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least praise-worthy, is its refusal to ratify the cession of lands made by the Cherokee Indians to the hero of New Orleans, general Jackson. The respect and gratitude felt for this distinguished commander, were not suffered to baffle the dictates of a sound caution, seconded in this case by obvious considerations of delicacy.
The law of April 1816, entitled “An act to abolish the existing duties on spirits distilled, &c.” was the occasion of an animated discussion in the House of Representatives. We tax the capacity of the still, instead of the quantity of liquor distilled. There seems much reason to doubt whether we have chosen the preferable mode. I think, indeed, that the contrary is completely established in the speech delivered in the house of representatives, February 220, 1816, by Mr. Williams, in support of his proposition to repeal the acts of 1813 and 1814, respecting distilleries.
Mr. Pickens of North Carolina, asserted in the debate that his State had given nearly ten times as much revenue from distillation, when the tax was upon the quantity distilled. In the other case the revenue is liable to suffer, by frauds at least as much, and from other causes, more. I could wish to draw attention to the Report of a Committee, respecting the Scotch distillery duties, presented to the British Parliament 11th June, 1798, and contained in the 6th vol. p. 455, of Debrett's Parliamentary Register. This Report furnishes an equally curious and instructive exposition of the frauds and disadvantages to which the scheme of levying the duty on the capacity of the still is obnoxious.* The question of taxation, whether as to the mode or the amount, in the matter of distilled spirits, is one of the most important, and not the least difficult of those within the cognizance of government.
In the excerpta from the debates of the British Parliament, which will be found near the end of this volume, there is something concerning the extent and effects of illicit distillation in the British dominions, purposely selected to serve as a memento to ourselves. It behoves us, with a view to the morals of the people and the interests of the national Treasury, to allow this subject its due weight, and to understand it in all its relations and consequences.
If the fourteenth congress had not accomplished so much, we might upbraid it for not having given a uniform Bankrupt law to the United States. A motion on this subject was made in January 1816, by the late General King, of Massa
* See also Tilloch's Philosophical Magazine, Vol. 6. p. 73, for an account of the number of times that a still could be charged and run off within the twenty-four hours. This operation is now performed yet more frequently than the seventy-two times there mentioned.
chusetts, and a regular bill for the purpose was fruitlessly reported by Mr. Hopkinson at the beginning of the last session.
The establishment of uniformity in our weights and measures, was recommended by Mr. Madison in his Message of December 1816, but has also been consigned to the patriotism of the next Congress. The British Parliamentary Report on weights and measures, contained in the Annual Register of 1814, and the official enquiries upon which it was founded, the comprehensive Report of M. de Talleyrand to the French Constituent Assembly, cited by Mr. Jefferson in the Report which he made on the subject, as Secretary of State, in 1790, to the House of Representatives, and generally the learned researches of the French Institute on the same subject, would furnish useful hints to those upon whom the task may be devolved at Washington.*
It would seem that there is room for amendment in the internal economy of the National Legislature. I am not so presumptuous as to put forth any criticisms of my own on this head.—Taking, however, a lively interest in the good repute and excellence of our federal legislation, I could not but be struck with the following observations which fell from Mr. Webster, a member of great sagacity and authority, in the course of the debate on the Compensation-law. “There was,” he said, " thing radically defective in the present system of legislation. “No legislature in the world, he believed, sat so long as ours,
notwithstanding that the sphere of operation was so greatly con“tracted by the intervention of eighteen distinct legislatures. “ The system does not compel on the part of members that at“ tention which the nature of their public business requires. He ” referred to the letters and papers on the desk of the members
every day: they ought to have none. When a man came into “ the House of Representatives, he ought to leave on the thresh“hold every feeling and thought, but what was connected with " the public service: private letters and private conversation “ought not to be permitted to encroach on the unity of his ob“ject. If any way the attention of the house could be fixed on - the speaker, there would be an end to long speeches.'
These prolegomena have nearly reached their utmost pardonable extent. I can, therefore, only cast a glance upon the recent productions of our literature, of which it was my wish to speak somewhat in detail.
The most remarkable both as to title and pretensions, is the History of the United States by the late Dr. Ramsay. The reputation which this author had acquired by his three well-known Historical works, excited a general confidence in the
• See also the instructive manual of Dr. Kelly entitled Metrology, published in London ir: 1816.
success of his last and greatest effort. Those, however, who had always regarded him as a useful Annalist, assiduous in the collection and faithful in the enunciation of facts, sufficiently perspicuous both in style and arrangement, for ordinary purposes, but incapable of excelling as an historian-were not disappointed when they found that he had, by no means, in the present performance, supplied the great desideratum--a suitable History of the United States. · The Sketch which he has given in his first volume, of the establishment and progress of the Thirteen Colonies, will not be preferred to that which constitutes the Introduction to Marsball's Life of Washington. He has improved but little his former account of our Revolution, and scarcely done justice to the interval between the capture of Cornwallis, and the year 1809, the period to which his posthumous work extends. His narrative is for the most part tame, his diction never elegant nor elevated, and his general reflections have rarely any depth or novelty. We owe, however, weighty obligations to this author for having rescued much of our Revolutionary History from at least a temporary oblivion, and reduced it into a shape so regular and creditable as that in which it came from his hands.
