Monthly Archives: May 2008

Item of the Day: Chesterfield to his Son on Vanity (1774)

Full Title: Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son, Philip Stanhope, Esq; Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden. Together with Several Other Pieces on Various subjects. Published by Mrs. Eugenia Stanhope, From the Originals Now in Her Possession. In Two Volumes. Vol. II. Dublin: Printed by G. Faulkner, in Parliament-street, M.DCC.LXXIV.

Letter LXXII.

Bath, November the 16th, 1752.

My Dear Friend,

Vanity, or to call it by a gentler name, the desire of admiration and applause, is, perhaps, the most universal principle of human actions; I do not say, that it is the best; and I will own, that it is sometimes the cause of both foolish and criminal effects.  But it is so much oftener the principle of right things, that, though they ought to have a better, yet, considering human nature, that principle is to be encouraged and cherished, in consideration of its effects.  Where that desire is wanting, we are apt to be indifferent, listless, indolent and inert; we do not exert our powers; and we appear to be as much below ourselves, as the vainest man living can desire to appear above what he really is.

As I have made you my confessor, and do not scruple to confess even my weaknesses to you, I will fairly own, that I had that vanity, that weakness, if it be one, to a prodigious degree; and, what is more, I confess it without repentence; nay I am glad I had it; since, if I have the good fortune to please in the world, it is to that powerful and active principle that I owe it.  I began the world, not with a bare desire, but with an insatiable thirst, a rage for popularity, applause, and admiration.  If this made me do some silly things, on one hand, it made me, on the other hand, do almost all the right things that I did:  it made me attentive and civil to the women I disliked, and to the men I despised, in hopes of the applause of both:  though I neither desired, nor would have accepted the favours of the one, nor the friendship of the other.  I always dressed, looked, and talked my best; and, I own, was overjoyed whenever I perceived that by all three, or by any one of them, the company was pleased with me.  To men, I talked whatever I thought would give them the best opinion of my parts and learning; and, to women, what I was sure would please them; flattery, gallantry, and love.  And moreover, I will own to you, under the secrecy of confession, that my vanity has very often made me take great pains to make many a woman in love with me, if I could, for whose person I would not give a pinch a snuff.  In company with men, I always endeavoured to out-shine, or, at least, if possible, to equal the most shining man in it.  This desire elicited whatever powers I had to gratify it; and where I could not perhaps shine in the first, enabled me, at least, to shine in the second or third sphere.  By these means I soon grew in fashion; and when a man is once in fashion, all he does is right.  It was infinite pleasure to me, to find my own fashion and popularity.  I was sent for to all parties of pleasure, both of men or women; where, in some measures, I gave the tone.  This gave me the reputation of having had some woman of condition; and that reputation, whether true or false, really got me others.  With the men I was a Proteus, and assumed every shape, in order to please them all: among the gay, I was the gayest, among the grave, the gravest; and I never omitted the least attentions of good breeding, or the least offices of friendship, that could either please, or attach them to me: and accordingly I was soon connected with all the men of any fashion or figure in town.

To this principle of vanity, which Philosophers call a mean one, and which I do not, I owe great part of the figure which I have made in life.  I wish you had as much, but I fear you have too little of it; and you seem to have a degree of laziness and lislestness about you, that makes you indifferent as to general applause…

 

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Filed under 1770's, Family, Letters, Philosophy, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics (1797)

Full Title: Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, Comprising his Practical Philosophy, Translated from the Greek. Illustrated by Introductions and Notes; The Critical History of his Life; and a New Analysis of his Speculative Works. By John Gillies. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Strahan; and T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies, in the Strand, 1797.

 

PREFACE.

Aristotle is the most voluminous, and generally deemed the most obscure, of all the Greek writers of classic antiquity. His imperfect yet copious remains, which are now rather admired than read, and which were formerly much read and little understood, still naturally arrange themselves in the minds of those capable of digesting them, under their original form of an encyclopedy of science; in many parts of which, the author’s labours are, doubtless, excelled by those of modern philosophers; while in other parts, those of the most important nature, his intellectual exertions remain hitherto unrivalled. It seemed high time, therefore, to draw the line between those writings of the Stagirite which still merit the most serious attention of the modern reader, and those of which the perusal is superseded by more accurate and more complete information. This line I have preseumed to draw in the present work, by endeavouring to the best of my abilities to translate the former perspicuously and impressively, while I contented myself with giving a distinct and comrpehensive analysis of the latter.

