Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

this country, the controversy between the Spiritualists and the Materialists. Why should time be wasted in disputing about two substances, when both parties agree that neither knows anything about either

If spirit is an abstraction, a conjecture, a chimera ; matter is an abstraction, a conjecture, a chimera ; for we know as much, or rather as little, about one as the other. We may read Cudworth, Le Clerc, Leibnitz, Berkley, Hume, Bolingbroke and Priestley, and a million other volumes in all ages, and be obliged at last to confess that we have learned nothing. Spirit and matter still remain riddles. Define the terms, however, and the controversy is soon settled. If spirit is an active something, and matter an inactive something, it is certain that one is not the other. We can no more conceive that extension, or solidity, can think, or feel, or see, or hear, or taste, or smell; than we can conceive that perception, memory, imagination, or reason, can remove a mountain, or blow a rock. This enigma has puzzled mankind from the beginning, and probably will to the end. Economy of time requires that we should waste no more in so idle an amusement.

In the eleventh discourse of Sir William Jones, before the Asiatic Society, vol. iii., page 229, of his works, we find that Materialists and Immaterialists existed in India, and that they accused each other of atheism, before Berkley, or Priestley, or Dupuis, or Plato, or Pythagoras, were born.

Indeed, Newton himself appears to have discovered nothing that was not known to the ancient Indians. He has only furnished more complete demonstrations of the doctrines they taught. Sir John Malcolm agrees with Jones and Dupuis, in the Astrological origin of heathen mythologies. Vain man! mind your own business! Do no wrong ;—do all the good you can! Eat your canvas-back ducks! Drink your Burgundy! Sleep your siesta when necessary, and TRUST IN GOD!

What a mighty bubble, what a tremendous waterspout, has Napoleon been, according to his life, written by himself! He says he was the creature of the principles and manners of the

age; by which, no doubt, he means the age of Reason; the progress of Manilius' Ratio, of Plato's Logos, &c. I believe him. A whirlwind raised him, and a whirlwind blowed him away to St. Helena. He is very confident that the age of Reason is not past, and so am I; but I hope that Reason will never again rashly and hastily create such creatures as him. Liberty, equality, fraternity, and humanity, will never again, I hope, blindly surrender themselves to an unbounded ambition for national conquests, nor implicitly commit themselves to the custody and guardianship of arms and heroes. If they do, they will again end in St. Helena, Inquisitions, Jesuits, and sacre liques.

Poor Laureate Southey is writhing in torments under the laugh of the three kingdoms, all Europe, and America, upon the publication of his “ Wat Tyler.” I wonder whether he or Bonaparte suffers most. I congratulate you, and Madison, and Monroe, on your noble employment in founding a university. From such a noble Triumvirate, the world will expect something very great and very new; but if it contains anything quite original, and very excellent, I fear the prejudices are too deeply rooted to suffer it to last long, though it may be accepted at first. It will not always have three such colossal reputations to support it.

The Pernambuco Ambassador, his Secretary of legation, and private Secretary, respectable people, have made me a visit. Having been some year or two in a similar situation, I could not but sympathize with him. As Bonaparte says,

As Bonaparte says, the age of Reason is not ended. Nothing can totally extinguish, or eclipse the light which has been shed abroad by the press.

I am, Sir, with hearty wishes for your health and happiness, your friend and humble servant.

TO DOCTOR JOHN MANNERS.

MONTICELLO, June 12, 1817. Sir,—Your favor of May 20th has been received some time since, but the increasing inertness of age renders me slow in obeying the calls of the writing-table, and less equal than I have been to its labors.

My opinion on the right of Expatriation has been, so long ago as the year 1776, consigned to record in the act of the Virginia code, drawn by myself, recognizing the right expressly, and prescribing the mode of exercising it. The evidence of this natural right, like that of our right to life, liberty, the use of our faculties, the pursuit of happiness, is not left to the feeble and sophistical investigations of reason, but is impressed on the sense of every man. We do not claim these under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of kings. If he has made it a law in the nature of man to pursue his own happiness, he has left him free in the choice of place as well as mode ; and we may safely call on the whole body of English jurists to produce the map on which Nature has traced, for each individual, the geographical line which she forbids him to cross in pursuit of happiness. It certainly does not exist in his mind. Where, then, is it? I believe, too, I might safely affirm, that there is not another nation, civilized or savage, which has ever denied this natural right. I doubt if there is another which refuses its exercise. I know it is allowed in some of the most respectable

. countries of continental Europe, nor have I ever heard of one in which it was not. How it is among our savage neighbors, who have no law but that of Nature, we all know.