As for the “Continuation" down to the era of the Treaty of Ghent, “by the Rev. Dr. S. S. Smith, and other literary gentlemen," it is an appendage such as, I am sure, Dr. Ramsay would willingly have dispensed with for his labours. The chief sponsor, Dr. Smith of Princeton, though he has failed, unaccountably, in this instance, enjoys great celebrity among us, richly earned by many valuable writings. His Lectures on Moral and Political Philosophy, published in 1812, form one of the best treatises extant in this department of knowledge, and are admirably fitted for the use of our colleges. A similar remark may be made in relation to the Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory of the Hon. John Q. Adams. With these two works at their command, our youth need not look abroad for instruction on the subjects of which they treat.
If the production of Dr. Ramsay be not all that could be wished in respect to our National History, much less can this be affirmed of the three huge volumes which General Wilkinson has lately conferred upon the public. They bear the imposing title of Memoirs of his own Times, but prove to be little more than memoirs of the individual. The second and third volumes, making altogether more than twelve hundred pages, are entirely devoted to a personal concern-"the illustration of his persecutions.”
A few years ago, came forth a couple of stout octavos, ycleped Memoirs of General Wilkinson;—to the three now given, are to be added three more of equal bulk, as he has not been able to touch the last twenty-five years of his public life.” If then, perchance, his Times should be finally allowed their due proportion of space in what number of tomes can the tale be comprized? He has put chronology and method at utter defiance. Whatever his memory or bureau could furnish is thrown in pêle mele. The confusion is increased by the animosities which were suffered to preside over the composition of almost every page. It is curious to observe their influence in this respect, in tracing the name of Mr. Madison through the summary of the contents of each chapter. All who rely upon the fidelity of General Wilkinson's gallery of portraits, must believe that our federal government has been peopled with a race of monsters. To characterise the late President of the United States, he searches for an archetype, among the tyrants of the classical era of Roman Despotism! Such exaggeration recoils, and defeats every purpose of History.
The Chapters which reflect most credit upon the author's sagacity and talents, and possess the greatest intrinsic value, are, perhaps, those wherein he analyses the battles fought during the late war: Yet, even here, the predominance of private resentments is so sensible, that it has the effect of destroying, with the mass of readers, all confidence in his judgments, and of leaving as they stood in common estimation, the military merits of the commanders whom he so earnestly labours to depreciate.
From the same cause his patriotism becomes suspicious in in those parts of his work, which might otherwise obtain for him the credit of a triumph over natural predilections fortified by habit. I allude to the vehement and studied declamations of this veteran general against standing armies and war! He has even, with a superserviceable zeal, fiercely denounced the National Bank, and most of the arrangements of the late administration upon which the newspapers had already rung all the changes. This sweeping, stern censorship might provoke his enemies to exclaim in the spirit and language of Juvenal,
Felicia tempora quæ te
Tertius é cælo cecidit Cato. In the number of interesting facts and documents which General Wilkinson has communicated to us, in the intelligence of his criticisms, in the vivacity and fluency of his diction, there is sufficient evidence that he was capable of making valuable additions to the stock of American history, and of writing so as to win the favour of more fastidious critics than myself;—if he could but have suppressed the memory of his alleged wrongs, thought more of the example which Cæsar has set in his Commentaries, and bestowed the considerable time and care indispensable as well for order and compression in the matter, as for correctness and precision in the style of memoirs of such compass and variety
As our late war is a magnetic subject, it does not want for chroniclers. They have appeared over the whole surface of the Union, many with the widow's mite; but even this is to be welcomed and hoarded. The “ Sketches” of John Lewis Thompson, and the History of Mr. Brackenridge, are meritorious in their way; so, though in a less degree, are some other popular narratives of the contest, of more limited scope,
which have been written in the West. The Exposition of the Causes of the War, ascribed to the pen of the late Mr. Dallas, and the Historical Memoir of Major Latour, are of much higher aim and desert.
In Capt. James Riley's Narrative of his sufferings among the Arabs, we have an earnest of a species of literature destined to be very prolific among us Americans. The book of Capt. Riley must be acknowledged to be a curious and entertaining one, although it is far from being unexceptionable. There is a tone of exaggeration throughout which raises distrust; it is overwrought in the style and descriptions; it deals in miraculous dispensations of divine providence; it borders too much on cant in its perpetual, sanctimonious reference to scriptural topics. It opens no scenes new to the world, nor does it, in reality, shed any new light on the geography of the interior of Africa. The main story is old, as the narratives of Brisson and Saugnier, will singly testify. We should be grateful to Captain Riley, however, for his intentions, for the amusement which he affords, and for the edification of his example as a christian and a man, dua ring the period of his captivity.
I regret much that I am compelled to restrict myself to the mere indication of works possessing such solid titles to esteem, and destined to prove so beneficial to the country, as the Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology by Professor Cleaveland, of Bowdoin College—the Course of Legal Study by Mr. Hoffman of Baltimore, the Hebrew Grammar of Professor Willard—the Vocabulary of Mr. Pickering-Colden's Life of Fulton-the “ Physical Observations, &c. on the Topography of Louisiana,” by Dr. Heustis—the Entomology of Mr. T. Say, of Philadelphia, &c. &c.
Among the works announced for publication, or understood to be in a state of forwardness, are some with regard to which we may cherish high expectations. Of this number are the “ Ves getable Materia Medica,” of the United States, by Dr. W. P. C. Barton of Philadelphia, and the similar undertaking of Dr. Bigelow of Boston;—the Life and works of A. J. Dallas, Esq. announced by his son;—the Biography of Patrick Henry by Mr. Wirt of Richmond, and that of the justly celebrated Dr. Rush: -the Account of the States of New England, and of the State of New York, by the late Dr. Dwight;—the Essay on General Grammar of the Rev. Dr. J. P. Wilson of Philadelphia, &c.