The “Ethics to Nicomachus and the Politics” ought never to have been disjoined, since they are considered by Aristotle himself as forming essential parts of one and the same work; which, as it was the last and principal object of his studies, is of all his performances the longest, the best connected, and incomparably the most interesting. The two treatises combined, constitute what he calls his practical philosophy; an epithet to which, in comparison with other works of the same kind, they will be found peculiarly entitled. In the Ethics, the reader will see a full and satisfactory delineation of the moral nature of man, and of the discipline and exercise best adapted to its improvement. The Philosopher speaks with commanding authority to the heart and affections, through the irresistible conviction of the understanding. His morality is neither on the one hand too indulgent, nor on the other impracticable. His lessons are not cramped by the narrow, nor perverted by the wild, spirit of system; they are clear inductions, flowing naturally and spontaneously from a copious and pure source of well-digested experience.

According to the Stagirite, men are and always have been not only moral and social, but also political animals; in a great measure dependent for their happiness and perfection on the public institutions of their respective countries. The grand inquiry, therefore, is, what are the different arrangements that have been found under given circumstances, practically most conducive to these main and ultimate purposes? This question the Author endeavoured to answer in his “Politics,” by a careful examination of two hundred systems of legislation, many of which are not any where else described; and by proving how uniformly, even in political matters, the results of observation and experiment conspire with and confirm the deductions of an accurate and full theory. In this incomparable work, the reader will perceive “the genuine spirit of laws” deduced from the specific and unalterable distinctions of governments; and with a small effort of attention, may discern not only those discoveries in science, unjustly claimed by the vanity of modern writers, but many of those improvements in practice, erroneously ascribed to the fortunate events of time and chance in these latter and more enlightened ages. The same invaluable treatise disclose the pure and perennial spring of all legitimate authority; for in Aristotle’s “politics,” and HIS only, government is placed on such a natural and solid foundation, as leaves neither its origin incomprehensible, nor its stability precarious: and his conclusions, had they been well weighted, must have surmounted or suppressed those erroneous and absurd doctrines which long upheld despotism on the one hand, and those equally erroneous and still wilder suppositions of conventions and compacts, which have more recently armed popular fury on the other.

But our Author’s principles and doctrines will speak convincingly for themselves. The intention of this Preface is merely to explain the plan and object of the present performance; which, besides giving a translation of Aristotle’s practical philosophy, contains a new analysis of his speculative works. This addition appeared the more necessary, because the Stagirite’s intellectual system is so compactly built, and so solidly united, that its separate parts cannot be completely understood, unless the whole be clearly comprehended. The writing indeed here translated, stand more detached and more independent than almost any other; yet, without the aid of the prefixed “Analysis,” even the Ethics and Plitics would require frequent, almost perpetual elucidation. The reader, I feared, would be soon tired with the unconnected prolixity of notes; he will, I hope, be entertained by the Analyses even of those treatieses to which, independently of any substantial utility, his attention may be still allured by a liberal and commendable curiosity. . . .

 

 

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Filed under 1790's, Ancient Greece, Greek/Roman Translations, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: On Vocal Music (1787)

Found In: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings. On Moral, Historical, Political and Literary Subjects. By Noah Webster, Jun. Attorney at Law. Pronted at Boston, for the author, by I. Thomas and E. T. Andrews . . . MDCCXC. [1790]

[pp. 229-230]

 

NO. XIX.

PHILADELPHIA, 1787.

 

On VOCAL MUSIC.

The establishment of schools for teaching psalmody in this city is a pleasing institution; but people seem not to understand the design, or rather are not properly conducted and encouraged. Most people consider music merely as a source of pleasure; not attending to its influence on the human mind, and its consequent effects on society. But it should be regarded as an article of education, useful as well as ornamental.

The human mind is formed for activity; and will ever be employed in business or diversions. Children are prepetually in motion, and all the ingenuity of their parents and guardians should be exerted to devise methods for restraining this activ principle, and directing it to some useful object, or to harmeless trifles. If this is not done, their propensity to action, even without a vicious motiv, will hurry them into follies and crimes. Every thing innocent, that attracts the attention of children, and will employ their minds in leisure hours, when idleness might otherwise open the way to vice, must be considered as a valuable employment. Of this kind is vocal music. There were instances of youth, the last winter, who voluntarily attended a singing school in preference to theatre. It is but reasonable to suppose, that if they would neglect a theatre for singing, they would neglect a thousand amusements, less engaging, and more pernicious.

