H0N. LEVI WOODBURY.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST OF THE SOCIETY
We hear much of progress in society. What is, it, when rightly explained? And what are the facts and arguments, which tend to verify it as to the past, or hold out strong hopes of its continuance hereafter.
My object, on this occasion, is briefly to answer these enquiries ; but not so much with the expectation of presenting, many original views, as to arrange in new forms and, if possible, with some instruction, a few reflections calculated to strengthen the opinion in behalf of progress. This, it will be seen, is an object of no little importance, when we remember, that an opinion of this kind has been much controverted ; but if proved to be well founded, must be full of rich promises for the future and thus inspire society with hopes very encouraging to the improvement and happiness of most of the human family.
It would be difficult for any one to maintain, that man as an individual has not always been capable of advancement. Manifestly he can grow in strength -- virtue -- Knowledge -- as he grows in age and as the acorn swells into an oak or the egg into an eagle. It is equally clear, that if one can so improve -- many can; and many, united in society or government, have, in fact, seen a like career with individuals and enlarged in means and wealth -- in numbers, arts and literature -- power and glory of all kinds, till from the smallest beginnings the loom up as mighty enterprises.
In many cases have nations increased in this way, like the huntsmen twins on the banks of the Tiber, fill most of the millions of the civilized world, Worshiped at their feet, or, to give an illustration, nearer home, expanding from a few Pilgrims, till their descendants seem likely to overshadow a continent.
As little can it be doubted, that particular instruments, arts and sciences have grown in usefulness and been more and more perfected after their first appearance. Thus the rnariner's needle, now- trusted to cross pathless oceans, was once but a piece of magnetized steel, stuck in a straw and left to float on, a bowl of water. The quadrant, a1so, by which the wanderer ascertains his position amidst the desert waste of sea or land, was at first little more than two pieces of wood united at right, angles. The, loom is still in some, countries mere sticks, driven into the ground, instead of the intricate machinery, suited, as with us, to weave the most beautiful fabrics, in every color of the rainbow, and in almost every figure of nature or the kaleidescope, or the richest fancy. At first the plough, too, was only a. sharpened stake and all the marvels of steam were little advanced beyond the tea. kettle and smoke jack. So the creations of the painter began in the use of mere charcoal or chalk; while the Sculptor is content to labor on weathercocks and ships' heads long before be is able to chisel the breathing warbles of Greece and Italy -- now animated, through a like progress, by our American Greenough, Powers and Crawfords. Language, likewise has probably improved from a few exclamations of passion to the admirable system of inflexion and syntax, which distinguish it in some countries. And the forms of government, through many a death struggle, have been advanced in security and equality till they, develop all the beauties of the representative system and build up those bulwarks of rights order and justice among equals, which exist in the cautious checks and balances of modern times. It is thus, over much of the world, that all has changed; and in my view, has changed for the better -- has from time to time moved onward and gilded the prospects of humanity with brighter hopes. But it will be seen, that a more difficult part of the enquiry lies deeper than the progress made by individuals or nations from infancy to manhood. Because, with them, decline or death usually succeed flourishing maturity; and many contend, that a similar course is seen by the arts and sciences as well as all human attainments -- and hence, brilliantly as any of them may at times appear to advance, it is supposed to be in a circle, or merely in returning vibrations, like the pendulum or the tides - rather than constantly forward in some nearer approach towards perfection.
The question, then, most momentous to society, is whether the world, taken as a whole, and in relation to the whole range of human efforts, has or has not essentially improved, and is or is not destined to still further progress? However the fact maybe doubted by some, my own belief is, that society, heretofore, has improved both generally and on particular subjects and has not yet reached the extreme goal of its onward career. While presenting, further considerations in support of these conclusions, it is hardly useful, nor is there time to discuss properly -- when civilization commenced -- whither it soonest spread -- nor where in some respects it has ranged highest.
For whatever at an early day, may have been the high distinctions of a few individuals, or the high attainments of many in a few arts; and whatever fluctuations may have since occurred in the condition of society- innumerable as history proves them to have been-it is enough for my present purpose and in support of my first position to show, that the state of civilization was in most places so low in distant eras as to permit great progress to be made since.
Looking for, the general proofs of this, they seem to me, imbedded in every stone of the whole fabric of society. They are written on much of the earth, also; and, if not on the heavens and all which they contain, they beam out in the progressive knowledge, of those mighty bodies, which compose the solar system - and the annals of human life are full of them. Viewing the advancement of man as a species -- and not of one individual or nation over another-it is highly probable, that his condition, in many respects, has gradually grown better, since creation. It is no refutation of this that some empires have perished, their mausoleums even been crumbled to dust, and the ivy again and again clasped their ruins. For they were but parts of a great whole and if, as in the firmament, some stars and planets should disappear, others break upon the eye, and, with the rest, move forward and sometimes with increased power and more than renovated beauty. In no mode has the course, usual with particular nations, been more finely shadowed forth than in Cole's imaginative landscapes-starting first in the rudeness of nature ; then maturing to high refinement and grandeur-till, amid the ravages of luxury, time and war, sinking into utter desolation. But none can forget how frequently new nations arise on the ashes of others and in many things transcend their predecessors, like some of our own Western cities springing up in greater luxuriance and power, on the very mounds of a less civilized race. This is the analogy of nature in other matters. The brutes, such as the horse and ox, individually mature, decline and die. But others succeed and, by care in their reproduction as well- as growth, have been advanced much, both in beauty and strength. So the bound has been made more fleet, if not more acute -- the sheep, with a more golden fleece, while many plants, from noxious weeds or poisons, have been rendered highly medicinal; and others, whether for ornament, or food, are well known to have improved so as to unfold more lovely hues, as well as furnish richer nutriment -- even the earth, as a whole, is supposed to be much more habitable, healthy and productive than at first; and some of the other planets to have changed so as better to sustain life for worship to him, whose hand first put them in motion and continues so wonderfully to hold them in their orbits. Nay, more; as creation itself was not an instantaneous, but progressive, work -- so the long, preservation of it was likely to require new developments of power and to be accompanied by improvements as progressive, if not glorious as its first formation. Surely in regard to that portion of it displayed in man -- almost the whole philosophy of his existence will be found contained in the idea of his continued progress; and some, it is hoped, not groundlessly suppose that the power of Deity will more and more be unfolded by advances in - not only here and through time, but in the whole universe and through the endlessness of eternity. It has been suggested in objection to all this; that many of the human race are still in a stage of almost brutal savageness. But it must be remembered that the whole number now in that condition, compared with the past, has much diminished. And that commerce and the cross are yearly penetrating more the remotest tribes of barbarians and pouring arts religion and improvements into their darkest recesses.
