O R A T I O N
Delivered at New Haven,
PHI BETA KAPPA SOCIETY,
AUGUST 17, 1842.
S. HENRY DICKSON, M. D.
N E W H A V E N:
PRINTED BY B. L. HAMLEN.
1860, Jan. 2.
By Exchange of Dupl.
To Dr. Samuel Henry Dickson
Dear Sir -- Having been appointed a committee by the Society of the Phi Beta Kappa, to convey to you their thanks for your excellent address delivered last evening before the Society and the public, and to request a copy for publication, we have great pleasure in performing the duty assigned to us, and in expressing the hope that you will not withhold your consent. We remain, with great esteem and respect,
Yours, very truly,
B. Silliman, Committee
Wm. A. Larned,
New Haven, August 18, 1842.
To Messrs. Jas. Murdock, B. Silliman, WM. A. Larned, Committee.
Gentleman -- In compliance with the request communicated in your note of the 18th inst., I place at your disposal the oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society on the evening of the 17th, with sincere acknowledgments for the kindness with which it has been received. Most cordially reciprocating your assurances of esteem and regard, I remain, gentleman, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Samuel Henry Dickson
New Haven, August 19, 1842.
O r a t i o n.
Not without much anxiety - not without painful doubt of my ability to perform in a fitting manner the allotted task, did I accept the appointment with which I was honored, to address on the present occasion an audience composed of the most enlightened among my fellow citizens. Fully conscious of the extreme difficulty of selecting a topic which would interest generally an assembly from all the widely separated portions of our extended empire, I could not divest myself of the fear, that I should fail to carry with me the feelings and sympathies with which local opinions and familiar habits so often surround and support the orator, while appealing to those with whom he is more immediately connected.
Yet in truth, though native and resident of a distant region, I am not willing to acknowledge myself in any sense a stranger here. Near me rise the halls of my beloved Alma Mater. The lapse of more than five lustrums has not effaced the recollection of many delightful hours of study and recreation spent within these precincts. I miss indeed the greater number of the "old familiar faces" which start out amidst the dim shadows of the memory of 'the long-ago,' when I look back upon my college life, and its ambitious but dreamy hopes. The gray majestic head of the venerable Dwight lies low, and of the guides, rivals and play-fellows of those bright days, many have sunk into nature's quiet resting place. One,(1) the dearest friend of my early youth, after attaining with almost unexampled rapidity a brief but remarkable eminence, as well in literature as in science, sleeps far hence at the foot of the _____ky promontory,(2) which, from among the isles of our father-land, juts out into the dangerous and stormy Atlantic. But in their places, after a long absence, I find those whom in my boyhood I looked up to with no thoughtless regard, and whom as a man I have learned doubly to esteem and respect; and in some of the seats around me, I see the same revered teachers from whose lips my own lessons were received.
If there be such a community as we figure forth under the style and title of a 'republic of letters,' this then is one of metropolitian cities, and here I am a freeholder. We all profess to be engaged in the same paramount purpose - the improvement of the mind - the accumulation of knowledge - the enlargement of the capacity for acquiring it. I purpose to discuss briefly the question, whether this object is indeed worthy of our pursuit; in other words, to renew the oft-repeated inquiry, whether knowledge leads to happiness. And surely, no time, nor place, nor occasion, cold be more opportune than the present for such discussion. "Knowledge is power," and as all power may be applied to evil as well as good, we should take care to ascertain from time to time its actual tendencies. The first step of our first parents in search of it, was productive of infinite sorrow; - has our farther progress been in a different direction or followed by a different result? Are we to take it for granted that knowledge is wisdom, or that even wisdom is the true foundation of happiness? Are the wisest individuals the happiest? If so, what shall we say of Solomon, who found in all things vanity and vexation of spirit - or of Socrates, or of Bacon? Is it true of nations? Ask the Englishman, gloomy and discontented, dissatisfied with reform and menacing revolution; the Frenchman, restless and changeful, and disappointed in his most vehement efforts for improvement; the self-governing American, busy, bustling, and care-worn. What proof do these afford us affirmative, regarding themselves at the very head of modern civilization, what proof do these afford us of the affirmative? England is merry England no longer; France has scarcely recovered breath after her struggles, and with all her self-complacency dares not boast of their results; and America, doubtful and anxious, with the premature wrinkles on her youthful front, has yet attained no platform, no vantage-ground of certainty, from which she may display her banner to the nations and invite them to follow her. At this moment every civilized people in the condition of the adherents of Absalom, "discontented and in debt." Every advance, every innovation, every change - suggested and adopted with such exulting anticipation - has been followed by gloomy disappointment. The teacher is confounded; the reformer stands aghast; the prophet is dumb. The poor are still numerous, suffering of all kinds is still urgent, crime stalks abroad in varying shapes, still shameless and uncontrolled, wars are still frequent and bloody as of old, and peace herself has been severed from her ancient connection with comfort and plenty. How shall we understand and construe these things, and where shall we fix our hopes for the future, while so much deceived and disconcerted by the past? Has the world in fact become wiser than of yore? If so, is it in proportion happier and better? We are or seem to be in rapid motion not only increasing in amount, but is more generally diffused; does it argue our enjoyments, or diffuse them more widely, and distribute them more equally? The arts and sciences are advancing; do they bring in their train any relief from " the natural ills that flesh is heir to," or render life longer or more desirable than in past ages? Have we any advantage over our less enlightened ancestors, either in the performance of the duties of life, or in the fruition of its pleasures? If not, then we are spending our strength for naught; we are laboring in vain and worse than in vain. Let us meet the alternative fairly and admit at the outset, that if , in the paradoxical language of the poet, "If ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." For my own part, I am persuaded that on a full and impartial view of the subject, notwithstanding the difficulties with which at first glance it may seem surrounded, we shall arrive at the conclusion, that without true wisdom there is little virtue and less happiness, and that although knowledge may not be absolutely identical with wisdom so properly called, it is an essential element and its exclusive foundation. I dare not commit the presumption of attempting "to vindicate the ways of God to man," but will humbly argue that they need no vindication. I am satisfied that he will render a valuable service to society, who shall clearly show that all the advances in science and art, in literature and refinement, to which the Providence invites and inevitable necessity impels us, are destined to exert a permanently favorable bearing upon its ultimate condition; and if you will for a brief space grant me your patience, I will endeavor to sketch an outline of the facts and reasonings which seem to me to lead to this conclusion.
Let us consider the condition of progress - of change and transition - so constant, so notable as a part of the history of our race at every epoch, in its several distinct relations. Man is uniformly, and as it would appear, unavoidably, a religious animal; that is to say, whether from organization, or instinct, or primary revelation, and subsequent tradition and education, he has never been found destitute of the idea of a Supreme Being, or of a race of beings superior to himself, and both capable and disposed to influence his destiny. But if we examine into the nature, the character of these supposed beings, and trace their portraits in the minds of the various tribes of men who have imagined them into existence, what shall we discover? Lineaments of beauty, of grace, of gentleness, of goodness - alas, how rarely! The idols of the pagan world, from the mysterious Egyptian and the polished Greek, down to the sensual islander of the southern sea and the African, are either diabolical in disposition or feeble in capacity. At best they resembled human heroes, and were merely exaggerated examples of human excellence and human depravity. The majority were deemed indifferent to the joys or sorrows of their worshippers; but the most powerful of their gods was usually the most unrelenting of their tyrants, and his partiality, injustice, and oppression on the one hand, or on the other his pitiless execution of the decrees of the fate, constitute the themes of the best and boldest poetry of ancient times. Among their philosophers, for true philosophy dawned early, the theist was embarrassed and entangled in the confused intricacies and contradictions of his creed, while the more daring sought refuge in monstrous doctrines of atheism from this host of minor absurdities. And even when the Hebrews had received from on high the knowledge of the one living and true God, with how many cruel superstitions did they incarnadine the holy land which had been given them as their inheritance! How many earth-born imaginations degraded the favored sons of Abraham! Nay, since the glorious advent of the Messiah, how many thousands have been sacrificed to the intolerant bigotry of ignorance - how many did_________.
