Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Estimate of the Philosophical Character of Lord Bacon.

505 as any other, to invite the curiosity of the citizens may live happily. For this my readers to a careful examination purpose, it is necessary that they of the rich mine from which they are should receive a religious and pious extracted.

education; that they should be trained The ethical disquisitions of Bacon to good morals; that they should be are almost entirely of a practical nature. secured from foreign enemies by proOf the two theoretical questions so per military arrangements; that they much agitated, in both parts of this should be guarded by an effectual island, during the eighteenth century, police against seditions and private concerning the principle and the object injuries ; that they should be loyal of moral approbation, he has said to government, and obedient to magisnothing, but he has opened some trates ;, and finally, that they should new and interesting views with respect abound in wealth, and in other to the influence of custom and 'the national resources.' _"'The science formation of habits ;-a most important of such matters certainly belongs more article of moral philosophy, on which particularly to the province of men he has enlarged more ably and more who, by habits of public business, usefully than any writer since Aristo- have been led to take a comprehensive tle. * Under the same head of Ethics survey of the social order ; of the may be mentioned the small volume interests of the community at large; to which he has given the title of of the rules of natural equity; of the Essays; the best known and the most manners of nations; of the different - popular of all his works. It is also forms of government; and who are one of those where the superiority of thus prepared to reason concerning the his genius appears to the greatest ad- wisdom of laws, both from considera-vantage; the novelty and depth of his tions of justice and of policy. The reflections often receiving a strong great desideratum, accordingly, is, by relief from the triteness of his subject. investigating the principles of natural It may be read from beginning to end justice, and those of political expediency, in a-few hours,—and yet, after the to exhibit a theoretical model of legistwentieth perusal, one seldom fails to lation, which, while it serves as a remark in it something overlooked standard for estimating the comparative before. This, indeed, is a character- excellence of municipal codes, may istic of all Bacon's writings, and is suggest hints for their correction and only to be accounted for by the inex,, improvement, to such as have at heart haustible aliment they furnish to our the welfare of mankind.”+ own thoughts, and the sympathetic How precise the notion was that activity they impart to our torpid Bacon had formed of a philosophical faculties.

system of jurisprudence (with which The suggestions of Bacon for the as a standard the municipal laws of improvement of political philosophy, different nations might be compared), exhibit as strong a contrast to the appears from a remarkable expression, narrow systems of contemporary states in which he mentions it as the proper men, as the inductive logic to that of business of those who might attempt the schools. How profound and com- to carry his plan into execution, to prehensive are the views opened in investigate those

LEGES LEGUM, the following passages, when compared with the scope of the celebrated * Exemplum Tractatus de Fontibus treatise De Jure Belli et Pacis ; a work Juris, Aphor. 5. This enumeration of which was first published about a year the different objects of law approaches very before Bacon's death, and which con- nearly to Mr. Smith's ideas on the same tinued, for a hundred and fifty years subject, as expressed by himself in the afterwards, to be regarded in all the concluding sentence of his Theory of

Moral Sentiments. “In another disProtestant universities of Europe as an

courso, I sball endeavour to give an acinexhaustible treasure of moral and

count of the general principles of law and jurisprudential wisdom !

government, and of the different revoluThe ultimate object which legis- tions they have undergone in the different lators ought to have in view, and to ages and periods of society; not only in which all their enactments and sanc what concerns justice, but in what contions ought to be subservient, is, that cerns police, revenue, and arms, and

whatever else is the object of law." # De Aug. Scient. Lib. vii. cap. iii. + De Aug. Scient. Lib. viii. cap. iii.

we

some

500

Estimate of the Philosophicul Character of Lord Bacon. ex quibus informatio peti possit, quid temperate maxims so frequently inculin singulis legibus bene aut perperam cated by the author, on the subject of positum aut constitutum sit.' I do political innovation. “A stubborn not know if, in Bacon's prophetic retention of customs is a turbulent anticipations of the future progress of thing, not less than the introduction physics, there he any thing more of new."-" Time is the greatest inno characteristical, both of the grandeur vator ; shall we then not imitate rime, and of the justness of his conceptions, which innovates so silently as to mock than this short definition ; more par- the sense ?" Nearly connected with ticularly, when consider how these aphorisms, are the profound widely Grotius, in a work professedly reflections in the first book De Augdevoted to this very inquiry, was soon mentis Scientiarum, on the necessity of after to wander from the right path, accommodating every new institution in consequence of his vague and to the character and circumstances of wavering idea of the aim of his re- the people for whom it is intended; searches.

and on the peculiar danger which The sagacity, however, displayed in literary men run of overlooking this these and various other passages of a consideration, from the familiar acsimilar import, can by no means be quaintance they acquire, in the course daly appreciated, without attending, of their early studies, with the ideas at the same time, to the cautious and and sentiments of the ancient clasics.

