George Hooker Colton.

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proper estimate of his own genius, which
possibly dared not attempt the more
active expressions of Audubon. He has
taken thiee or lour cf such quietly ef-
fective and characteristic postures for
pets, as could be most readily slided into
his groups, without too much startling
by the contrast. By a sagacious dupli-
cation of these so as barely to avoid the
penalties consequent upon a direct in-
fringment of copyright, he has managed
to give his last four volumes a partial-
ly spirited tone, altogether foreign to the
first. There are yet one or two instan-
ces of this cunning latrociny which oc-
cur to us as too rich not be noted. Turn
to " Scau[) Duck {male and female),
Audubon" — you perceive them to be
both upon the land but near the water.
The female in the foreground, asleep,
while the male stands alert beyond her;
now refer to " Redheaded Pochard {male
and female,) GonU, 5th vol," — you re-
cognise your first acquaintances the
Scaup Ducks at a glance — though,
with the usual manoeuvre they are turned
the other way ; and instead of being both
on land — which would have been rather
too' palpable — the female rests on the
water, while the male, though at pre-
cisely the same relative distance, is mane
to stand upon the ground. Here the
trick is so shallow, that detection can
not be for a moment at fault. You see
that the Scaup Ducks have been accu-
rately overlined, then lifted up from the



274



American Ornithology.



[March,



original " grounding" and let down up-
on a new one, by Gould, who found it
sater for his pencil, to adjust earth and
water diJierently beneath them, than to
tamper in the slightest degree with the
proportions of the tigures themselves.

Again : Audubon's " Golden Plover"
is standing in a very characteristic posi-
tion, on one leg, the other gracefully half
drawn up. On looking at it, you feel
that the bird is at ease, resting naturally.
Gould, in his " Bastard Plover," endea-
vors to appropriate this position, which
is very peculiar, but in his awkward fear
of detection, he has just altered it enough
to destroy the centre of gravity in his
picture, and produce the ludicrous effect
of a bird in the very act of falling over,
as if it were nodding on one leg, with its
eyes wide open.

We will not fatigue the reader by a
farther extension of these contrasts,
though we have abundant materials. No
one with a true eye can glance over the
two works together, without perceiving
on almost eveiy other page of Gould's
later vols, the fullest confirmation of our
positions. He will perceive, in the spirit-
less inaptitude, the high but incorrect
coloring of the first volume, the heavy
mechanical characteristics of Mr. Gould's
natural style. On further examination
he will realize how impossible it is for
dull mediocrity to catch the creative in-
spiration, even from the contact of asso-
ciation with genius — for instead of gra.sp-
ing all that it had accomplished by a
healthful appropriation, as the suggestion
and basis of still his/her efforts — of bolder
and nobler strugglings up toward the
perfect, it has, in the miserable penury of
its weakness, pilfered and smuggled what
it dared not aim to equal, and then, to
cover its meanness, refused any recogni-
tion of more than remote and general ob-
ligation. This may be in strict conformity
with I\Ir. Gould's, or the English codicil
of right, but it is hardly recognized this



side of the waters. Mr. Gould, whose
work scarcely contains a single legitimate
and original trait of ornithological cha-
racter, who, even as a copyist, cannot
place his figures right upon either earth
or water* — to which he has been necessi-
tated to transfer them — is to be considered
as at the head of ornithological science.
The " ipse dixit " of Charles Lucian Bo-
naparte, Prince of jNIusignano, being re-
ceived as authority, his" is the most beau-
tiful work that has ever appeared in this
or any other country." Pshaw ! we
shall be rather pitiful than contemptuous
towards such misguided persons as
have hearkened to this " voice," not
" from the wilderness," Shall we remind
youthat Audubon haselevated illustrative
Ornithology from a state little short of a
crude and unrecognized position as a
feature, — along with " Cock Robin, " and
" Robinson Cru.soe " epitomised— of the
unmeaning toy-books of children, into the
highest rank of Art which has striven
truthfully to exhibit nature .' .Shall we re-
mind you that in addition to having li.xed
it upon the profound basis of science as an
illustrator, he has, as an accurate obser-
ver, carried its definition out of sight
above predecessors or cotemporaries,
into the atmosphere of natural and practi-
cal philosophy — elaborating the delinea-
tions of sex, age, seasons and climate, into
a precision and reality which must consti-
tute the firm ground-work of future inves-
tigations .' — in a word, that he has created,
through Ornithology, the most alluring
feature yet presented of that cheerful and
broad philosoph)^ which leads " through
nature up to nature's God .'" If you do
not know all this, learn more of Audu-
bon through his own Avorks, and you
will recognize it. We must defer to
another No. a more familiar and pleasing
intercourse with the man as well as
naturalist, and with the wild natural
scenes, which are the back-ground of
his subjects.