The instinctive and eager anxiety which impels us to connect ourselves with the supernatural, has led to the close interweaving of all the shadowy forms of superstition with the true religion, even when most fully received and most clearly appreciated. Omens of all kinds, and spectres of every variety; vampyres and were-wolves; the demons of the ocean, of the forest, of the fire, and of the mine; the brownie, the baushie; the almost universal fairy, and the disembodied ghost of every tribe and people under heaven, maintaining still their hold upon the mind of the convert - every where mingled long and strangely enough with the newly adopted articles of faith. Not even the beams of the sun of revelation availed at once to dispel the clouds that overshadowed the souls of men shut up by the teachings of their ancestors in this prison-house of terror, and bowed down under the slavish fear of evil agents around, above, and beneath them; ready to bid the earth gape and swallow them, or lift them on the wings of the stormy winds, or cause them to wither and decay in utter helplessness of both body and spirit. Not many generations have passed away since the witch mania of Europe added an unimaginable gloom to the decrepitude of old age, and made gray hairs no longer venerable tokens of sage experience, but signals of fiendish malignity and unholy associations. And still more recently in our own bright land, the same dark insanity of excited ignorance spread for a time its blighting influences, consigning to torture and to death the old and the young, the parent and the child, the pastor and his flock. It was reserved for the schoolmaster to release mankind from this horrible bondage. The increasing light of natural science has reached even these dark corners, and witchcraft, spectres, and magical delusion, have yielded to the discoveries of chemistry and the laws of optics. Hibbert, and Scott, and Brewster, have broken the conjuror's wand, and laid every unquiet ghost in eternal repose. Who will say that we are not better and happier for this liberation? The school-boy crosses the church-yard in his nightly path homeward, exempt from eh chill trembling which shook the limbs of his sturdy grandfather; the gay young bride fears no longer the secret curse of hatred or the evil eye of envy, falling upon her with fatal blight when she leaves the arms of her parents for the new home of her husband; the decrepid mother of the village need not now lament that the years and infirmities which render her an object of compassion and charity, should convert her, instead, into a strange compound of imbecility and superhuman power, and surround her with awe and terror, taunts and bloody cruelty.
Nay, I will venture farther on this holy ground, and reverently declare my belief, that even religion itself, as revealed to and apprehended by our understanding, is elevated and purified by the cultivation of our intellectual powers. Has not indeed every succeeding age been under the necessity of making allowances for its predecessor? No one I presume entertains a doubt at this day, that a reform was called for in the time of Luther; do not all sects of Protestants now agree, that the Reformation itself requires more reforming? Have we yet attained a thorough confidence in the views of any of the most gifted of our teachers, or even in our own? Is not the eye of reason strengthened by education to receive the heavenly light, and rendered more and more susceptible of its blessed beams? How imperfectly are the pure and simple precepts of Christianity comprehended by the recently converted heathen! with what infinite difficulty, with what obscure confusion do they appreciate its statements of truth-the moral principles, founded in the very constitution of our nature, which it inculcates! Such as theirs is now, was the condition of those who early received it; and shall I be told that they apprehended it more fully or correctly than we? "Religious truth," says Dr. Taylor, in his Natural History of Society, "is peculiarly exposed to the danger of being absorbed in forms; but at the same time, it would be a most perilous experiment to present it to mankind as a vague abstraction. An opinion that has not been embodied in form, rarely influences action." Yet every form is in its own nature transitory, corruptible, and soon loses its vitality; and may, and must, be changed or modified. "Religion," argues Benjamin Constant, in his Essay on the Development of Religious Ideas - "Religion is progressive, and by reason of his characteristic it is gradually ameliorated and purified, and advances to perfection. When this progress is not interrupted, religion can effect nothing but good; provided it retains its independence, it possesses a certain utility under each of its forms, which is lost both when the forms are destroyed, and when it is attempted to prolong them beyond their natural duration. Ever progressive and ever symmetrical, it will advance in union with ideas; it will gain light with the march of intelligence; it will be purified with the improvements of morality, and at every epoch will sanction all that is good and true." Is it not much of positive gain, that men have ceased in civilized countries to torture and destroy each other on account of differences of religious opinion or observance - that fire and sword are not now the favorite means of conversion-nay, that no one dares to enumerate them among those means? To what shall we ascribe this change? Is the nature of man altered for the better - is he not the subject of the same passions as of old? Surely, but they are now restrained; his zeal, no longer blind and furious, is tempered by knowledge and directed by instruction. In the most enlightened nations, this change is most complete. The word toleration, which no one was permitted to utter because it expressed too much - aye, infinitely more than the dominant sect, whether Papal or Protestant, Episcopal or Presbyterian, would allow or even discuss - the very word is become hateful and almost obsolete, because it expresses too little and implies mere sufferance where equal right is demanded. The Jew, the infidel, nay the atheist, dreads no longer the dungeon, the rack, or the auto da fè; the doors of the horrid Inquisition have been torn forever from their hinges, and test oaths and subscriptions, it not every where abandoned, have degenerated into mere ceremonies, and are defended or apologized for on grounds far different from those maintained in past days. Crusades have ceased, and the very Mussulman does not plume himself quite so haughtily on having "spit upon the beard of a Christian dog." All these miracles are to be attributed to the benign influence of philosophy, which spreads with an irrepressible diffusion, like that of caloric and electricity, and will ultimately distribute itself throughout the entire human mas; from the Newtons, Franklins, and Cuviers, of the most favored nations, down to the Ferdinands, Nicholas, Mahmouds, and Ibrahims, of Russia and Spain, Turkey and Egypt. "Ignorance," says Johnson, "has had sway long enough; let us now try what knowledge can do;" and we are , thank Heaven! in "the full tide of experiment," destined, I doubt not, ultimately to a large success. I am well aware that much remains to be done, and I am not so resolute an optimist, as not to concede that there is much which will never be effected in our present state of existence. There is beyond question, a vast amount of both physical and moral evil absolutely incurable; but I would attempt every thing, and find abundant consolation in the benevolent intention, for the partial failure of well meant efforts.
And this leads me to speak of the progress of knowledge in its influence upon morals - kindred topic to that which has just now been imperfectly discussed. Not a few modern writers have expressed doubts as to the advantages of education in improving the conduct of men, and inducing them to govern themselves by the rules of right and justice; and allusions are even now occasionally made to the antique golden age of ignorance and innocence. "A little learning is a dangerous thing," the poet warns us; an assertion, true in one sense, that is, as compared with a great deal; but it is a very safe thing as compared with none. As well might we contend that total blindness is better than Cyclopean vision, and refuse to cough one eye when both are darkened by a cataract. All argument a priori is here in our favor; but the question unfortunately, instead of being considered on its own merits, has been entangled incidentally or of purpose, in the transient and varying politics of parties almost every where. Still more unfortunately it happens, that the most ignorant having always been the most injured, the most oppressed, the most unhappy, eagerly availed themselves of the possibility of redress as soon as they came into possession of the knowledge which gave them the power. Hence arose tumult, convulsion, crime; hence still exist discontent and menace. No wrong was perhaps ever righted without disorder and outrage; the night is darkest just as the approach of dawn. Hence it is that the conservatives of all ancient forms and institutions time-honored, are afraid, with some reason I admit, but unduly in degree, of the progress in knowledge, as tending, while it modifies existing arrangements, to argument crime. But if we regard impartially the ultimate results, we shall find them well calculated to allay these fears. Take the example of the French revolution, the most terribly chaotic transition from darkness to light which history has recorded - all the irreligion, violence, and blood of that magnificent drama, all the disappointment and uncertainty which still hang over its final denouement, would not reconcile a reasonable man to the restoration of a Pompadour, a Dubois, or a Du Barri. We may offer further a strong reply to the political objector, in the contrasted examples furnished us at the same moment, by one of the most absolute of monarchies and one of the freest of republics - Prussia and Connecticut. Where are the people better taught than in these states, where are they happier, where is the proportion of crime less? Traverse our whole continent from east to west - look into our alms-houses, our hospitals, our courts of justice, prisons and penitentiaries - inquire into the numbers and the condition of the victims of want, of vice, and of disease, unhappily to be met with every where, but in every different proportions, and you will be satisfied that the best protection of our frail and easily tempted race from every mode of evil, is the aegis of knowledge; and that its efficiency in reference to the mass is in direct ratio with the amount enjoyed.
