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means of religious improvement, public religious instruction, public worship, the solemın and tender rites of our religion, seasons of abstraction from ordinary cares for self-intercourse, and for communion of the soul with God, are valuable, most valuable, — valuable very far beyond the common estimate that is made of them, — so valuable, that they are the principal head-springs of public morals, and possess a preventive and san'ativeki influence over public sentiment, which is more effective in preserving good order, good institutions, civil rights, and private welfare, than any other influences which are brought to bear upon the community.
6. But how and why are they thus valuable ? Simply and only as means and aids of personal exertion; simply and only by being brought into contact with the minds and hearts of men. Unless this is done, religious meetings and services and rites are a mockery. Worse, even, than this; they are a perversion of those overtures of mercy, and those means of improvement, which a gracious God has vouchsafed, to raise us from a mere earthly life, and make us partakers of a divine nature. What is prayer to him who does not pray? What is religious instruction to tho vain, the frivolous, the indifferent, the preoccupied and fore closed mind? What is the keeping of holy time to him, who, while he is ostensibly present at places of social worship, has yet left his thoughts and affections behind, to hold companionship with his business or his pleasures ? Alas! nothing. It is but as the vain oblations, the pageantry, and sacrifices of a darker age, without the excuse of ignorance to be pleaded in palliation. Under God, and by those spiritual aids which are ever vouchsafed in exact proportion to our endeavors to obtain them (how gracious and glorious is this truth !), we are morally and religiously, as well as intellectually, the makers of ourselves.
FROM THE FRENCH OF DEGERANDO
CLII. — FULTON'S FIRST STEAMBOAT.
1. It was in reference to the astonishing impulse given to mechanical pursuits, that Dr. Darwin, more than forty years ago, broke out in strains equally remarkable for their poetical enthusiasm and prophetic truth, and predicted the future triumph of the steam-engine :
“ Soon shall thy arm, unconquered steam, atar
Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car ;
Or on wide waving wing expanded bear
2. What would he have said, if he had but lived to witness the immortal invention of Fulton, I which seems almost to move in the air, and to fly on the wings of the wind ? And yệt how slowly did this enterprise obtain the public favor! I myself have heard the illustrious inventor relate, in an animated and affecting manner, the history of his labors and discouragements. When, said he, I was building my first steamboat at New York, the project was viewed by the public either with indifference or with contempt, as a visionary scheme. My friends, indeed, wero civil, but they were shy. They listened with patience to my explanations, but with a settled cast of incredulity on their countenances. I felt the full force of the lamentation of the poet,
“ Truths would you teach, to save a sinking land,
All shun, none aid you, and few understand.”
3. As I had occasion to pass daily to and from the building. yard, while my boat was in progress, I have often loitered unknown near the idle groups of strangers, gathering in little circles, and heard various inquiries as to the object of this new vehicle. The language was uniformly that of scorn, or sneer, or ridicule. The loud laugh often rose at my expense; the dry jest; the wise calculation of losses and expenditures; the dull but endless repetition of “ the Fulton Folly.” Never did a single encouraging remark, a bright hope, or a warm wish, cross my path. Silence itself was but politeness veiling its doubts, or hiding its reproaches.
4. At length the day arrived when the experiment was to be put into operation. To me it was a most trying and interesting occasion. I invited many friends to go on board to witness the first successful trip. Many of them did me the favor to attend, as a matter of personal respect; but it was manifest that they did it with reluctance, fearing to be the partners of my mortification, and not of my triumph. I was well aware that, in my case, there were many reasons to doubt of my own success. The machinery was new and ill made; many parts of it were constructed by mechanics unaccustomed to such work; and unexpected difficulties might reasonably be presumed to present themselves from other causes. The moment arrived in which the word was to be given for the vessel to move My friends were
in groups on the deck. There was anxiety mixed with fear among them. They were silent, and sad, and weary, I read in their looks nothing but disaster, and almost repented of my efforts.
5. The signal was given, and the boat moved on a short distance, and then stopped, and became immovable. To the silence of the preceding moment now succeeded murmurs of discontent, and agitations, and whispers, and shrugs. I could bear distinctly repeated, “I told you it would be so. It is a foolish scheme. I wish we were well out of it.” I elevated myself upon a platform, and addressed the assembly. I stated that I knew not what was the matter; but, if they would be quiet and indulge me for a half-hour, I would either go on or abandon the voyage for that time. This short respite was conceded without objection. I went below, examined the machinery, and dis. covered that the cause was a slight mal-adjustment of some of the work. In a short period it was obviated.
6. The boat was again put in motion. She continued to move on. All were still incredulous. None seemed willing to trust the evidence of their own senses. We left the fair city of New York; we passed through the romantic and ever-varying scenery of the Highlands ; we descried the clustering houses of Albany. we reached its shores; and then, even then, when all seemed achieved, I was the victim of disappointment. Imagination superseded the influence of fact. It was then doubted if it could be done again; or, if done, it was doubted if it could be mado of any great value.