A different kind of objector, has sometimes referred to a state of nature, as the beau ideal of life; and, at least, as having once produced all the enchantments of a golden age never attained in the highest progress since, nor likely to be attained hereafter. It is vain, however, to search for such an age except on the leaves of poetry or fable. And if Edens, or Elysiums can ever be approached near, beyond a few rare cases of rustic innocence, it must not be, in ages of the- past amidst pastoral exposure and savage suffering -- not in the cold, hunger, nakedness, ignorance and ferocity of a state of nature -- but where liberty and law, the arts and the securities of organized government reign and, usually, if not under the highest polish -- yet after a cultivated taste prevails -- purity of morals -- an ample supply of comforts to all, and the enjoyments and advantages attendant on the mind well stored with useful acquirements.
Looking at the records of nations, since becoming authentic -- we can discover much at a glance that shows the advances rather than the degeneracy of modern times and of civilized conditions in society. As a single example among many, take the present population of England and France. How superior in most things to the painted savages found by Caesar in their straw and filth on the banks of the Seine or the Thames! Indeed, how superior now the intelligence and comforts as well as religion of all Europe to what it was, when feeding on acorns -- clad in skins -- offering sacrifices to idols -- and no enjoyments of literature and no blessings of agriculture, commerce and manufactures known at all, or known above their most degraded condition? to say nothing now of the difference, still more recent and striking between the present mansions, so full of conveniences and grace and civilized life on many of the splendid bays, or beautiful rivers of America, and the miserable wigwams which formerly darkened their borders and were filled with barbarians, who tomahawked each other and groveled in all the debasement of the rankest ignorance and heathenish
superstitions. Dwelling no longer on general considerations, if we advert to the particular causes and
proofs of the progress made in society, the force of the reasoning on this subject can be seen by some
with still greater distinctness.
One of the strongest of these causes, is believed to have been Christianity. Little need be said before an audience like the present, in support of this. For all the intelligent who believe in the divine origin of the gospel, must be satisfied that unless one of its cardinal objects has failed, it has been actively and widely instrumental in improving the moral condition of mankind. In a gradual manner it is thus leavening the whole earth. It makes even Mahometanism more subdued in the use of its great missionary, the sword. It has stripped the Brahmin of some of his cruel sacrifices; and where it has not yet converted many, its ameliorating influences have not been entirely unfelt, but, in some respects, have reached the palaces of Pekin as well as the pagodas of India. Without stopping now to particularize many of its reforming influences on society at large where its doctrines have struck root deepest, I cannot omit to mention the tendency its spirit has exerted to equalize the personal rights and duties of all, and to protect them by strong and eternal sanctions; looking to the mind, the heart and the soul, rather than the rags or purple which may chance to cover them, and trying to reconcile nations no less than individuals by teaching, them that they are all accountable bretheren of one great family. And last but not least -- its elevation of the female sex, in many respects to the Same platform with man; so as wherever its principles spread, to double the moral force and usefulness of our race-besides softening the asperities, and adding much to all the comforts, graces, and delights of society. It is well known, that another of the causes and proofs, of the progress we contend for has been the invention of printing. But it is now alluded to, rather to show, that its influences have not been overlooked, than from any necessity to enlarge much on what is so obvious. All can readily see how much easier, and hence wider, knowledge has been diffused among the poor -- and thus helped to elevate higher a. larger portion of the eight or nine hundred millions, of the human family. It is manifest, that by this chiefly, many regions have become instinct with new life. Ideas, principles, arts, comforts and powers now pervade them, which were before utterly unknown.
But the printed book bag enjoyed triumphs, peculiarly its own. In the brilliant thought of Victor Hugh -- it has, to some extent, supplanted the palace and the temple -- diverting much of genius not only from architecture, but the pencil and the chisel. It has likewise, cast into the shade the sword, and all the PMP of war.
"The pen is mightier than the sword, It takes a sorcery from the master hand To paralyze the Caesars and to Strike the lord earth, breathless."