Instrumental music is generally prefered to vocal, and considered as an elegant accomplishment. It is indeed a pleasing accomplishment; but the preference given to it, is a species of the same false taste, which places a son under the tuition of a drunken clown, to make him a gentleman of strict morals.

Instrumental music may exceed vocal in some nice touches and distinctions of sound; but when regarded as to its effects upn the mind and upon society, it is as inferior to vocal, as sound is inferior to sense. It is very easy for a spruce beau to display a contempt for vocal music, and to say that human invention has gone beyond the works of God almighty. But till the system of creation shall be new modelled, the human voice properly cultivated will be capable of making he most perfect music. It is neglected; sol saing is unfashionable, and that is enough to damn it: But people who have not been acquainted with the perfection of psalmody, are incapable of making a suitable comparison between vocal and instrumental music. I have often heard the best vocal concerts in America, and the best instrumental concerts; and can declare, that the music of the latter is as inferior to that of the former, as the merit of a band box macaroni is to that of a Cato.

Instrumental music affords an agreeable amusement; and as an amusement it ought to be cultivated. But the advantage is private and limited; it pleases the ear, but leaves no impression upon the heart.

The design of music is to awaken the passions, to soften the heart for the reception of sentiment. To awaken passion is within the power of instruments, and this may afford a temporary pleasure; but society derives no advantage from it, unless some useful sentiment is left upon the heart. . . .

 

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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Early Republic, Education, Music, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Madison’s Papers (1842)

Full Title: The Papers of James Madison, Purchased by Order of Congress; Being His Correspondence and Reports of Debates During the Congress of the Confederation and his Reports of Debates in The Federal Convention; Now published from the original manuscripts, deposited in the Department of State, By Direction of the Joint Library Committee of Congress, Under the Superintendence of Henry D. Gilpin.  Volume I.  Mobile:  Allston Mygatt.  1842.

Letters Preceding the Debates of 1783.

To Thomas Jefferson.  Philadelphia, March 27, 1780.

Dear Sir,

Nothing under the title of news has occurred since I wrote last week by express, except that the enemy on the first of March remained in the neighbourhood of Charleston, in the same posture as when the preceding account came away.  From the best intelligence from that quarter, there seems to be great encouragement to hope that Clinton’s operations will be again frustrated.  Our great apprehensions at present flow from a very different quarter.  Among the various conjunctures of alarm and distress which have arisen in the course of the Revolution, it is with pain I affirm to you, Sir, that no one can be singled out more truly critical than the present.  Our army threatened with an immediate alternative of disbanding or living on free quarter; the public treasury empty; public credit exhausted, nay, the private credit of purchasing agents employed, I am told, as far as it will bear; Congress complaining of the extortion of the people; the people of the improvidence of Congress; and the army of both; our affairs requiring the most mature and systematic measures, and the urgency of occasions admitting only of temporizing expedients generating new difficulties; Congress recommending plans to the several states for execution, and the States separately rejudging the expediency of such plans, whereby the same distrust of concurrent exertions that has damped the ardor of patriotic individuals must produce the same effect among the States themselves; an old system of finance discarded as incompetent to our necessities, an untried and precarious one substituted, and a total stagnation in prospect between the end of the former and the operation of the latter.  These are the outlines of the picture of our public situation.  I leave it to your own imagination to fill them up.  Believe me, Sir, as things now stand, if the States do not vigorously proceed in collecting the old money, and establishing funds for the credit of the new, that we are undone; and let them be ever so expeditious in doing this, sill the intermediate distress of our army, and hinderance to public affairs, are a subject of melancholy reflection.  General Washington writes that a failure of bread has already commenced in the army; and that, for any thing he sees, it must unavoidably increase.  Meat they have only for a short season, and as the whole dependence is on provisions now to be procured, without a shilling for the purpose, and without credit for a shilling, I look forward with the most pungent apprehensions.  It will be attempted, I believe, to purchase a few supplies with loan-office certificates; but whether they will be received is perhaps far from being certain; and if received will certainly be a more expensive and ruinous expedient.  It is not without some reluctance I trust this information to a conveyance by post, but I know of no better at present, and I ceonceive it to be absolutely necessary to be known to those who are most able and zealous to contribute to the public relief.     

 

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Filed under 1780's, American Revolution, Eighteenth century, Letters, Posted by Matthew Williams, Public Debt, Washington

Item of the Day: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings (1790)

Full Title: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings. On Moral, Historical, Political and Literary Subjects. By Noah Webster, Jun. Attorney at Law. Printed at Boston, for the author, by I. Thomas and E. T. Andrews . . . MDCCXC. [1790]

[The following text has been transcribed exactly as it appears in the preface. No corrections or alterations have been made to grammar or spelling]. 

