Imatges de pàgina
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bumbers of the human race, and the comparative facility of execution contrasted with its importance. Had nothing been left for man to do, he would not be associated in the plans of the Creator ; he would find an abundance of food, raiment, means of locomotion and circulation ready to his hand, without any exertion on his part, Such, however, is not the case : Man has a function in the economy of the universe : he is not to remain a mere drone, an idle spectator; he must associate his efforts to the great work of Providence, whose intention evidently is, that certain results should be effected through human agency, notwithstanding the bounty with which nature has provided for the wants of humanity. The anticipations of Columbus, then, were correct; but a greater exertion than that of mere exploration was required to accomplish the object of his speculation. If, however, he found a slight difficulty on the one hand, he discovered an immense source of riches on the other. So we augur of Fourier's prevision. If his speculation of arriving at peace, unity, morality and real religion be rather more difficult than he supposed, still it must be possible, by the means of moral training, and continued exertions on the part of the benevolent, to render those speculations practicable. We may, perhaps, discover a source of production and riches in the new world of social organization which far exceeds the expectations of Fourier and his partisans. By sailing in unknown regions, we are sure to find more than we expect, if we direct ourselves according to the inspirations of sound reason and practical science, instead of going just where the wind of caprice may chance to blow us.

OF THE EXPEDIENCE OF EMANCIPATING OURSELVES FROM THE INFLU

ENCE OF PREJUDICE IN MATTERS OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE, It may, perhaps, be difficult to divest oneself entirely of the prejudices which influence that particular class of society with which we are, more or less, directly connected by our respective interests and pursuits; and particularly if the opinions of those persons in whose. judgement we have good reason to confide, happen to be influenced by misconception or imperfect knowledge, rather than by an illiberal and sceptical disposition; but, what has just now been observed concerning the errors and the prejudice of learned and influential persons, in refusing their assent to the most rational principles of recent discovery, 13 sufficient to prove that the opinion of no man, or body of men, is absolute proof of the irrationality or the impracticability of a new doctrine; and, therefore, we ought always to examine for ourselves, when we wish to have a decided opinion concerning any recent discovery of paramount importance, which has not been tested by practical application.

To preach this precept, however, is much more easy than to put it In practice, because few people have sufficient leisure or patience to study new theories; and, therefore, it would be vain to expect every man to examine for himself before he forms his opinions concerning the principles of association : but, if we cannot expect him to acquire a sufficient knowledge of these principles to form a well-grounded opinion in their favour, we may reasonably presume to say, that, without having thoroughly examined for himself, no man ought to have any decided opinion against them, whatever may be the degree of learning or respectability arrayed against this new science.

Those who have neither leisure nor patience to study the theory of spiritual attraction and corporate combination, nor the advantage of hearing this doctrine verbally explained, ought not to have any decided opinion concerning it, but wait patiently until practical application has proved its value or its nullity: for, until this theory has been fairly put to the test by practice, it is impossible to prove that any objection made against it, however plausible in appearance, is totally free from the influence of error or prejudice.

We have seen that the opinions of learned and respectable people concerning new theories of exact science, have been almost always erroneous during the first generation after the discoveries were published. No wonder, then, that the theory of human attractions and repulsions has hitherto met with a similar fate: but the day of justice is beginning to dawn on this discovery; and, in all probability, those who have exposed themselves to ridicule by hasty conclusions and misrepresentations, will deeply regret their presumptuous animadversions. Public opinion will certainly stigmatize them with the most severe reprobation, as a penalty for the absurd gravity with which they substitute their own prejudiced opinions for the sound doctrines of superior science.

In order, then, to avoid the ridicule to which ill-founded objections necessarily expose us, we should emancipate ourselves at once from the influence of prejudice, and remain perfectly neutral, until fairly convinced, cither pro or con, by studying social science, or observing it in practice.

