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 222

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Page 222

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 222
universal empire is impossible he may, like him, ac-
complish much, and leave a name inwrought with flow-
ers and fruits upon that peaceful ensign of the nations,
under which we are taught that all shall one day lie
down together in safety.
In looking around us upon the acting drama of
life, we cannot but perceive how utterly contrasted
these conclusions are with those by which a vast ma-
jority of the existing generations seem to be governed
in their conduct. Action, not Learning, appears to be
the watchword of this excited age, and its beau ideal
is the Practical Man. Wealth and Office are the only
sources of power that are generally acknowledged ;
and we are strenuously taught, by precept and exam-
ple, from our cradle up, to clutch at gold and cater for
popularity. The spirit of the age prescribes these
means of improvement, of renown and happiness ; and
the strongest intellects, too rarely able to break from
the bondage of custom and opinion, fall into the rou-
tine and succumb beneath it. The individual of high
endowments capable of what is great who listens
to such shallow and delusive counsels, and surrenders
himself to such vulgar uses, must inevitably run a ca-
reer of the sorest trials and bitterest disappointments.
The people who erect no higher standards, must surely
no matter what for a time may be appearances go
backwards from the goal of progress.
Action is indeed the foundation of all greatness ;
but it must be action, curbed, and regulated, and di-
rected, by profound knowledge and consummate judg-
ment. Incessant and impulsive action is fatal to man
and to society. Anarchy, exhaustion and premature
decay, are its legitimate and necessary consequences.