« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
(18.) MR. BANVARD'S " Series of American Histories” for Youth is to extend to twelve or more volumes, and will deserve to stand in the children's bookcase side by side with Mr. Abbott's histories. The third volume is entitled, “ Romance of American History,” (Boston: Gould & Lincoln, 18mo., pp. 306,) and gives graphic sketches of the early events connected with the French settlement at Fort Carolina, the Spanish colony at St. Augustine, and the English plantation at Jamestown-a fertile field for narratives of stirring incident.
(19.) “ Cornelius Nepos, with Notes, Historical and Explanatory, by CHARLES Anthon, LL. D.” (New-York: Harper & Brothers, 1852, 12mo., pp. 396.) We are glad to see this book. Nepos is one of the best authors to put into the hands of beginners in Latin, and this edition is prepared admirably for their use.
(20.) The twenty-first number of Putnam's “ Semi-monthly Library” is “ Table-Talk about Books, Men, and Manners,”—a very pleasant volume of excerpts from Sydney Smith, (not much from him, however,) Swift, and other of the best English classics.
(21.) On the “ Eclipse of Faith, or a Visit to a Religious Sceptic," (Boston: Crosby & Nichols, 12mo.,) an extended review is preparing by one of our best contributors, and will, we hope, be ready for our April number.
(22.) Dr. Kipper's labours in the preparation of Sunday-school books have been as great as usual during the last quarter. We find on our table “ Ralph, Simon, Clara, and Theobalıl,” — a pretty 18mo. volume, containing four of Casar Malan’s excellent stories for the young, translated from the French." Scripture Facts," is a collection of narratives of New Testament incidents, prepared by the skilful anthor of the “Peep of Day.” It is a very pretty volume for a gift-book.—“Remarkable Delusions,” (18mo., pp. 213,) gives a sketch of prominent impostures, of witchcraft, &c.—“ The Adult Scholar and the Lady Teacher," (18mo., pp. 144,) gives good lessons for both teachers and scholars.—“ Be Courteous," (18mo., pp. 183,) illustrates the refining influence of true religion.—“ Frank Netherton,” (18mo., pp. 234,) is a very attractive story of a boy who maintained his integrity under trying circumstances.—“ The Youth's Monitor," (18mo., pp. 288,) is a bound volume of the Jurenile Magazine which has taken the place of “ The Sunday Scholar's Mirror.”—“ Aunt Effie,” (18mo., pp. 174,) is the history of a pious widow, who, besides struggling with poverty and misfortune, had an infidel brother who caused her much suffering.
(23.) Parisian Sights and French Principles, seen through American Spectacles.” (New-York: Harper & Brothers, 1852, 12mo., pp. 264.) In point of graphic description and acute observation, we have had nothing about Parisian life, like this book, for a long while. The ordinary “ Guide-book" sort of travels are to it as the catalogue of a gallery is to the pictures themselves. There is one drawback; there are many scenes in this gallery that never should have been depicted at all. The writer himself, speaking of the masqued balls at the opera, says that “to virtuous females these Saturnalia had better remain among the things unseen;" and so we may say to him that, if his book is meant to be read by “ virtuous females,"
," "these Saturnalia" and the like had better have remained undescribed. The slanders of the writer upon the Republicans of 1848 are in execrable taste for an American.
(24.) “ The Higher Law in its Relations to Civil Government, with particular reference to Slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law, by WILLIAM HOSMER."" (Auburn: Derby & Miller, 1852, 12mo., pp. 204.) Social science is the last and most difficult branch of human knowledge; the furthest removed, by the complexity and multitude of its elements, from the simple and facile mathematical ideas and relations which are the first mastered by the human mind and by mankind in general. And as, for the race, this science is the last to be unfolded, so, for the individual, its treatment should be the work of ripe years, enlarged intellect, and varied cultivation. But the human mind had, we thought, succeeded in reaching at least one secure and impregnable position; viz., that all laws for man in society must rest, for their validity, upon the law of God. Different schools would express this differently: some stating the necessary ground-work of law to lie in the revealed will of God; others in the fitness of things; others in the immutable character of moral distinctions; others in the relations of man to man and to cosmical nature; others in the organic growth of the race; but however various the formula might be, and whether clad in the reverential language of Christian theology, or in the simply scientific language of the schools, or in the bolder and balder terminology of atheism or pantheism, its substance still has been, that human legislation must rest upon and accord with some higher law, or else be inapt and shortlived. This position, we say, we had thought to be established; but if one were to judge from the outpourings of editorial wisdom in many of the political newspapers for a few years past, its very foundations are yet to be laid. But we must not forget that all newspaper editors can hardly be expected to be philosophers. No moralist, no theologian of character and position, bas yet, to our knowledge, denied that there is a law higher than human laws or constitutions, and that these are only valid and permanent so far forth as they are utterances of that.
