ページの画像
PDF
ePub

1799.]
Enquirer, No. XVI.

9 THE ENQUIRER, No. XVI. to the enjoyment of individuals hy affordIN WHAT DEGREE IS THE FUTURE ing interesting and agreeable occupations

MELIORATION OF THE STATE or for their leisure, and by dignifying and MANKIND PROBABLE?

exalting their natures, it cannot, I lear, THAT man, who, during the course of be made a ground of much advantage to

a few late years, has not made very the great mass of mankind. For too tew in ferious reflections on the condition and society can ever possess leisure and opperprospects of his fellow-creatures; who tunity fufficient for the pursuit, or if has not been agitated with alternate hopes they have these, will prefer the pleasures and fears, and felt his wishes and expec. of knowledge to the more obvious ones tations in a state of perpetual tumult and flowing from the affections and the fentes, flu&uation, muft either have been ab. to render advances in literature and science forbed in stupid and selfish indifference, the fource of much substantial benefit to or must have arrived at that state of secu- the world. It may be added, that as it rity concerning all human affairs which is pursuit and progress, rather than reàl is the highest point of philofophy. For attainment of any precise object, which iny own part, I have been far from either gives the pleasure in this case, an adof those conditions. I have most ardently vanced state of knowledge is not more fympathised in the surrounding scenes; favourable than an early and immature but from the present view of things, I one, to the happiness of its votaries. could wish that the tranquillity arising Whatever may be the modern improvenot from indifference, but from philofo- ments in physics and metaphysics, the phy, should succeed to the painful fuf- ardour, and consequently the delight, penfe and uneasy apprehensions of a mind with which they are pursued, cannot now too strongly impressed by actual events. be much greater than that felt by the This, too, may probably be the state of philofophers of antiquity. many readers of the Monthly Magazine. The other species of knowledge is to be Let us then see, if, by meditating on the regarded as a means to an end; and, from past and present state of mankind, we can the nature of mankind, formed capable discover any principles which may recon of tranfmitting the experience and discocile us to what we behold, and secure us veries of one generation to another, and for the future against the folly and the pain thus making unlimited progress in the of expectations never likely to be gratified. adaptation of the fittest means to the best

The human race has now sublisted some ends, we may very reasonably expect an theusand years, and under all the differ- addition to the fock of general good from ences of climate and external circumstances this source. But, in order to forın foine that can be supposed incident to it. estimate of its amount, it will be first neWith respect to what we call civilization, ceffary to consider of what ingredients likewise, it seems to have undergone all human happiness is compolet, and how the vicissitudes of which it is capable; far it lies within the power of man to add for this has in a great many instances been to, or diminish the general fum. carried to a degree, which seems to have There is, indeed, an opinion that many been the dire&t cause of its own decline. seem fond of maintaining, which, if true, States more commercial, more military, would render unnecessary every confideramore polished, more luxurious, than have tion of this fort, and induce us to sit down already existed, are not likely again to in perfect apathy: this is, that good and appear on the theatre of the world. What evil are fo equally balanced in all the difthen remains on which to found expecta- ferent states and conditions of mankind, tions of a new state of things, unless it be that what is gained on one side, is loft on knowledge? This, in fact, is the present the other, and vice versa; fo that it can anchor of our hopes for a meliorated con never be worth while to attempt a melidition of mankind; it is therefore a mat- oration, by which nothing can be rally ter of high importance to consider what acquired in point of happiness. And if that improvement in knowledge must be happiness be the true end and object of which is to effect this desirable change, our being, it is certain that a change, and what are the probabilities of its tak- which does not conduce to its augmentaing place.

tion, is but an idle waste of our industry. Knowledge may, in a loose way, be di- But, surely, a fair and impartial survey vided into that which is a source of hap- of the world can never lead to such a conpiness in itself, and that which is a means clusion. Place happiness as low as we of producing happiness. With respect please-let it conhit in mere animal ento the former, inasmuch as it contributes joyments, and that security of life and · MONTHLY MAG. No. XL.

