no previous Next next

 image pending 369

Art. XXI.

An Oration, pronounced on the 4th
of July
, 1799, at the request of the
Citizens of New-Haven. By
Daggett. Second Edition. pp. 28.
8vo. New-Haven. Thomas Green
and Son. 1799.

THIS singular and amusing
piece of oratory commences
with a quotation from Swift's de-
scription of the Grand Academy
at Lagando, in Laputa, by which
that ingenious and witty writer has
ridiculed the pretended discoveries,
and useless projects of philosophers
and artists, and censured the abu-
ses of learning and science. Sup-
posing the philosophers of the pre-
sent day, not less fertile in extrava-
gant schemes than the learned
academicians of Laputa, Mr. D.
points the shafts of ridicule at those,
who have laboured to construct self-
moving machines;
to ascend the air
in balloons, or dive to the bottom of
the ocean. He observes, that agri-
culture has not escaped the rage for
theoretic improvement, and the la-
bours of the speculative husband-
man are suspended, and his uten-
sils neglected, in the hope of a har-
vest without toil. The contagion
of theory has also extended to medi-
cine, education, morals
and politics:
Hippocrates, Galen and Sydenham,
have given place to Brown and
Perkins. Superficial and fantastic
modes of education have under-
mined the good old maxims of our
forefathers; and new theories of
morals and polity have generated

 image pending 370

a brood of cosmopolites, destitute of
social affections, without the love
of their country, the apologists of
crimes, and the propagators of li-
centiousness and anarchy. These
innovators and projectors, and their
followers, are successively subject-
ed to the rhetorical scourge of Mr.
D. who has inflicted the stings of
irony and sarcasm with merciless se-
verity. He remarks, however, that
notwithstanding those sublime in-
ventions and wonderful discoveries,
the great mass of his countrymen
are stupid enough to keep their
horses and oxen, and to prefer be-
ing impelled on the surface of the
sea by wind and tide, to moving
among clouds or monsters of the
deep, by the force of gas or the ex-
pansion of steam.

To the inquiry where these novel
theories have appeared, Mr. D. an-
swers:—“They have dawned upon
New-England; they have glowed
in the Southern States; they have
burnt in France. We have seen
projectors in boats, balloons and au-
tomatons. A few philosophical far-
mers—a few attempts to propagate
naked sheep—and we have at least
one philosopher in the United States,
who has taken an accurate mensu-
ration of the mammoth's bones,—
made surprising discoveries in the
doctrine of vibrating pendulums,
and astonished the world with the
precise guage and dimensions of all
the aboriginals in America.”

An inquisitive reader might here
ask, whether the discovery of the
means of forming a more correct
and practicable standard of measure
than has hitherto existed, is a fit sub-
ject of ridicule, to a grave and en-
lightened audience; or whether such
researches into the natural history
of our country, as a distinguished
and admired historian of America
thought worthy of his laborious at-
tention, merit to be confounded
with every thing that is useless, ab-

surd, and hostile to the welfare and
safety of human society?

Our medical readers will be dis-
posed to think that there is neither
wit, nor justice in the attempt to
place Brown and Perkins, in the
same class of vain pretenders to ex-
traordinary skill. Indeed, we can-
not but remark, that in this part of
Mr. D.'s performance, there is too
little discrimination or liberal dis-
cernment;—too much of that gene-
ral, comprehensive and unqualified
censure, which distinguishes the un-
informed, uncandid, and less cul-
tivated portion of society. Some
distinction may be made between
new theories of morals, policy and
legislation, which essentially and
immediately affect the happiness
and tranquillity of mankind, and
those theories, however extravagant,
new, or speculative, in physics, which
are in general harmless, or injuri-
ous to the interest of the individu-
als only, by whom they are adopted
and pursued.

We do not very well know how
any great improvement has been,
or ever can be made in any art or
science, without theory, and a spirit
of discovery and innovation.—There
appears little danger that men will
suddenly abandon their habits of
life, to adopt the schemes of any
projector, however plausible.—The
history of science evinces the tardi-
ness and languor of human belief
concerning things which contradict
pre-conceived opinions, or surpass
vulgar apprehension. Much time,
patience, and perseverance, were
necessary to convince mankind of
the truth of many things in the
science and economy of nature,
which are now so familiar, that we
wonder at the stupidity and folly of
our ancestors in withholding their
assent to such discoveries, or per-
secuting their authors. “It is be-
lieved that Socrates, and Plato, and
Seneca; Bacon, Newton and Locke,

 image pending 371

who lived and died before the com-
mencement of the French revolu-
tion,” were very audacious theorists
and innovators. But can it be ad-
mitted, if such men existed at this
day, and should embrace systems
of policy different from our own,
or those we regard as honest and
sound, that, therefore, their science
and philosophy were vain preten-
sions, and fatal delusions.