To ascertain the sources of crime, and when they are known to ascribe to them their due influence, is surely impossible to ignorance; yet these are clearly the first steps to the discovery and application of remedies. A quarter of a century ago, some philanthropists, grieved and embarrassed by the existence of an apparently prodigious prevalence of wretchedness and guilt in our comparatively happy and enlightened country, were led, on examination, to attend specially to one very obvious cause. With an ardent and clear-sighted zeal, they set about to remove or counteract it; and now we exult in the certainty, that hundreds of thousands of this generation, and millions yet unborn, are saved from the potent but long disregarded agency of influence, which did more to multiply crimes and suffering than any other perhaps known to us. The local statistics of crime may occasionally seem to present exceptions to the rule I have laid down above, as in Sweden for example, and to show an increase of outrage where communities have become better informed. But these exceptions when examined, are always found explicable without violence to our principle. They depend uniformly on contingencies of transient duration, subsiding spontaneously or readily controlled by the force of public sentiment, or the well sustained regulations of such enlightened communities.
Man, I have said, is by necessity and organization a religious being. An instinct or necessity of similar force, impels him to the institution of forms of government. If we are all born "free and equal," as is broadly asserted in a national document, whose authority it is hardly permitted to question, we soon agree, either tactfully or formally, to surrender a portion of our freedom, and discover also that is, of superior knowledge; and thus several legitimate systems are gradually formed - on one model in Austria and Russia, on another in Persia and Hindostan, and on a third in Dahomey and Ashantee. It is important to my purpose to my remark, that these systems are at first modeled and afterwards modified, with a dexterity and success directly proportioned to the intellectual conditions of the several communities among whom we find them existing. The restraints of government become mutual, that is, they affect the ruler as well as the subject first in the most enlightened countries. In our own, this class of modifications has become most expanded, complete, and influential; next in Great Britain, whose system, from which we derived mush of what is most praiseworthy, is in turn assimilating itself to ours with an increasing rapidity. She is so far fortunate, that during this process she is left entirely to herself, undisturbed by any extraneous influences; unlike unhappy France, whose protracted struggles and exhausting convulsions were mainly owing to an unjustifiable interference of foreign powers.
In receiving the progressive changes which for the last few centuries have been made in the relations between the rulers and the governed within the pale of civilization, no one I think will doubt, that the tendency has been on the whole beneficial and conducive to human happiness, personal, social, and collective. And when did any one of them proceed from ignorance or accident? Sidney, Russell, Milton, Franklin, Maraba, Madison, Hamilton, Adams - these, and such as these, are the conspirators, the plotters against lofty thrones and unrestrained power. Not only has expanding knowledge thus impressed the various forms assumed by different governments, but it has begun to regulate to the advantage of all the international conduct which they are required to observe in their intercourse with one another. As is the formation of communities, so here the principle is laid down, that the rights of each are to be acknowledged, and that the law of the strongest shall be set aside by combination, if necessary, in order that an enlightened sentiment shall be made to prevail instead of brute force. This principle, so plainly in accordance with the true interests of humanity, has steadily gained ground, and an application of it is now attempted to be brought to bear upon every successive case as it arises. True it is, that notwithstanding the writings of Grotius, Vattel, and Puffendorf, Poland has been since her unjustifiable partition thrice trampled on most ruthlessly; France has been many times invaded, and thrice overrun and forced to submit to a hated and despised dynasty; Denmark has been crushed; Norway given to her ancient foe, Sweden; and several other independent states in Europe have been mediatized with total disregard of the will of the people; Hindostan swallowed up; Persia threatened with assault; and China atrociously warred upon - an instance this last, of more unjust, inexcusable, high-handed wrong, than can readily be shown in the darkest periods of human history. We may still venture, nevertheless, to rejoice that wars have lost and are losing some of their most horrid features; that men in arms, and not he citizens and peasantry, are now regarded as the objects of legitimate butchery; that civilized troops do not so often burn cities and libraries, and plunder the unoffending; that privateering and piracy are not now, as in "the days of good Queen Bess," the regular paths to fame and honor; that every invasion is required to be preceded by a declaration of hostile purposes, which document shall present at least a pretext for war; and that the umpirage of an impartial power is often offered and accepted to decide contested pairs. This umpirage, it is to be hoped, will grow into an uniform custom, and serve as the basis for the establishment of a court of nations, whose office it shall be to settle all vexed questions that admit of arrangement of compromise, and whose decisions shall gradually form a code of international regulations of high authority.
If not by nature man is by necessity a law-making animal. I will not pass by without dissent the assumption, that it is indifferent whether laws are good or bad, perfect or imperfect, provided they are well known, regularly executed, and implicitly obeyed. If it be true that none but wise and good men can make wise laws exert, even over the bad and ignorant, a most beneficial influence. As a people becomes more and more intelligent, they will perceive more distinctly the evil of useless or improper interference with individual rights; and thus law will become less rigid and burdensome. Having made fair trial of the most obvious rules and penalties to enforce obedience, they will cease to experiment farther, and thus law becomes more permanent and fixed. Having experienced the benefit of restraint imposed upon the ill-minded, they will take care to insure the pressure of the restraint, and thus it will be made prompt and powerful. By the reciprocal influence exerted upon the people by their laws, and upon the laws by the people, and the progressive improvements which must from time to time take place, as the community lifts higher its moral and intellectual standard, we may hope that law will at a future day become, what it has already been pronounced exultingly, but erroneously, by one of its retainers, "the perfection of human reason."
It seems to have been but recently, that legislators have recognized in any practical manner, the principle that "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" is to be the object of all our institutions; and now, no one in any civilized and enlightened country dare deny it. Even now there is too much of the defensory, the prohibitory character in the codes of almost all nations, and the privileged classes are surrounded by them as by a wall. We are shudder at the thought of punishing capitally a theft of forty schillings. But all are not tariffs - I ask the question in a philosophical, not in a political, and least of all in a partisan sense - are not all tariffs and protective enactments, so called, redolent of the very same _____ ways been somewhat ultra-conservative - unduly opposed to innovation. She cares not in the working of her complicated machinery to enter upon any analysis of the elements of her power, but regards with an eye of equal favor, form and substance, essence and abuse, truth and fiction. She is unwilling to part with her gown and bag-wig, her conventional jargon, her never-failing plan of compelling unanimity of opinion, by the starvation of some of her long series of decisions. A hopeful breach has however been made in her adamantine system, and the rudes indigestaque moles of her recorded rules, and examples of their application in France and elsewhere, subjected to a sifting process and reduced to a concise and intelligible code. If there be some force in the objections urged against this proceeding by certain ingenious advocates, they scarcely prevail in the mind of an impartial thinker, against the great and obvious advantages, that such condensed view of the laws affords a better opportunity for a full and general understanding of the subject, and for sound and judicious criticism and revision; and that thus the rubbish of iniquitous and partial precedents has been swept away, and the mind left free to feel the impression of the eternal rules of justice and equity. What if the benefits of such a measure be transient, and a repetition of the cleansing of this Augean stable be found occasionally necessary! In proportion as we are wiser than our ancestors, our posterity will be wiser than we are, and better; and will find the task of improvement easier for our previous labors.
Many of the most pleasing and humane innovations in the machinery of law, relate to the punishments and prisons. Dungeons are among the relics of antiquity, and condemned cells now admit of more comfort than the debtors' room of a single generation since. Torture before conviction is abolished every where, and even after conviction is scarcely employed by any civilized government. Experiments are every where making, to ascertain how far suffering - physical suffering - can be dispensed with in the attempts to check and prevent crime; and penitentiaries variously constituted, have taken the place of the whipping post, the stocks, and the gallows. There is some risk, doubtless, of pressing to an extreme these benevolent purposes; but much has been already done to subtract from the miseries formerly incident to all legal movements upon the criminal members of the human family; and the shade of Howard himself, might be satisfied with the zeal and ardor with which the subject is still examined and kept in view.
