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Whoever has travelled through the various parts of Europe, and observed how small is the propor-' tion of people in affluence or easy circumstances there, compared with those in poverty and misery; the few rich and haughty landlords, the multitude of poor, abject, rack-rented, tythe-paying tenants, and half-paid and half-starved ragged laborers; and views here the happy mediocrity, that so generally pi-evails throughout the states, where the cultivator works for himself, and supports his family in decent plenty, will, methinks, see an abundant reason to bless Divine Providence for the evident and great difference in our favor, and be convinced, that no nation known to us enjoys a greater share of human felicity.
It is true, that in some of the states there are parties and discords; but let us look back, and ask if we were ever without them ? • Such will exist wherever there is liberty; and perhaps they help to preserve it. By the collision of different sentiments, sparks of truth are struck out, and political light is obtained. The different factions, which at present divide us, aim all at the public good: the differences are only about the various modes of promoting it. Things, actions, measures, and objects of all kinds, present themselves to the minds of men in such a variety of lights, that it is not possible we should all think alike at the same time on every subject, when hardly the same man retains at all times the same ideas of it. Parties are therefore the common lot of humanity; and ours are by no means more mischievous or less beneficial than those of other countries, nations, and ages, enjoying in the same degree the great blessing of political liberty.
Some indeed among us are not so much grieved for the present state of our affairs, as apprehensive for the future. The growth of luxury alarms them, and they think we are from that alone in the high road to ruin. They observe, that no revenue is sufficient without economy, and that the most plentiful income of a whole people from the natural productions of their country may be dissipated in vain and needless expenses, and poverty be introduced in the place of affluence. This may be possible. It however rarely happens: for there seems to be in every nation a greater proportion of industry and frugality, which tend to enrich, than of idleness and prodigality, which occasion poverty; so that upon the whole there is a continual accumulation. Reflect what Spain, Gaul, Germany, and Britain were in the time of the Romans, inhabited by people little richer than our savages; and consider the wealth they at present possess, in numerous well-built cities, improved farms, rich moveables, magazines stocked with valuable manufactures, to say nothing of plate, jewels, and coined money; and all this, notwithstanding their bad, wasteful, plundering governments, and their mad destructive wars; and yet luxury and extravagant living have never suffered much restraint in those countries. Then consider the great proportion of industrious frugal farmers inhabiting the interior parts of these American states, and of whom the body of our nation consists, and judge whether it is possible that the luxury of our seaports can be sufficient to ruin such a country.— If the importation of foreign luxuries could ruin a people, we should probably have been ruined long ago; for the British nation claimed a right, and practised it, of importing among us not only the superfluities of their own production, but those of every nation under heaven; we bought and consumed them, and yet we florished and grew rich. At present our independent governments may do what we could not then do, discourage by heavy duties, or prevent by heavy prohibitions, such importations, and thereby grow richer; if, indeed, which may admit of dispute, the desire of adorning ourselves with fine clothes, possessing fine furniture, with elegant houses, &c. is not, by strongly inciting to labor and industry, the occasion of producing a greater value than is consumed in the gratification of that desire.
The agriculture and fisheries of the United States are the great sources of our increasing wealth. He that puts a seed into the earth is recompensed, perhaps, by receiving forty out of it; and he who draws a fish out of our water, draws up a piece of silver.
Let us (and there is no doubt but we shall) be attentive to these, and then the power of rivals, with all their restraining and prohibiting acts, cannot much hurt us. We are sons of the earth and seas, and like Antaeus in the fable, if in wrestling with a Hercules, we now and then receive a fall, the touch of our parents will communicate to us fresh strength and vigor to renew the contest.
REMARKS CONCERNING THE SAVAGES OF NORTH AMERICA, 1784.
Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility. They think the same of theirs.
Perhaps if we could examine the manners of different nations with impartiality, we should find no people so rude as to be without any rules of politeness, nor any so polite as not to have some remains of rudeness.
The Indian men when young, are hunters and warriors; when old, counsellors; for all their government is by counsel of the sages; there is no force, there are no officers to compel obedience, or inflict punishment. Hence, they generally study oratory; the best speaker having the most influence. The Indian women till the ground, dress the food, nurse and bring up the children, and preserve and hand down to posterity the memory of public transactions. The employments of men and women are accounted natural and honorable having few artificial wants, they have abundance of leisure for improvement by conversation. Our laborious manner of life compared with theirs, they esteem slavish and base; and the learning on which we value ourselves, they regard as frivolous and useless. An instance of this occurred at the treaty of Lancaster in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the government of Virginia and the Six Nations. After the principal business was settled, the commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamsburg a college, with a fund for educating youth; and that if the Six Nations would send half a dozen of their young lads to that college, the government would take care they should be well provided for, and instructed in all the learning of the white people. It is one of the Indian rules of politeness not to answer a public proposition on the same day that it is made; they think it would be treating it as a light matter, and that they show it respect by taking time to consider it, as of a matter important. They therefore deferred their answer till the day following; when their speaker began by expressing their deep sense of the kindness of the Virginian government in making them that offer; "For we know," says he, "that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those