صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

of the 17th century.Magellan established the influence of Spain in the Manillas and Marianne islands; and religion was abused as a pretext for the injustice with which they were treated.-In proportion as the Portuguese lost ground in Asia, the Dutch gained footing : but they were neither milder nor less covetous masters than their predecessors. The Danes were in 1618 led by a Dutch factor Boschower to India, where their possessions have afforded them great advantages.-France has never obtained a lasting influence in India; while her rival is now become the lawgiver of the East.

The romantic life of the tribes of Arabia affords few mate. rials for the pages of history. The situation of their country and their habits have alike contributed to prevent, or to render useless, the attempts of their powerful neighbours to subdue them.-Persia exhibits true eastern greatness in the different periods of Schah Abbas and Nadir Schah, but has been enfeebled by Russia.-India has been the scene of important changes : but we cannot expect 11 w information respecting them from a continental writer, since English works must be his principal authorities. In the history of China, the long reign of the late Emperor Kienlong is not only the most known, but also by far the most interesting. If the accounts which have been given of that truly remarkable man may be credited, his name deserves to be recorded in the list of the ornaments of his age. Professor E. seems to have been unacquainted with the latest accounts of New Holland by Collins and others, since he makes no mention of the progress of the British colony in New South Wales.

The greatest part of Africa is terra incognita to the geographer; and a much larger part must be such to the historian: who can do no more than gather a few fragments. Prof. E. thought, however, that it might be useful not only to collect those fragments, but also to point out the regions which are still wrapt in historical darkness, and he therefore proceeds from north to south, over the whole vast continent. The events of the French invasion of Egypt form the principal part of the history of that country, and they are related with great impartiality. British valour and British honor shine in the account.

Almost all nations of Europe, that possess a sea coast, have attempted to form settlements in Africa: gold and slaves being the allurements which that region holds out.—The Turks, the Portuguese, the French, the Spaniards, the Dutch, the English, and the Danes, have to this day maintained a footing: but Prussia and Sweden have been obliged to aban. don the project. In the year 1682, the Elector of Branden114

burg, burg, Frederick William, with the view of increasing his power and commerce, and by the advice of his minister Raule, sent two ships to Guinea; ihe success of which excited such enthusiasm, that an African Company was established, first at Berlin and afterward at Einbden, under great expectations. Large sums of money were embarked, and lost; Frederick William's successor endeavoured to support the company, but it became insolvent in 1698; and Frederick William the First of Prussia sold the four forts, which had been erected, for 7200 ducats, to the Dutch West-India company.—The wild scheme of the Swede, Wadstrom, who in 1779 projected the plan of establishing a Swedish republic on the western coast of Africa, experienced the fate which was foretold by less enthusiastic persons.

James, Duke of Courland, founded likewise, in the year 1640, a short-lived colony on the Ivory-coast of Guinea.

In the history of America, Prof. E. pursues the same method which he adopted in that of Asia. After a short account of the discovery of the Western Continent, he speaks first of the independent America of the natives, then of the United States, and lastly of the America of the Europeans, As, in 80 short an abstract as his plan requires, the merit of an auihor cannot consist in new matter, bụt in the arrangement of that which was known before, and as the information on these points must in a great measure be derived from British sources, we do not enter into farther detail.

Those who read history merely for amusement, and seek in such a pursuit only entertaining anecdotes and biographical curiosities, will probably not feel much inclined to peruse the six volumes of Prof. EICHHORN: but for those who wish to lay a solid foundation in the study of modern history, wlio desire to become acquainted with the times, and not with single facts only,--and who acknowlege that the name of history ought not to be bestowed on tales,-- we know few works that will better gratify their wishes than that which we have now analysed. Though far from being perfect, or even 30 perfect as it might be, it is a very valuable addition to literature, and its worth is considerably enhanced by numerous literary references, and a copios index both of the names that occur in the text, and of the authorities which have been guoted in the notes.


[ocr errors]

ART. XII. Grundziige, des gegenwärhgen Zeitalters, &c. 1, c. The
principal Features of the present Age. By J. G. FICHTE. 8vo.

Berlin. 1806.
T his publication contains seventeen lectures delivered by M.

Fichte during the winter of 1804-5 at Berlin, but to what description of audience we are not apprized ; though that information, and an account of the success which he experienced, would have been acceptable, as indicating how far such inquiries as are here instituted can be understood and re, Lished by the inhabitants of Berlin. Those who expected, as the title would lead us to anticipate, the result of the experience and observations of a man distinguished for his genius and originality of ideas, and who wished to know in what light his age and his contemporaries appeared to him, must bave felt the same disappointment which we have experienced. The writer is one of those heroes of modern German philosophy, who, during the last twenty years, have endeavoured to give a new form to all the sciences; or rather have pretended to be the first that actually founded a real science. For a while, he excited considerable attention : but the applause, which he gained by the singular productions of his undoubted genius, was much less than he expected; and since he was actually persecuted and driven from the university of Jena, on account of some of his philosophical principles, he seems to have consi. dered his age and his contemporaries in a very gloomy light: for to his disappointments, and to a proud disgust, we in a great measure ascribe the tenor of the lectures before us, though they profess to have no connection with the experience of the author or any other person. To relate and to reason on actual facts, to describe any age or period of time from observation, M. Fichte supposes to be the province of an annalist; while the philosopher forms and writes a history of mankind à priori; and then only suffers experience to determine with which pefiod of the history, that is to possess all the certainty of ab. stract sciences, a particular age may agree. It is on this principle that he proposes to characterize the present age.