Not only the City, but the rural village, rings with the praises of the popular writers of the day. Their names are as household words amid the hum of the spindle in our busy manufactories. Their works not only reach the Academy and College, but visit the distant farm house, and by the fleet wings of steam cross mountains, oceans and continents almost as quickly as they once crossed counties. In short, they eclipse the power of the orator and minstrel, and reach and rule the masses much wider than ever did a Demosthenes or an Ossian. It would be no very forced view of the subject to consider printing as a galvanic chain between nations no less than different portions of one people; the conductor, or medium for a like literature, politics, philosophy and religion, as if, in many respects, a single pulse beat through the whole. The immeasurable difference, thus existing in favor of the present age, over all others, in the facilities both to acquire and propagate valuable knowledge, can be duly appreciated without disparaging antiquity. For, with rightful veneration towards her, as our parent -- in some things, our teacher, and, in many, a model; it is no reproach, that others since with the aid of all her invention and treasures, should have rivaled, and, in several respects, surpassed her. Hence, though Egypt, for instance, once had her learned Priesthood and India was illuminated with letters, yet how little of the light reached below the hill tops, below the highest in rank! Where was their daily press-fruitful with intelligence and teeming with arguments and facts for every fire-side, however humble Where the magazines and useful compilations accessible to the many? A flood now, mingled, I admit, with some rubbish; but, at the same time, with much that fertilizes far and wide. Without farther details to prove how little it was formerly possible for the poor and the provincial to profit from books, we need only to recollect, they were so difficult to be made, before printing, that the new art, by multiplying them so rapidly, was by many deemed necromancy! and in some ages and places they had been so expensive as to cost more than their weight in gold! and that only to read was so rare an accomplishment, as in some countries to entitle criminals to exemption from severe penalties! Another cause of modern progress has been the wider use, if not the discovery, of gunpowder. This erected a barrier most effectual against those irruptions by barbarians, which previously, brought such devastation on much of ancient learning as well as civilization. A people cannot long succeed with the arrow against the rifle and cannon; nor without the resources of civilized life -- to say nothing of its skill -- either manufacture or buy sufficient gunpowder and fire arms for a long contest. Hence, since their extensive use, not a single instance is remembered, where a permanent conquest has been achieved by savages over the civilized. No longer, as in early ages, do Goths, Huns, Tartars, Turks and Moors sweep into ruin the arts and monuments of more polished life, and often bury in exile, when not extirpating, the whole mass of a conquered nation. On the contrary, it is now the unlettered races in both hemispheres, which recede or perish before the superior weapons of modern discovery. And it is Roine, though in her decline politically, that, since the invention of' gunpowder, has helped to civilize both Asia and America as well as Europe rather than fearing to be overrun again by the hordes of new Alaries and Attilas. We can hardly measure our progress in security from this cause, unless we look back to former dangers and reflect, that the whole, civilized world has now become exempt from the hazard and the disasters of permanent subjugation by any barbarian power whatever, whether issuing from the tent of a Cossack, or bending a bow in some of the gorges of the Rocky Mountains, or hurling, a spear on the banks of the Niger. Above all this when contests now happen between rude
and civilized nations, as they are won by the latter, it follows that civilization, instead of being retarded or extinguished, is fortunately diffused wider. Cultivated victors spare the vanquished ; and, guided by more humane principles of national law, strive to introduce new means of livelihood - superior education and morality -- better legislation and thus in the end often bring to the conquered, numerous blessings, rather than extirpation, or curses. Every improvement in the instruments of war tends likewise to increase the superiority of civilization and lessen the probability of frequent hostilities; and the percussion powder, revolving fire arms -- the Paixhan cannon and more scientific evolutions of troops, as well as the invention of gunpowder itself -- all contribute in the -- end to diminish the waste of human life.
It is contended also by some, and not without plausibility, that the introduction of fire arms bas assisted much to elevate the lower classes, making their military services equally efficient with those of the feudal nobility -- and has thus helped to pave the way earlier to the abolition of serfism, and all that menial dependance of the many on the few which characterized previous ages. Connected with this is another memorable proof of the progress of society to a higher and better condition. It is, that cruelty of all kinds has been gradually lessening.
This has aided to strip war throughout of many of its horrors. It makes prisoners where it once extirpated -- and prisoners, to be exchanged rather than enslaved. It exonerates even from imprisonment, all not in arms, and thus relieves helpless infancy and the feebleness of woman from the bitter sufferings of captivity. It has in truth rendered war itself less frequent, substituting reason and negotiation and arbitration more often for the battle field -- and the frivolous grounds for hostilities, which often have deluged nations in blood, would not in this age rouse public feeling, nor arm any free government, either with the sinews of war -- or the lion hearts, which are indispensable to its success. The same enlightened progress in Public opinion -- humanizing as it spreads, has secured more fraternal sympathy from man to man in all things. It has studded cities with hospitals and the whole country with alms houses. It has exploded the ancient idea, that foreigners are of course foes, and to be treated as barbarians, and bas secured protection and friendly intercourse abroad not merely by treaties, but by resident ambassadors and consuls, as well as a more liberal code of international law. Till late as the seventeenth century, scarcely any books exited on the morals and rules that should govern the intercourse among, nations; and perhaps no stronger evidence could be cited of the progress made in this matter than the fact rather harshly expressed by a recent writer, that "the international law of Greece and Rome was the international law of New Zealand, with the exception of cannibalism." Under these more benign influences, all punishments, also, have become less severe. It is not the American mind only nor the German, nor the Italian, which has exhibited greater gentleness in its course towards offenders, and sought, under passions
auspices and passions more subdued, public reformation rather than vindictive prosecution. But the codes of former ages, so blood-stained, are manifestly in bad keeping with the whole spirit of this, as perverting most of civilized society in both hemispheres. Whipping, cropping and branding, are going more into disuse everywhere. Torture is almost universally abolished. There is a growing disposition to spare life and to reform by giving instruction and imparting habits of industry rather than to exterminate; and most of the world has at last begun to practice as if they believed man was not a fit subject for vengeance merely, from his fellow-man and possessed reason, conscience, a heart and soul to be improved, and if possible used for nobler purposes than to be hung, or made food for gunpowder. Nor is it difficult to see, that in connection with these causes, and sometimes, in consequence of them, great progress has been made in society, by emancipating mankind from most kinds of servitude whether political or social. Slavery, in its most abject form, once pervaded almost every country, Christian or Pagan. But now among the whites, it is abolished as to the same color over most of the world and where still existing as to them or others, under the relics of feudal institutions -- or the tyranny of conquest and of castes, it is much mitigated, and, in most places, tends gradually to extinction, as fast as due training for self government and the public safety may warrant under the reforming influences of letters, religion and a better knowledge of human duties no less than human rights. Even the servitude of labor to capital - which at times has debased some
politically free -- is on the wane; and as suffrage becomes broader among those well educated to the business of civil life -- means will certainly be devised to make society more just as well as humane, and compel peaceably the adoption of laws, not Agrarian, nor in most cases revolutionary, but which protect and favor all equally -- insuring more mutual dependence between different classes by lifting up the downtrodden -- and by providing as carefully for the masses as the few; and which, though protecting property, pay at the same time some due regard to the person and the immortal soul. They will thus yield the chief fruits for which alone equality of political -- power is useful, and without which, it is a mere bauble. What fruits, you may ask? Those by which intellectual and moral as well as physical comforts become open to industry and virtue, and are usually their sure rewards. In truth within a century or two great progress has already been made in many places not only in striking the collar entirely from the necks of the laboring classes, but in fitting them for a larger participation in that political power, which a superior education and a purer religion teach them is their birth-right. Government has thus become understood and valued more by the whole -- created more by the whole -- sustained and administered more, by and for the whole. It rests on the true strong Doric column. And such impulses kept up and invigorated till pervading the whole mass are all, which is needed for public security in breaking the chains which remain, either of political or social servitude.. Because the stamp of Deity is on the humblest-- confining the nobility by nature to no lot in life, and preparing all to make progress, in intelligence and power, and what is equally vital, to use them, safely and beneficially, under the mighty influences -- of the Schoolmaster and the Bible.
