« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
looking the turbid Missouri.” It is an interesting fact, that the remains of both now repose in the vicinity of Frankfort, Kentucky. It was fitting that the mighty Nimrod of the West should lie amid those scenes of delight which feasted his eyes when he first gazed upon those swelling oceans of forest verdure from the summits of mountain ranges. It was fitting that gentle Rebecca Bryan, the first white woman whose feet ever pressed the banks of the beautiful Kentucky, should slumber upon its borders. It was a noiseless transition, compared with that in which, at a later period, the ashes of the conqueror of Europe burst from their island prison-tomb and laid their plebeian length beside the monarch chivalry of Gaul! It was scarcely less sublime. There is something inspiring in the idea of slumbering till the judgment in close proximity with the mighty dead! Westminster Abbey, the urn of the ashes of English greatness, commends itself as a desirable resting-place. Yet, with the true American, it should bear no comparison with repose in soil hallowed by the presence of that prince of discoverers, the great Columbus! It is a touching fact, and yet one not generally known, that the cis-Atlantic soil, the soil of our own birth and burial, is the tomb of the ashes of its great navigator. Kentucky did herself honour in covering the relics of her departed " PIONEER" with the soil he explored and aided to defend.
The life of Boone is not the property of Kentucky or the Westit belongs to his country; and although, like other lives, it is mainly one of local adventure and incident, it finds its appropriate place in the Library of AMERICAN Biography. It has long been before the public, and has become indeed a part of the history of Kentucky and the Union. The present author has rendered essential service in pruning it of fictions, and presenting it to the world a work, among whose various attractions not the least in rank and importance is its reliableness.
1. The Works of Plato. A new and literal version, chiefly from the text of
Stallbaum. Vols. I-V. London: Henry G. Bohn, Classical Library. 1848–1852. 2. The Memorable Things of Socrates. Written by Xenophon, in five books.
Translated into English. To which is prefixed the Life of Xenophon. Collected from several authors, together with some account of his writings. London. Printed for George Sawbridge at the Three Golden Flower d’lys in Little
Britian. 1712. 3. The Life of Socrates. By M. Charpentier. Translated into English. London,
1712. 4. A Life of Socrates. By Dr. G. Wiggers. Translated from the German, with
Notes. London, 1840. 5. Thirlwall’s History of Greece. Vol. I. New-York: Harper & Brothers. 1845. 6. History of Greece. By George Grote, Esq. Vol. VIII. Boston, 1852.
THERE are some lives that seem never to lose their interest to the human race by the lapse of time. Springing as they do from the great heart of human things, and embodying elements of unchangeable value, they never cease to awake an answering throb of sympathy in the soul of man. There is, after all, a deep identity of nature that links the whole race in bonds of brotherhood, so that when we understand our common nature in one of its developments, we understand it better in all the rest, and when we meet one of its largest and best types, we are drawn to its study by an irresistible interest. Such a nature is that of Socrates. The history of its development has arrested the admiring study of more than twenty centuries, and yet possesses an exhaustless interest that is as fresh to us as it was to the most reverent Academic that ever cherished the memory of his great master. On these general grounds, therefore, it were well to refresh our memories, and extend our knowledge in regard to one so well worth our study. But as Christians, there are peculiar reasons for this task, as will probably appear in the sequel. There is no heathen life that contains so many elements of interest to us as that of Socrates, for none came so near what Christianity requires, none furnished such a model of conduct to instruct and reprove those who have a better and surer word of prophecy, and none showed so clearly how much man at his highest development needs a light from heaven. The recent investigations of Mr. Grote have thrown new light on certain questions connected with the life of Socrates, and rendered a revision of it the more necessary. Without then undertaking to discuss all the points of his history, or to consider his character as a philosopher, or the extent of his contributions to the metaphysical capital of the race, we propose simply to present some of those aspects of his life and character that a cursory examination of the original sources of his history has impressed
upon our minds.
Socrates, son of Sophroniscus, a statuary, and Phænerete, a midwife, was born on the 6th of the month Thargelion, in the 4th year of the 77th Olympiad, about the 16th of May, B. C. 468. Athens having incorporated many of the adjacent tribes into its municipality, it was customary to designate this fact in describing an individual in any legal document. Socrates in such a reckoning was of the borough of Alopece, and belonged to the tribe Antiochis. Of his early life we know but little, except some rumours of filial insubordination, which, although reaching us through a hostile channel, are not wholly out of keeping with the gnarled texture of his natural character. He learned the trade of his father, and it is even said that some products of his chisel were allowed to adorn the Acropolis. At the
age of seventeen he placed himself under the tuition of Archelaus, a disciple of the sceptical Anaxagoras, and applied himself to the study of natural science. But this, among the Greeks at this time, was wholly a different thing from that noble and massive product of observation and induction that we know by this name. It consisted of a few meagre and undigested observations of natural phenomena, smothered over with a mass of puerile frivolities and anile conceits, that soon disgusted such a mind as that of Socrates, and led him to turn from such shadowy speculations to subjects more practical and intelligible. It seems difficult at this day, when physical science is so much more practical than metaphysical, to conceive how their positions could have ever been reversed; and yet it is obvious that mere theorizings about the heavenly bodies, the elements, the origin of the gods and men, and similar themes, were barren figments, incapable of verification, or of application to the things of common life; whilst an examination into the principles of human action, where there was no revealed rule of faith and practice, was as obviously susceptible of the most valuable use. Hence he totally abandoned natural science, as a field incapable of exploration, and turned his attention to that which was most patent to his observation, the science of right knowing and right living, or ethics in its largest application to the powers of the human soul and the things of common life.
