Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

men of all ranks, and all descriptions. To youthful ar-. dour he presents danger and glory ; to ambition, rank and titles and honours; to avarice the mines of Mexico. • To each person whom he addresses, he presents the object adapted to his taste : his recruiting officers are appointed; men are engaged throughout the continent ; civil life is indeed quiet upon its surface; but in its bosom this man has contrived to deposit the materials which, with the slightest touch of his match, would produce an explosion to shake the continent. All this his restless ambition has contrived ; and in the autumn of 1806, he goes forth for the last time, to apply this match. On this excursion he meets with Blannerhassett.

Who is Blannerhassett? a native of Ireland, a man of letters, who fled from the storms of his own country to find quiet in ours. His history shews that war is not the natural element of his mind; if it had been, he would never have exchanged Ireland for America. So far is an army from furnishing the society natural and proper to Mr. Blannerhassett's character, that on his arrival in America, he retired even from the population of the Atlantic states, and sought quiet and solitude in the bosom of our western forests. But he carried with him taste, and science, and wealth; and “lo, the desert smiled.”

Possessing himself of a beautiful island in the Ohio, he rears upon it a palace, and decorates it with every romantic embellishment of fancy. A shrubbery that Shenstone might have envied, blooms around him ; music that might have charmed Calypso and her nymphs, is his ; an extensive library spreads its treasures before him ; a philosophical apparatus offers to him all the secrets and mysteries of nature ; peace, tranquillity and inDocence shed their mingled delights around him, and to crown the enchantment of the scene, a wife, who is said to be lovely even beyond her sex, and graced with every accomplishment that can render it irresistible, had bles. sed him with her love, and made him the father of her children. The evidence would convince you, sir, that this is but a faint picture of the real life.

In the midst of all this peace, this innocence, and this tranquillity, this feast of the mind, this pure banquet of the heart-the destroyer comes he comes to turn this

paradise into a hell yet the flowers do not wither at his approach, and no monitory shuddering through the bosom of their unfortunate possessor, warns him of the ruin that is coming upon him. A stranger presents himself. Introduced to their civilities by the high rank which he had lately held in his country, he soon finds his way to their hearts by the dignity and elegance of his demeanor, the light and beauty of his conversation, and the seductive and fascinating power of his address. . The conquest was not a difficult one. Innocence is ever sim. ple and credulous ; conscious of no designs itself, it suspects none in others : it wears no guards before its breast; every door, and portal, and avenue of the heart is thrown open, and all who choose it enter.

Such was the state of Eden, when the serpent entered its bowers. The prisoner in a more engaging form, winding himself into the open and unpractised heart of the unfortunate Blannerhassett, found but little difficulty in changing the native character of that heart, and the objects of its affection. By degrees he infuses into it the poison of his own ambition ; he breathes into it the fire of his own courage ; a daring and a desperate thirst for glory; an ardour panting for all the storm and bustle and hurricane of life. In a short time the whole man is changed and every object of his former delight relinquished. No more he enjoys the tranquil scene : it has become flat and insipid to his taste; his books are abandoned; his retort and crucible are thrown aside; his shrubbery blooms and breaths its fragrance upon the air in vain he likes it not; his ear no longer drinks the rich melody of music; it longs for the trumpet's clangor and the cannon's roar ; even the prattle of his babes, once so sweet, no longer affects him; and the angel smile of his wife, which hitherto touched his bosom with extacy so unspeakable, is now unfelt and' unseen. Greater objects have taken possession of his soul-his imagination has been dazzled by visions of diadems, and stars and garters, and titles of nobility: he has been taught to burn with restless emulation at the names of Cromwell, Cæsar and Bonaparte.

His enchanted island is destined soon to relapse into a desart; and in a few months, we find the tender and beautiful partner of his bosom, whom he lately "permitted not the winds of” summer “to visit too roughly," we find her shivering, at midnight, on the winter banks of the Ohio, and mingling her tears with the torrents that froze as they fell. Yet this unfortunate man, thus deluded from his interest and his happiness-thus seduced from the paths of innocence and peact-thus confounded in the toils which were deliberately spread for him, and overwhelmed by the mastering spirit and genius of another--this man, thus ruined and undone, and made to play a subordinate part in this grand drama of guilt and treason this man is to be called the principal offender; while he by whom he was plunged and steeped in misery, is comparatively innocent a mere accessory. Sir, neither the human heart nor the human understanding will bear a perversion so monstrous and absurd ; so shocking to the soul ; so revolting to reason. O! no, sir. There is no man who knows any thing of this affair, who does not know that to every body concerned in it, Aaron Burr was as the sun to the planets which surround him ; he bound them in their respective orbits, and gave them their light, their heat, and their motion.

