Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

here. We have no belief that God has wholly abandoned this nation. Indeed, we see in these hostile movements against us signs of encouragement. Let us be prudent, and give no occasion to the enemy, and he will not be able to harm us. His power will be broken after a brief while, and a bright day will dawn for Catholicity in this New World.

ART. VII. - LITERARY NOTICES AND CRITICISMS.

1. History of the United States, from the Discovery of the Ameri

ican Continent. By GEORGE BANCROFT. Vol. VI. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. 1854. 8vo. pp. 528.

The sixth volume of Mr. Bancroft's History, which was issued by the publishers last October, brings the history of the Revolution down to May, 1774, the eve of the breaking out of hostilities and the war of independence, and develops and details with great fulness, with extensive research and rare sagacity, the causes and events which finally alienated the affections of the Colonists from the mother country, effected a union among the several Colonies, made them resolve on resistance to British authority, and to assert their existence as a free people and an independent nation. The volume is almost entirely written from hitherto inedited documents, and throws much new light on the views of the European cabinets, especially the cabinet of France, and puts the general reader for the first time in a position fairly to comprehend that great event of American Independence. We are gratified to find that, though the author may go further in a revolutionary direction than we may be disposed to follow, he proves that the American people were not revolutionists after the fashion of the present day, and that they defended themselves, not on the ground of the inherent right of the people, or a major part of them, to make a revolution for the simple purpose of changing their form of government, and substituting a new one more to their liking, which is incompatible with the legitimacy of any government at all, but on the ground that the British government violated their most essential rights as British subjects, and thus broke the compact which bound them to the British crown. They proceeded on the principle which lies at the basis of all civil liberty, that the tyranny of the prince absolves the subject. They based their right to resistance on the ground of the violence, usurpations, tyranny, and oppressions of the mother country, and we are bound to say that Mr. Bancroft has made out a far stronger case for them than we had believed they had. He has relieved us of all our misgivings, and proved to our satisfaction that they were justified by facts as well as by principle. Decidedly opposed as we are to the revolutionary principle, and as stanch an asserter as we are of legitimacy, Mr. Bancroft has proved to us by this volume, not only that we could have taken sides with the patriots, but that it would have been our duty to do so, and that we may glory in many things which we had supposed we could at best only excuse.

In a literary and philosophical point of view we think this volume is superior to any of its predecessors. Its style is graver and has more of the majestic march of history. The volume is more strictly historical, and less speculative. Its tone is deeper and more subdued. Indeed, we see, or fancy we see, a marked prog. ress, as he advances in life, in the tone and disposition of the author. We have observed this more particularly in a very remarkable Address on Progress, which he has recently delivered before the New York Historical Society, and which has produced a lively sensation in more quarters than one. It is outspoken and manly, thoughtful and profound, sincere and earnest, and a most noble and energetic protest against the materialism and scepticism of the age, which, coming from the quarter it does, we hail with no little pleasure and hopefulness. The author may not be fully aware of it, but he has risen to a higher point of view, and entered a very different order of thought, from that in which he, as well as ourselves, was educated, although an order always craved by his deeper sympathies. He evidently understands in a new light the great movements of history, and now sees that the freedom of thought, the development of the race, and the progress of society, to which he early wedded himself, are not after all on the side he at first supposed, and that, with his broad sympathies, his lofty aims, his invincible firmness, vigorous intellect, and ardent hopes, his natural association is on the other side. He has passed beyond, far beyond Gibbon, and sees something more in the controversy between the Athanasians and the Arians, which for nearly two centuries convulsed the world, than a simple dispute about a single diphthong. In that sin. gle diphthong, in the question whether the Son was of the same or of only a similar substance with the Father, was involved the future of truth, religion, progress, liberty, humanity, all of which would have been sacrificed had the Arians triumphed. This Mr. Bancroft has seen. He ceases to idolize humanity, and boldly recognizes that the God of consciousness, of humanity, of history, as well as of theology, is triune. That this truth has burst upon his vision with the full light of day, that he sees all that is involved in it, may not be true, but he has risen to the high standpoint whence he can behold it rising in the eastern horizon, and dispelling the clouds of night and breaking through the morning mists, and his is neither the mind nor the heart to close itself to its cheering radiance. He is not a man to shrink from following in his own thought truth whithersoever it may lead, or from its open and heroic assertion. We have heard no avowal from him that indicates a tendency to embrace that glorious old Church on whose maternal bosom we have found such sweet and ineffable repose for our long storm-tost and tempest-torn spirit, but we see in him one who believes with all his soul in a moral order, in the reality of truth and justice, and is prepared to do valiant battle against scepticism, in. differentism, and mere humanism. His mind is religious, his heart craves 'to love and worship, and his soul feels the need of some support, some stay amid the vicissitudes of life, above the low and transitory objects and affections of this perishing world.

We owe it to ourselves and to Mr. Bancroft to say frankly, that the principal objections which we preferred against his earlier vol. umes have nearly all disappeared from the present, and we shall wait impatiently for each of his successive volumes. With all the objections that we made, when judged from the Catholic point of view, to the earlier portions, his History is undeniably the great fact of American literature, and will hereafter, if it is not already, be recognized as such by all competent judges, both at home and abroad. When it is completed, and has received its last revision, it will remain, we trust, a noble monument to the genius of the author and to the genius of his country.

