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THE DIVINE END IN SOCIETY IS HUMANE PERFECTION."
How strange a sound is this heard along the shore ! Unlike either the last plashes of a recent storm, or the swell of a coming gale, its indications cannot be read by experience. In irregular intervals, the new waves curl, crisp and yeasty, over the shell-strewn beach, with an unusual surge, alihough no fresh breeze is sensible above the surface of the waters. The oldest, time-worn caves, echo the unfamiliar sound, and even their inmost recesses seem sensible of the forthcoming of some event, which may destroy their venerable forms forever, and crumble them to common earth. It is as the apprehension of an earthquake, against which no contrivance can prevail, and which no skill can avert. The ancient fishermen, they who seem to be as imperishable as the waters, stand mute. Their boats and nets are drifted to and fro by the influence of the unseen power which they have not the courage to resist, or deem it as impossible to oppose as the south-western gale in its highest fury. Yet the elemental world above is serene ; no portents cloud the sky; and the perpetual sun shines on in steady splendor. In a murmuring prophet-note this new impulse is principally indicated.
May we worthily speculate on the origin, operation, and probable futurity of this new movement in the human ocean. Peradventure we may divine the interpretation of the omen.
Certain it is, that the political chiefs of the earth no longer execute that initiative function for which their office was created. The monarch and his prime minister are now but the chairman and his deputy, at a convention where the government really rests in the hands of the majority. The governor has ceased to rule; he is there only to hear resolutions propounded and to count the votes. The old ditty begins to be realized, and each one now is substantially “king in his turn.” Happy fact, that humanity is so much nearer mankind, and is escaping from the leading-strings self-imposed in the nursery. VOL. IV. — NO. 1.
The depths from which the surface-movements spring, are as various as their outward appearances; and their origins are as separate and distinct as the strange and broken wavelets which indicate them.
Some minds, moved as by personal irritation at a particular vice in existing institutions, will be invited to apply every energy to its reformation or annihilation. Unquiet souls, under the most favorable circumstances, have some complaints to utter. By no means are the objects generally aimed at by the great mass of men to be deemed worthy of real human effort. Yet there is a number, almost deserving the appellation, "a multitude," who, being moved from a greater depth than ordinary, manifest a purpose which may, with less liability to the charge of ostentation, be designated human. Whosoever shall go about seeking these, may, without much difficulty, discover them, though they are hidden from the external observer's eye. Heretofore mingled in the stream of professed reformers, until they found such a course could not lead to their satisfaction, they stand aloof from troubled waters, they now declare they are impelled by an inspiration to build up a new social existence, such as history records not, such as experience does not manifest.
These consist not of malcontent or rebellious souls, who, from a pugnacious nature, attack whatever in existence may stand in their way ; nor of such as, from an avaricious appetite, hunger for new food ; nor of disappointed or disgusted self-indulgents, whose elasticity has been worn away by excess in low delights; but they appear to consist of the loving, the peaceful, the calm, the considerate, the youthful, seeking an external state conformable to the spirit within. They propose not a monastery for soured sinners; nor incarceration of moral debtors, to add, by refined idleness, to a debt already too large; nor a pest-house to accommodate disease ; nor an alms-house to create poverty.
There seems now born into the world a newer, fresher spirit ; an infant race craving nourishment of a higher kind than was heretofore asked for. Unto us children are given who cannot imbibe the old world's draff, nor be clothed in the old world's abraded garments.
Here and there, in places distant and obscure, but becoming less distant and better known, are heard the cries
of this infant voice. Feeble it has yet been, and deemed mostly foreign ; but there is not wanting a maternal ear, which, being open to the slightest sound from real humanity, recognises these juvenile faint utterances. This maternity, though itself unable to enjoy the new conditions and the new food, may provide them for the young and new-born, who may thenceforward unite in sufficient numbers for the perfect accomplishment of the new life.
Such are some of the characteristics of the latest-born idea of human progress. Between it, and the reforming mind, whose notions of improvement are satisfied by a repair of the guide-post, stand almost all the human family. The thought, the wish, the hope for something better, is all but universal. The question rather is, which is the good, than whether there is a good yet to be attained. It is the intuitive certainty of a better morrow, which makes to-day's ills tolerable.
Assuredly, the world abounds sufficiently in evil to arouse in the dullest an ardent desire to secure soine amendment. Not a few are still so obtuse in opposition to progress, that their entire existence is a hinderance. They stretch far beyond all rational conservatism, and must rather be called Hinderers than Conservatives ; hindering no less their own individual weal, than the common good in all. Save these, all are banded in one common sentiment, the improvement of man and his conditions.
