« PrejšnjaNaprej »
them. The virtuous conduct which is the mere result of circumstances, is not virtue at all. It may wear its garb; it may receive even the homage of the world; but as we understand virtue, this is not it. The opposite view of the subject, which would give to circumstances a greater influence over the virtues of men than principle, would deaden all our faculties. We should be always calling on Jupiter for help, instead of putting our shoulder to the wheel, and vigorously trying what strength we have in ourselves. If circumstance is to mould us, and to limit our virtues, we have nothing to hope for, no moral or spiritual good to aspire after. We may, in that case, lie down in despair.
“Circumstance' is anything or nothing, according to the weakness or strength of character and principle to resist. It exists, at the best, only in some tangible shape, some physical obstruction, some caprice of fortune, or some bugbear of the mind. Virtue, conscience, duty !—the power of moral appreciation exists independently of all these. Though the whole world in arms is against the man of principle, he remains unmoved, self-controlled, and self-rewarded. You may imprison his body, or take
away his life, but you cannot deprive him of his principles. When the body dies, he believes that these principles of truth and duty will still survive. If not, why this feeling after immortality ? why this discrepancy between what we are, and what we woulil aspire to be? If circumstances make virtue, what becomes of virtue when circumstances vanish away? All sublunary things are merely circumstances, and will one day vanish to us all; but virtue, and the rewards of virtuous conduct, emanating from a spirit and principle within, will still survive. As * men’s outward fortunes do draw the inward quality after them, so it is natural to believe that, in a future state, this inward quality' will still draw after it the superior blessings of immortality.
Even in the outward circumstances of life, why do we choose certain individuals for place of trust and responsibility, but because we think their principles are proof against the temptations of circumstances. the same with public men-the self-denying spirit which makes the patriot and martyr to principle, and to duty, this is their only passport to confidence and true fame, and it is the only passport to our confidence on behalf of the poorest man we employ. The same applies to all moral reformers, and to every individual man : you will find that the virtue is the amount of resistance which they have shown to circumstance. We teach this lesson to our children, as the only solid basis of all moral training : 6 when wicked men entice thee, consent thou not;' when allured by the blandishments of transitory pleasure, look forward to futurity; when the days are dark, and the storms of trouble are threatening to overwhelm thee, still hold on to principle—be above circumstances !
Even in temporal affairs, the advantages of being self-sustained by a fixed principle are most apparent. Men go into the wilderness of the world surrounded by the most adverse circumstances; but the true man never despairs, so long as hu has confidence in his principles and in himself. He proceeds to do battle with them all : he fells the forests, he ploughs the fields, he sows his seeds, and in due time he reaps his reward.
This subject might be illustrated by the experience of every-day life. How notorious is the fact, that those children who have had the most done for them by circumstances, frequently turn out the least serviceable members of society! Pamper your offspring by circumstances, protect them and smother them with kindness, and you cannot take a more direct means of enfeebling their characters, and of robbing them of all genuine principle. On the other hand, who have always been the really influential and strong men of the day? Who are the men who have learned to endure hardness,' who can buffet most successfully against the frowns of fortune? Are they not generally those who are self-formed, who have done everything for themselves, who have had nothing to trust to but their own inward energies ?
The same principle holds good in science, in literature, and in artistic eminence. It is not chartered universities, nor royal societies, nor the patronage of the great, which has prodnced the most splendid results. No: the fostering of circumstances alone never produced genius, nor virtue, nor eminence of any kind, and never will. It never produced a Watt or an Arkwright, a Stephenson or a Dalton. It never produced a poet like him
• Who walked in glory and in joy,
Following his plough upon the mountain side.' The same may be said of religion, or rather of the fostering and patronizing influence of religious professions.
