Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

graciously. When they disagree, it happens because one party at least is not, perhaps both parties are not really appealing to this standard. The universal spirit has many modes, but they all harmonize. The selfish spirit takes a multitude of jarring forms.

The contest grows hot, when the organic reformer, bold in the rectitude of his purpose, and justified by pure, inteterior convictions, stands forth beyond the limits which frigid conservatism deigns to permit. Such an action is like the soul attempting to attain to ends beyond the body's capacity. The body, the corporate existence, doggedly withstands any attempts to proceed faster, or farther than its accustomed pace and destination ; and binds down the swifter-moving mind, as much as it can, to its own limits. This action is doubtless in conformity to a law established for the good of both. So with the ponderous drawback, which progress encounters from the unwilling and unyielding nature embodied in the corporate interests of the unreforming world.

Chartism is the lowest phase of reform, which has any claims to an affirmative position. Though not without a large deference to established modes and existing current thought, Chartism yet has some positive and primitive assertions to make. Its best principles are drawn from the same fountain whence all principles flow. The chartist has traced backwards and inwards to the origin of the institutions, which the conservative will spill his last drop of blood to defend, and discovers the same reality which underlies both. The maintenance of “the throne and the altar," in England, in the year 1796, is synonymous with “ law and order," in Rhode Island, in 1843; for each, being interpreted to its clearest meaning, signifies, “protect my wealth and ease.” The same reality thus is ever varying its sign; and half a century may probably suffice to convert “liberty and equality" to the same end. Traced still deeper, the investigation lands us at a point even more comprehensive of parties; and Chartists, as well as Hinderers, design nothing more than the largest possible income from the outlay of their capital, skill, and labor. In relation to selfishness, it is merely as a domestic strife. Both parties equally desire the greatest good of the greatest number, or the happiness of the whole; the said whole being neither more nor less than each man's self.

A better aim for each man, in his earthly career, could not be devised. As happiness is attainable by goodness alone, goodness in each man being secured, the goodness and happiness of all are secured. Men differ only about the mode of it. Through all time, and in all places, this has been the debate. From pot-house gossip to legislative dispute, this is the burden of the song. Doubts, waverings, changes, each man and each sect undergoes; for they firmly believe the truth lies somewhere about, though they have it not. The thought rarely occurs, that the truth is not thus amongst them; and he would be universally voted a pestilent fellow, who should venture to hint as much.

Ever since the invention of civilized society, the result has been found so unhappy, and so inadequate to the outlay, that there has been a constant aim to amend it. Even now, after so much labor, we seem as distant as ever from the desirable condition. In a state of barbarism, the individual man gives up but a very small portion of himself ; he looks little to others for support; he is self-reliant. He runs not to the baker for bread, to the butcher for flesh, to the teacher for grammar; but hunts, and cooks, and speaks for himself. It is true he develops some of the misfortunes of civilization, and occasionally, in his weakness, carries fees to the doctor and priest. But the essential quality in barbarism is that integrity of development, which keeps man away from a dependence on other individuals; and while it circumscribes his supplies, also limits his cravings to a more natural and rational amount. On the other hand, the very pith and heart of civilization is mutual dependence, which, in action, comes out in the representative form. Everything, every person is vicarious. No one lives out his own life, but lives for all. This is the great merit and boast of civilization : this, too, is its misfortune and its loss. By its advocates, this short coming in happiness is attributed, not to the inherent nature of civilization, but to its imperfect working out; upon which the recommendation is to expend more and more anxiety upon the attempt; which anxiety having to be reimbursed before society is as much in happiness as previous to this additional outlay, the moral estate of the people becomes as hopeless as their pecuniary estate, where national debts are multiplied in the attempt to obtain relief from present difficulties.

Ramifications of this idea are found in every department of civilized life. The farmer applies fresh quantities of foul animal manure to force heavier crops from his exhausted fields; which, when consumed, generate a host of diseases as foul as the manures to which they are responsible. The consumer, attracted by cheapness, pays dearly in his doctor's bill, but in ignorance of nature's laws, which he has so entirely abandoned, he fails to connect cause and effect, and repeats his error to repeat his pain. Faith in man would, indeed, appear to be no scarce commodity on earth. Every one looks abroad to every other one; no one looks within to himself;— a universal representative life, in which the legislator represents the conscience, the judge the gravity, the priest the piety, ihe doctor the learning, the mechanic the skill of the community; and no one person needs be conscientious, grave, pious, learned, and skilful. Out of this grow those monstrous and dreadful conditions which large cities, the very acme of civilized life, without exception, exhibit. Exalted intellect, on the part of a few, which at the expense, frequently, of moral and physical life, elevates national renown, with extreme ignorance of all that really concerns them, on the part of the masses.

