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few in number. By the intellectual, we should designate those, the larger portion of whose lives are passed in mental exercise-who are either employed in studying the thoughts of others, or calling up, and reflecting upon, their own. These only are the truly intellectual; and these, we may depend, are also amongst the most moral of mankind. From them, the evil thought is excluded; and, by consequence, the beginning of evil action. And not only is the entrance of pernicious conceptions prevented, but all that is beneficial and exalted are introduced ; the mind becomes too full of excellence, to leave room for aught of folly or depravity.
It is scarcely necessary to add, that there is not one person in a hundred that can be included in this distinguished class. The far larger part of mankind are doomed to pass the majority of their lives in care and labour: it is their misfortune, not their fault, that they have not the opportunity of being intellectual. Amongst those whose circumstances relieve them from the perpetual drudgery of life, we in vain look for any general attachment to intellectual pursuits. The whole system of our social intercourse and arrangements is contrived to kill, not well to employ, time. We have invented a variety of ingenious contrivances to diversify amusement with the least possible exercise of the rational faculties. Now and then, with “ visits short and far between,” we fortunately are seated at the board of wit, intelligence, and philosophy; but, generally, the materials furnished for entertainment, are mere truisms, common places, “ thrice-told tales," and anecdotes, scandal, flattery, and nonsense.
The notion of our intellectuality is founded on the number of our living authors, and the quantity of their productions : but, unless the course of human affairs should change from its hitherto unceasing vicissitude to one of unexampled permanency, the vast majority of those names which are now in multitudes," familiar to our mouths as household gods,” will early sink in the stream of time, and few only flow on to the shores of distant posterity. The truth is, we mistake numerical magnitude for individual power, and the long array of authors for intrinsic excellence. We confound the recruit, with the veteran. If the plain be covered with spoil, we shout Victory! without inquiring into the value of the achievement, the prowess or difficulty with which it was won, or the importance or stability of the conquest. It
may be high treason against the majesty of the republic of letters, to question the wonderful advantages which are supposed to follow in the train of philosophy; yet, 'as we grow older, and lose some of that enthusiasm which urged us, in the fullness of hope, to anticipate a perfectibility that has never existed, we sober down into the calm contemplation of humble realities. We then perceive, that, as art has improved, fastidiousness has increased : as we have advanced in science, we have discovered not only how little we know, but how small are the advances we can ever make,—that human powers are unequal to the grasp of a tythe of the mighty system of truth; and, though absolute ignorance be a positive evil, a small degree of knowledge is productive of no satisfaction. To taste merely of the deep well, is to excite, instead of gratifying, intellectual thirst.
We might walk the round of the arts and sciences, and demand, --where is the cause for the indulgence of pride, and where is the justification of vanity ?-but, without travelling through the Encyclopædia, we may briefly advert to a few leading topics of human wisdom and ingenuity; and, by those instances, the point may be as well determined as by the investigation of a thousand.
Jurisprudence is, at all times, an important science, and enters minutely into the affairs between man and man. Such is the case in every civilized community; but it is more peculiarly so in countries of great circulating wealth, and in trading and commercial states.
What progress can we boast, in modern times, in this essential respect? What new discoveries have been made in its principles What nearer approach to certainty has been attained in its application: Have men become less litigious, or are forensic decisions subject to a less“ glorious uncertainty 2" Let us not, however, impute needless blame to any one.
It is of the nature of all human institutions to be imperfect. The code of British law, when every circumstance connected with its progress and mutations have been well weighed, is, perhaps, on the whole, the best and wisest that could be devised.
It is comparatively easy for a mighty conqueror, like Bonaparte, to convene together his gifted advisers; and, with all the past experience of the world before him, to fashion a brief system of legislation, that appears simple and preferable to our statutes at large, and our reported decisions, which are larger; but these changes can only be wrought amidst general revolutions, and when no innovation is too violent for immediate adoption. Besides, the fact, I am well assured, is, that the Code Napoleon, in a great many, if not in most, of its articles, is uncertain in its enactments,-capable of various constructions,mand, until fixed and sanctioned by precedent and usage, is doomed to the endless discussions of legal ingenuity.
There were some things which even Napoleon could not
execute; he could not foresee all possible exigencies, nor set bounds to accumulated artifice; he had the most comprehensive mind of any man of his time, and had the rare quality of grasping the minute and the grand; but all human power has its limits. No man is wise in all things; and, as there are always thousands whose interest is to evade the law, many of whom possess talents appropriate to their object, it is not surprising that they should effect it.
