« ZurückWeiter »
vale of years; he had no relations to comfort or assist him; he was in a sacred employment that forbade revenge; he asked his daughter, with fury in his eye, if the report was true ? she at first denied, but soon confessed her shame. Fanny, my child, my child," said the old man, melting into tears, “why was this, thou dear, lost, deluded excellence ? why have you undone yourself and me? Had you no pity for this head that has grown gray in thy instruction ? But he shall pay for it—though my God, my country, my conscience forbid revenge, yet he shall pay for it.”
The betrayer now thought he had nothing to fear; he went on boldly triumphing in his baseness, and a fortnight passed away, when he was told one evening that a gentleman desired to. speak to him. Upon coming to the place appointed, he found the poor old man, with his eyes bathed in tears, who, falling at his feet, entreated him to wipe away the infamy that was fallen upon his family; but Dawson, insensible to his entreaties, desired him to have done. Well then, cried old Stanton, if you refuse me satisfaction as a man of justice, I demand it as a man of honor. Thus saying, he drew out two pistols from his bosom, and presented one. They retired at proper distances; and the old man, upon the discharge of the other's pistol, fell forward to the ground. By this time the whole family were alarmed, and came running to the place of action. Fanny was among the number; and was the first to see her guardian, instructor, her only friend, fallen in defence of her honor. In an agony of distress she fell lifeless upon the body stretched before her; but soon recovering into an existence worse than annihilation, she expostulated with the body, and demanded a reason for his thus destroying all her happiness and his own.
Though Mr. Dawson was before untouched with the infamy he had brought upon virtuous innocence, yet he had not a heart of stone; and bursting into anguish, flew to the lovely mourner,
and offered that moment to repair his foul offence by matrimony. The old man, who had only pretended to be dead, now rising up, claimed the performance of his promise; and the other had too much honor to refuse. They were immediately conducted to church, where they were married, and now live exemplary in stances of conjugal love and felicity.
ON NATIONAL PREJUDICES.
As I am one of that sauntering tribe of mortals, who spend the greatest part of their time in taverns, coffee-houses, and other places of public resort, I have thereby an opportunity of observing an infinite variety of characters, which, to a person of a contemplative turn, is a much higher entertainment than a view of all the curiosities of art or nature. In one of these my
late rambles, I accidentally fell into the company of half a dozen gentlemen, who were engaged in a warm dispute about some political affair; the decision of which, as they were equally divided in their sentiments, they thought proper to refer to me, which naturally drew me in for a share of the conversation.
Among the multiplicity of other topics, we took occasion to talk of the different characters of the several nations of Europe; when one of the gentlemen, cocking his hat, and assuming such an air of importance as if he had possessed all the merit of the English nation in his own person, declared that the Dutch were a parcel of avaricious wretches; the French a set of flattering sycophants; that the Germans were drunken sots, and beastly gluttons; and the Spaniards proud, haughty, and surly tyrants: but that in bravery, generosity, clemency, and in every other vir tue, the English excelled all the world.
This very learned and judicious remark was received with a general smile of approbation by all the company-all, I mean, but your humble servant; who, endeavoring to keep my gravity as well as I could, and reclining my head upon my arm, continued for some time in a posture of affected thoughtfulness, as if I had been musing on something else, and did not seem to attend to the subject of conversation; hoping, by this means, to avoid the disagreeable necessity of explaining myseif, and thereby depriving the gentleman of his imaginary happiness.
But my pseudo-patriot had no mind to let me escape so easily; not satisfied that his opinion should pass without contradiction, he was determined to have it ratified by the suffrage of every in the company; for which purpose, addressing himself to me with an air of inexpressible confidence, he asked me if I was not of the same way of thinking. As I am never forward in giving my opinion, especially when I have reason to believe that it will not be agreeable; so, when I am obliged to give it, I always hold it for a maxim to speak my real sentiments. I therefore told him, that, for my own part, I should not have ventured to talk in such a peremptory strain, unless I had made the tour of Europe, and examined the manners of the several nations with great care and accuracy; that, perhaps, a more impartial judge would not scruple to affirm, that the Dutch were more frugal and industrious, the French more temperate and polite, the Germans more hardy and patient of labor and fatigue, and the Spaniards more staid and sedate, than the English ; who, though undoubtedly brave and generous, were at the same time rash, headstrong, and impetuous, too apt to be elated with prosperity, and to depond in adversity.
I could easily perceive, that all the company began to regard me with a jealous eye before I had finished my answer; which I had no sooner done than the patriotic gentleman observed, with a contemptuous sucer, that he was greatly surprised how some
people could have the conscience to live in a country which they did not love, and to enjoy the protection of a government, to which, in their hearts, they were inveterate enemies. Finding that, by this modest declaration of my sentiments, I had forfeited the good opinion of my companions, and given them occasion to call my political principles in question, and well knowing that it was in vain to argue with men who were so very full of themselves, I threw down my reckoning, and retired to my own lodgings, reflecting on the absurd and ridiculous nature of national prejudice and prepossession.
Among all the famous sayings of antiquity, taere is none that does greater honor to the author, or affords greater pleasure to the reader, (at least if he be a person of a generous and benevolent heart,) than that of the philosopher, who, being asked what country
was, replied that he was a citizen of the world How few are there to be found in modern times who can say the same, or whose conduct is consistent with such a profession! We are now become so much Englishmen, Frenchmen, Dutchmen, Spaniards, or Germans, that we are no longer citizens of the world ; so much the natives of one particular spot, or members of one petty society, that we no longer consider ourselves as the general inhabitants of the globe, or members of that grand society which comprehends the whole human kind.
Did these prejudices prevail only among the meanest and lowest of the people, perhaps they might be excused, as they have few, if any, opportunities of correcting them by reading, travelling, or conversing with foreigners; but the misfortune is, that they infect the minds, and influence the conduct even of our gentlemen; of those, I mean, who have every title to this appellation but an exemption from prejudice, which, however, in my opinion, ought to be regarded as the characteristical mark of a gentleman : for let a man's birth be erer so high, his station ever so exalted, or his fortune ever so large, yet, if he is not free from the national and all other prejudices, I should make bold to tell him, that he had a low and vulgar mind, and had no just claim to the character of a gentleman. And, in fact, you will always find, that those are most apt to boast of national merit, who have little or no merit of their own to depend on, than which, to be sure, nothing is more natural: the slender vine twists around the sturdy oak for no other reason in the world, but because it has not strength sufficient to support itself.
Should it be alleged in defence of national prejudice, that it is the natural and necessary growth of love to our country, and that therefore the former cannot be destroyed without hurting the latter; I answer, that this is a gross fallacy and delusion. That it is the growth of love to our country, I will allow; but that it is the natural and necessary growth of it, I absolutely deny. Superstition and enthusiasm too are the growth of religion ; but who ever took it in his head to affirm, that they are the necessary growth of this noble principle? They are, if you will, the bastard sprouts of this heavenly plant; but not its natural and genuine branches, and may safely enough be lopt off, without doing any harm to the parent stock: nay, perhaps, till once they are lopt off, this goodly tree can never flourish in perfect health and vigor.
Is it not very possible that I may love my own country, without hating the natives of other countries? That I may exert the most heroic bravery, the most undaunted resolution, in defending its laws and liberty, without despising all the rest of the world as cowards and poltroons? Most certainly it is : and if it were not—but what need I suppose what is absolutely impossible ?—but if it were not, I must own I should prefer the title of the ancient philosopher, namely, a citizen of the world, to that of an Englishman, a Frenchman, a European, or to any other appellation whatever.