We do not mean to follow the lecturer through the labyrinths of his reasoning, since we conceive that we shall fulfil our duty to our readers, and consult their comfort as well as our owii, if we make them acquainted only with the general tenor of his inquiries. Indeed, as we are not initiated in the mysteries of his philosophy, we should often be incapable of communicating his sentiments in all their transcendant purity. He places himself on an elevation much beyond his contemporarjes, viz. on the throne of the science which he considers as

his creation, the pure science of reason, which is to give principles to and guide our inquiries in all inferior sciences. We suppose that, on that high station, every thing appears in a different light from that in which we, who belong to the crowd below, are enabled to behold it; and we must there. fore ascribe it to our ignorance, if we are not capable of comprehending even the author's popular discussions, where they fo back to first principles. This at least is evident, that he wishes to establish a system of idealism, though he seems not to tread in the footsteps of Berkeley.

As M. FICHTE takes a circuitous route in his inquiries, we are presented with his views of avariety of general subjects; such as the nature and true origin of civil society; the real value and purport of Christianity, and the true tenor of it; the history of mankind, &c. He proceeds on a principle derived as a postulate from his higher philosophy, or pure science of reason, where its truth is said to be proved as absolutely necessary, which he thus expresses :--the purpose of the terrestrial life of mankind, as a species, is to regulate during that life all their relations with free will, according to the dictates of reason ;-and from this principle he infers that there must necessarily be five periods in the progress of mankind. Dur. ing the first, reason governs man as instinct, or he is in a state of innocence; in the second, that instinct is changed into an external authority, by which the government of reason is supported; the third struggles against that authority, and all authority, and produces the age of indifference to truth, and of complete licentiousness ; in the fourth, truth is esteemed and loved as the highest good, which is the age of commencing justification; and, in the fifth, man elevates himself to become a pure impression of reason, and enters on the age of accom. plished justification. Through these periods, the human species must pass : but the most civilized nations are always to be considered as forming the criterion of the age, and individuals may be advanced to a new period, while their contemporaries are still in the preceding stage. The lecturer clearly insinuates that he considers himself as advanced much before the age in which he lives : which, in his opinion, is passing through the third period, or the middle between the blind reign of reason, and the enlightened reign of reason, and therefore is in a sort of in. tellectual and moral anarchy. Egotism, and consequently vice, are the leading features of the age in which men will acknowlege that only to be true which they can comprehend consistently with common sense, and that only to be binding which promotes their own interest,

Pursuing; Pursuing, then, the deductions in his own way, the lecturer discovers that the third period is also the age of writers and scribblers, and of a rage for superficial reading and judging; and even literary Reviews are placed among the necessary phænomena of the period. Whenever this philosopher descends from his height of abstraction and technical language, we listen to him with profit and pleasure, though it is not on many points that we can agree with him. Thus his re. marks on the prevailing cacoethes scribendi et legendi, its causes and effects, and the episode in the sixth lecture on the art of reading, contain many important truths and good advice: but we allude particularly to his inquiries into the nature and progress of civil society, the formation of states, and the relation of their members and subjects to each other. Though a great part of these discussions is abstract, they are not useless, nor are they communicated in language which will be unintelligible to the uninitiated. M. FICHTE commences by describing what he calls the pure form of a state, which he defines to be, the direction of all the powers of individuals to the end or purpose of the whole species, or, which in a state is the same thing, of all its meinbers. He then shews in how many different ways this may be effected, and how personal, civil, and political liberty may be secured; elucidating his remarks by à retrospect of history : into which, however, he carries his favorite system, viewing facts constantly through the medium of a philosophy which may be called an ideai Spinozism.

Respecting religion and Christianity, the author seems to entertain very singular ideas. In and through it, he says, man is led to the highest degree of perfection : but we can no where find a clear statement of the signification which he assigns to the term religion, and which is evidently not such as is commonly attached to it. Christianity, in his opinion, has never yet appeared publicly in all its purity, and as yet has only begun to act its part: but the present age is on the point of divesting itself of the superstition which has hitherto prevented its true spirit from appearing, and to realize the effects which it is intended to produce.

We are fully aware that we can convey only a very imper. fect idea of M. FICHTE's turn of thinking : but our apology rests partly on our own inability to penetrate the depths of his philosophy : partly on the nature of his reasoning, which senders an abstract peculiarly difficult; and partly on the technical language which he employs, and which is not easily to be exchanged for other and particularly foreign terms. In order to afford some idea of this philosopher's manner, we


« السابقةمتابعة »