Let him not then shrink from the high destination which he has courted; and having already ruined Blannerhassett in fortune, character and happiness for ever, attempt to finish the tragedy by thrusting that ill-fated man between himself and punishment.

Extract from a Speech of MR. ERSKINE, on the trial of

Williams for publishing Paine's Age of Reason. THE defendant stands indicted for having published this book, which I have read from the obligations of professional duty only, and from the reading of which I rose with astonishment and disgust. For my own part, I have been ever deeply devoted to the truth of Christianity, and my firm belief in the Holy Gospel is by no means owing to the prejudices of education, but it arises from the fullest reflections of my riper years and understanding. It forms, at this moment, the great consolation of a life, which, as a shadow, must pass away ; and without it I should consider my long course of health and prosperity, perhaps too long and too uninterrupted to be good for any man, as the dust only which the wind scatters, and rather as a snare than as a blessing. . .

This publication appears to me to be as mischievous and cruel in its probable effects, as it is manifestly illegal in its principles; because it strikes at the best, sometimes, alas! the only refuge and consolation amidst the distresses and afflictions of the world. The poor and humble, whom it affects to pity, may be stabbed to the heart by it. They have more occasion for firm hopes beyond the grave, than those who have greater comforts to render life delightful. I can conceive a distressed, but virtuous man, surrounded by children looking up to him for bread when he has none to give them, sinking under the last day's labour, and unequal to the next, yet still anticipa. ting with confidence, the hour when all tears shall be wiped from the eyes of affliction, bearing the burden laid upon him by a mysterious Providence which he adores, and looking forward with exultation to the revealed promises of his Creator, when he shall be greater than the greatest, and happier than the happiest of mankind. What a change in such a mind might not be wrought by such a merciless publication?

But it seems this is an age of reason, and the time and the person are at last arrived, that are to dissipate the errors which have overspread the past generations of ignorance. The believers in Christianity are many, but it belongs to the few that are wise to correct their credulity. Belief is an act of reason, and superior reason may, therefore, dictate to the weak.

In running the mind over the long list of sincere and devout Christians, I cannot help lamenting, that Newton had not lived to this day, to have his shallowness filled up with this new flood of light.

But the subject is too awful for irony. I will speak plainly and directly. Newton was a Christian ! Newton whose mind bursts forth from the fetters, cast by nature upon our finite conceptions-Newton, whose science was truth, and the foundations of whose knowledge of it was philosophy: not those visionary and arrogant presump

tions, which too often usurp its name; but philosophy, resting upon the basis of mathematics, which, like figures, cannot lie-Newton, who carried the line and rule to the utmost barriers of creation, and explored the principles by which all created matter is held together and exists.

But this extraordinary man, in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errors, which a minute investigation of the created things on this earth might have taught him, of the essence of his creator.

What shall then be said of Boyle, who looked into the organic structure of all animals, even to the brute inanimate substances, on which the foot treads ? Such a man may be supposed to have been equally qualified with Mr. Paine, to look up through nature to nature's God. Yet the result of all his contemplations, was the most confirmed and devout belief in all that which the other holds in contempt, as despicable and drivelling superstition. : But this error might, perhaps, arise from a want of due attention to the foundations of human judgment, and the structure of that understanding which God has given us for the investigation of truth.

Let that question be answered by Locke, who was, to the highest pitch of devotion and adoration, a Christian : Locke, whose office it was to detect the errors of think. ing, by going up to the fountains of thought, and to direct into the proper track of reasoning, the devious mind of man, by shewing its whole process, from the first perceptions of sense to the last conclusions of ratiocination, putting a rein upon false opinion, by practical rules for the conduct of human judgment.

But these men were deep thinkers only, and lived in their closets, unaccustomed to the traffic of the world, and to the laws which practically regulate mankind. In the place where we now sit to administer justice, above a century ago, Hule presided ; whose faith in Christiani. ty is an exalted commentary upon its truth and reason, and whose life was a glorious example of its fruits in man, administering human justice with a wisdom and

purity drawn from the pure fountain of the Christian - dispensation, which has been, and will be, in all ages, a

subject of the highest reverence and admiration. - But it is said by the author, that the Christian fable is

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »