his mutilation of animals in every civilized burnt or tortured, he was burnt and torcountry. It may seem ridiculous to men- tured no longer. Then came a tedious intion shaving, but if the intentions of Na- terval, during which public opinion reture were regarded as sacred, people would fused to apply physical torture to heretics, no more venture to set up their own judg. while it approved of moral inflictions in mrent against hers, even in minor matters, the shape of social and political disabilithan they would alter the syllables of ties ; heretics were relieved from all apscriptures held to be inspired. It would prehension of the rack and the stake, but be a sin to destroy the germs of life ; no they were subjected to a kind of social truly pious person would venture to boil paralysis. They were not allowed to ocan egg

cupy any position of importance in the It does not appear, therefore, that mod- State ; it was practically difficult for them ern opinions about Nature mark any novel even to marry and to exercise paternal opposition between what is natural and authority. In our time religious disabiliwhat is human ; on the contrary, it might ties are rapidly disappearing in England, be argued that the modern acceptation of while they have entirely disappeared in Nature's moral indifference, combined France, except as a matter of caste. The with her absolute regularity in her own change has been brought about by a more order, is more favorable to a certain re- enlightened public opinion, which does spect for Nature than all previous human not approve of forcing people into falseideas about her. The ways of the universe hood. It may possibly go a step beyond are not our ways, but they can be abso that, and decide that nobody ought even lutely relied upon. The new element in to be tempted, though force is no longer our beliefs is not the non-human character exercised. It is immoral to make a will of Nature, but the perfect trust that can by which a large sum of money is bebe placed in her infallible regularity. If queathed to some one on condition that he she is neither tender, nor merciful, nor professes certain religious opinions. The just, she is never capricious.

English law of succession is immoral, beAgain, our most recent ideas about cause in possible cases it offers a temptahuman morality are not so new as they ap- tion to untruth, which hardly any human pear. The severance of it from non- being would have strength to resist. An human nature is as ancient as the notion heir to the throne has access, by his eduof controlling a natural instinct or denying cation, to books in several languages ; as a it a satisfaction, and if we are trying now private reader he may be familiar with to form a morality, the main difference the most advanced philosophical speculabetween us and our ancestors is that some tions, or the bent of his nature may lead of us are fully conscious of the process, him away from these to the poctry of a and they were unconscious. They did, in ceremonial religion. Mentally he might reality, form and modify the moralities agree with Renan or with Cardinal Newthat were practically their rules of life. man, but to reveal his opinions, in either Religious and philosophical teachers pro- case, would be to forfeit the crown of vided them with ideal precepts, for which England. In other words the law, as it they professed admiration, but they them- at present stands, would in certain cases selves made and modified, from age to convert the crown of England into a reage, their binding codes of duty and ward for persistent dissimulation. honor. If it seems to us that those codes pray not to be led into temptation, yet were imperfect, we are as free to improve they tempt others into certain forms of upon them as they were to ameliorate those dishonesty. They would think it wrong of their forefathers. Aud if it is asked to tempt a servant to steal, but they spread what sanction we have to enforce our de snares of temptation against the private cisions, the answer is that the old sanction honor and the moral dignity of the poor. exists still, and that there bas never been So with children, if we want to educate any other. The only efficacious sanction them into habits of truthfulness, we ought is public opinion ; even the most powerful not to tempt them into falsehood, merely of all Churches could only punish heresy because the truth would be unpleasant to when public opinion looked upon the her their elders. The experiment of allowing etic as a criminal. After public opinion young people to say what they really think decided that the heretic ought not to be has sometimes been tried, and it is found

to offer certain advantages, particularly this panied by false promises, and there is no one, that as the parents do not wish to be accompaniment of adultery more constant, deceived, they are not deceived, their chil. and, as it seems, more inevitable, than dren are really known to them. Why persistent acting and lying. If, then, it force upon them what Mr. James Payn were possible to make men honest, we calls “sham admiration in literature"? A should, with very rare exceptions, get rid boy dislikes the Latin poets, but enjoys of these two forms of sexual error. As to Shakespeare. If we know his taste, we simplicity of life, there would be good perceive that he does not yet appreciate hopes for this virtue if the penalties the labored finish of classical workmanship, against it were removed. The desire for but enjoys exuberance of invention, and luxury is not by any means universal, perwhere is the harm of knowing so much haps it is not even very common, though about the boy ?