If circumstances without effort produced virtue, then those countries should be the most virtuous which are the most favorably situated as to natural advantages. The orange-groves and vineyards of Spain and Italy, one would think, should be abodes of virtue and of patriotism, if easy circumstances, and the absence of obstacles, could produce it. But what is the fact? As Goldsmith says, “Whilst
In florid beauty groves and fields appear,
Man is the only growth that dwindles here.' The high rewards of virtue, it would appear, are not offered to the merely acquiescent and passive spectator of the scene. The most amiable dispositions even degenerate when not called into active exertion. The strength to suffer, and the will to serve,' are not acquired by sitting down contentedly with things as we find them. It is not by living a butterfly or caterpillar existence, and merely taking the color of surrounding circumstances, that eminence or virtue of any kind can be attained.
But besides all this, the advocates of the supremacy of circumstances' destroy every vestige of human responsibility! You must then passively submit to a worse than Asiatic apathy or Turkish fatalism. Duty is no more! You have merely to consult your convenience, your pride, your covetousness, or your lust; and these will find ready instruments of gratification in the circumstances around you. Every fiend that could minister to the evil passions of man would then be let loose, and the world would become one great pandemonium of villainy and corruption. • Man, so noble in reason, so infinite in faculties, in action so like an angel, and in apprehension so like a god,' is then, after all, the mere sport
of circumstances! Why, this is the most degrading and injurious view of human nature vou could possibly take. For what are these high faculties, these godlike instincts given to us, but that we may vindicate the supremacy of our moral being, and make the world and ourselves better by a continual warfare with circumstances. The man of principle has a talisman in his own breast which makes circumstances his slave. In mere worldly affairs, by the force of principle, we may as Shakspeare says, “pluck out of the nettle danger, the flower safety. We may extract a soul of good out of things' apparently evil.?
We would freely admit the enormous power of circumstances in moulding men's manners, and in ieconciling them to the customs around them. No person who has observed the monotony, the sameness, and the common place character of the mass of mankind, but must be struck with the enormous influence of circumstances in producing the results. Even men's opinions may appear to be the result of circumstances; but these are merely the floating heresay opinions of the day, and are of no use to their possessors, or to the world. It is because the world is too much with us, because we have given our hearts away,' that we are so miserably dependent on external opinions and circumstances. When we ascend to the regions of moral truth, to principles, we are altogether in a higher sphere-we no longer passively submit to be thought for, and moulded by others: we begin to think for ourselves; to appropriate principles as our own; and as individuals, and though alone, can confidently fall back upon then in the day of need. A man like this is selfguided, and he becomes strong; and prevails so long as the motto of his shield is to bide by the right. There is no right and no wrong in human conduct, if you are the sport of circumstances;' no satisfactions of conscience for having stood by the right, no moral or spiritual progress for man, if he once embraces this degrading creed. No man can then be trusted in the common affairs of life : you give up the great principle of integrity between man and man: honor, faith, truth, and adherence to them, regardless of consequences, are then no moje : you are then to wander forth into an unknown wilderness without a guide, and to sail on a trackless ocean without a compass, a rudder, or a chart, and with no haven of rest in prospect before you.