2. First Book of History; combined with Geography and Chro

nology, for younger Classes. By John G. SHEA. New York: D. & J. Sadlier & Co. 1854. 12mo. pp. 254.

We like the style and plan of this First Book of History very much, and think the author has been very successful in both. We detect no Peter Parleyism in his book, that most detestable of isms in the order of school-books. Peter Parley's books are a downright nuisance, and if our grand juries would do their duty they would be at once presented as such all over the land. The man who composes a good school history, or any other good school. book, deserves our gratitude. Mr. Shea's style is chaste and simple, and his plan is well fitted to fix in the mind of the learner a distinct conception of each particular nation, from its first rise in history to the present, or to its final disappearance, which is a thing of great importance.

Mr. Shea, in his Preface, tells us that he has drawn his matter from original sources. This we suspect must not be taken au

18

THIRD SERIES - VOL. III. NO. I.

pied de lettre, for the original sources of the history of all the nations of the earth, from the beginning down, are not to be found in this country, and no man, unless living to the age of Methusalem, could consult them all. We see no evidence in the book that the author has made any original or any very profound historical researches. In glancing over his pages we find several inaccuracies, some of which may indeed be the fault of the printer, but others are evidently his own. We read, p. 139, that Philip the Fourth was king of France in 1328, and was defeated at the battle of Crecy. This may be the mistake of the printer for Philip the Sixth ; but that Henry the Eighth of England did not change the religion of his people, and that he died a Catholic, p. 150, must be an error of the author. Is it no change of religion for a Catholic to deny the supremacy of the Pope and to separate from the communion of the Holy See, involving as it does both heresy and schism ? Does the author hold that a king can abolish the spiritual authority of the Pope, separate the Church in his dominions from the centre of unity, make himself its head, and incur the greater excommunication, without prejudice to his Catholicity? or do that and die excommunicated, and nevertheless die a Catholic ? Will he tell us, then, from what original source he has drawn his knowledge of Catholicity? We observe, p. 106, that in the hands of Mr. Shea the immortal 6 three hundred " Spartans under Leonidas, who met the Persians at Thermopylæ, grow to six thousand. Has he any original authority for saying that Leonidas had with him six thousand Spartans ? On p. 166, we read that O'Connell, by incessant agitation, obtained, in 1829, the elective franchise for Catholics. We had supposed that what O'Connell obtained was not the right for Catholics to vote, which they already possessed, but the right to sit in Parliament and hold offices, with. out taking the oath of supremacy. We read again, p. 169, that Charlemagne restored the Western Empire. This is a mistake. The Western Empire was restored by the Pope, St. Leo the Third, and conferred on Charlemagne, whom he crowned Emperor. The author, also, seems to imply that the Empire did not become elective till 912; but it was elective from the first, and the Emperor was elective by the Pope in person, or by electors designated or authorized by the Pope to make the election. Mr. Shea knows, if he knows anything of mediæval history and of the relations of the Empire and the Papacy, that much depends on this fact, and that the denial of it would make out the Holy Pontiffs for ages to have been a series of unscrupulous usurpers. A Catholic, writing a First Book of History for younger classes, should be careful how he states as historical facts things fitted to destroy all confidence in the head of his Church. The monster whom Mr. Shea, p. 170, calls Henry the Fourth, and would seem to regard as a very excellent emperor, aside from his disputes with the Pope, never was Emperor. He

a

was King of the Germans, but not Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, because never crowned by the Pope. We suspect Mr. Shea has not drawn his history from the most reliable sources, even if from original sources. It is easy to detect the school to which he belongs, and the masters he follows.

We find Mr. Shea credits the legend of William Tell and the apple, and is a firm believer in the “ Gunpowder Plot." He does not appear to think the defeat of Charles the Bold by the Swiss an event in modern history worth alluding to, and appears never to have heard of the battle of Auerstadt, fought by Davoust against the king of Prussia in person, on the same day that Napoleon fought the battle of Jena, and which was more brilliant, and had even more influence in breaking the Prussian power, than the battle of Jena itself. Several other things we have remarked which seem to us objectionable, and which go to weaken our confidence in the author as a reliable historian. Nevertheless, a few corrections in the second edition will render it in the main unexceptionable, and make it a very excellent manual for younger classes, according to its design.

3. The Catholic History of North America. Five Discourses.

To which are added Two Discourses on the Relations of Ireland and America. By T. D. McGee. Boston : Donahoe. 1855. 12mo. pp. 239.

The title of this volume is liable to mislead. Whoever takes up the volume expecting to find in it a complete history of Catholicity in North America, or a regular history at all, will be gravely disappointed. The work is polemical, not historical, except that its proofs are for the most part drawn from historical sources. The author has the same object in view that the Archbishop of New York had in his interesting and eloquent Catholic Chapter in American History, that of combating those who call this a Protestant country, and contend that Catholics are a sort of intruders or interlopers here. To this end he undertakes to maintain three propositions, viz. :-“1. That the discovery and exploration of America were Catholic enterprises, undertaken by Catholics with Catholic motives, and carried out by Catholic co-operation ; 2. That the only systematic attempts to civilize and Christianize the aborigines were made by Catholic missionaries; and, 3. That the independence of the United States was in a great degree established by Catholic blood, talent, and treasure.”

The second of these propositions the author fully establishes ; the first he establishes to a certain extent, but not so far as to exclude other than Catholic motives in the early discoverers and ex.

« PředchozíPokračovat »