* It is somewhat curious that his water-fowl are, with scarce an exception, when
placed on the surface, at either an incorrect angle with the plane of the horizon, or not
characteristically immersed.



1845.]



Oar Country.



275



Mr. Editor :

Though by early predilections and at all periods of rny life, I have been a delii^hted
worshiper, either in the cHaste Pantheon of classic lore, or in the {(rand, though incon-
gruous, temple of the moderns, yet, even inboyhood, I was a not incurious observer of the
cotemporary history of the country inwhicli and for which I was born and bred. During
the la - t sixteen years, more especially, have I watched with an eye of serious concern
the sentiments and measures of the " progressive" party, to whose influence may rnainly
be ascribed those sudden and disastrous changes, which have swept the land as with a
whirlwind, as well as that general and rapid popular deterioration, which, if not at once
arrested by all the wise heads and strong arms in the nation, will soon place us on the
brink of evident and utter ruin. With your permission, then, I will hazard through
your pages occasional remarks on the more prominent points of our national character,
to indicate some of the dangers and safeguards of our order of things, and to suggest
whereby we may avoid the one, and retain the other. Careless of notoriety, and desir-
ous only of contributing my mite to the welfare of my countrymen and country, I yet
hope that whatever truths I may utter will not fall upon unwilling ears, though I take
shelter behind the " nominis umbra," and conceal a name, which, if published, could
not by its celebrity enforce the doubtful to conviction.

Maryland



OUR COUNTRY
No. 1.



Ir we are not to believe with Jenkin-
soii, in the Vicar of Wakefield, that " the
world is in its dotage," no more are we
to imagine that it was lately in its infan-
tile state of ignorance and weakness,
and now, with intellect just opening and
powers that begin to feel their strength,
is conning the first elements of moral,
political, and social wisdom. No : — the
world has always had the knowledge,
but not the love of its duty, and pos-
sessed, from its very birth, the wisdom,
without the wish, to be happy. Almost
everv tnith essential to the well-being of
our race, was promulgated centuries ago.
But they have been too weak and change-
ful to live according to their light. Men
have always been too much blinded by
their eagerness for present pleasure and
immediate profit, to consider the scope
of their whole existence, and attend to
the general and permanent result of their
actions. From immemorial time they
have known their debt to Heaven, their
obligations to their fellows, and their
duties to themselves ; and had they car-
ried out their knowledge in correspond-
ent action their advancement would now
be immeasurably greater in every depart-
ment of moral as well as physical life,
and the light which in its effects is still
but a glimmering dawn would long since
have brightened into the fullness of day.
In the character of our government, and
in the o.stensible spirit of our laws, we



are, indeed, a nation " nostri genens" —
our own creator — a rule and model for
ourselves. But viewed as the subjects
of divine and human law, we individu-
ally and collectively possess the same
passions, weaknesses, and vices, as have
the men of all ages and nations ; and
with us as with them, the demon of popu-
lar frenzy crouches ever in the dark
cavern of the future, one day, it maybe,
to spring forth upon us, like a tropical
tornado,

" Which, hushed in grim repose, awaits his
evening prey."

The standard, by which to judge of a
nation's greatness, is a standard of the
mind and heart ; a standard which the
materialist cannot apply ; whose uses the
demagogue cannot understand. Her
power and her grandeur dwell not in the
numbers of her people, or the barriers of
Nature — in her vegetable riches, or her
mineral wealth — in the strength of her
navy, or the discipline of her army — in
the gold of her treasury, or her muni-
ments of war. Her opulence and her
strength lie in properties deeper than
these, and more inscrutable to the sen-
sual eye. They are to be appreciated
only by the moral, the pure, the thought-
ful, the intelligent. They rest in her
moral attributes — the jiatient industry-,
the reflective wisdom, the inflexible vir-
tue, the unfettered spirit, t.he proud self-



276



Our CourUry.