B

its

[ocr errors]

its comforts, and that freedom of action, to greater numbers than are now fed from which even a savage mult prize-and we the same extent of land: the like may be cannot be insensible of the fuperior advan- faid of all other branches of economics and tages which fome states of society offer in manufactures, at least in every country these respects, over others. It it impossi- where already enough has been discovered ble for any one serioully to suppofe, that to make life comfortable. Most countries the American or Englif farmer, surround- in Europe might probably maintain a ed with plenty, which no one can hinder much larger population than they poffess; him from enjoying, and resting in full peace but what has the sum of population to do and tranquillity under the protection of with the happiness of the individuals which strong and equal laws, is not an happier compose it. This has long ago in China being than the cultivator of the Turkish and Japan reached its maximum, and in dominions, who is forced to bide the little consequences has pushed the more essential wealth he possesses, leit it fhould be forci arts of life to a degree of perfection much bly taken tiom him; and fears a brutal and beyond what we see among ourselves; but insolent foe in the person of every one it seems to have been very far from mestronger or better armed than himself. liorating the condition of the species. The difference here is nothing less than A much more promising consequence of fanciful-it bears upon the solid comfort increased knowledge, is the improvement of every day, and comes home to the feels to be expected from it in government, leings of every human creature.

gislation, and all the contrivances by which The happiness of man, as far as it ap a community are secured in the enjoyment plies to the whole species, will probably of those advantages which nature and innever admit of a high or complex estimate. dustry bestow. Here seems, indeed, to be Sensual gratifications, and the ordinary a wide and almost boundless field for mepleasures of social and domestic life, may lioration; for old as the world is, how be reckoned to compose almost the whole very few examples has it yet seen of civil of it. As already oblerved, the wants of inftitutions, purely and fairly framed with mankind are too many to allow to the ma a view to the production of the greatest jority leisure enough for intellectual pur- possible good! How difficult it would be fuits; nor are the enjoyments arising from to name a fingle one in which partial intethat source, so strong and constant in their rests have not, in many important points, attraction, as those from the two former. taken the lead of general interests! But, I have, therefore, no idea of a higher de- in order to know what improvements may gree of happiness, attainable by a commu be expected in this matter, it will be nenity, than that proceeding from abundance cessary to consider what errors have been of the necessaries and most obvious conve- owing to ignorance, and what to ill inten. niences of life, fairly shared, and tempe- tion. The former may perhaps admit a rately used; fronı peace, security, freedom cure; the latter hardly can, unless the maof ačtion, and mutual kindness and good jority become so enlightened concerning offices. To these may be added, immu. their interests, and so wile, steady, and nity from those superstitious terrors, and unanimous in the pursuit of them, as to self-tormenting practices, which have at overcome all that resistance which the portended so many forms of false religion. fessors of uni'ue advantages will always Now let us enquire how far the increase make to a change unfavourable to them. of knowledge accruing from experience, selves. is likely to further these defrable objects That ignorance on the part of rulers, in among the great family of mankind.

the true principles of legislation, police, Not much need be said concerning the and the other branches of government, has improvements in the common arts of life been, and is, the cause of much evil to in this view. Being almost all of them the nations, cannot be doubted. And as it offspring of necessity, they can scarcely do must be, upon the whole, the interest of more than keep pace with the demands of rulers to see their subjects flourishing and that neceflity. Such is the natural increase happy enough to be kept in good humour, of the human species when not checked by there seems no reafon to doubt, that in prounfavourable circumstances, that there will portion as prejudices and false concepbe perpetual occasion for the full employ- tions give way to the gradual progress of ment of the human abilities to prevent the truth, many-improvements will be made Mare of good things already poffeffed by in these particulars which will materially each individual from being diminished. better the itate of mankind. I make no The utmost improvement of agriculture question but much has been done during can only give whiolesome and palaiable food the course of the present century, to amend

the

Jan.]
Enquirer, No. XVI.