The social customs and manners of a people are so closely interwoven with their laws, as scarcely to admit of a consideration entirely separate. Law sometimes grows out of them; sometimes comes into direct conflict with them, and the better is sure to prevail ultimately over the worse - thanks to the schoolmaster and the press. Through the latter engine, the mighty sympathy and conjoint action of numbers are set in motion, and the vast force of a concentrated mass brought to bear upon a given purpose. This is a peculiar feature in the proceedings of modern reformers, who seek early the aid of association, and connect with them for definite objects, bodies of men who agree with them in sentiment. The great agitation thus occasioned, has been unduly dreaded by some lovers of order and peace; unduly, I say, because of men, whether virtuous or vicious, will not venture to league publicly for avowed purposes of evil, and the publicity, which is the essential element of strength in such associations, will belong exclusively to those who aim at good ends. Thus the temperance association, at first "a cloud not bigger than a man's hand," has flashed its lightnings and sounded its thunders in both hemispheres. And who does not pray earnestly for its universal success? If the object of its efforts were the extermination of but one of the numerous forms of the legion spirit of pestilence, every human heart would join in aspirations in its favor. If this object were attained, would not the human race rejoice? An universal jubilee would be proclaimed! But there cannot, on the long catalogue of the nosologist, be pointed out any malady which produces so much misery, or sacrifices so many victims, as the social habit of excess, and if it possible to effect its total subversion, I doubt not the exulting acclaim of heaven and earth. The morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God shout aloud for joy! Here we are offered a striking instance of evil and the promotion of good, partly by a direct and partly an indirect effect; indirectly, as I formerly observed, by laying open the cause of ill and its remedy - directly, by substituting the excitement of the mental for that of the physical portion of our organism. No one will deny, that the subjects of intemperance are in very large proportion to be found among the ignorant; no one will dispute the doctrine, that in the same ratio in which the intellectual capacities are expanded, the propensities to excess in all indulgence of passion and appetite are abated in vigor and rendered more controllable, and man becomes less ready to follow the animal promptings of mere instinct.
Many objectionable customs are gradually giving way to the progress of good sense. The use of oaths, whether in the formal business of life or as a condiment of conversation, is one of these, which even a short time has seen steadily declining. The duel, perhaps the most obstinate among them, shoe its deference to enlightened public sentiment, by a more careful selection of occasions, and a prudent and deliberate adhesion to forms maturely considered. It is not to be put an end toby any premature regulations, whether social or legislative; but wherever rendered necessary by the defects of the law, will still continue, in the language of Bacon, "to affront the law." And with all its melancholy train of consequences, I cannot help regarding it as a far preferable substitute for promiscuous brawls and murderous rencontre, wherever society is just emerging from primitive or secondary barbarism, and men openly armed or provided with concealed weapons, have learned to feel themselves dons of Ishmael and beyond the imperfect protection of inefficient law. Like chivalry, it has had, and perhaps still has its uses as a step in advancing civilization, and as being for the time a lesser evil than those which it proposed to remedy or correct-though like it, doubtless, totally inconsistent with the mild spirit of Christianity, and with all the institutions of enlightened and established civilization.
Refinement in manners and in modes of living, follows inevitably the cultivation of the mind in society. The foundation of all true politeness consists in the disinclination to commit any offense to others; hence the habit of suppressing emotion and passion, the avoidance of every thing indecorous in speech or action, and the readiness to offer slight services and pleasant attentions, which not only render delightful the social intercourse of the better circles everywhere, but actually tend, in a very efficient manner, to the universal diffusion of peace and good will. Nay, it appears to me one of the most hopeful of the elements at work, as we fondly anticipate, to bring about the total extinction of war, and to enable the nations to close forever the doors of the temple of Janus.
Let us next regard the influence of the useful arts upon human happiness. It will not be denied, that an imperious necessity will impel man to the incessant cultivation of all these; a necessity less urgent in proportion to the mildness of climate and the spontaneous fertility of soil, but existing every where at all times. Some ingenious doubters have indeed argued, that he has lost rather than gained in comfort, by his successful efforts to feed, clothe, and shelter himself. The number of his wants they remind us, and the difficulty of supplying them, increase at every step of his progress, multiplying, they affirm, with far greater rapidity than his resources. This question would seem, in its first suggestion, to be a very simple one, and readily decided by an appeal to experience; but it has been extended into a complicated inquiry. It is easy to show that there was unqualified advantage gained, in emerging from the golden age of primitive savagism, when he left the refuge of a cave or a hollow tree, for a roof capable of turning rain, and walls which would defend him from the keen wintry blasts; and when he resorted to agriculture to secure him from the gnawings of hunger, not always subdued by his previously irregular supply of roots, and fruits, and wild beasts killed in the chase, and enemies slaughtered in battle. But when, passing hastily through all the immediate transitions, we come down to the days of the power-looms and almost universal machinery - when we consider that the poor have no resource but in labor, and find the demand for living labor diminishing with every invention in the useful arts, we are required to pause and reflect before we pronounce a judgement. The shuttle no longer leaps from hand to hand of the weaver; chimneys are no more to be swept by boys of pigmy men, but brushed clean by the scandiscope; the athletic smith will soon cease to wield the hammer, and the sailor's occupation, to climb the shroud and unfurl the canvass of commerce, will become obsolete. Steam is already substituted for manual power in every manual power in every department except agriculture. Nay, from the partial success of some recent experiments made in the fields, it is to be hoped or feared, (as the case may be,) that even here this elephant of inanimate agents, which with equal facility points a pin and propels a navy, will ere long intrude its offices.
Without entering at length into this vexed question, let us rejoice that the ultimate solution of the problem is to be left to our remote posterity. The vast continent, and the wide extent of distant New Holland, will afford sufficient food and room for many hundred generations, whether the doctrine of Malthus or the less gloomy views of Sadler shall prevail. Steam, which by its officious interference deprives such numbers of their accustomed means of living, will convey them with the steady keel and swift locomotive to the rich prairies and smiling valleys of the far West. In the mean while, we may console ourselves partially with the reflection, that man is not the only laborer thrown out of employ by improved machinery. All other working animals may likewise be dispensed with, and all the food which they now consume, added to the sustenance of the survivor. The dull ass and the patient ?? shall be cut off as cucumbers of the ground. The beautiful and docile steed, without whose aid we could not hitherto till the field, or hunt, ro make war, now utterly suspended by his iron substitute, shall disappear like the mastodon and the Saurus, or be met with only in curious zoological collections, or kept in parks as deer are now, to afford by his swiftness good sport to the lovers of the chase. It is no light thing to anticipate the effect upon our condition, of all the changes going on in our mechanical economy. Thus far, we have however gained enough in comfort and convenience, to compensate for all that may be supposed lost in any way. To the great majority of men an occasional change of place, a voyage or a journey, is absolutely unavoidable. Few indeed of those engaged in active business are altogether stationary. To the majority then, the effect of the increased rapidity of locomotion alone - to dwell for a moment on this single branch of subject - will be the virtual addition of a certain number if days, months or years, to the duration of life. If each day be spent by every one as it ought to be, usefully - and as it often may be, pleasantly - what an immense sum is thus added to the mass of usefulness and enjoyment. The merchant gains time by shortening of his voyages; the farmer by the quicker transportation of his produce; the traveller by the promptness of his passage from one point to another; the amorous youth in his visits to a distant mistress, almost realizing the modest prayer of the English poet -
"Ye gods! annihilate
both time and space,
and all these live in reality so much longer as they spend less time upon the road. We must not forget, too, how much the facility of such intercourse tends to the wide diffusion of those minor luxuries, called in our strong and homely language 'comforts,' each of which is cheap where it is produced, but becomes dear and inaccessible from expense, uncertainty and inconvenience of carriage. Nothing can tend more strongly than this distribution of comfort, to the amelioration of the temper and disposition of the masses. Protracted poverty and privation make man fierce and sullen. He compares himself with his more favored neighbor, and an envious jealousy takes possession of his bosom-a savage feeling, which will bring forth fruit it fostered by opportunity; and theft and rapine will suggest themselves spontaneously, as ready modes of remedying the injustice of his destiny. But if the light and regular toil will supply him with various and sufficient food, and an occasional luxury be placed within his reach, to be purchased by moderate extra labor or slight self-denial, such temptations will not easily assail him, and cheerfulness will always be found a most admirable auxiliary to virtue.
