August 3

Received orders to march at 5 o'clock a. m., but as we were train guard we did not move till 7 o'clock a. m.; camped at 1 o'clock p. m. near Buckeystown at Monocacy Mill on the Monocacy river; bathed in the river; all's quiet to-night.

August 3, 1863

Monday. We killed an ox this morning, and are full. The hide, horns, head, legs and every other part of that ox that we didn't divide up among the companies was seized upon by the darkies and is as completely gone as if it had never existed. A swarm of flies over the place where the tragedy took place is all there is left to tell of it.

August Third

Resolved, “That secession from the United States Government is the duty of every Abolitionist, since no one can take office or deposit his vote under the Constitution without violating his anti-slavery principles, and rendering himself an abettor of the slave-holder in his sin.”

From Resolutions of the American Anti-Slavery Society



August 3

August 3, 1856.--A delightful Sunday afternoon at Pressy. Returned late, under a great sky magnificently starred, with summer lightning playing from a point behind the Jura. Drunk with poetry, and overwhelmed by sensation after sensation, I came back slowly, blessing the God of life, and plunged in the joy of the infinite. One thing only I lacked, a soul with whom to share it all--for emotion and enthusiasm overflowed like water from a full cup. The Milky Way, the great black poplars, the ripple of the waves, the shooting stars, distant songs, the lamp-lit town, all spoke to me in the language of poetry. I felt myself almost a poet. The wrinkles of science disappeared under the magic breath of admiration; the old elasticity of soul, trustful, free, and living was mine once more. I was once more young, capable of self-abandonment and of love. All my barrenness had disappeared; the heavenly dew had fertilized the dead and gnarled stick; it began to be green and flower again. My God, how wretched should we be without beauty! But with it, everything is born afresh in us; the senses, the heart, imagination, reason, will, come together like the dead bones of the prophet, and become one single and self-same energy. What is happiness if it is not this plentitude of existence, this close union with the universal and divine life? I have been happy a whole half day, and I have been brooding over my joy, steeping myself in it to the very depths of consciousness.

125. John Adams

3 August, 1776.

The post was later than usual to-day, so that I had not yours of July 24 till this evening. You have made me very happy by the particular and favorable account you give me of all the family. But I don't understand how there are so many who have no eruptions and no symptoms. The inflammation in the arm might do, but without these there is no small-pox. I will lay a wager, that your whole hospital has not had so much small-pox as Mrs. Katy Quincy. Upon my word, she has had an abundance of it, but is finally recovered, looks as fresh as a rose, but pitted all over as thick as ever you saw any one. I this evening presented your compliments and thanks to Mr. Hancock for his polite offer of his house, and likewise your compliments to his lady and Mrs. Katy.

4 August.

Went this morning to the Baptist meeting, in hopes of hearing Mr. Stillman, but was disappointed. He was there, but another gentleman preached. His action was violent to a degree bordering on fury; his gestures unnatural and distorted. Not the least idea of grace in his motions, or elegance in his style. His voice was vociferous and boisterous, and his composition almost wholly destitute of ingenuity. I wonder extremely at the fondness of our people for scholars educated at the southward, and for southern preachers. There is no one thing in which we excel them more than in our University, our scholars and preachers. Particular gentlemen here, who have improved upon their education by travel, shine; but in general, old Massachusetts outshines her younger sisters. Still in several particulars they have more wit than we. They have societies, the Philosophical Society particularly, which excites a scientific emulation, and propagates their fame. If ever I get through this scene of politics and war, I will spend the remainder of my days in endeavoring to instruct my countrymen in the art of making the most of their abilities and virtues; an art which they have hitherto too much neglected. A philosophical society shall be established at Boston, if I have wit and address enough to accomplish it, sometime or other. Pray set brother Cranch's philosophical head to plodding upon this project. Many of his lucubrations would have been published and preserved, for the benefit of mankind and for his honor, if such a club had existed.

My countrymen want art and address. They want knowledge of the world. They want the exterior and superficial accomplishment of gentlemen, upon which the world has set so high a value. In solid abilities and real virtues they vastly excel, in general, any people upon this continent. Our New England people are awkward and bashful, yet they are pert, ostentatious, and vain; a mixture which excites ridicule and gives disgust. They have not the faculty of showing themselves to the best advantage, nor the art of concealing this faculty; an art and faculty which some people possess in the highest degree. Our deficiencies in these respects are owing wholly to the little intercourse we have with strangers, and to our inexperience in the world. These imperfections must be remedied, for New England must produce the heroes, the statesmen, the philosophers, or America will make no great figure for some time.

Our army is rather sickly at New York, and we live in daily expectation of hearing of some great event. May God Almighty grant it may be prosperous for America. Hope is an anchor and a cordial. Disappointment, however, will not disconcert us.

