CHAPTER XIX. SOCIETY AND ITS INSTITUTIONS.
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SOCIETY AND ITS INSTITUTIONS.
THE first chapters of this treatise contained thoughts and speculations on what may very well be called the material part of the subject before us; The way in which New Zealand has been peopled; the prospects which that country holds out to the migratory classes in England; its present trade and its capabilities have led me to call the reader's attention to certain principles and certain conclusions; some of general and some of restricted and particular application.
In the reverie suggested by the text "the Maories," I quitted that ground, to enter upon a region of thought which is, in some degree, common to each of the two great topics into which all my reflections resolve themselves.
It was only in "the constitution," and " the church" that I first stepped into the new world--I mean into the second topic--"the formation and development of a new community." Politics proper, and Political Religion, are but antechambers, after all, or rather passage-chambers, connecting individual life in the household with
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that common civil life of men which includes all classes and all institutions, "a State."
This, too, has, an individuality, if the State be a community, in any real sense of that word; for it presents an individual social idea of some kind or other. Indeed, all life which it is possible for men to contemplate, is compounded of singulars; forms itself into singulars; and is resolved again into singulars. Here it may be objected, "you are mistaking a common figure of speech for an actual analogy," for what is "the life of a community," but an ordinary figure of speech, which has not the slightest real connection with "the organised existence of a living creature?"
Now I contend that there is an analogy of law; and that it is to a conviction of this fact that we owe that phrase "the life of men," as members of one commonwealth.
Societies of men are spoken of as living beings, because men observed not only a likeness, but the same powers at work in both. In the processes by which atoms and particles are collected round a seed, and in the process by which rational creatures collect round an idea, men rightly discern the same congregating power (the power of life) at work on different matter, and at a different stage.
In the one case, inorganic matter is collected round a certain centre, whereby it is empowered, organised, and shaped, till the whole results in a living form. In the other, organised intellectual
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creatures are gathered round some practical thought (idea), whereby they are moulded into a society. In this case the living system answers to the living form of the other.
As to the reality of national life, it is enough to say that the Almighty rewards and punishes nations as well as persons.
But I pause, alarmed at my own temerity. . . We want a revelation concerning life. Shall I add that we have one, if we knew where to look for it?
Still this chapter may be regarded as an essay on Life and Growth in their relation to Society.
3. Nature works in developing society.
"Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" Can we, by any knowledge of our own, by any forethought, or happy accident, attain to that power which Nature has reserved for herself? Let us survey her works; contemplate, and try to weigh them out; and then confess that our understanding can never reach to the mystery of her divine process. Two of our greatest men, whose hands were laid upon the forehead of the present generation, laboured diligently to search into that secret in its reference to the works of men. Coleridge, in his Essays on Shakspeare, tells us plainly that the great poet worked, as Nature herself worked, unconsciously, but not less surely. Goethe, as we may read in the diary of his journey through Italy, sought among the monuments of art, which constitute the mate-
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rial remains of a mighty nation, to discover the vestiges of their process. Whether, in the visions of the poet and the seer, their souls were ever initiated into an acquaintance with the true forms of life; whether it is possible for the spirit of men, in its present trammels, to rise to the height of such a survey; whether they might or could communicate it,--is quite beyond our speculation. They remained in a great measure silent, in the days of their age, concerning one of the chiefest desires of their youth.
4. Working not for the eye, nor to the calculation.
A complete work is designed, and at length concluded; and when the nor to the cai- highest beauty is attained and possibility is exhausted, the result is not a matter of exhibition. What peerless shapes of beauty exist unnoticed by man! How little of all that is given is apprehended, or enjoyed, even in the commonest fashion! What a sermon might be preached on the text, "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you"? the meaning of "world" here being not so much "evil and corrupt generation," as men in their ordinary dealings one with another. Can any one reflect, without a feeling of sadness, on the great goodness and forethought of Nature, and the thoughtlessness with which we waste her precious gifts? With what a prodigally bounteous hand has she up-raised the earth, and poured forth the seas around it, preparing everything with much pain, and by slow degrees, to suit the purposes which she has in hand? Men calculate in
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their gifts, for they never can altogether get rid of the thoughts of indebtedness, but whatever angel was master of the works when England was furnished forth with inexhaustible beds of coal, had something more to think of than merely supplying the market. Is it not a most touching sight to see the fleet of herring-boats going forth to meet the great shoal which is appointed by a yearly miracle to come into their nets, and whose coming can be foretold almost to an hour? Let Behemoth revel unthinkingly (for he is not designed to think), in the tall grass of the meadow, and the abundant reeds of the river. We will revel also, but it shall be with tears of gratitude in our eyes when we contemplate the awful and mysterious sacrament of which we all continually partake.
