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wrought up to a certain elevation of tone; the speculations in which I was engaged, tending to embrace all that was most important to man in society, and the frame to which I had assiduously bent myself, of giving quarter to nothing because it was old, and shrinking from nothing because it was startling and astounding, gave a new bias to my character. The habit which I thus formed put me more on the alert even in the scenes of ordinary life, and gave me a boldness and an eloquence more than was natural to me. I then reverted to the principle which I stated in the beginning, of being ready to tell my neighbour whatever it might be of advantage to him to know, to shew myself the sincere and zealous advocate of absent merit and worth, and to contribute by every means in my power to the improvement of others and to the diffusion of salutary truths through the world. I desired that every hour that I lived should be turned to the best account, and was bent each day to examine whether I had conformed myself to this rule. I held on this course with tolerable constancy for five or six
years: and, even when that constancy abated, it failed not to leave a beneficial effect on my subsequent conduct.
But, in pursuing this scheme of practice, I was acting a part somewhat foreign to my constitution. I was by nature more of a speculative than an active character, more inclined to reason within myself upon what I heard and saw, than to declaim con
cerning it. I loved to sit by unobserved, and to meditate upon the panorama before me.
before me. At first I associated chiefly with those who were more or less admirers of my work; and, as I had risen (to speak in the slang phrase) like "a star” upon my contemporaries without being expected, I was treated generally with a certain degree of deference, or, where not with deference and submission, yet as a person whose opinions and view of things were to be taken into the account. The individuals who most strenuously opposed me, acted with a consciousness that, if they affected to despise me, they must not expect that all the bystanders would participate in that feeling.
But this was to a considerable degree the effect of novelty. My lungs, as I have already said, were not of iron; my manner was not overbearing and despotic; there was nothing in it to deter him who differed from me from entering the field in turn, and telling the tale of his views and judgments in contradiction to mine. I descended into the arena, and stood on a level with the rest. Beyond this, it occasionally happened that, if I had not the stentorian lungs, and the petty artifices of rhetoric and conciliation, that should carry a cause independently of its merits, my antagonists were not deficient in these respects. I had nothing in my favour to balance this, but a sort of constitutional equanimity and imperturbableness of temper, which, if I was at any time silenced, made me not look like a captive to be dragged at the chariot-wheels of
All this however had a tendency to subtract from my vocation as a missionary. I was no longer a knight-errant, prepared on all occasions by dint of arms to vindicate the cause of every principle that was unjustly handled, and every character that was wrongfully assailed. Meanwhile I returned to the field, occasionally and uncertainly. It required some provocation and incitement to call me out: but there was the lion, or whatever combative animal may more justly prefigure me, sleeping, and that might be awakened.
There is another feature necessary to be mentioned, in order to make this a faithful representation. There are persons, it should seem, of whom it
may be predicated, that they are semper parati. This has by no means been my case. My genius often deserted me. I was far from having the thought, the argument, or the illustration at all times ready, when it was required. I resembled to a certain degree the persons we read of, who are said to be struck as if with a divine judgment. I was for a moment changed into one of the mere herd, de grege porcus. My powers therefore were precarious ; and I could not always be the intrepid and qualified advocate of truth, if I vehemently desired it. I have often, a few minutes afterwards, or on my return to my chambers, recollected the train of thinking, which would have shewn me off to ad
vantage, and memorably done me honour, if I could have bad it at my command the moment it was wanted.
And so much for confession. I am by no means vindicating myself. I honour much more the man who is at all times ready to tell his neighbour whatever it may be of advantage to him to know, to shew himself the sincere and untemporising advocate of absent merit and worth, and to contribute by every means in his power to the improvement of others, and to the diffusion of salutary truths through the world.
This is what every man ought to be, and what the best devised scheme of republican institutions would have a tendency to make us all.
But, though the man here described is to a certain degree a deserter of his true place in society, and cannot be admitted to have played his part in all things well, we are by no means to pronounce upon him a more unfavourable judgment than he merits. Diffidence, though, where it disqualifies us in any way from doing justice to truth, either as it respects general principle or individual character, a defect, yet is on no account to be confounded in demerit with that suppression of truth, or misrepresentation, which grows out of actual craft and design.
The diffident man, in some cases seldomer, and in some oftener and in a more glaring manner, de
the cause of truth, and by that means is the
cause of misrepresentation, and indirectly the propagator of falshood. But he is constant and sincere as far as he goes; he never lends his voice to falshood, or intentionally to sophistry; he never for an instant goes over to the enemy's standard, or disgraces his honest front by shewing it in the ranks of tyranny or imposture. He may undoubtedly be accused, to a certain degree, of dissimulation, or throwing into shade the thing that is, but never of simulation, or the pretending the thing to be that is not. He is plain and uniform in every thing that he professes, or to which he gives utterance; but, from timidity or irresolution, he keeps back in part the offering which he owes at the shrine where it is most honourable and glorious for man to worship.
And this brings me back again to the subject of the immediately preceding Essay, the propriety of voting by ballot.
The very essence of this scheme is silence. And this silence is not merely like that which is prompted by a diffident temper, which by fits is practised by the modest and irresolute man, and by fits disappears before the sun of truth and through the energies of a temporary fortitude. It is uniform. It is not brought into act only, when the individual unhappily does not find in himself the firmness to play the adventurer. It becomes matter of system, and is felt as being recommended to us for a duty.
Nor does the evil stop there. In the course of my ordinary communications with my fellow-men,