« PreviousContinue »
sell for more money than the materials cost them, they would have a profit on their labour. These persons would borrow money to buy materials, and, as an inducement to those who had the money to lend, offer to pay something for the use or hire of it; and thus lending money on interest would commence, and people with stores of money, or large possessions in lands would gradually leave off doing any part of their own work, in which indolence they would necessarily be encouraged by the persons who, having neither money nor land, were anxious to be employed and paid for their labour; and thus a prejudice would arise in favour of the rich not doing any work, and they would thus be induced to bring up their children delicately, educate them more or less, and leave them their property when they were dying. Until, in fine, without any violence or injustice being done, society would advance towards the complicated state of things which exists at present in our own country. And now, people who had thus by their own industry or that of their forefathers been secured leisure both from labour of body and from anxiety of mind, would devote themselves to learning and to the improvement of arts and sciences. Here, again, those who had industry and application would excel others in whatever they undertook, and new distinctions would arise.
Thus, you see, it was not God who gave to one of his children more land, more money, a finer house, finer clothes, or more leisure to become learned, than to another ; it was being more industrious and more frugal at the first which originated all these differences. Now if the advance of civilization were not retarded by warfare or false worship, but that, on the contrary, the moral and intellectual faculties, and human instincts, and human sympathies which I have described to you, were cultivated, and the people instructed in the worship of a benevolent God, and thus taught to reverence goodness and to love one another, the worthy and compassionate among those who had become rich would begin to feel that those who had fallen into poverty, whether by misfortune or by their own or their parents' fault, must not, if they could not find work, be allowed, in the meantime, to suffer want; so they would meet together and make a law that every one who poesessed property should contribute in proportion to that property some share to support those who had neither land nor money, and who could not get work.
Thus would commence a Poor Law.
The benevolent and intelligent portion of this community would now also begin to consider that a man who had enough to do to support his family by his labour when he was in health, must be very ill off when he was sick or met with any accident; they would accordingly found general hospitals, fever hospitals, casualty hospitals, &c. &c.; and thus would gradually arise the multitudes of benevolent institutions which we see everywhere around us.
Then, ia benevoispires.
Then, those benevolent persons observing that the knowledge of a good and benevolent God, and the reverence for goodness which this knowledge inspires have a great efficacy in making people good and benevolent, and therefore in promoting moral order and consequent happiness, they would make a law, that all persons having property should contribute towards the sum necessary to pay a sufficient number of well-instructed persons to devote the whole of their time to teaching every one to love and reverence a good and benevolent God; thus a church establishment would arise.
Those intelligent and benevolent persons would also perceive that it was very difficult for those who had to work hard to procure enough to eat, to educate their children ; they would, accordingly, agree that those who had property should subscribe yet another portion of that property to establish schools, in which the children of those who were too poor to pay for the education of their children should be educated without paying anything.
Now, how could these people have done all these things, or any of these things, if there had never been a compact entered into to protect the fruit of each man's labour from the depradations of his neighbour ; for all property consists of labour finished and preserved, whether by the labourer himself or by his forefathers, in the shape of land, houses, goods, or money? Thus, you see that laws which favour the acquisition, and protect the possession of private property, are not only indispensable to the cultivation and enjoyment of the fruits of the earth, but are also of great importance to the development of the mind of man. As I have said, you will find the consideration of this subject useful; for, when you are in the habit of knowing and remembering how much of your own safety and comfort you owe to the protection of the laws of the land, you will feel a greater respect for those laws, and be less likely to break any of them yourselves, or suffer your children to do so. You would do well, indeed, to impress this consideration on the minds of your children from the first; it may keep them out of much harm. Among the cheap and useful publications of the day there are, no doubt, accounts of the condition of all the savage tribes and nations in the world; and persons even who cannot read might, as I have suggested, hear those read aloud at the meetings of Mechanics’ Institutions. Such studies would bring home to your minds a strong conviction that, however defective the organization of society may still continue to be, no one could desire to see it go back to the state of the barren waste and the wandering savage feeding on worms, or the still more terrible one, that of the hourly dread of fire and sword; and if the laws which protect life and property ceased to be respected, society would return to one or other of these deplorable states in a very short time. Views of the horrors of anarchy, and of the helplessness of individual families unprotected by the existence of good laws, must likewise inspire a strong desire for the further progress of social order, which further progress can only be obtained by that further cultivation of the moral faculties which I have already recommended.