Then if we cast our eyes upon the works and devices of man, we see here the hand of the original Artificer only more deeply engaged. It is, indeed, man who works,
"Yet nature is made better by no mean,
But nature makes that mean; so o'er that art,
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
Which nature makes. You see we marry
A gentler scion to the wildest stock:
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race: this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature."
I know that it is a favourite dogma of Coleridge to insist upon the infinite difference be-
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tween what he calls "nature," and "the hand of God in the world," which last refers to all that we conceive to be the diviner part of man. He is led occasionally into strong and even vehement statements on this head, by his desire (a desire which continually manifests itself in his greatest works) to combat, and, if possible, overthrow what he was persuaded was the principal error of his generation--an ignorance, to wit, or rather a forgetfulness, of the bounds which exist between our intellectual and our strictly rational elements. It was the hobby, if I may so speak, of that inspired man to ride down the presumptuous arrogance of those who attempted to bring everything to the test of their own narrow wit. It was a matter of religion with Coleridge to keep the eyes of men open to those great Facts, and that Existence, which they are continually misapprehending, just as those who use glasses to preserve their eyes, sometimes speak as if they believed in the glass more than the eye. Coleridge, however, never meant to confine the workings of nature within any special bounds, and to say "here nature ends." His reasoning was all to the end that the intuitive power might be redeemed, not that the natural should be sold into slavery. Men fall from the mistake of one extreme into the other. Let us endeavour to uphold and to recognise each phase of existence, without destroying the kingdom to which they all belong. When Jesus says to his disciples, "Ye are the salt of the earth," what does He mean? Is it
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merely an expression of his confidence in the excellence of the men to whom He was speaking; or, perhaps, to indicate that they were, above all others, marked out to aid in his plan? I think not. He meant to say, that the preservation of the world, in freshness and sweetness of life, depends on its men. It is only another way of stating that the law was made for man, not man for the law. In short, that all outward forms, laws, and constitution proceeding from within man--from that internal source, his living will--whenever they become separated from their origin, very soon corrupt, or simply lapse and melt away. "Have, therefore, salt within yourselves;" remember where alone your real strength lies. It is an assertion of the true position of humanity in its superiority to law of the second class (law which man can make and unmake), which is his servant: and its dependence on "the Word"--the highest law--the life within--those agrapta nomima [Greek], in short, upon recognising and obeying which humanity depends. It is also a grand political maxim: for His words are the best guides in politics, as well as in moral and religious duty.
6. Institutions how related to the common life.
The life of every community is contained in itself. It is not external, nor can it be added from without. It cannot be given by another nation, for it depends altogether upon a gift of life from God, for life is not a matter of communication between equals. They may, indeed, lay the
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groundwork of life for one another; they may make each other's cradles, but they can do no more. Life is the gift of Him who has put the law of life within us.
This, perhaps, has not been sufficiently felt by those who construct codes, invent institutions, and make model machines to carry society from one place to another. Any institution, in order to act successfully, must be, so to speak, the natural growth of the soil whereon it maintains and spreads itself. Foreign institutions are like exotics; foreign constitutions are like ordinary articles of import and export--they are only matters of present occasion, they express no life, and are only intended to last till those who buy them either break them, or can get a better thing.
No persons have ever been so much misunderstood as the great lawgivers of the world. Their laws stood, and became the representatives of national life, not because they were in themselves extraordinarily excellent. Strictly speaking, they were not inventions, they were begotten on the nation, not given to it. Those men had searched for, and at length penetrated, the very essence of all that their fellow-countrymen felt to be truest, and dearest, and best. Hence the law, when it came forth, was living, and at once recognised as the true child of the people, so that they might figuratively say of it, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders."
Such masterpieces of legislation were, in each
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instance, veritable gospels: they explained a want, and they supplied a remedy.
Now the obstacle which besets the labours of the legislator, when this is not the case, is, that overlooking altogether, or unable to understand, the real meaning of institutions in their connection with society, he falls to certain material forms. This is a species of idolatry which has surprised many of the greatest minds both in action and in literature.
