Page images

culture, or the direct instruction of Divine Revelation, the only original source of all wisdom and of all knowledge."

His remarks on the case of Noah, as refering to this subject, and accounting for the civilization which appears soon after the deluge, we shall extract as a specimen of his style.

"The fundamental error of all these views must be considered to have arisen from the not taking any account of the fact, expressly recorded in Scripture, that the present human race has sprung, not from a common ancestor in a primitive state of society, but from one who was himself a member of a previous social state, which had already existed for many ages; nor of the conclusion which must inevi tably be drawn from that fact, viz. that whatever may have been the natural state of the first man Adam, the progenitor of the antediluvian world, the contemplation of that state cannot aid us in the consideration of the primary condition of the post-diluvian world, which takes its origin from Noah and the seven other persons saved in the Ark, who were members of an artificial and most probably a highly advanced state of society.


"Without presuming to decide what may have been the actual amount of the civilization of Noah and his family, it may be fairly concluded that they were possessed of at least an average share of the learning and acquirements of the antidiluvian world and it may even be not unphilosophical to imagine, that as they were the chosen instruments of the Almighty for the preservation of the human race, so may they have been especially endowed with the wisdom of their contemporaries, whom we know to have been not merely shepherds and agriculturists, but also artificers in brass and iron; and further, to have possessed such a knowledge of the fine arts as to have cultivated music, Jubal being mentioned 'as the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.'

"Be this, however, as it may, it is certain that so far from Noah's having commenced by being either a fruit eater, a hunter, a herdsman, or even a simple agriculturist, his first act, as recorded in Scripture, was to plant a vineyard; that is, to raise an article which, if not one of mere luxury, required at all events a higher degree of cultivation than the Cerealia, and the produce of which demanded for its preparation a peculiar process; from which facts alone is established the existence in his family of a degree of civilization considerably higher than that of the grower of the common necessaries of life. We further know, that at a very early period as it were almost immediately after the Flood, and certainly before any material change could have taken place in the state of civilization of mankind, -they combined together to erect a city and a tower; whilst Nimrod and Asshur, the grandsons of the patriarch, are recorded to have been the founders of mighty cities. It must not be lost sight of, moreover, that the mechanical knowledge which enabled Noah and his sons to build the Ark, agreeably to the direction of the Divine Architect, could not have been inconsiderable. We are led, therefore, to the conclusion, that the first state of society after the Flood, being that of Noah and his sons, was one of a comparatively high degree of civilization ; and we shall, probably, not be wrong in asserting that it was, at the least, as high as that of the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Assyrians, who are the nations of antiquity known to us as being their descendants in the nearest degree.

"The Book of Job, having an antiquity of several centuries prior to the time of Moses, is consequently by far the earliest literary work which has come down to us, its age being at least 1000 years greater than that of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems, the earliest works of profane history. To quote Dr. Good's words respecting this composition, in the dissertation introductory to his translation of Job,Nothing can be purer than its morality, nothing sublimer than its philosophy, nothing simpler than its ritual, nothing more majestic than its creed. Its style is the most figurative imaginable; there is no classical poem of the East that can equal it; yet its plan is as regular, its argument as consecutive, as the most finished compositions of Greece or Rome: and its opening and its close are altogether unrivalled in magnificence. It is full of elevation and grandeur; daring in its conceptions; splendid and forcible in its images; abrupt in its transitions ; and, at the same time, occasionally interspersed with touches of the most exquisite and overwhelming tenderness.'