For these reasons, and others that might be named, we have not deemed it necessary to reopen the discussion of a settled question ; believing that the false views which have been so current in certain newspapers were hastily taken up and uttered to serve a purpose, and would-nay, could—find no permanent footing in the public mind. Mr. Hosmer has judged differently, and has treated the subject with his wonted force of thought and vigour of expression in the volume before us. He finds, without difliculty, a higher than human law indicated in-1, the natural constitution of things; 2, in the course of
Providence; and 3, in the will of God, as manifested in revelation. This law is holy, wise, benevolent, and supreme. Its design is to instruct, to protect, and to elevate humanity. One of its chief agencies is Civil Government, the aim of which, of course, must be conservative and beneficent. In these principles Mr. Hosmer will find all, or nearly all, thinking men to concur with bim: it is only when he proceeds to apply and to limit them that he comes on debateable ground. He states the limitations of civil government to be four: 1. It cannot bind the conscience; 2, it cannot impair any other natural rights or powers of mankind; 3, it cannot release man from his responsibility to God; and 4, it cannot change the nature of vice and virtue. The first proposition is ambiguous: human law, when it is right, does, most certainly, bind the conscience. Mr. Hosmer contends that it does not, because, although human laws, when just, have the same force as divine, yet “divine law does not bind the conscience any more than the air we breathe binds the lungs, or than light binds the eye.” This is true only when the relations between man and God are the natural relations of perfect harmony, or the restored relations of perfect sanctification. Of course, human legislation has to do with men in every stage of moral purity short of perfection; and its mandates, like those of God, do bind the consciences of multitudes. The mass of mankind, “ under law,” whether the law of God or man, are under bonds. Our author argues that " conscience is an element of our nature, and cannot be subjected to any human authority; man's conscience is as his eyes, or his hands, or his feet ... We may legislate against [their] abuse but not against [their] use." And precisely the abuses of conscience (so called) are those which most need the restraints of laws both divine and human. Calvin conscientiously burned Servetus.
The powers of civil government Mr. Hosmer states as follows: 1, It can maintain the rights of conscience; 2, it can maintain the other natural rights and powers of mankind; 3, it can enforce obedience to the law of God; 4, it can maintain the immutable distinction between vice and virtue. The third of these statements, of course, is subject to restriction, as “it is not pretended that all the duties enjoined by the law of God come within the cognizance of the civil law.” From these principles the inference necessarily follows, that men are bound to obey the law of the land—that is, according to our author, “ when the law is what it should be.” The duty of obedience “ depends entirely on the character of the law.” The Legislature has no authority to make “bad laws,” and such laws, therefore, are “not obligatory." Mr. Hosmer thinks that most governments demand obedience “ to the requirements of human law whether right or wrong," and that this is the very basis of tyranny. His language, in some parts of this chapter, appears to us to be insufficiently guarded. Laws may be " bad” laws in one sense and yet obedience to them may be obligatory. If they require us to violate a known law of God, we are not bound to obey them: if they do not, no matter how “ bad” they may be, we must obey them, unless the circumstances justify a revolution. Of such cases the collective sense of the people—not the whims of the individual—must judge. But Mr. Hosmer doubtless means to use the word “ bad” in the sense of “immoral,” though he does not expressly say so. In this sense a bad law is not binding. But the law must be clearly such as we have stated-contrary to the law of God-before disobedience can be justifiable. Of this the individual must judge, taking care, however, at his peril, that his conscience is as thoroughly enlightened as his circumstances will admit of. As this is a question often involving the widest reach of human judgment and experience, the individual, especially if his means of culture have been scanty, should not be in haste to make up his mind, unless a pressing emergency should come upon him from which he cannot escape without, in his þest judgment, committing sin.
In applying his principles to slavery, Mr. Hosmer finds no difficulty in proving that the system violates natural and political justice, and is opposed to the law of Christianity. His denunciations of the system are full of fiery indignation, and yet he does not pronounce all slaveholders to be eo nomine sinners.