[March,



confidence, the rational, but resolute
courage. Well and wisely spake the
philosophic poet of England, though
with not an altogether appropriate ap-
plication —

" The power of armies is a visible thing,
Bounded in time, and circumscribed in
space."

If there be any who think their coun-
try intrinsically and permanently more
powerful, prosperous and happy from
her rail-roads and canals, and all her
cross-woven system of internal improve-
ments, apart from the strength she shall
gain or lose in her spiritual progress —
surely they are deceived. These men
forget an internal improvement of a dif-
ferent and far nobler order — the improve-
ment and exaltation of the inner being,
without which these material improve-
ments are but the vanity of vanities —
poor, perishable dust, as are, or will be,
all the heads that planned and the hands
that made them. So far as they give
scope, operation, and outlet for the en-
terprizing spirit of our citizens, they are
signs and means of good. But in and
for themselves, they are absolutely no-
thing. The mainspring of all is mental
intelligence and moral worth. Some of
our writers are disposed to exult in these
mere physical achievements, as if they
were not only the glory, but the safe-
guard of the country. They speak of
the various lines of communication,
which intersect our land in every direc-
tion, as so many links in a chain of in-
dissoluble union. They say, that by
means of these numerous thoroughfares
of commerce and travel, a constant in-
tercourse will be kept up, engendering
mutual charity and mutual esteem. With
a timorous, and I trust as yet unfounded,
distrust of the innate feelings of our peo-
ple, they rely on these physical causes
to maintain our harmony. As well ex-
pect, that the preservation of an unob-
structed passage through the arteries
would cause the blood to course through
its accustomed channels, and maintain
the vigor and the functions of our animal
life, after " the pitcher was broken at
the fountain." It is true that the estab-
lishment of a better acquaintance between
the different portions of the country, will
tend to beget between them a deeper con-



fidence and a kindlier affection. The
more the Southrons and Northerners see
of each other, the less will the former
suspect the latter of cold-blooded selfish-
ness, and the latter charge the former
with unreasonable heat and disaffection.
But it must be some deeper and more
potential cause than this that shall main-
tain good feeling among the citizens of
our widely extended land. A confeder-
acy of free and popular governments is
not to be held together by gross, material
bonds — they must be cemented by a
spiritual concord. The basis of our har-
mony must be good sense and mutual
forbearance ; a patriotic attachment to
our country, and a philanthrojuc senti-
ment towards the world. Ah ! friends
and countrymen ! if reverence for the
memory of our heroic fathers, and pride
in the common inheritance which they
redeemed for us by the effusion of their
common blood, and terror at the utter
ruin which will visit these f/K<united
States, be insufficient to retain us in the
claims of brotherhood, no Gordian knot
of corporeal connections, no linked fet-
ters of iron or triple brass, will secure
that holy tie against the sword of some
daring Alexander. When the mass of
our citizens shall have become lawless
and dissolute, depraved and reckless, our
public works and public institutions will
be but a feeble barrier against the pas-
sions of the people and the craft of their
leaders. Like some hanging rock,* high
up among the solitary mountains, around
which silence has slumbered since the
fiat of its Maker, but which a single
breath may dislodge from its old founda-
tion, our Union will then be a concourse
of dissilient parts, which the voice of
some potent demagogue can sunder in a
moment.

The age is becoming far too material.
The wonderful improvements in physical
science — the daily discovery of new me-
chanical agencies — the enlistment even
of the winds and the lightning in the
service of men, seem to have crazed the
general mind, and to have drawn atten-
tion away from the more practical and
important department of moral conduct.
Some appear to regard society, and man
himself, as a mere mechanical structure,
moved by wheels and levers, and pro-
tected from explosion by a few theoretic



* Travelers in Switzerland and other mountainous countries, relate that they some-
times meet with huge masses of rock and snow, which can be unseated by the discharge of
a pistol, or even by the utterance of a word.



1845.]



Our Country.



