducted by JARED SPARKS. Vol. XXI. The Life of Stephen Decatur, a Commodore in the Navy of the United States. By ALEXANDER SLIDELL MACKENZIE, U. S. N. Boston: Little & Brown. 1846. 12mo. pp. 443.
MR. SPARKS's Library of American Biography, now extending to twenty-one volumes, is about the largest, as it is certainly one of the most valuable, of the collateral aids for the study of American history which have yet been published. We here use the word history in its broadest signification, including under it not merely the annals of political events, but the progress of science, invention, literature, and all the great interests of a country. The lives of forty-nine individuals have already been written for this Library, seventeen of whom belong to the Colonial period, eighteen to the history of the Revolution, and fourteen have earned a distinguished name by literary or scientific effort. Many of these lives are made up entirely from unpublished documents, manuscripts have been consulted in part for most of them, and the few that are founded entirely upon printed books present a summary of information so full, trustworthy, and compact, as materially to diminish the labor and research of the historical inquirer. Mr. Sparks is more thoroughly acquainted, perhaps, with the sources of American history than any other individual in the country, and he has used his advantages as an editor with. remarkable skill and taste. The literary execution of these volumes is of a high character, several of the biographies being from the editor's own pen, and most of the others are by writers who had previously acquired an honorable name in the world of letters. For the American reader, particularly, the work abounds with interesting and instructive matter, and no library of any considerable extent on this side of the Atlantic can be deemed complete without it.
On a former occasion, we gave a list of the persons whose biographies had then been inserted in the Library. To that catalogue may now be added the names of Roger Williams, Timothy Dwight, Count Pulaski, Count Rumford, General Z. M. Pike, Samuel Gorton, Dr. Ezra Stiles,
* See N. A. Review for January, 1845; page 247. VOL. LXIV.
John Fitch, Anne Hutchinson, John Ribault, Sebastian Rale, Colonel William Palfrey, General Charles Lee, Governor Joseph Reed, Leonard Calvert, Samuel Ward, Thomas Posey, and General Greene; and the volume now before us contains a memoir of Stephen Decatur, written by Commander Mackenzie, the distinguished author of A Year in Spain. In the list of writers of the lives here mentioned, we find the names of the editor of the series, of Professors Renwick, Kingsley, Reed, and Gammell, Dr. W. B. Sprague, Dr. Convers Francis, J. G. Palfrey, Colonel Henry Whiting, Rev. George E. Ellis, Rev. G. W. Burnap, James Hall, J. M. Mackie, Charles Whittlesey, and George W. Greene. Most of these were already well known to the public in other departments of literary endeavour. There are materials enough for continuing this Library to at least twice its present length, and we hope the patience of the editor and the encouragement afforded by the public may suffice to give it this extension.
We come now to consider more particularly the contents of the last volume of the series. Commodore Decatur's name is much the brightest on our list of naval heroes. He was the preux chevalier of the service, a man without fear and without reproach, as much distinguished for high and chivalrous feeling as for an enterprising spirit and a romantic valor. In the story of the engagements before Tripoli, he appears more like a knight of the olden time fighting against the infidels than like a modern naval commander. His gallantry and personal prowess made him the boast of the navy, while through his amiable disposition and generous heart he became the idol of his subordinate officers and seamen. He won distinction very early, and every step in his subsequent career added to the purity and brightness of his fame. But from this high eulogy we must except the concluding act of his life, and several deeds of a similar character earlier in his career; he perished a victim to that miserable "code of honor," the prevalence of which, especially in the army and navy, still outrages every feeling of humanity, justice, and Christian duty. It is bitter for an American to reflect, that, on the tombs both of the greatest statesman and of the most illustrious naval commander whom this country has to boast of, the most appropriate inscription would be," Abner died as a fool dieth." No consideration of delicacy to the living
shall prevent us from coupling together the names of Burr and Barron as their slayers. If Hamilton had died in office, worn out by his extraordinary exertions there, as well as by the foul ingratitude of a majority of his countrymen, if Decatur had fallen on the quarter-deck of his noble frigate just as the flag of her opponent was coming down, though the life of each had been shortened by several precious years, with what happier and prouder feelings could their eulogies be written!
The grandfather of Commodore Decatur was a lieutenant in the French navy, who, making a visit to this country for the sake of his health, became attached to a young lady at Newport, Rhode Island, and gave up his commission, his country, and his friends for the sake of marrying her. The happiness which he hoped to obtain through this great sacrifice was of short duration. He died young, leaving his widow and only son with very narrow means of support. The son, born in Newport in 1751, became a sailor, and obtained the command of a vessel almost as soon as he came of age. During the war of the Revolution, he commanded the Royal Louis, and afterwards the Fair American, both of which were privateers, and acquired much reputation and some profit by the capture of English ships. After the war, he entered the merchant service, and made frequent voyages to France as captain, and in part owner, of the vessel. He married while quite young, and his son, Stephen Decatur, was born at Sinepuxent, in Maryland, on the 5th of January, 1779. The family soon returned from this place to Philadelphia, having left the city only during the period of its occupation by the British army.
At an academy in Philadelphia Stephen received the usual education preparatory to an admission to college, and he afterwards spent a year in the Pennsylvania University. At school he was remembered as a frank and high-spirited lad, active and daring in disposition, well skilled in all the exercises and games of the play-ground, a leader in every boyish prank, and very prompt to requite an injury with a blow, whatever might be the size and strength of his antagonist. With such a temperament, he was not likely to make much progress in study, and he frankly confessed to his parents and schoolmates, that he was weary of thumbing grammars and dictionaries, and longed to be active in the business of the world. His time at the academy and college, however, was by no means
wasted. He learned quickly his assigned task, though he studied only from a sense of duty. He had conceived, almost from infancy, an extraordinary liking for the profession of his father and grandfather, and circumstances contributed to foster this inclination. When he was but eight years old, he was sent upon a voyage with his father for the benefit of his health, which was then delicate. Among his earliest recollections, therefore, were the fitful aspects of the sea, and the almost romantic excitement of a sailor's life. The favorite amusements of his leisure hours at school were boating, swimming, and fashioning miniature ships.
It is seldom worth while to oppose a boy's choice of a profession, fanciful though it may be, when it is manifested early and maintained with firmness. Decatur's parents attempted to curb his inclination, but with small success; his father had had ample experience of the hardships and dangers that attend a life on the ocean, and it was difficult for a mother's anxious tenderness to consent to the frequent and prolonged absence of her son from home. When his weariness of sedentary pursuits had risen to disgust, they yielded so far as to withdraw him from college, and place him in a countingroom, that he might prepare for mercantile life. This was one step gained by the boy, but it was insufficient for his desires. He was faithful to his employers, but the time left. to his own disposal was diligently devoted to the study of mathematics, that he might qualify himself for command at The only incidents worth remembering at this period in his career are, that he was chosen to make a journey for the purpose of selecting the keelpieces of the frigate United States, then building at Philadelphia, and that he was aboard of her when she was launched. So soon began his acquaintance with the gallant ship that was afterwards to bear his flag in one of the most brilliant naval actions of the last war with England.
The commencement of hostilities with France, in 1798, increased Stephen's eagerness to join the navy, and at last enabled him to gain the reluctant cousent of his parents to this change of pursuit. Measures were adopted for the increase of the naval force of the United States, and for this purpose it was necessary to obtain officers as well as seamen from the merchant service. The elder Decatur had served with distinction during the Revolutionary war, though in com