The remark of Bacon on the syste• De Fontibus Juris, Aphor. 6.

matical policy of Henry VII. was From the preface to a small tract of manifestly suggested by the same train Bacon's, entitled The Elements of the of thinking. “ His laws (whoso Common Laws of England, (written marks them well) were deep and not while he was Solicitor-General to Queen vulgar; not made on the spur of a Elizabeth), we learn, that the phrase particular occasion for the present, but Seguen leges had been previously used by out of providence for the future; to

great civilian." To what civilian make the estate of his people still Bacon bere alludes, I know not; but, more and more happy, after the manwhoever he was, I doubt much if he an

ner of the legislators in ancient and nexed to it the comprehensive and philo- heroic times. How far this noble sophical meaning, so precisely explained eulogy was merited, either by the in the above definition. Bacon bimself, legislators of antiquity, or by the when he wrote his Tract on the Common modern Prince on whom Bacon has Laws, does not seem to have yet risen to

bestowed it, is a question of little this vantage-ground of universal juris

moment. prudence. His great object (he tells us)

I quote it merely on ac. was "to collect the rules and grounds count of the important philosophical dispersed throughout the body of the same

distinction which it indirectly marks, laws, in order to see more profoundly into between “deep and vulgar laws;" the the reason of such judgments and ruled former invariably aiming to accomeased, and thereby to make more use of plish their end, not by giring any them for the decision of other cases more sudden shock to the feelings and doubtful; so that the uncertainty of law, interests of the existing, generation, which is the principal and most just chal- but by allowing to natural causes-time lenge that is made to the laws of our nation and opportunity to operate; and by ut this time, will, by this new strength removing those artificial obstacles laid to the foundation, be somewhat the which check the progressive tendenmore settled and corrected.” In this pas- cies of society. It is probable, that, sage, no reference whatever is made to

on this occasion, Bacon had an eye the universal justice spoken of in the aphorisms de Fontibns Juris ; but merely

more particularly to the memorable to the leading and governing rules which statute of alienation ; to the effects of give to a municipal system whatever it pos- which (whatever were the motives of sesses of analogy and consistency. To its author) the above description certhese rules Bacon gives the title of leges tainly applies in an eminent degree. legum ; but the meaning of the phrase, After all, however, it must be acon this occasion, differs from that in knowledged, that it is rather in his which he afterwards employed it, not less general views and maxims, than in widely than the rules of Latin or of Greek the details of his political theories, syntax differ from the principles of univer- that Bacon's sagacity appears to ada sal grammar,

vantage. His notions with respect to

Estimate of the Philosophical Character of Lord Bacon. 505 commercial policy seem to have been applauded by Bacon, while they more peculiarly erroneous; originating strongly illustrate the narrow and in an overweening opinion of the effi. mistaken views in political economy cacy of law, in matters where natural entertained by the wisest statesmen causes ought to be allowed a free and philosophers two centuries ago, operation. It is observed by Mr. afford, at the same time, a proof of Hume, that the statutes of Henry VII. the general diffusion which has since relating to the police of his kingdom, taken place among the people of Great are generally contrived with more Britain, of juster and more enlightjudgment than his commercial regula- ened opinions on this important tions. The same writer adds, that branch of legislation. Wherever such “the more simple ideas of order and doctrines find their way into the page equity are sufficient to guide a legis- of history, it may be safely inferred, lator in every thing that regards the that the public mind is not indisposed internal administration of justice ; but to give them a welcome reception. that the principles of commerce are The ideas of Bacon concerning the inuch more complicated, and require education of youth, were such as long experience and deep reflection to might be expected from a philoso be well understood in any state. The phical statesman. On the conduct of real consequence is there often con- education in general, with a view to trary to first appearances. No wonder, the developement and improvement that, during the reign of Henry VII. of the intellectual character, he has these matters were frequently mis- suggested various useful hints in diffetaken ; and it may safely be affirmed, rent parts of his works ; but what I that, even in the age of Lord Bacon, wish chiefly to remark at present is, very imperfect and erroneous ideas the paramount importance which he were formed on that subject.”