And again - regarding man as he is, not a mere complication of "thewes and sinews," but a machine of varied capacity, constructed for thought as well as action, I am always inclined to look favorably upon every labor-saving invention, as releasing so many more minds by the substitution of a coarser mechanism, rendered capable of supplying their place. Let us reflect upon the confinement of the immortal and illimitable soul to the contracted purposes of the workshop, in the minute division of labor practiced hitherto - the whole of a fellow creature's existence ebbing away in polishing a button or sharpening the point of a pin; infancy, youth, manhood, consumed in darkness and drudgery; entombed living in the subterranean recesses of the colliery or the mine. If accountable hereafter, what a mode of spending his state of probation! If destined to a never-dying future, what a preparation for eternity! Nay, but speaking merely of the present, how dreary, desolate, hopeless, purposeless, his condition! For him the cheerful sunlight, the bright atmosphere, the glorious firmament, are spread abroad almost in vain; and death at last "comes like a friend to release him" from an imprisonment to which we would not consign the meanest reptile that crawls. Let him forth then, and in the gaslit dungeon where he dwelt, let the hiss of steam and the clank of the mighty engine be substituted for the beating of a human heart, and the breathing of a human sigh. Let him forth, to earn his bread as God ordained by the sweat of his brow, but in the fresh and wholesome air, and with the free use of all his powers and expansible faculties.
I have spoken of a virtual extension of human life by the progress of the useful arts. To one of them, the divine art of healing - the science of medicine as it perhaps deserves to be called - is owing, in part at least, a direct increase of the duration of life, as well as a very notable diminution of its sufferings. Statistical inquiries show, that within a century and a half the mean term of life has been perceptibly elevated, its average length protracted some years, and the rate of insurance upon it lessened. I will not ascribe all this to the benevolent and successful exertions of the profession to which I am devoted, but it is surely in some measure attributable to the better understanding by hygeine and therapeutics, aiding and aided by the improving civilization of the advancing time. These influences combined, have annihilated, for Europe and America at least, the leprosy and the plague; the black death and the sweating sickness are no longer heard of; and many other forms of pestilence still in existence, like small pox, present features of mitigated horror. When the Asiatic cholera swept with its dark wing almost the entire surface of the habitable globe, the proportion of its victims was found very regularly increased or diminished with the condition of the region it attacked in civilization and consequent comfort. Shall I speak here of the infinite improvements in the treatment, and in the moral and physical management of the unhappy insane, suggested first by the sagacious and benevolent Pinel, and now pervading all Christendom! Let those who have seen, and within a quarter of a century too, the wretched mania bound down and fettered hand and foot, or naked and shivering in his damp cell, or cowering terror-stricken before his stern keeper, in the contemplation of his present comparatively hopeful and cheerful condition, pronounce upon the assertion which I make deliberately, that if increasing knowledge had brought to suffering humanity but this single boon, it should be received as a full reward for all its acquirement has cost. It shall suffice merely to allude further to the triumphs of modern surgery, in the relief of deformity, the replacement of lost parts, and the restoration of powers of action impaired by accident or otherwise.
Christian civilization can show among the hospitals and other institutions which constitute such delightful trophies of benevolence, none more meritorious than the asylums in which she educates her blind and deaf. The mute are taught the use of language; the blind are enabled to read and furnished with books, and more than half relived from the privation of their lot; and above and beyond all, the light of intelligence and religion has been poured into the dark recesses of minds shut up in the formerly hopeless insensibility of these two afflictions united. I cannot think of such successes without a glow of enthusiasm, and in all sincerity declare, that I would rather enjoy the consciousness of having effected them, then the fame and honors of a Cesar or a Wellington. I have not words to express the admiration and joy with which I regard these institutions every where, nor my exultation in the unquestionable superiority of those which exist in our own beloved country. In this glorious race we have outstripped our most estimable competitors, and can already boast of one name at least,(3) worthy to be associated with those of de l'Epée and Sicard.
All the useful arts are in a great degree dependent upon the sciences for their progress, and it is among the most enlightened and best instructed communities that the greatest ingenuity will always be shown by individuals. Without the rules of the geometrician the mechanical powers would be applied at random, if not at disadvantage. The engineer and the ship-builder must consent to follow the guidance of the mathematician. Commerce would be a game of desperate hazard, unless assisted by astronomy and optics; and if the laboratory of the chemist were shut up, half the manufactories which now contribute so largely to human support and solace must be abandoned. But the sciences exert upon our condition an immediate and delightful influence, which we should not overlook. The acquisitions which they offer to our research constitute an endless series of modes of enjoyment, not only of unmingled purity, but highly exciting and exhilarating. He knows little of the mental constitution of his race who is not aware that pleasure is found chiefly in pursuit; that complete attainment is akin to despair, inasmuch as it implies the extinguishment of hope; that satiety belongs to all sensuous gratification, however refined; and that success in any aim means little else than disappointment. Now the field of science is unlimited in extent, and of unimaginable fertility; there is no possibility of compassing or exhausting its infinite materials of excitement and curiosity. Here we occupy all the powers of our intellect, and as in gymnastic exercises, we engage eagerly from early boyhood to mature age, urging into vehement action every limb and muscle, taking new delight in each new game, and devising varied modes of executing every movement of which the most agile frame is capable, - so in the sciences, all the mental forces may find full scope, and revel untired in a diversity and extension of pleasure, unknown to our easily palled senses and baffled imagination. Nature lays no tax upon these sources of gratification; no disappointment lurks behind apparent success; no satiety waits upon possession. Every new truth attained or demonstrated, leads to other consequent or collateral truths, and we glory in adding treasures which elevate and expand the soul of the accumulator. As it rises step by step, it breathes a purer air; it feeds upon ethereal fruits; it becomes freed from the dust and soil of earthly passions, and escapes being darkened by the clouds and shadows of our low animal propensities.
And what has been the influence of literature upon the happiness and moral well being of mankind? The delight of youth - the solace of old age - amusement in health, and consolation in sickness. What would life be without letters? One can scarcely believe the suggestion of danger from this quarter to be sincerely made. In all times indeed, writers have been found to constitute what has been recently entitled a 'Satanic school' - men who scoff at public and private virtue, and trample upon the social and domestic affections; who instruct the young in vice, and harden the old against repentance. But their power to do harm has always been limited. However reckless and malignant themselves, they dread for their own sakes to arouse the malignity and recklessness of others. They fear the recoil of their own doctrines. Experiences teaches the extreme danger of exciting the passions of the many. Even those who drink themselves most capable of directing the storm, are apt to be swept away by its fury. The French revolution has been attributed to the influence of the philosophers, so called, of the previous age - Voltaire, Rousseau, D'Alembert, and the rest - and to the restless uneasiness of bad men under the restraints of law and religion. For my own part, I find in the memoirs of the time, and in the history of the French court for two or three generations, of the Regent d'Orleans, and of the parc au cerf in the reign of Louis XV, abundant materials for the explosion; nay, I cannot imagine by what human means it could have been avoided or suppressed. Yet allowing the truth of the assumption for argument's sake, this would seem a single and remarkable instance in which an untoward influence has been exerted by literature and literary men, upon the destinies of a people. According to the ordinary course of things, the knowledge of good which they diffuse, serves abundantly as corrective of the knowledge of evil. Since the invention of printing, the press is alike open to all. If on the one hand, there issue from the vile cellars of the sensualist, the traitor, and the infidel, pamphlets and broadsheets, spreading corruption and filling the land with suggestions of crime, we are sure on the other, to see equal talent roused to the conflict, and exerted conservatively, to protect, maintain, and strengthen all valuable institutions. If any particular course is found available and impressive by one party, it is resorted to by the other also, and the result of free and untrammeled discussion need never be feared. Truth is mighty and will prevail. Let us remark in passing, the increased and increasing republicanism of literature. Until recently, one would imagine that all the talents, and all the virtues, were circumscribed within the higher orders. Even in Shakespeare, loyalty appears to be the only excellent quality discoverable in the lower and middle ranks. But the people, properly so called, have gradually emerged from this feudal deluge of contempt. We honor Goldsmith as among the first who dared to select his subjects from his own condition, and to throw a purple light over the virtues of the poor. After him Burns and Scott have followed, the latter with some degree of hesitation and much expressed deference to the noble and lofty; and now, the novelist raises from the farm-yard, the retail shop, and the workhouse, some of our most exquisite examples of grace, of gentleness, and of beauty.
It ought to be considered before we leave this topic, that the knowledge of evil is by no means and in no regard difficult of attainment; while the acquisition of good principles, and correct views of social relations and duties, must be made slowly and with effort. Suppose all, of impious and vile, that the ingenuity of man has ever committed to writing or passed through the press, to be at once obliterated and completely destroyed and forgotten; the world I fear would not long be more ignorant of evil, or more innocent than it is now. The least active mind is sufficiently fertile of dark and impure suggestions, to accumulate readily for itself an abundant stock of such lore. But what would be the effect of the loss of the opposite literature. Sweep away into oblivion, the discourses of Socrates and Plato, of Confucius and Menu, of Milton and Taylor, and Fenelon and Paley, and ages upon ages would roll by without a reproduction of the thoughts and sentiments for which we are indebted to these illustrious sages.
