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THE RESPONSIBLE DUTIES AND RELATIONS
OF THE UNITED STATES.
We honor the pioneer! We reverence him as the early agent of Providence in all those great changes of life which constitute the improvement of the world. We speak of the pioneer in an enlarged sense, as the discoverer of new regions, new agents, new laws, new beauties, and new combinations in the natural world, as well as new truths in the moral world. He seems to be endowed with an instinct superior to reason, a gift from his Maker to extend the limits of knowledge, and the great purposes of divine beneficence.
We find him in the wilderness, self-exiled from the refinements of civilization, inviting labor, enduring hardships, incurring dangers, - a willing neighbor to the savage. We find him upon the ocean, in the frail constructed bark, without instructions from man, ploughing the trackless deep, with no chart of his destined shores but that of faith. We find him in the icy regions of the poles, though aided by the light of science, but still the same unyielding and self-sacrificing spirit, reaching forward to burst the boundaries of his view. We find him in the laboratory and in the workshop, in the halls of legislation and in the observatory. We find him in the caverns of the earth, in the depths of the sea, in the vaults of the ancients, in the crater of the volcano, on the summit of the highest mountain, and borne by the chariot of science above and beyond the tempests of the sky. We find him, too, in the missions of the gospel to distant lands; we find him struggling in the cause of freedom ; earnest and bold in all reforms, and a ministering angel of sympathy in the cause of suffering humanity.
COLUMBUS AND THE PURITANS, THE GREAT PIONEERS OF THE FIFTEENTH AND SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES.
It was an extraordinary period in the history of the world, when the western voyages of Columbus were projected, and which led to the discovery of the American continent.* His aim was dignity, rank, and wealth, and these were sought with the noblest motives. The vast gains that he anticipated from his discoveries, he intended to appropriate to princely purposes to institutions for the relief of the poor of his native city, to the foundation of churches, and, above all, to crusades for the recovery of the holy sepulchre.f Endowed with talents of a high order, with a poetical temperament, a fervent piety, and, withal, a bigot's zeal, he was eminently fitted for such a mission.
* An unparalleled impulse was given, about this period, to the progress of European civilization, by the simultaneous invention, or at least introduction from the East, of the mariner's compass, gunpowder and artillery, an improved system of arithmetic, and the art of printing. Combined with these were a renewed study of the Roman law, the cultivation of Greek literature, the restoration of the fine arts, and the opening of new paths of industry and commercial enterprise. — See Taylor's Natural History of Society.
The state of geographical knowledge at the period when the continent of America was discovered, may be inferred from the treaty of Tordesillas, made June 7, 1494, in which were determined “the principles on which the vast extent of unappropriated empire, in the eastern and western hemispheres, was ultimately divided between two petty states of Europe.” — See Prescott's Ferdinand and Isabella, Vol. II. p. 181.
+ Irving's Columbus.
All was done in the name of the Holy Trinity, and through his sovereigns, he owned no master but his God.
Such was the character of Columbus. He discovered the continent of America, but it was left to other pioneers to people and to subdue it.. His was the zeal of the Holy Catholic church, theirs was the zeal of reform. He carried the banner of St. Peter, they were the followers of Martin Luther. They were all inquirers after truth, but the declarations of the pope, and the protest of the sons of Britain, were alike the sources of zeal, faith, and sacrifice all were prepared for martyrdom, each for his own form of faith. Columbus died ignorant of the extent of his own discovery,* and the Puritans died without a knowledge of the freedom which they had secured for their children and the world.
The Puritans -- filled with a self-respect that knew no laws but those of duty, moved by a sense of accountability that acknowledged no ruler but God — preferred the foreign wilderness with the rights of conscience, with unrestrained devotion, to the firesides of home made bitter by oppression. They were the pioneers of the moral world ; they were the defenders of the mind's integrity, of the soul's best good, of man's high destiny.t We have no occasion to refer the reader to the well-known history of the Puritans ; it would be as useless as an artist's chart to find the noonday sun in a cloudless sky. We point him to our country AS IT IS, with the proud conviction that all who read our pages have knowledge of WHAT IT WAS.
