Imágenes de páginas

or organized opposition creed, and the objectors to which, essentially varying in opinion themselves, and believing one one thing and another the reverse, may be safely and altogether rejected.

Let us consider in what a village of English colonists is superior to a tribe of Australian natives who roam about them. Indisputably in one - and that a main-sense they are superior: they can beat the Australians in war when they like; they can take from them anything they like and kill any of them they choose. As a rule, in all the outlying and uncontested districts of the world, the aboriginal native lies at the mercy of the intruding European. Nor is this all : indisputably in the English village there are more means of happiness, a greater accumulation of the instruments of enjoyment, than in the Australian tribe; the English have all manner of books, utensils, and machines which the others do not use, value, or understand. And in addition, and beyond particular inventions, there is a general strength which is capable of being used in conquering a thousand difficulties, and is an abiding source of happiness, because those who possess it always feel that they can use it.

If we omit the higher but disputed topics of morals and religion, we shall find, I think, that the plainer and agreed-on superiorities of the Englishmen are these :- First, that they have a greater command over the powers of nature upon the whole : though they may fall short of individual Australians in certain feats of petty skill, — though they may not throw the boomerang as well or light a fire with earthsticks as well, - yet on the whole, twenty Englishmen with their implements and skill can change the material world immeasurably more than twenty Australians and their machines. Secondly, that this power is not external only, it is also internal: the English not only possess better machines for moving nature, but are themselves better machines. Mr.


[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Babbage taught us years ago that one great use of machinery was not to augment the force of man, but to register and regulate the power of man; and this in

a thousand ways civilized man can do, and is ready to do, better and more precisely than the barbarian. Thirdly, civilized man not only has greater powers over nature, but knows better how to use them; and by better, I here mean better for the health and comfort of his present body and mind. He can lay up for old age, which a savage having no durable means of sustenance cannot; he is ready to lay up because he can distinctly foresee the future, which the vague-minded savage cannot; he is mainly desirous of gentle continuous pleasure, whereas the barbarian likes wild excitement and longs for stupefying repletion. Much if not all of these three ways may be summed up in Mr. Spencer's phrase, that progress is an increase of adaptation of man to his environment, - that is, of his internal powers and wishes to his external lot and life; something of it too is expressed in the old pagan idea mens sana in corpore sano, - and I think this sort of progress may be fairly investigated quite separately, as it is progress in a sort of good every one worth reckoning with admits and agrees in. No doubt there will remain people like the aged savage who in his old age went back to his savage tribe, and said that he had “tried civilization for forty years, and it was not worth the trouble”; but we need not take account of the mistaken ideas of unfit men and beaten races. On the whole, the plainer sort of civilization, the simpler moral training, and the more elementary education are plain benefits. And though there may be doubt as to the edges of the conception, yet there certainly is a broad road of "verifiable progress which not only discoverers and admirers will like, but which all those who come upon it will use and value.

Unless some kind of abstraction like this is made

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

in the subject, the great problem “What causes

, progress ?” will, I am confident, long remain unsolved. Unless we are content to solve simple problems first, the whole history of philosophy teaches that we shall never solve hard problems. This is the maxim of scientific humility so often insisted on by the highest inquirers, – that in investigations as in life, “those who exalt themselves shall be abased, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted ;” and though we may seem mean only to look for the laws of plain comfort and simple present happiness, yet we must work out that simple case first before we encounter the incredibly harder additional difficulties of the higher art, morals, and religion.

The difficulty of solving the problem even thus limited is exceedingly great: the most palpable facts are exactly the contrary to what we should expect. Lord Macaulay tells us that “In every experimental science there is a tendency towards perfection; in every human being there is a tendency to ameliorate his condition :"* and these two principles, operating everywhere and always, might well have been expected to carry mankind rapidly forward. Indeed, taking verifiable progress in the sense which has just been given to it, we may say that nature gives a prize to every single step in it: every one that makes an invention that benefits himself or those around him is likely to be more comfortable himself, and to be more respected by those around him. To produce new things “serviceable to man's life and conducive to man's estate” is, we should say, likely to bring increased happiness to the producer; it often brings immense reward certainly now,-a new form of good steel pen, a way of making some kind of clothes a little better or a little cheaper, have brought men great fortunes. And there is the same kind of prize for industrial improvement in the earliest times as in the latest, though the benefits so obtainable in early society are poor indeed in comparison with exceed

* See note to page 545.

those of advanced society. Nature is like a schoolmaster at least in this, - she gives her finest prizes to her high and most instructed classes; still, even in the earliest society, nature helps those who can help themselves, and helps them very much.

All this should have made the progress of mankind progress at least in this limited sense ingly common; but in fact any progress is extremely rare. As a rule (and as has been insisted on before), a stationary state is by far the most frequent condition of man, as far as history describes that condition ; the progressive state is only a rare and an occasional exception.

Before history began, there must have been in the nation which writes it much progress, else there could have been no history: it is a great advance in civilization to be able to describe the common facts of life, and perhaps if we were to examine it we should find that it was at least an equal advance to wish to describe them. But very few races have made this step of progress: very few have been capable even of the meanest sort of a history; and as for writing such a history as that of Thucydides, most nations could as soon have constructed a planet. When history begins to record, she finds most of the races incapable of history; arrested, unprogressive, and pretty much where they are now.

Wh then, have not the obvious and natural causes of progress (as we should call them) produced those obvious and natural effects? Why have the real fortunes of mankind been so different from the fortunes which we should expect? This is the problem which in various forms I have taken up in these papers, and this is the outline of the solution which I have attempted to propose :

The progress of man requires the co-operation of men for its development: that which any one man or any one family could invent for themselves is obviously exceedingly limited. And even if this were not true, isolated progress could never be traced : the rudest sort of co-operative society, the lowest tribe and the feeblest government, is so much stronger than isolated man, that isolated man (if he ever existed in any shape which could be called man) might very easily have ceased to exist. The first principle of the subject is, that man can only make progress in “Co-operative groups"; I might say tribes and nations, but I use the less common word because few people would at once see that tribes and nations are co-operative groups, and that it is their being so which makes their value, - that unless you can make a strong co-operative bond, your society will be conquered and killed out by some other society which has such a bond. And the second principle is, that

. the members of such a group should be similar enough to one another to co-operate easily and readily together. The co-operation in all such cases depends on a felt union of heart and spirit; and this is only felt when there is a great degree of real likeness in mind and feeling, however that likeness may have been attained.

This needful co-operation and this requisite likeness I believe to have been produced by one of the strongest yokes (as we should think if it were to be reimposed now) and the most terrible tyrannies ever known among men, - the authority of “customary law.” In its earlier stage this is no pleasant power, - no “rose-water” authority, as Carlyle would have called it, – but a stern, incessant, implacable rule; and the rule is often of most childish origin, beginning in a casual superstition or local accident. “These people," says Captain Palmer of the Fiji, “are very conservative.

A chief was one day going over a mountain path followed by a long string of his people, when he happened to stumble and fall; all the rest of the people immediately did the same except one man, who was set upon by the rest to know whether he considered himself better than the chief."

« AnteriorContinuar »