II the distribution of private justice, to check But are there not modes in which inthe oppression of the great, and to secure creased knowledge, may more quietly and life and property to all the members of a and gradually meliorate the condition of ftate, in almost every country in Europe. mankind ? May we not expet much from Industry has been more encouraged, trade improved systems of morality ?-for, mofreed from many impolitic shackles, pu- rals being in fact nothing else than such a nishments rendered leis cruel, and, in ge- rule of life as will promote the greatest deneral, a more just and liberal spirit of in. gree of happiness; and the art of living ternal government has been introduced. happily being as much an experimental art The rule of a Frederick and a Catherine, as any other, will it not be making a condespotic as the principles of both have tinual progress in human focieties, who been, cannot be denied to be much more can have no interest so dear to them as lenient and better calculated to promote the carrying it to perfection ? This, unpublic welfare, than that of their prede- doubtedly, seems a plausible deduction; cessors.

but, I fear, an impartial survey of history All this is very well as far as it goes. will not permit us to be very fanguine in But since arbitrary rulers must ever have our expectations. Has it, in reality, apan interelt nearer and dearer to them than peared that either individuals or bodies of the happiness of their subjects, viz. that men, in proportion as they have advanced of their power, they will never willingly in those branches of knowledge which adorn acquiesce in promoting the public improve and elevate the fpecies, have been more ment with respect to those points on which just, more temperate, more beneficent? this power is founded. And as great part What are the great moral evils under of the worst abuses in corrupt governments which mankind labour ? Are they not, are intimately connected with the mainte. with respect to ourlelves, the indulgence nance of the sovereign authority, it is vain of our appetites and passions, and false to expect that they will ever be reformed estimates of happiness, proceeding from till the people themselves come to under- vicious associationis--with respect to others, stand and pursue their own interests. But the preference we give to our own interests here is the great difficulty. , How is it above that of the community?-And are possible that the mass of a nation should not these propensities interwoven into our ever, in the hands of their old matters, very nature, and only to be controuled by become enlightened enough to comprehend a long course of discipline? Is the man their evils, and the remedies of them-- of knowledge, to whom so many new should be able peaceably to deliberate about fources of enjoyment are opened, less likely them, and take proper steps for their re to gralp with eagerness at the means of lief-should avoid the snares of crafty de. attaining those enjoyments, than the illitemagogues, and pursue steadily. the right rate and easily satisfied peasant ?' Can objects by the wiselt means; and, finally, luxury ever be separated from refinement, amidst the unjust opposition they would be avarice from commerce, or rapacity from sure to meet with, fould preserve their power? It is granted, that a strong and minds from that irritation which will in enlightened system of government may the end break out in acts of the most check many of the public mischiefs which dreadful violence ? Alas! have we not would flow from thiele fources; but how, too well learned what a nation will do that without intolerable restraints upon freedom rises to revenge those injuries which either of action, shall it prevent the private ones? wisdom cannot, or selfishness will not, re. Look at our manufacturing towns, and try to dress in a proper time and manner? But separate, even in idea, the vices and milethey should have first been enlightened, fayries that overrun them, from the circumthe friends of knowledge and liberty: stance of a vast population composed of arHow? when their meetings for instruction tificers, who, if their wages are low must are prevented by the bayonet; when the employ their whole time in providing the press is shackled by penal restrictions; and necessaries of life; if high, will lie under when hired teachers tell the people that temptations to excess, which they have no they have nothing to do with the laws but principles that can enable them to refift. obey them? The melioration of mankind 'The almost insuperable difficulties expeby means of political revolutions, is, in- rienced in every plan for amending the deed, a noble subject of speculation; and state of the yearly increasing poor in great I am far from afferting, that the hopes of towns, fufficiently evinces the intimate patriots on this head are futile and vision- connexion between private calamity, and ary; but, for my own part, I have only what has always appeared to conftitute the wiß left the confidence is gone,

public prosperity,

The

[ocr errors]