PREFACE.

The following Collection consists of Essays and Fugitiv Peeces, ritten at various times, and on different occasions, az wil appeer by their dates and subjects. Many of them were dictated at the moment, by the impulse of impressions made by important political events, and abound with a correspondent warmth of expression. This freedom of language wil be excused by the frends of the revolution and of good guvernment, who wil recollect the sensations they hav experienced, amidst the anarky and distraction which succeeded the cloze of the war. On such occasions a riter wil naturally giv himelf up to hiz feelings, and hiz manner of riting wil flow from hiz manner of thinking.

Most of thoze peeces, which hav appeered before in periodical papers and Magazeens, were published with fictitious signatures; for I very erly discuvered, that altho the name of an old and respectable karacter givs credit and consequence to hiz ritings, yet the name of a yung man iz often prejudicial to hiz performances. By conceeling my name, the opinions of men hav been prezerved from an undu bias arizing from personal prejudices, the faults of the ritings hav been detected, and their merit in public estimation ascertained.

The favorable reception given to a number of theze Essays by an indulgent public, induced me to publish them in a volum, with such alterations and emendations, az I had heerd suggested by frends or indifferent reeders, together with some manuscripts, that my own wishes led me to hope might be useful.

During the course of ten or twelv yeers, I hav been laboring to correct popular errors, and to assist my yung brethren in the road to truth and virtue; my publications for theze purposes hav been mumerous; much time haz been spent, which I do not regret, and much censure incurred, which my hart tells me I do not dezerv. The influence of a yung writer cannot be so powerful or extensiv az that of an established karacter; but I hav ever thot a man’s usefulness depends mor on exertion than on talents. I am attached to America by berth, education and habit; but abuv all, by a philosophical view of her situation, and the superior advantages she enjoys, for augmenting the sum of social happiness.

I should hav added another volum, had not recent experience convinced me, that few large publications in this country wil pay a printer, much less an author. Should the Essays here presented to the public, proov undezerving of notice, I shal, with cheerfulness, resign my other papers to oblivion.

The reeder wil obzerv that the orthography of the volume iz not uniform. The reezon iz, that many of the essays hav been published before, in the common orthography, and it would hav been a laborious task to copy the whole, for the sake of changing the spelling.

In the essays ritten within the last yeer, a considerable change of spelling iz introduced by way of experiment. This liberty waz taken by the writers before the age of queen Elizabeth, and to this we are indeted for the preference of modern spelling over that of Gower and Chaucer. The man who admits that the change of housoonde, mynde, ygone, moneth into husband, mind, gone, month, iz an improovment, must acknowlege also the riting of helth, breth, rong, tung, munth, to be an improovment. There iz no alternativ. Every possible reezon that could ever be offered for altering the spelling of wurds, still exists in full force; and if a gradual reform should not be made in our language, it wil proove that we are less under the influence of reezon than our ancestors.

Hartford, June, 1790.

 

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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Early Republic, Education, Eighteenth century, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The True Sentiments of America(1768)

Full Title:

The True Sentiments of America: Contained in a Collection of Letters Sent from the House of Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay to Several Persons of High Rank in the Kingdom: Together with Certain Papers Relating to a Supposed Libel on the Governor of that Province, and a Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law.  London, Printed for J. Almon, In Piccadilly. 1768.

Agreeable to a Vote of the Honourable House of Representatives of the Province of the Massachusett’s-Bay, the following humble, dutiful, and loyal Petition to the King, signed by the Speaker, by their Order of the 20th January 1768; together with the Representatives of the House to his Majesty’s Ministers; their Letter to their Agent, &c. are here inserted.

An humble Petition to the King’s most Excellent Majesty.

Most Gracious Sovereign,

Your Majesty’s faithful subjects, the representatives of your province of the Massachusetts-Bay, with the warmest sentiments of loyalty, duty, and affection, beg leave to approach the throne, and to lay at you Majesty’s feet their humble supplications, in behalf of your distressed subjects the people of the province.

Our ancestors, the first settlers of this country, having with the royal consent, which we humbly apprehend involves the consent of the nation, and at their own great expence, migrated from the mother kingdom, took possession of this land, at that time a wilderness, the right whereof they had purchased a valuable consideration of the council established at Plimouth, to whom it had been granted your Majesty’s royal predecessor King James the first.