* He supposed Hispaniola to be the ancient Ophir, which had been visited by the ships of King Solomon, and that Cuba and Terra Firma were but remote parts of Asia.
† It is well remarked by an intelligent author, (De Tocqueville,) that “the emigrants who fixed themselves on the shores of America, in the beginning of the 17th century, severed the democratic principle from all the principles which repressed it in the old communities of Europe, and transplanted it unalloyed to the New World. It has there been allowed to spread in perfect freedom, and to put forth its consequences in the laws, by influencing the manners of the country.”
THE PURITANS AND THE INDIANS. As colonists of Great Britain, our fathers were permitted to enjoy a new world in its freedom and freshness. They had the aid of the wisdom of the parent country, without its concomitant evils and follies ; the health and energies of its maturity without the infirmities of age. Separated by a vast ocean, and thrown upon their own resources, they acquired habits and views peculiar to themselves. The cold climate and rock-bound soil of New England were circumstances favorable to physical strength and industry. The wily Indian soon taught them the necessity of self-protection, and their dangers and hardships gave them those stern and hardy virtues which still bless their children's children.
It has often been the theme of the orator and poet, to speak of the great injustice done by the Puritans to the sons of the forest ; to assert that the Indian was the lawful possessor of the soil, and to lament that our fathers were guilty of stupendous wrong to a simple-hearted and ignorant race, by assuming the control of the land and gradually displacing the native from the home of his fathers.
Without pausing here to speak particularly of the principles of the subject, the remark may be made, that these views, probably, have been expressed without that examination which is always and imperatively required in matters involving charges of such magnitude. It is maintained by persons eminent for their learning and integrity, that the records bear evidence that the Puritans were scrupulously honest in their transactions with the Indians. That there were no exceptions, we are not prepared to say, for, in truth, such an assertion cannot properly be made of any people. But it is our humble opinion, based upon some examination of the subject, and yet more confidently relying upon the views of others than our own, - that the Puritans were true to their standard of integrity, which involved the interests of two and widely different races. The Indian was ferocious, sensual, and superstitious. Knowledge confounded him, and the conventional distinctions of society were nothing to him but chaos. He could see no objects of life above the existence of the body; no property, but in the implements of destruction, or in the extent of his hunting-grounds. He coveted nothing so much as the strange novelties of the white man, and when he consented to sell a small lot of land, it was doubtless his belief that he had made a gain without decreasing his privileges, and that the loss, if any, was on the part of those who gave away their wonders without an equivalent. That the standard of knowledge and duty of the Puritans was a very different one, all will admit; but it was their necessity that led them to the adoption of particular modes of dealing adapted to the condition, views, and capacities of the barbarian. Besides, they could have had no definitive belief in what their own lot was to be in this new land. Religious freedom was paramount to all other considerations. Physical subsistence was admitted to be necessary, even indispensable ; and it was important, too, that conventional laws should be observed in regard to property; but, as they viewed this world of but little consequence, the mere temporary dwelling-place of the soul, a place of probation to fit them for another existence, they doubtless felt that their relation to the savage, in the providence of God, was one of a spiritual nature, rather than one of temporal interests, – and, in making bargains with the natives, they were influenced by none of those selfish motives which are so often manifested and condemned in civilized countries. According to our present standard of knowledge, the Puritans were ignorant and big. oted. This cannot be said of them as true in their own times. The predominating element in their character, the spirit of religious freedom, was the same, whether it concerned the rights of the Catholic, or of the Protestant. It was not the mode of belief, it was not the standard of knowledge, but it was in this great principle, - that the individual had an inalienable right to worship his Maker according to the desires of his own soul, according to the convictions of his own mind, however peculiar, however different from established systems, his form