7. Legislative cacoethes.
Thus they tell us, at one time, with the utmost nicety and exactness, how the senate in the model nation is to be composed; what offices are to be the principal repositaries of power, and what are to be the checks against its abuse; who are to be electors, and how they are to give their votes, whether secretly, by putting beans in a box, or openly, by holding the right hand up; whether foreigners shall be allowed to visit the chosen people, and if they, on their part, may undertake journeys and voyages, even to distant countries. May they meddle with merchandise, and traffic except with one another? and if they may, on what conditions, down to the minutest stipulations, with oaths to be taken accordingly; or as to the mission of ambassadors--how they shall be chosen, so as best to strike those nations to whom they are sent with a sovereign respect, or even awe of the great republic; being men, for the most part, past the flower of their age; the face tanned, long bearded, the cloak hanging carelessly about them,
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yet, withal, of a very strict carriage, and by no means given to the levities and slips of youth. Or further, shall the region wherein the republic is to be planted be rich and fertile, or poor and barren? is it to be Sybaris or Sparta? Suppose it to produce enough to satisfy the common wants of life, ought we, they will inquire, to allow of any luxuries besides? and if so, shall we bring them in from other countries, or shall we not rather, by continued perseverance, by subtle inventions and great art, enhance our naturally poor condition, and improve our meagre soil, till we can produce the choicest fruits of all regions and all latitudes in an island of not more than two days' journey? May not the climate itself be improved by the quick-witted researches of its inhabitants? May we not have great glass promenades, and arcades, so constructed as entirely to shelter us when we perambulate? May we not, to go a step further, by immense labour and such an increased skill in Dynamics as long study in the best colleges alone can give--may we not contrive to suspend, between earth and heaven, some great mirror or burning-glass, curiously framed, so as to collect or disperse the rays of the sun at our pleasure, or, if necessary, avert them altogether? The said machine to be worked by cords and pulleys of excellent contrivance, and unsurpassable manufacture; so that, when we want rain, it may be hoisted aslant, or even removed altogether. May not the model nation compel the clouds to obey their bidding, so far,
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at least, as to discharge rain in such places and proportions as may best suit its agricultural needs?--regulating, perhaps, the size of the drops, the average of which may be taken and secured by mathematical calculation. Shall hailstones be allowed to descend? Thunder and lightning may serve, perhaps, to amuse children, or to repel and discomfit a hostile invasion too strong for ordinary artillery. May our republic engage in war? or shall it not rather be purposely encouraged, for the purpose of hardening the youth, who shall to that end be led forth against their neighbours, at stated periods, as every third or every seventh year? Or as to the office of the Herald; shall it be elective, or hereditary, and with what ceremonies shall he come between two hostile armies to enter into engagements for peace? Shall he wear a cloak or a coat; a cap, a hat, or a helmet? Shall he wear armour, or shall he be girt with an ephod to denote his peaceful priestly character?
Again, should a town be taken by storm of direct onslaught, or otherwise? as by a wall and ditch of circumvallation, shutting out supplies until the inhabitants are forced to surrender, by famine and disease? In such a case, even if it be allowed to put all the men to death, yet it may be judged merciful and philosophical to spare women and children; and then comes in another weighty matter: what shall be done with them?
After that, they will dilate upon the knottier business of how shall the hair be worn, long or short--in curls, or straight-combed? Shall there
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be gymnasia for youths, and who shall attend there to keep order? Shall such arts as the painter's, sculptor's, and decorator's, be allowed? Shall they be encouraged? Shall malefactors be punished with death or imprisonment, or only hard labour? Shall tailors, dancers, and actors exercise the franchise?
I assert, then, that such philosophers, from Plato down to Bentham, were either diseased in their minds; or, that they take occasion to give the reader a hint here and there that they are not thoroughly in earnest. Plato's book, for instance, is a masque; a sly, grave, (and, in places, tedious,) satire upon the hopes and expectations of men. This interpretation alone can clear such treatises as his from the utter absurdity which must for ever beset such unreadable phantasies as Harrington's "Oceana."
Take again such a performance as Cabet's "Icarie;" it is, both in object and method, utterly valueless, except as a pure negative, to show the practical statesman what he ought to avoid.
8. Positive elements of national life--great men.
Let us, then, proceed to examine, taking this as the negative, wherein consists the positive development of a nation. What should we principally seek to obtain, and how should we seek it? What are the elements, positive of national existence? First, then, it is the object of every State to secure the services of those great men, whom the Almighty sends into the world from time to time, to originate, to confirm, to change, or to overthrow.
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"Such as God has solemnly elected,
With gifts and graces eminently adorned,
To some great work, His glory
And people's safety."
Whether they be statesmen proper; legislators, such as Numa; men of action, as Mirabeau; or, warriors, as Napoleon; or combining more characters than one, as Caesar; or poets, sent to refresh the blood of the world, whether poets proper, speaking in song--
"Speaking of the dancing stars;
Speaking of the daedal earth;
And of heaven, and the giant wars,
And love, and death, and birth;"
or prose writers, both imaginative and reflective.
Or, again, inventors and discoverers, for though there is an essential difference between the two, yet they seem to resemble one another in the structure of their mind and in the consequences to which they give birth. Such as were the inventor of the steam engine, and the discoverer of America, of whom it is hard to say which has enlarged the world the most. Artists, again, by which we mean those who search out and express to the people the true forms of beauty, in various shapes, and under different conditions, as sculptors or painters, as musicians, or lastly, as orators and actors. For these last, although the least of their order, must not be forgotten, inasmuch as they too educate a nation, teaching it how to aspire, by lively impersonations and the forcible
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expression of great thoughts. And they deserve the more to be remembered, because their works are in themselves of short duration.
