This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 in substance as follows: The Dean, while at Newport, might have been justified in putting into his Minute philosopher rural descriptions exactly copied from those charming landscapes that presented themselves to his eye in the delightful island at the time he was writing,--that was all very well; but for the Dean's disciple to attempt to introduce into the schools and infant seminaries in America this unadulterated Irish idealism was another thing. Doctor Johnson, explains his critic, only pretends to teach logic and moral philosophy; his logic and his morality are very different from ours. There is no matter, by his scheme; no ground of moral obligation. Life is a dream. All is from the immediate impressions of the Deity. Metaphysical distinctions which no men, and surely no boys, can understand . . . will do much to prevent the fixing of virtue on her true bottom.12 Such was the ironical fate that befell Johnson. Though he had done good service against the enthusiasts, and had written the best ethical treatise of colonial times, he was nevertheless charged with being fantastical, and his work with undermining morality. A similar fate befell the last of our colonial thinkers, John Woolman (1720-1772), the Quaker, a sort of provincial Piers Plowman, whose visions of reform were far ahead of his day. In his Journal, the humble tailor of New Jersey takes up, in order, the evils of war and of lotteries, of negro slavery and excessive labour, of the selling of rum to the Indians, of cruelty to animals. Moreover, like the visions of the Plowman, Woolman's work might be called a contribution to the history of English mysticism. Whittier described the Journal as “a classic of the inner life” ; Channing, as “beyond comparison the sweetest and purest autobiography in the language” ; while Charles Lamb urged his readers to get the writings of Woolman “by heart.” These writings are in marked contrast to the controversial spirit of their time. They avoid entangling alliances with either the old or new divinity, and have little to do with the endless quarrels between Calvinists and Arminians. In place of doctrine and formal creed come “silent frames” and
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.