Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

grasped without remorse, and wore without shame, the diadem of the Cæsars.

Through this pantomime of his policy, fortune played the clown to his caprices. At his touch, crowns crumbled, beggars reigned, systems vanished, the wildest theories took the colour of his whims; and all that was venerable, and all that was novel, changed places with the rapidity of a drama. Even apparent defeat assumed the appearance of victoryhis flight from Egypt confirmed his destiny-ruin itself only elevated him to empire. But, if his fortune was great, his genius was transcendent; decision flashed upon his counsels; and it was the same to decide and to perform. To inferior intellects, his combinations appeared perfectly impossible, his plans perfectly impracticable; but in his hands, simplicity marked their development, and success vindicated their adoption. His person partook of the character of his mind; if the one never yielded in the cabinet, the other never bent in the field. Nature had no obstacles that he did not surmount, space no opposition that he did not spurn;—and whether amid Alpine rocks, Arabian sands, or Polar snows, he seemed proof against peril, and empowered with ubiquity. The whole continent of Europe trembled at beholding the audacity of his designs, and the miracle of their execution. Scepticism bowed to the prodigies of his performance; romanee assumed the air of history; nor was there aught too incredible for belief, or too fanciful for expectation, when the world saw a subaltern of Corsica waving his imperial flag over her most ancient capitals. All the visions of antiquity became common-places in his contemplation; kings were his people—nations were his outposts; and he disposed of courts, and crowns, and camps, and churches, and cabinets, as if they were the titular dignitaries of the chess-board.

Amid all these changes, he stood immutable as adamant. It mattered little whether in the field, or the drawing-room —with the mob, or the levee-wearing the Jacobin bonnet, or the iron crown-banishing a Braganza, or espousing a Hapsburg—dictating peace on a raft to the Czar of Russia, or contemplating defeat at the gallows of Leipsic-he was still the same military despot.

Cradled in the field, he was to the last hour the darling of the army; and whether in the camp or the cabinet, he never forsook a friend, or forgot a favour. Of all his soldiers, not one abandoned him, till affection was useless; and their first stipulation was for the safety of their favourite. They knew well that if he was lavish of them, he was prodigal of himself; and that if he exposed them to peril, he repaid them with plunder. For the soldier, he subsidized every people; to the people, he made even pride pay tribute. The victorious veteran glittered with his gains; and the capital, gorgeous with the spoils of art, became the miniature metropolis of the universe. In this wonderful combination, his affectation of literature must not be omitted. The jailer of the press, he affected the patronage of letters; the proscriber of books, he encouraged philosophy; the persecutor of authors, and the murderer of printers, he yet pretended to the patronage of learning; the assassin of Palm, the silencer of De Stael, and the denouncer of Kotzebue, he was the friend of David, the benefactor of De Lille, and sent his academic prize to the philosopher of England. Such a medley of contradictions, and at the same time such an individual consistency, were never united in the same character. A royalist, a republican, and an emperor-a Mohammedan, a Catholic, and a patron of the Synagogue-a traitor and a tyrant—a Christian and an infidel- he was, through all his vicissitudes, the same stern, impatient, inflexible original—the same mysterious, incomprehensible self -the man without a model, and without a shadow. His fall, like his life, baffled all speculation. In short, his whole history was like a dream to the world; and no man can tell how or why he was awakened from the reverie.

Kings may learn from him that their safest study, as well as their noblest, is the interest of the people; the people are taught by him that there is no despotism, however stupendous, against which they have not a resource; and to those who would rise upon the ruins of both, he is a living lesson, that, if Ambition can raise them from the lowest station, it can also prostrate them from the highest.

I.-CHARACTER OF WASHINGTON.

(PHILLIP 8.) George Washington, first President of the United States, was born in 1732, and

died in 1799.

SIR, it matters very little what immediate spot may have been the birth-place of such a man as WASHINGTON. No people can claim, no country can appropriate him. The boon of Providence to the human race, his fame is eternity, and his residence creation. Though it was the defeat of our arms, and the disgrace of our policy, I almost bless the convulsion in which he had his origin. If the heavens thundered, and the earth rocked, yet, when the storm had passed, how pure was the climate that it cleared! how bright, in the brow of the firmament, was the planet which it revealed to us!