"Hier stirbt der Zauber mit dem Kunstler ab,
Und wie der Klang verhallet in dem Ohr,
Verrauseht des Augenblicks gesehwinde Schopfung,
Und ihren Ruhm bewahrt kein dauernd Werk."
Again, teachers proper, than whom no class has been more degraded, though none are so useful. Some there are, doubtless, sent into the world with the special faculty of instructing and teaching the young, and since the work of all great men is to educate in some way or other, those deserve to be considered such, who have a special power for common, ordinary instruction.
Lastly, men who being born to great possessions, are endowed with souls accordingly, friends of the poor, given to hospitality, models of courtesy, great gentlemen, well ordering great estates.
These are, perhaps, the principal moulds into which good and generous souls are cast. As for a great man in any of the so-called professions, this is merely an accidental circumstance. And yet surely we ought not to forget such souls as are particularly given to religious reveries and meditations (great saints), for these, even though they work not directly (as Antony), yet exercise a vast regenerative influence upon society. They stand continually with censers before the Highest; yet sometimes they are actively engaged (as Benedict). We mark these various gifts by the common word "genius."
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9. How secure their services.
The question then is, what can be done in a State by all means to bring such men into their proper place, and so to benefit both ourselves and them; to benefit them, by enabling them to fulfil their work under favourable conditions, and ourselves, by the advantage we are sure to draw from their labours among us. How melancholy a thought it is, that there are men in England following the plough or making bricks--in short, engaged in some kind of mechanical drudgery or otherwise--who possess the souls of statesmen, artists, and poets; and might have been such, to our infinite benefit, had they found a helping hand, or even received the ordinary rudiments of education. What waste, and what injustice there is here! for, meanwhile, observe that, in default of these our true men, we are obliged to put up with every description of mediocrity, and may think ourselves only too lucky, if we can escape from counterfeits and hypocrites of the worst description. The remedy for this disease--this wasting disorder--is to put the education of the people upon a proper footing.
Education may be extended in more ways than one, and the question is, not so much to decide which is the best way to the exclusion of others, as to secure them all, if possible, well knowing that they are applicable to different cases, that one method will succeed where another fails, and one inducement prevail where another falls short. First, then, it is the bounden
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duty, no less than the policy of every State, to see that there be schools established for the common people, both in town and country, to provide suitable buildings, and at convenient distances; to offer such wages and rewards to those who engage in the work of teaching, as may make that profession one of the most honourable and lucrative in the country. It cannot be denied that education, mere common education, stands to us very much where the forms of religion stood to our ancestors. If, therefore, it was held noble amongst them to found and endow the most magnificent institutions, and to build the most wonderful and sublime temples for worship, I see not why our schools, even where the children of the commonest poor meet together to be taught, should not be, not merely substantial and commodious, but even magnificent.
Let us, again, hold out rewards to those who excel. If a child evinces more than ordinary ability or application, let him be forwarded from one school to another, and be assisted, without stint or parsimony, to acquire knowledge, and to fit himself for a higher place in life than he would otherwise have occupied.
11. Obstacle of civil odium.
It is often objected that, in our state of society in England, men who have risen from the ranks are the most unhappy of any, for they feel the disproportion of fortune more keenly, and they acquire tastes and affections which it is impossible to gratify.
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--They become, therefore, miserable, and a distress rather than a glory to their friends and helpers. Suppose this were universally true, which it certainly is not, what does it prove? That the country is in an unhealthy state. It proves that there exists a barrier between certain classes of society (to speak roughly) which cannot be surmounted, except in very extraordinary cases indeed. That such exists, the more is the shame and the pity: to say nothing of the incalculable loss and waste to society--it is a distinct source of disaffection which may any day lead to a catastrophe, such as those who are most concerned in maintaining the present system may well shudder to contemplate. It is, however, a happy exception in new countries, and in new societies, that a practical freedom exists, whereas the old, for the most part, only retain the forms of liberty. Our common people look to America with longing, very chiefly on this account;--because society there is not hampered with so tight a uniform.
Again, in this country, religious disputes and prejudices are an enormous obstacle to anything like national education. This difficulty presents itself to a certain extent everywhere, and it seems really that the only manner in which it can be overcome is to leave the forms of religion to those whom they chiefly concern--that is, to the ministers of the various congregations. If this were done, we should very soon find that the objections which now exist to
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such a plan would melt away before its practice, and the probable result would be that we should obtain, not only a better informed, and better conducted, but a more religious population. I defy any one to show why the catechism should be taught in a national school any more than the dinner should be eaten there. It would seem ridiculous to oblige each child to bring his dinner in a handkerchief, in order that all may eat it together in the presence of the master. Any one would say, No! let them eat their meals at home. Religion, in truth, spoken of in the highest sense of the word, clings for support to the family hearth. To make it a matter of school discipline is to lower it in the eyes of the very children whom we seek to benefit. There may be, and there probably will be, a certain amount of fanatical opposition to any large and comprehensive scheme of national education; but whether it exists or not is no real argument for indifference or delay in satisfying the craving for education, wherever it exists. Anticipating a formidable opposition, we ought not to be deterred thereby from doing our duty. A little salutary decision and force of character in the principal statesmen of our country would soon reduce this bugbear to its proper proportions.