In this way, the, whole of the great interests of society have experienced an advancing change. More of its members becoming enlightened and moral, besides possessing a much deeper stake in its success, the social fabric is fortified better within against decay and corruption as well as violence or insubordination, and at the same time, is stronger to resist all aggressions from without. If, under such impulses, manufactures and commerce have made the most striking advances, and at times collected many more together than in other pursuits, and opened a door oftener to some of the evils, attendant on crowded conditions of society -- modern improvements have, at the same moment, been successful in furnishing antidotes to such evils -- or much to counterbalance them. Because those improvements have increased to all classes, thus situated -- not only greater facilities of intercourse and exchange of advantages but more opportunities for instruction of all kinds-better schools-Lyceums--institutes and Colleges-and more liberal endowments for the poor as well as retreats for the unfortunate and various other aids, no less than these, have helped to push upward the social position of the whole. In the political relations of many thus acting in concert and under a larger liberty-formerly so fierce, licentious and revengeful among themselves and so oppressive without-great progress has been made by these means, united with the representative system, guarding against the recurrence of past excesses. That system, greatly improved, if not born in modern limes, has been a co-operating cause with the others in revolutionizing the whole movements of such associations wherever representation has been duly extended. By delegates for small divisions, it bas assisted to make officers better known to those who confide in them-to bring responsibility of all kinds nearer home-to calm discussions and tranquillize action, and, in free governments over crowded cities, and especially in democracy whether dense or sparse, such a course introduces a strong guarantee for their durability.
It is no longer, only a "pent up Utica" or turbulent Athens-but half a continent that can deliberate. By this improved machinery it can act, too, as well as deliberate-not infallibly-I admit-but among a moral and enlightened people with all that regularity and justice, attainable in any position, by frail humanity. In fine, under all these advances-neither demagogues nor despots have now the passions of an ignorant populace, acting with the ignited force of gun-powder in great masses and without constitutional checks, to inflame and rule and betray, but an intelligent community-conferring together in small numbers or through a few trusty delegates and under forms and balances of their own free choice, and thus to be convinced and thus obeyed. There is another change, akin to this, which is very perceptible. Over the whole length and breadth of modern society, at the same time with the, emancipation from political and social servitude, a gradual release, has been going on from the yoke of numerous antiquated ceremonies, obsolete ideas, systems, long since exploded by reason, and tests, fitted chiefly to encourage hypocrisy and ensnare or disfranchise the honest. Modern society has advanced so as to demand what has substance and vitality. It is no longer content with mere show words or forms--satisfied to clasp a cloud rather than Juno. But practical objects have taken the place more of speculative ones; life has become more a search for truth history, a chronicle of facts rather than romances by the growth of the social affections, home and the heart engrossing more of the attention formerly lavished on battles and dynasties-and the many, as well as the master spirits, engaged in traveling--not on holy pilgrimages to Mecca or Jerusalem--but to learn more of men and governments and the arts, and all exploring less verbal criticisms, abstractions and polemical controversies, but infinitely more -- improvements in the great means of subsistence, and the security of the rights of man, and a just knowledge of all the momentous duties and destinies of the human race. We need not weep then, that, the age of chivalry is gone. Because, if so, an age of practical utility has succeeded; and its changes, crowded into the last half century only, are effecting more to make mankind at large wiser and better than have the glories of the whole race of Alexanders and Tamerlanes since the flood. Indeed, such malign influences as theirs, have often, for a time, forced civilization back, or clouded its progress and one of the standing prayers, now used by the Catholic Clergy in Mexico, is for their military despot, as a bulwark against the progress of reform. But notwithstanding such apostasies and vicissitudes, it is consolatory to reflect, that the origin and end, the instincts and character of man have become better understood, the sympathies for each other's sufferings and wants spread wider, and these, with the causes before developed, have united in pushing him forward however slowly, yet surely to some superior condition both here and hereafter. Another proof of this progress and, at the same moment, evincing an increased capacity for self government, is the wide escape, that has occurred from the dominion of numerous Superstitions. Whenever the prejudices of a supernatural cast, which once enslaved so many, have been overcome, as is the case in numerous laces-though unfortunately not in all, people cannot be so easily misled or betrayed. No augur is now to be consulted by the initiated before public action. No oracle, no soothsayer, no Pythian priestess appealed to by high officials; but the reason and judgment, the interest and duty of all invoked and the trembling scales in the sky inclined to one side or the other by intelligent argument and that public opinion, which, honestly formed, in the open day, after free discussion and on full facts, is a far better guide than all the Mythological juggling in past ages and all the Pagan divinities, that ever entered the Pantheon. Still more recent and connected with this revolution, has been the happy riddance generally from such terrors as those of witchcrafts, the horror of ghosts, the church-yard sprite, and haunted ruins; the slavery to signs and omens, the delusions of magic, and all the marvels of Astrology. Once, too, whole nations were paralyzed by the comets glare--shaking from his flaming tail, to their disordered fancies "wars, pestilence, and death" nations, that now gaze undismayed, not only on his transient splendors, but on the darkness of the eclipse, formerly supposed also to shed such disastrous twilight over human affairs. In short, if the Chinese Sailor should yet rely on his incantations or charms, and the Mussalman confide in a verse from the Koran rather than a good cause and brave arm and just Providence banks to an intrepid Luther I thanks to Wickliffe, Huss, Knox, and the kindred souls, since as well as before enlisted in reforming the world! thanks to them all, that we have at last become free from the thraldom of superstitions like these! With that and other glorious points have come also, the advances made of late years in toleration even among Christians.