If you will come to Philadelphia in September, I will stay as long as you please. I should be as proud and happy as a bridegroom.


August 3, 1914.

Well—war is declared.

I passed a rather restless night. I fancy every one in France did. All night I heard a murmur of voices, such an unusual thing here. It simply meant that the town was awake and, the night being warm, every one was out of doors.

All day to-day aeroplanes have been flying between Paris and the frontier. Everything that flies seems to go right over my roof. Early this morning I saw two machines meet, right over my garden, circle about each other as if signaling, and fly off together. I could not help feeling as if one chapter of Wells's "War in the Air" had come to pass. It did make me realize how rapidly the aeroplane had developed into a real weapon of war. I remember so well, no longer ago than Exposition year,—that was 1900,—that I was standing, one day, in the old Galerie des Machines, with a young engineer from Boston. Over our heads was a huge model of a flying machine. It had never flown, but it was the nearest thing to success that had been accomplished—and it expected to fly some time. So did Darius Green, and people were still skeptical. As he looked up at it, the engineer said: "Hang it all, that dashed old thing will fly one day, but I shall probably not live to see it."

He was only thirty at that time, and it was such a few years after that it did fly, and no time at all, once it rose in the air to stay there, before it crossed the Channel. It is wonderful to think that after centuries of effort the thing flew in my time—and that I am sitting in my garden to-day, watching it sail overhead, like a bird, looking so steady and so sure. I can see them for miles as they approach and for miles after they pass. Often they disappear from view, not because they have passed a horizon line, but simply because they have passed out of the range of my vision-? becoming smaller and smaller, until they seem no bigger than a tiny bird, so small that if I take my eyes off the speck in the sky I cannot find it again. It is awe-compelling to remember how these cars in the air change all military tactics. It will be almost impossible to make any big movement that may not be discovered by the opponent.

Just after breakfast my friend from Voulangis drove over in a great state of excitement, with the proposition that I should pack up and return with her. She seemed alarmed at the idea of my being alone, and seemed to think a group of us was safer. It was a point of view that had not occurred to me, and I was not able to catch it. Still, I was touched at her thoughtfulness, even though I had to say that I proposed to stay right here. When she asked me what I proposed to do if the army came retreating across my garden, I instinctively laughed. It seems so impossible this time that the Germans can pass the frontier, and get by Verdun and Toul. All the same, that other people were thinking it possible rather brought me up standing. I just looked at the little house I had arranged such a little time ago—I have only been here two months.

She had come over feeling pretty glum—my dear neighbor from Voulangis. She went away laughing. At the gate she said, "It looks less gloomy to me than it did when I came. I felt such a brave thing driving over here through a country preparing for war. I expected you to put a statue up in your garden 'To a Brave Lady.'"

I stood in the road watching her drive away, and as I turned back to the house it suddenly took on a very human sort of look. There passed through my mind a sudden realization, that, according to my habit, I had once again stuck my feet in the ground of a new home—and taken root. It is a fact. I have often looked at people who seem to keep foot-free. I never can. If I get pulled up violently by the roots, if I have my earthly possessions pruned away, I always hurry as fast as I can, take root in a new place, and proceed to sprout a new crop of possessions which fix me there. I used, when I was younger, to envy people who could just pack a bag and move on. I am afraid that I never envied them enough to do as they did. If I had I should have done it. I find that life is pretty logical. It is like chemical action—given certain elements to begin with, contact with the fluids of Life give a certain result. After all I fancy every one does about the best he can with the gifts he has to do with. So I imagine we do what is natural to us; if we have the gift of knowing what we want and wanting it hard enough we get it. If we don't, we compromise.

I am closing this up rather hurriedly as one of the boys who joins his regiment at Fontainebleau will mail it in Paris as he passes through. I suppose you are glad that you got away before this came to pass.

Plato's Letters

Tuesday, 3.

Days like these give dignity and loveliness to the landscape; the scene enhanced by imperial tints of gold and purple, the orchards bending with their ruddy burdens. It is the season of nectar and ambrosia, and suggests the Platonic bees, the literature and conversation of the Academy and Lyceum.

Very interesting reading these letters of Plato, and a goodly volume to hold in one's hand, in antique type and binding. Whether a reprint would reward the publisher, I cannot say. His seventh letter is an affecting piece of autobiography, and, taken with Plutarch's Dion, gives the best picture of his journeys to Syracuse that history affords.

"For it is a thing," he writes to the Kindred and Friends of Dion, "altogether correct and honorable for him who aspires after things the most honorable, both to himself and his country, to suffer whatever he may suffer; for not one of us is naturally immortal; nor if this should happen to any one would he become happy, as it seems he would to the multitude. For in things inanimate there is nothing either good or evil worthy of mention, but good or ill will happen to each soul, either existing with the body, or separated from it. But it is ever requisite to trust really to the sacred accounts of the olden times, which inform us that the soul is immortal, and has judges of its conduct, and suffers the greatest punishments when liberated from the body. Hence, it is requisite to think it is a lesser evil to suffer, than to commit the greatest sins and injuries."

