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But see, the sun speeds on his western path To glad the nations with expected light.” * This translation is by our own eminent historian, Prescott, who first called attention to this testimony,† which is not mentioned even by Humboldt. Leigh Hunt referred to it at a later day.‡ Pulci was born in Florence, 1431, and died there, 1487, five years before Columbus sailed, so that he was not aided by any rumor of the discovery which he so distinctly predicts.
Passing from the discovery, it may not be uninteresting to collect some of the prophetic voices about the future of America, the "All-Hail Hereafter" of our continent. They will have a lesson also. Seeing what has been already fulfilled, we may better judge what to expect. I shall set them forth in the order of time, prefacing each prediction with an account of the author sufficient to explain its origin and character. If some are already familiar, others are lit tle known. Brought together into one body, on the principle of our national Union, E pluribus unum, they must give new confidence in the destinies of the Republic.
Of course I shall embrace only what has been said seriously by those whose words are important; not an oracular response, which may receive a double interpretation, like the deceptive replies to Croesus and to Pyrrhus; and not a saying, such as is described by Sir Thomas Browne when he remarks, in his "Christian Morals," that "many positions seem quodlibetically constituted, and, like a Delphian blade, will cut both ways." § Men who have lived much and felt strongly see further than others. Their vision penetrates the future. Second sight is little more than clearness of sight. Milton tells us,
"That old experience does attain
To something like prophetic strain.” Sometimes this strain is attained even in youth.
* Pulci, Morgante Maggiore, Canto XXV. st.
↑ Prescott, Ferdinand and Isabella, Vol. II. Pp. 117, 118.
Leigh Hunt, Stories from the Italian Poets, p. 171. § Browne, Works, Pickering's edition, Vol. IV. p. 81.
Then think strange things have come to light,
Some of these words are striking, especially when we consider their early date. The author of the "Religio Medici" seems in the main to accept the prophecy. In a commentary on each verse he seeks to explain it. New England is "that thriving colony which hath so much increased in his day"; its people are already "industrious," and when they have so far increased "that the neighboring country will not contain them, they will range still far
*Johnson, Life of Sir Thomas Browne.
↑ Browne, Works, Vol. IV. pp. 232, 233.
ther, and be able in time to set forth great armies, seek for new possessions, or make considerable and conjoined migrations." The verse about Africa will be fulfilled "when African countries shall no longer make it a common trade to sell away their people." And this may come to pass "whenever they shall be well civilized and acquainted with arts and affairs sufficient to employ people in their countries." It would also come to pass "if they should be converted to Christianity, but especially into Mahometism; for then they would never sell those of their religion to be slaves unto Christians." The verse about America is expounded as follows:
"That is, when America shall be better civilized, new policied, and divided between great princes, it may come to pass that they will no longer suffer their treasure of gold and silver to be sent out to maintain the luxury of Europe and other ports; but rather employ it to their own advantages, in great exploits and undertakings, magnificent structures, wars, or expeditions of their Own." *
The other verse, on the invasion of the Old World by the New, is thus explained:
"That is, when America shall be so well peopled, civilized, and divided into kingdoms, they are like to have so little regard of their originals as to acknowledge no subjection unto them; they may also have a distinct commerce themselves, or but independently with those of Europe, and may hostilely and piratically assault them, even as the Greek and Roman colonies after a long time dealt with their original countries."†
That these speculations should arrest the attention of Dr. Johnson is something. They seem to have been in part fulfilled. An editor remarks that, "To judge from the course of events since Sir Thomas wrote, we may not unreasonably look forward to their more complete fulfilment."
*Browne, Works, Vol. IV. p. 236. ↑ Ibid.
Ibid., p. 231, note.
Ir is pleasant to think that Berkeley, whose beautiful verses predicting the future of America are so often quoted, was so sweet and charming a character. Atterbury wrote of him, "So much understanding, knowledge, innocence, and humility I should have thought confined to angels, had I never seen this gentleman." Swift said, "He is an absolute philosopher with regard to money, title, and power." Pope let drop a tribute which can never die, when he said,
"To Berkeley every virtue under Heaven." Such a person was naturally a seer.