it certainly seems to be common. That The history of public opinion is briefly which men do universally desire is human this. In simple conditions of society it is consideration, at least enough of it to unconscious, and takes the form of obedi- avoid contempt, and a multitude of people ence to a military chief and a sacerdotal are living in far more comfort and luxury authority. In a later stage public opinion than they really care about in order not to is that of a majority powerful enough to be despised. Now, it is entirely within reduce minorities to silence. In the Eng. the power of public opinion to relieve the land of Prince Albert's time public opinion world from the weariness of this burden. was that of the partially educated middle It has actually been done to a great extent class. It was then held to be the duty of with regard to the costliness of funerals, a cultivated thinkers to accept the decisions matter in which public opinion bas always of that class on all questions of politics, been very authoritative. If it will now theology, and morals. The complete permit a man to be buried simply when he emancipation of culture from the incubus is dead, why cannot it allow him to exist of middle-class opinion belongs to the last simply while he is alive? Much progress quarter of the nineteenth century. The has, in fact, already been made in this diconsequence is that public opinion has rection. A gentleman in the eighteenth gained by having an element of intelli- century was obliged to dress in a showy gence in addition to its ancient elements and expensive manner, and to drink wine ; of experience and common sense. So now he may dress with extreme simplicity, strengthened, will it be able to form a per- and drink water if reasons of health and fect morality ? That is not probable ; in- economy make him prefer it. Present deed, there are good reasons for believing social exigencies do not weigh heavily on that a perfect morality is useful only as an a gentleman so long as he is a bachelor ; ideal, that its reduction to practice can they fall upon him after marriage. In never become possible, and would never England people incur ridicule and conbe entirely desirable ; but it is likely that tempt if they marry upon such an income public opinion, with the help of outspoken as young professional men can usually and honest intellectual leaders, will im earn ; even the newspapers sneer at them prove popular morality. There are two in articles by writers who themselves exist faults in the present condition of society precariously by journalism. There is perfor which it is not unreasonable to expect haps more absolute liberty to live rationally a continuous amendment. People may in Paris than anywhere else, but unfortu. become more truthful when there are no nately the place itself has become expenlonger any social or legal penalties against sive. The temper of public opinion that honesty, and they may live more austerely would be desirable is that of the old when they find that simplicity of life is French aristocracy toward the poorer mem. not attended by any loss of consideration. bers of the same caste, who were allowed Many and


various moral benefits to live with extreme frugality without would result from these two improvements being punished for it by contempt. This, alone. The habit of truthfulness will be it is true, was a caste feeling, yet it is confound, on considering its wide-reaching ceivable that it might be extended so as to effects on conduct, to ensure much, though include all men and women who are truly not all, of sexual morality also, for cases civilized, and whose conduct is above reof seduction are almost invariably accom- proach. There ought to be liberty to



spend, and also liberty not to spend. The will value a reputation for honesty in all frugality that the vulgar sneer at may be their transactions as much as they now dictated by the noblest motives. A lady value the soundness of their credit in may keep few servants that she may re money matters, a time when they will no serve a margin for her charities ; a man more wish to steal things or to receive may travel in the third-class to help a poor stolen goods, than they now desire to withrelation. For an artist or a writer the hold the interest of their borrowings. A liberty to live simply may mean leisure to complete international morality would also do good work ; for a tradesman, it is the fulfill all national promises and engageliberty to be honest ; for a workwoman, it ments. is permission to be chaste.