It has been urged indeed, as a serious subtraction from the benefits of knowledge, that it is fatal to cheerfulness and gayety; that thought brings carefulness and gloom. It is assumed that intelligence prompts us to look forward, and that the shadows of coming events are darkening to the human spirit. "calamitosus est animus," says Seneca, "futuri anxius." "Prevoyance," exclaims Rousseau - "prevoyance la veritable source de toutes nos mis`eres." But is forethought necessarily connected with despondence? - does knowledge essentially lead to the increase of anxiety and care? The answer to these questions will in every case be determined by the constitution of the individual mind, and as there is in the majority a preponderance of hope over fear, so there will be in the contemplation of the future, a sanguine anticipation of good for the most part, rather than any prevailing dread of evil. And it does not seem likely that the latter shall be at all increased by a reasonable calculation of probabilities - not to speak of the possibility of applying prevention, when the nature and source of any coming danger is understood. It is uniform fact, that persons who purchase annuities, in the process of which transactions they cannot help becoming pretty clearly informed as to what are called 'the chances of life' in their own cases, become more at ease, live more tranquilly, and enjoy better health than before.
We have omitted all this while to define happiness. Those have grievously erred who look upon the word as implying any peculiar or specific condition. Happiness is no vague phrase, but relates directly to the several capacities which belong to our organization. It consists in the repetition of every agreeable impression, whether made upon the mind or body; the indulgence of every passion; the gratification of every propensity, whether natural and instinctive, or acquired, whether new or habitual. Happiness divides itself into three modes, the physical, intellectual, and moral; as our nature is compounded of the moral, intellectual, and physical, and as each of our elements is susceptible of its own relevant enjoyment. This susceptibility, as I have said, is so diverse and extended, that it seems to become almost inconsistent with itself, and to embrace incompatibilities. The charm of novelty is universally felt and acknowledged. Every one has heard of the Roman, who offered a large reward to whomsoever should invent a new pleasure. "The enjoyment of the infant," says Brougham, "must be perpetual and intense, from the mere gratification of curiosity." On the other hand, what sources of delight arise in the indulgence of habits - the best, the most indifferent, and the worst, alike. "Choose that mode of life which is most useful," says the great English moralist, "and custom will render it the most pleasant." It was on this principle doubtless, that the chimney sweep avowed his preference for his own sooty trade over the brighter colored occupation of the portrait painter.
Such, however, is the admirable constitution of our nature, and so wise and benevolent the provision made in our behalf by the author of our being, the sources of happiness and abundantly found in the most opposite and contrasted conditions. Thus - while, as I have said, we derive pleasure infinitely varied and exquisitely intense, from the indulgence of every propensity, from the gratification of every desire - we find equal, nay, superior enjoyment in the exercise of the faculty of self-control, self-restraint, self-denial. Of the two modes of pleasurable impression, this is the purest, as it is the most permanent. To this conservative principle we owe our security and protection. It gives permanence to all enjoyments, disconnecting them partially from the present, to bind them closely with the past and the future. It adds the zest of an approving conscience, and fills the storehouse of memory with agreeable recollections, and the imagination with bright pictures of glowing hope and rational expectancy. The moderation which it enjoins, preserves unimpaired our original susceptibilities - nay, it enhances them. Unlimited indulgence, running readily into excess, brings in its train satiety, exhaustion, depression, and dejection of mind and body. Profound gratitude should flow from the reflection, that our great Parent has thus kindly made it our immediate interest, as well as our duty, to choose the right and avoid the wrong; that virtue, which implies struggle and contest, is the source of the most abundant delights; ans that if it be not true in the ancient sense, that pleasure is the only good, yet in the light of Christian civilization we enabled to see clearly, that the good is the highest pleasure.
Montgomery does not abuse his poetical license when he signs of "the Joy of Grief." Ossian tells us of "thoughts which are pleasant and mournful to the soul;" and Shakspeare's Constance, in the eloquent voice of nature herself, describes the consolation found in dwelling on the memory of her beloved Arthur, concluding the touching detail with the exclamation - "Have I not reason to be fond of grief?" "Despise me," says the Mawworm of the satirist - "despise me; I love to be contemptible."
We are so constituted, and placed in such relations with the external world, that every thing around us may become a source of pleasure or pain. We are so linked together, that our coexistence and several connections one with another must bring pain or pleasure to each. Our own various elements are so combined and compounded, that every one by his own conduct must become a producer of pain or pleasure to himself. The sum of such pleasures will give the amount of happiness, which must differ cases, but in every lifetime must be a large one. In some men the animal nature predominates; these eat and drink, and then, tomorrow - they die. But they have enjoyed their grovelling existence; they have fulfilled their destiny; they have "lived after their kind." In others, the intellectual nature is prominent. "They think, therefore they exist." These have abundant enjoyment, too, although more profound than obvious. Such was Socrates, who reasoned, and taught, and disputed, and drank poison, and died reasoning, disputing, and teaching. Such was Newton, who passed whole days insensible to the requirements of nature and custom, wrapt in abstruse calculation. Such Galileo, who having demonstrated the motion of the earth in its orbit round the sun, was forced to recant publicly his opinions, as heretical and rebellious; but who when rising from his penitent knees was heard to mutter, "it moves for all that!" - e pur se muove. Such was Bacon, "the wisest, greatest, meanest of mankind;" who philosophized, took bribes, and sunk degraded into an abyss of misery. Yet, with all his guilt, his exposure, his mortification, his social and political annihilation, who can doubt the intense enjoyment found in the workings of the gigantic intellect, glowing almost uninterruptedly with fervid and forceful thought.
Lastly, there are those in whom the moral nature is paramount. Such were primitive Christians, "of whom the world was not worthy;" such were the early reformers, such the "noble army of martyrs," such the pilgrim fathers of New England. Such was the Luther, refusing to fly from his enemies, though they outnumbered the tiles on the roofs of the city. Such was Knox, who "never feared the face of man." Such George Fox, clothed in a leathern suit of his own stitching, to whose tranquil and passive fairness are attributed by Carlyle great and important changes in the condition of our race. How easy it is, thank Heaven! to multiply such examples. In the darkness of this nether world, they are as numerous and of as varied glory as the stars, the burning and shining lights of the firmament, in the deep blackness of the midnight sky. Of these, the destiny may seem to the careless thinker any thing but happy; nay, one of their own leaders has affirmed of them, that if this life be all, and existence ends with the grave, they are "of all men most miserable." Yet it is the most remarkable advantage of this moral portion of our nature, that it is not only cheered and sustained by the hope of the future, but is susceptible of such forcible and tenacious anticipation, that it receives free instalments in advance; and lives now, even now, by virtue of faith, upon its inexhaustible stock of celestial enjoyments. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for;" and this happiness is just as real and palpable as any other of which we are conscious. Besides this, they have large compensation for their apparent sufferings, made them even in the baser coin of present comfort and pleasure. The meek and the pure in heart are declared upon the highest authority to be already blessed. Thrice blessed indeed are they! escaping as they do the convulsive throes of unlicensed passion and the ineffable pangs of remorse. Escaping, yet not altogether unassailed, such is the weakness of humanity in its best guise; but, such is its strength also, overcoming and emerging from the serpent folds of both; as when Cranmer, already half enskied, and little less than sainted, held forth his right hand to perish in the flames - "This hand, this wicked hand hath offended;" and when David, having fallen as few have fallen into the depths of foul and bloody guilt, rose again on the broad wings of repentance as none have risen, and poured forth in strains of loftiest poetry his profound sense of woe an self-condemnation. But I abstain from these high themes, as hardly befitting this poor and superficial essay.