The auto da fe is gone, by which some of our Fathers perished at the stake! Gone, likewise, is the inquisition which tortured others! and in their train have disappeared most of the bulls of excommunication, which banished some -- and the disfranchisements and dungeons, which beggared others. And though the crude views of those ages as to the sacred rights of conscience rendered some of the persecuted, in their turn, persecutors, yet ere long they too came to look more charitably on honest differences of opinion, evinced the awakening spirit of modern progress in their legislation and at last their descendants stand disenthralled from this enslaving error as well as many other kindred follies, once associated with intolerance. Of these last we need mention only the imprisonment of Galileo in the capital of Christendom for merely declaring, that the earth moved; and the denunciation of a belief in the existence of the antipodes as a heresy, punishable with death, and the condemnation of a book on so harmless a matter as Stenography as being full of diabolical mystery. It is idle to pretend, that the present condition of civilized society exhibits nothing, which can be deemed improvement in such matters. In truth it is better everywhere -- though not yet ripened in all places as here, so that one brave soul can always, on any topic, raise his voice. With impunity, against misguided millions.
Many other illustrations of the progress, made by mankind, might be detailed, did time permit. Voltaire ingeniously refers to several before his day in a supposed dialogue between Tullia, the daughter of Cicero and Madame Pampadour, some of which have not been alluded to but are interesting. Among them, he causes to be shown to Tullia, a looking glass, unknown to ancient Rome, in her palmiest days ; and next invites her to partake of such novel refreshments as tea from, China, sugar from India, coffee and chocolate from America -- the last a place undreamed of by her contemporaries, though nearly as large as Asia, Africa and Europe united. He then presents to her a telescope and explains the marvels of the Solar system under the discoveries by Newton, urges her to eat ices, formed by the skill of modern chemistry and offers for her perusal that daily miracle, a newspaper, with all its moving incidents by flood and field. But what stronger evidence of the continued advancement of society can exist than the fact, that since the dialogue, just referred to, was written, the world has teemed with still further improvements and many of them most striking in character? Besides the discoveries, pushed so much deeper into chemistry, what have we witnessed since in electricity! in galvanism! and even magnetism!
Whoever, like Franklin, had attempted on the seven hills of Pagan Rome to draw lightning from the clouds, would either have been flung to wild beasts or hurled from the Tarpeian rock, and a galvanic battery applied to give motion to a dead limb on the same spot but three centuries ago, would probably have provoked a prosecution for sacrilege, to conjecture nothing as to the worse fate only fifty years since likely to have attended a performer there in bat would have seemed the rank sorcery of mesmerism. Without stopping now to particularize the advances in all these within a few generations past, what have we beheld also, by way of progress, in machinery of every kind? Passing by the myriad of improvements in former ages in tools for saving labor in every department of life and every operation, not performed, as at first, by the first and only tools then used, the naked hand and foot, what have we witnessed in spinning and weaving, and in smelting, rolling and cutting metals! in the cotton gin! the steam boat, locomotive and rail road! -- these bold innovators on the torpid habits and opinions of the regions, they penetrate. It has been computed, that within the last twenty years only, more has been done to improve the internal commerce of the world, than in the whole century previous.
What advances have been made, likewise, in new and useful application of former discoveries! - the pump, for instance, used to empty poison from the human stomach, the syphon, to drain mines and the screw to remove the largest buildings and vessels.
In fine, as a closing illustration of some of the extraordinary strides in the progress of society-see this Western Hemisphere-this new world and all its vast concerns and influences added, in little more than three centuries to every thing, known to exist before. Look at it, too, as when found, and all its advances now. Nay, look only at that part of the territory which forms our glorious union-contrasting its condition then and now; then, a savage wilderness, tenanted by mere savage men-now, represented, at the very court where Columbus displayed the first trophies from its discovery, by his greatest biographer, born here amidst the comforts, civilization and prosperous greatness of so many millions.
The whole seems a miracle, and has been acting or reacting on every quarter of the globe. Indeed, the advances in the very spot, where you now listen, may be regarded as in some respects symbolical of the whole. Not a century ago, it was animated only with beasts of prey and more fierce savages roaming over its ever-green ridges. Next it became blackened with the fires of the first settlers, preparing the earth to yield sustenance for their families after a painful emigration, looking more perilous at that time than a removal now to Iowa or even Oregon. Next came religion and learning under the auspices of the elder Wheelock, braving every danger to help, to solace the white wanderer as well as christianize the Indian; and next, but, it is hoped, not last in progress, succeeded what now surrounds us and characterizes the whole length of that beautiful river on whose banks you repose-a higher cultivation of mind and the soil; but concentrated here, in the consecrated halls around us, instruction more elevated, classic tastes, costly architecture, and ardent aspirants for all, that embellishes life and paves the path to professional glory.
