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There is no system of government more marked in history, nor one which has so distinctly survived the lapse of ages, as the feudal, (or feodal) system. Its birth may be fixed at the death of the Roman empire ; for when the Franks, the Vandals, and the Lombards had overrun Italy, it became necessary to make a division of the spoils among those who had aided in their acquisition. A government founded
upon civil laws was neither congenial to the nature of the victors, nor of sufficient strength to protect them against their foes. A military government was consequently introduced; and so framed, so admirably adapted for strength; so bound by the iron bands of self-interest and personal security ; that nothing but internal strife could ever tear it asunder. Parcels of land were allotted by the conquering general to the superior officers of the army, and by them apportioned among the inferior officers; these were called feuds, fiefs, or fees. These inferior officers might, in turn, cut up their feuds into still smaller parcels, and divide them among the inferior soldiers. But the condition upon entering such lands, was the oath of fealty, which was taken by every feudatory, to follow his immediate lord to the wars; to protect him in peace; in short, to serve him as a slave, in every respect. From the most humble, through every grade, up to the commanding general himself, this severe and solemn oath was administered; forming one great chain, upheld by the grasp of a single hand; the sole centre of the might which was to control it.
The feudal system was introduced by William the Norman into France, and from thence to Britain, where it flourished with terrible pomp, and finally sunk under its own strength, in the reign of King John; who laid claim, as of right, to all the lands in the kingdom, considering the barons mere vassals of the crown ; when in fact, at the establishment of the system, under the Norman, the proprietors of the soil merely supposed the title to be in the king, as absolutely necessary for the erection of their new government.
No position can be conceived more lordly and despotic than was that of the ancient barons. They were their own legislators, and the judges of their own laws. They were also peers of the king's court in matters of more importance. They were both civil and military chiefs; swaying the sceptre in one hand, and carrying the sword in the other. Secure in their capacious, stone-bound castles, with an arsenal of arms at their side, and an army within call, to wield them at a moment’s notice; stimulated as much by their own as by the interest of their chiefs; they were never alarmed in their position, and fought only for glory. Each barony was a state by itself, and each baron the government; a government of such grinding despotism, such iron rule, that no age has ever recorded its like. But even this government, apparently so strong, was riven asunder by the very man whose interest it was to preserve it. It was not the oppressed vassal, battling for his stolen rights, that split it in pieces ; but the king, the tyrant of tyrants, by his grasp for still more power; by attempting to wield as absolute a power over the barons, as the barons themselves wielded over their serfs; a striking example of the nature of man, when left to his own free will !
It is a truth, confirmed by every day's experience, that no man, or exclusive set of men, can be safely trusted with great power. He who believes that he was boru to command,' seldom respects the rights of those who, according to his own theory, were born to serve.' Such a man is continually usurping what does not belong to him, from the very nature of his position. Power begets power, and more power still more; increasing, as it advances, both in strength and velocity. A solitary king upon his throne, although nominally supreme, would be a pitiable object indeed; but a king with an army at his nod, connected with the sovereign by the interest of rank and pay; ready to draw the sword at a moment's notice; a king surrounded by bis peers, who are by law licensed leeches, continually draining the life-blood of the mass - to say nothing of that brood of clerical vampires, who, under the garb of religion, are authorized to fatten themselves in every hamlet, and suck their fill* -such a king is indeed most omnipotent. By thus dividing a nation, and taxing one-half to support the other, despotism maintains its rule. The lower classes, forced to the payment of heavy taxes, are compelled to forge their own chains, to support the king, the army, and the clergy; and after bleeding at every pore, they are told that it is the price of government. A fabric of tyranny is thus reared, which can only be overturned by civil war; the greatest calamity that can befall a nation.
Who will deny that this is an age of poetry? Every pamphlet, magazine, and newspaper, religious, scientific, and political, is groaning beneath its load of rhyme. The school-boy in his teens, the freshman at college, the merchant at his desk, the mechanic at his bench, all write poetry; and the whole country jingles, from Maine to Louisiana, with blank verse, songs, ballads, and every other metre known to the language. We have poetical signs along our streets ; some so pathetic in their appeals, that they would make a stoic weep; others there are, which would do honor to the god of Mirth himself. The tradesman implores the public, in all the eloquence of verse, to buy his goods; and the public, perfectly astounded at the genius of the man, respond to his appeal, as much from curiosity as from interest.
Has the love of gold, the mania of the nation, blighted and scorched all those finer feelings, which are indispensable to poetical excellence? Is the public slow to applaud the production, and reward the author, or is the country incapable of thus distinguishing itself? There is a rich vein of true poetry running through the American people. We have our Bryant, the author of Thanatopsis,' a poem, which, for its length, is imbued with more solemn philosophy, more profound depth and purity of thought, than almost any other in the English language ; a poem which finds a response in every human heart, and has long since received the seal which will embalm it for ages. But a thousand such poems as • Thanatopsis' would not furnish the means to supply a family with bread, in this iron age of utility and enterprise ;t and the author would be compelled to starve in the
* We refer to political church government.