In the production of Washington it does really appear as if Nature was endeavouring to improve upon herself, and that all the virtues of the ancient world were but so many studies preparatory to the patriot of the new. Individual instances, no doubt, there were, splendid exemplifications of some single qualification : Cæsar was merciful, Scipio was continent, Hannibal was patient; but it was reserved for Washington to blend them all in one, and, like the lovely masterpiece of the Grecian artist, to exhibit, in one glow of associated beauty, the pride of every model, and the perfection of every master.

As a general, he marshalled the peasant into a veteran, and supplied, by discipline, the absence of experience; as a statesman, he enlarged the policy of the cabinet into the most comprehensive system of general advantage; and such was the wisdom of his views, and the philosophy of his counsels, that, to the soldier and the statesman, he almost added the character of the sage! A conqueror, he was untainted with the crime of blood ; a revolutionist, he was free from

any stain of treason,-for aggression commenced the contest, and his country called him to the command. Liberty unsheathed his sword, necessity stained, victory returned it.

If he had paused here, history might have doubted what station to assign him ; whether at the head of her citizens or her soldiers, her heroes or her patriots. But the last glorious act crowns his career, and banishes all hesitation. Who, like Washington, after having emancipated a hemisphere, resigned its crown, and preferred the retirement of domestic life to the adoration of a land he might be almost said to have created ?

III.-SCIENCE AND ART.

(SIR D. BREWSTER.)

Sir D. Brewster, LL.D., K.H., one of the most distinguished philosophers of

modern times, was born in Jedburgh in 1781. The following specimen is from the address delivered by him in opening the winter session of the University of Edinburgh, in the first year of his incumbency as Frincipal (1859–60).

In the study of natural philosophy, chemistry, and natural history, a wide field of knowledge will be spread out before you, in which every fact you observe, and every truth you learn, will surprise and delight you. Creations of boundless extent, displaying unlimited power, matchless wisdom, and overflowing beneficence, will at every step surround you. The infinitely great and the infinitely little will compete for your admiration; and in contemplating the great scheme of creation which these inquiries present to your minds, you will not overlook the almost superhuman power by which it has been developed. Fixed upon the pedestal of his native earth, and with no other instrument but the eye and the hand, the genius of man has penetrated the dark and distant recesses of time and space. The finite has comprehended the infinite. The being of a day has pierced backwards into primeval time, deciphering the subterranean monuments, and inditing its chronicle of countless ages. In the rugged crust and shattered pavement of our globe he has detected those gigantic forces by which our seas and continents have changed places—by which our mountain ranges have emerged from the bed of the ocean-by which the gold, and the silver, the coal, and the iron, and the lime, have been thrown into the hands of man as the materials of civilization-and by which mighty cycles of animal and vegetable life have been embalmed and entombed.

In your astronomical studies, the Earth on which you dwell will stand forth in space a suspended ball, taking its place as one of the smallest of the planets, and like them pursuing its appointed path-the arbiter of times and seasons. Beyond our planetary system, now extended, by the discovery of Neptune, to three thousand millions of miles from the sun, and throughout the vast expanse of the universe, the telescope will exhibit to you new suns and systems of worlds, infinite in number and variety, sustaining, doubtless, myriads of living beings, and presenting new spheres for the exercise of divine power and beneficence..

The advances which have recently been made in the mechanical and useful arts have already begun to influence our social condition, and must affect still more deeply our systems of education. The knowledge which used to constitute a scholar, and fit him for social and intellectual intercourse, will not avail him under the present ascendency of practical science. New and gigantic inventions mark almost every passing year—the colossal tubular bridge, conveying the monster train over an arm of the sea—the submarine cable, carrying the pulse of speech beneath 2000 miles of ocean—the monster ship freighted with thousands of lives, and the huge rifle gun throwing its fatal and unchristian charge across miles of earth or of ocean. New arts, too, useful and ornamental, have sprung up luxuriantly around

New powers of nature have been evoked, and man communicates with man across seas and continents with more certainty and speed than if he had been endowed with the velocity of the race-horse, or provided with the pinions of the eagle. Wherever we are, in short, art and science surround us. They have given birth to new and lucrative professions. Whatever we purpose to do, they help us. In our houses they greet us with light and heat. When we travel we find them at every stage on land, and at every harbour on our shores. They stand beside our board by day, and beside our couch by night. To our thoughts they give the speed of lightning, and to our time-pieces the punctuality of the sun; and though they cannot provide us with the

us.

« AnteriorContinuar »