It would seem to be a principle of our nature, that excitement implies enjoyment; it is at least a rule with few exceptions. Thus only may we explain the apparent paradox that suffering itself is not inconsistent or incompatible with happiness. Let no one doubt the existence of this principle. Without it what would become of the earnest search after truth for its own sake, and the eager promptness to peril all, may, to lose all in its defense? What farther hope is left of human progress? If the ardor of the contest be not its own reward, what shall stir men up to play a game whose chances, as far as the immediate results are concerned, are always plainly against them? What discoverer or reformer ever profited by his own efforts? Some have been crucified, some burnt alive, some hanged, some beheaded; vast numbers cast out into exile and famine. Religion weeps and humanity shudders at the long list of victims sacrificed by intolerance and tyranny; but the tear is dried, and the thrill of horror converted into a glow of exulting admiration, when we regard the cheerful, nay, triumphant self-devotion, which inspires and upholds the patriot and the martyr. Even the poor misguided fanatic - the Fakeer, the Mormon - crushed beneath the wheels of Juggernaut or trampled by the world around him, the Trappist self-doomed to perpetual silence, solitude, and gloomy contemplation, finds in this self-sustained excitement an unspeakable source of enjoyment, and so far as they are sincere are doubtless happy.
Intense excitability presupposes an organization delicately susceptible of pain as well as pleasure; and as the wailings of woe are always louder than the notes of joy, great sensibility is apt to be considered a pitiable condition. Genius, of which sensibility is an uniform element, is inevitably an object of envy nevertheless. To avert this feeling, to arouse compassion, and to obtain for itself a more genial sympathy, it puts on the semblance of humility, and utters often a musical and pathetic moan. But if we could know the heart, we should perceive how large a balance of enjoyment belongs to the irrepressible self-complacency connected with the possession of great capacity. When Mrs. Hemans visited Paganini, was ever mortal language so expressive of grief and pain? The exquisite tenderness of his ear, his morbid liability to be shocked by harsh sounds, the jarring recoil of his whole frame from ordinary noises, or even tolerable music - to him intolerable. "Yet, after all," he exclaimed, "after all, it is a gift of Heaven!"
The gross fallacy of the common notions on this subject is easily shown. A stone suffers nothing. A vegetable, compounded as it is of matter and life, must both suffer and enjoy. The wisdom of a beneficent Providence has established a direct relation between the intelligence which protects itself or the organization which gives protection, and the susceptibility to impressions which renders the subject liable to suffering. Shakspeare, seldom wrong in his contemplation of nature, has in this regard fallen into a great error when he tells us, that
- "the poor beetle
that we tread upon
The philosopher, better informed than the poet, is glad to learn that the whole class of unprotected creatures are very little sensible to pain, as far as can be inferred from their anatomical structure and their habits closely observed. And tis is true of various ages as well as different orders, which indeed present a striking analogy. Thus the young of all animals, and especially of our own species, whose helplessness and loud wailing attract so much kindly sympathy, suffer much less than they seem, being in a great measure, nay, almost absolutely, protected by the triple shield of a proportional and happy insensibility. With Wordsworth, "it is my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." But if sunshine and the zephyr, if the blessed south wind and the soft summer beam give pleasure by expanding the blossom and the leaf, it is clear that the keen arid blast of autumn and the tempestuous darkness of the winter night must curdle its living juices, and with painfully its stem and bud. In the numerous tribes of the animal creation, are added thought, locomotion, and social impulses; and lastly, a moral power being interfused into the more developed intellect and finer organization, we have man, in whose elevated and complex nature life and immortality are fully brought to light. The higher we rise, the more inlets of impression we meet with; of course there if more suffering, but of course also more enjoyment, the balance running, as far as we can judge from universal experience and observation, steadily in favor of the nicer degrees of susceptibility to both. Hence, as education heightens the delicacy of our exceptions, we have a definite relation established between the progress of civilization and the development of the capacities for happiness.
The Australian savage is a man. So, say naturalists, is the Foulah, the Caffre, the Hottentot. Of the African variety, Tiedemann affirms, while he demonstrates the contrary, that his brain is as large as that of the white man of Caucasus, of the Rhine, of Lombardy. The brain of the wild New Zealander is larger than that of either. The nervous system is to appearance much the same in them all; the hand of each is of similar structure, the eye alike in all. But the man of "the Alps and Apeninnes, the Pyrenæan and the river Po," the man of Canton, Athens, and Jerusalem, cooks his food, builds palaces and temples, and has wrought out many arts and inventions, which he calls useful arts and sciences, and fine arts. Compared with the savage condition, we say he is civilized and refined. At every step of his departure from that condition, a new want has arisen or been imagined; and refined life consists of little more, in the mass, than an unbroken series of efforts to supply such wants. The hand, originally a mere instrument of prehension, very like that of the simia or chimpanzee, has been educated to a thousand nice and wonderful offices. It hews the figure of a god from a shapeless block of marble; directs the lightning and averts the thunderbolt; traces with minute lines and dots on a plane surface the lights and shades and features of a landscape; writes with a sunbeam; controls with a touch and manages the mighty force of vapor; and with the pen or the type, gives clearness and permanence to the flying word and the passing thought. The brain, no longer a mere organ of perception and volition, has learned to imagine beauty and comprehend sublimity; to plan, to contrive, to engender quips and cranks; what marvel, then, that it is stuffed full too of cares and anxieties! Is there nothing to choose between the huge cerebral mass of a truculent cannibal, and the neat but small enclosure, alive and active, every delicate fibre of it, under te bonnet of a witty French woman - let the former be as stupid, stolid and reckless as you please, both of the present and the future, and the latter be tortured with every petty wile of intrigue, every anxious care of self-important diplomacy. Why speak of the education of the ear, the eye, the palate? When the savage is hungry he feeds himself to satiety. What knows he of savory viands and agreeable flavors? Hunger, says the coarse proverb, is the best sauce; it is his only one, and gives an equal relish, as we have heard, to the raw liver of an expiring buffalo, the quivering muscle of an Abyssinian ox, or the flesh of a fellow biped. He hears the slightest sounds which portend danger or give warning, but musical nature to him is dumb. Yet rude as he is, the gentle murmur of the rippling stream; the rushing of the tide with measured swell upon the sea-beaten shore; the majestic breathings of the winds among the branches of the eternal forests which give him shelter, must, if it be only mechanically, affect his senses and lull him to repose. He can see like an eagle; nothing escapes his practiced vision - the smoke of his distant encampment, the slightest impress of his enemy's footstep, the wild beast afar off, whom his necessities impel him to pursue or shun. but his eye appreciates no pictured beauty, either of form or coloring. For him, the soft green of the valley and the brilliant hues of many-tinted flowers, the sunny landscape, with its glorious diversity of hill and dale and meandering rivulet, are spread forth in vain. Can it be, that for such senses as his, our bountiful Father willed into being this infinite exhibition of exquisite grace and grandeur.
What is civilization but the suggestion of wants and the invention of means to satisfy them? It is an error to affirm, as is often done, that in this matter "the demand creates the supply." "The first seats of commerce," says Heeren, "were also the first seats of civilization. Exchange of merchandise led to exchange of ides' and by this mutual friction was first kindled the sacred flame of humanity." This is a striking and graphic expression of a great truth. Commerce began by an interchange or barter of the mere necessaries of life. The planter of the riverside offered bread in exchange for the salt and dried flesh of the desert hunter. But to this market of food those who had none to offer, brought, to obtain it, spices and frankincense, and gold, and silver, and precious stones, as they could procure them. What can be more evident than that the desire for all these in turn was suggested from without, was matter of reciprocal education - a step in civilization? Here it was clearly the supply that created the demand; the demand reacting has increased the supply. The Hindoo, with the aid of the Englishman, taught the Chinese the delights of opium-eating and smoking; the Mandarin communicated to "the foreign devils outside, red bristled and barbarous," the aromatic joys of "the cup that cheers but not inebriates." As love, in the most exquisite of German stories created a soul in Undine, so a new want gives a new life to whomsoever feels it, provided it can be gratified; and the tea-drinking laundress of the present day knows an enjoyment, a refined one too, and admitting of repetition with fresh delight at "each return of morn and dewy eve," which England's virgin queen at her breakfast of beef and ale might have envied, but was perhaps not yet refined enough to relish or appreciate.
The most artificial of the wants thus generated in the progress of man from barbarism to civilization - such as he has yet attained - is that which we next come to consider as supplied by what are called the fine arts. Concerning the ultimate influence of these upon the well-being of society, there has been warm and long sustained dispute; and not a few stern stoics have denounced them as injurious to good morals and opposed to useful industry. It has been argued, that they lead by their softening agencies to instability of character and effeminacy, with its long train of vies; and the example has been pressed, or repeated coincidence between their most flourishing cultivation, and the prevalence of general corruption in ancient Greece and Rome, and in modern Italy. I allude here only to music, sculpture, and painting. Poetry merges all her peculiar influences in those of literature, already discussed, and architecture is at least equally well arranged among the useful as the fine arts.
