« السابقةمتابعة »
in whose favor we might have supposed an exception would be admissible in this regard, can by no means claim an exemption from its demands. Who more helpless than the scholar is often found to be, outside of his cell? Who oftener falls a prey to quick-scented sharper than the philosopher come down from that upper chamber of his ? In our estimate of the author of “ The Deserted Village,” how much of it goes to admiration of his genius, and how much to pity, if not contempt, for his lack of rugged sense; while even the great lexicographer himself, in whose presence Goldsmith stood overawed, more symmetrically developed as he was, had not always the current coin to save him from certain weaknesses, as we all know; his broad wealth of wisdom standing him in no better stead, to protect him against these, than did Baron Rothschild's millions serve to protect him, when the inevitable sixpence answered not to his call for omnibus hire. Omnibus charioteer, to be sure, upon learning the quality of his “fare,” thus reduced to extremity, avowed his willingnesse to become his surety for a matter of, we know not how many, francs; upon which is suggested the pleasing reflection, that upon inquiry, therefore, many a laced and scented popinjay would bave been forthcoming in the lanes of London to put in pledge bis small change, if so be by such offering our ill-provided Samuel Johnson, relieved of his fears of ghosts and hobgoblins, could thus go more freely on his way again. . The “inevitable sixpence," we may well suppose, did not very soon fail again to the Baron's call on the streets in Paris; but the “small change” of our popinjay friend—that, we fear, was never at hand ; that it never could be reduced into use and possession by him who needed it, we absolutely know.
Under the operation of this law, another principle comes into notice. As we have seen already, the law insists upon, not quantity, but kind. But,' even as to kind, it is not always satisfied with a single, homogeneous payment in gross, as of so much gold, but will have a variety of payment, some of which, it often happens, are opposed one to the other, making it difficult for one man to hold them all in possession at the same time. It is under this application of the law that our deepest sympathies are frequently appealed to, when our friend or neighbor, having brought the ninety-nine parts of the price, loses the reward because he fails to bring the hundredth ; and perhaps we are never made to feel the rigor and severity of the law more than we do in cases of this kind. For it is to be observed that this hundredth part which is withheld is out of all proportion to that which has been paid, not only as to amount, but to our eyes it often seems also quite insignificant, if not absolutely worthless, in kind. Intelligence, sound judgment, strict application to business, prompt integrity, self-denial,--shall these all fail because that seemingly baser coin we denominate impudence was wanting, or because our friend lacked a certain carefulness, or niggardliness of temper, and so did not hoard his gains ? The ship thoroughly built with knee-timbers of good royal oak, iron bolts and braces not wanting, all her equipments faultless -shall she founder for that single worm-hole which was overlooked ? Shall that single plank, by some oversight not properly fastened, infect and spoil all that prodigality of expenditure ? Instances of the kind here alluded to have fallen under the eye of every one, and here, as elsewhere, we lament, and sometimes wonder, that in this individual case the law could not have been suspended, and so our friend have been allowed to get into port with that well-considered enterprise of his.
And the case is still further aggravated, when we are made to see how a surplus of price in one kind will, by no means, excuse payment of all the several kinds. If in trade a man have not gold enough to make this or that purchase, he may possibly eke out the price with some other commodity, and so have his desire. But since this law we are consider. ing knows nothing about barter, recognizes no exchangeable values, surplus in a particular kind goes for nothing Else how happens it, that Robert Burns, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and a host of others like them, made in greater or less degree a failure of it? Brain, intellectual force, emotional vigor, too, these men had to a superfluity, so that, if under this law
any barter were possible, they might have stood aside for nobody whatever in this world's market.
And, as already intimated, that part of the price which is withheld is often, in our deeming, of very inferior worth, but, for all that, is no less rigidly exacted. In those points where man's nature is most nearly allied to divine—in the loftier gifts of pure intellect, as in the case of Burns and Coleridge just cited, the price is at hand to overflowing, and the failure is to be charged to the absence of certain more sordid and comparatively brutish elements of altogether too despicable a nature to be at all looked after. Upon such nice points as these, however, often turn the scales, and nature pronounces that an absolute condition, which we spurn as beneath our notice.