•     •     •     •     •

"And I should have felt more justly against those who murdered Dion, an anger, in a certain manner, almost as great as against Dionysius; for both had injured myself and all the rest, so to say, in the highest degree. For the former had destroyed a man who was willing to make use of justice; while the latter was unwilling to make use of it through the whole of his dominions, although possessing the highest power. In which dominions had philosophy and power existed really, as it were, in the same dwelling, they would have set up amongst men, both Greeks and barbarians, an opinion not vainly shining, and in every respect the true one, that neither a state nor a man can ever be happy unless by leading a life with prudence in subjection to justice, whether possessing those things themselves, or by being brought up in the habits of holy persons, their rulers, or instructed in justice."

"This injury did Dionysius inflict. But the rest would have been a trifling wrong as compared to these. But he who murdered Dion did not know that he had done the same deed as Dionysius. For I clearly know, as far as possible for one man to speak confidently of another, that if Dion had attained power, he would never have changed it to any other form of government than to that by which he first caused Syracuse, his own country, after he had delivered it from slavery, to look joyous, and had put it into the garb of freedom; and after all this, he would by every contrivance have adorned the citizens with laws both befitting and best; and he would have been ready to do what followed in due order after this, and have colonized the whole of Sicily, and have freed it from the barbarians, by expelling some and subduing others, more easily than Hiero did. But if these things had taken place through a man just, brave, and temperate, and who was a philosopher, the same opinion of virtue would have been produced amongst the multitude, as would have been amongst all men, so to say, and have saved Dionysius, had he been persuaded by me. But now some dæmon, surely, or some evil spirit, falling upon with iniquity and impiety, and what is the greatest matter, with the audacity of ignorance, in which all evils are rooted, and from which they spring up, and afterwards produce fruit the most bitter to those who have begotten it,—this has a second time subverted and destroyed everything. However, let us, for the sake of a good augury, keep for the third time a well-omened silence."15

One sees the noble spirit of Plato in these passages, and feels how the death of his friend and pupil, Dion, at the moment when he had won the freedom of his country, and a sphere for proving his master's ideas in its rule, must have affected Plato, and the friends of Dion. If doubts have been entertained as to the genuineness of these letters, it is plain they were written by some intimate friend of his, or of Dion, and have the merit, at least, of historical accuracy and evidence.


It was a common speech among the Athenians, that Apollo begat Æsculapius and Plato,—the one to cure bodies, the other, souls. Certainly the last was of divine extraction; his life and thoughts fruitful in genius and immortality. Like other superior persons, his birth is traced to a divine ancestry, and dignified with fables. His mother, Perictione, was a descendant of Solon, and a woman of extraordinary beauty. Aristo, his father, was of an eminent family. To him Apollo appeared in a dream, enjoining upon him respect for his wife's maternity; and, in accordance with the vision, it was affirmed,—

"He did not issue from a mortal bed;

A god his sire, a godlike life he led."

Whilst he was yet an infant, carried in his mother's arms, Aristo went to Hymettus to sacrifice to the Muses, taking his wife and child with him. As they were busied in the divine rites, she laid the babe in a thicket of myrtles hard by, to whom, as he slept, came a swarm of bees, artists of Hymettian honey, flying and buzzing about him, and (so runs the myth) made a honeycomb in his mouth,—this being a presage of the singular sweetness of his future eloquence foreseen in infancy.

As things fall out, not by chance, but by divine ordination, and are intimated in advance, for the most part, so Socrates, who was to win the noblest of the Athenian youths for his pupil and disciple, dreamed, the night before Plato was commended to him, that a young swan fled from Cupid's altar in the Academy, and sat upon his lap, thence flew up to heaven, delighting both gods and men with its music. Next day, as he was relating this to some of his friends, Aristo came to him, and presented his son Plato to be his pupil. As soon as Socrates saw him, reading in his looks his ingenuity, "Friends," said he, "this is the swan of Cupid's Academy."

Whilst a child, he was remarkable for his sharpness of apprehension, and the admirable modesty of his disposition; the beginnings of his youth being seasoned with labor and love of study, which virtues increased and harmonized with all others when he came to man's estate. He early learned the art of wrestling, and became so great a proficient that he took part in the Isthmian and Pythian games. As in years and virtue, so likewise he increased extraordinarily in bodily proportion and shape, insomuch that Aristo named him Plato, which implies breadth of shoulders and bold eloquence. He also studied painting and poetry, writing epics after the manner of Homer; but, finding how far he fell short of him, he committed them to the flames. Intending to contest for the palm at the Olympic Theatre, he wrote some dramatic pieces, and gave them to the players, to be performed at the festivals. But the day before these were to have been presented, chancing to hear Socrates discourse in the theatre before the Bacchanals, he was so taken with him that he not only forbore to contest at the time, but wholly gave over all tragic poetry, and burned his verses. From that time, being then in his twentieth year, he became a follower of Socrates, and studied philosophy.