Painting, of which I shall first speak, with all its immediate kindred, etching, engraving, lithography, &c., may doubtless, like the pen and the press, exert an injurious effect, and be made efficiently instrumental for harm. The bad passions and propensities may be addressed through the eye, with great force and quickness; and impressions made thus upon the mind, are so tenacious as often to prove almost indelible. Yet must I differ from those who maintain, that more evil is done by these perverse uses of the pencil, than good by its correct and laudable employment. Apply the test formerly proposed. Obliterate from the canvass, the plate of copper, steel, and word, and the graphic stone, all that the most prolific and prurient imagination has ever traced of indecorous and seductive, and what will you have effected in the cause of virtue? Vice will have lost from her copious armory little or nothing of importance; nothing that the dullest of her votaries would need to spur him onward in his oblique career. On the contrary, how many images of grace and beauty, how many exquisite expressions of virtuous emotion, intensely adapted to soften and purify the heart, and elevate and refine the passions, will have disappeared forever fro our thoughts as well as from our eyes, if we should lose the immortal works of Raphael, of Guido, of Leonardo da Vinci, of the thrice illustrious Michael Angelo Buonarotti. Immortal I have said. Bonaparte was accustomed to sneer at what he was pleased contemptuously to style, "the transient immortality of painting,: because in the course of five or six centuries, canvass and colors must both inevitably decay. But the art abounds in every requisite for an undying duration of fame and of influence, and the names of Zeuxis and Apelles will survive as long as that of the might Napoleon himself. And what age or nation will hereafter be ignorant of the fame and the works of the great masters? Copies in every variety of delineation, from the brush and the burin, and in the everlasting mosaic, are transmitted to every country, and throughout all time, and however inferior in delicacy and living force to the original efforts of inspired genius, will prevail to convey efficiently the form and essence of each worshipped chef d'uvre to our remotest posterity.
These remarks will apply with still more precision and directness to sculpture; for while it enjoys anexistence indefinitely prolonged, a duration as nearly approaching eternity as that of the globe itself, it is evident, that the cold and colorless forms of the sculptor must be less potent in affecting the evil propensities of the beholder, than the warm, and glowing, and life-life images embodied by the painter.
Music requires to be spoken of with less reserve. It demands no defense; it needs no eulogy. It is the most delightful, most unalloyed, and purest of physical pleasures. Scarcely susceptible of being impressed into the service of vice, it offers itself as the ready handmaid of virtue. It refreshes without exhausting, both the mind and the body. It costs little or nothing - is easily procured - is always at hand. Next to the sweet smiles of woman, and her soft domestic endearments, it is the most indispensable luxury of existence.
God himself - let me speak it reverently - God himself delights in music. He demands from us, in return for his ceaseless and parental kindness, not a silent thankfulness of heart only, but the loud uplifted voice of grateful joy; and the instincts which he has implanted in the higher order of his creation, prompt irrepressibly the utterance of melodious sounds, as expressive of all tender and agreeable emotions.
It would be difficult to estimate how large a proportion of the happiness of the existing race of men, is derived from music. Genius indeed can invent no more diffusive or intense addition to the long list of civilized and refined enjoyments, than a new or improved instrument, or the melody and harmony of a fine musical composition. The art indeed seems already to have reached perfection. With the pealing organ, the delicate harp, the violin of unlimited tone and inexhaustible capacity, the piano, that domestic treasure - all of them in their present form modern, and even comparatively recent inventions - what is there left us to wish for?
The progress of man in civilization, his advancement in knowledge, will be found as distinctly impressed upon the character of his recreations, his favorite amusements, as upon his occupations and serious pursuits. First let us record the disuse of gladiatorial shows, the cherished favorite of the Roman populace, so truly characterized by a Carolinian scholar as "a spectacle fit for fiends." Yet thousand of the daughters of Lucretia and Portia hung with eager interest upon these exhibitions, as many persons even now seek every opportunity of witnessing public executions. Such was the habit of George Selwyn, whom his friends always esteemed "amiable." "For Fouquier Tuiville," says a cotemporary, "pleasure had no attractions. He was abstemious in his diet, his application was intense, and his business consisted in accusing and condemning. The only relaxation which he ever sought, was to see the victims suffer whom he had sent to the scaffold; and then his features would appear to melt for the moment, and even to soften into a smile." Next let the tournament be remembered - the product and passion of Christian chivalry - where the bright eyes of gentle and Christian woman watched the progress of the headlong duel, or gazed on the mingled throng of the fiery melée, and adjudged the prize to the panting and bloody conquerer. These have gone by, though gloomy and Moorish Spain retains her savage bull-fights, France her revolting combats des animaux, and England her vulgar and disgraceful pugilism. Far more consistent with our modern refinement of manners and sentiments, the horse-race, the regatta and the circus, still divide public favor with the theatre; where the spectacle, ballet, melodrama and opera, are mingled with the higher strains of the tragic and the comic muse. It must be admitted, that in the conduct of all these various modes of public amusement, there is still apt to be mingled something blameworthy, yet on many points the improvement is obvious and striking. With a stern gravity, sometimes exaggerated into a gloomy asceticism, many good men, concentrating their attention upon the incidental evil which has tenaciously fixed itself upon these, as all other human institutions, have aimed at their total abolition - nay, have most sedulously represented all abandonment to gayety as indecorous, and inconsistent with proper regard to social and religious duty. There cannot be a greater or more mischievous error. It is a fine phrase of Walter Savage Landon, and true as it is beautiful - "Be assured our heavenly Father is as well pleased to see his children in the play-ground as in the school-room." "Socrates," says Valerius Maximus, "cui nulla pars sapientiæ obscura fuit, non erubuit tunc, cum interposita arundine cruribus suis, cum parvulis filiolis ludens, ab Alcibiade risus est." "If the ways of religion," exclaims the pious South, "are ways of pleasantness, such as are not ways of pleasantness are not truly and properly ways of religion."
In regard to all this class of subjects, let us consider that the propensities of man are given to him that they may conduce to his happiness, and therefore it cannot be wise in us to attempt to extinguish or utterly repress any of them. Let us inform, regulate, and direct them. No true contempt upon the recreations of any community. Men will seek pleasure; they must have enjoyments, both physical and mental. It is an instinctive necessity which forces them thus to unbend and relax for an occasional interval the iron grasp of care. Not even the gigantic intellect of Newton could bear the long abstraction and intense thought to which he abandoned himself, but gave way at last under the burden, and sank into temporary imbecility. If we do not guide and instruct the mass, but merely employ our efforts in checking and prohibiting them, the result will be a defiance of our control and a much greater preponderance of evil in the course which they will adopts under such injudicious interference. Let us then endeavor to enlighten them as to the nature and means of procurement of the truest, safest, and best enjoyments. Let us show them how much of innocent pleasure is within the reach of every one, and let the makers of law ans social order contrive to place as much as possible before the lowest and most destitute of his fellow citizens. Let there be every where parks and gardens, and public walks and baths, accessible reading rooms, concerts of music, shows and games, and gymnastic exercises in the bright sunlight and beneath the open sky; and for the evenings, lyceums, and scientific and miscellaneous lectures, debates, oratory, and recitations.
"Seven hours to books,
to soothing slumber seven,
Seven hours of labor, whether physical or mental, are enough in all conscience for the followers of a religion that discountenances all undue thought or care for the morrow. But add if you will, three of the hours allotted to the world, and you have ten for business. Why! the British parliament does not allow even the poor factory child to be worked more than this. Depend upon it, we shall all of us, whatever be our condition, our avocation, or our age, be the better for a few hours' daily recreation; and our course of life will be more in accordance with the spirit of our heavenly Father, who delights, I doubt not, our proper tasks duly performed, to "see us in the play-ground;" and who, having constituted us with the capacity to enjoy all things, "has given us all things freely to enjoy."
1. A.M. Fisher, afterwards professor of mathematics - lost in the Albion on the Irish coast.
2. Kinsale, Ireland.
3. That of Dr. Howe, Director of the Boston Asylum for the Blind. The cases of Laura Bridgman and her fellow sufferers are specially alluded to.