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PASSAGES IN FOREIGN TRAVEL.
Through coaches, drays, choked turnpikes, and a whirl
Of wheels, and roar of voices, and confusion;
There mails fast flying off like a delusion;
In windows; here the lamplighter's infusion
(For in those days we had not got to gas) :
Through this, and much and more, is the approach
I SOMETIMES thank my stars that I am an American Traveller in the Old World. It seems to me that my interest as such must be far greater, than that of a mere native European passing over the same region. He cannot be so continually startled with sights and sounds. He cannot enjoy half so much wonder and admiration. He cannot have such remarkable points
for contrast and comparison. He, the native and resident of old countries, is still but a surveyor of old countries. I, the native of a new world, familiar only with its people and ideas, pass through European travel, into an almost opposite set of ideas. Wherever I turn my eyes, the wonderful, the strange, the new continually meet them. I find political institutions here, altogether unlike those in my own country. I see forms of social life, quite different from those I have left behind. The subjects of thought are not the
The modes of expression, the tones of voice, the accent, the gesture are all different ;-and when I come to painting, and sculpture, and architecture, I find myself translated into worlds of mortal creation, that as yet can hardly be said to have more than an infant existence in my own land.
There is nothing from which I derive more pleasure, than comparisons on divers points, between my own country and those through which I pass. Some of them seem to be quite stationary. Their energies, physical, moral, and intellectual have been disclosed. Their soil has shown all its capabilities. Their literature has been written. Their works of art have been created. Their political and social features seem for the present, to be unchangeably fixed. Their epochs of glory and power are among the have beens.' They cannot go up, nor do they go down. They have revealed and exhausted all their capacities. They live on, from age to age, on about the same level. Though their society may now and then take little different forms and shades, it does not much ascend above, or descend below that level. With such nations and my own, the points of contrast are innumerable and most striking.
Then here again are States which seem to be on the eve of mighty changes, and changes too that will not merely alter their forms, leaving them in the same old footsteps, but such as must inevitably carry them higher or lower than heretofore they have ever been. These are the States in which liberal principles of politics, and the inventions of mechanical genius have gotten a foothold. While the former nations stand still, like old worn out steeds that have had their day of prizes and of triumph, with these latter do we now seem to be
the course. With them are we racing onwards to the goal. Our epochs are all in the future; if indeed those of France and England may not almost be said to be in the present. But how wonderfully advanced are these latter people! How far on are they towards society's highest point! How largely are they developed! And when I contemplate these developements, and, with the same eye, those in my own land, I see between them chasms wide, very, very wide. How much have we to achieve! Nothing like foreign observation enables an American thoroughly to feel this truth. Nothing like such observation qualifies him to perceive that place in the scale of physical and moral progress, up to which his country has advanced. Of how little literature can we boast ! What small advancements have we made in science! How few good original paintings do we possess! What a dearth among us of sculpture, and of good specimens in architecture! What a small number of charitable and educational institutions! In short, how poor are we in those agents which bear upon the hearts, the minds, the civilization of a people! But then, in this early stage of our national existence, it seems to me we ought to be thus poor. Our greatest energies ought not now to be directed mainly into these departments. They should be given to those other subjects, without whose hale and flourishing condition, neither art nor literature, nor noble institutions can ever flourish;-) mean, the making permanent and salutary the action of our still young political system, and the application of effective agents to develope the immense resources of our soil. They should be devoted, indeed, just as hitherto they have been devoted. We have begun at the right end. We have begun with the great centre and source of national wealth and glory. We have begun by turning to account the riches on our soil, and in it, and under it. Our great anxiety is to devise good means, good machinery, wherewith to make available all these riches, and in all the forms of which they are susceptible.
Here is the foundation of our great future. Let these physical powers be well brought forth, and all good things will surely follow. We must be material before we are ideal. We must have food, and raiment, and shelter and wealth, before we can, as a nation, be intellectual. Nothing more vexes, or rather amuses me, than to hear divers persons railing at us all, in good set terms, for not cherishing more devotion to the elegant arts, and to literature. We should be fools if we did so. Our nation has commenced its youth like a wise child, by bringing out its muscles and sinews, the only means of securing a hale manhood, an honorable age, and with them, vigorous and enterprising thought. I rejoice that at this opening era of our national existence, the character of the American people is a practi. cal one.
I see in that character the elements of our coming glory as a literary, a scientific, an intellectual people. Through the mighty agency of that character, I see our forests levelled, our fields cultivated, our mines laid open, manufactories every where springing up, our territory intersected by railroads, our lakes and streams covered with steamboats, and our ships thronging all the ports of the world. Attendant upon this physical advancement is wealth, national and indi. vidual. With wealth comes the fostering of science, and art, and literature. The beautiful forms of archi. tecture may then arise amongst us. The triumphs of the chisel and the pencil may then be ours. Schools and colleges may more generally abound, and those noble institutions of charity, which bless both giver and receiver, may every where more thickly adorn our land. This, we flatter ourselves, will be the progress of our country, and in such progress, the voice of after ages will, we trust, be heard, speaking some praise for those who consented to the stigma of being characterized as a practical, material, mechanical people.