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have the successful efforts of science in redacing compounded substances already extended, that the same philosopher has in another place thought himself, upon good grounds, entitled to state, “that a few undecompounded bodies, which may perhaps ultimately be resolved into still fewer elements, or which may be different forms of the same material, constitute the whole of our tangible universe of
It must, we think, be acknowledged, that a more beautiful display of exalted wisdom, of grandeur and simplicity in contrivance, of minuteness and delicacy in operation, of what is wonderful in counşel and excellent in working,' cannot even be faintly conceived by the imagination of man. But we turn with pleasure even from these engaging speculations to others yet more interesting to the moralist, who after all is the true philosopher, at least if the importance of the science is to be estimated by the value of the subjects about which it is conversant. We turn to the contemplation, with that lively sympathy with the fortunes of the human race, and that warm zeal for the interests of truth and justice, without the guidance of which, it has been well observed, 'the highest mental endowments, when applied to moral or to political researches, are in perpetual danger of mistaking their way. To this higher department of the inquiry,--to MAN as a member of civil society and as a moral and accountable being, the remainder of the Essay exclusively relates.
As we have already hinted, there is no reasoning justly upon the Creator's provisions respecting man, without some understanding of the design of God in bringing him into existence, which involves the question, what man is in his state of nature, or as he is placed by Providence in connection with the scheme of earthly things. Now all reflection upon the moral and intellectual powers of man, compared with the circumstances calling for their exercise with which he is surrounded, tend uniformly to the conviction that he was placed here in order to exercise, according to his opportunities in his progress through the world, the various powers of reason and virtue with which he is endowed. The state of nature then, when applied to man, is a state of progressive improvement; and we are convinced that it is equally true of communities as of individuals, that if they do not wilfully or through ignorance place themselves in a state contrary to nature, that is, inconsistent with the rules which God has given them for their government, they might proceed, through the whole period of their existence, in a growing course of moral and political welfare. But we must not anticipate.
* Davy's Elements of Chem. Phil.--p. 503 ; as quoted by Mr. Sumner.
Mr. Sumner very satisfactorily refutes the arguments of those philosophers, who, by exhibiting what they are pleased to call the chain of existence, virtually deny the gradual improvement of man to be the design of the Creator; and this he does by shewing the elastic and extendible nature of those links in the moral chain which are made up of human ngs
M. Bonnet and a Mr. White are great advocates for this catenarian system of philosophy; and because they have observed that there is less difference between the highest brute and the lowest savage than between the savage and the most improved man, have thought themselves justified in concluding that man forms part of a regular gradation of beings, and is himself instinctively the subject of similar gradations ; that the Ouranoutang, for example, is the first link which connects man with quadrupeds, and that the Negro is the connecting tie between the white man and the ape. Upon these principles we see no sound objection to ranging Messrs. Bonnet and White as severally the intermediate links between the philosopher and the madınan; for if it is to be understood that individual or national character is always to continue precisely at that point where it may have been observed at any particular period to have stood ;-or that there is a meutal and moral circle drawn round each variety of human character, of the nature of an impassable barrier; (which is evidently the case with animals regulated by instinct ;)—then we must allow that the Bonnet and White links in the series must be permanently kept up, or the ways of Providence interrupted. But if the human mind in those individuals is of an expansive and improveable nature, although their moral faculties have been deadened or their intellectual powers perverted by abuse, then it will become us to use our best exertions in devising the means whereby more sober and enlightened philosophers than Messrs. Bonnet and White may be provided for the use of future generations. In short, man is placed in the world with moral powers and faculties, dormant indeed till called into exertion by the circumstances which surround him, but capable of being improved and exalted in the highest degree by a right application of them to those circumstances. He is commanded so to apply them, and instructed in the method of obeying that command. He is placed in a state of moral and mental trial, whereas brutes are placed in a condition of mere instinctive obedience to their animal propensities.
Man then being placed in a state of moral discipline through the media of surrounding circumstances operating upon bis moral faculties, and of the reaction of those faculties modifying the principles upon which the affairs of the world are regulated, it behoves us, in estimating the wisdom and goodness of those principles as originally ordained by the Creator, always to keep in mind their
VOL. XVI. NO. XXXI.
main object, which appears to be to preserve the moral faculties in a state of perpetual exercise and improvement, in order to fit them for a superior state of existence.
This is nearly the view which Mr. Sumner has taken of the des sign of the Creator with respect to this world, and to the Being into whose hands He has delivered it over as a possession; and the conclusions which he draws from the premises are expressed in the following words :
• It is evident, that if the present state is not final, if its object is discipline, what might appear to us the happiest, or easiest, or best condition for the human race in an immediate view, would not be the most suitable to the ultimate intention of the Creator. The object which would be present to the divine mind, in determining the circumstances in which it were expedient to place mankind, would be, to assign them that state of being which was best suited to render this world the stage of discipline it was designed to prove : one that should most effectually and inevitably work out the powers, exercise the virtues, and display the character of man. And it might be expected from what we see other instances of the Creator's wisdom, that he would place mankind in circumstances through which the order of things best calculated to further this design should naturally establish itself, without any such immediate interference as might disturb the spontaneity of human actions.
I think it may be rendered evident that He has done so; and the proof of wisdom I shall endeavour to illustrate, is this; that the order of things, in which the human race arrives at the highest degree of improvement, and has the widest scope for moral and intellectual per fection, is inevitably, and with some trifling exceptions, universally established, by the operation of a SINGLE PRINCIPLE, and the instinca tive force of a single natural desire.'- vol. ii. p. 26, 27.
