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Introductory Remarks, Boston Quarterly Review, Jan. 1838

Boston Quarterly Review, January, 1838


IN adding another to the numerous periodicals of our country, I have not much to say by way of intro­duction, and nothing by way of apology. l under­take the present publication, with a deep feeling of responsibleness, and with the hope of contributing something to the moral pleasure and social progress of my countrymen.

Had I consulted my ability to conduct a periodi­cal as I would see one conducted, or had I listened to the counsels of some of my warmest and most judicious friends, I had not engaged in my present undertaking. But I seem to myself to be called to it, by a voice I dare not and even cannot disobey if I would. Whether this voice, which I have long heard urging me to the work, be merely an illusion of my own fancy, the promptings of my own vanity and self-esteem, or whether it be an indication of Duty from a higher Source, time and the result must deter­mine. It speaks to me with Divine authority, and I must obey.

No man is able to estimate properly the value of his own individual experience. All are prone to ex­aggerate, more or less, the importance of what has happened to themselves. This it is altogether likely is the case with me. Yet in my own eyes my experi­ence possesses some value. My life has been one of vicissitude and trial. My mind has passed through more than one scene of doubt and perplexity. I have asked in the breaking up, as it were, of my whole moral and intellectual being, What is the Des­tiny of Man and of Society? Much of my life has been spent - wasted perhaps - in efforts to decipher the answer to this question. In common with others, I have tried my hand at the riddle of the Sphinx; and in common with others too, I have, it may be, faith in my own explanation. In seeking to solve the problem which has pressed heavily on my heart, as well as on my mind, I have been forced to appeal from tradition and authority to the Universal Reason, a ray of which shines into the heart of every man that cometh into the world; and this, which has been forced upon me, I would force upon others. The answer, which I have obtained and. which has restored peace and serenity to my own soul, I would urge others to seek, and aid them to find. For this purpose I undertake this Review.

I have not sought to solve the problem. of the Des­tiny of Man and of Society, without thinking for myself. By thinking for myself, I have founel myself a solitary being, in a great measure shut out from communion with my race. Whoever thinks for him­self, will find himself thinking differently from the majority around him, and by this fact he will be alone in their midst. He will find few who can sympathize with his soul, recognise his voice, or comprehend his language. However his heart may yearn towards his brethren, and however affectionately he would fold them in his bosom, he must submit to be regarded as a stranger, as an alien. He cannot speak to them and make them acquainted with what is concealed within him, through popular organs, or the established channels of communication. Those channels, though readily opened to others, are closed to him. They, who have it in their power to open them to whom they will, and shut them to whom they will, are afraid of him; they are ignorant of the value of
what he would utter, and they see no mark by which they can even guess what it will pass for in the market. His thoughts have not been through the mint of public opinion, and therefore must be debarred from general circulation. In this case he must have his own medium of communication, organs of his own through which he can speak, or else he must remain silent. Perhaps the world would lose nothing were he to remain silent; but silence, when one's thoughts are pressing hard for utterance, when they are even rending one's bosom, and resolving they will out and to the world, is a thing not entirely at one's com­mand. There are times when I experience some­thing like this, and when, do what I will, hold my peace I cannot. I must and will speak. What I say may be worth something, or it may be worth nothing, yet say it I will. But in order to be able to do this, I must have an organ of utterance at my own com­mand, through which I may speak when and what I please. Hence, the Boston Review.

I ought in justice to the periodical press of the country to say, that it has always been at my service as far as I have sought to use it. With one or two insignificant exceptions, I have never asked the privi­lege of inserting an article, which has not been granted. The Christian Examiner, a periodical for freedom and freshness unsurpassed in the world, has always been open to me; and, for aught I have reason to think, still would be; but that removes not the difficulty. There is a possibility of refusal. The editor's imprimatur must be obtained. The censor­ship may be indulgent, liberal, obliging, yet it is censorship, and that is enough. The orade within will not utter his responses, when it depends on the good will of another whether they shall to the public ear or not. The evil of the thing does not consist in the refusal to publish what is written, but in hindering one from writing what he otherwise might. This is after all a small affair; but who is there that is not disturbed by small affairs more than by great?

I undertake this Review, then, for myself; not be­cause I am certain that the public wants it, but because I want it. I want it for a medium through which I may say to those who may choose to listen to my voice, just what I wish to say, and through which I may say it in my own way and time. This is the specific object for which I undertake it. I cannot say whether what I shall utter will be for the public good or not. What is for the public good?  Who knows?  I do not. This or that may seem to me today for the public good, and tomorrow's eve proves me mis­taken; and yet how know I that? That, which I shall to-morrow's eye account a public evil, may turn out to have been a public blessing. Man seeth not the end, and knoweth not the termination of events. He cannot say which is the blessing or which is the curse. All that is for him is, what his hand findeth to do, to do it, and the world which is pressing for utterance, to utter it, and leave results to God, to whom alone they belong. I am not wise enough to say dogmati­cally what is or what is not for the public good; but I know what I think, what comes to me as truth; and as a watchman I would tell what I see, or  seem to see, and let them of the city treat it as they will. Man is a seer and it is each man's duty to declare simply what he sees, without attempting to fix its precise value, and without allowing himself to be disturbed because others may not rate its value precisely as he does.