There might be, and there ought to be, different schools established for different ages, different attainments, and different branches of learning. And if reading, writing, and arithmetic are taken as the lowest standard of common
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education, ought we not to have establishments in every Hundred, if possible, but at least in every County, and every great town, where those who wish to go further may find their desire satisfied? Lastly, grammar schools may be made more applicable to the wants and numbers of our population than they are at present.--Of Universities it is useless to say anything, since we seem to have lost the very idea which the word was intended to convey.
Ascending from the ordinary routine of the commonest education, it becomes very important that history, mathematics, and music should be taught in every country as widely as possible. I say it becomes so, whatever it may have been formerly. Whether this will ever be carried out, as it might be and ought to be, in England is very doubtful, inasmuch as we are eaten up with conventionalities to such a degree that people in the best circles are found to ask, "Where is the good of music to a working man?" The answer is, "Where is the good of comfort, civilisation and ease?" Everything which enlarges the sphere of humanity is of use even to the individual, and these very people would have no objection to admit that even magnificence and elegance, and what we call "taste" have their uses, and no slight ones either.
14. Other means of education.
Again, a country may be educated by its political condition. I am bold enough to affirm that a system of taxation, or a system of representation, apart from
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their immediate uses, may be rendered highly instrumental in the great end of government, which is to educate the people. It is impossible to overvalue the advantages which its political constitution has conferred upon the British nation in this respect. It is by far the most valuable kind of education, perhaps the only genuine kind, which we have ever received. It is disgusting to hear complaints made against popular assemblies, and public meetings, where our policy is freely debated, on the ground that they are meetings tumultuous and ill-managed. Institutions of this kind are not only the safety-valve of the commonwealth, they are also a great means of teaching the people, by making them think and talk about their common interests. Another method by which education may grow to be respected and greatly desired by any community is to make it understood that the employments and honours of the State are to belong to those who greatly excel, while those who set themselves apart, and refuse to learn, shall not be trusted, no, not even with a vote. Make ignorance and exclusiveness discreditable.
Yet another way of extending the desire of knowledge, and instilling honourable ambition, is, to let the people feel that everything connected with them as a body is substantially solid, grand, and beautiful. A great drama, a poem, a temple, a musical composition, a statue, and far more, a noble institution, is a direct means of cultivating and raising the popular mind. I suppose that
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the effect of a single song of Burns is almost incalculable, for there is in the aspect or contemplation of anything which is in itself very great, very good, or even very appropriate, something which humanises rude men.
Yet all these are but means, and here only introduced to show how much may be done in various ways, to raise up, or rather to retain great and good men for the national service. Much that is deemed impracticable in England, may yet be introduced with perfect success in a new country.
15. Second element--race.
Secondly. Race is one of the chiefest elements of national greatness which can be conceived, for we all know that there is no making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Educate the Negro, the Esquimaux, or even the Calmuc, to the highest degree, you never can make him the equal of the Englishman. In this respect the British colonies have been highly favoured. They have been peopled from some of the best races which the world contains.
16. Third element--natural advantages of position, &c.
Thirdly. It cannot be denied that position on the earth is an elementary ingredient in greatness. If we follow the footsteps of civilisation from its earliest dawn up to the present day, we shall see how carefully it has avoided some countries, while it has flourished in others at no great distance from them. There was no particular reason why the inhabitants on the banks of the Danube were passed by, while Greece was
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selected to become the home of intelligence and the arts. There is no particular reason, but that of position, for in old times the races greatly resembled each other.
