Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> An Oration Delivered Before the Two Societies of the South Carolina College, on the 4th of Dec., 1849 >> Page 208

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Page 208

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 208
er, broader, and nobler scale, to the events of time
to the motives and actions of mankind. This, indeed,
was the essential feature in Bacon's system, and that
on which really rests all his usefulness and all his
glory. He himself denounced experiments made for
" productive rather than enlightening" purposes. He
declared that " the duties of life were more than life
itself "—that " the Georgics of the mind " were worthy
of being celebrated in heroic verse ; and, embodying
profound truth in a striking metaphor, he said that
" knowledges are as pyramids, whereof history is the
basis."
It is perhaps given to no individual thoroughly to
know himself; to bear in mind at all times the history
of his own life, however obscure and short it may be ;
to comprehend precisely the exact position which he
himself occupies in the drama of the world, or to an-
ticipate all the consequences of his own acts, however
well considered. Much less probable is it, therefore,
that any single person shall be able to sift and to di-
gest the whole history of the past, to understand all
the relations of the men and nations who compose the
existing generations of his race, or to look forward to
their future destinies with any absolute certainty.
The great Creator and Ruler of the universe alone
knows all that has happened, all that is doing, all that
shall come to pass. Such perfect knowledge He re-
serves for Himself, and holds fate in his mighty grasp.
But he condescends to use His creatures as the instru-
ments of his great works, and has not left them wholly
blind. The genius of mankind has perhaps been
equal, in all ages, and in all there have doubtless been
wise men. The difference between our age and the