He studied eight years with Socrates, committing, as was the custom with his scholars, the substance of his master's discourses to writing. Of these were some of his Dialogues afterwards composed, with such additions of argument and ornament that Socrates, hearing him recite his Lysis, exclaimed, "O Hercules! how many things this young man fables of me!"

He was one of the youngest of the Senate at the time of Socrates' arraignment. The judges being much displeased with Socrates, Plato took the orator's chair, intending to plead in his master's defence, beginning, "Though I, Athenians, am the youngest of those that come to this place,"—but, as all the Senate were against his speaking, he was constrained to leave the chair. Socrates being condemned, Plato offered to obtain the money for purchasing his liberty, which Socrates refused. Upon the death of Socrates, Plato,—whose excessive grief is mentioned by Plutarch,—with others of his disciples, fearing the tyranny of those who put their master to death, fled to Euclid at Megara, who befriended and entertained them till the storm was blown over. He afterwards travelled in Italy, where he addicted himself to the discipline of Pythagoras, which, though he saw it replenished with curious and high reason, yet he chiefly affected the continence and chastity, along with the knowledge of nature, possessed by that school.

Desiring to add to the knowledge of the Pythagoreans the benefits of other disciplines, he went to Cyrene to learn geometry of Theodorus, the mathematician; thence into Egypt, under pretence of selling oil,—the scope of his journey thither being to bring the knowledge of astrology from thence, and to be instructed in the rites of the prophets and the mysteries. Having taken a full survey of the country, he settled himself at Sais, learning of the school of wise men there the doctrines of the universe, the immortality of the soul, and its transmigrations. From Egypt he returned to Tarentum in Italy, where he conversed with Archytas the elder, and other Pythagoreans, adding to the learning of Socrates that of Pythagoras. He would have gone also to India to study with the Magi; but the wars then raging in Asia prevented. While in Egypt he probably became familiar with the opinions of Hermes Trismegistus. That he also received some light from Moses is probable, since his laws were translated into Greek before Alexander's time, and Josephus, the Jew, affirms, "that he chiefly followed our Lawgiver." And Numenius asks, "Of philosophers, what is Plato but Moses speaking Greek?" It is known that he brought from Sicily, where he went thrice, at the invitation of Dionysius the younger, the three books of Philolaus, the Pythagorean, on natural philosophy, the first that were published out of that school. These he appears to have woven into his dialogue entitled "Timeus." Timeon accuses him of this appropriation.

"You Plato with the same affection caught

With a great sum, a little treatise bought,

Where all the knowledge which you own was taught,"—

alluding to his having received of Dionysius above eighty talents, and being flush with his money.

He is said to owe much to Protagoras, and wrote a dialogue under that title. In politics, as in morals, he drew largely from the opinions of his master, Socrates; and it is related that he was indebted to the books of Sophron, which, having been long neglected, were by him first brought to Athens, and found under his pillow at his death. Certainly he, of all scholars, had the best right to borrow, since none could recognize his own in his pages, and any author might glory in being esteemed worthy of lending a syllable to so consummate a creator.

On returning to Athens from his Egyptian travels, he settled himself in the Academy, a gymnasium, or place of exercise, in the suburbs of the city, surrounded by woods, and taking its name from Academus, one of the heroes.

"The fluent, sweet-tongued sage first led the way,

Who writes as smoothly as from some green spray

Of Academe grasshoppers chirp their lay."

The occasion of his living here was that he owned an orchard adjoining the Academy. In process of time, this orchard was much enlarged by good-will, studious persons bequeathing of their riches to the professors of philosophy, to maintain the quiet and tranquillity of a philosophical life. Here he first taught philosophy; afterwards in the Gardens of Colonus. At the entrance of his school was written,—

"Let none ignorant of geometry enter here";

signifying, by this inscription, not only the proportion and harmony of lines, but also of inward affections and ideas.

His school took the name of the Academy. He thought it was a great matter, in the education of youth, to accustom them to take delight in good things; otherwise, he affirmed, pleasures were the bait of evil. Education should be conducted with a serene sweetness, never by force or violence, but by gentleness, accompanied with persuasion and every kind of invitation. His teaching was conducted by conversation or dialogue. His method of discourse was threefold,—first, to declare what that is which is taught; then, for what reason it is asserted, whether as a principal cause, or as a comparison, and whether to defend the tenet, or controvert it; thirdly, whether it be rightly said. He expounded the things which he conceived to be true; confuted those which were false; suspended his opinions on those which were doubtful.