Again, there is no reason why Illyria has never made a figure in the history of the world, except that it was out of the way; out of the direct track and current of progress. We see this more plainly when we consider the vast regions which are never likely to be even peopled by man. How much of the earth's surface is rendered uninhabitable from extreme heat or cold! In some places, the ocean receding has left a deposit of sand, which is continually enlarging itself. In others, savage mountains and wild table-lands, exposed to every vicissitude of weather, forbid the very presence, or, at any rate, greatly cramp the energies of man. Nor has he succeeded in keeping possession of countries which were formerly under his dominion. What has become of the ancient glory of Egypt? What has become of the ancient Sicily? As we glide along the river, as we wander through the pathless solitude of barren sand, we suddenly come upon the remains of some wonderful temple, some stately shrine, far surpassing the dreams of modern days, perhaps we even see the very stone in the act of being quarried, abandoned with the mark of the chisel upon it, when some sudden destruction drove away an ancient nation from the haunts of its greatness. What are the Cyclopean remains, which we cannot sufficiently wonder at, in
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Etruria; in Corcyra; at Nurtiung; or at Stonehenge; and elsewhere in our own country? In the tangled wilds of America, the remains of lordly cities have been overgrown with the forest. The flowering trees, and the wild waving grass of a tropical vegetation, conceal, and, as it were, bury, a former glory. When these are with difficulty removed, we are astonished at the size, the beauty, and the perfect completion which the great sepulchre of houses still retains. Spanish writers, eye-witnesses of the conquests of Pizarro and his comrades, give us descriptions of roads, such as they declare that the whole power of their invincible Emperor, Charles V., the greatest sovereign of his time, would have been quite unable to produce. Thus man has lost, during the struggle of the world, at least as much as he has gained, and it may be truly said, that that which remains untouched or unimproved is far greater than both together. Whether, indeed, he may not reconquer and reclaim much that he has in a great measure abandoned remains to be seen. It is not improbable that he will. It is likely enough that the industry and enterprise of the English and Americans will restore Central America and Egypt to something like their former greatness, and to an importance they never possessed before. But what vast countries in South America, in Africa--what vast islands, both in the East and West,---remain unoccupied, or worse, in the hands of barbarians, or tilled by slaves! Is the world ever destined to behold a
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great tropical civilisation? What is Cuba? What is Hayti? What are the islands of the great East? Is not Java itself (the finest of them all) degraded by the Dutch into a mere estate, from whence they may wring as many millions as possible, without regard to the interest of the people? For at Batavia, the only approach--for boats alone--is by a narrow channel, scarcely rendered secure by piles of rotting wood on each side, and stones badly put together; a place where the energy of the Americans would long ago have made a landing-place, where large merchantmen might come alongside, to take in or discharge cargo.
What should we say even of India, a country, governed, indeed, not without consideration for its own benefit as well as for ours, yet certainly neglected most shamefully, by a company of managers, whose short-sighted cupidity will not allow them to improve their trust, although the revenue might be easily doubled during the lifetime of the present generation?
The mismanagement, or the neglect of generations, may postpone the advance of mankind, but they never can absolutely take away from a country the advantages which nature gives it, which are one of the greatest elements of national greatness, and from which, as much as anything else, a commonwealth takes its shape.
These then are the three great elementary ingredients of any society, past, present, or future; from one or other of which every feature which it
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presents may be more or less distinctly traced. Religion, the greatest of all secondary causes, arises from these three; and it varies according to the proportions in which they have been mingled. The same may be said of Literature. The same of the political constitution of any community.
17. Implicit possibilities.
To say that we are content with any civilisation which at present exists upon earth, or ever has existed, would be to belie the promise of nature, and to forswear all faith in ourselves and our children. We can well conceive a state of society, as much greater than the best which now exists, as the best society now existing is greater and better than the time of Egyptian or Assyrian half-civilisation. Not that we should therefore despise the achievements of those who have gone before us. We build upon their work. We correct ourselves upon their mistakes, and improve upon their improvements. They did their work. Our work is, without underrating theirs, to acknowledge, with thankfulness, the blessings which we enjoy, and not to forget that they may be greatly increased hereafter to our descendants; that the face of the world may be altogether changed, even as it has been changed, from time to time, during the course of our own very limited experience of history, and from the traces of former men, of former ways and habits, of former vicissitudes.
It has, indeed, always been a question which goes first--the man, or the state of society in
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which he lives. Much may be said in favour of each extreme position, and the truth, perhaps, is that the two go together. They act and react upon each other, for good or for evil, so that it is impossible to predict how high mankind may rise under favourable circumstances, or how low they may fall under the visitation of an adverse destiny. For as the frame of man, so is his life and his thoughts. Man is the strongest of animals; no animal can undergo so much as he can; no other creature can so conform itself to changes. The same race may at different times, or even at the same time, in different countries, and under different emergencies, adapt itself to the most dissimilar parts. After a few generations of nomad life, man takes the very shape of a horseman, he takes the very shape most adapted to govern the animal with which he is most intimately connected. Others, who have been Divers for centuries, remain, without suffering, an incredible time under water. Even women become inured to the most laborious occupations, so that they surpass the strength of ordinary men. Again, those who have been bred to hunt on foot, as is the case with whole nations in many parts of the world, are known to surpass, in speed and endurance, the strongest and fleetest animals. Those who are required to lift or carry weights discover a set of muscles which were undeveloped before. I will not believe that the same Nature which has constructed man of a body capable of such extraordinary
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transformations, has given him a soul one whit less ingenious. And this ingenuity, this vast capacity for all kinds of life, and every kind of experience possible upon earth, discloses itself in communities no less than in individuals. They may be moulded, tempered, and formed in the course of a few generations, until the difference is so great between the fourth generation and the first, that the resemblance is almost lost in it.
