« PreviousContinue »
ment, no lust of power, place, favor, profit or pleasure, can cause to swerve from the strict rule of right, is the perfection of man's moral nature. In this sense, the poet was right, when he pronounced 'an honest man the noblest work of God.' It is almost inconceivable what an erect and independent spirit this high endowment communicates to the man, and what a moral intrepidity and vivifying energy it imparts to his character. There is a family alliance between all the virtues, and perfect integrity is always followed by a train of goodly qualities, frankness, benevolence, humanity, patriotism, promptness to act, and patience to endure. In moments of public need, these indicate the man who is worthy of universal confidence. Erected on such a basis, and built up of such materials, fame is enduring. Such is the fame of our WASHINGTON, of the man 'inflexible to ill and obstinately just.' While, therefore, other monuments, intended to perpetuate human greatness, are daily moldering into dust, and belie the proud inscriptions which they bear, the solid granite pyramid of his glory lasts from age to age, imperishable, seen afar off, looming high over the vast desert, a mark, for the wayfarers through this pilgrimage of life.
A nice sense of integrity can not, therefore, be too early cherished, or too sedulously cultivated. In the very dawnings of life, occasions are presented for its exercise. Within these walls, tempta. tions every day occur, where temporary advantage solicits a deviation from the rule of right. In the discharge of the various duties which you owe to your companions, let no petty selfishness be indulged, no artifices practiced, by which you are to escape from your fair share of labor, inconvience or contribution, or any one deprived of the full measure of whatever he may rightfully claim. Cultivate singleness of purpose and frankness of demeanor, and hold in contempt whatever is sordid, disingenuous, cunning or mean. But it is when these peaceful shades shall have been left behind, and the fitful course of busy life begun, that seductions will be presented under every form by which inexperience, infirmity of purpose, and facility of disposition, can be waylaid. Then is the crisis of the young man's fate—then is the time to take his stand, to seize his vantage ground. If he can then defy the allurements of cupidity, sensuality, and ambition, the laugh of fools, the arts of parasites, and the contagion of improbity; then indeed, may be hope,
"In sight of mortal and immortal powers,
GOOD CONSCIENCE AND SELF-RELIANCE. In matters of right and wrong, whatever be the lures, the taunts, or the usages of the world, or whatever the supposed inconveniences of singularity, let judgment and conscience always rule with absolute sway. Carry this maxim with you through life, whatever be the station you are to occupy, or the business you are to pursue; and carry with it another kindred maxim, rely for success in your undertakings, not on the patronage of others, but on your own capacity, resolution, diligence, and exertions. Rise by merit, or rise not at all. Suited as these injunctions are believed to be to all, they are peculiarly addressed to those among you, wbo, panting for renown, are resolved to enter upon a public career, and long to read their history in a nation's eyes.'
*How wretched,' exclaims the Poet of Nature, 'is that poor man who hangs on Princes' favors.' Miserable is the condition of every being who hangs on the favors of creatures like himself. Deserve, and strive by desert, to win the esteem of your fellow-men. Thus acquired, it decorates him who obtains, and blesses those who bestow it. To them, it is returned in faithful service, and to him, it comes in aid of the approbation of conscience to animate diligence and reward exertion. Those too, who engage in public service, are bound to cherish a hearty sympathy with the wants, feelings, comforts, and wishes of the people whose welfare is committed to their charge. It is essential for the preservation of that confidence which ought to subsist between the principal and the agent, the constituent and the representative, that all haughtiness and reserve should be banished from their intercourse. It sometimes happens, that he who has lived too constantly among books manifests a disgust in an association with the uneducated and unrefined, which mortifies and repels them. This is absurd in him, and unjust to them. It is absurd, for he ought to know, and know well, those for whom, and upon whom, he expects to act—they constitute, in fact, one of the first and most appropriate objects of his study; and it is unjust, for not unfrequently, under this roughness wbich shocks the man of books, is to be found a stock of practical information, in which he is miserably deficient. Banish, then, all superciliousness, for it is criminal and ridiculous. Honestly seek to serve your country, for it is glorious to advance the good of your fellow-men, and thus, as far as feeble mortals may, act up to the great example of Him to whose image and likeness you are made. Seek also, by all honest arts, to win their confidence, but beware how you ever prefer their
favor to their service. The high road of service is indeed laborious, exposed to the rain and sun, the heat and dust; while the by-path of favor has, apparently, at first, much the same direction, and is bordered with flowers and sheltered by trees, “cooled with fountains and murmuring with waterfalls.' No wonder, then, that like the son of Abensina, in Johnson's beautifal Apologue, the young adrenturer is tempted to try the happy experiment of uniting pleasure with business, and gaining the rewards of diligence without suffering its fatigues. But once entered upon, the path of favor, though found to decline more and more from its first direction, is pursued through all its deviations, till at length, even the thought of return to the road of service is utterly abandoned. To court the fondness of the people, is found, or supposed to be, easier than to merit their approbation. Meanly ambitious of public trust, without the virtues to deserve it; intent on personal distinction, and having forgotten the ends for which alone it is worth possessing, the miserable being concentered all in self, learns to pander to every vulgar prejudice, to advocate every popular error, to chime in with every dominant party, to fawn, flatter, and deceive, and becomes a demagogne. How wretched is that poor being who hangs on the people's favor! All manliness of principle has been lost in this long course of meanness; he dare not use his temporary popularity