His philosophy comprised the elements of the school of Heraclitus, Pythagoras, and Socrates, combined in a system which he distributed into three parts,—moral, consisting of action; natural, in contemplation; rational, in distinction of true and false, which, though useful in all, yet belongs to pure thought. As of old, in a tragedy the chorus acted alone; then Thespis, making some intermissions of the chorus, introduced one actor, Æschylus a second, Sophocles a third; in like manner, philosophy was at first but of one kind,—physic; then Socrates added ethic; thirdly, Plato, inventing dialectic, made it perfect.

This third part, dialectic, consisting in reason and dissertation, he treated thus: Though judgments arise from the sense, yet the judgment of truth is not in the senses. The mind alone is the judge of things, and only fit to be credited, because the mind alone sees that which is simple, uniform, and certain, which is named Idea. All sense he conceived to be obtuse and slow, and nowise able to perceive those things which seem subject to sense; those things being so minute that they cannot fall under sense; so movable and various, that nothing is one, constant and the same; all are in continual alteration and movement, and subjects of opinion only. Science he affirmed to be nowhere but in the reasons and thoughts of the mind, whose objects are ideas, whence he approved definitions of things, and applied these to whatsoever subject he discussed, discriminating things and naming them etymologically. In this consisted the discipline of dialectic; that is, of speech concluded by reason. Though Socrates practised conversation by way of question and answer, or dialogue, yet Plato so much refined the form, both in speech and composition, that he deserves to be preferred before others, as well for invention as reformation. The analytical method, which reduces the thing sought into its principle, is his invention.17

Several words were also introduced by him in philosophy. Of these are "element," which before his time was confounded with "principle." He distinguished them thus: "Principle is that which has nothing before it whereof it might be generated; elements are compounded." The word "poem" was first used by him. So were "superficies" and "antipodes." "Divine providence," words since appropriated by Christian theologians, was first an expression of Plato's. He, too, first considered the force and efficacy of grammar as the organ of pure thought.

His school was the pride of Athens, and drew into it its most gifted youth, as well as scholars from abroad. His most distinguished disciples were Speusippus, his nephew, whom he reformed by his example and teachings, and who became eminent as a philosopher, succeeding him in the Academy; Xenocrates, whom he much loved; Aristotle, the Stagirite, whom Plato used to call a wild colt, foreseeing that he would oppose him in his philosophy, as a colt, having sucked, kicks its dam. Xenocrates was slow, Aristotle quick, in extremity; whence Plato said of them, "See what an unequal team this of mine. What an ass and horse to yoke together!"

Isocrates the orator, and Demosthenes, were among his auditors; Dion of Syracuse was an intimate friend of his, and by his persuasions he made two journeys to Syracuse, at one of which he was sold into slavery by the tyranny of Dionysius, and being redeemed by his friend, returned to Athens, as is related by Plutarch. Xenophon was his contemporary.

At home he lived quietly in the Academy, not taking part in public affairs, the laws and customs of the Athenians not being in harmony with his ideas of republican institutions. "Princes," he said, "had no better possessions than the familiarity of such men as could not flatter, wisdom being as necessary to a prince as the soul to the body; and that kingdoms would be most happy if either philosophers ruled, or the rulers were inspired with philosophy, since nothing is more pernicious than power and arrogance accompanied with ignorance. Subjects should be such as princes seem to be." And he held that a philosopher might retire from the commonwealth if its affairs were unjustly administered. "A just man was a perpetual magistrate."

He affirmed that philosophy was the true helper of the soul, all else but ornamental; that nothing is more pleasing to a sound mind than to speak and hear the truth spoken, than which nothing is better or more lasting.

The study of philosophy, if it made him select in the choice of his associates, did not sour his temper, nor render him exclusive in his intercourse and fellowship with mankind. At the Olympian games, he once fell into company with some strangers who did not know him, upon whose affections he gained greatly by his affable conversation, dining and spending the day with them, never mentioning either the Academy or Socrates, only saying his name was Plato. When they came to Athens, he entertained them courteously. "Come, Plato," said the strangers, "now show us your namesake, Socrates' disciple. Take us to the Academy: recommend us to him, that we may know him." He, smiling a little, as he used, said, "I am the man." Whereat they were greatly amazed, having conversed so familiarly with a person of that eminence, who used no boasting or ostentation, and showed that, besides his philosophical discourse, his ordinary conversation was extremely winning.

He lived single, yet soberly and chastely. So constant was he in his composure and gravity, that a youth brought up under him, returning to his parents, and hearing his father speak vehemently and loudly, said, "I never found this in Plato." He ate but once a day, or, if the second time, very sparingly, abstaining mostly from animal food. He slept alone, and much discommended the contrary practice.

Of his prudence, patience, moderation, and magnanimity, and other virtues, there are many instances recorded. When he left his school, he was wont to say, "See, youths, that you employ your idle hours usefully. Prefer labor before idleness, unless you esteem rust above brightness."