The Conservative is now a reformer, both intellectually and practically, however strongly in feeling he may be disinclined to changes. The notion, that no melioration is possible, either in mode or principle, is confined to the Hinderers, who are glad to hide their morbid peculiarity in the bosom of conservatism, which thus generously succors a pest it should reject. Hinderance is the zero in the moral thermometer, of which conservatism makes the freezing grade, radicalism fluctuating in the intermediate degrees, and destructiveness is denoted by the boiling point. Only the cold and hot extremes are obnoxious. The genial temperature lies between the two points of radicalism and conservation, and this is where a benign providence disposes the moral atmosphere.
Conservatism perceives the propriety of amendment in the administration of the established institutions. A reform
in small matters is suited to its taste. There are certain popular principles, or rather a few vague sayings, which conservatives have for a long series of years repeated, involving them to some extent in the class of reformers. Thus, “retrenchment and economy” are familiar terms, even in royal speeches; and although they are employed to cover actual “waste and extravagance,” the admission, verbally, that honesty and truth should govern mankind, is a point gained. This slow and unspontaneous acknowledgment, that something must be conceded to the youthful spirit, that “the boys must have it,” is cheering, when we know how tardily the better is allowed a place.
Were mankind to be polled, it is pretty certain that a very large majority would be found in advance of this position, notwithstanding it is so long kept in it.
Of this we have the strongest assurance in the fact that the binderers are violently opposed to a counting of votes in that manner. Did they feel assured that the majority is with them, they would instantly appeal to man. But the mode of reckoning is cunningly fastened upon another principle. Instead of estimating man by virtue, or talent, or skill, he is valued according to certain results, which may sometimes grow out of these antecedents, but which, in fact, may, and more frequently do grow out of vice, or rapacity, or fraud. Man is weighed by property. The State-doctors, like those who study medicine, judge of humanity by its excrements, or wait until itself is excrement. They are only clear after a post mortem examination. When the man bodily is destroyed by a surfeit of food, and the man moral by a superabundance of wealth, the doctors can admit him to their conservatory museums, and give a good account of him. But the age demands a consideration of healthful, living men ; and daily the living are growing more and more uneasy under the old dead weights.
Urged by no better principle than the pressure from without, the holders of political power slowly and reluctantly concede some of the ground which might, in bygone times, wrested from the domains of love, but no new principle is recognised. A few more voters are admitted into the circle ; but there is not sufficient courage to act universally, and cast aside all the barriers. Conservatism is still ruler by virtue of barricades. Election laws are modi
fied. Sanguinary codes are meliorated. Poor laws are reconsidered. Black slavery is softened down to apprenticeship. White slavery is refined by a poetic periodical, or rendered more tolerable by music. This mending and patching, or cutting into pattern to suit the demands of the market, promises ages of employment for moderate reformers. It is not probable, scarcely possible, that if the progress of social man is thus capriciously dependent, much good will be attained during the next five or ten centuries.
Perceiving which fact, some men are desirous to move on a little faster, and more steadily, than the ever-varying winds will carry the State vessel, to the desired haven. They are disposed to render all new discoveries available for universal ends, as well as for particular advantage, and hence propose to lay on a degree of steam power to carry us over the ocean. These call for organic changes, and invite new experiments. They are deemed, by the old captains, the most dangerous part of the crew, though acknowledged to be amongst the most useful working sailors.
Hence, in Old and in New England, Chartism has birth. This is essentially a new form, including some new materials; not a reform in that definite sense which signifies a going back to ancient forms of ancient materials. Orthodox reform means simply a restoration to the primitive outward condition, in which institutions originally stood. But this is an idea as clearly impossible of actualization, as to restore to animal life the men who, some centuries back, established such institutions. Heterodox reform, therefore, is necessarily proposed ; because men see plainly that it is not any outward state of things, beautifully adapted, perhaps, to some remote period, that can be found suitable for them at this day. Organic changes, then, are needed, as well as purity in administration and melioration in practice. And from what point shall these changes date? According to what standard shall they be set up? The principles for the construction of such new institutions are not to be sought in any hitherto known mode, for they are new, they profess to be new. The standard, then, is that which is the antecedent to new measures, to all new measures, for all have the same antecedent, that is to say, the spirit of truth in the human soul. Men may differ respecting the interpretation of this spirit, but they will differ kindly and