« PreviousContinue »
the man,” he writes, under date of April 12, 1778," uniting in the citizen and soldier, I cannot too heartily coincide with the orator for the Fifth of March last, who so delicately describes him as a person that appears to be raised by Heaven to show how high humanity can soar. It will afford you no small pleasure to be told, that the faction which was breeding last winter in order to traduce the first character on the Continent is at an end." Many other interesting notices of Washington occur in
" the correspondence. The writer's description of Philadelphia is more graphic than complimentary to the morals of the city which then affected to be the metropolis of America. A letter written from “ Head-Quarters at Robinson's house ” details the treason of Benedict Arnold, and that infamous affair is alluded to in several letters that follow, with the natural indignation of a youthful patriot. The accounts contained in the correspondence of the closing scenes of the war, and of the last great act of Washington's command, are of the highest interest. We cannot forbear quoting the following passage, relating to the discontent in the army and the publication of the famous Newburg letters.
“ The meeting of the officers was in itself exceedingly respectable, the matters they were called to deliberate upon were of the most serious nature, and the unexpected attendance of the Commander-in-chief heightened the solemnity of the scene. Every eye was fixed upon the illustrious man, and atten to their beloved General held the assembly mute. He opened the meeting by apologizing for his appearance there, which was by no means his intention when he published the order which directed them to assemble. But the diligence used in circulating the anonymous pieces rendered it necessary that he should give his sentiments to the army on the nature and tendency of them, and determined him to avail himself of the present opportunity ; and, in order to do it with greater perspicuity, he had committed his thoughts to writing, which, with the indulgence of his brother officers, he would take the liberty of reading to them. It is needless for me to say any thing of this production ; it speaks for itself. After he had concluded his address, he said, that, as a corroborating testimony of the good disposition in Congress towards the army, he would communicate to them a letter received from a worthy member of that body, and one who on all occasions had ever approved himself their fast friend. This was an exceedingly sensible letter; and, while it pointed out the difficulties and embarrassments of Congress, it held up very forcibly the idea, that the army should, at all events, be generously dealt with. One circumstance in reading this letter must not be omitted. His Excellency, after reading the first paragraph, made a short pause, took out his spectacles, and begged the indulgence of his audience while he put them on, observing at the same time, that he had grown gray in their service, and now found himself growing blind. There was something so natural, so unaffected, in this appeal, as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory; it forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility
moisten every eye.
The General, having finished, took leave of the assembly, and the business of the day was conducted in the manner which is related in the account of the proceedings.
“ I cannot dismiss this subject without observing, that it is happy for America that she has a patriot army, and equally so that a Washington is its leader. I rejoice in the opportunities I have had of seeing this great man a variety of situations ; — calm and intrepid where the battle raged, patient and persevering under the pressure of misfortune, moderate and possessing himself in the full career of victory. Great as these qualifications deservedly render him, he never appeared to me more truly so than at the assembly we have been speaking of. On other occasions he has been supported by the exertions of an army and the countenance of his friends; but in this he stood single and alone. There was no saying where the passions of an army, which were not a little inflamed, might lead; but it was generally allowed that longer forbearance was dangerous, and moderation had ceased to be a virtue. Under these circumstances he appeared, not at the head of his troops, but as it were in opposition to them; and for a dreadful moment the interests of the army and its General seemed to be in competition ! He spoke, every doubt was dispelled, and the tide of patriotism rolled again in its wonted course. Illustrious man! what he says of the army may with equal justice be applied to his own character. Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.'”
- pp. 103 - 105. At the disbanding of the army, Mr. Shaw, having been since 1779 aid-de-camp to General Knox, with the rank of Major of Brigade, received the most emphatic testimonials, not only from his immediate military superior, but from the commander-inchief.
After the war, "an association of capitalists, who had united for the purpose of opening a commercial intercourse between the United States and China, offered to him the station of factor and commercial agent for the voyage.”
This was the commencement of the American trade with China. On his return, in 1785, he was appointed a secretary in the War Office, of which his old friend, General Knox, was the head. At this time he addressed a letter, printed in the Appendix to this volume, to Mr. Jay, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, giving an account of the occurrences in the voyage of “ the first vessel that had been fitted out by the inhabitants of the United States of America for essaying a commerce with those of the empire of China.” Soon after this he left the War Department to engage in a second voyage, and received from Congress the appointment of Consul from the United States at Canton, being of course the first person who ever held that office. From this second voyage he returned in 1789. The next year he sailed on his third voyage, in the Massachusetts, a ship he had himself caused to be built for the China trade, and returned in 1792. In August of that
year he was married to Hannah, the daughter of William Phil. lips, of Boston. In the month of February of the following year, he sailed on his fourth and last voyage, embarking in a ship of his own at New York. He died soon after taking passage on board the ship Washington, which sailed for the United States on the 17th of March, 1794. He had contracted a disease of the liver, incident to the climate of Canton, which caused his death at the early age of thirty-nine.