CHAPTER II. Instruction and competency lawful objects of pursuit. I have anxiously endeavoured in a former part of this Essay to convince you that by the cultivation of your moral faculties and human sympathies, and those portions of the intellectual powers of man which derive their teaching from daily experience, it was in your power, without either wealth or book learning, to entitle yourselves to your own respect and to that of your fellow-men. But I did not, therefore, advise you not to increase your knowledge, and improve your condition; there is a great difference between despising yourselves or each other for not possessing the advantages of learning or wealth when out of your reach, and neglecting to seek them by every honest means in your power.
I asserted also, that the knowledge of the means of doing good was the only knowledge which deserved the name of wisdom, or was worthy the ambition of conscience; yet I did not, by this assertion, limit the subjects of human research, I but elevated the motive with which such researches should be made. Let knowledge in every science, adroitness in every trade, be sought as means of performing our relative duties to our families and to society, and all such knowledge and such adroitness become means of doing good, and their pursuit a religious rite. While he who, actuated by this motive, acquires much knowledge, and exerts the power which such knowledge bestows in benefitting his fellow-creatures, thus becomes of all earthly objects that which is entitled to our highest veneration.
Nor would anything be more likely to promote the speedy acquisition of competency, and consequent leisure to become learned, than commencing by the practical culture of the moral faculties, which I have thus recommended. Such culture will make a man honest, industrious, sober, and frugal, as naturally and necessarily as sowing a field with wheat causes wheat to grow in that field.
A man with such a combination of real virtues almost always prospers, because every one is willing to trust him ; every one is willing to employ him; every one is ready to say a good word of him, and every one must respect him; so that, as there is no impassable barrier between classes in this country, there would be no saying to what station he might eventually rise.
But observe, that having so risen, his moral faculties, with the
culture of which I have supposed him to commence his fortunate career, would show him that as soon as he thus no longer required his time to earn his daily bread, he could no longer remain unlettered with an approving conscience; for that the privilege of leisure which he had acquired had rendered him responsible to the less fortunate members of the community, to devote that leisure to some study or pursuit by which he might benefit the great masses of his fellow-creatures whom he had left behind him still struggling for subsistence. Thus, while his conscience would prompt him to endeavour especially to spread the honest and kindly sentiments which had proved so great blessings in his own case, he would be also careful to suggest to the public any improvement in agriculture or any other useful art, or any discovery in science to which his studies might have led, and anxious to study on with the same view, because he would not be able to approve of himself without going on; and the approbation of his conscience on these enlightened grounds would, after such moral culture, have become as necessary to the comfort of his mind as his daily food to the subsistence of his body. Thus we see benevolent design in both these instincts. If there were no instinct of hunger nor relish for food, the body, left in charge of the understanding only, would in many cases die of starvation from mere neglect; and so, as I have shown you, would the energies of the soul perish, or remain useless, if left to the convictions, however strong, of the intellect, without the urgings of instinctive conscience hungering for our own approbation, and still excited to new efforts by each experience of the placid satisfaction which such approbation imparts.
By this conscientious devotion of human intellect to its noblest purposes, thus urged to the task by the cultivation of the moral and religious faculties and human sympathies, we may hope at length to see every art, every science, every branch of human knowledge perfected, and reduced to broad comprehensive principles, so simply put that the plainest understanding may be able to apply them practically to the business of daily life.
In many of the physical sciences much of this has been already done. Thousands are actively employed, applying to the benefit of millions discoveries in science resulting from the studious labours of a comparatively few individuals. These useful discoveries have been made, and thus turned to beneficial purposes by first studying and then practically adapting to those purposes the great unalterable laws of nature.
Hitherto, however, this has been chiefly done as regards her physical powers and their application to mechanical purposes, by which our bodily comforts have been greatly increased. It remains for the present and future ages to study with equal care the equally powerful and equally unalterable, but still more important natural laws which influence mind, and by adapting them with equal skill
terable study eatly inahical pegards he
to the formation of mental habits and dispositions, to promote the moral order and increase the consequent happiness of this and all future generations as much as discoveries in physics and their application have added to the bodily comforts and convenience of all classes in the present day, compared with what their condition was in the savage stages of society.
BY MRS. CRAWFORD.
By yon bright moon above !
Then fly with me now;
* From an old legend.