To Philedonus, who blamed him that he was as studious to learn as teach, and asked him how long he meant to be a disciple, he replied, "As long as I am not ashamed of growing better and wiser."

Being asked what difference there was between a learned man and unlearned,—"The same as betwixt a physician and patient."

To Antisthenes, making a long oration,—"You forget that discourse is to be measured by the hearer, not the speaker."

Hearing a vicious person speak in defence of another,—"This man," said he, "carries his heart in his tongue." He blamed having musicians at feasts, "to hinder discourse."

Seeing the Agregentines so magnificent in building, and luxurious in feasting,—"These people," said he, "build as if they were immortal, and eat as if they were to die instantly."

He advised "drunken and angry men to look in the glass if they would refrain from those vices," and Xenocrates, by reason of his severe countenance, "to sacrifice to the Graces."

Being desirous to wean Timotheus, the son of Canon, the Athenian general, from sumptuous military feasts, he invited him into the Academy to a plain moderate supper, such as pleasing sleep succeeds in a good temper of body. The next day, Timotheus, observing the difference, said, "They who feasted with Plato never complained the next morning."

His servant having displeased him for some offence, he said to him, "Were I not angry, I should chastise you for it." At another time, his servant being found faulty, he had him lay off his coat; and, while he stood with his hand raised, a friend coming in asked him what he was doing. "Punishing an angry man," said he. It was a saying of his, that "no wise man punishes in respect of past faults, but for preventing future ones."

On being told that some one spoke ill of him, he answered, "No matter: I will live so that none shall believe him." When asked whether there should be any record left to posterity of his actions or sayings,—"First," said he, "we must get a name, then many things follow."

Continuing a single life to his end, and not having any heirs of his own, he bequeathed his estate to his nephew, young Adimantus, the son of Adimantus, his second brother. Besides his orchard and grounds inherited or added by purchase, he left to him "three mina of silver, a golden cup, and a finger and ear-rings of gold. The gold ear-ring was one he wore when a boy, as a badge of his nobility; and the golden cup was one of sacrifice. He left to his servants, Ticho, Bictus, and Apolloniades, Dionysius' goods." He "owed no man anything."

He died on his eighty-first birthday, for which reason the Magi at Athens sacrificed to him, as conceiving him to have been more than man, and as having fulfilled the most perfect number, nine multiplied into itself. He died of old age; which Seneca ascribes to his temperance and diligence.

This, among other epitaphs, was inscribed on his tombstone:—

"Earth in her bosom Plato's body hides:

His soul amongst the deathless gods resides.

Aristo's son, whose fame to strangers spread,

Made them admire the sacred life he led."

Plutarch tells that Solon began the story of the Atlantides, which he had learned of the priests of Sais, but gave it over on account of his old age and the largeness of the work. He adds that "Plato, taking the same argument as a waste piece of fertile ground fallen to him by hereditary right, manured, refined, and inclosed it with large walls, porches, and galleries, such as never any fable had before; but he too, undertaking it late, died before completing it. 'The more things written delight us, the more they disappoint us,' he remarks, 'when not finished.' For as the Athenian city left the temple of Jupiter, so Plato's wisdom, amongst many writings, left the Atlantides alone imperfect."

The order in which his dialogues were written is yet a question of dispute with scholars. It is conceded, however, that the "Republic" and the "Laws" were completed, if not wholly written, in his old age. Nor is the number of his dialogues accurately determined. Some attributed to him are supposed to be spurious, as are some of the letters. All are contained in Bohn's edition of the works of Plato, and accessible in scholarly translations to the English reader.18

Of the great minds of antiquity, Plato stands preeminent in breadth and beauty of speculation. His books are the most suggestive, sensible, the friendliest, and, one may say, most modern of books. And it almost atones for any poverty of thought in our time, this admission to a mind thus opulent in the grandeur and graces of intelligence, giving one a sense of his debt to genius and letters. His works are a cosmos, as Pythagoras named the world. And one rises from their perusal as if returned from a circumnavigation of the globe of knowledge, human and divine. So capacious was his genius, so comprehensive, so inclusive, so subtile, and so versatile, withal, that he readily absorbed the learning of his time, moulding this into a body of beauty and harmony compact; working out, with the skill and completeness of a creator, the perfect whole we see. His erudition was commensurate with his genius, and he the sole master of his tools; since in him we have an example, as successful as it was daring, of an endeavor to animate and give individuality to his age in the persons whose ideas gave birth to the age itself. And fortunate it was for him, as for his readers, that he had before him a living illustration of his time in the person of the chief character in his dialogues, Socrates himself.

