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ertions; an honourable rivalry would spring up between the ancient and modern continents, and each would press on in the career of improvement until the earth was encircled by the benefits of civilization.
We are unable to do justice to the further part of this discussion. The subject interested the Society at two of its weekly meetings, and both sides of the question were maintained with considerable zeal and animation ; but the notes with which the editors have been furnished are incomplete. The following however was, in substance, the REPLY.
Although it might be very desirable for the rich to increase the number of their luxuries, yet the general interest of the community might not be promoted by their importation. Men were naturally imitative, (to say nothing of their being covetous,) and whatever was displayed before them and appeared to be agreeable, they were naturally desirous to possess; and if, therefore, the happiness of the opulent was enlarged by the acquisition of American productions, the envy and disappointment of those who were debarred from them, would evidently far outweigh the advantage. Besides, it happened that the luxuries which were derived from the South of Europe, from India, and from the vast regions of Asia, surpassed in extent and variety the boasted tributes of the Western colonies. The appetites and senses could only be gratified to a certain extent. The range of human enjoyment was necessarily and wisely limited; and allowing all that could be urged in favour of these new acquisitions, they but changed the specific application--not the general result. If the commodities of the trans-atlantic regions had become popular, it must follow, that those of all
cis-atlantic countries had become proportionally the contrary. No human being could individually consume more than a certain amount; and if, therefore, the banquet were now partially supplied by the produce of America, and if the wardrobe of the European was somewhat furnished from growths of the same soil, the plantations of our own continent must be co-equally neglected, and its labourers unemployed. There was but a given amount of want, and, that supplied, the demand ceased, and exertion was discontinued. In this view, therefore, it would appear, that, at the best, these discoveries, if they did not injure, could not benefit the great family of mankind. But the truth was, that a few only, if any, of the families of the earth, had been even apparently benefited. To no other countries than the Peninsula, France, and England, had any material effects resulted; and were it allowed, for argument sake, that the inhabitants of those parts of Europe had, upon the whole,
derived advantage, all the rest of the ancient continent had paid the price of it. The plough, the loom, and the sail, had : been put in requisition for the service of the newly discovered territory. The riches of the most active part of the world had been poured into new, and withdrawn from its ancient channels, and thus its old allies and early associates had suffered by the acquisition of a new connection.
It appeared to be a settled axiom in the fate of nations, that luxury, when it arrived at a given height, produced, or greatly contributed in producing, the downfal of power and prosperity. The argument on this topic turned upon what constituted a state of excessive luxury, or injurious refinement. It might be admitted, that luxury in moderation was not detrimental, and that the increase of the means of rational gratification was generally desirable. The question, therefore, in this respect, depended upon the true point at which moderation should be fixed. Now it was generally allowed that Europe had been for some centuries in a state of the highest refinement, and that the habits of life were fully as luxurious as they had ever been in the Roman empire. It was manifest, that the immense importation of gold from the mines of Peru, would place within the reach of those who possessed it, the opportunity of extending luxury without labour; and, though it did not vary, other than to diminish the value of the ingredients of refinement, it hastened forward the excesses of many, who otherwise would probably have lived in habits of comparative frugality. Moderation was one of the great principles of morality and wisdom: it was the cardinal virtue Prudence; and whatever tended to break in upon it, was necessarily productive of great and incalculable mischief. Thus, the riches of America had been the ruin of Spain; and thus the old lesson had been illustrated, that prosperity was a greater trial of virtue than adversity.”
The supposition that it was beneficial to afford a vent in America for the surplus population of Europe, was questionable, both in the fact it assumed, and the principle it attempted to maintain. If the inhabitants of Europe were too superabundant, there were ample regions in other portions of the hemisphere yet unoccupied, to which they might resort; but the fact was by no means established that the population of Europe exceeded the means of subsistence. Granting, however, the accuracy of the hypothesis, still the colonies that had been established were formed (we must recollect) of the industrious and enterprising, not the useless; that every individual who crossed the Atlantic, was a national loss,-and that, in the exact ratio in which America became elevated in the mechanical skill and in mental power, Europe, by the
loss of her useful sons, became depressed. The colonies, as had already been seen, continued their allegiance just so long as they needed support, and whilst they constituted a burthen; and, when they acquired strength and opulence, then, like ungrateful children, they abandoned at once the protection which had fostered them, and renounced the duties and the debts which they had contracted.