This is dreaming, and as the dream is My belief is that the moralities of past pleasant we may go on with it and imagine ages, which were really accepted and acted what the world would be if men who npon (not those which were professed) equally believe that honesty is right could were the changing products of a public work together as heartily' as those who opinion unconscious of its own force, and agree about some religious dogma, such as that we ourselves are living in a time when that of transubstantiation. There are public opinion is passing from the uncon- already some faint signs of concord on scious state to one of lucid consciousness moral grounds in the future. On these through the influence of its intellectual grounds all honest and pure-minded men leaders. We are beginning to know that could meet. We have sometimes, even we can make our own morality, for which, now, the delicate pleasure of seeing the of course, we shall have to take the natural representatives of different religions forconsequences, whatever they may be. getting the acrimony of ancient controThere are conflicts, as when the House of versies and working together for a comCommons says that a man ought to be mon moral end. There are even signs and allowed to marry his deceased wife's sis- symptoms of a truce between the clergy ter, and the House of Lords refuses him and the philosophers. The situation is that liberty, or in France between the sec- briefly this. The clergy have an influence alar and religious spirits when one party over many men, and over a multitude of accepts civil marriage as moral while the women and children, whom the philosoother describes it as concubinage, but in phers cannot reach ; but the philosophers spite of these conflicts, or perhaps even have an influence over many men and a with the help of the discussions to which small yet increasing number of women who they give rise, we are all working together never hear a sermon and also over many to form the morality of the coming age. who listen to sermons like the rest. Í For those of us whose term of life is not know that the ultimate purpose of the two likely to extend beyond the opening years classes of teachers is not the same, but the of the next century, the most interesting immediate purpose is very nearly identical. of all subjects of observation is the germ The clergy promise and prepare for another of that morality which will govern Europe life, the philosophers speak exclusively of toward its close. For example, we see this. Nevertheless, both clergymen and already a desire among a few of the best philosophers do, in fact, at present live in minds for honesty and integrity in dealings the world together, and equally desire that between nations, as in Mr. Frederic Harri- present human society should be governed son's proposal to send the Elgin marbles by righteous principles. The two are like back to Greece, a proposal to do what Americans and Frenchmen travelling towould be plainly and indisputably right. gether from Paris to Havre, the Americans The return of these treasures by a strong intending to go to a distant hemisphere, nation to a weak one and by an intelligent the Frenchmen intending to stop at the nation, fully aware of the inestimable value sea-side. Their ultimate hopes are differof what she was surrendering, would be ent, but while they travel in the same an action as beautiful in morals as the train, it is their common interest and deworks themselves are beautiful in art, and sire that the railway servants should do morally it would be as precious to the their duty, and that the passengers, during world as the marbles themselves are artis- the journey, should refrain from robbery tically precious. While we are still dream and assassination. ing we may imagine a time when nations Since the preceding lines were written,

I have read an interesting paper by Pro- ishments. I


with Mr. Goldwin fessor Goldwin Smith, in the Forum, bear- Smith in the belief that these dangers are ing the interrogative title, “ Will Morality real, and this is precisely the reason why Survive Religion ?" He appears to think all thinking men who know the value of that intelligent Europe is actually now sound morality to a community ought to passing from sacerdotal to scientific leader- help in the formation of a robust public ship, and suggests that society may have opinion. With regard to the decay of a bad quarter of an hour during the transi. religious systems and the replacing of them tion, as it has had more than once before. by something else, the past may throw As the twilight of Theism and Christianity some light upon the future, and Mr. Goldstill lingers, nobody expects a sudden win Smith himself refers to it. A faith change. Least of all does anybody expect that becomes extinct is always succeeded a sudden outbreak of immorality among either by another faith, by a philosophy, philosophers whose minds are elevated by or by anarchy. A condition of mind very their pursuit, and in whom the coarser ap- unfavorable to morality, especially in the petites are sure to be weak.”

What Mr. upper classes, is that of assumed or affected Goldwin Smith looks forward to with ap- faith. This is only anarchy under a false prehension is moral relaxation among cer name, and the more dangerous that it tain classes, such as young workingmen chills enthusiasm and discourages effort, in great cities, who are very sharp and in- accepting a low moral state as a necessary telligent, but not disciplined by an educa- condition of human nature that only the tion strong enough to enable them to ap- simple-minded hope to alter. The wellpreciate what is constructive in modern meant discouragement of progressive mophilosophy, while they can see what it de- rality by more sincerely religious people stroys. There may be a danger of the may become almost equally dangerous, as same kind for thoughtless women in the morality, like law, presents new difficulties upper classes, if they are no longer re in advancing states of society.- Contemstrained by the dread of supernatural pun- porary Review.