7. Such was the history of the first experiment, as it fell, not in the very language which I have used, but in its substance, from the lips of the inventor. He did not live, indeed, to enjoy the full glory of his invention. It is mournful to say that attempts were made to rob him, in the first place, of the merits of his invention, and next of its fruits. He fell a victim to his efforts to sustain his title to both.
CLIII. — THE PASSAGE OF THE BERESINA.FT 1. On the twenty-fifth of November, 1812, the whole French army under Napolcon, reduced now to about twenty-eight thousand fighting men, and forty thousand stragglers, still encumbered with a quantity of bag rage, were assembled on the banks of the Beresina, which they had to cross. The passage of this river was one of the most disastrous points in the retreat. The oridge of Bori’zof had been destroyed; a Russian army occupied the opposite bank of the river, and the passage appeared imprac. ticable. So desperate seemed the state of affairs, that Murat E3 advised Napoleon to leave the army to its fate, and make his own way to Paris. Napoleon, however, refused to listen to such a proposal, and occupied himself for two days in making such preparations as should enable him to cross the river, and at the same time deceive the enemy as to the exact spot at which he intended to cross it.
2. “What a frightful picture,” says Labaume, did such a multitude of men present! Our soldiers, pale, emaciated, dying with hunger and cold, having nothing to defend them from the inclemency of the season but tattered pelisses, El and half-burnt sheep-skins, and muttering the most mournful lamentations, crowded the banks of this fatal river. Germans, Poles, Italians, Spaniards, Cro’äts, Portuguese, and French, were all mingled together, disputing and quarrelling with one another in their different languages; finally, the officers, and even the generals, wrapped in pelisses covered with dirt and filth, mingling with the soldiers, and abusing those who pressed upon them, or braved their authority, formed a scene of strange confusion, of which no painter could trace the faintest resemblance."
3. The passage of the river commenced on the twenty-seventh, two wooden bridges having been by that time hastily constructed. A considerable part of the army crossed safely during the forenoon and afternoon of that day; among the rest, Napoleon, with a division of about six thousand men, whom he marched immediately to Zembir, leaving the remainder to follow. Unfortunately, many of the stragglers preferred remaining on the left bank till the morning of the twenty-eighth, lòth to quit the fires which they had kindled. The delay proved calamitous. The Russian armies in pursuit had come up before daylight; and, in order to afford time for the stragglers and baggage to cross, the soldiers who remained on the left side had to interpose themselves between them and the Russians. A terrible carnage ensued : one whole divi. sion of the French was obliged to surrender, and the rest were exposed to an incessant fire.
4. Meanwhile the crowd was crushing along both bridges in the wildest confusion, — men, women, children, horses, baggilge,
-all struggling to be first. A heavy snow was falling; the weather was bitterly cold ; large pieces of ice were floating down the river, and dushing against the frail wood-work; and the Russian bullets and cannon-balls were sweeping overhead. The scene became every moment more horrible. Here might be seen wtrong men, brutal in their selfishness, driving carriages through the crowd, crushing to death those who stood in their way; there poor weak wretches, sitting composedly on the bank, gazing at the water; and further on, persons who had been thrown off the bridge into the water, trying to climb up again, or grasping, in their agony, floating fragments of ice. One of the bridges at length broke down. The crowd still pushing on from behind, scores were thrown into the water, and carried down by the stream. The rest rushed pell-mell to the other bridge.
5. Nothing now was to be heard but groans, curses, and screams, from victims trampled to death under the feet of their companions. So it continued during the whole night of the twenty-eighth, the Russian artillery never slacking their murderous fire. When morning dawned, many thousands still remained waiting to cross. Before this time, however, the Russians had approached so near, that, to save those who had crossed it became necessary to burn the bridge. This was accordingly done at about half-past eight o'clock; and all who had not passed were abandoned to the Russians. The fatal passage of the Beresina cost the army an immense number of its men; about twenty thousand armed men, and thirty thousand stragglers, alone escaping to the other side.
6. The miseries of the fugitives, however, were not yet over. The dreadful winter, the want of food, the goading attacks of the Cos'sacks, who hovered on the skirt of the army, continued to thin the ranks of the wretched caravan, and to strew its route with corpses. On the fifth of December the army reached Smor'ghoni, on the banks of the Wilna. Here Napoleon left it in a private manner, taking with him a small body-guard, and travelling as fast as possible, by means of sledges, in the direction of Poland and France. At his departure, the retreating army was left in the command of Murat, who was to conduct it homeward. No sooner, however, was it known that Napoleon had left the army to its fate, than there arose universal disorganization and anarchy.
Then came the mad retreat — the whirlwind snows