"It may not be useless or uninteresting to endeavour to determine, from the internal evidence of the Book of Job itself, what was the actual state of society at the early period at which it was written; the inquiry will, indeed, be essential to

the objects we at present have in view. We cannot pursue the inquiry so far, with respect to this ancient work, as we can with the Homeric poems; since these latter contain the relation of facts, whilst the Book of Job is little more than the expression of the feelings and opinions of the several interlocutors (including the Almighty) who are named in it. Still from the references and similes made use of, the conclusions may be drawn, that, at that epoch, the vine and the olive were cultivated, and the ground ploughed for the growth of corn; that metals were extracted from the earth, and used for domestic purposes, for the construction of instruments of warfare, and as a circulating medium; that the horse was in subjection to man, and trained for war; that musical instruments of several kinds were made use of; that navigation was not unknown; that written characters were in common use; that the science of astronomy was cultivated, since the stars had been identified and named, and were probably assembled into constellations; and that unquestionably mankind were not living in the simple patriarchal state, since different ranks of society are in several instances familiarly mentioned, as is also war--not the mere disputes between neighbouring shepherds, but organised war, (unfortunately too sure a sign of an advanced social state,) with separate leaders, and with the accompaniments of weapons of offence and defence, and of musical instruments; whilst it is at the same time quite evident that the degree of intellectual acquirement and of refinement which would allow of the composition of the work itself, could not have been low in the scale of human cultivation.

"If such were the condition of society in the time of Job, about 1200 years subsequent to the Flood,-at which period, or shortly afterwards, we learn, from Scripture, the existence of caravans of merchants crossing the desert, and of the kingdom of the Pharaohs, with all the accompaniments of a highly artificial state of society, captains of the guard, keepers of the prison, chief butlers and chief bakers, magicians and wise men who were interpreters of dreams, and priests,there is, according to the line of argument here pursued, ample reason for affirming that the civilization of Noah and his immediate descendants was, at the lowest, of equal degree with that of this subsequent period; and we can thus at once understand how the various nations, in the earliest periods of the postdiluvian era, should have been possessed of that high culture and civilization of which we have evidence in their histories and in their remains; and we shall also be able to form far more correct ideas of the social state of mankind, generally, as recorded in the earliest portions of the Hebrew Scriptures, than if we place them at any lower point in the scale of civilization.

"With all these acquirements, however, it is not improbable that in scientific knowledge, (according to the present usual acceptation of the term,) Noah and bis immediate descendants may have been comparatively uninformed. The general deficiency of the various nations of antiquity in this respect, has, in fact, tended more than any other circumstance, to leave us in ignorance regarding the real state of the acquirements of the earlier ages of the world. So long as a nation remained in union and in peace, the arts handed down from one generation to another, would have been perpetrated, and might even have existed in a state of progressive improvement; but the moment when, from separation, from war, or from any other extrinsic or accidental cause, the knowledge thus acquired and preserved became destroyed or impeded in its progress, there would be no means of at once restoring what was thus lost, and partial or total ignorance would consequently ensue.

"Whilst the utmost ingenuity of philosophers of the highest rank of talent and knowledge has been required, in order to show (though with little substantial success) how the social state might progressively advance from the lowest to the highest degree of civilization, the labour of demonstrating how the contrary progression may have taken place is, on the other hand, quite unattended with difficulty. When mankind first began to disperse from the focus of all human wisdom, and whilst knowledge thus continued to be merely traditive, it is manifest that the practical knowledge of every department of pursuit must have diminished at every step that was taken from the centre, unless each tribe could have insured to itself (which would have been scarcely possible,) the possession of individuals imbued with the aggregate of the acquirements of the parent stock. Knowledge can in no case remain perfectly stationary, it must either advance or recede; and it may confidently be asserted, that the latter was the case at the commencement of the postdiluvian era, and continued to be so, until the numbers of mankind had sufficiently increased to allow them again to begin to improve and to accumu

late-each nation in its own particular sphere of acquirements-the knowledge which they had either retained by direct transmission from the common centre, or which had been subsequently derived from the circumstances in which they had respectively been placed.