The Journals of Mr. Shaw contain accounts of the first and second voyages to Canton, and of a visit to Bengal in 1787 and 1788. They are written with his characteristic elegance, and, as Mr. Quincy says in the preface, “ They throw a light on the commercial relations of our country with those distant regions at that period, which cannot fail to be interesting ; and, although the intercourse of half a century intervening since they were written
have made that which was once novel now familiar, yet, from the unchangeableness of Chinese habits and policy, they undoubtedly contain much information, which, even at this day, is both useful and attractive." А
very pleasing portrait forms the frontispiece of this volume. The traits of the countenance bear testimony to the emphatic eulogy with which Mr. Quincy's preface closes. “It was my happiness," says the venerable author, “in my early youth, to enjoy the privilege of his acquaintance and correspondence ; and now, after the lapse of more than fifty years, I can truly say, that, in the course of a long life, I have never known an individual of a character more elevated and chivalric, acting according to a purer standard of morals, imbued with a higher sense of honor, and uniting more intimately the qualities of the gentleman, the soldier, the scholar, and the Christian.”
5. — Contemplations on the Solar System. By J. P. Nichol,
LL. D., Professor of Practical Astronomy in the University of Glasgow. Third Edition. 1847. 12mo.
Of the many attempts to gratify the popular yearning for astronomical intelligence, none seem to have proved quite so successful as those of Dr. Nichol. By his admirably clear and lucid developments of some of the more abstruse matters, he has lifted, higher than it was ever before raised, the veil which protects the inner mysteries of this sublime science from the gaze of all but its sworn high-priests. Notwithstanding his too rhetori- . VOL. LXVI. No. 138.
cal style, of which, however fascinating it may be to common readers, his sober admirers will at times be impatient, his writings abound in happy forms of expression, and exhibit that logical accuracy and philosophical precision which characterize the genuine inquirer after truth. His modest and candid spirit seems to have protected him from the seductive influence of popular applause, and we believe that it is his sincere and single object to explain to his fellow-men the actual arrangements of the physical universe without any coloring of false rhetoric. This object has been pursued with marvellous skill, and while his clever elucidations are a public benefaction of no mean value, he has a right to the credit of having added to the world's knowledge of astronomy. But our duty, as a public censor, must not here be neglected, and while we praise the master, we must not omit to give a gentle check to the pupil
. The mass of even the enlightened portion of the public has not time or opportunity for thorough investigation of any physical science, and yet it is ever prone, in consequence of the adulation which it is receiving from its dependants, to imagine that, as soon as it has learned any thing of a subject, it sees through it to its very foundation. Consistently with this character, the world is now disposed to claim a complete knowledge of astronomy, and to summon geometers before its tribunal, where the unerring voice of the godlike majority may decide the most delicate questions in celestial mechanics. But Neptune and Uranus, once claiming to be gods themselves, do not run their mystic course so simply that an ordinary mortal may read it in a half-hour's study ; nor are the profound computations of so extraordinary a genius as Leverrier to be overthrown by the defective impressions which may be derived from the inspection of a diagram. If, with all their efforts, the people are unable to solve problems of international perturbation, like those of Mexico and Texas, they cannot be supposed capable of unravelling, at a glance, the mutual actions of these distant orbs. We may hereafter attempt to show that there has been great misconception as to the very nature of this difficult problem ; and we are confident that, notwithstanding the radical difference between the orbits of the theoretical and the actual Neptune, a profound study of the original investigations will only increase one's admiration of the twin geniuses of Adams and Leverrier.
Professor Nichol's speculations upon the moon are highly original, and deserve the serious consideration of geologists. His discoveries in regard to the mountain rays which intersect each other, and even cross deep craters in such a way as clearly to indicate their origin and relative age, are of the highest interest, and, if they are confirmed, will give him an elevated rank among
observers. They are truly the beginning of a new era in lunar researches, and confirm the opinion which we have always entertained, that the moon's surface is itself the appropriate study of a life, and should be ranked with geological rather than with astronomical pursuits. We hope that Dr. Nichol will himself complete the investigations which he has so happily commenced.
Dr. Nichol's name has been connected with the defence of Herschel's nebular hypothesis, but in the preface to the present work he avows the opinion that this hypothesis is no longer tenable, on account of the resolution of the great nebula in Orion by Lord Rosse's magnificent telescope. Mr. Bond's excellent observations with the great Cambridge refractor fully confirm this brilliant achievement; and we are also of opinion that, when his son's observations upon the great nebula in Andromeda are published, they will remove another possible line of distinction between resolvable and irresolvable nebulæ. Dr. Nichol seems to us, therefore, to be fully justified in abandoning his former posi. tion ; for there does not now seem to remain any peculiarity of appearance, which will authorize us to select certain of the nebulæ and regard them, not as clusters, like the others, but as of self-shining fluid, akin to the cometic.” Our present limits will not permit us to discuss the new form which Sir John Herschel has given to the nebular hypothesis in his recent splendid work upon the stars of the southern hemisphere, and which seems to us far more probable than the original speculation, especially because it is not inconsistent with the possible resolution into stars of any or all of the nebulæ.
Professor Nichol's development of Bessel's account of the polar forces exhibited in Halley's comet, and his more questionable speculations upon the solar atmosphere, are fine specimens of his captivating powers of illustration, and his readers should be grateful to him for having brought down to them so charm. ing a vehicle for ascending to the stars.