Of these dialogues, the "Republic" is the most celebrated, embodying his ripest knowledge. It fables a city planted in the divine ideas of truth and justice as these are symbolized in human forms and natural things. And one reads with emotions of surprise at finding so much of sense and wisdom embodied in a form so fair, and of such wide application, as if it were suited to all peoples and times. Where in philosophic literature is found a structure of thought so firmly fixed on natural foundations, and placing beyond cavil or question the supremacy of mind over matter, portraying so vividly the passage of ideas through the world, and thus delivering down a divine order of society to mankind?19

In reading his works, one must have the secret of his method. Written, as these are, in the simplest style of composition, his reader may sometimes weary of the slow progress of the argument, and lose himself in the devious windings of the dialogue. But this is the sole subtraction from the pleasure of perusal,—the voluminous sacrifices thus made to method: so much given to compliment, to dulness, in the interlinked threads of the golden colloquy. Yet Plato rewards as none other; his regal text is everywhere charged with lively sense, flashing in every line, every epithet, episode, with the rubies and pearls of universal wisdom. And the reading is a coronation.20

Plato's views of social life are instructive. His idea of woman, of her place and function, should interest women of our time. They might find much to admire, and less to criticise than they imagine. His opinions were greatly in advance of the practice of his own time, and, in some important particulars, of ours, and which, if carried into legislation, would favorably affect social purity. His proposition to inflict a fine on bachelors, and deny them political privileges, is a compliment to marriage, showing in what estimate he held that relation. So his provision for educating the children, and giving women a place in the government of the republic, after they had given citizens to it, are hints of our modern infant schools and woman's rights movements. His teachings on social reform generally are the best of studies, in some respects more modern than the views of our time,—anticipating the future legislation of communities. On the matter of race and temperament he thought profoundly, comprehending as have few of our naturalists the law of descent, complexions, physiognomical features and characteristics.


"Socrates," says Grote, "disclaimed all pretensions to wisdom. He announced himself as a philosopher, that is, as ignorant, yet as painfully conscious of his ignorance and anxiously searching for wisdom as a correction to it, while most men were equally ignorant, but unconscious of their ignorance, believed themselves to be already wise, and delivered confident opinions without ever having analyzed the matters on which they spoke. The conversation of Socrates was intended, not to teach wisdom, but to raise men out of this false persuasion of wisdom, which he believed to be the natural state of the human mind, into that mental condition which he called philosophy.

"His 'Elenchus' made them conscious of their ignorance, and anxious to escape from it, and prepared for mental efforts in search of knowledge; in which search Socrates assisted them, but without declaring, and even professing inability to declare, where the truth lay in which this search was to end. He considered this change itself a great and serious improvement, converting what was evil, radical, ingrained, into evil superficial and moveable, which was a preliminary condition to any positive acquirement. The first thing to be done was to create searchers after truth, men who look at the subject for themselves, with earnest attention, and make up their own individual convictions. Even if nothing ulterior were achieved, that alone would be a great deal.

"Such was the scope of the Socratic Conversation, and such the conception of philosophy (the peculiarity which Plato borrowed from Socrates), which is briefly noted in the passage of the Lysis and developed in the Platonic dialogues, especially in the Symposeum."

Observe how confidently the great master of Dialectic went into the discussion, dealing directly all the while with the Personality of his auditors, and driving straight through the seeming windings of the discourse at the seats of thought and of sensibility, by his searching humor, his delightful irony, thus making the mind the mind's guest and querist in his suggestive colloquy. Affecting perhaps to know less than any, he yet showed those with whom he conversed how little they knew, while professing to know so much, convicting them of being ignorant of their own ignorance, real wisdom beginning in humility and openness to instruction. If he puzzled and perplexed, it was but to reduce their egotism and ignorance, and prepare them for receiving the truths he had to lay open in themselves. Plato, Aristotle, the German Methodists, but define and deliver the steps of his method.


Of modern philosophic writers, Berkeley has given the best example of the Platonic Dialogue, in his "Minute Philosopher," a book to be read with profit, for its clearness of thought and method. His claim to the name of metaphysician transcends those of most of his countrymen. He, first of his nation, dealt face to face with ideas as distinguished from scholastic fancies and common notions, and thus gave them their place in the order of mind; and this to exhaustive issues, as his English predecessors in thought had failed to do. His idealism is the purest which the British Isles have produced. Platonic as were Cudworth, Norris, Henry More, in cast of thought less scholastic than Taylor of Norwich,—who was an exotic, rather, transplanted from Alexandrian gardens,—Berkeley's thinking is indigenous, strong in native sense and active manliness. His works are magazines of rare and admirable learning, subtleties of speculation, noble philanthropies. They deserve a place in every scholar's library, were it but to mark the fortunes of thought, and accredit the poet's admiring line:—

"To Berkeley every virtue under heaven."