has attached to the education of the The instances mentioned by Hume people,-comparing (as he has repeatin confirmation of these general re- edly done) the effects of early cnlture marks, are peculiarly gratifying to on the understanding and the heart, those who have a pleasure in tracing to the abundant harvest which rewards the slow but certain progress of reason the diligent husbandman for the toils” and liberality. “ During the reign," of the spring. To this analogy he says he, “ of Henry VII. it was pro- seems to have been particularly hibited to export horses, as if that anxious to attract the attention of his exportation did not encourage the readers, by bestowing on education breed, and make them more plentiful the title of the georgics of the mind;. in the kingdom. Prices were also identifying, by a happy and impressive, affixed to woollen cloths, to caps and metaphor, the two proudest functions hats, and the wages of labourers were entrusted to the legislator, the enregulated by law. IT IS EVIDENT, couragement of agricultural industry, that these matters ought always to be left and the care of national instruction. free, and be entrusted to the common In both instances, the legislator exerts course of business and commerce."—For a power which is literally productie a like reason, the historian continues, or creative; compelling, in the one “ the law enacted against inclosures, case, the unprofitable desert to pour and for the keeping up of farm-houses, forth its latent riches; and in the scarcely deserves the praises bestowed other, vivifying the dormant seeds of on it by Lord Bacon. If husband- genius and virtue, and redeeming from men understand agriculture, and have the neglected wastes of human intela ready vent for their commodities, we lect, a new and unexpected accession need not dread a diminution of the to the common inheritance of manpeople employed in the country. Du- kind. ring a century and a half after this When from such speculations as period, there was a frequent renewal these we descend to the treatise De of laws and edicts against depopula. Jure Belli et Pacis, the contrast is tion; whence we may infer, that none mortifying indeed. And yet, so much of them were ever executed. The better suited were the talents and accomnatural course of improvement at last plishments of Grotius to the taste, not. provided a remedy."

only of his contemporaries, but of These acute and decisive strictures their remote descendants, that, while on the impolicy of some laws highly the merits of Bacon failed, for a

508

On Poetical Scepticism. No. V. century and a half, to command the No writer seems ever to have felt more general admiration of Europe, * Grotius deeply, that he properly belonged to a continued, even in our British univer- later and more enlightened age ;-a sities, the acknowledged oracle of ju- sentiment which he has pathetically, risprudence and of ethics, till long expressed in that clause of his testa after the death of Montesquieu. Nor ment, where he “ bequeaths his name was Bacon himself unapprised of the to posterity, after some generations shall · slow growth of his posthumous fame. be past.”

MISCELLANEOUS COMMUNICATIONS.

, .

On Poetical Scepticism. turity without trembling, to dwell on
No. V.

the idea of God with nothing but de(See pp. 157, 217, 278, 383.) light, to identify the feeling of immor“ I must tread on shadowy ground, tality with that of joy; it does that for and sink

the species which the orthodox system Deep: and aloft ascending breathe in of Christianity does only for the indiworlds

vidual who receives it; it robs death of To which the heaven of heavens is but a ' its sting and deprives the grave of its veil."

victory. WORDSWORTH. The happiness whieh the most con“I cannot go

fident believer in the doctrines of Calvin Where universal love shines not around,

anticipates in heaven is both selfish and Sustaining all these worlds and all their imperfect: it is built on the ruins of suns

the best and tenderest affections, for it From seeming evil still educing good, implies an eternal separation from And better thence again and better still many who are objects of regard now, la infinite progression."

from some perhaps who have been THOMSON.

more passionately loved eren for their SIR,

errors, or who are knit to the heart by THOSE who contend for the affi- ties so strong and sacred that no human scarcely refuse to give the preference to enjoy it, the most disinterested of all that system which teaches that all the enotions must be torn from the heart, children of men are destined to be fi- attachments cemented by the courtesies nally and immortally happy. This -and the distresses of life must be rent doctrine has more of the grand, the in twain, early loves must lose their beautiful and the joyous : it opens to charm, and the holiest instincts of naimagination more glorious vistas ; it ture must wither and die within us ! encircles us with more beatific visions; Not only must the profligate child, on it supplies more firm and abiding ob- whom the heart delighted, as it were, jects on which the soul can repose, to waste its tenderness—the Absalom than any other hope of future joy which loved in the midst of rebellion and vice “ it has entered into the heart of man above his brethren-be dear to us no to conceive;" it bursts upon us in all more; but we must forget the friend “ the glory and the freshness of a who, though -associating with us in dream;" it enables us to extend our deeds of charity, professed not to have anticipations far into the abyss of fue experienced any supernatural change;

we must learn to think with tranquil“ La célébrité en France des écrits du lity on the sufferings of him, who, Chancelier Bacon n'a guere pour date que though the benefactor of earth, was celle de l'Encyclopédie.” (Histoire des

not the favourite of heaven; we must Mathématiques par Montucla, Preface, p. be callous to the misery of an old and ix.) It is an extraordinary circumstance, thát Bayle, who has so often wasted his dear companion, who, endowed with erudition and acuteness on the most in- all that could render life delightful, did significant characters, and to whom Le not agree with us in certain speculative Clerc has very justly ascribed the merit of points of faith! With those who une eractitude étonnante dans des choses cheered our passage through this vale de réant, should have devoted to Bacon of tears we must sympathize no longer. only twelve lines of bis Dictionary. The deathless agonies of those on whose