The SINGLE PRINCIPLE here alluded to, is the PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION-concerning which so much has been said and written since the publication of Mr. Malthus's original and elaborate Essay upon that subject.
Differing, as we do, most widely from the statements and conclusions of that ingenious writer, we are nevertheless disposed to agree as to the effects ascribed by Mr. Sumner to the principle itself when rightly stated ; and we derive no common degree of satisfaction from the proof afforded by the Essay before us, that although Mr. Sumner has brought himself to admit the truth of Mr. Malthus's principles, he can yet have derived from them the same conclusions respecting the wisdom and goodness of God which we have ourselves derived from what we conceive to be a refutation of those principles. We are disposed to welcome this remarkable coincidence of conclusions from opposite premises, in the case of the party which has taken the wrong premises, as a signal instance
of the power of a well regulated mind over an acute understanding. When we come to the discussion of this subject, we shall shew, that had Mr. Sumner embraced all the parts of Mr. Malthus's Essay he would have found, (as that author himself has too frequently found,) that the principles extended much too far to warrant
the conclusions which he attempts to deduce from them, as merely o sufficient to urge men to exertion and self-denial, and to reward
them in proportion to their obedience. He must, we think, have discovered that, notwithstanding any practicable degree of general virtue and self-denial, the progress of society from the lower to the higher stages (which we have already shewn to be the design of Providence) must, upon Mr. Malthus's statement, inevitably bring with it large accessions of vice and misery to man, instead of coucentrating the greatest possible proportion of happiness in a given space of territory. * He would surely therefore have concluded that the principles themselves could not be true, and would bave bent the powers of his mind to the discovery and statement of those points where paralogisms might be detected, before he ventured to argue upon the principles themselves as the great fundamental proof of the wisdom of God in the construction of human society. We should then have had the third and fourth chapters which are now occupied with a discussion concerning the effects of the equality or the inequality of ranks and fortunes, devoted to a new and corrected statement of the principle of population. We may add too, that many conclusions in the fourth chapter, in which we cordi- , ally agree, would have followed with greater force and effect as the natural consequences of a right statement of the principle of population. Mr. Sumner, however, having chosen to take another course, we feel bound to follow him through this preliminary matter.
The advocates for political equality are, consistently enough, the advocates for the superior comforts and happiness of the savage state of society :-for political equality can only be practically enjoyed, and that very imperfectly, in such a condition of mankind. On the sillinesses of Rousseau, Condorcet, Godwin, the Père du Tertre, and a crowd of imitators on this subject, it is at this time of day, thank God! useless to expatiate. But we think the general
conclusion is stated by Mr. Sumner in the following passage, witb scandour and impartiality.
A partial survey of civilized life represents, it is true, cach individual, neglectful of the general good, and struggling merely for the advancement of his own; flourishing by the discomfiture of competitors, and elevated by the depression of his brethren. But the other side of the picture shews individual advantage terminating in public benefits, and ihe desire of aggrandizement which is stimulated by ambition or do
mestic partialities, contributing towards the welfare of the community at large. Man, in all situations, has both opportunity and inclination for vice, though all vices do not flourish equally in all situations. But ferocity, intemperance, and revenge, if they are not worse, certainly are not better than avarice, rapacity, or luxury; whilst the savage vices have no compensation of delicate taste, refined manners, improved understanding, or exalted virtues. A contest for riches or power does not more disturb the harmony of life, than the disputed possession of a palm-tree or a cabin : but the latter produces no other fruit than private rancour or revengeful malice: the former enriches the state by the addition of two active and useful citizens.'—vol. ij. p. 32.
It is obvious, and has been frequently shewn in detail, that the division and accumulation of property, the division of labour, and the consequent inequality of ranks and conditions, which follow the first steps in the progress of society, introduce the necessity of active exertion of some kind or other throughout all classes of the community. It is no less obvious that this general necessity for exertion and activity is the condition most suitable to the developement and improvement of the faculties of a being, in whom the principle of indolence is more strongly rooted than the principle of philanthropy,—or the abstract love of his fellow creatures. We find indeed that this last mentioned plant is the growth of civilization, and of a religion whose general influence implies a consideráble advance beyond the savage state of equality. It is the glory indeed of that religion, that it introduces the only practicable system of equality—that of a moral kind, whereby mankind are placed upon a perfect level in the eye of God and man, as to all which respects their eternal interests, and which by its operation on individual minds often reverses the view invidiously taken of society by the advocates of political equality, by lifting the lowest in the scale of tensporal condition, to the highest point of temporal happiness. But the aristocracy of contentment and humility is no less an eye-sore to the levelling atheist, than the aristocracy of rank and fortune, or even than that of talent and industry :--and it is incontestible that the mere intellectual improvement which upon their system is to counteract the principle of indolence inherent in the equal condition of mankind, cannot be brought to bear except in a state of society which presupposes an equality of condition to be altogether impracticable. We may then fairly admit the truth of Mr. Sumner's conclusion of the third chapter of this volume: “ It is not presumptuous to conclude that the situation best calculated to improve by exercise the faculties of man is civil society, consisting as it does of unequal fortunes, ranks and conditions.'
In the fourth chapter we approach nearer to the discussion of the principle of population. The subject on which it professes to