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even wiser men than ourselves, who lived long ago, when the materials from which we may
make up an independent judgment are multiplied a hundred fold. Plato had a profound and a far reaching intellect, improved by much observation and deep reflection. But his opinions on politics are now of very little value, because the condition of the world has totally changed since his day. Since his times we have had the additional experience of many ages. All that he could possibly know of that science must have been derived from the few small states of Greece, and from a little knowledge of Egypt and Chaldea. The records of the past, to which he had access, were only a few uncertain traditions extending a few ages into the realms of barbarism and utter night. What could he know of the working of a republican government under all possible circumstances, when all that he could have learned of it was derived from a few little communities which a man might travel over in a day. The line of his wisdom would extend but a little way to sound the deep problems which are involved in the operations of a free government, extending
over a territory greater than were in his times the whole domains of civilization, penetrated and bound together by canals and rail roads, and above all enlightened by the emanations of ten thousand printing presses.
I cannot believe, if I would, with the ancients, that the world is an extended plain, stretching out under a sky of infinite extent, because I know that it has been circumnavigated. I have seen the men who have stood on the opposite surface. While I admire the eloquence of Cicero, I cannot look into the starry heavens, and believe with him, that the heavenly bodies are minute objects set in concentric spheres of glass, making a most delicious music as they revolve, but to which our ears have unfortunately become too much accustomed to be sensible to its harmonies. If in the ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum, there should by chance be discovered a treatise by one of the wisest sages of Greece or Rome on commerce and navigation, whom can we suppose it would enlighten? What practical man would even read it, when he knows that all the science it could contain would
be derived from the limited range of the Mediterranean, and that he might employ the same time to more advantage in tracing the mighty progress of trade since the discovery of the mariner's compass has thrown open
all nations and all climes to the enterprise of man? The world then is not growing old in the sense of verging to decay. The twilight of the past generation is the dawn of a new and brighter day. Every new generation commences existence under better auspices, for it enters upon the world, not only rich in itself, but laden with the spoils of all past time. Thousands have thought and contrived, millions have labored for what we now enjoy.
Existence now in any civilized portion of the globe is worth far more than it ever was before. That naked animal, who once roamed the woods in utter destitution, is now born to a happier and more bountiful lot. The young eyes which now look on life, what a different prospect do they behold from that which those beheld who were born three thousand, nay three hundred years ago! Three hundred years ago and what was Europe, the most civilized portion of the
globe? A family of half civilized nations just emerging from barbarism, its kings and queens worse lodged and worse fed than the poorest class of citizens now in these United States. The power to read was so uncommon and so precious that it rendered its possessor too valuable to be touched for almost any crime. The haughty nobles even, were under the necessity of signing their mark in all their legal instruments, as the poor Indians now do in making their treaties in our western wilds. A community of readers and writers was as little dreamed of in those days, as a community of angels in the human form.
The progress of the human race from its cradle in the East, has been one triumphal march of improvement.
What has been achieved in the last three thousand years is most strikingly exhibited when the circle has come fully round the earth, and English science, art and civilization meet and measure strength with Asiatic science, art, and civilization as it was when an overgrown population and a corrupt religion set bounds to all improvement. What an encounter is that, when the English man-of-war points its
thunders against a whole fleet of the clumsy and ill contrived shipping of the Celestial Empire! What an encounter would that be, were an English army with her mortars and battering apparatus to be drawn up before the walls of Canton, defended by an undisciplined multitude, armed with matchlocks, and bows and arrows. Whatever is England's is ours. Nay, disencumbered of her feudal institutions, we have been enabled to carry out some of her noblest principles to a perfection from which she has been precluded. Property is here more equally distributed, and education more generally diffused. The consequence is, a greater elevation of the popular mind.
I was most forcibly impressed with the peculiar character of an American citizen, his intelligence and distinguishing thirst for knowledge above all other people, by an incident which took place during a late sojourn at the North. I was visiting a large manufacturing establishment, and one of the workmen was pointed out to me as having been sent to Russia to set up a cotton mill. My companion engaged him in conversation, and made enquiries as to his experience in