The subject thus hastily, only suggestively, introduced, admits of wide and varied application. Its special significance is seen in its relation to theories and systems of reform which have for their object the amelioration of man's condition. It invites an examination of these systems and these theories in the light of the law of equivalents. Seeing upon how minute, and, to our eyes, insignificant points rests the decision of the question as to success—failure, even in the humblest enterprises, where we might suppose the law would not be always enforced in its full rigor, should there not be hence conveyed to us very emphatic warning, lest we overlook and ignore the law in matters of vastly higher moment ? May it not possibly be true, nay, is there not very much to give color to the suggestion, that as elsewhere, so here, no barter is admissible? And so, although vast machinery has been got together, and contributions of various kinds have flowed in without stint, until the enterprise has gathered to itself a certain magnificence in the matter of outfit and general appointments, with resources in plenty and to spare, may it not still be true, that it lacks the one essential element of success, which, with all its wealth of a different sort, it can in no wise buy, and which it can by no means procure in exchange for some of its superfluous wares? Nay, more ; seeing that nature pronounces that, in certain cases, indispensable which we hold in light esteem, yea, treat with absolute contempt, and that she refuses to recognize a part payment, however, as to its intrinsic worth incomparably more valuable than that which remains unpaid—is there nothing in all this to put us upon
the inquiry as to whether, in great projected reforms, we may not have mistaken altogether the real price, and so have all the time been making offer of something which had no power of temptation whatever !
To illustrate. The unequal distribution of wealth-mere material substance—is in a variety of ways constantly brought under our notice; the poverty, and hence wretchedness, of this man being in strong contrast with the abundance and comfortable life of another. And since to superficial observation and partial analysis of the subject, the only real necessity in the case seems to be to cure this inequality-- to take surplus here and apply it to deficiency there, for men construct railroads, and do a great many other things on this very simple principle—the great, almost sole, effort comes to be, to make people give more, that is, more money ; so that, material being furnished wherewith to fill up or bridge over these' unseemly chasms, the problem is solved ; this mere giving we identically pitch upon as the one sole equivalent. If men were less covetous, less selfish, the battle would be as good as won.
But what, in the meantime, becomes of the capacity for receiving ? Suppose the selfishness of men were overcome, and their charities greatly multiplied, their personal attention to the proper distribution and application of such charities remaining as it is to-day, and the difficulty of appropriating them on a greatly increased scale without encouraging mendicancy and fraud, and other evils, being still unremoved,
what very surprising change for the better could be looked for? It is easy to persuade men to bestow liberally of their substance, for very many motives combine to produce that result. But the sacrifice of their personal ease or convenience, the diligence which is directed to the management of these charitable contributions-how are these to be attained ! Of one thing we may be certain—mere money-giving is too cheap and too easy, and the thing itself too base in its nature, ever to be accepted among the higher order of equivalents; nor can it be doubted that the difficulty just alluded to in the way of bestowing extensive charities is intended to teach us the truth of this assertion.
“Let her know her place; She is the second, not the first.”
The above sentiment, which Tennyson has uttered with so much truth in relation to knowledge, may also find application here. Money-giving is the second, not the first. It is an equivalent for very little. Indeed, its highest claim to be reckoned among equivalents at all rests rather upon the reflex influence which it exerts upon the giver himself, or, rather, it should be said, upon the influence which it is capable of exerting-for the mere giving, without the emotion, is of no more benefit to the giver than is the paying of a debt, which, in a great many instances, it so closely resembles.
Now, is it not possible that a personal appropriation of these same charities, attended, as it may be, by personal inconvenience, to wbich, perhaps, we are in the habit of attaching very small value, shall be esteemed that genuine price to which sure reward shall be attached ? whereas no return, or, at the best, a very small one, shall follow upon the more magnificent gift, in the mere bestowing of which we imagine we have nobly discharged our duty, if, indeed, we do not throw a sop to our pride, and think in our hearts, if we do not utter it with our lips, “What generous men are we!”
The illustration—for as such, and nothing more, is it here