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ventions and improvements which do honour to American genius. And with regard to the Fine Arts, three out of four of our greatest native Painters were born in that division of the country. · It must, however, after all, be acknowledged; that what is called a liberal education in the United States, is, in common, less accurate and complete; the erudition of our native citizens, with some exceptions, less extensive and profound, and the works published by Anerican Authors, in general, less learned, instructive, and elegant, than are found in Great-Britain, and some of the tnore en: lightened nations on the Eastern continent. These facts, it is apprehended, arise not from any deficiency of talents in our country, nor from any inaptitude in its soil or atmosphere to promote the growth of genius; but from one or another, and, in some cases, from a combination of the follow: ing causes.
i. Defective plans and means of instruction ix bur Seminaries of learning. The great majority of our Colleges have very inadequate funds. The consequence is, that in most of them the Professors are few in number, and have assigned to them toơ large a field of instruction. Hence they can con: vey but very superficial knowledge of the various branches which it is made their duty to teach, and if well qualified themselves; which is far from being always the case, find it impossible to do justice to the pupils. In some instances, also, the Trustees or Governors of American Colleges, either from their own ignorance, or in compliance with popular prejudice, have so contracted the time requisite for completing a course of instruction, as to render it necessary wholly to dispense with, or lightly to hurry over, some of the most important branches of knowledge. Accordingly, in some of these institutions, Mathematical Science is unpopular, and the acquisition of as little as possible especially of the higher branches of it, enjoined on the student. In others, Classic literature, and especially the Greek language, is in low estimation, and not more studied than is indispensibly necessary to obtaining a diploma. If well bred scholars ever issue from such Seminaries, they must be formed by a degree of private and individual application rarely to be met with in youth.
a It is not meant to be denied that a few of the works published in America are as profound and instructive as any on similar subjects published elsewhere. It is simply intended to give a general character of American publications, liable to such exceptions as the mind of the wellInformed reader will readily supply.
2. Want of Leisure. The comparatively equal distribution of property in America, while it produces the most benign political and moral effects, is by no means friendly to great acquisitions in literature and science. In such a state of Society, there can be few persons of leisure. It is neces sary that almost all should be engaged in some active pursuit. Accordingly, in the United States, the greater number of those who pass through a course of what is called liberal education, in the hurried manner which has been mentioned, engage, immediately after leaving College, in the study or business to which they propose to devote themselves. Having run over the preliminary steps of instruction in this business, probably in a manner no less hurried and superficial than their academic studies, they instantly commence its practical pursuit; and are, perhaps, during the remainder of life, consigned to a daily toil for support, which precludes them from reading, and especially from gaining much knowledge out of their particular profession. Such is the career of ninety-nine out of an hundred of those in our country who belong to the learned professions. When the alternative either lies, or is supposed to lie between erudition and poverty, or comfortable affluence and moderate learning, it is not difficult to conjecture which side will be chosen; nor is it suprizing that, in such a state of things, there should be less profound erudition, less elegant accomplishment in literature, than where a considerable number enjoy all the advantages of exemption from laborious duties; and all the accommodations of opulent leisure.
b In some American Colleges, we are told that no more knowledge of Greek is required in those who graduate Bachelor of Arts, than that which may be derived from the Grammar and the Greek Testamenti
To this circumstance may be ascribed the suz perficial and unpolished character of many of our native publications. All that their authors, in many cases, want, to render them more replete with instruction, more attractive in manner, and, of course, more worthy of public approbation, is leisure. But, able only to redeem a few hasty hours for literary pursuits, from the employments which give them bread, they must necessarily, if they publish at all, send forth productions, from time to time, bearing all the marks of haste and immature reflection
3. Want of encouragement to learning. Meri cannot be expected to labour without the hope of some adequate reward. Genius must be nourished by patronage, as well as strengthened by culture. Where substantial emoluments may be derived from literary exertion, there, and there alone, will it be frequently undertaken to any considerable extent. Hence, in those countries where genius and learning are best rewarded, there they are ever found to be most cultivated. In the United States, the rewards of literature are small and uncertain. The people cannot afford to remunerate eminent talents or great acquirements. Booksellers, the great patrons of learning in modern times;
are in America too poor to foster and reward the efforts of genius. There are no rich Fellowships in eur Universities to excite the ambition of students; no large ecclesiastical benefices to animate the exertions of literary divines. Academic chairs are usually connected with such small salaries, that they present little temptation to the scholar; and, finally, the State offers very inconsiderable motives for the acquisition of knowledge, and the exertion of talents. Its rewards are small, and its favour capricious. Can it be wondered, then, that those who have some acquaintance with books, and hold important stations, are more anxious to secure pecuniary advantages, and to place themselves in a situation independent of popular favour, than to make advances in literature, or to do honour to their country by the display of intellectual preeminence?
Besides, the spirit of our people is commercial. It has been said, and perhaps with some justice, that the love of gain peculiarly characterizes the inhabitants of the United States. The tendency of this spirit to discourage literature is obvious. In such a state of Society, men will not only be apt to bend their whole attention to the acquirement of property, and neglect the cultivation of their minds as an affair of secondary moment; but letters and science will seldom be found in high estimation ; the amount of wealth will be the principal test of influence; the learned will experience but little reward either of honour or emolument; and, of course, superficial education will be the prevailing character,
c The Author would by no means be understood to express an opinion, that such immoderately lucrative places, either in Church or in State, are, on the whole, useful, or desirable. He is persuaded that they are much more productive mischief tha of advantage. But that they often excite literary ambition, and afford, in many instances, convenient and useful leisure to literary characters, will scarcely be questioned by those who havo paid any attention to the subject.
Nor is it of less importance here to recollect, that the nature of our connection with GreatBritain has operated, and continues to operate unfavourably to the progress of American literature. Long accustomed to a state of colonial dependence on that enlightened and cultivated Nation, we have also been accustomed to derive from her the supplies for our literary wants. And still connected with her by the ties of language, manners, taste, and commercial intercourse, her literature, science and arts may be considered as ours. Being able, therefore, with so much ease, to reap the fruits of her fields, we have not sufficient induce, ment to cultivate our own. And even when an excellent production of the American soil is offered to the public, it is generally undervalued and neg, lected. A large portion of our citizens seem to entertain the idea, that nothing worthy of patron, age can be produced on this side of the Atlantic. Instead of being prompted to a more liberal en couragement of genius because it is American, their prejudices, on this account, are rather ex: cited against it.
4. Want of Books. In the capital cities of Eu, rope, the votary of literature is surrounded with immense Libraries, to which he may easily obtain access; and even in many of the smaller towns, books on any subject, and to almost any number, may be easily obtained. It is otherwise in America. Here the student, in addition to all the
d The writer in the Monthly Magazine, whose strictures on American literature were before mentioned, represents the inhabitants of the United States as having strong prejudices in favour of their own produc. tions, and ridicules them for preferring American publications to all others. In this, as well as in most of his assertions, he discovers profound ignorance of the subject. The fact is directly the reverse. Americans are too apt to join with ignorant or fastidious foreigners, in undervaluing and de crying our domestic literature; and this circumstance is one of the nume rous obstacles which have operated to discourage literary exertions on thiş side of the Atlantic, and to impede our literary progress,