“ Though slavery is a crime, and must involve all concerned in it in guilt, we do not affirm that the form of slavery must always be accompanied by the spirit. The shadow may be where the substance is not. A bad law among a good people becomes a dead letter. Thus Washington and Jefferson--the most distinguished of patriots-were slaveholders only in name. Born amid slavery, and connected with it, not voluntarily but involuntarily, they contracted no fellowship or respect for the system, and did what they could for its subversion. There are, undoubtedly, thousands now connected with slavery who abhor the institution, and would gladly break away from its chains. Such are not to be classed with ordinary slaveholders; for with them slaveholding is merely a nominal thing, and if all were like them it would soon be abolished."
He proceeds to argue, in conclusion, that the obligation to maintain civil government and Christianity constitutes, in fact, an obligation to extirpate slavery. In this, as in other portions of the book, his reasoning is generally straightforward and vigorous; but his results are often stated in broad, sweeping, and, if we may use the term, unpractical language. Take the following as an example: “ Religion must either extirpate sin, or itself be extirpated by sin. All Christians are, therefore, necessarily opposed to slavery, and, so far as they have any evangelical goodness, actively engaged in the work of emancipation." This is simply an exaggeration : there are many Christians, who, from sheer ignorance, are not opposed to slavery; and there are multitudes whose position and opportunities allow them to take no active part whatever in the work of emancipation. Non omnes possumus omnia.
(25.) “ The National Magazine; devoted to Literature, Art, and Religion. ABEL STEVENS, Editor. Vol. I, July to December, 1852. 8vo., pp. 572. (New-York: Carlton & Phillips.) The appearance on our table of this large and bandsome octavo volume, affords us at once an opportunity and a right to give a more direct and critical notice of the “NATIONAL,” than the usages of the craft have allowed us to bestow upon it in its periodical appearances. We have watched it, from the beginning, with a degree of anxiety that we should hardly have been willing publicly to acknowledge. Not that we had any fear of the final issue; we had pledged ourselves for that in a way entirely too positive and peremptory to consist with latent doubts or uncertainties; but the very fact that we had cherished a confidence, almost unbounded, in the success of a journal of the right stamp, just adapted to the exigencies of the times, naturally made us anxious that this should be precisely such a journal, and that the public should not be years, or even months, in finding it out. The appointment of ABEL STEVENS to the editorship was enough to take off the edge of our anxiety even on this point; but we knew that he was entering upon a new field, and that his apparatus could not be at once got together and put in working order; and we know a great many things besides that made us watch the experiment, month by month, with eager and careful eyes.
The result is before us in this fair volume, and in the publishers' statement accompanying it, that the circulation of the Magazine is about twenty thousand copies monthly. In the ancient days of periodical literature—that is to say, before Harper's Giant showed the world what could be done—such a result as this would have been called astounding. We call it satisfactory. But the more important question is, Has this success been deserved? And does the Magazine possess qualities and capacities that fit it to supply any great want of the American people, and so entitle it to--not twenty or thirty—but a hundred or a hundred and fifty thousand subscribers ? Let us see! The six months' volume before us contains 572 pages, mostly printed in small and close, though clear and legible type. It has eighty illustrations (if we have counted rightly) -nearly all of them of the very best class of wood-cuts. In point of mechanical execution-paper and printing—the Magazine equals, if it does not surpass, any other published in America. In the working of the woodcuts, especially, the printers have gone beyond our expectations : better work has never been turned out of an American office.
Supposing now only that the matter with which these pages are filled is simply harmless reading, the book is a wonder of cheapness; for the subscriber has paid for this large and beautiful volume but one dollar. But how are the pages filled ? A glance at the table of contents will show that hardly any field of popular literature, art, or science, has been left ungleaned. And the gleaner has gone upon the principle of selecting from all these fields those fruits and flowers which have a general human interest rather than a special, technical, or class interest and thus offers, not food for this sort of people, or that, but a repast at which all tastes may be gratified. This is the very ideal of a popular magazine, as distinguished from a special or professional journal. And this ideal is realized in the NATIONAL. There are very few pages in it, from beginning to end, that would not interest all classes of readers alike.
What is more to the point, however, is, that not one of these pages is unsuitable for any reader, of any age, in a moral point of view. No allusion, even, of a sort likely to offend the purest mind, or to hurt the weakest, has found place here. And so, while the Magazine does not treat exclusively, or even chiefly, on religious topies, strictly so called, it treats of all topics in just the way which a well-balanced religious mind would treat them. But, besides this, Christianity, in a specific form, is distinctly recognised and expressed in every number; so that the influence of the whole work, --with all