But to those who have leisure to study these principles, and neglect to do so, merely from prejudice and sceptical indifference, we may be allowed to say, that there is no plausible excuse for such conduct, when we reflect on the folly of our ancestors in similar circumstances. Nor can we screen ourselves from reproach by pleading ignorance, when once we have been duly informed; for that excuse involves us in a dilemma of most humiliating alternative: we should stand accused, either of being too drowsy and indolent to open our eyes, and behold the rising sun; or, of having an intellectual sight too weak to bear the light of genius. Let us not, then, prefer carelessly sleeping in the midst of famine and its volcanic eruptions, breathing the air of pestilence and depravity, dissolution and death,—when, by availing ourselves of the heavenly illumination, we may escape from danger, enter into a land of peace and plenty, health and activity, love, festivity, variety, and harmony;—the rapturous scenery of a promised land spreads far beyond the limits of our bounded view, and the light of genius, soaring in the distance, invites humanity to quit this vale of tears, and take possession of its divine inheritance, the terrestrial paradise allotted to man as his real destiny.

It must not be supposed that we wish to excite blind credulity, because we disapprove the sceptical opinions of prejudice or indifference; on the contrary, our principal desire is to stimulate inquiry; the object of this publication is to furnish the data on which an opinion

concerning these principles may be safely grounded. We firmly believe that those who have sufficient independence of mind to divest themselves of all erroneous preconceptions, and sufficient leisure to study this theory with care and attention, will be thoroughly convinced of its transcendent utility; to say nothing of its charms and the universality of its application : and, moreover, we believe that the history of all new discoveries proves abundantly, that no authority, however respectable, can pretend to be sufficiently free from the influence of prejudice, to merit the confidence of public opinion in quashing and denouncing these principles : for, notwithstanding the fulminations of the Church of Rome, the most respectable authority of the fifteenth century, and the opposition of the most learned mathematicians during fifty years of a more advanced period, the discovery of America confounded their presumption of infallibility, and the genius of planetary attraction eclipsed half a century of stern mathematical science.

These facts prove the fallible nature of the first three adverse opinions stated at the end of the last chapter, and in order to preclude the fourth of those apparently reasonable objections, we will endeavour to prove the insufficiency of our actual policy and political speculation, as well as the absolute necessity of discovering the natural principles of terrestrial happiness. This method will retard the direct exposition of our theory, but it is positively necessary to undermine the ramparts of prejudice by giving a negative demonstration of the principles of universal attraction, before we enter into a regular exposition. We proceed, therefore, to examine the present state of political theories, and the inefficiency of their arbitrary principles.

COGITATIONS OF A CONTEMPLATIST.

No. I.
“ Hard lot of man-to toil for the reward

Of Virtue, and yet lose it! Wherefore hard ?"-COWFER. I APPREHEND not any contradiction, when I assert, that whatever is untrue is pernicious. Falsehood, in the gross, is the detestation of all; although, in particular instances, when a temporary dereliction of truth might promise the promotion of some virtuous end, it has been not unfrequently authorized by the gravest of moralists. But if we consider that falsehood is the first and most inveterate enemy of all godliness, and that its influence upholds the depravity which has characterized all ages and all nations, we must condemn the use of it, even for the best of purposes, as not only abstractedly unjustifiable, bat fatally destructive of the good we are so anxiously seeking by its means to promote.

For these reasons, have I long doubted the good effect which the observance of “poetical justice” by novelists and others, is thought to produce upon the morals of the reader. In the pages of the authors who observe this principle, we behold the virtuous man at length triumphant over adversity, and crowned with admiration ; while his vicious antagonists are dismissed to the gallows or the gaol-to dis

graceful obscurity or public execration. If for a moment virtue is clouded by envy, or oppressed by malevolence-scorned by the haughty, or neglected by the great-if it suffers beneath the insolence of office, or the profligacy of adventurers—the writer is careful at the end to recompense the saintlike endurance of his hero with the certainty of numberless years of felicity, whose continuance is to be an exception to the ordinary mutability of human affairs, and whose brightness neither disaster nor sorrow is to tarnish.

In justification of this portraiture, its advocates have urged, that from the pages of romances the young often gain their first knowledge of life, and that it is desirable they should be encouraged in the pursuit of virtue, and deterred from the practice of vice. Often we find represented that the predilection of the human heart for criminal indulgence is so strong, that it is necessary by every possible care to impress youth with the idea that vice and ruin, virtue and security, are synonymous. But in doing so we affirm a falsehood, which the slightest acquaintance with the world will expose. Experience tells us that virtue, so far from being always exalted, is often trampled to the dust; and that villany, so far from being inevitably punished, is often clothed with honour, and gratified by prosperity. We see every day the gray hairs of virtue brought with sorrow to the grave, and noble spirits broken by poverty, and spurned by the unworthy. Men have died in a workhouse, whose virtues would have graced a throne, and begged in the streets, whose genius might have saved an empire.

