صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

lengthened out the mortality returns.* Laws for the support of colonial government have given rise to the most barbarous tyranny.t Trade-union projects, economic experiments, poor-laws, education-laws, church-laws, currency-laws, have all turned out to be failures, and in many cases have inflicted upon society.positive misery, instead of conferring upon it positive benefit

. Paradoxical as all this may at first seem, it is but a statement of historic facts. Modern history is filled with similar examples, all showing the utter incompetence of government to regulate the affairs of men. The duty of government is, to insure the fulfillment of the first principle of morality--that no man shall infringe upon another's sphere of action. If it but performs its duty, it will do well. But when it goes to making plans for securing the “ greatest happiness to the greatest number,” it usually contrives to end up by securing the least happiness to every one, having failed in its projects, and neglected its proper function meanwhile.

But on looking back, and contemplating society in its primitive state, we shall arrive at very different conclusions. We shall perceive that the protective spirit, far from being prejudicial to progress, was one of its most essential conditions. Indeed, on calling to mind all those centuries of primeval history, when there was nothing to counteract the workings of the protective spirit, and when all things conspired to strengthen its power, one might reasonably ask at the outset why it was that under such circumstances the human race made such sure and unceasing progress; why it was that it progressed at all; why it was that it did not even retrograde. If the protective spirit is of necessity in every age the enemy of civilization, how did it happen that we ever emerged from a state of barbarism ? How

comes it that we have not remained uncivilized-mere nomads, or at best diggers of earth, living from hand to mouth, little better, on the whole, than a race of chimpanzees ? For Mr. Buckle's own facts show that the protective spirit has never been so strong as in the early ages of history. “ In India, slavery, abject, eternal slavery was the natural state of the great body of the people.” The “vast social system” of Egypt was “ based on despotism” and “ upheld by cruelty."|| In Mexico and Peru, " there was the same utter absence of anything approaching to the democratic spirit: there was the same despotic power on the part of the upper classes, and the same contemptible subservience on the part of the lower."'* Again, in Babylonia, Assyria, and Persia, despotism was the only form of government ever experienced or thought of. We have evidence of the same in the case of China and Japan. We find, moreover, that in barbarous countries, like Ashantee, despotism universally prevails. Going still lower-still farther backwe see nomadic tribes always in subjection to the will of the strong man. Now, for many thousands of years I civilization was advancing in Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, and many of the other nations above mentioned made considerable progress ; India even arrived at a high state of refinement, as is witnessed by her extensive and magnificent literature. All this shows that in early times progress did coexist with the strongest possible manifestation of the protective spirit; and when we consider that there was nothing then to counterbalance the workings of the protective spirit—that all physical causes contributed to favor its development —and that skepticism, the only thing that could have weakened it, did not exist, we may suspect that the protective spirit could not have been so detrimental to the interests of civilization as Mr. Buckle supposes.

As in England, some years ago, during the cholera pestilence.

† As in the case of the East India Company, and of the American Colonies before the Revolution.

See the evidence in Spencer's Social Statics, p. 195 to 406, and in Mr. Buckle's volumes.

§ Vol. I., p. 73.

|| P. 83.

On looking at the matter deductively, it will even appear that without the protective spirit there could have been no civilization. For what but the most absolute despotism and the profoundest awe of the ruling power could ever have kept together the communities of the primitive men, with their cannibalism, their blood-thirstiness, their dishonesty and treachery? As long as men could not live together peaceably—as long as they neither knew nor practised the first principles of morality—there must have been some power sufficient to keep society from falling to pieces, or there could have been no progress at all ; and the only such power conceivable was that total subjection of the many to the few which constitutes the protective system of government. · As long as Persians mutilated each other, and Carthaginians burned their children, and Chinamen beat to death their wives--as long as Hindoos practised thuggee, and Spartans practised stealing, and Ionians practised piracythere must have been " Draconian statutes written in blood," there must have been absolute despotism. Without this, society would have become a parcel of units. Imagine a republic of Tartars, a constitutional democracy of Vandals, and develop the consequences !

• P. 101. In Peru, according to Mr. Prescott, the people could not even change their dress without a license from their rulers !

† The passage in Herodotus, b. III., c. 80-83, is well known to have no historical value; see the remarks of Rawlinson, vol. II., p. 393.

| Bunsen's Egypt, passim. Darwin on the Origin of Species, p. 23. & Buckle, vol. I., chap. 2.

Thus, in the primitive stage of civilization, the protectivé spirit played the same part as universal credulity in preserving society from disintegration. Thus, it becomes more evident than before, that skepticism would have been harmful at that early period. It would have weakened the protective spirit, and destroyed allegiance, besides causing religious dissension. Nothing of the kind was then admissible. The selfish and brutal feelings of men' had to be restrained, and their social and humane feelings called forth, before the skeptical spirit could safely commence its inroads upon the spirit of universal belief, and universal submission. The protective spirit was, therefore, in early times, the great safeguard of civilization, and the all-essential condition of progress: and this very important restriction must be placed upon Mr. Buckle's law.