Manufactures might, for a season, be encouraged, and commerce extended, by the new demand for European produc. tions; but we paid dearly for these temporary advantages, and the profit they afforded was received chiefly by some particular trading classes, and for a considerable part of these benefits the rest of the community was burthened. It soon happened that they who had thus availed themselves of our bounty, and been instructed by our skill, became our rivals, and often our antagonists and enemies. The “new impulse" that had been boasted of, was, in the end, therefore, beneficial only to others, and left us exhausted by the efforts we had made, and impoverished, by shutting up those channels which we had ourselves so injudiciously opened.
That the colonies of America afforded the means of encouraging the navy could not be disputed; but, as an insular and commercial country, we could never be without the opportunity of maritime employment; and when we remembered the advances which had been made in naval skill by the United States, we should, perhaps, perceive, that so far as England was concerned, the argument had a double and opposing aspect. It should be observed, also, that the question we were investigating related to Europe at large ; and an advantage almost exclusively possessed by these kingdoms, was not favourable to the welfare of other nations.
The example of freedom which it was contended had been set to Europe, and the lesson which it was said had been sounded in the ears of despotism, were positions very easy to state, but rather difficult to prove; and the instruction came in rather a suspicious guise, from men who trafficked in human flesh, and held so large a part of their population, as they did, in utter and hopeless bondage-
“They call it freedom, when themselves are free.” But before the soil of Columbus can be identical with a land of liberty, we must witness the emancipation of the African slave; and the prevalence of principles, of humanity, and justice, towards the ab origines of that conquered and hapless country. Civilization may, indeed, be carried into the dreary wilds, and useful fertility be substituted for baleful lux. uriance; but the investigation was not into the physical improvements of the earth, but the beings that peopled its surface. Although there was a wide vineyard to cultivate, the happiness of the labourer was not increased; and, though the world might be said to be more extended, there was no evidence that its inhabitants had gained one iota either in the means or the inducements to moral excellence. Their physical wants had been more than usefully supplied before the era of the discovery, and it would excite only derision to suppose that we had derived, or for ages could expect to receive, any addition from thence to the intellect, or philosophy of Europe. On the whole, therefore, it appeared, that, though some distant generations of the western continent, when the evils that had been entailed upon it were forgotten, might have reason to rejoice in the good that survived; yet, so far as we had at present advanced, the evil had predominated, and “the discovery of America had not been beneficial to Europe.”
The Deformed Transformed ; a Drama. By the Right Hon.
Lord Byron.-London, 1824. Old books are like ripe walnuts ;-their outsides get the rougher and more husky in their advance towards maturity, but the kernels are the better if they be not too old. Not the most sovereign bibliographical pickle could preserve them after the period, when their original flavour becomes merged in the obsoleteness of diction and the mouldiness of manner. When once they become generally unintelligible, their matter must be good indeed to repay the trouble of translating them into the language of our own times, to say nothing of the risk of misapprehending the meaning of words, traceable in no vocabulary, and passed away even from the provinces, of which they constituted the vulgar idiom. In general, the matter of old books is very good indeed,—they have always a kernel : a modern publication is, on the contrary,
“Like a fair apple, siniling on the cheek,
But rotten at the core.” The old book before us * is aged two hundred and thirty years ; its diction is easy; its matter somewhat abstruse, not only metaphysical, but psychological; most Catholic and Spanish, and dedicated to “ the Majestie of Don Philip.” We refer to it, however, for none of these qualifications, but for the sake of extracting the following remark:
Whoso therefore would know at what time his understanding enjoyeth all the forces which it may partake, let him weet, that it is from the age of thirty-and-three until fifty, little more or less, within which compasse we may best give credit to grave authors ; if, in the discourse of their life, they have held contrarie opinions; and he that will write books, let him do it about this age, and not before nor after, if he meane not to unsaye again or change opinion.”—P.11.
What however has this to do with the Deformed Transformed ? Nothing—but something with its author.
“ But where is be, the Pilgrim ?”—
“ He is no more-these breathings are his last.” * “The Trial of Witts,” translated from the Spanish of John Huarte. London, 1594. 410.