18. The duty of preparation.
It remains for me to speak of the tendency of colonial society; of its promise, and also of the principal danger which threatens it--in short, of the civil development of a new community--which is nothing else than society carried out in a political direction.
Having presented the proposition that the life of a society is developed from within, in certain general forms; having considered the three primary constituent elements of national life, and how they bear upon the question of institutions; having expressed my belief that Nature is ever busily at work fashioning, with infinite skill, a variety of new combinations among men, I may now give my conclusion as far as regards New Zealand. Whatever the future of that country may be, it lies in the hands of its own people to make it what they wish. It is their business alone. Nature has done very much for them to begin upon. Their position on the earth; their climate; the resources of their soil; their race; and their antecedents generally, could scarcely
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have been bettered. It behoves them, then, not to be wanting on their part; and, in one word, "let them educate;" for thus alone can they fulfil their highest call---to preserve and employ the men which the Almighty sends them. Let them, for their own sakes, prepare a place and a way before the ministering spirits--the benefactors--from whose labours their commonwealth will take its form.
19. The danger and the remedy.
"There is," says Mr. Fitzgerald, in his address to the Council at Canterbury, "something, to my mind, awful in the prospect of the great mass of a community rapidly increasing in wealth and power, without that moral refinement which fits them to enjoy the one, or that intellectual cultivation which enables them to use the other." He proposes to meet this dreadful tendency, and to anticipate the degeneracy sure to follow its unchecked advance by a system of secular education; and, without entering into minute detail, gives a general outline of the scheme which he was about to propose, for which, interesting in the highest degree, both from its subject-matter, and also from the masterly way in which it is treated, the reader is referred to the address itself, which ought certainly to be reprinted for circulation in England.
The few words given above will be enough to introduce to us one of the greatest dangers to which a small and isolated society of men, enjoying no small share of material prosperity, is
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exposed. It is a danger which will not perhaps be felt sensibly in the present generation; which will be counteracted by the continual in-coming of new settlers, whose minds have been trained in the stern school of England, where the lessons of power and self-control are taught with terrible severity, and learned with wonderful fidelity; which may be successfully encountered and overcome by sound national education; but which, if permitted to parley, or indulged with the truce of a faint opposition, will slowly, but surely, sow seeds of diseases in the commonwealth, far more intolerable to the sons than the poverty and cares which drove the fathers from their grand old native land. Ignorance, presumption, and lawless recklessness, unfortunately too compatible with ease and abundance, come first.
A degraded standard of morals; a low state of public opinion; a deluge of trashy information destructive of all true learning; a vulgar hatred of discipline, duty, and authority; overweening self-estimation; utter flimsiness of fashion, thought, and purpose succeed.
Gross delusions; hideous perversions; imbecility; indifference; vile tyranny; abject servility, are the third and final act of the drama. The whole (in an evil sense) is perfectly natural, and, stage by stage, perfectly self-consequent.
Laissez-faire has two sources. It means either despair or false peace. The first springs up in a community where inveterate evil dominates
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over hope itself; the second, where everything is full, smooth, and fair.
Men, therefore, must not be left to themselves; they must be bitted and broken in. They must undergo discipline: of the hearth; of the school; of the church; of the State. No part of the work of any one of these can we possibly afford to give up; for they are the more absolutely needed at every step which a nation takes in the march of freedom. The more real the liberty, the more indispensable a habit of self-respect. Even a despotism may sometimes rightly impose constraints and exact sacrifices.
Much more, then, may a free commonwealth claim cheerful obedience when she thus addresses her citizens: "My children, you are justly proud of being free; for your freedom consists, not in parchment, or in mere usage, or in rigid adherence to any stated form of institutions, but in the power of making what laws you please for yourselves; for you can build up, pull down, or alter just as you will. Change is with you an element of stability; agitation and constant debate are rightly regarded as conservative powers; by inquiry and discussion, you alone preserve the meaning and spirit of the lively oracles of antiquity.
"In order to cherish this, your free condition, you are well content to deny yourselves; to pinch excess; to confine waste and riot. You do not allow that a free man is free to be a free swine. You discourage self-expense; selfish exclusive-
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ness; selfish avarice. You can afford to permit, nay, you insist upon, what other nations would call the interference of the State, wherever the individual begins to forget his citizenship. Nowhere else are the duties of property and power so jealously enforced.
"I bid you all aspire: count what you have hitherto attained as nothing; measuring it by the possibility of the future. Realise the fact, that if 'the individual withers, and the world is more and more,' we must call up a third power to mediate between the two. Let each man know that he must preserve the State, in order that she may preserve him. The intelligent heart of the citizen is the only Palladium of a constitution."