[ocr errors]

Subsequently to the first miraculous dispersion of mankind, the pressure of population would probably have been the primary cause of the general distribution of the human race over the face of the earth, and of their consequent descent in the scale of civilization. To this, however, are to be added, disputes among neighbouring people, too often ending in warfare; the dislike of some races to the countries in which they had voluntarily settled, or into which they had been compelled to migrate; and the desire, or probably the necessity, of obtaining possessions more suited to their inclinations or their requirements. As the social tie became gradually weaker, the growth of erratic habits, and the consequent rapid declension in civilization which universally attends the settling of new lands, would operate, leading at length to a confirmed nomadic state. In any of these intermediate stages of degradation, however, further deterioration may have been prevented, and an impulse may even have been given to a progressive state of improvement, by any causes, whether natural or artificial, which would prevent the further disintegration of society, and bring its members into more intimate connexion, so as to preserve the means for the mutual impartation of knowledge. Thus in maritime countries, where the further progress and dispersion of mankind have been stopped by the ocean;-in islands;-in cities, where men have been congregated together for the purposes of commerce ;-and even in rich alluvial countries, of which, by means of agricultural knowledge, the products have afforded subsistence to a dense population ;-civilization, so far from being stationary, has generally continued to advance: whilst in champaign, barren, and desert countries, on the contrary, where nomadic habits have been induced, the people have descended in the scale of civilization in an equal ratio to the quality of the country and its means of affording subsistence, operating conjointly with its extent, and the consequent absence of the necessity for its inhabitants to adopt any means of support, beyond those which have spontaneously presented themselves, and which have thence become congenial to them; such as the pasturing of their flocks in countries sufficiently fertile for that purpose, or the hunting of wild animals, where the physical condition of the country has not been adapted to the support of tame ones.

"From this last state, in which, owing to the loss of the knowledge of accumulating capital, whether in the form of money or of merchandize, and ultimately even in that of cattle, a large tract of country would become necessary for the support of a much smaller number of persons; and in which also, from the disintegration of society, the traditive knowledge of each successive generation would become less and less,-the progress to the condition of the mere savage, or to that of man in the lowest stage of civilization, is easily to be traced.

"In cold and inhospitable countries, however, where the uncivilised races inhabiting them would be compelled to use every exertion in order to procure a scanty and precarious subsistence, the lowest mechanical arts would still be retained, until the inclemencies and privations to which these races were subject had caused their extinction (a result which there is good reason to believe has in many instances ultimately taken place;) whilst in more genial climates, where the spontaneous productions of nature were sufficient for the support of mankind, the absence of motives for exertion would lead to the total declension of their debased inhabitants, so that, at length they would become almost assimilated with the brute creation."


No. II.


The bitterest enemies of the Whigs, could not have wished them a worse fate than they have provided for themselves, that of remaining in power long enough to shew their incapacity, as ministers, and their utter disregard of principle, as men. It is no exaggeration to say, that during the last six months they have done more towards degrading the character of public men, than could have been effected, if all the political profligacy of the last century had been acted over again, in that space.


When I speak of political profligacy, let me not be misunderstood."There are," says Bacon, in his pathetic but unworthy letter to the House of Peers, deprecating their severity, and calling upon them for a benign interpretation" of what he was about to write "there are," says he, "vitia temporis, as well as vitia hominis." In former times, and those not very remote, a charge of political profligacy carried with it an implied, if not an express, accusation of something venal and corrupt; a bartering of honor and honesty, for contaminating gold. It is not of this species of profligacy that I now speak. Neither will I be so unjust as to leave it to be inferred, that because venality and corruption are no longer the vitia temporis, they would be the vitia hominis if the character of the age permitted. Meanly and despicably as I think of the Whigs in all that relates to manly and consistent assertion of principles, I do not believe them capable of doing from mercenary motives what they have shewn themselves capable of doing from purely selfish ones. They like their salaries; but they like much more the power, and influence, and importance, which are connected with those salaries. Offer them ten years purchase of their salaries to relinquish office, with the certainty that the world could never come to a knowledge of the bargain, and I think that Lord BROUGHAM, Lord MELBOURNE, Lord ALTHORP, and all, except perhaps some of the underlings of the government, would spurn the glittering bribe: yet, for the sake of office itself, for the sake of dispensing ministerial patronage, and exercising ministerial influence, we have seen them abandon every one of those lofty rules and high-minded maxims, which are considered, and justly so, as the safeguards of a statesman's public and private honor.

