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inquirers, the fundamental law of human evolution. It was reserved for Herbert Spencer to discover this all-comprehensive law, which is found to explain alike all the phenomena of man's history, and all those of external nature. This sublime discovery—that the Universe is in a continuous process of evolution from the homogeneous to the heterogeneouswith which only Newton's discovery of the law of gravitation is at all worthy to be compared, underlies not only physics, but also history. It reveals the law to which social changes conform.
This preliminary glance is necessary, in order to comprehend the relation of Mr. Buckle's work to the treatises on social science which have preceded it. Mr. Buckle is one of that series of philosophers who, from Plato downwards, have studied human affairs. The Introduction to his “ History of Civilization in England” is similar to the works we have just mentioned, in attempting to discover the laws which regulate the progress of society, and in many respects it surpasses them all. Mr. Buckle, it is true, gives us no new method of research, like Comte; nor does he, as we shall see, discover any universal law, like Spencer. Yet, in the boldness and comprehensiveness of his views, and in the fearless candor with which they are stated—in the wealth of his erudition, and in the honesty with which he applies his facts—in the noble love of liberty which pervades his work, and in the eloquence which invests all parts of it with an undying charm, he has had few equals in any age. Feeling that it is but just to pronounce our opinion at the outset, we say this with the more readiness, both because in the course of this criticism we shall be compelled to differ from him on many points of vital importance, and especially, because Mr. Buckse's work has been received with a bitter and contemptuous hostility on the part of many reviewers, which cannot have failed to excite much groundless prejudice against the author and his doctrines. Not only have the merits of the work been lost sight of, while its defects have been exaggerated to an enormous extent; not only have its tendencies been perversely misrepresented, and that it has been accused of aiming to subvert the principles of morality and religion ; but some of the most obvious facts upon which its arguments are based have been disputed, and the author has been charged with inaccuracies and errors which would disgrace the composition of a school-boy. Without repeating or taking fur
ther notice of such accusations, which savor no less of ignorance than of a spirit of unfair depreciation, we propose to examine Mr. Buckle's leading propositions, in the hope of ascertaining how far they explain the phenomena of society.
Proceeding on the method of investigation pointed out by Comte, Mr. Buckle claims to have established, in the volumes now before us, four great laws, which " are to be deemed the basis of the history of civilization."* The first of these fundamental laws is, “that the
progress of mankind depends on the success with which the laws of phenomena are investigated, and on the extent to which a knowledge of those laws is diffused." In laying down this proposition, Mr. Buckle can, of course, make no claims to originality. It is simply a clear and precise statement of the position taken by all the foremost thinkers of the age. For example, Mr. Lewes says, “The evolutions of Humanity correspond with the evolutions of Thought.”+ Mr. Mill says, “ We are justified in concluding that the order of human progression in all respects will mainly depend on the order of progression in the intellectual convictions of mankind; that is, on the law of the successive transformations of human opinions.”The same is implied in Mr. Spencer's law of evolution, ç and in the law of the three stages of civilization, discovered by Comte.|| With respect to the proposition as it stands, we have no criticisms to offer. It is substantiated, not only by the numerous facts brought up in the course of Mr. Buckle's work, but by all those furnished by the history of mankind in all
and countries. The annals of our race are but an illustration of the law that “ the evolutions of Humanity correspond with the evolutions of Thought."
Thus far, Mr. Buckle proceeds on safe ground: but when he attempts, in his second fundamental law, to go still further, and to determine how much of our civilization is due to intellectual, and how much to moral progress--when he attempts to prove that the intellectual element in our nature is advancing, while the moral element is not, and that knowledge is the cause of progress, while good intentions are not-he gets at once into complicated difficulties; and
• Buckle, vol. II., p. 1. † Philosophy of the Sciences, p. 23. I System of Logic, vol. II., p. 517, 4th edition. & Social Statics, p. 409–456. Essays, p. 1–54. First Principles, p. 146-218. || Philosophie Positive, tom. I., pp. 3–20. Vol. I., chap. iv. VOL. IV.-NO. VII.
his argument, when stripped of its dazzling rhetoric, is so vague, confused, and unsatisfactory, that we cannot help suspecting that the author has but an imperfect comprehension of what he is arguing for. At the outset, he makes an assertion directly contradictory to the proposition which he is to prove. He says, " There can be no doubt that a people are not really advancing, if, on the one hand, their increasing ability is accompanied by increasing vice, or if, on the other hand, while they are becoming more virtuous, they likewise become more ignorant. This double movement, moral and intellectual, is essential to the very idea of civilization, and includes the entire theory of mental progress."* Having thus unequivocally expressed what we shall presently perceive to be in all probability the true state of the case, he proceeds to contradict himself, by setting to work to show that a people advance in civilization according as they advance in knowledge, leaving the moral element entirely out of the question. As this is one of the most important points in his whole work, and one which has excited hot discussion, we shall proceed to examine it at some length, taking up in succession the several steps of the argument.