If, then, the brevity of the French, and the bulk of the English law, be equal objects of lamentation, where else shall we look for the evidence of progressive perfection in the means of human happiness? There have been mutations enough in Europe to prove the efficacy of every legislative system. All art and science have been progressively advancing ; yet the number of the happy does not appear to bave kept equal pace, nor the miserable to have undergone any diminution,
This is one of the examples of the improvement in science: there is another,—we are indebted to the Arabians for an easier method of conducting our calculations; they have handed down to us the numerical characters : and, in large commercial monopolies, it would be rather difficult to count by the fingers; but it is not clear that large monopolies are really beneficial. Besides, we have had several instances of calculating power, without the aid of any known arithmetical rules. These singular personages are not miraculously inspired ; and we may, therefore, conjecture that they proceed on some general principle, which they either do not choose (for obvious reasons) to disclose, or cannot communicate, in an intelligible form, to an ordinary arithmetician. These cases, it is true, are rare; but there are thousands of illiterate persons, who contrive to attain very accurate results by their peculiar modes of reckoning: they are able to keep a very good account of their gains; and in but few instances, if any, are guilty of paying more than they owe! The necessity, therefore, of the Arab discovery, in the affairs of life, does not appear very striking. We are too apt to conclude, that what we are accustomed to use is absolutely important, and that we should be miserable without it; but it is very pro. bable, that if all mankind were equal to the famous calculating boys, whose talents have surprised and puzzled our mathematicians, they would not be one jot happier, or more contented, than they are,
There is another invention connected with the rise of these illustrious numerals, which few of us will be disposed to undervalue ; perhaps, the inclination will be to over-rate it. Printing is a distinguished, though a mechanical, art: it
may undoubtedly extend the fame of nations; but, I suspect, it does not add to their happiness: it may be advantageous to some individuals, but is not important to the species. The facts of history, and the important principles of science, are, comparatively, few in number, and easily diffused. The intelligence of memorable inventions flies swiftly. Thus, the knowledge of the composition, and the effects, of gunpowder, were soon disseminated, without the aid of printing, over the civilized world; and the mariner's compass was rapidly adopted by every commercial nation. The very object of gaining profit, by the sale of these instruments of good or ill, is sufficient to excite industrious exertion, and to ensure a speedy circulation of knowledge.
The minor discoveries, which influence only a narrow circle, are naturally more slowly diffused; they do not affect the destiny of larger communities, and the knowledge and adoption of them is little either desired or favoured; but even these are propagated by the operation of the same principlethe Amor Nummi.
Never in the world before, was there extant so many literary works; but we must not be dazzled by the magnitude of the mass, nor confused by the extent of the details. There is, indeed, more superficial knowledge; but the wise and profound are not increased in number. Printing gives facility to the circulation of whatever is produced, but creates no actual excellence, and adds nothing to its extent. The mighty works which are destined to float on the stream of fame to the end of time, are not more numerous than were produced, in equal space, in many ancient countries, long before the invention of printing took place.
As some of these statements, and others of a similar character and tendency, have previously been made in the Society, and have met strong opposition, it may be expedient to shew that they do not stand altogether unsupported. I quote, therefore, the substance of some remarks by a writer in the Edinburgh Review. I do not expect any one to bow to authority as to an oracle; but it will be perceived, that the opinions which I refer to, rest upon the palpable facts of history, and upon the state of the world as it now exists. Let us then read the truth, by the light which has been shed on the subject by the luminary of the North. In Africa, it appears, that the progress towards a supposed state of perfection has scarcely begun, and in China it is stationary. In Egypt, in India, in Persia, and in Greece, it retrogrades. In Europe,
it stood still for one thousand years : in Spain and Italy, it is even yet anything but progressive.
So far, the facts appear undeniable. The writer is then of
opinion, that, in morality and happiness, there will be no further improvements; that we shall continue, as we have ever done, to blunder in speculation, and transgress in practice; that misery is not produced through any ignorance of its consequences; that there are too many individuals who disregard the happiness of others, and whom no enlightening will make the instruments of general happiness; that there are others who always presume on good fortune, and whom no prospect of failure will ever repress ;-—these he considers to be the chief sources of unhappiness. So far from evil being diminished, war has been more constant and sanguinary in Europe than before, and is the most extensive in all polished countries. The lovers and conductors of war are the very reverse of ferocious and stupid : men delight in it because it exercises talent and energy, and gratifies the love of power. A freeman is more pugnacious than a slave. Were all men equal even to Fox and Pitt, would there be less disagreement?
He then adverts to the glittering curses of life,-to dissipation and extravagance; and contends, that they would not be cured by rendering their possessors more polished and more intelligent.
HAS THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA BEEN BENEFICIAL TO
It was contended by the proposer of this question, that the discovery of America had not been beneficial to Europe, that it had not increased either the morals, the intellect, or the happiness of mankind ; that America was taken possession of by fraud and injustice, and was retained by cruelty and oppression ; and that it would be a reflection on the
government of the universe to suppose that, from such causes, any good effect could be derived; and, though benefit might sometimes follow crime, yet they who perpetrated it seldom were permitted to enjoy the advantage.
As an instance of the consequences of colonial acquisitions, the slave trade might be referred to. One of the effects of the discovery of the New World was, that it became the interest and the practice of the inhabitants of Europe to foment the petty wars in Africa, and to purchase, as slaves, the prisoners of every conflict,- to transport these unhappy