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Of systems of equality. Wallace. Condorcet.
only be considered as mere conjectures. It does not however by any means seem impossible, that by an attention to breed, a certain degree of improvement similar to that among animals might take place among men.
Whether intellect could be communicated may be a matter of doubt; but size, strength, beauty, complexion, and perhaps even longevity, are in a degree transmissible. The error does not seem to lie in supposing a small degree of improvement possible, but in not discriminating between a small improvement, the limit of which is undefined, and an improvement really unlimited. As the human race however could not be improved in this way, without condemning all the bad specimens to celibacy, it is not probable that an attention to breed should ever become general ; indeed I know of no well-directed attempts of this kind except in the ancient family of the Bickerstaffs, who are said to have been very successful in whitening the skins and increasing the height of their race by prudent marriages, particularly by that very judicious cross with Maud the milk-maid, by which some capital defects in the constitutions of the family were corrected.
It will not be necessary, I think, in order more completely to show the improbability of any approach in man towards immortality on earth, to
Of systems of equality, Wallace. Condorcet.
urge the very great additional weight that an increase in the duration of life would give to the argument of population.
M. Condorcet's book may be considered not only as a sketch of the opinions of a celebrated individual, but of many of the literary men in France at the beginning of the revolution. As such, though merely a sketch, it seems worthy of attention.
Many, I doubt not, will think that the attempting gravely to controvert so absurd a paradox as the immortality of man on earth, or indeed even the perfectibility of man and society, is a waste of time and words; and that such unfounded conjectures are best answered by neglect. I profess, however, to be of a different opinion. When paradoxes of this kind are advanced by ingenious and able men, neglect has no tendency to convince them of their mistakes. Priding themselves on what they conceive to be a mark of the reach and size of their own understandings, of the extent and comprehensiveness of their views; they will look upon this neglect merely as an indication of poverty and narrowness in the mental exertions of their contemporaries; and only think, that the world is not yet prepared to receive their sublime truths.
On the contrary, a candid investigation of these
Of syste-ms of equality. Wallace. Condorcet.
subjects, accompanied with a perfect readiness to adopt arıy theory warranted by sound philosophy, may have a tendency to convince them, that in forming improbable and unfounded hypotheses, só far from enlarging the bounds of human science, they are contracting it; so far from promoting the improvement of the human mind, they are ob. structing it: they are throwing us back again almost into the infancy of knowledge; and weak. ening the foundations of that mode of philosophising under the auspices of which science has of late made such rapid advances. The late rage for wide and unrestrained speculation seems to have been a kind of mental intoxication, arising perhaps from the great and unexpected discoveries which had been made in various branches of science. To men elate and giddy with such successes, every thing appeared to be within the grasp of human powers; and under this illusion they confounded subjects where no real progress could be proved, with those where the progress had been marked, certain, and acknowledged. Could they be persuaded to sober themselves with a little severe and chastised thinking they would see, that the cause of truth and of sound philosophy cannot but suffer by substituting wild flights and unsupported assertions, for patient investigation and well authen
of Systems of Equality. Godwin.
IN reading Mr. Godwin's ingenious work on political justice, it is impossible not to be struck with the spirit and energy of his style, the force and precision of some of his reasonings, the ardent tone of his thoughts, and particularly with that impressive earnestness of manner which gives an air of truth to the whole. At the same time it must be confessed that he has not proceeded in his inquiries with the caution that sound philosophy requires. His conclusions are often unwarranted by his premises. He fails sometimes in removing objections which he himself brings forward. He relies too much on general and abstract propositions which will not admit of application. And his conjectures certainly far outstrip the modesty of nature.
The system of equality which Mr. Godwin proposes is, on a first view, the most beautiful and engaging of any that has yet appeared. A vol. ii.
Of systems of equality. Godwin.
melioration of society to be produced merely by reason and conviction gives more promise of permanence than any change effected and maintained by force. The unlimited exercise of private judgment is a doctrine grand and captivating, and has a vast superiority over those systems, where every individual is in a manner the slave of the public. The substitution of benevolence, as the masterspring and moving principle of society, instead of self-love, appears at first sight to be a consummation devoutly to be wished. In short, it is impossible to contemplate the whole of this fair picture without emotions of delight and admiration, accompanied with an ardent longing for the period of its accomplishment. But alas ! that moment can never arrive. The whole is little better than a dream-a phantom of the imagination. These
gorgeous palaces” of happiness and immortality, these “ solemn temples” of truth and virtue, will dissolve, “ like the baseless fabric of a vision," when we awaken to real life, and contemplate the genuine situation of man on earth.
Mr. Godwin, at the conclusion of the third chapter of his eighth book, speaking of population, says,
“ There is a principle in human society by which population is perpetually kept down