From the principles of loyalty to their Sovereign which will ever warm the breast of a true subject, though remote they acknowledged their allegiance to the English crown: and your Majesty will allow us with all humility to say, that they and their posterity, even to this time, have afforded frequent and signal proofs of their zeal for the honour and service of their prince, and their firm attachment to the parent country.

With toil and fatigue, perhaps not to be conceived by their brethren and fellow-subjects at home, and with the constant peril of their lives, from a numerous, savage, and warlike race of men, they began their settlement, and God prospered them. 

They obtained a charter from King Charles the first; wherein his Majesty was pleased to grant them and their heirs and assigns for ever, all the lands therein described, to hold of him and his royal successors in free and common soccage; which we humbly conceive is as absolute an estate as the subject can hold under the crown.  And in the same charter were granted to them, and their posterity, all the rights, liberties, privileges, and immunities of natural subjects, born within the realm. 

This charter they enjoyed, having, as we most humbly conceive, punctually complied with all the conditions of it, till in an unhappy time it was vacated–But after the revolution, when King William and Queen Mary, of glorious and blessed memory, were established on the throne: In that happy reign, when, to the joy of the nation and its dependencies, the crown was settled in your Majesty’s illustrious family, the inhabitants of this province shared in the common blessing.  Then they were indulged with another charter; in which their Majesties were pleased for themselves, their heirs and successors, to grant and confirm to them as ample estate in the lands or territories as was granted by the former charter, together with other the most essential rights and liberties contained therein:  The principal of which, is that which your Majesty’s subjects within the realm have ever held a most sacred right, of being taxed only by representatives of their own free election…

 

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Filed under 1760's, Adams, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution

Item of the Day: Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York in 1765 (1767)

Full Title: Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York, in MDCCLXV, on the SUBJECT of the AMERICAN STAMP ACT.  MDCCLXVII. [1767]

 

PROCEEDINGS

OF THE

CONGRESS

AT

NEW-YORK.

Boston, June 1765.

SIR,

 The House of Representatives of this province, in the present session of the general court, have unanaimously agreed to propose a meeting, as soon as may be, of COMMITTEES, from the houses of representatives or burgesses of the several British colonies on this continent, to consult together on the present circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which they are, and must be reduced, by the operation of the acts of parliament for levying duties and taxes on the colonies; and to consider of a general, and united, dutiful, loyal and humble representation of their condition, to his Majesty and the Parliament, and to implore relief. The house of reprsentatives of this province have also voted to propose, That such meeting be at the city of New-York, in the province of New-York, on the first Tuesday in October next; and have appointed a committee of three of their members to attend that service, with such as the other houses of representatives, or burgesses, in the several colonies, may think fit to appoint to meet them. And the committee of the house of representatives of this province, are directed to repair to said New-York, on said first Tuesday in October next, accordingly.

If, therefore, your honourable house should agree to this proposal, it would be acceptable, that as early notice of it as possible, might be transmitted to the speaker of the house of representatives of this province.

SAMUEL WHITE, Speaker

In consequence of the foregoing circular letter, the following gentlemen met at New-York, in the province of New-York, on Monday the seventh day of October, 1765, viz.

From the province of Massachusetts-bay, JAMES OTIS, OLIVER PATRIDGE, TIMOTHY RUGGLES, Esquires.

From the colony of Rhode-Island, and Providence plantation, METCALF BOWLER, HENRY WARD, Esquires.

From the colony of Connecticut, ELIPHALET DYER, DAVID ROWLAND, WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON, Esquires.

From the colony of New-York, ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON, JOHN CRUGER, PHILIP LIVINGSTON, WILLIAM BAYARD, LEONARD LISPENARD, Esquires.

From the colony of New-Jersey, ROBERT OGDEN, HENDRICK FISHER, JOSEPH BORDEN, Esquires.

From the government of the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, CAESAR RODNEY, THOMAS M’KEAN, Esquires.

From the province of Maryland, WILLIAM MURDOCK, EDWARD TILGHMAN, THOMAS RINGGOLD, Esquires.

From the province of South-Carolina, THOMAS LYNCH, CHRISTOPHER GADSDEN, JOHN RUTLEDGE, Esquires.

Then the said committees proceeded to chuse a chariman by ballot, and Timothy Ruggles, esq; on sorting and counting the votes, appeared to have a majority, and thereupon was placed in the chair.

 

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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Congress, Great Britain, New York, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Stamp Act