The period of Athenian history, in which Socrates lived, was remarkable on some accounts, and tended to give caste to his character. It was a period of great national glory, without being preëminently a period of great men. Marathon, "Thermopylæ, and Salamis had placed Athens in envied supremacy, as the queen of the world. But most of the mighty spirits whose heroism and genius had won these triumphs were gone. Miltiades and Themistocles had passed away, and the year that gave Socrates birth recorded the death of Aristides and the first poetical triumph of Sophocles. The grand old Æschylus, whose lofty spirit delighted to revel in scenes of terrible sublimity, was bending with age, while the pure-hearted Sophocles, and the polished Euripides, were gradually losing their hold on the popular mind, and their stately tragedies giving place to the buffooneries of Kratinus and the lampoons of Aristophanes. Pericles, the polished and peerless monarch of this proud democracy, had flung around Athens some of the splendour of his own great genius; but he had also planted in it some of its elements of decay. He crowned the Acropolis with the marble miracles of the Parthenon and the Propylæa, adorned them with the splendid taste of a Phidias, and fired the people with an indomitable tenacity of purpose that preserved them from overthrow in after times of peril. But he also breathed into them a more restless spirit of pride, a more grasping spirit of rapacity, and a “manifest destiny” spirit of covetous greed; and by giving entrance money for the theatre and pay for the public assemblies from the treasury, he established a system that in the end corrupted the people and impoverished the state. But the immediate effect of his measures was to give a prodigious activity to the general intellect of Athens. The gains of conquest having relieved the mass of the people from the need of daily labour for their daily bread, they had leisure to meet in the legislative and judicial assemblies of the state, or mingle with the crowds that thronged the porticoes and public walks of that beautiful city. These daily meetings brought mind into collision with mind, and gave a quickness, spring, and acumen to the Athenian intellect that was unparalleled. That restless activity of mind, which in modern free states is expended in commerce, and the industrial pursuits of life, by the peculiar arrangements of Athenian society, in which there was neither scope nor necessity for such efforts on an extended scale, was turned to the discussion of questions of political and metaphysical philosophy. This gave an amazing impulse to the Athenian intellect, and created the circumstances in which the mind of Socrates received its earliest training. Day by day would the young sculptor, with his broad shoulders, his clear gazing eyes, and his keen intellect, mingle with these crowds, listen to their discussions, ponder their opinions, and, as occasion served, join in these colloquial combats with all the zest of an eager disputant.
But there was another peculiarity in Athenian society that also acted powerfully on the development of its intellect. All the move
ments of state, and most of the judicial causes, were decided in public assemblies. In these every man was expected to plead his own cause. Now as a man's property, influence, reputation, and even life, often depended on his ability to convince a popular assembly, the art of doing so was naturally very desirable. This gave rise to a class of teachers who professed to prepare men to argue with triumphant success on any subject whatever. As adroitness in this kind of intellectual swordplay was greatly admired, and often highly advantageous, it would be sought with great avidity, and at any cost. The men who professed to teach it would naturally become a set of mere word-wranglers, intellectual Swiss mercenaries, pretending to knowledge on every subject, indifferent to truth on any, and stuffed with the pride of mere pretension. Hence, by a natural process, the Sophists became a class of boasters, sciolists, and sceptics, unsettling all solid foundations of opinion, that they might prepare the way for maintaining any opinion, inventing a set of logical puzzles and juggleries that confounded, if they did not convince the multitude, and by making men equally prepared to defend truth and falsehood, they made them equally indifferent to both. · Mr. Grote's vindication of the Sophists is one of the most interesting portions of his valuable work, and shows clearly that odium has unjustly been heaped upon them; but after all it is, in some respects, only a very ingenious specimen of special pleading. His plea for them, that they were simply the professors of that day, teaching the prevalent forms of science, whilst it exempts them from the charge of peculiar depravity, by no means clears them from the charge of injuring the tone of the public mind. It was precisely because they did teach the prevalent philosophy, instead of something better, and because they sought to make men expert logical swordsmen, able to defend themselves from any charge however true, rather than to lead them to know and love the truth, that their influence was so pernicious. When men are prepared to defend indifferently truth and falsehood, they become equally indifferent to both, and from indifference to truth the transition is easy and certain to the blankest scepticism. Moreover, the ability to defend any proposition is incompatible with genuine knowledge, and can only exist in a mind whose knowledge is superficial and verbal, and which has never penetrated to the essential verities of things. The word-knowledge and logical dexterity, taught by the Sophists, would naturally, therefore, tend to puff their pupils with a conceitof knowledge that concealed even from themselves a real ignorance. Hence, whilst it was true that the celebrated Sophists, who taught in Athens, prepared their pupils to act their part in the restless life of that turbulent democracy,