On Poeticul Scepticism. No. V.

509 bosoms we have leaned as a sacred proofs of what he will be hereafter : resting place, must have no power to but it is chiefly welcome to the heart, break our blissfal repose.* We must, as making its sweetest emotions deathin short, become different beings, not less, and leaving its own peculiar obmerely in being purified from the pol- jects of desire to rest on the splendid lutions of earth, but in losing our best prospects which it reveals. It is this and most virtuous affections, our most principle and this alone which renders serene and unfading joys. Our human friendship and love inmortal. hearts must die away within us. I According to the orthodox system of confess myself I have no interest in future punishment, the noblest and another life, if it is to bring with it such most divine faculties must, in many a change. It is not I who am to be instances, be left to perish.* The happy hereafter—this heart which is to "strong divinity of soul" has sometimes

seat, these sympathies that are to fiou- been mingled with human frailties, rishi, these powers that are to be un- and the intoxication of heart produced folded, these tastes by which I am to by poetical inspiration has caused the enjoy. And who is there who would poet 10 overleap the virtuous usages of change his individuality for that of life, and to follow without moderation another, even to be made hetter, wiser, the inpulse of his pleasurable sensaor happier? Who would resign his tions. The pure and deep spring of friends and relatives for those who celestial delight has been sullied in its would be greater or worthier of his passage through the world: and yet the esteem?. Who, that is worthy the generous would discern, even amidst name of man, would forget for ever irregularity and vice, the stirrings of a those who have loved and cherished principle allied to the noblest sublimihim, to be the companion of saints ties of virtue, vast capacities for exand martyrs, or the favourite of an- cellence, and bright indications of a gels?

celestial origin. « The light that led Not such are the everlasting hopes astray was light from heaven.” The which the doctrine of Universal Re. kindliest virtues and the most sublime storation awakens within those who energies have been too often linked receive it. This belief not only assures with imperfections which have shaded us of personal happiness, but it makes or rendered them useless. But how that happiness consist, in a great de- inspiring is the belief that these powers gree, in its diffusion on all around us : , and these excellencies shall yet be imit enables us to associate all whom we mortal, assoiled from the corruptions of esteem in our joys: it opens to us the carth when its temptations are removed grandest prospects of human improve- from them, and tuned to heighten the ment, discloses the statelier vistas of joys of Paradise! How cheering is the increasing knowledge, happiness and thought that the heroes and sages of virtue, and gives us the noblest ideas of ancient story, who, amidst error and the dignity of our nature which is pre- darkness, displayed a majesty of soul paring for such glorious destinies: it which has awed distant generations, realizes youth's most gorgeous and vi are destined to obtain yet greener lausionary dreams: it enables us to look back on the mighty deeds of past times Soon after the commencement of the with a new interest, for it displays them Eclectic Review, some writer opposing as so many deathless monunients of the theatrical entertainments, with something innate dignity of man, and as glorious more than usual zeal, alluded to the spirit

of Shakspeare as mourning in the ever* The orthodox heaven would be an lasting torments of hell the evils caused by exact realization of Mr. Godwin's theory of his writings. It was formerly said with Political Justice. As recommended by that reference to the disposition of the two reingevious speculator, all peculiar regards formers, “ that it would be better to go to. must cease, gratitude must be done away, heil with Melancthon than to heaven with natural affection must be extinguished, and Calvin;" and some perhaps would be inwe must love and esteein only according to clined to make the same choice between the abstract merit or godliness of the indi- Sbakspeare and the Reviewer. It is but vidual. The Calvinist may perhaps be sur- just to add, that the Eclectic Review has prised to find that the system against which since that time greatly improved both in on its promulgation, he lavished every ex talent and feeling, and would now probably pression of scorn and disgust, is to be treat the fate of the greatest poet who ever realized by himself in beaven !

lised only with a mysterious silence. VOL. XI.

30

« AnteriorContinuar »