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particular corruptions, we harrily find any thing that can properly be called a proviucial dialect. We bave at present no very inveterate habits to correct, where gross barbarisms, through large districts, are to be encountered. The attempt therefore, seasonably and judiciously made, presents a prospect not only of success, but of comparative facility. Our scattered population seem only to want from a competent tribunal, a declaration of what is proper, to guide them in their practice. The present appearances are more favourable than the most sanguine among the projectors of the plan dared to predict. There is the best reason to expect the general concurrence of our distinguished literary men in favour of a measure which promises so many advantages, so nationally important in its principles and effects, and to which so little can be objected. It is deemed unnecessary at present to dwell minutely on the details of the plan, which probably will not be difficult to settle, if the leading principles are generally approved. It is equally useless to enter upon a train of arguments to prove the advantages of such an association under the present circumstances of our country. The commanding influence of literature upon national wealth and power, as well as morals, character, and happiness, especially in free communities, will not be doubted by those whose minds have been most directed to this interesting branch of civil policy. Perhaps there never has been, and never may be, a nation more open to the influence of moral causes, than the Ameriean Republic at the present time. In every country truly free, public opinion is in effect the governing law; and public opinion, and all the complicated interests of society, greatly depend on the state of national literature. That independence which is our boast must consist in the proper independence of the mind. Without contemning the experience of past ages, we ought not too slavishly to follow the path of others. It is enough to respect the Europeans as honourable competitors, without regarding them as absolute masters. American ambition should aspire to noble objects, if we mean to rise to excellence : for, besides that the imitator is almost necessarily inferior to his model, the old world can furnish no model suited to the circumstances and character of our country. We are a world by ourselves. Our privileges, resources, and prospects, are of the highest order. Happily exempt from hereditary despotism or bigoted hierarchies, from jealous and powerful bordering nations; the prosessed advocates of rational freedom, the world may justly claim froin us an example worthy of such a situation and such a cause. Our numbers and wealth are greater than those of England were, when the last of her splendid colleges was erected: we may have the learning of Europeans in common stock, with an exemption from their burdens, and the highest eminence
which others have attained, ought to be the American starting point in the career of national greatness.
“ And is there any thing impossible, or even particularly difficult, in reducing these ideas to practice ? Without expecting to render human nature perfect, or to fix an unalterable standard for living language and literature, may there not be some regulation which will place the decisions of the wise in preference to the blunders of the ignorant ? When can a more favourable time be expected, to correct the irregularities yearly multiplying upon us, and becoming more and more embodied with the literature of our country? Why should chance be expected to accomplish, what, from its nature, can result only from well-regulated system? It would indeed be imprudent to attempt too much. Sound discretion will point out a middle course between a wild spirit of innovation and a tame acquiescence in obvious error. Language is too important an instrument in human affairs to have its improvement regarded as useless or trifling. Of all the objects of national identity, affection, and pride, national literature is the most laudable, the most operative, and the most enduring. It is to the scholars of antiquity we owe all we know of their statesmen and heroes, and even their distinctive national existence. In the long train of ages their tables of brass have mouldered away, and their high-wrought columns crumbled to dust. Cities have sunk, and their last vestige been lost. The unconscious Turk half-tills the soil manured with decayed sculpture: but the monuments of genius and learning, more durable than marble and brass, remain the subject of undecreasing admiration and delight. The fame to which great minds aspire, is, to soar above the local contentions of the day, and live to after ages in the esteem of their fellow men. The thought of this animates the patriot's hope and nerves his arm, in danger, toil, and want. Shall it not be the ambition of Americans to proclaim the honour of their benefactors, and transmit the glory of their country to the latest age of the world? We are not here to awe the ignorant by the splendour of royal trappings, but to command the respect of the wise and good by moral greatness. These objects are neither above the capacity, nor beneath the attention, of our countrymen. They are interwoven with our individual happiness, our national character, and our highest interests. When we survey this vast assemblage of States, independent, yet united ; competitors in useful improvement, yet members of one great body; the world has vever prepared such a theatre for the exhibition of mental and moral excellence : and if the men of all ages, whom we most delight to honour, have made it their chief glory to advance the literature of their respective countries, shall it be degradingly supposed, that, in this favoured land, either talents or zeal will be wanting in such a cause? If it is said, that Americans
have not paid that attention to education which the subject demanded; it is true; and neither justice nor sound policy requires us to disguise the fact : but has any fatality ordained that the people most interested in diffusing the light of instruction, must be degraded in the republic of letters ? Much irritation has been produced by the observations of foreign writers upon the learning and intellect of our countrymen. We ought not to waste time in idle complaint on this subject. Is not there in America enough of genius, of scholarship, and of patriotic spirit, if properly organized and conducted, to raise our literary character above the influence of any combination abroad? Shall our numberless blessings remain an unprized possession ? Will foreign pens maintain and elevate American character ? Is it not time to make a national stand in the moral world, as the expositors of our own principles, the vindicators of our institutions, and, under a beneficeni Providence, the arbiters of the destiny of unborn millions ? Even if, contrary to all human expectation, such an association should fail in its objects, would it not justly be said, magnis tamen excidit ausis
“ It is not intended to bring the society before the public by a premature and unnecessary parade, but to make it known chiefly by its practical good.