277



safety-valves. As of a steam-boat, you
may estimate his powers and operations
with scientific nicety. With u given
Ibrce applied in a given manner, he will
move in a certain direction, and to a
specified distance. If this great engine
be built and managed according to ap-
proved rules, they think it will work
well and uniformly, whatever be the cha-
racter of its materials, and wliatever the
object to which it is applied. These men
must learn a different philosophy from
this. They must discover that physical
deductions will not apply to the govern-
ment of men. They must be told that
the great secret of preserving a nation in
its primitive worth and freedom is uni-
versal moral education, and the oft-im-
pressed conviction that their duty is
their interest. When sobriety and jus-
tice are no more, knowledge and power
are but the elements of a speedier de-
struction. Some would indulge the
opinion that each individual in the nation
may be wasteful and wicked, and yet the
whole people, in their national aspect,
continue great, glorious, and successful.
But the character of the ingredients is
the character of the mass : what our
citizens are in the taverns, or at their
firesides, such are they at the polls, and
such their representatives in our legisla-
tive halls.

Commend us to the spirit of the Past
— tile chivalric and thoughtful spirit,
that prompted to wise counsels and
valorous deeds — when worth was not
guaged by the standards of wealth or
fashion, and a nation's greatness was
not computed by the arithmetic of num-
bers, nor her glory measured by the
geometry of space. ^Ve do not mean that
there ever was a period in which, or a
people with whom, this spirit was uni-
versally present and operative among
men. Nor do we even mean that the time
ever existed, wiien there was more col-
lective wisdom than now, or more of that
generous and expansive feeling, which
is the glory and perfection of our nature.
On the contrary, we believe there is, in the
average, more of purity, and uprightness,
and high humanity in the world at pre-
sent, than there has ever been before. We
prefer, then, no particular past age to the
present But whatwe mean by the spirit
of the Past, is that spirit which may be
seen here and there through the world's
history, bursting upon us in splendid
developments — sometimes pervading a
whole nation — sometimes actuating a



particular class of men — and sornetimeB
shining iorth wilii noble beauty in the
iilc of a single individual. 'J'his spirit
wasoiten mingled with baseringrerlients;
but we can regard it in the a^'gregate,
and correcting one quality by another,
may draw from all its displays lessons of
thoughtful and insjjiriug wisdom. Could
we extract the essence of this spirit, and
infuse it into the thoughts of our rulers
and Ihechaiacterofour people, wo should
behold an immediate and amazing change.
Sectional interests would no longer em-
broil the harmony, and mutual jealousies
menace the existence, of the Union. Mo
longer would an improvident and coward-
ly legislation surrender the property of
the Future to the senseless clamors of the
Present, or individual ambition sacrifice
to self the welfare of millions. Our jiub-
lic men, moreover, aspirants to infiuence
or to fame, might at length be loun:l re-
flecting and acting upon the truth, that
"honesty is the surest policy," and that the
real patriot is able, like the sun, to look
beyond the opposing clouds to the sure
brightness that awaits him.

He who is in a hurry to be renowned
or powerful, may learn from history that
dishonesty is always detected, and that
no man ever went through life with his
character unread. It is of no avail to
wrap himself around with veil upon veil
of deception, and draw over his selfish
projects the mantle of public zeal. " One
may outwit individuals," saysRochelcu-
cault, " but it is impossible to outwit the
world." To this it might be added, that
if the great public, cotemporary, is fool-
ish enough to lend its opinions upon
trust, posterity is wiser. And who that
is not utterly depraved and utterly in-
human, can read the verdicts w-hich his-
tory records u_pon so many buried traitors,
whose treachery was undiscovered till
their death, then desire the same in-
glorious renown — that all posterity
should say above his grave, "this man
in life was popular and powerful, of
exalted station and celebrated name — but
he was a hypocrite, and a villain — a
traitor to himself, a traitor to his country,
a traitor to his God r" The incendiary,
whose grovelling thirst for fame, applied
the torch to the temple of Diana, did
attain to a species ol immortality — to
be " damned to everlasting fame." He,
however, only destroyed the monument
of pride, and the dwelling of imposture,
ornamented from the spoils of conquered
nations, and cemented Avith tears and



278



Our Country.



