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unless they are created by unwise and ignorant legislation. The conflicts of individual interests which occasionally arise, when left to adjust themselves by the universal standard of value, under their own circumstances, produce, like the conflict of the elements, a general diffusion of salutary action. But, whenever the movement of the commercial currency of a great nation is entrusted to the control of a single individual, or what is substantionally the same thing, to a single corporation, no sufficient assurance can be given, that blunders, or sinister interests, will not suddenly involve all transactions in confusion. What would be the consequences if a single man, or a private corporation, were empowered to regulate the supply of rain upon the various sections of this country, by Mr. Espy's plan, or some other process, for a whole generation ? Will it be supposed, that the natural causes which control atmospheric action are not, on the whole, infinitely more advantageous in their effects, though local and temporary inconveniences are sometimes severely felt, than any such arrangements could be, were it possible that individual management might exercise the most efficient control? We hold the scientific attainments of Professor Espy, of Philadelphia, in respect, and do not profess to be entirely sceptical as to the theory on which his petition to Congress is founded, asking to be furnished with pecuniary means for regulating the distribution of rain over the territory of the United States. He has not arrogated the power of creating rain. Were any mortal man endowed with such authority, slight assurance could be entertained by the cultivators of the soil, that they would be permitted to enjoy the fruits of their labors. The individual exercising such power, might be led to speculate in timber lands, or other projects requiring the navigation of shallow mountain streams, and find it his interest to create deluges, spreading ruin and devastation over the land, like the floods of artificial currency produced by the reckless management of another celebrated theorist of that city. Should Congress be again induced to countenance the repetition of such terrible experiments upon the public welfare and security, we have the satisfaction to reflect, that the Constitution has given the President, for the wisest purposes, the power to arrest such schemes, for further deliberation, and that the individual now at the head of the government possesses the firmness and high integrity, necessary to develope the signal advantage to the public interests, of the exercise of this power on suitable occasions.
We had originally proposed to ourselves, in further illustration of the general views herein stated, to explain the origin and progress of the system of paper currency which prevails in England, of which our own is a degenerated imitation, and to point out some of its most striking effects upon the welfare of the English people. Its influence, far more injurious than the feudal system, in concentrating the proceeds of the labor of the whole nation in a few hands, has reduced the great mass of the people to the most abject poverty, and, at the same time, infused into them feelings of desperation, which afford important lessons for meditation to a self-governing nation like our's. But, the extent of the present article forbids its prolongation, even for such an interesting object. The currency of England, and its practical consequences on the social comfort and general prosperity of that nation, and the currency of France, including its two great epochs of paper circulation,--that of John Law's Royal Bank, the demoralizing effects of which subverted the monarchy, and erected the revolutionary tribunals, and the assignats of Mirabeau, which destroyed all confidence in popular government, and led to the establishment of the absolute power of Napoleon, as the only means of securing the stability of property,—are topics abundantly worthy of distinct consideration at large.
ART. III.—Dramas, Discourses and other Pieces, by
JAMES A. HILLHOUSE: in 2 vols. 12mo. Boston: Little & Brown, 1840.
The gloom which the dim shades of antiquity cast upon the heroic age, was at once mysterious and inspiring, There was a wild interest thrown around its events; and the rude annals of that primeval time,—the songs of the bard, and the fables of the historian, supplied the epic and the tragic muse of the Greeks with fruitful themes. But not to the Grecian theatre alone have these mythic and historic fables afforded materials for dramatic fabrications, VOL. 1.-NO. 1.
The French, the Italians, the Germans, and the English, have all drawn from them many subjects for scenic display. We would not disparage the drama of the Greeks, -its structure, like that of their temples, is an everlasting monument of sublime genius. But while we admire their artistic power, while we believe the taste may be chastened by a study, both of their drama and their temples, we would adopt neither the moralities of the former, nor the theology of the latter.