for any purposes of public good, in which there may be a hazard of forfeiting it; and the very eminence to which he is exalted, renders but more conspicuous his servility and degredation. However clear the convictions of his judgment, however strong the admonitions of his, as yet, not thoroughly stifled conscience, not these, not the law of God, nor the rule of right, nor the public good—but the caprice of his constituents, must be his only guide. Having risen by artifice, and conscious of no worth to support him, he is in hourly dread of being supplanted in the favor of the deluded multitude by some more cunning deceiver. And such, sooner or later, is sure to be his fate. At some unlucky moment, when he bears his blushing honors thick upon him, (and well may such honors blush !) he is jerked from his elevation by some more dexterons demagogue, and falls unpitied, never to rise again. And can this be the lot of him who has been here trained to admire and love high-minded excellence-who has been taught by high classical authority to regard with the same fearless and immovable indifference, the stern countenance of the tyrant and the wicked ardor of the multitude, and who has learned from a yet higher and holier authority, to hold fast on whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are
just, whatsoever things are pure, to abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good ?' Believe me, however, this is no fancy picture. The original may be found in the world every day. Nor will it surprise those who have had occasion to see how the vain heart is swoln, and the giddy head turned, how honesty of purpose and manliness of spirit, are perverted by popular applause. It is but the first step that costs. Once yield to the suggestion, that a little deceit or prevarication, a slight sacrifice of principle and independence, a compromise of conscience in matters not absolutely fundainental, may be excused, when the immediate gain is obvious and the end in view important, and the downward path becomes every day more and more smooth, until, in its descent, it reach the very abyss of vulgar, trading, intriguing, electioneering, office-bunting politicians. If in this lowest depth, a lower deep can be found, none of us, I am sure, bave the curiosity to explore it.
PATRIOTISM IN A FREE COUNTRY.
In a country like ours, where the public will is wholly unfettered, and every man is a component part of that country, there is no individual so humble who has not duties of a public kind to discharge. His views and actions have an influence on those of others, and his opinions, with theirs, serve to make up that public will. More especially is this the case with those who, whatever may be their pursuits in life, bave been raised by education to a comparative superiority in intellectual vigor and attainments. On you, and such as you, depends the fate of the most precious heritage ever won by the valor, or preserved by the prudence, or consecrated by the virtue of an illustrious ancestry-illustrious, not because of factitious titles, but nature's nobles, wise, good, generous, and brave! To you, and such as you, will be confided in deposit, the institutions of our renowned and beloved country. Receive them with awe, cherish them with loyalty, and transmit them whole, and if possible, improved to your children. Yours will, indeed, be no sinecure office. As the public will is the operative spring of all public action, it will be your duty to make and to keep the public will enlightened. There will always be some error to dispel, some prejudice to correct, some illusion to guard against, some imposition to detect and expose. In aid of these individual efforts, you must provide, by public institutions, for diffusing among the people, that general information with.. out which they can not be protected from the machinations of deceivers. As your country grows in years, you must also cause it to grow in science, literature, arts, and refinement. It will be for you
to develop and multiply its resources, to check the faults of manners as they rise, and to advance the cause of industry, temperance, moderation, justice, morals, and religion, all around you. On you too, will devolve the duty which has been too long neglected, but which can not with impunity be neglected much longer, of providing for the mitigation, and (is it too much to hope for in North Carolina ?) for the ultimate extirpation of the worst evil that afflicts the Southern part of our Confederacy. Full well do you know to what I refer, for on this subject there is, with all of us, a morbid sensitiveness which gives warning even of an approach to it. Disguise the truth as we may, and throw the blame where we will, it is Slavery which, more than any other cause, keeps us back in the career of improvement. It stifles industry and represses enterprise -it is fatal to cconomy and providence—it discourages skill-impairs our strength as a community, and poisons morals at the fountain head. How this evil is to be encountered, how subdued, is indeed a difficult and delicate inquiry, which this is not the time to examine, nor the occasion to discuss. I felt, however, that I could not discharge my duty, without referring to this subject, as one which ought to engage the prudence, moderation, and firmness of those who, sooner or later, must act decisively upon it.
AN AMERICAN-NOT A SECTIONAL SPIRIT. I would not depress your buoyant spirits with gloomy anticipations, but I should be wanting in frankness, if I did not state my conviction that you will be called to the performance of other duties unusually grave and important. Perils surround you and are immi. nent, which will require clear heads, pure intentions, and stout hearts, to discern and to overcome. There is no side on which danger may not make its approach, but from the wickedness and madness of factions, it is most menacing. Time was, indeed, when factions contended amongst us with virulence and fury; but they were, or affected to be, at issue on questions of principle; now, Americans band together under the names of men, and wear the livery, and put on the badges of their leaders. Then, the individuals of the different parties were found side by side, dispersed throughout the various districts of our confederated Republic; but now the parties that distract the land, are almost identified with our geographical distinctions. Now, there has come that period, foreseen and dreaded by our Washington, by him who, more than
other individual, founded this our wide-spreading Empire, and gave to our western world independence and freedom'-by him, who with a father's