To present no further details on this, civilization seems of late ages, in some places, to have crossed mountains it formerly supposed to be boundaries of the world; and it has doubled capes and pervaded seas, not before known to exist ; and has subdued nations after nations once out of the pale of humanity, as well as ameliorated continents, where letters and a pure religion never before even dawned.
The general results of this branch of the enquiry seem to be these. Advances have been made hither to in almost every thing, but, more especially, in material subjects, such as the immediate arts of life, the natural sciences, and those of the belles lettres, which appeal strongest to the senses. As would seem natural, on the theory of progress, they have been in what is first needed and most imposing in the youth of a world rather than in what follows during manhood and age. And whatever special exceptions may exist, generally all, which belongs to the earlier stages of civilization, has penetrated first, widest and deepest-and, slavery spreading from the margin of rivers and seas into remoter regions, excites, in time, all classes of society -- makes earth, fire, air and water more and more its tributaries, and at last becomes accompanied often by devotion to abstruser objects of interest, such as metaphysics, morals and political economy. Without meaning, then, to say, like some philosophers, that men at first were but monkies and every thing beyond that has been the fruit of exertion or progress, it can safely be inferred that the world was once in its cradle. It has been growing for four thousand years since. Civilization, in the lapse of ages, has in most things been in a transition state onward. It has been a new art invented in one place, a new instrument in another, and farther on, one or both improved. Dow a new principle discovered, then a new country or continent -- a new power in nature or machinery and anon some spirit stirring genius, breaking forth in advance of his age and some great crisis or revolution in empires following-many of which events live yet and speak of the advances in society like mile stones on the highway of time.
My other position, which is in favor of progress hereafter, requires less illustration, being a very clear inference from the process of it heretofore. For, if society has-generally been progressive, the enquiry is reasonable, why should it not continue to exhibit that character? Assuredly it will, unless, as some contend, man has already achieved the whole for which his finite powers are competent. But all around us demonstrates, that great as the advances have been hitherto in some countries and subjects, the greatest height has not yet been reached every where and in everything,-nor even so near an approach to it as the human faculties appear to be no less able to reach than they have been to master all, which the past develops. Thus suppose for a moment, that a few individuals or even classes have in some nations embodied nearly all, which is feasible, in refinement or worth? It by no means follows, that this is the case with the whole of their population-or with all nations-and more especially with those, where large numbers continue to look on many blessings they never enjoy, and live even houseless and unfed except by public alms; and untaught and groveling in the worst menial debasement in the very neighborhoods, where higher ranks lavish their superfluities.
Manifestly, too, large spaces in various communities are yet to be filled up by advancing further and diffusing wider numerous excellencies existing elsewhere. And, indeed, some whole nations are yet to be more improved in everything before attaining even a semi-civilized condition.
Should the doubter as to further progress not be content to stop here, satisfied with such general considerations, but wish me to descend into particulars and ask confidently, as is often done, whether, among various instances, the qualities of energy, courage and fortitude are likely ever to be pushed further than they have been by the Cromwells and the Napoleons; I answer, that these traits of character belong to savage no less than civilized life; and however strikingly they have in the latter broken out at times in the strife of battle, or the deadly defiance of revenge, or the agonies of martyrdom-there is a wide field still open to push this further in many of the peaceful trials of humanity and by better education to concentrate and harmonize them more than hitherto with qualities less stern.
Or should it be asked, whether a higher degree of excellence in painting can be reached than what distinguished Appellees and Raphael; or, in sculpture, than what immortalized Praxitelles; or in poetry, Homer; I reply, that, aided by all former works, higher are likely to arise; as the forms of beauty, long and carefully reproduced and amid scenes more congenial, like scriptural pieces in the holy land, can hardly fail to be improved. Indeed, since the, day of those so eminent, higher in the opinion of many, have already arisen among the Reynolds and Canovas and Shakespeares. But what may be a truer test as to progress still further in the fine arts, surely much more can be effected over the world as a whole, by making a greater number participate in their refinements and that in a degree and style far beyond what has generally prevailed hitherto. Again, if it be enquired, are we to have philosophers, who can eclipse. Socrates or Plato? Far superior in some respects. For what elevation would have been imparted to their researches, whether in philosophy or morals, by only that single volume of revelation, which has been promulgated since they lectured in the groves of the Academy. And in proof of such continued progress in one thing or another, what would even Newton, though so much, above them as lie confessedly was in some things, have given for all the more authentic details as to the planetary system ascertained since his day by La Place and Herschel! And how superior would not Bacon as well as Linnaeus and Pliny have been if assisted by a knowledge of all the arena of nature developed since in many of her wondrous works, by Cuvier, Davy, Lee, Merk and Leibeg? And what new light would 'not the experiments and more extensive statistics since the days of Adam Smith, or even Alexander Hamilton, have poured over some of their enquiries into the true elements of wealth and finance or social improvement and just government.
