Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Autobio

gun 1771.

policy.” “Great talkers are little doers.” “Better slip with foot than tongue." “Doors and walls are fools'

paper.' Such was the tone of the famous litgraphy, be- tle Almanac. Another of his writings, and one

that is of interest to-day, is his Autobiography, which he wrote when he was sixty-five years of age. In it nothing is kept back. He tells us of his first arrival in Philadelphia, when he walked up Market Street, eating a great roll and carrying another under each arm; of his scheme for attaining moral perfection by cultivating one additional virtue each week, and of his surprise at finding himself more faulty than he had supposed! The selfrevelation of the author is so honest and frank that the book could hardly help being charming, even if had been written about an uninteresting person; but written, as it was, about a man so learned, so practical, so shrewd, so full of kindly humor as Benjamin Franklin, it is one of the most fascinating books of the century.

12. Revolutionary oratory. Franklin's Autobiography was never finished, perhaps because the Revolution was at hand and there was little time for reminiscences. The minds of men were full of the struggles of the present and the hopes of the future. Most of the oratory James Otls, of the time is lost. We can only imagine it 1725-1783. from the chance words of appreciation of those who listened to it. There was Otis, whom John Adams called "a flame of fire." There was Richard Henry

Lee, the quiet thinker who blazed into the eloHenry Lee, quence of earnestness and sincerity, the man

who dared to move in Congress, “that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free

and independent states." There was Patrick Patrick Henry, Henry, that other Virginian, who began to speak

so shyly and stumblingly that a listener fancied

Richard

1732-1794.

1736-1799.

him to be some country minister a little taken aback at addressing such an assembly. But soon that assembly

[graphic][merged small]

was thrilled with his ringing "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

13. Political writings. Those writers who favored peace and submission to England are no longer remem

Thomas

bered; those who urged resistance even unto war will, in the success of that war, never be forgotten. Prominent

among them was Thomas Paine, an EnglishThomas Paino, man whom the wise Benjamin Franklin met in 1737-1809.

England and induced to go to America in 1774. Two years later he published the most famous of his writings, Common Sense. This pamphlet told why its author believed in a separation from the mother country. Its clear and logical arguments were a power in bringing on the war. And when the war had come, his Crisis

gave renewed courage to many a disheartened Jefferson, patriot. Thomas Jefferson was the author not 1743-1826.

only of the Declaration of Independence, but of many strong pamphlets that aroused men's souls to the inevitable bloodshed. It was he who, only a few days after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, suggested the motto for the seal of the United States, E pluribus unum; and it is hard to see how a better one could have been found. George Washington would have George smiled gravely to see himself written down as Washing

one of the lights of literature; but his Farewell ton, 1732

Address, his letters, and his journals are not without literary value in their clearness and strength and dignity, in their noble expression of ennobling thoughts.

At the close of the Revolution, the question of the hour was how the Republic should be organized and gov

erned. A number of political pamphlets had alist, been written during the war; and now such

writings became the main weapons of those into whose hands the formation of the Constitution had

fallen. The best-known of these papers were Alexander Hamilton, written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and 1757-1804.

James Madison. They were collected and pub

1799.

The Feder

1788-1789.

lished as The Federalist in 1788–1789, the time when the country was hesitating to adopt the Constitu- John Jay, tion. Here is an example of the straightfor- 1745-1829. ward, dignified, self-respecting manner in which Madison, they laid before the young nation the advan- 1761-1836. tages of the proposed method of electing a President:

The process of the election affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone 'suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it, as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to ay, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue.

14. The “Hartford Wits." The poets of Revolutionary times chose the same subject as the prose writers. The poem might be a ballad on some recent event of the war,

- Our

a satire, or a golden vision of the greatness which, in the imagination of the poet, his country had already attained; but in one form or another the theme was ever Country.” A piece of literary work that falls in with the spirit of the times wins a contemporary fame whose reflection often remains much longer than the quality of the work would warrant. Among the writers of such poetry were the “Hartford Wits," as they were called, a group of Connecticut authors whose principal members were Timothy Dwight, John Trumbull, and Joel Barlow.

Timothy Dwight was a grandson - and a worthy oneof Jonathan Edwards. In 1777 he was studying law,

but his patriotism, and perhaps his inherited Timothy Dwight, tastes, turned him into a minister; for the 1752-1817.

army needed chaplains. He was licensed to preach, and joined the Connecticut troops. Then it was

that he wrote his Columbia, a patriotic song Columbia,

which predicted in bold, swinging metre a magnificent future for the United States.

1777.

He says:

As the day-spring unbounded, thy splendor shall flow,
And earth's little kingdoms before thee shall bow :
While the ensigns of union, in triumph unfurled,
Hush the tumult of war and give peace to the world.

The Con

He wrote an epic, called The Conquest of Canaan,

which is long, dull, and forgotten. He left quest of

many volumes and much manuscript; but the Canaan, 1785. one piece of his work that has any real share in the life of today is his hymns, particularly his version of Psalm cxxxvii, beginning :

I love thy kingdom, Lord,

The house of thine abode. John Trumbull's merry, good-natured face does not seem at all the proper physiognomy for a man who be

« AnteriorContinuar »