We believe the modern drarnatist should select themes more kindred to the sentiments of a christian people. The Scriptures afford to him the advantage of annals niore miraculous than those of the Greeks, with this superadded excellence,—they are true. The scope afforded is wider,—for a blind destiny, and the caprice of the gods, which formed the groundwork of most of their fables, restricted the dramatic action; while the workings of conscience, and the wild play of the passions, which are the distinctive characteristics of the christian faith, afford the most ample space for the exhibition of the varied emotions of the soul. In the sublimity of truth, in variety of incident, in enthusiasm of feeling, in contrast of station and of character, the bibical record is infinitely superior to the Grecian muthos. What are its thousand deities, compared with the one living and true God? What is its Jove, shaking Olympus, to the legislative Deity, beneath whose descending feet the tops of Sinai tremble and smoke? Will the sacred pile of the Acropolis vie with that which surmounted the summit of Moriah ? or the golden Diana of Ephesus, or the marble statue of the Parthenon, with the visible glory of the invisible God? Does the tripod of Apollo equal the Urim and Thummim? Do the flamens divine like the prophets of Jehovah? Do the elements obey the wand of the Augurs as they do the staff of Moses? Is the expedition of the Argonauts more full of stirring incident than the Exodus? The fall of Troy more mournful than the desolation of Salem ? or the wanderings of Æneas, or the king of Ithaca, more pathetic than the scattering of the sons of Jacob to the ends of the earth ? As combining all the machinery of epic and tragic composition, we are acquainted with no subjects that equal those to be found in the Bible. Even Voltaire, that great enemy of religion, admitted that “ The Athalie” of Racine, founded on a scriptural theme, was the chef d'œuvre of the French stage. Since Milton's great epic, many writers have turned their attention to subjects of this class; but, as yet, no one has been decidedly successful. Perhaps it is reserved to some one of the wanderers who are spread abroad, to take up the harp of Zion, after the restoration of the tribes to their ancient home, and establish on its legitimate basis, a drama at once the most pure, sentimental and sublime. The ancient Jews were made acquainted with dramatic exercises by the Romans, and, sceing its vicious effects, were deterred from attempting any thing from their sacred history. The blindness of one Theodectes was considered as a judgment, for entertaining the idea of adapting a portion of their history to dramatic representation. During the middle ages, however, many plays were written by them, on the legends of the Talmud. Argi, of Modena, wrote a drama, like the Italian pastoral, on the story of Rachel and Jacob. Luzzato, we believe, is the only one who has produced a modern Jewish play. His Migdal is a very creditable performance. It blends, in its construction, the ancient Hebrew parallelisms with the modern rhytlım.
Of late scriptural compositions, we prefer. the productions of Milman, of England, and those of the author whose works we are about to consider. The former is superior in description—the latter has the most dramatic power. The author of Belshazar speaks to the imagination—the author of Hadad to the heart.
Hadad,” the longest of Mr. Hillhouse's productions, was suggested by that portion of the book of Tobit where an angel is described as loving the daughter of Raguel. Asmodai is represented as falling in love with Tamar, the beautiful daughter of Absalom. He reanimates the body of Hadad, a lover of Tamar, excites Absalom to revolt, and seeks to win Tamar, but is disconfited and destroyed by an angel. Two former poets have described angels as falling in love with maidens: Byron and Moore. The former wreathed the brows of the earthly fair with the deadly nightshade,—the latter, with the myrtle of the Cyprian Venus. Mr. Hillhouse has woven for the forehead of the spotless Tamar, the uncrushed, unsullied roses of Sharon.
The scene opens with Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan. He inherits, however, none of the love of his father for
David, but all the concealed hatred of Saul; and he lacks
“ had refreshed
To work on Benjamin),”
Nothing can be more artful and insidious than the address of Hadad to the prince. His counsels are admirably calculated to arouse ambition, awaken confidence, and inspire hatred against the king. Finding his advice fail to excite the prince, he endeavors to move him by his own example, and states his intention to free himself from the thraldom of a hostage, in which character he was held. Mephibosheth is wary, and does not commit himself in any thing; but, in vituperating the luxury of the court, he passes adroitly to Absalom, -and, while doing so, sees through the disguised purposes of Hadad, and flings from him in disdain. Absalom now comes in, and learns the subject of their conference, and is exasperated at some hints which Mephibosheth had used respecting Solomon. Love struggles in his breast when he recounts his father's kindness; and he is disposed to attribute any seeming neglect, to the plotting of Joab and Nathan the seer. We discover the tumultuous passions