“ The following is a general outline of the institution alluded to, subject of course to such variations as may be thought to increase the prospect of its utility.
“To be called "THÉ AMERICAN ACADEMY OF LANGUAGE AND BELLES LETTRES.'
" Its prime object is to harmonize and determine the English language ; but it will also, according to its discretion and means, embrace every branch of useful and elegant literature, and especially whatever relates to our own country.
“ To be located in the city of New York, where accommodations will be furnished free from expense.
“ To commence with fifty members; maximum number, one hundred and twenty. More than that would lessen the credit of membership, and diminish rather than increase its authority.
“ Members to be divided into three clases. Resident, who reside in or near New-York ; Corresponding, those whose distance prevents their regular attendance; and Honorary, those at home or abroad, whom the body may think proper expressly to admit as such : but, perhaps, it will be thought best to make very few honorary members in the United States. The only reason for making a difference between resident and corresponding members, is to give to the latter all practicable privileges and facilities in communicating their opinions, propositions and votes in writing, as a compensation for the difficulties of personal attendance. In quesVOL. II.
tions requiring a ballot, the written opinions and wishes of distant members are taken as votes on all points to which they directly relate. As most of the questions likely to arise will relate to written language, and as few of them will require haste in the decision, there will be a particular fitness in arriving at a general result through the means of the various opinions in writing.
“ It will be a standing request, though not absolutely required, that each member shall, within one year after his admission, deliver personally, or by writing, a discourse upon some subject relating to language or general literature, or to the situation and interests of the United States.
“ The Society, when organized, will send a respectful communi cation to such literary gentlemen in the British dominions as may be thought proper, explaining to them the design of the establishment, and inviting their co-operation. Public policy, as well as general couvenience will point out to them the importance of improving our language, facilitating its acquisition to foreigners as well as native citizens, and preserving its uniformity throughout the extensive regions where it now does, or hereafter may prevail.
“ The Modus Operandi should be the result of the joint wisdom of the body, when formed; but almost every disputed point in language, and in ours they are very numerous, may be made a CASE, subjected to rule as far as possible, and brought to a decision, endeavouring to have this decision concurrent between the British and ourselves.
“ But besides the acknowledged corruptions which prevail in the language of this country, our peculiar institutions and circumstances; our discoveries and improvements, have given rise to a large class of new words--Americanisms, if the critics please --necessary to express new things. To adopt and regulate these is not to alter the English language; but only to supply its deficiencies. This is particularly a work of our own. It is also important that attention should be paid to the numerous names of places, French, Spanish and Aboriginal, which are daily becoming incorporated with our literature, and concerning which so much diversity at present exists.
“ The unprofitable disputes among teachers and the authors of elementary books, who are often very unskilful advocates of their opposing systems, and whose arguments tend only to increase a difference which ought not to exist, would be in a great degree obviated. The Professors of Rhetoric and Logick, in our best universities, should at least agree in spelling the names of the important sciences they teach. Our numerous youth would then be left free to pursue the straight course to the knowledge of a language which might be, not only strong and copious, but, to a far greater extent, regular and fixed. In addition to other advantages,
there cannot be a rational doubt that such an institution may have a beneficial influence in exciting emulation and national concert, in our literature in general, and that many might be drawn to this interesting subject, who are now less profitably and less honourably employed in other pursuits.
“The object here contemplated is certainly of sufficient national importance to merit an adequate fund from the public. Should this fail, it would be improper to lay a burdensome expense on the members. Expenditures to any considerable amount are not considered indispensably necessary; for though individuals may not be able to accomplish all that may be desired, much may be done at a moderate actual expense. Twenty-five dollars at the admission of a member, and two dollars a year afterwards, though triding to some, is considered enough to impose by any imperative rule.
“ The only objections which have been made to the proposed plan, are on the ground of its practicability. The difficulties alleged are, the superiority of the British in literature; the contempt with which they will look on our institutions and offers of correspondence; the prejudices of our own people in their favour, and the consequent necessity of waiting for them to lead the way. These difficulties, if correct to the extent that some of our citizens seem inclined to admit, show at least the necessity of TRYING to produce a favourable change. If in literature and science we are greatly inferior to any other people, it is not because we are deficient in natural, political, or moral advantages, or have not as strong reasons as any nation ever had to encourage letters; but because we have hitherto neglected any general or systematic ineans for their adsancement. The arguments are fallacious which attempt to find in the circumstances or dispositions of our people any disqualification for the highest mental attainments. American genius and enterprise properly directed, may as well be displayed in the highest walks of literature and science as in any thing else. One difficulty is, our scholars, as such, have very little intercourse, and have too long been strangers to each other. Homo solus imbccilis. Concert will excite a generous emulation. This, upon the plan proposed, will operate upon a vast and highly reputable field; it will be identified with the national character and the dearest interests of a great and rising people, and cannot fail to produce excellence and command patronage and respect. The bare circumstance of exciting attention to the subject is an important point gained. . Aude et faciat.' A colonial servility in literature is as unworthy of our country as political dependence. The necessary limits of this letter forbid a course of reasoning upon the subject : it may be thought proper to give a fuller exposition in a pamphier