Let me caution objectors further, that if the highest degree of perfection, possible for human genius, had already been attained in some of these departments, and in oratory, also, and every classical acquirement, it would not follow, that such perfection had been reached in all the interesting and useful objects of human pursuit. For, dare any one say that nothing more is to be known in geology?-a study, where every day discloses new wonders. Or in natural history?-so fruitful in discoveries, which constantly confer new benefits on mankind and reflect additional glory on the being who formed, with such miraculous organs, the smallest insect or shell as well as the mammoth. Nothing in electricity? which so mysteriously rends the forest tree, it may have helped to nourish and which, if not as some imagine, the mystic power used to keep the planets in their orbits, performs numerous other great functions in the uni. verse, seen as yet only through a glass darkly. Is nothing more to be done' also, by way of progress in agriculture-the most vital pursuit of man q. No tools, nor seeds, nor stock, nor soil to be improved, when scarce a revolution of the sun occurs without looking on useful advances in some of them. Nothing more in manufactures? long so inventive in substitutes for human labor, and still continuing to be so wonderfully progressive in resources and power through the whole of the present century. Nothing in commerce? coursing as it does annually and successfully every region of the globe for new products, new advantages and new light. Nothing in government? its theory or practice ? when so few yet know all the beautiful securities of modern checks and balances, or acknowledge the equality of human rights, or practice on the great truth, that the administration of government depends more on the community than its officers, since the latter, representing their constituents do but echo back the public voice; and hence private frugality must be cultivated among the people at large to ensure public, private integrity, to ensure public, private honor to ensure public, and, in short, morals must first be interwoven through civil contracts, all the private relations and the whole social circle, in order to pervade as they should politics in every shape and hue.
But, beyond all this as to persons and places, capable of further progress, can it be pretended for a moment, that nothing more may be usefully taught among the host of five or six hundred millions of human beings, who now live and cannot even read or write? Nothing higher in liberty, religion, the arts and all the charities of life among the slaves, savages, pirates, banditti and idolaters, who, scattered hither and thither in degradation and delusion, almost outnumber the rest of our race? Is the great mission of man on earth terminated? Are civilization and Christianity, suddenly and incomplete, to halt in their onward career? and millions on millions of immortal souls continue forever to be left ignorant of the cross? cannibalism to pursue its orgies; in some places? widows to be burned and infants sacrificed in others? and brutal superstitions of all kinds to hold their high carnival, unmolested? Though evils like these as well as sottish debauchery and the cruelties of despotism have been mitigated in some countries and more especially during the last two centuries; yet, in portions of the earth, there is still left to be reformed quite enough to engross, long all our energies and even enthusiasm.
Perhaps a word or two more of suggestion may not be amiss as to some further room for progress which seems possible among ourselves and those allied to us in high civilization. We, boasted teachers, of Asia and Africa, sending to the Ganges and the Nile something in arts, literature, science, no less than religion, for a revival there of past greatness we, even among our proud selves, have not yet, I fear, fathomed half the mysteries of the elements around us-or of our natural history or the peculiarities of our social system. Saying nothing more, then, of other races and how much remains to be done among such helots as cringed before the late tyrant Francia in the wilds of Paragua - or the semibarbarians, who yield an almost oriental homage to the petty despots over most of Spanish America, or the more miserable serfs and pagans half the world over-are not many things still wanting among the Anglo Saxon race in both hemispheres, lofty as it is?
Much, in my opinion, to improve some of' their starved alms-houses; the hard worked children in Factories; the promiscuous confinement and taint in some prisons of all ages and all degrees of turpitude the dungeon abodes in wretched collieries; the beggared victims of corn laws; the various Alsatias of crime in large cities and the nurseries for Penitentiaries, Bridewells and Magdalen Hospitals every where. Nay more, much to correct the licentiousness, which too often stains not a few, even of Patrician rank;-their bloody codes of honor, as well as the hells, frequented to murder time and gamble away fortunes; and something, in the frivolities of fashion and the sensualities of Epicurean wealth. Surely not a little over the whole, in many other things of smaller, though pernicious import, such as the ultraism of most parties-the' selfishness of cliques-some fallacies in professional lore-too universal a worship of mammon-the law's delay and expensiveness, some quackery in government as well as medicine, and not to make the numeration tedious, a proneness, too widely indulcred among nations, for conquests and dominion.
What confirms all this view of ample room for further progress among the most enlightened, is the well known historical fact, that usually one age or nation is neither competent, nor inclined to accomplish everything, being so closely engrossed in some favorite objects. It must, therefore, always leave something important for others to achieve; as the fifteenth century was distinguished for discoveries the sixteenth more absorbed in religious controversies-the seventeenth and eighteenth occupied most with searches into the true principles of government and clustered round with revolutions - while the last half of the eighteenth and first of the nineteenth have- been more conspicuous for improvements in machinery and steam,
Even some of the centuries which preceded these, and were called the dark ages, made progress in some things and now appear dark only in -contrast with what since has, on various matters, beamed out lighter and proved more exciting. In this aspect of the subject, it can be seen further, that morals are capable of being diffused wider in many places with ease, where they have been only neglected for manners; arts, where abandoned for arms; the secure sciences, where supplanted heretofore by the belles lettres-practical usefulness where overlooked for the mere fashion and elegancies of life-and every where the genius of commerce, with all its great blessings, be made still more an more to triumph over the wasting genius of war. In truth, under the reign of peace and the benign influences of free and friendly trade, why is there not scope and range enough for many nations yet to spring up from seed but just sown-isles of the Pacific, lately discovered in nakedness and barbarism, to become famed as Leis, or powerful as those once the ultima thule of
the known world, and the rich vallies of the Oregon be as crowded with civilized life as those of the
Connecticut or Hudson; and those on the isthmus of Panama become covered with the silks and spices and teas of the East, traveling hither amidst their gorgeous scenery with much more rapidity than they ever before doubled capes or crossed from Suez or the banks of the Euphrates. Nor does it answer to object, that leaders are indispensable to accomplish great changes, and that a Columbus must appear, before new worlds can be found, or a Moses, to conduct a people from bondage, or a Warren to die to secure liberty, or an Arkwright, Watts and Fulton before the face of society can be changed much in arts or commerce. For, if in crises, men like these and their invigorating influences may be necessary as pilots in advancing humanity, does it follow, that the race of discoverers, lawgivers, and benefactors of all kinds is extinct?