He is compendiously called an Irish prelate and philosopher; he was born in Kilkenny, 1684, and died in Oxford, 1753. He began as a philosopher. While still young, he wrote his famous treatise on "The Principles of Human Knowledge," in which he denies the existence of matter, insisting that it is only an impression produced on the mind by Divine power. After travel for several years on the Continent, and fellowship with the witty and learned at home, among whom were Addison, Swift, Pope, Garth, and Arbuthnot, he conceived the project of educating the aborigines of America, which was set forth in a tract, published in 1725, entitled, "Scheme for Converting the Savage Americans to Christianity by a College to be erected in the Summer Islands, otherwise called the Isles of Bermuda." Persuaded by his benevolence, the ministers promised twenty thousand pounds, and there were several private subscriptions to promote what was called by the king "so pious an undertaking." Berkeley possessed already a deanery in Ireland, with one thousand pounds a year. Turning away from this residence, and refusing to be tempted by an English mitre, offered by the queen, he set sail for Rhode Island, "which lay nearest Bermuda," where, after a tedious passage of five months, he arrived, 23d January, 1729. Here he lived on a farm back of Newport, having been, according to his own report, "at
great expense for land and stock." In familiar letters he has given his impression of this place, famous since for fashion. "The climate," he says, “is like that of Italy, and not at all colder in the winter than I have known it everywhere north of Rome. This island is pleasantly laid out in hills and vales and rising grounds, hath plenty of excellent springs and fine rivulets and many delightful landscapes of rocks and promontories and adjacent lands. The town of Newport contains about six thousand souls, and is the most thriving, flourishing place in all America for its bigness. It is very pretty and pleasantly situated. I was never more agreeably surprised than at the first sight of the town and its harbor."* He seems to have been contented here, and when his companions went to Boston stayed at home, "preferring," as he wrote, “quiet and solitude to the noise of a great town, notwithstanding all the solicitations that have been used to draw us thither."†
The money which he had expected, especially from the ministry, failed, and after waiting in vain expectation two years and a half, he returned to Eng
land, leaving an infant son buried in the yard of Trinity Church, and bestowing upon Yale College a library of eight hundred and eighty volumes, as well as his estate in Rhode Island. During his residence at Newport he had preached every Sunday, and was indefatigable in pastoral duties, besides meditating, if not composing, "The Minute Philosopher," which was published shortly after his return.
He had not been forgotten at home during his absence; and shortly after his return he became Bishop of Cloyne, in which place he was most exemplary, devoting himself to his episcopal duties, to the education of his children, and the pleasures of composition.
It was while occupied with his plan of a college, especially as a nursery for the Colonial churches, shortly before sailing for America, that the future *Berkeley, Works, Vol. I., Life prefixed, p. 53. + Ibid., p. 55.
seemed to be revealed to him, and he wrote the famous poem, the only one to be found among his works, entitled, "Verses on the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America." The date may be fixed at 1726. Such a poem was an historic event. I give the first and last stanzas.
"The Muse, disgusted at an age and clime
In distant lands now waits a better time,
"Westward the course of empire takes its way; The first four acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day;
It is difficult to exaggerate the value of these verses, which have been so often quoted as to become one of the tics. There is nothing from any oracle, commonplaces of literature and polithere is very little from any prophecy, which can compare with them. The biographer of Berkeley, who wrote in the last century, was very cautious, when, after calling them "a beautiful copy
of verses," he says that "another age will, perhaps, acknowledge the old conjunction of the prophetic character with that of the poet to have again
taken place." The vates of the Ro
mans was poet and prophet; and such was Berkeley.
The sentiment which prompted the prophetic verses of the good Bishop was widely diffused; or, perhaps, it was a natural prompting. Of this an illustration is afforded in the life of
Benjamin West. On his visit to Rome in 1760, the young artist encountered a famous improvvisatore, who, on learning that he was an American come to study the fine arts in Rome, at once
addressed him with the ardor of inspiration, and to the music of his guitar. After singing the darkness which for so many ages veiled America from the eyes of science, and also the fulness of time when the purposes for which America had been raised from the deep would be manifest, he hailed the youth * Berkeley, Works, Vol. II. p. 443+ Ibid., Vol. I., Life prefixed, p. 15. Grahame, History of the United States, Vol. IV. pp. 136, 448.
before him as an instrument of Heaven to raise there a taste for those arts which elevate man, and an assurance of refuge to science and knowledge, when, in the old age of Europe, they should have forsaken her shores. Then, in the spirit of prophecy, he sang: :
"But all things of heavenly origin, like the glorious sun, move westward; and truth and art have their periods of shining and of night. Rejoice then, O venerable Rome, in thy divine destiny; for though darkness overshadow thy seats, and though thy mitred head must descend into the dust, thy spirit immortal and undecayed already spreads towards a new world." *
John Adams, in his old age, dwelling on the reminiscences of early life, records that nothing was "more ancient in his memory than the observation that arts, sciences, and empire had travelled westward, and in conversation it was always added, since he was a child, that their next leap would be over the Atlantic into America." With the assistance of an octogenarian neighbor, he recalled a couplet that had been repeated with rapture as long as he could remember:
"The Eastern nations sink, their glory ends,
And empire rises where the sun descends." It was imagined by his neighbor that these lines came from some of our early pilgrims, by whom they had been "inscribed, or rather drilled, into a rock on the shore of Monument Bay in our old Colony of Plymouth." †
Another illustration of this same sentiment will be found in Burnaby's "Travels through the Middle Settlements of North America, in 1759 and 1760," a work which was first published in 1775. In his reflections at the close of his book the traveller thus remarks:
"An idea, strange as it is visionary, has entered into the minds of the generality of mankind, that empire is travelling westward: and every one is looking forward with eager and impatient expectation to that destined moment when
*Galt, Life of West, Vol. I. pp. 116, 117.