They have shewn, indeed, such a resolute adhesion to office, that it is difficult to conceive a power of sufficient force to shake them off. What increases the difficulty still more is, that their own dropping off, is no security against their re-adhesion. Like the French Republic, they are one and indivisible. The divorce a vinculo matrimonii, is not more beset with obstructions, or more hard of attainment, by our laws, than the separation of the Whigs from the places they have once occupied. They shift, and turn, and double, go, return, threaten, complain-in fact, do all things save the one thing which they ought to do. I can account for all this only upon the supposition, that they know when once they are gone, they are gone for ever; and that like a man hanging by the branch of a tree over some frightful chasm, they cling to their hold to the last moment.

There are circumstances, of rare, but still, of possible, occurrence, in which a ministry might laudably exhibit this determination not to relinquish their authority. They would be justified in doing so, if a factious party were

[blocks in formation]

striving to drive them from the helm, and if the country were unequivocally desirous that they should remain. Also, if the Sovereign laid his express commands upon them; and even, (though this would give a latitude to tricky, insincere men,) if they were embarked in, or were preparing, any great national measures, which they conscientiously considered for the common good, but felt assured would be abandoned or mutilated, by their successors. These are cases, in which a sense of public duty would have a right to silence any scruples arising from merely personal considerations or private sentiments.

But can the Whigs urge these pleas, separately or collectively? Are they persecuted by a faction? So far from it, they have their sure majorities in the House of Commons, while in the House of Peers, though, by the confession of Earl GREY himself, the Conservative party could at any time leave them in a minority, they have determinedly abstained from exercising that power. Does the country desire their rule? They know full well that they have outlived the rabble popularity which hallooed them on, during the reform frenzy. So little are they in odonr with any portion of the people, that it is notorious they dare not trust themselves to any hustings where the popular voice prevails. They lost their Irish Secretary in Westminster-their Attorney General at Dudley-and almost their Colonial Secretary at Cambridge. These were indications that could not be mistaken; and the state of public feeling of which they were the signs, added in no small degree to the embarrassment of their last squabble. They did not see how they were to move their men from one place to another, without encountering an election by the way, which was pretty nearly equivalent to the certainty of losing them after they were moved.

Has the Sovereign laid any express commands upon them? On the contrary, he has accepted, and willingly, their resignations; and they have been flung back upon him, more than once, by an influence, (to which I shall presently allude,) as unconstitutional as it is unprecedented and dangerous. Lastly, have they embarked in, or are they preparing, any great national measures, essential to the common good, the success of which would be endangered by their retirement? They will answer yes-and point to the Poor Law Amendment Bill-the Irish Tithe Bill-the appropriation clause of the Irish Church Temporalities Bill-the Church Rate Bill-and the thousand and one other experiments in legislation, by which they have done pretty nearly as much mischief as a constitution so robust as ours can sustain.But we would say, and in the language of Hooker," it cannot be endured to hear a man profess that he putteth fire to his neighbur's house, but yet so hallows the same, with prayer, that he hopeth it shall not burn.” These measures are only a part of the uniform policy of a set of men who, in order, and at any hazard, to obtain a present credit, propose whatever may be pleasing as attended with neither difficulty nor danger; and afterwards throw all the disappointment of the wild expectations they have raised, upon those who have the hard task of freeing the public from the consequences of their pernicious projects.

Here lies the true secret of the extraordinary unpopularity of the Whigs; of the detestation in which they are held. Their unpopularity is extraordinary, in reference only to the unanimity of the feeling with which they are regarded throughout the country. In all other respects, it is quite natural; for their measures have been of such a nature as to alienate from them all moderate men, while they have stopped short of that point which would have satisfied the more violent. In other words, they have alarmed and disgusted the good, and have not been able to conciliate the bad.

Where, then, was their popularity to come from? Through all the degrees of conservatism, from its lowest to its highest temperature, they are regarded with suspicion or apprehension: through all the degrees of radicalism, from those who desire what they foolishly believe they may have-a monarchy based upon republican principles-to those who want that which they never

« PreviousContinue »