There always have been instincts in men and laws pervading society, which provide for all this and which remain in full force. The zephyrs come and fan the earth, wherever the flowers are ready to blossom; and can you doubt, that the reformer, the, hero and patriot will appear, when battles are to be fought for improvement, for the altar and for public liberty?
As well might, all in our father-land have despaired two centuries ago, when to use the words of a modern poet, (Lowell,)
___ "Upon the pier stood two stern visaged men looking to where a little craft lay moor'd, Swayed by tho lazy current of the Thames."
Those men were. Cromwell and Hampden, contemplating an emigration to New England as an escape from oppression at home. The former at length refused to embark. Why? Because prophetically he saw and said-here-
"Freedom hath yet a work for me to do, -- So speaks that inward voice, that never yet Spake falsely, when it urged the spirit on To noble deeds for country and mankind."
So much more being needed to be done to improve the world in various respects and quarters, and some of the objections against our efforts being so feeble, let me, in conclusion, entreat you never to encourage other objections founded on doubts as to the ability of mankind generally to make some further advances. Such doubts not only paralyze every efficient effort, but are irrational. Human genius is not exhausted. Man is still a man and second only to divinity in power. Nor is all the world around us, worn out. Almost every cause, which has aided heretofore in improving society lives, in full force pushing us on further and further, and sometimes acting With increased energy. All the useful inventions, known to have been made in former ages, where not surviving, have been recovered; and not only some of these improved, but many added. Discoveries, too, have multiplied and they with all the numerous glories of literature, and law and morals are yearly spreading wider and penetrating deeper into the different layers of society and with commerce, more and more, as their pioneer and path finder, are conducting man in ever quarter of the globe to a higher state of civilization. And all this enabling work of improvement, so far from being finished or halted in its career, is now glowing on the anvil and is moulding and capable of being long moulded into better forms.
Is it possible, then, that some mysterious agency is to intervene and stop this progress? None, surely when all "Heaven and happy constellations" shed their selected influence on such movements as like these, tend to do God service, by improving his earth and adding to the happiness of his countless worshipers. Rather does this reconcile much, otherwise obscure, and lift the veil-the shadows and the darkness, which rest over the object of much of human existence. Under such circumstances can any of us hesitate in uniting to promote a work so useful and glorious? at least, to break through any incrustation, which may have gathered over our own energies? to brush away every monkish cobweb or mould, from the principles and institutions we have inherited ? try to make all the dry ones around us live and move forward, and, in some way or other, assist to correct what is bad and crowd one whatever is backward or sluggish? Certainly, while one tear remains to be wiped away, a barren spot that can be made to blossom, one evil to be mitigated, one useful principle or improvement to be introduced any where, there is ample employment for all. We must attempt this prudently, I admit, if we would do it successfully. For a great danger to be guarded against exists in any misdirection of our efforts, running into extravagances, often through zeal without knowledge, rather than from bad intentions. Such a course as the last may, for a time, retard, if not defeat the best designs; as it bas frequently blasted bright hopes in political reforms and thwarted many conversions from Paganism as well as chained the social system of some countries almost immovably in error. While our policy then Should be not at once to attempt or hope for every thing-yet, at the same moment, it is rational and sober-minded to expect the greater maturity of all, Which is but partially grown, and to strive for the wider dissemination of all excellencies as yet limited in their range or influence. This, it will be seen, is no. Quixotism fighting windmills, no Godwinism, seeking, with bot haste perfectability in anything -- no Utopianism, looking for a Paradise regained on earth or expecting Milleniums of any kind here, without a miracle, while the faculties continue finite, life so short, and so much remains to be accomplished. But it has in view to perform all, which is feasible, consistent with reason, nature and analogy, and, thus limited, to improve something or other-to advance-to act and induce others to act quickly in Making the world better, and to hope for success in this and aim at it chiefly, not by violence, sedition or agrarianism, but through universal education and a pure religion-thus enlightening and guiding as well as exciting the millions and establishing every where the salutary conviction, that an all controlling. spirit overlooks the affairs of life. It urges us to be Prompt in measures to prevent no less than punish vice-to cultivate a firmer courage to brave the obstacles and surmount the ills which flesh is heir to -- to separate the shadows and phantoms of existence more from its sober realities-to enlarge the boundaries of practical skill by cooperating more with nature in bending all her great powers to the use and advancement of society, and awaken, if possible, every where, the moral sense of all, in one way, or another, to pour into many benighted regions those improvements, suited to push higher the condition and destinies of most of' the human family. " Nor can there be any harm, if we attempt in these better modes, to have all around us, not only keep up with the spirit of the age, but go in advance of it in some thing, and discover and announce and soon as may be, establish more of those great truths in Philosophy antigovernment, which always distinguish eras of rapid prowess.
In all this, it will be seen, that the policy and end inculcated are, to add rather than destroy and to preserve all, which is now good, though striving to render it better and diffuse it wider. They are not to pull down even what is defective till something superior is devised; nor, in those numerous cases of a slight canker or decay, which appear in society -- its manners, education, pursuits or religion, to lay the axe at the root of the whole tree but merely to prune off what is dead or fruitless. Should rottenness, however, infect the whole, why should not the whole fall or should corruptions in government become intolerable and usurpations dare to trifle with public forbearance and trample on the liberties and laws, that ought to shield every fire-side, then a thorough reform is sanctioned not only by political justice, but by nature and natures and; and as oppression sometimes goads its victims into madness, the measures for that reform are not always to be weighed. in very nice scales. I concede, however, and even insist, that our means no less than our end should always be just, and that, to wage a war against error, struggling daily with imperfection and wrong is not enough, unless we do it by healthful means -- means enlightened and moral, means also public in their scope rather than selfish, aspiring to public benefits through public aims and public efforts as well as in legal and constitutional channels, wherever suitable, one of that character exist. Such a course