America is to give the law to the rest of the world.” *
The traveller is none the less an authority for the prevalence of this sentiment because he declares it "illusory and fallacious," and records his conviction that "America is formed for happiness, but not for empire." Happy America! What empire can compare with happiness! But, to make amends for this admission, the jealous traveller, in his edition of 1796, after the adoption of our Constitution, announces that "the present union of American States will not be permanent, or last for any considerable length of time," and "that that extensive country must necessarily be divided into separate states and kingdoms." Thus far the Union has stood against all shocks, foreign or domestic; and the prophecy of Berkeley is more than ever in the popular mind.
AMONG the illustrious names of France there are few equal to that of Turgot. He was a philosopher among ministers, and a minister among philosophers. Malesherbes said of him, that he had the heart of L'Hôpital and the head of Bacon. Such a person in public affairs was an epoch for his country and for the human race. his spirit prevailed, the bloody drama of the French Revolution would not have occurred, or it would at least have been postponed. I think it could not have occurred. He was a good man, who sought to carry into government the rules of goodness. His career from beginning to end was one continuous beneficence. Such a nature was essentially prophetic, for he discerned the natural laws by which the future is governed.
He was of an ancient Norman family, whose name suggests the god Thor; he was born at Paris, 1727, and died, 1781. Being a younger son, he was destined for the Church, and commenced his
* Burnaby, Travels, p. 115. Ibid., Preface, p. 21.
studies as an ecclesiastic at the ancient Sorbonne. Before registering an irrevocable vow, he announced his repugnance to the profession, and turned aside to other pursuits. Law, literature, science, humanity, government, now engaged his attention. He associated himself with the writers of the Encyclopædia, and became one of its contributors. In other writings he vindicated especially the virtue of toleration. Not merely theorist, he soon arrived at the high post of intendant of Limousin, where he developed a remarkable talent for administration, and a sympathy with the people. He introduced the potato into that province. But he continued to employ his pen, especially on questions of political economy, which he treated as a master. On the accession of Louis XVI. he was called to the cabinet as Minister of the Marine, and shortly afterwards he gave up this place to be the head of the finances. Here he began a system of rigid economy, founded on a curtailment of expenses and an enlargement of resources. The latter was obtained especially by a removal of disabilities from trade, whether at home or abroad, and the substitution of a single tax on land for a complex multiplicity of taxes. The enemies of progress were too strong at that time, and the king dismissed the reformer. Good men in France became anxious for the future; Voltaire, in his distant retreat, gave a shriek of despair, and addressed to Turgot some remarkable verses entitled Epitre à un Homme. Worse still, the good edicts of the minister were rescinded, and society was put back.
The discarded minister gave himself to science, literature, and friendship. He welcomed Franklin to France and to immortality in a Latin verse of marvellous felicity. He was already the companion of the liberal spirits who were doing so much for knowledge and for reform. By writing and by conversation he exercised a constant influence. His "ideas" seem to illumine the time. We may be content
to follow him in saying, "The glory of arms cannot compare with the happiness of living in peace." He anticipated our definition of a republic, when he said "it was formed upon the equality of all the citizens," good words, not yet practically verified in all our States. Such a government he, living under a monarchy, bravely pronounced the best of all; but he added that he "had never known a constitution truly republican." This was in 1778. With similar plainness he announced that "the destruction of the Ottoman empire would be a real good for all the nations of Europe," and— he added still further - for humanity also, because it would involve the abolition of negro slavery, and because to strip "our oppressors is not to attack, but to vindicate, the common rights of humanity." With such thoughts and aspirations, the prophet died.
But I have no purpose of writing a biography, or even a character. All that I intend is an introduction to Turgot's prophetic words relating to America. When only twenty-three years of age, while still an ecclesiastic at the Sorbonne, the future minister delivered a discourse on the Progress of the Human Mind, in which, after de-. scribing the commercial triumphs of the ancient Phoenicians, covering the coasts of Greece and Asia with their colonies, he lets drop these remarkable words:
"Les colonies sont comme des fruits
qui ne tiennent à l'arbre que jusqu'à leur maturité; devenues suffisantes à elles-mêmes, elles firent ce que fit depuis Carthage, -ce que fera un jour l'Amérique.”
"Colonies are like fruits, which hold to the tree only until their maturity; when sufficient for themselves, they did that which Carthage afterwards did, that which some day America will do." On this most suggestive declaration,
*Turgot, (uvres, Tome II. p. 66. See also Condorcet, (Euvres, Tome IV., Vie de Turgot; Louis Blanc, Histoire de la Révolution Française, Tome I. pp. 527-533.