[March,



blood. But he who, through -wounded
pride, or overweening ambition, shall
have tired the slructure of tiiis Union,
Avili have attained an unquestioned pre-
eminence in guilt over all the villains,
obscure or splendid, of whom history
holds any record, except Iscariot Judas.
The treason of Cresar was treason against
Rome, but it was only taking in his own
hands a power, which were as well
placed there as elsewhere — for Rome v/a?
no longer Roman. But he Vv'hn is a
traitor to us, is a traitor to the world, and
the curses of a race, baffled by him of
their most cherished hopes, shall howl
after him to the end of time.

It is not that the dissolution of this
confederacy would extinguish freedom,
and involve the world in the darkness
of barbarism and barbarous misrule. To
think that we are necessary to the pre-
servation of knowledge and freedom
among men, were a vanity equally crim-
inal and foolish. The Ruler of nations
will accomplish his plans of benevolent
wisdom, though we should be stricken
from existence. England,* should she
weather the gale now sweeping over
her sea-worn hulk, would still rear aloft
the flag that has streamed to the breeze
though so many centuries of breathless
contention. And were she, too, if we
may change the figure, to sink like a
falling star from her glorious sphere,
some other luminary would soon shine
forth, from among the rolling years, as
fair and as radiant as she. Yet the ex-
tinction of libertyin England — still more,
the entire breaking up of the American
Union — ^might with reason hang the world
in mourning: for the happy consumma-
tion of light and freedom, which has so
long been looked for by the hopeful and
the pure, would be deferred for many a
weary age. The eyes of those, who
have gazed — intensely, anxiously, with
a half fear of recognizing their joy — on
the westward star of empire, would re-
vert sadly to their own darkened hemis-
phere, and the conviction would press



heavily on the hearts of men, that the
race is too hopelessly depraved to be
entrusted with the rights, the duties, and
the blessings of self-government.

We have not advanced far enough in
the political algebra of treason to estimate
the losses and the gains, or to institute
an equation between union and disunion.
To us, indeed, the disunion side in the
odious problem appears an utter blank —
nay, rather a dark negation by whatever
is uncertain, confused and feuiful, in
place of all that could be wished for and
enjoyed. But from such calculations we
turn away with horror. Nor are we suf-
ficiently versed in the science of govern-
mental chances to compute the certainties,
or the probabilities, or the possibilities,
of our future dissolution. We leave the
hateful puzzle to cooler heads and strong-
er nerves than ours. Yet there is, at
least, a possibility — " tua pace, patria,
dicam" — of such a disaster, and even the
remote contingency ought to fill us with
fear, and inspire us with the wise pre-
caution, of which fear is the parent. And
among all precautions the surest is, that
we guard ourselves against the increas-
ing spirit of innovation — the love of
change — change in itself considered —
change for itself alone — eternal, unrea-
soning, unmeaning change. The fact that
our government was the child of change
and cradled in the whirlwind of a stormy
revolution, has gone far to persuade us
that change is in itself beneficial. But
change, unless a decided ble.ssing, is al-
ways a most decided curse. Its natural
tendency is to weakness and decay. Hu-
man nature is so strongly inclined to go
astray, that it is far safer to rely on the
power of habit to keep it in a jiath ap-
proximate to the parallel of rectitude,
than to give it unlimited freedom to go
right or wrong, in the vain hope of its
tendency to perfection. When old abuses
have been corrected, the delight experi-
enced in the happiness of the change,
soon urges the sph'it of legitimate and
rational improvement into the frenzy of



• We say notbins; here of England's faults or follies, or of her vices or her crimes. Wo
say nothing of her awful " National Debt" — of guilt, incurred in the many war.s whicli
she has waged from no motives but those of pride, cupidity and ambition. We are silent
in reference to her starving millions, and the revolting contrast between rt«V squalid
misery and her imperial wealth. We remark not on the still imperfect development of
her popular freedom. On all these topics we may descant hereafter. At present we
may only observe, with the admiration of spectators and the pride of kinsmen, that be-
side the long line of worthies who have graced her annals, beside her many deeds of he-
roism, and the many glorious productions of her muse, her island has long been the
chief source and safest refuge in the Eastern Hemisphere, of the true principles of
rational and regulated freedom.



1S45.]



Our Country.



279



a destructive ultraism. Then the rest-
lessness of some, and the designing wick-



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 1) → online text (page 52 of 124)