Amid much that is obscurely stated, and much that is irrelevant to the subject, we trace the following line of propositions :
I. The native faculties of men do not improve, so that we must look for progress only in their aequisitions.
II. They acquire but few “moral truths,” which “ remain stationary;" but they acquire many “intellectual truths,” which are “ continually advancing."
III. Because civilization cannot be regulated by the “ stationary agent," it must be regulated solely by intellectual progress.
Let us see whether these statements will bear a critical examination.
I. Mr. Buckle begins by denying that the natural faculties of man are in a course of development. “Here, then, lies the gist of the whole matter. The progress is one, not of internal power, but of external advantage. The child born in a civilized land is not likely, as such, to be superior to one born among barbarians, and the difference which ensues between the acts of the two children will be caused,
so far as we know, solely by the pressure of external circumstances; by which I mean the surrounding opinions, knowledge, associations in a word, the entire mental atmosphere in which the two children are respectively nurtured.' This is only bringing up again the old dispute about the innate" and "the acquired," which raged for centuries among metaphysical thinkers, but which we thought had been satisfactorily settled by the physiologists, some time before Mr. Buckle penned the above passage.
After it had been proved that every organism is constantly advancing in the vigor and complexity of its functions, in relation to the conditions which surround it, nothing more was needed. But Mr. Buckle appears to forget this. He not only ignores some of the late results of physiological investigation, but, still worse, he, in the passage just quoted, flatly contradicts a theory which he elsewhere upholds. We refer to the doctrine, held by many naturalists, which supposes all the varieties of organic life, present and past, to have arisen from one or two primitive forms, by successive modifications of structure and function. With the evidence which might be brought forward in favor of this theory, we have, at present, no concern. It is enough to know that Mr. Buckle is himself one of its supporters, as appears from several passages in his work.t
Now, this theory supposes that all organic beings are continually advancing, not only in complexity of structure and variety of function, but also in the activity and vigor of their faculties. This may be illustrated by comparing the extremes of the animal kingdom. The Hydra, or fresh-water polyp, is little more than a mere bag. In common with all the Acrita, he possesses nervous substance, diffused in a cellular state throughout his body. I Moreover, if you turn him inside out, his skin will digest, and his interior membrane will respire; he will apparently suffer no discomposure from this reversed state of affairs.g. Again, if you put him
• Vol. I., p. 162.
† Vol. I., p. 806, note 130, and p. 822. The same is implied on p. 641. He also accepts the kindred doctrine of the unity of the organic and inorganic worlds. See vol. II., pp. 529,533.
Or, more accurately speaking, he possesses a sensitive substance which, in more elevated beings, is specialized into nervous tissue : see Lewes' Seaside Studies, p. 390.
§ Draper's Human Physiology, p. 501.
into a vessel of water, he will invariably seek that part of it least exposed to the light, thus manifesting a rudimentary sensibility, which in its more developed state, in higher organisms, we call vision.*
The lower polyps exhibit also contractility over their whole body; and it has been supposed that they also possess, in a diffused condition, the germs of smell, taste, and even hearing. When now we ascend to the Vertebrata, we find digestion specialized in the stomach, respiration in the lungs, contractility in the muscles, sensibility in the nerves ; taste, smell, hearing, and vision, in the mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. This difference coexists with a great increase of power in the several functions. The faculties of the mammal are, as every one knows, far superior to those of the polyp. No one would think of comparing the rudimentary scent of the zoophyte with the developed scent of the dog, or the rudimentary sight of the acaleph with the developed sight of the Bosjesman. Vast, indeed, is the difference between the hydra, whose body is but one organ, feebly performing several functions, to the elephant, whose body is a community of organs, each powerfully performing its own peculiar function: so vast, that many persons, even after allowing for the accumulated influence of causes which have been in operation for countless ages, are unable to believe that the higher organism could have come from the lower, through myriads of intermediate forms. Yet, if we are to believe this, if we are to accept it as true, that this continuous perfecting of all the physical and mental faculties has been going on among the lower tribes ever since life first appeared on the earth, why are we to suppose that it has not taken place in man? Is it that, when man came upon the stage, one of the most comprehensive laws of nature was, by some miracle, suspended forever in his case ? Is it that in the most perfect of organized beings, exhibiting both in structure and function the completest instance of the evolutional process, that process could no longer be carried on? If we are to accept the development theory at all, we must accept it without limitations. We might as well say that the human race forms an exception to the operation of the laws of gravitation or chemical affinity, as to say that it forms an exception in the case of the law of evolution, provided that law be once established.
* Spencer's Psychology, p. 401.