The freer the nation, the stricter is the discipline which it will endure with advantage to itself.
"Before man made us citizens, great nature made us men," says Lowell. The promise in a new country lies in the direction of greater freedom for the individual and his household, greater comfort, a better position. It demands certain sacrifices at the outset; it exacts toil and hardship from its votaries; it inflicts, in many instances, unexpected difficulties and losses; and, altogether, such cares and contests, that those who undertake to fulfil its behests from purely selfish motives, will either sink under the struggle it imposes; or find the reward it offers (when attained) delusive and unreal to them.
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When we reflect that the Almighty, in the calls and the promises which accompany them in his Word, never gives a solitary blessing, but always appeals to the natural instinct, and includes the children, we shall see at once that something more than mere personal advantages is absolutely required to carry men through a long and painful contest. Selfishness is, after all, only one of the many forms of weakness. We become strong by self-denial; a virtue which is born of love.
Those that are fighting for wife and children are warriors indeed, whose hand will not be turned back in the day of battle; especially, if like our German forefathers, they combat in their presence; while the restless adventurer, who is proud to be thought ambitious, and full of vain dreams of self-advancement, will not endure the heat of the mid-day sun.
I affirm distinctly, that to men settling in a right spirit, New Zealand holds out a promise adequate to the struggle from which the colonist can never escape. Her natural advantages and prospects have been, if anything, understated in the chapters devoted to that part of the subject. Others (far more important), which relate to the moral, social, and religious habit of a people, are all within the reach of her new community.
They have room and time. In England, be it observed, the statesman's complaint continually is---Work as hard as I will, I cannot keep pace
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with events; time, and chance, and population outstrip me. The working man feels the very same difficulty in his sphere; both alike are left behind in the race. In this respect, every colony has a start over the mother country. Add to this a new career, and experience free-given; at least whatever experience the history of the world and of kindred nations can afford. Taken together, this surely constitutes as great a promise as ever was vouchsafed to any society.
We might in former years have placed the undue interference of England, as an objection and a disadvantage, to be set against our colonies, and in favour of the United States. This, however, in most instances, no longer exists; at any rate, it is wearing fast away. The vicious and injurious arrangement under which, unfortunately for all parties, our colonies have been planted, will make way for an intelligible connection between our various States, by which the empire will gain in strength; the old land be relieved of unnecessary burdens; and the promise of the new land run no risk of defeat.
21. Colonial society Americanises.
It has been said that the character which we sometimes extol, sometimes decry as the American, is really the character of the British colonist. At any rate, the tendency of society lies that way. We may justly attack it as unscrupulous and even reckless in the nation and in the individual; but let us remember that, in this world, good and evil not only grow in the same soil, but that they inter-
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weave their roots, so that we can seldom look to root out a virtue or a vice without at the same time injuring its cognate opposite. This same character exhibits a greater amount of self-reliance in difficulties; a greater power of enterprise, inventive and constructive, than the world has ever before seen. There can be no doubt that the quickness and energy of the American may be traced to the colonising element which completely pervades the society in which he lives. It is a curious fact, that while the Eastern States of the Union contribute far more emigrants to the great West than the whole of Europe (vast as the European movement has now become); their material growth does not appear to be in the least checked by the effort. The American is essentially a colonist, and his ways and doings express a habit of life, rough and ready, free and daring, generous but dangerous, of infinite suppleness, dexterity, and resource. He cannot be equalled for contrivance; and the boundless field opened for national aggrandisements and private speculation, inspires him with a most ambitious temper. What is a castle-in-the-air to an Englishman, is but a common road-side cottage to him.
22. Counteracting power in New Zealand.
Now, while I am convinced that society in such a colony as New Zealand must daily Americanise, I am also persuaded that the New Zealander will retain more of the Briton, than any other colonist, for the following reasons. We have no other
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colony which so much resembles England in climate, size, and position. It is not too much to say, that New Zealand will become an exact copy of England. Churches, houses, roads, inns, hedges, trees, will be almost entirely English, and, to judge from the temper of the present inhabitants, the conservative principle is likely to be very strong there. Again, the very nature of the country will be found to be anti-American. It is small, detached from others, mountainous, and intensely local. On the whole, the spirit of its people will be bold, free, very political, and, probably, eminently conservative. It will be a nation of small freeholders (or peasant proprietors as they are now called), and as such, I do believe that its future will be grand, happy, and noble. Some of my readers may here feel inclined to say: And you, who have resided in New Zealand, and who love that country, and estimate its future so highly,--why have you left it,---and do you intend to return there? Answer: I did not lay the lines of my own life, nor can I separate the ties which bind me to England. Were they sundered, New Zealand would be very soon my country and my home. Because while nothing real can be done here, I discern an employment, and a cause in that land for which a man might gladly live and die.