If there is any part of the world which most inexhaustible resources, and of pracappears more suitable than another for tical security against danger from without. solving successfully the problems of mod With all this, however, a feeling of ern life, it would seem to be America. doubt is growing among thoughtful AmeriThere, all the elements are united, out of cans concerning the future of the nation. which a new regulation or a new order of It is felt that democracy in its truest printhings ought to arise. Colonized in faith ciple is not fulfilling the expectation of its and hope, free from the cares of empire early years. Its cosmopolitan characteror the necessity for alliances, and having istic-the good of the people-is losing a population representing nearly every itself in the parochial idea of the good of European nationality, no other country a particular people according to their vothas its way so clear, no other can more ing capacity, and a corresponding selfisheasily set itself the task of endeavoring to ness is permeating the mass of society, perfect the happiness of humanity. To which must rob the individual of generous the true American, as well as to the im- instincts. The enthusiastic socialist, bent migrant, the possibilities are endless that on the propagation of a new gospel, has cluster round the play of unfettered en so far taken no account of its narrowing ergy. Each sees through the vision of tendency in his dreams for the renovation his fancy the power of infinite enjoyment, of the State ; but under conditions of --that fountain of perpetual youth which moral deterioration, such as presidential the early tradition, believed by the Span- elections have latterly made apparent, it is iards, placed in a land of gems and gold. alone sufficient to wreck all schemes of imEach is buoyed by the knowledge of al- provement whose foundation is laid on a

typical humanity, without any trial being its position it is a community of stagnation, made of their intrinsic value. The gree: no matter how great the prosperity of the and covetousness associated with the early surface may seem, and sooner or later will discovery of the continent by the for- reap what it has sown. Already the vigor eigner have therefore to be accounted for, and freshness of youth, at one period so as their impress has been left on its ex- captivating to outsiders, has been lost in pansion side by side with that of the Pil- the premature arrival of a middle age of grim Fathers ; and the fabled fountain, labor problems. The America of to-day which at one time seemed to have been holds out no helping ideas to solve the found in the development of the demo- higher questions of life. Its democracy cratic spirit, is still to be sought by every appears to be content with its greatest one who desires the happiness of man. achievement-the victory of self-govern

In writing so, it is not, of course, de- ment; and having provided a vote for nied that the progress of the world has every one at the attainment of manhood, been accelerated by the influence of the has retired from the contest with an air United States, which consolidated free- of repose. It cannot, however, rest satisdom and taught the way to wealth by fied here, as the winning of independence throwing to the winds every vestige of was the realization of a hope long cher"ancient prejudice ;" but the lever that ished in England. The right, too, on accomplished these results was education, which self-government has been based-and the early advantage derived from its the reason and the probity of the individadoption is now no longer exclusively re- ual-must be exercised to the full to make tained. The increase of wealth, neverthe- progress a fact; and this is not accomless, which remains the chief feature of plished by the casting of a vote. A rethe gain, cannot be taken as the gauge of sponsibility not to be forgotten attaches progress, though it is commonly accepted to the voter, requiring at his hands the as evidence ; for although its distribution consideration of the interests of the nais greater than at any other time, thereby tion over and above all political machines. enabling vast numbers to enjoy a large He must subordinate individual good to material happiness, its whole drift, except national gain ; and where this is not a in the British Isles, runs in the direction primary object, an end will be made to of the creation of monopolics : and so healthy advance. The Protective tariff long as this is the case, the interests of that shuts off foreign competition with the many must be sacrificed to those of the cry of America for Americans, forces the few. The fight for freedom in Ameri- the cultivation of the one-sided view. The ca, the rebellion against dictation, after consequences, accordingly, are visible in destroying all obstacles to that improve- a reawakened spirit of sectarianism; and ment of the race which is now a reality, although the modern tendency of Conhas thus lost its prime significance in the gress is toward, assuming the powers of a modern unfolding of events. The selfish- national council like Westminster, this is ness of the nation in upholding a system more the outcome of a wish to speak with of Protection, greatly accentuated by the authority than the natural flow of opinion M’Kinley tariff, is beginning to be re- to find a centre at Washington. flected in the selfishness of the individual If, therefore, American democracy is seeking a special good. Were it not not to belie the songs of the poets of the actually in existence, the political philoso- first years of the century, who welcomed pher would naturally look for its effect on its birth as the downfall of tyranny, it private action, wherever a public policy must restudy the history of its early is based on exclusivism, and expect to see foundation. Its future must be devoted produced internally a disposition of affairs to emancipating the mind of the public parallel to what exists externally. So from the pursuit of dividends, by giving that a democracy, of all forms of govern- a check to those monopolies of trade that ment, which cultivates nationally its own are building up a greater despotism than peculiar interests to the neglect of the the mercantile system, the origin of the welfare of humanity, must run the risk of American rebellion. If it is not to tarn its local affairs standing in the same rela- in upon itself like animal intelligence, tion to its general attitude as this stands with the fulfilment of the original object towards the world. In the falseness of of its existence, but is to be creative and

« VorigeDoorgaan »