Though long estranged from legal reading and reasoning, and little familiar with the decisions of particular judges, I have considered that respecting the obligation of the common law in this country as a very plain one, and merely a question of document. If we are under that law, the document which made us so can surely be produced; and as far as this can be produced, so far we are subject to it, and farther we are not. Most of the States did, I believe, at an early period of their legislation, adopt the English law, common and statute, more or less in a body, as far as localities admitted of their application. In these States, then, the common law, so far as adopted, is the lex-loci. Then comes the law of Congress, declaring that what is law in any State, shall

[ocr errors]

be the rule of decision in their courts, as to matters arising within that State, except when controlled by their own statutes. But this law of Congress has been considered as extending to civil cases only; and that no such provision has been made for criminal ones. A similar provision, then, for criminal offences, would, in like manner, be an adoption of more or less of the common law, as part of the lex-loci, where the offence is committed ; and would cover the whole field of legislation for the general government. I have turned to the passage you refer to in Judge Cooper's Justinian, and should suppose the general expressions there used would admit of modifications conformable to this doctrine. It would alarm me indeed, in any case, to find myself entertaining an opinion different from that of a judgment so accurately organized as his. But I am quite persuaded that, whenever Judge Cooper shall be led to consider that question simply and nakedly, it is so much within his course of thinking, as liberal as logical, that, rejecting all blind and undefined obligation, he will hold to the positive and explicit precepts of the law alone. Accept these hasty sentiments on the subjects you propose, as hazarded in proof of my great esteem and respect.

TO BARON HUMBOLDT.

MONTICELLO, June 13, 1817. DEAR SIR,—The receipt of your Distributio Geographica Plantarum, with the duty of thanking you for a work which sheds so much new and valuable light on botanical science, excites the desire, also, of presenting myself to your recollection, and of expressing to you those sentiments of high admiration and esteem, which, although long silent, have never slept. The physical information you have given us of a country hitherto so shamefully unknown, has come exactly in time to guide our understandings in the great political revolution now bringing it into prominence on the stage of the world. The issue of its struggles, as they respect Spain, is no longer matter of doubt. As it respects their own liberty, peace and happiness, we cannot be quite so certain. Whether the blinds of bigotry, the shackles of the priesthood, and the fascinating glare of rank and wealth, give fair play to the common sense of the mass of their people, so far as to qualify them for self-government, is what we do not know. Perhaps our wishes may be stronger than our hopes. The first principle of republicanism is, that the ler-majoris partis is the fundamental law of every society of individuals of equal rights; to consider the will of the society enounced by the ma

jority of a single vote, as sacred as if unanimous, is the first of all lessons in importance, yet the last which is thoroughly learnt. This law once disregarded, no other remains but that of force, which ends necessarily in military despotism. This has been the history of the French revolution, and I wish the understanding of our Southern brethren may be sufficiently enlarged and firm to see that their fate depends on its sacred observance.

In our America we are turning to public improvements. Schools, roads, and canals, are everywhere either in operation or contemplation. The most gigantic undertaking yet proposed, is that of New York, for drawing the waters of Lake Erie into the Hudson. The distance is 353 miles, and the height to be surmounted 661 feet. The expense will be great, but its effect incalculably powerful in favor of the Atlantic States. Internal navigation by steamboats is rapidly spreading through all our States, and that by sails and oars will ere long be looked back to as among the curiosities of antiquity. We count much, too, on its efficacy for harbor defence ; and it will soon be tried for navigation by sea. We consider the employment of the contributions which our citizens can spare, after feeding, and clothing, and lodging themselves comfortably, as more useful, more moral, and even more splendid, than that preferred by Europe, of destroying human life, labor and happiness.

I write this letter without knowing where it will find you. But wherever that may be, I am sure it will find you engaged in something instructive for man. If at Paris, you are of course in habits of society with Mr. Gallatin, our worthy, our able, and ex

« AnteriorContinuar »