15. "The great interest is not in the present city of Syracuse" (writes a traveller, Feb. 9, 1869), "but in its vicinity, where we inspect the doings of Greeks twenty-five to three thousand years ago, and of the Romans at a later date. Their works are constructed out of the solid rock, and have withstood the terrible earthquakes which have completely destroyed all traces of other works. Among the interesting objects in the city is the cathedral, formerly the temple of Minerva, which is a magnificent specimen of Doric architecture, and has continued to be a place of worship through all the changes of idolatry and Christianity, for twenty-five hundred years; the church of St. Marcian here puts in its claim to have been the first church in Europe in which Christian worship was celebrated. Full of interest are the catacombs and the ancient prisons in the quarries from which the materials of Syracuse were taken; here is the Ear of Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse, a prison so arranged that every word spoken within it was re-echoed into his chamber, where it is said he passed entire days listening to the complaints of his victims. Here, too, is the famous fountain of Arethusa, one of the Nereads, and whom Virgil reckons among the Sicilian nymphs, as the divinity who inspired pastoral poetry. Syracuse was at different periods the residence of Plato, Simonides, Zeno, and Cicero; it was the place where Hicetus first propounded the true revolution of the earth; it was the birthplace of the poets Theocritus and Moschus, and the philosopher Archimedes, who lost his life at the capture of the city by the Romans."

16. Born B.C. 429; died 348.

17. "Plato," says Grote, "appreciated dialogue, not only as the road to a conclusion, but for the mental discipline and suggestive influences of the tentative and verifying process. It was his purpose to create in his hearers a disposition to prosecute philosophical researches of their own, and at the same time to strengthen their ability of doing this with effect. This remark is especially confirmed in the two dialogues, the Sophisticus and Politicus, wherein he defends himself against reproaches seemingly made at the time. To what does all this tend? Why do you stray so widely from your professed topic? Could you not have reached the point by a shorter road? He replies by distinctly proclaiming—that the process, with its improving influence on the mind, stands first in his thoughts, the direct conclusion of the inquiry only second; that the special topic which he discusses, though in itself important, is nevertheless chosen primarily with a view to its effect in communicating general method and dialectical aptitude, just as a schoolmaster, when he gives out to his pupils a word to be spelt, looks mainly, not to the exactness in spelling the particular word, but to their command of good spelling generally. To form inquisitive testing minds, fond of philosophical debate as a pursuit, and looking at opinions on the negative as on the positive side, is the first object of most of Plato's dialogues: to teach positive truth, is only a secondary object."—Grote's Plato, Vol. II, p. 399.

18. Among the works deserving of a wider circulation is Thomas Stanley's "History of Philosophy." It well repays perusal, compiled as it was by an enthusiastic student of ancient thought, from reliable sources, and embodying, in an attractive style, "the Lives, Opinions, Actions, and Discourses of the Philosophers of every Sect, illustrated with Portraits of many of them. Third edition. Folio, pp. 750. London, 1701." The preceding notes are mostly extracted from this history.

19. If his "Republic" and "Laws" hardly justify him against those who accused him of having written a form of government which he could persuade none to practise, it may be said, in his favor, that he gave laws to the Syracusians and Cretans, refusing the like to the Ayreneans and Thebans, saying, "It was difficult to prescribe laws to men in prosperity."

20. "The philosophy of the fourth century, B. C.," says Grote, "is peculiarly valuable and interesting, not merely from its intrinsic speculative worth,—from the originality and grandeur of its two principal heroes, Plato and Aristotle,—from its coincidence with the full display of dramatic, rhetorical, artistic genius, but also from a fourth reason not unimportant because it is purely Hellenic; preceding the development of Alexandrian and the amalgamation of Oriental veins of thought, with the inspirations of the Academy and the Lyceum. The Orentes and the Jordan had not yet begun to flow westward, and to impart their own color to the waters of Attica and Latium. Not merely the real, but also the ideal, world present to the minds of Plato and Aristotle, were purely Hellenic. Even during the century immediately following, this had ceased to be fully true in respect to the philosophers of Athens; and it became less and less true with each succeeding century. New foreign centres of rhetoric and literature, Asiatic and Alexandrian Hellenism, were fostered into importance by regal enactments. Plato and Aristotle are thus the special representatives of genuine Hellenic philosophy. The remarkable intellectual ascendancy acquired by them in their day and maintained over succeeding centuries, was one main reason why the Hellenic vein was enabled so long to maintain itself, though in impoverished condition, against adverse influences from the East, ever increasing in force. Plato and Aristotle outlasted all their pagan successors,—successors at once less purely Hellenic and less gifted. And when St. Jerome, near seven hundred and fifty years after the decease of Plato, commemorated with triumph the victory of unlettered Christians over the accomplishments and genius of paganism, he illustrated the magnitude of the victory by singling out Plato and Aristotle as the representatives of vanquished philosophy."—Grote's Preface to Life of Plato.