On looking at the subject in its broadest and most general aspect, we shall arrive at the conclusion, that all systems of belief and all great institutions are beneficial when they first spring up. Each has its functions to perform ; and the more carefully we study history, the more deeply shall we be convinced that it performs it in the best possible man

But after these beliefs and institutions have done their work, and are no longer needed-after they have been stereotyped in lifeless forms—then it is that they become productive of evil, and are prejudicial to the interests of mankind.

With the help of these considerations, we can more completely understand Mr. Buckle's two propositions. With the restrictions here placed upon them, they might be stated thus: in the revolutionary period of modern society, skepticism has been uniformly essential to progress, and the protective spirit has been uniformly detrimental to it. This is strictly true, and needs no qualification.

ner.

In his second volume, our author develops another fundamental law, which we have not time to consider here. It may be stated thus : in a country where the deductive method of investigation prevails, there will be a much greater difference in the intellectual and social condition of the upper and lower classes, than in a country where the inductive method is the prevalent one. This may be illustrated by comparing Greece, Germany, and Scotland, on the one hand, with England and the United States, on the other. The application of this law in the case of Germany and America is to be contained in the third volume.

In conclusion, we must say a few words in regard to Mr. Buckle's application of his four great laws. The application of the first runs through the whole work. In every chapter, we are met by numberless illustrations of the law, that the progress of humanity conforms to the progress of opinion. It is different, however, in the case of the second law which we have discussed. Mr. Buckle appears to entirely forget his theoretical neglect of the moral element in our nature, and to take it practically into account as much as any one else. In his delineations of wars, civil revolutions, and especially of religious persecutions, he seems to believe in spite of himself that “moral feelings" do exercise as much power over men as “intellectual acquisitions ;" and that the effects produced by the former are quite as lasting as those produced by the latter. He repeatedly recognizes the fact that our desires and impulses influence us strongly in the acceptance and defence of opinions. In speaking of the Scotch clergy, he attributes their tyrannical enforcement of superstitious notions to an inordinate desire for power, not to a mistaken interest in the welfare of others. After noticing the profound reverence of the Scotch people for their clergy, he observes : “It is not surprising that the clergy, who, at no period, and in no nation, have been remarkable for their meekness, or for a want of confidence in themselves, should, under circumstances so eminently favorable to their pretensions, have been somewhat elated, and should have claimed an authority even greater than that which was conceded to them. generally believed that whoever gainsaid the clergy would be visited, not only with temporal penalties, but also with spiritual ones. For such a crime, there was punishment here, and there was punishment hereafter. The preachers willingly

[ocr errors]

It was

*

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

fostered a delusion by which they benefited. *

They did not scruple to affirm that, by their censures, they could open and shut the kingdom of heaven.

The clergy, intoxicated by the possession of power, reached to such a pitch of arrogance, that they did not scruple to declare, that whoever respected Christ was bound, on that very account, to respect them.

Such was their conceit, and so greatly were they after applause, that they would not allow even a stranger to remain in their parish, unless he, too, came to listen to what they chose to say.

How they labored to corrupt the national intellect, and how successful they were in that base vocation, has been hitherto known to no modern reader."* He also tells us that the Scotch clergy used " means of intimidation,” because, being “ perfect masters of their own art,” they well knew that “by increasing the apprehensions to which the ignorance and timidity of men make them too liable," they would also “increase their eagerness to fly for support to their spiritual advisers." +

All this is very significant. It shows that Mr. Buckle is unable to escape from recognizing the enormous influence of feeling in leading to belief and action. After laboring to show that persecutors are actuated only by mistaken benevolence, he here declares that the tyrannical and intolerant acts of the Scotch clergy were dictated by cunning selfishness and long-sighted craft. We think that he here commits almost as great an error as before, though in the opposite direction, by attributing too much to the selfish desires of these men, and by taking too little account of their good, but mistaken, intentions. There is glaring inconsistency in this: but when a man lays down a "law” so incredibly absurd as the one in question, we must expect to find him inconsistent in its application.

But Mr. Buckle devotes by far the largest portion of his work, thus far, to the illustration of his third and fourth laws. As he treats only of the revolutionary period, his illustrations are all appropriate and forcible. We lack words to express our admiration of these profound and instructive chapters. The inquiry into the history of the intellect in England, France, Spain, and Scotland, shows an extent of learning and a depth of thought unsurpassed, so far as we

* * Vol. II., pp. 344, 347, 348, 537, 365.

† Vol. II., pp. 366, 384.

« السابقةمتابعة »