When, therefore, a young man, with his head filled with dreams of heroic virtue rewarded by splendid fortune, enters the arena of life, how miserable and how dangerous is his disappointment! He enters upon his course with high hopes and noble aspirations, expecting his abilities to be appreciated, his integrity acknowledged, and all obstacles to disappear at the magic touch of unpolluted rectitude. But, alas! he perceives his plans thwarted by treachery, crushed by power, or fall still-born for lack of encouragement. He perceives himself outstripped in the race for worldly preferment by less scrupulous competitors; and others raised to eminence whom he knows to have been undeserving. And what is worse still, he discovers that in society men are not valued as they are more or less virtuous, but as they are more or less wealthy; and that not a door would be closed against the most worthless of wretches, provided he rode up to it in a coach and six.

With all this before his eyes, could such a young man waver long in his ultimate determination ? Could he long resist the allurements of desire, or the suggestions of interest, when the most powerful motives you gave him for doing so had proved groundless? You promised him a reward for enlisting under the banners of Virtue, and can you expect him not to desert when that reward is withheld? You told him to anticipate success, where he has experienced failure to expect honour, where he has met with contempt to avoid that as destruction, which he has seen lead to apparent happiness! and can you wonder that the noble youth degenerates into the unprincipled man of the world ? He complains that he has been deceived ; and, destitute of higher incitements to his duty, decides virtue to be the dream of schoolmen, and honesty the madness of fools.

What then? Would I have vice rendered attractive, by declaring it the only means of obtaining worldly honour; and virtue repulsive, by exhibiting it as always unsuccessful in its endeavours ? No! God forbid that my pen should ever advocate such impiety! But I would have the truth displayed; because I am convinced that truth must plead more eloquently for virtue, than can either open falsehood, or covert misrepresentation.

Let the world be shown as it really is. Mislead not the young mind to expect that goodness of purpose is the sure path to an earthly Elysium; or that integrity cannot fail of success. Instruct those just entering into life, that as men may rise to eminence in spite of their vice, so they may be depressed in spite of their virtue; and that worldly rewards and honours are often indiscriminately bestowed upon the righteous and the reprobate, the wise and the foolish. In human affairs, the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor riches to the man of understanding ; ignominy is not always the fate of the criminal, nor distinction the result of rare desert. The just and the wicked, the meritorious and the contemptible, are alike subject to the anguish of disappointment, the vicissitudes of fortune, and the agonizing sneers of contumely. It is the lot of all frequently to labour without receiving any adequate return, and to have their generous deeds recompensed with ingratitude or misery.

But let the vast mental superiority with which Virtue endows her votaries be shown ; let it be seen that she alone can bestow substantial happiness. Even if it be granted that vice and virtue have an equal chance of worldly promotion, it will be found that the successes of a righteous man are more complete, and his reverses less bitter, than those which attend the efforts of the reckless and the unprincipled. He can enjoy his prosperity, without the reflection that to consummate it he has wronged the orphan, or oppressed the widow; and in distress he has the consolation of knowing that he is not humiliated by his crimes. Although the rich man may be clothed in scarlet and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day, yet if his splendour is the fruit of extortion and rapacity, it will form no shield to ward off the upbraidings of remorse. Portray, then, the feverish anxiety which continually haunts him whose life has been a career of villany; show him in the day wishing for the night, and when the night has arrived praying for the day; exhibit him plunging into bacchanalian uproar and headlong diversion, with the vain hope of flying the tormentor, by whom his footsteps are so relentlessly pursued ; and ask the reader if any torture could equal this? Nor stop here; but describe the abject prostration of his energies—the total imbecility which complete his debasement when he is overtaken by mischance; and contrasting these mournful pictures with the placid poverty, or pious affluence of the godly, demand which is the most preferable-vice or virtue ? :

Still, however, higher motives even than these should be displayed to the young aspirant after virtue. Not only should he be taught how much preferable is conscious rectitude to guilt, in heightening the pleasure of prosperity, and adding no sting to the pangs of adversity ; but he should be raised to an elevation from which he might look with disdain upon all earthly recompense as wholly insufficient for the

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