I would not, however, leave it to be inferred from this, that I am indifferent to the welfare of my fellow­men. Perhaps their interest is deal to me; and it may be that I would do them good; but I dare not say that this or that is for their good, and that they must do as I bid them. Once in my life I set up to be a Reformer, a bold Innovator, but not now. I would aid a reform, it is true, but I dare not say, that what I may propose, or what seems to me as desirable, ought to be adopted, and must be adopted, in or.cter to obtain that greater good, after which Humanity yearns and struggles. All I can do, all I have a right to do, is to throw my opinion into the common mass of opinion, and let it go for what it is worth. It may be worth something, as is every man's independent opinion, but it cannot be worth much. No man's opinion is worth much, except to himself. Men themselves, in the great movements of Humanity, count for less than they imagine. There is a Power above man, call it Fate, Necessity, or God, that carries all things along as they should and must. go, without any deference to individuals, and without any aid from human yolitions. What a man wills, says, and does, is of grave import, as concerns him­self, his own moral character, his acquital or condem­nation before the august tribunal of conscience; but it alters not the fate of nations, and neither hastens nor retards the progress of Humanity. The Power above achieves his own work with or without human cooperation in his own way and time, and in my hum­ble belief, makes all things at last turn out for the best. With this belief my mind rests easy as to the final result. With this belief I come forward merely to play my part, utter my word, do my duty, and then pass off, satisfied if I have executed my mission, what­ever it may be, to the acceptance of my Master, I would say, my Father, that I need not be at all uneasy about the consequences.

It may easily he inferred from what I have said, that I have no very definite objeets to accomplish. I establish no journal to carry this or that proposed measlire, to give currency to this or that doctrine, to support this or that party, this or that class. I belong to no party under Heaven, to no sect on earth, and swear allegiance to no creed, to no dogma. I have no wish to build up one party or to pull down another, to aid one sect or to depress another, or to recommend this school in preference to that. I would discourse freely on what seem to me to be great topics, and state clearly and forcibly what I deem important truths; - push inquiry into all subjects of general interest, awaken a love of investigation, and create a habit of looking into even the most delicate and exciting matters, without passion and without fear. This is all.

I own, however, that I am desirous of contributing something to the power of the great Movement Party of mankind, or rather of showing that I have the will, if not the ability, to aid onward the great Movement commenced by Jesus of Nazareth, and which acquires velocity and momentum in proportion as it passes through successive centuries, amI which is manifesting itself now in a manner that makes the timid quake, and the brave leap for joy. With this Movement, whether it be effecting a reform in the Church, giving us a purer and more rational theology; in philosophy seeking something profounder and more inspiriting than the heartless Sensualism of the last century; or whether in society demanding the clevation of labor with the Loco foco, or the freedom of the slave with the Abolitionist, I own I sympathize, and I thank God that I am able to sympathize. I sympa­thize with the progress of Humanity whereycr I see it; and it is my life and my delight to contemplate imd try to aid it.

But I am growing too egotistical; what I have said will disclose the character of this Review as far as it needs to be disclosed in an introduction. I will only add, that it will probably be very heretical, and show a fellow feeling for heretics of every name and nature. All, who are afraid of heresy, who want the nerve to look even the most arch-heresy in the face, had bettcr not patronize it, nor even undertake to read it. It is not designed for them, and will by no means do them any good. It is addressed only to those who love truth, and are willing to follow wherever her light may lead, to those only who are willing to "prove all things" and have the desire to "hold fast that which is good." How many such there be I know not; perhaps I shall not find out; but I venture to say that they are three times more numerous than most people think, and their number is every day increasing.

One word as to the name I have selected. I call it a Review, because that term is indefinite, and allows me to discourse on any thing I please. Moreover it has nothing in it offensive like the name "New Views," which I was sometime ago so foolish, not to say presumptuous, as to give to a little work I thought worth the publishing, though hardly any body seems to have thought it worth the reading.

I add the epithet Boston, both to designate the place whence it is published, and to pay a sort of compliment to this goodly city. Boston is, of all the cities in the Union, the one in which thought is freest and boldest, and in which progress finds its warmest and most enlightened friends. I may say this, for I am not a Bostonian. I know Boston is called an aristocratic city, and I know also that democracy is a word for which it has no slight aversion; but in point of fact, it has less aristocracy than any other of our cities, and is more truly democratic in its practice. One may indeed see now and then the representative of a by-gone generation, walking the streets with an antique air and dress, but he is, after all, one who makes us doubt whether we have advanced much on our fathers. True, there is here and there a purse-­proud parvenu, and a poor worshipper of Fashion, but even these it has been conjectured, and not without reason, have souls, and even hearts (Sartor Resartus) which may with proper applications be made to beat with something like sympathy with Humanity, and admiration of a generous sentiment or a heroic deed. Boston is, say what you will of it, the city of "notions," and of new notions too; and in the progress of liberal ideas in this country, it ever has and ever will take the lead. Elsewhere there may be more bustle, more pre­tence, more profession of liberty, of reform, of pro­gress, of democracy; but when it comes to the reality, Boston need not blush in the presence of any of her sisters. This being the case, it is proper that I should call my Review the Boston Review, intimating thereby that it contains in some sort Boston notions; and sure am I that in Boston shall I find for it the most sympathy and its best friends.

In conclusion, I merely add that, as this Review is the organ of no party, nobody but its Editor, and those of his friends who may contribute to its pages, must be at all implicated in its sins and heresies. It is a free Journal. It will be open to the discussion of all subjects of general and permanent interest, by anyone who is able to express his thoughts - pro­viding he has any - with spirit, in good temper, and in good taste.