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is only so much wheat, or wool, or land; and if I have so much more, every other must have so much less. I seem to have no good without breach of good manners. Nobody is glad in the glulness of another, and our system is one of war, of an injurious superiority. Every child of the Saxon race is educated to wish to be first. It is our system ; and a man comes to measure his greatness by the regrets, envies and hatreds of his competitors. But in these new fields there is room : here are no self-esteems, no exclusions.
I admire great men of all classes, those who stand for facts, and for thoughts ; I like rough and smooth, - Scourges of God," and " Darlings of the human race." I like the first Cæsar; and Charles V., of Spain ; and Charles XII., of Sweden ; Richand Plantagenet; and Bonaparte, in France. I applaud a sufficient man, an officer equal to his office ; captains, ministers, senators. I like a master standing firm on legs of iron, well-born, rich, handsome, eloquent, loaded with acivantages, drawing all men by fascination into tributaries and supporters of his power. Sword and staff, or talents swordlike or staff-like, carry on the work of the world. But I find him greater when he can abolish himself and all heroes, by letting in this element of reason, irrespective of persons, this subtilizer and irresistible apward force, into our thought, destroying in
dividualism; the power so great that the potentate is nothing. Then he is a monarch who gives a constitution to his people ; a pontiff who preaches the equality of souls and releases his servants from their barbarous homages; an emperor who can spare his empire.
But I intended to specify, with a little minute ness, two or three points of service. Nature never spares the opium or nepenthe, but wherever she mars her creature with some deformity or defect, lays her poppies plentifully on the bruise, and the sufferer goes joyfully through life, ignorant of the ruin and incapable of seeing it, though all the world point their finger at it every day. The worthless and offensive members of society, whose existence is a social pest, invariably think themselves the most ill-used people alive, and never get over their astonishment at the ingratitude and selfishness of their contemporaries. Our globe discovers its hidden virtues, not only in heroes and archangels, but in gossips and nurses. Is it not a rare contrivance that lodged the due inertia in every creature, the conserving, resisting energy, the anger at being waked or changed? Altogether independent of the intellectual force in each is the pride of opinion, the security that we are right Not the feeblest grandame, not a mowing idiot, but uses what spark of perception and faculty is left, to chuckle and triumph in his or her opinion over the absurdities of all the rest. Difference from me is the measure of absurdity. Not one has a misgiving of being wrong. Was it not a bright thought that made things cohere with this bitumen, fastest of cements? But, in the midst of this chuckle of self-gratulation, some figure goes by which Thersites too can love and adınire. This is he that should marshall us the way we were going. There is no end to his aid. Without Plato we should almost lose our faith in the possibility of a reasonable book. We seem to want but one, but we want one. We love to associate with heroic persons, since our receptivity is unlimited; and, with the great, our thoughts and manners easily become great. We are all wise in capacity, though so few in energy. There needs but one wise man in a company and all are wise, so rapid is the contagion.
Great men are thus a collyrium to clear our eyes ] from egotism and enable us to see other people and their works. But there are vices and follies incident to whole populations and ages. Men resemble their contemporaries even more than their progenitors. It is observed in old couples, or in persons who have been housemates for a course of years, that they grow like, and if they should live : long enough we should not be able to know them apart. Nature abhors these complaisances which threaten to melt the world into a lump, and bastens to break up such maudlin agglutinations. The like assimilation goes on between men of one town, of one sect, of one political party; and the ideas of the time are in the air, and infect all who breathe it. Viewed from any high point, this city of New York, yonder city of London, the Western civilization, would seem a bundle of insanities. We keep each other in countenance and exasperate by emulation the frenzy of the time. The shielel against the stingings of conscience is the universal practice, or our contemporaries. ilgain, it is very easy to be as wise and gooil as your companions. We learn of our contemporaries what they know, without effort, and almost through the pores of the skin. We catch it by sympathy, or as a wife arrives at the intellectuai and moral elevations of her husband. But we stop where they stop. Very hardly can we take another step. The great, or such as hold af nature and transcend fashions by their fidelity to universal ideas, are saviors from these federal errors, and defend us from our con. temporaries. They are the exceptions which we want, where all grows like. A foreign greatness is the antidote for cabalism.
Thus we feed on genius, and refresh ourselves from too much conversation with our mates, and exult in the depth of nature in that direction in which he leads us. What indemnification is one great man for populations of pigmies ! Every mother wishes one son a genius, though all the rest should be mediocre. But a new danger appears in the excess of influence of the great man. His attractions warp us from our place. We have become underlings and intellectual suicides. Ah! yonder in the horizon is our help; — other great men, new qualities, counterweights and checks on each other. We cloy of the honey of each peculiar greatness. Every hero becomes a bore at last. Perhaps Voltaire was not bad-hearted, yet he said of the good Jesus, even, “ I pray you, let me never hear that man's name again.” They cry up the virtues of George Washington, - “ Damn George Washington!” is the poor Jacobin's whole speech and confutation. But it is human nature's indispensable defence. The centripetence augments the centrifugence. We balance one man with his opposite, and the health of the state depends on the see-saw.