A few intense spots of wealth, learning, or heroism, amongst an endless range of poverty, ignorance, and degradation, accumulated, apparently, for, no higher end than the meretricious employment of the three opposite qualities.

This faith begins, in some quiet and serene corners, to abate, and it will soon be exhausted, when eyes are opened to perceive that the imagined perfection of the scheme of civilization does, in fact, not belong to it. Politically, the idea of representation could not be more fully and purely carried out, than it is in North America. In some of the States, if not in all, the majority is correctly and entirely represented. The majority rules in a direct manner; and although, on minor points, parties are more nicely balanced, yet, in the wider range of every-day life, this majority is a very large portion. Yet, to say that the people are happy; that they are a well developed race; that they manifest an existence as near the perfect as their representative system approaches the perfect, would be a series of libels, which their complaints, their habits, their very countenances loudly gainsay.

In the perfection of the representative system, in the very ripeness of civilization, is its downfall accomplished. Like other fruits, those of this tree will be timely shed by the spirit in beneficent nature, fresh leaves shall germinate, and new blossoms be put forth for the healing of the nations.

How small does this parade of legislation, and this march of science, and this increase of wealth, appear by the comparison with the unsophisticated intuition of man's purpose and destiny! Not more ridiculous would be ancient armor in a modern battle field, or royal robes and ermine in republican assemblies, than these same speechmaking, newspaper-reported, republican assemblies are in the presence of real humanity. Court intrigues, the personal disposal of kingdoms, the regulation of whole nations according 10 individual caprice, are chances for humanity scarcely, if at all, more strange and alien to the true end, than its delusive amusement by statistical renown, antagonistic union, or dissocial society. The regalia of the throne in Europe, the judge's powdered wig, the door-keeper's gold-laced hat, with all antique regards and time-honored observances, are as comforting to the heart, and perhaps not more outrageous to man's real needs, than the fancied security of legislative perfection, and representative selfgovernment. We see the folly in the old, but are not quick-witted enough to perceive it in the new. Because the music, and the incense, and the wax candles are no longer used, men deem they have escaped all papal errors. But the triumph of intellectuality is not always the victory of reason. The misfortunes of a church fall

upon a people assembled in the plainest hall, where music, or sweet odors, or lights by day never appear.

We need not marvel, therefore, at the dissatisfiedness which not only rings throughout Europe, but is heard even here in the sylvan expanse of North America; the free, the youthful, the hopeful nation of the world. The Americans are like a troop of truant boys escaped from school, to the woods, for a day or two; who only remember the ways and modes of the old pedagogue, and have not yet had time to develop an original course of action for themselves. But it will come out of them, and the old pedagogue shall be ashamed that he kept the boys so long in

10

can

VOL. IV. - NO. 1.

fear and thraldom; and he will conform to an amicable truce with the more demure and broken-spirited boys who still submit to the old school discipline at home. Selfinterested love of ease shall, at least, secure some amelioration.

In the mean time, through the great instrument of teaching, pungent experience, we ascertain the true value of these pursuits and objects, for the free attainment of which we ventured our all to escape from the tyrannical old disciplinarian. Mankind may undoubtedly be much slower and more inapt to learn than to enjoy; but duller than Lethe's stream should we have been in failing to discover the rocky spots and barren wastes in the new land. The game of government, for which the boys eloped to the woods, is found a profitless affair, by the best of men. They who have really ripened into manhood in the newly acquired freedom, are desirous of keeping out of this amusement as a sport for children only. This is a grand secret, a sacred revelation for both those who have gone ahead, and those who stay behind.

No man who is qualified to be a political leader, and by democratic vicissitudes, some day finds himself placed in that position, but is anxious to declare how hollow and corrupt is that fruit, which, to the exoteric eye, appears so plump and ruddy. The ease with which mankind are governed, or, as he would say, gulled, is a soul-sickening contemplation to such a person. On initiation into the facts, he instantly becomes satiated of his false ambition, and intuitively perceives the real pettiness of political greatness. These things are sources of vanity and of vexed spirit now as they ever were.

Heroism exhibited in this manner becomes renowned, more by the degradation of the mass, than by any extraordinary elevation of the individual. If there were no masses of crime, the jurist would excite little attention to his codes. If there were no distressful pecuniary exigency, the treasury-secretary would only be an accountant. Many are the men daily called upon for more ability, in private life, than we demand of public men. The teacher of a large school, or a busy shop-keeper, must honor larger drafts for patience and prompt calculation, than the functionaries of government, who are withdrawn from their own pertinent duties

« AnteriorContinuar »