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city of Washington and Lake Erie. * How far I was right, in thus assuming the tone of a satirist against a people whom I viewed but as a stranger and a visitor, is a doubt which my feelings did not allow me time to investigate. All I presume to answer for is the fidelity of the picture which I have given ; and though prudence might have dictated gentler language, truth, I think, would have justified severer.
I went to America with prepossessions by no ineans unfavourable, and indeed rather indulged in many of those illusive ideas with respect to the purity of the government and the primitive happiness of the people, which I had early imbibed in my native country, where, unfortunately, discontent at home enhances
distant temptation, and the western world has long been looked to as a retreat from real or imaginary oppression ; as the elysian Atlantis, where persecuted patriots might find their visions realized, and be welcomed by kindred spirits to liberty and repose. I was completely disappointed in every flattering expectation which I had formed, and was inclined
* Epistles VI. VII. and VIII.
to say to America, as Horace says to his mistress, " intentata nites.” Brissot, in the preface to his travels, observes, that “freedom in that country is carried to so high a degree as to border upon a state of nature ;" and there certainly is a close approximation to savage life, not only in the liberty which they enjoy, but in the violence of party spirit and of private animosity which results from it. This illiberal zeal embitters all social intercourse ; and, though I scarcely could hesitate
Ι in selecting the party, whose views appeared the more pure
and rational, yet I was sorry to observe that, in asserting their opinions, they both assume an equal share of intolerance ; the Democrats, consistently with their principles, exhibiting a vulgarity of rancour, which the Federalists too often are so forgetful of their cause as to imitate.
The rude familiarity of the lower orders, and indeed the unpolished state of society in general, would neither surprise nor disgust if they seemed to flow from that simplicity of character, that honest ignorance of the gloss of refinement, which may be looked for in a new and inexperienced people. But, when we find them arrived at ma
turity in most of the vices, and all the pride, of civilization, while they are still so remote from its elegant characteristics, it is impossible not to feel that this youthful decay, this crude anticipation of the natural period of corruption, represses every sanguine hope of the future energy and greatness of America.
I am conscious that, in venturing these few remarks, I have said just enough to offend, and by no means sufficient to convince ; for the limits of a preface will not allow me to enter into a justification of my opinions, and I am committed on the subject as effectually as if I had written volumes in their defence. My reader, however, is apprized of the very cursory observation
upon which these opinions are founded, and can easily decide for himself
upon the degree of attention or confidence which they merit.
With respect to the poems in general, which occupy the following pages, I know not in what manner to apologize to the public for intruding upon their notice such a mass of unconnected trifles, such a world of epicurean atoms, as I have here brought in conflict together. To say that I
have been tempted by the liberal offers of my bookseller, is an excuse which can hope for but little indulgence from the critic; yet I own that, without this seasonable inducement, these poems very possibly would never have been submitted to the world. The glare of publication is too strong for such imperfect productions : they should be shown but to the eye of friendship, in that dim light of privacy, which is as favourable to poetical as to female beauty, and serves as a veil for faults, while it enhances every charm which it displays. Besides, this is not a period for the idle occupations of poetry, and times like the present require talents more active and more useful. Few have now the leisure to read such trifles, and I sincerely regret that I have had the leisure to write them.