The new order of things which seemed allow space enough for the schemes of a opening upon Europe, afforded no prospect merchant's counting house. Further, the more flattering to the lovers of mankind, present system of trade can only be mainthan that of a probable extinction of the tained by the slavery or subjugation of great wars which from the earliest records have numbers of mankind; and while the East never ceased to ravage the world. It was and West Indies compose links in the chain very plausibly argued, that fince nothing of European commerce, cruelty and inwas more demonstrable than the prepon- justice must be the means by which they derance of evil which a war brought even are made to hold together. upon the successful party, as soon as na From these confiderations, I fear, we tions should become capable of pursuing, have very infufficient grounds to suppose, as well as discovering their true interests, that the defired melioration of the world the sword would no longer be resorted to upon public principles is as yet cominenced. for the decision of their differences. But All that a compariton of this century the first consequence of the French Revo- with the Jait will allow us with certainty lution hias been a very extensive and most to infer, is greater lenity and regularity bloocy war, entered into with as much in the adminiftration of government in eagerness and animosity by the several par- fome countries; more encouragement to ties as any former one; and, in the mean the exertions of industry; and a desire in time, three potentates have joined unmo, governors to participate in the improvelesed in a tcheme of sharing between them ments made by art and science, which has one of the principal portions of Europe, the good effect of inciting them to encourand abolishing a rifing liberty which had age the means of advancing useful knowevery plea of justice in its favour. Nor ledge, though often from narrow and seldoes it appear, that a temporary peacefiih motives. It, in opposition to these can be restored without leaving abundant advartages, be set the prodigious increase feeds of future discord; or that even the of standing armies; the vast accumulation greatest sufferers by the war, are likely to of national debts and burthens; and the be cured of the fatal propensity to rush extinction of a spirit of independence in again into quarrels on the lightest occa numbers of the middle and superior ranks fions of ambition or contention. War is of society, while the lowest are doomed to in so many ways the author of misery, and ceaseless toil in order to gain a mere fubfiftthe obstacle of melioration, that unless ence, I question if the most fanguine friend foinewhati decisive shall be effected for abo. of mankind can strike a fair balance which lishing it from the ordinary course of hu- will give him much satisfaction. man affairs, it may be affirmed, that no But not to dwell entirely upon the dark thing comparatively is done towards a bet- side of the prospect, I shall state a few cirter ltate of things. The propensity to cumstances of private improvement, on national hostility has already withstood all which I think we may safely place some the efforts of a religion apparently pro- reliance. mulgated for the express purpose of reitor It is impossible to doubt that, in all the ing peace on earth.

It did not, even more civilized parts of the world, superwhen its influence was strongest, bestow ftition and bigotry,.those bitter foes of huthe shortest breathing-time on mankind; man happiness, have lost much of their and its ministers bave long been, and are power; and that this has been owing to at the present day, some of the most active that progress of good sense and knowledge promoters of the horrid spirit of mutual which may be expected to go on ftill further enmity. The banner is confecrated at the diminishing their influence. It is true, the altar before it is dipped in blood; and connexion between old systems of belief prayers are folemnly offered up in every and old claims of authority, may for a church in Christendom for success in every while maintain the struggle of falfhood and act of public violence that the fovereign of violence, against truth and equity ; but I each country thall please to engage in. would fain hope that imposture and perse

The Spirit of commerce too, which so cution have received their death wound in much distinguishes the present age, instead Europe, and will never again be able to of birding the nations in a golden chain of produce the follies and miseries under mutual peace and friendship, seems only which men so many ages groaned. Relito have given additional motives for war. gious systems are still, indeed, full of error, Each fate aims at a monopoly, only to be and are little, if at all, mended in their established by an armed force; and the im- principles; but the spirit of the times has provements of navigation have contracted been too potent for them, and doubt or the dimensions of the world 10 as not to indifference have effected what mere argu

ment

Jan.)
Enquirer, No. XVI.

