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10. These stupendous calculations, however, form but the first column of the inventory of the universe. Faint white specks are visible even to the naked eye of a practised observer in different parts of the heavens. Under high magnifying powers, several thousands of such spots are visible — no longer, however, faint white specks, but many of them resolved by powerful telescopes into vast aggregations of stars, each of which may with propriety be compared with the milky way of our system.
11. It may be thought that conceptions like these are calculated rather to depress than to elevate us in the scale of being; that, banished as he is by these contemplations to a corner of creation, and there reduced to an atom, man sinks to nothingness in this infinity of worlds. But a second thought corrects the impression. These vast contemplations are well calculated to inspire awe, but not abasement. Mind and matter are incommensurable. An immortal soul, even while clothed in this “muddy vesture of decay,” is, in the eye of God and reason, a purer essence than the brightest sun that lights the depths of heaven.
12. The organized human eye, instinct with life and spirit, which, gazing through the telescope, travels up to the cloudy speck in the handle of Orion's sword, and bids it blaze forth into a galaxy as vast as ours, stands higher in the order of being than all that host of luminaries. The intellect of Newton, which discovered the law that holds the revolving worlds together, is a nobler work of God than a universe of universes of unthinking matter.
13. If we adopt the supposition that the countless planetary worlds which attend these countless suns are the abodes of rational beings like man, instead of bringing back from this exalted conception a feeling of insignificance, as if the individuals of our race were but
poor atoms in the infinity of being, I regard it, on the contrary, as a glory of our human nature that it belongs to a family, which no man can number, of rational natures like itself. In the order of being they may stand beneath us, or they may stand above us; he may well be content with his place who is made “a little lower than the angels.”
LXXV. - CHARACTER OF WASHINGTON.
1. At eleven years old, left an orphan to the care of an excellent but unlettered mother, he grew up without learning. Of arithmetic and geometry he acquired just knowledge enough to be able to practice measuring land; but all his instruction at school taught him not so much as the orthography or rules of grammar of his own tongue.
2. His culture was altogether his own work, and he was in the strictest sense a self-made man; yet from his early life he never seemed uneducated. At sixteen he went into the wilderness as surveyor, and for three years continued the pursuit, where the forest trained him, in meditative solitude, to freedom and largeness
of mind; and Nature revealed to him her obedience to serene and silent laws.
3. In his intervals from toil he seemed always to be attracted to the best men, and to be cherished by them. Fairfax, his employer, an Oxford scholar, already aged, became his fast friend. He read little, but with close attention. Whatever he took in hand, he applied himself to with care; and his papers, which have been preserved, show how he almost imperceptibly gained the power of writing correctly ; always expressing himself with clearness and directness, often with felicity of language and grace.
4. Courage was so natural to him, that it was hardly spoken of to his praise: no one ever at any moment of his life discovered in him the least shrinking from danger; and he had a hardihood of daring which escaped notice, because it was so enveloped by superior calmness and wisdom.
5. He was as cheerful as he was spirited; frank and communicative in the society of friends; fond of the fox-chase and the dance; often sportive in his letters; and liked a hearty laugh. This joyousness of disposition remained to the last, though the vastness of his responsibilities was soon to take from him the right of displaying the impulsive qualities of his nature, and the weight which he was to bear up was to overlay and repress his gayety and openness.
6. His hand was liberal; giving quietly and without observation, as though he were ashamed of nothing but being discovered in doing good. He was kindly and compassionate, and of lively sensibility to the sorrows of others : so that, if his country had only needed a victim for its relief, he would have willingly offered himself as a sacrifice. But while he was prodigal of himself, he was considerate for others; ever parsimonious of the blood of his countrymen.
7. His faculties were so well balanced and combined, that his constitution, free from excess, was tempered evenly with all the elements of activity, and his mind resembled a well-ordered commonwealth: his passions, which had the intensest vigor, owned allegiance to reason; and, with all the fiery quickness of his spirit, his impetuous and massive will was held in check by consummate judgment. He had in his composition a calm which gave him, in moments of highest excitement, the power of self-control, and enabled him to excel in patience, even when he had most cause for disgust. Washington was offered a command when there was little to bring out the unorganized resources of the continent but his own influence, and authority was connected with the people by the most frail, most attenuated, scarcely discernible threads; yet, vehement as was his nature, impassioned as was his courage, he so restrained his ardor, that he never failed continuously to exert the attracting power of that influence, and never exerted it so sharply as to break its force.
8. His understanding was lucid, and his judgment accurate; so that his conduct never betrayed hurry or confusion. No detail was too minute for his personal inquiry and continued supervision; and at the same
time he comprehended events in their widest aspects and relations. He never seemed above the object that engaged his attention; and he was always equal, without an effort, to the solution of the highest questions, even when there existed no precedents to guide his decision.
9. In this way he never drew to himself admiration for the possession of any one quality in excess; never made in council any one suggestion that was sublime but impracticable; never in action took to himself the praise or the blame of undertakings astonishing in conception, but beyond his means of execution. It was the most wonderful accomplishment of this man, that, placed upon the largest theater of events, at the head of the greatest revolution in human affairs, he never failed to observe all that was possible, and at the same time to bound his aspirations by that which was possible.
10. Profoundly impressed with confidence in God's providence, and exemplary in his respect for the forms of public worship, no philosopher of the eighteenth century was more firm in the support of freedom of religious opinion ; none more tolerant, or more remote from bigotry; but belief in God, and trust in his overruling power, formed the essence of his character. Divine wisdom not only illumines the spirit, it inspires the will.
11. Washington was a man of action, and not of theory or words: his creed appears in his life, not in his professions, which burst from him very rarely, and only