From his own country Mr. D.
directs his views to France, the
dangerous and fatal tendency of
whose political principles, he de-
picts with much warmth and ani-
mation; and whose conduct towards
America, and other nations, he de-
scribes in the strong language of
just abhorrence, and honest indig-

To some of the apologists of that
nation, he thus addresses himself:

“But ‘tis said, these mighty events,
which now astonish the world, are in
exact conformity to the will of heaven.
What do the asserters of this proposition
mean? That ‘tis, in itself, right, and
therefore, agreeable to the will of hea-
ven, for one nation to destroy the go-
vernment of another, be that govern-
ment ever so bad?—If they mean this, I
answer directly, the proposition is false.
All writers, on the laws of nations, with-
out an exception, teach a directly oppo-
site doctrine. Nay, this principle would
place France above reproach. It would
give her the ground she has assumed,
viz. That power is the only rule of
action. This is her creed. This her
friends, (I have, once and again heard
them) declare to be her standard. And
what is this but a principle which has
ever been the single rule of conduct in

“But ‘tis said, these events tend di-
rectly, to fulfil a great plan, for the good
of the universe. Do these apologists,
for Frenchmen, mean that the Directo-
ry, and their subordinates, are commis-
sioned by God, to destroy all the govern-
ments on earth? If they mean this, I
beg them to shew, first, that they are the
privy counsellors of Heaven; and, se-
condly, that such commissions have actu-
ally issued. But do they mean that these
horrid acts of plunder, treachery and

murder, are under the divine controul,
and, therefore, we must acquiesce and
rejoice? If they mean this, I congratulate
them on their resignation, and wish that
it may increase till it produces a spirit
of reconciliation to our own government.
But is it a just principle, that we are to
be thankful, for all events, because they
are under the divine controul? I think
the friends of this new theory should
praise God for all the evil and misery
which men commit, and suffer, and they
will be entitled, then, to the credit of
being consistent.

“But is it meant that these events will
produce good, and therefore are the sub-
ject of rejoicing? Thunder and light-
ning, volcanoes and earthquakes, pesti-
lence and famine, which affrighten, asto-
and destroy, may produce good! The
fire and plague of 1665 and 1666, which
desolated the first city in the world, pro-
bably, have been followed with salutary
consequences! But what assembly ever
yet seriously engaged in mutual con-
gratulation, that the pestilence was slay-
ing its thousands, or that millions of old
and young, innocent and guilty, were
consumed by a conflagration, or swallow-
ed up by an earthquake?

“Nay, there was a murder, once com-
mitted, on Mount Calvary, which has
produced all the good in the universe.
Who has yet been found, to applaud
these murderers?—Mark the difference,
in the conduct of heaven, at the birth
and death of the Saviour. At the one,
“all the sons of God shouted for joy.”
At the other, in direct disapprobation
thereof, the Heavens were veiled in dark-
ness, and the earth shook to its centre!”

The conduct of their ancestors,
and its effects, are thus presented
to the view of his audience:

“I have made these observations, my
fellow-citizens, that we may, on this
anniversary of our national existence; a
day which I hope may be kept sacred to
that solemn employment, contemplate
the labours, the exertions, and the cha-
racters of those venerable men who
founded, and have, hitherto, protected
this nation. I wish them to be seen, and
compared with the speculating theorists,
and mushroom politicians of this age of

“It is now less than two hundred years
since the first settlement of white people
was effected in these United States; less
than one hundred and eighty since the
first settlement was made in New-Eng-

 image pending 372

land, and less than one hundred and
seventy since the first settlement was
made in Connecticut. The place where
we are now assembled was then a wild
waste.—Instead of cultivated fields, dens
and caves.
—Instead of a flourishing city,
huts and wigwams.—Instead of polite,
benevolent, and learned citizens, a horde
of savages.
—Instead of a seat of science,
full of young men, qualifying [themselves]
to adorn and bless their country, here
was only taught the art of tormenting
ingeniously; and here were only heard
the groans of the dying.

“What is here said of New-Haven,
may, with little variation, be said of
all New-England, and of many other
parts of the United States.

“We have now upwards of four mil-
lions of inhabitants, cultivating a fertile
country, and engaged in a commerce,
with 876,000 tons of shipping, and se-
cond only to that of Great Britain.

“How has this mighty change been
effected?—Was it by magic? by super-
natural aid? or was it by ingenious
theories in morals, economics and go-
vernment? My fellow-citizens, it was
accomplished by the industry, the labour,
the perseverance, the sufferings, and vir-
tues of those men from whom we glory
in being descended.*

“These venerable men spent no time
in extracting sun-beams from cucumbers
—in writing letters to Mazzei, or per-
plexing the world with the jargon of the
perfectability of human nature.

“They and their illustrious descend-
ants pursued directly, and by those means
which always will succeed, for they al-
ways have succeeded, those which com-
mon sense dictate, the erection and sup-
port of good government and good mo-
rals. To effect these great objects, they
stood like monuments, with their wives,
their children, and their lives in their
hands.—They fought—they bled—they
died.—At this expense of ease, happiness
and life, they made establishments for
posterity—they protected them against
savages—they cemented them with their
blood—they delivered them to us as a
sacred deposit, and if we suffer them to
be destroyed by the tinselled refinements
of this age, we shall deserve the reproach-
es, with which, impartial justice will
cover such a pusillanimous race.”

The style of this oration is, in

general, clear, animated and flow-
ing. In some parts, the strain may
be regarded as unsuitable to the
gravity of the occasion, and the im-
portance of the subject; but those
who are pre-disposed to laughter,
will not nicely investigate its pro-

This oration having passed through
a second edition, we presume that it
has secured so much of the public
approbation, as will shield it from
the attacks of minuter criticism.—
We are not in the number of those,
who expect “to make pincushions
out of marble,” nor shall we attempt
“to cut blocks with a razor.”

  * See Trumbull's History of Connecticut—a book which ought to be in every

no previous Next next