13 ment could not have done. Emancipation tion to matters remotely concerning ourfrom the servile dread of supernatural selves. Our tempers, too, with the sternevils, and from the burthensome and de- ness, have lost the force, of the heroic ages; grading practices by which they were to nor do I conceive that any considerable be averted, is a gain in point of happine's number of us would be capable of going. which cannot be too highly prized. It through the rough work of a reformation enters deep into the comfort of private when brought from theory to practice. If life, and makes all the difference between the instance of a neighbouring nation be a freeman and a flave. And that increased brought to refute the notion of a necessary lenity in governments and liberality in in- connexion between advancement in civilidividuals, which renders the profession of zation and effeminacy of character; it a different religious faith from the esta. may be urged, on the other hand, that the blished one, no longer dangerous or de. Mocking calamities which have attended grading, is a most important advantage to its revolutionary exertions will with cerall diflidents.

tainty for a long time render its history The great diffusion of knowledge, though more a warning than an example to other perhaps of a superficial kind, among ranks nations. Melioration, according to its of people who formerly poffeffed scarcely warmest advocates, cannot be effected the finallest portion of it, has certainly without overthrowing all usurpations in added much to the pleasure and variety of, governments, all impofitions in religion, life; and if it has tended to foften and rooting up all prejudices, levelling all arhumanize the manners, and introduced a tificial distinctions, and equalising mangreater love for fedentary amusements, kind so far as can be done consistently with and the pursuits of cultivated leisure, I the fundamental principles of social union. own I am one of those who think this a But where are the engines by which these good exchange against the rough vigour mighty operations are to be brought about? and rude fimplicity of former ages. Nor The pulpit, the bar, the sword, are already can it escape any observer, that even the engaged in support of existing institutions; amusive writings of the present day are al. and the press, on which the chief reliance molt invariably friendly to decency, hu- of reformers is placed, is at least half manity, generosity, and all the finer and bought by the fame powerful bidders. Not nobler feelings of the heart. And as a a single axiom on which the rights of mau consequence of the propagation of such are founded, has been able to fix itself besentiments, the virtues of charity, benefi- yond the reach of affault. All is disputed; ficence, and affability, were certainly never and where argument fails, authority is more conspicuous. From these considera- called in to give succour ; while wit and tions I am not willing to accept the con. eloquence fight indiscriminately on either cession of a very zealous believer in the side. progression of the human race, the late Ihall conclude with one more reflexion Condorcet, who asserts, “ that though which forcibly presses upon me.

All the much has been done for the glory of man- proofs that have been adduced of the kind, scarcely any thing has yet been done amended state of mankind, and all that I for its happiness.” It is true, that the have admitted as real or probable, relates continuance of destructive wars, and of the only to Europe and her immediate coilimmense inequality of conditions, perpe. nexions, and not even to the whole of that. tuates a vast mass of evils in society; yet But what a small portion of the human these evils, which at no period did not race does this comprehend ! The last ac. exist, are undoubtedly softened by modern counts of China state the population of manners ; and private life has in various that empire alone at upwards of 300 milrespects been made happier to all ranks of lions, of which sum all Europe can only people.

fhow a trifling fraction. Who can with But I own that the very circumstance of the least probability suggest improvement some improvement in these points, leads in that ancient, vain and prejudiced peome to despair of those radical and effectual ple, who only know enough of us and our meliorations which many expect from vi. inftitutions to fufpect and despise us ? Who gorous schemes of reform, conducted upon pretends to fee less ferocity in the African, principles of general intereft and public less pride in the Turk, less rapine in the virtue. Our situation has too many ad. Arab, less perfidy in the Indian, less cruvantages to be l'eadily hazarded; an the elty in the Persian? Alas! while we are exertions requisite to maintain those advan overwhelmed at home with business enough tages too much occupy our minds to allow to occupy reformation for centuries, all of the application of much time and atten- these valt regions have not as yet heard the

word

« 前へ次へ »