+ Take this cum grano salis. – Ed.
midst of his song. With nothing to animate or cheer him but newspaper praise, and the prospect after death of a monument, with a turgid panegyric
upon its four sides, that being a commodity which costs but a trifle. Thus we find that all our poets, not only Bryant, but HalLECK, SPrague, Percival, Dana, and others, have been absolutely driven into other employments, to procure the means of liberal subsistence; and yet the reading public wonder that they should have ever .forsaken the Muses ;' that they did not sing on, their song was 80 sweet; and they conclude by a fling at the waywardness and eccentricity of genius, because they have not seen fit' to live in a garret,' and we might add, 'eat mice,' for their gratification.
Again, the nation, as a whole, has not cultivated a taste for poetry. The educated portion of the people, even, have considered the Muses as scarcely worth a passing notice. They do not analyze and separate the dross from ihe gold, but bless or curse, not from their own judgment, but that of a favorite reviewer. They look at the brand of the inspector, not at the article itself; the result is, that Blockheadism and true Genius find themselves on nearly the same footing ; too often followed by the withdrawal of the latter, while the former perseveres, and fairly deluges its readers with its lucubrations, outstripping even Homer himself in quantity; a very marketable commodity, withal ; so that Merit, though it should make an effort to obtain a hearing, would find itself fairly choked down amid the piles of rubbish which it would be its destiny to traverse or climb.
H. H. R.
From Paphian bow'rs, where murmuring fountains flow,
Sir : The enclosed letter was sent to me by the writer, with the request that I would forward it to John WATERS ; but as I am ignorant of the address of that gentleman, I enclose it to you, and beg that you will see that he gets it.
Your ob't Serv't,
ESTEEMED FRIEND JOHN WATERS :
Nantucket, Seventh Mo. 10, 1840. I have read thy piece of writing in the KNICKERBOCKER Magazine, which thou callest · Discursive Thoughts on Chowder,' and I now take my pen in hand to give thee my sentiments in relation thereto. If thy writing had made its appearance in a less popular journal, or one numbering fewer intelligent readers, it is probable that I should not have felt myself moved to communicate with thee and the public on the subject; but as it is, I feel an inward yearning to do so, lest a wrong impression be made upon the minds of a multitude of persons ignorant of the matter on which thou hast undertaken to enlighten them.
I am fearful, friend Waters, that thou art wholly and entirely ignorant of what Chowder really is, and that thou hast never so much as smelléd of the dish in thy life; for if thou hadst, thy thoughts would not have been discursive when thou wast writing of it. Can a mother's thoughts wander from her child, when its first cry sounds in her ear? Can a miser think of the next world, when his eyes are fixed upon the glittering dust of this? Can fire forget to seek the sun, or water turn back from its parent ocean ? No. And I do confidently affirm, that no man's thoughts will ever wander from a pot of Chowder, when they have once been attracted to it ; either by the pleasing reality itself, or only by the unsubstantial shadow of it which his memory may retain. And then to call this simple yet savory dish
by a finical French name, Chaudière, as if the concoction of Chowder had ever entered into the culinary conceptions of a befrizzled Mounseer! No, friend John, Chowder is a dish of greater dignity than your
friend James had an idea of. It is a dish of great antiquity, too. It was known in the days of Barclay, and Fox, and Woolman. And notwithstanding that I have searched diligently through the chronicles of Obed Macy, and other conscientious Friends, yet I have not been able to find that any mention has been made of the discoverer or inventor of this excellent dish; hence I have been led to believe that it was neither invented nor discovered, but that it was an inspired dish : for there were giants in those days : and doubtless some Friend was moved by the givings out of the inward light to confer the great blessing of a pot of Chowder upon our sinful race.
From the manner in which thou enumeratest the ingredients of thy friend James' Chowder, it is very evident to my mind that he too knew nothing at all about the matter. Such a mixture might do well enough for a codfish-stew, or what we denominate on this island a ‘Frank Gardner mess;' but it is not worthy to be called by the name of Chowder. Thee may call it Chaudière, or any other outlandish name, but do not call it Chowder. Didst thou never read the ode of the poet Southey, beginning thus :
Full of my theme, O Muse! begin the song !
What though the sunbeams of the west
Mature within the turtle's breast
But, Chowder, thou art best!'
And dost thou think that a vile compound of fish and potatoes would inspire such a noble strain ? And what presumption in thee to assert that thy friend James could prepare the dish better than any one beside!
Now, friend Waters, I have eleven daughters, and either of them can cook as good a pot of Chowder as a reasonable man could desire to dip his spoon in. Although I must confess that my youngest daughter Hepzabeth hath perhaps the most skilful haud of either, since my daughter Rhoda, who is married to Amaziah Green, a Newport Friend, removed from the Island. Even
eldest son Libni, who is now absent on a whaling voyage in the ship Barclay, I have been told by his former shipmates, was a very good hand at making Chowder; and I have heard that he once made a very good Chowder out of an albatross, that he shot near the Island of Tristan d'Acunha, off the East Cape.
I have shown thy. Discursive Thoughts' to my daughter Hepsabeth, and she says that one onion is not sufficient; that the biscuit ought not to be soaked in water; that the potatoes should be omitted altogether; that there should be no butter, and that the pork should not be put in layers, but that it should be cut up very fine, and fried brown.
For my own part, friend Waters, I must confess to thee that my mind misgives me that one who errs so greatly in his opinions about Chowder, cannot be altogether correct in his views of religion. I hope, for thy soul's sake, that thou art not one of the Hicksite persuasion; but I fear, I have a ship now on the stocks at Mattapoiset, which I