In these unbelieving times, it is difficult to make people perceive the mighty efforts which may spring from simple adherence to principle, even by a single individual. The world seems not to believe it, until some one man puts them all to the blush by adhering to, and suffering for, his principles. It is melancholy, in looking over the dreary waste of history, to find so few individuals, out of the vast mass, who have acted from principle such as we have attempted to describe. This may be truly described as the great tragedy of the world. Still there are a few, and these few comprise the moral history and progress of mankind. By these the waverer is confirmed and called back to duty—the apathetic, and morally dead, are resuscitated to life and activity. It was one of
moral principle, one act of resistance to circumstances, which made Joseph the saviour of his adopted country, and the deliverer of his people. There are a few kindred names in our modern history, and they are the turning points of freedom, of reformation, and of religion. When the world stood aghast with fear, and was ready to give up the cause, these men of principle stepped into the breach, and turned the battle to the gate. Luther was made of materials like this; so were Ridley and Latimer, and a host of the early martyrs. By adhering to principle, Pym, and Hampden, and Cromwell wrested the sceptre from one of the proudest monarchies of the world, and saved their country from despotism; by adhering to principle, Greek and Roman sages, and patriots and philosophers, have covered all future ages with traces of their classic glory. Even the deities in their pantheons are representatives of moral heroism, symbolising often in the rudest forms the triumphs of circumstance-defying principle. By principle, Washington saved his country from a foreign yoke, and founded that vast republic which is now the ark of refuge for the miseries and destitution of the world; by principle, Tell kindled in the mountains anil valleys of Switzerland a love of freedom which will never die; by principle, more than by her armies and navies, our own beloved country reniains to this day the arbiter of Europe, and amidst all her troubles and perplexities, still possesses the undiminished confidence of the world. It is by the high principles of individual, exhibited under trying circumstances, that any nation ever became truly great; and it is by the want of it that so many have decayed away. In the language of Scripture, the time would fail to tell' of those deathless names who, through faith in principle, and in opposition to circumstances, have wrought righteousness, and waxed valiant in fight in the moral warfare of the world. The time would also fail to tell of those still more interesting triumphs of principle which are every day exhibited in the quiet recesses of private life—the integrity of dependents, the mutual assistance of the poor, the kindness shown to the aged and infirm, the tenderness which hovers over the couch of sickness, and which seeks out the prisoner in his cell, the benevolence of neighbors, and the faithfulness of friends, these bad as the world is, are suilicient to cast a halo of moral greatness over the destinies of man, which circumstances can neither give nor take away.
Investigation of the true Principles that Paper Money ought to be
Men who have made it their study to investigate the peculiarities of the human mind, have found out that it is prone, in its eagerness after knowledge, to be over ingenious in its attempts at discoveries, and that the proper application of simple principles is generally lost sight of by the most talented men existing; those principles wherewith they are familiar from their infancy, appear to be below their mental vision, they are all the time stretching upwards the powers of their minds to discover something new.
Numberless instances might be given, confirming the strict truth of the above observation. The following one is striking.
The Greeks and the Romans were well aware of the principle which was the cause that their wheeled chariots rolled faster on a smooth surface than on a rough one; they were well aware, moreover, of the great advantages of rapid communication and quick travelling; they had the materials and the capacity to make rails, and yet, they never thought of making the proper application of the simple principle they were familiar with, to the construction of rail-roads; thousands of years have elapsed since, carrying away innumerable generations of ingenious and scientific men, and it is only within less than half a century, that the proper application of said simple principle has been made.
The propriety of the above remarks, as an introduction to the subject that it is intended to treat herein, will soon be perceived by the intelligent reader.
The general suspension of the Banks which took place in 1837, led the writer of this article to investigate the general system of our currency, and he became convinced, not only that the system of said currency was erroneous, but that the system of Paper Money itself, was based upon a radical error. The broad truth flashed to his mind, that the true principle that Paper Money ought to be based upon, had been disregarded and overleaped, on account, no doubt, of its simplicity; but in order that the result of his investigation may be easily understood, a few condensed, preliminary remarks, as to the origin and progress of Banking, will be found necessary.
Gold and Silver have been used by nearly all ancient and modern nations, as a means of exchange and barter for all articles of first necessity, raw materials, manufactured goods, and generally, all kinds of property whatsoever; the comparative scarcity of those precious metals, and the convenient form and weight of the fractional parts thereof, which constitute what has been called “Money," have, no doubt, been the principal reasons which have induced nations, generally, to adopt Gold and Silver as the representatives of property.
Paper Money is an invention of modern times. The persecution against the Jews, in the middle ages, led them to contrive means which might enable them to remove the value of their Gold and Silver from one country to another, without transporting with them the precious metals which excited the cupidity of their oppressors ; Bills of Exchange, and Promissory Notes, were then devised.
Banks, issuing certificates on deposits of gold or silver, were first established in Venice, Genoa, and Amsterdam. The depositors of the precious metals received these certificates, or checks, and used them in their mercantile transactions as representatives of their gold and silver, saving thereby, (by paying the Bank a small commission,) labor, transportation, and risk of robbery. Thus far, banking was based on a safe principle. (The certificates issued, never exceeded in amount the total of the gold