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PROBABLE EFFECTS OF INCREAS
long, I would here have said something rious observers of nature Britain ever of the singing of birds in the night. I produced. (See his Nat. Hist. of Selshall only remark briefly, that a great- borne, I. TÀ.) Quere, Does the sedgeer number of species sing in the night bird like pesting, as Russian females than is commonly imagined. The are said to like the discipline of the nightingale has usually engrossed all knout? the praise; but besides it, the reed If you think this New Year's Day sparrow, the wood-lark, the sky-lark, epistle readable, you may perhaps hear the white-throat, and the water- from me soon again. I am, &c. ousel, sing all night in England. The mock-birds, also, both of our own Selborne, Jan. 1st, 1819. country, and the celebrated American mimic of the grove, may be added to the number. A species of fineh, (Loxia enucleator, Linn.) common in A WORD IN FAVOUR OF OUR FUTURE the pine forests of Hudson's Bay, and PROSPECTS; OR, AN ANSWER TO sometimes seen in the North of Seot THE QUESTION, WHAT ARE THE land, enlivens the summer nights with its song. We may likewise subjoin to the catalogue the land-rail, or corn TION OF SOCIETY? craik, the partridge, grouse, and Guinea-fowl, which utter their peculiar
WHILE divines are continually lacries in the night, as well as in the menting the influence of sense, and day, Perhaps many more species than the grosser interests of the lower I have enumerated sing in the night. world, over the actions of men ; and Captain Cook, when off the coast of while moralists are perpetually depreNew Zealand, says, “We were charm- cating those aberrations of conduct ed the whole night with the songs of which arise from the predominance of innumerable species of birds from the passion over reason; there is a set of woods which beautify the shores of refined philosophists who strive to this unfrequented island.” (Voyages, alarm us, on the ground, that passion Vol
. I.) A very anomalous instance and sentiment are about to forsake us ; of a bird singing in the night fell un- and who ascribe the present dearth of der my own observation. On the night sublime conceptions, and all that is of the 6th April 1911, about ten little in human conduct, to the eno'clock, 1 heard a hedge-sparrow in a grossing and abstracting influence of ... garden go through its usual song
the Christian religion. The formers more than a dozen of times, faintly, complain bitterly of the obstinacy of indeed, but very distinct. The night our low earthly affections and attachwas cold and frosty, but might not ihe ments; the latter of the extinction of little musician be dreaming of sum- enthusiasm ; and, from the channel mer and sunshine? We have Dry- which human aspirations have long den's authority for making the con- taken, they express their fear that jecture, as he says,
the soul of man may become dwarfish,
that men may remain without great! 66 The little birds in dreams their songs re- hopes or aims of any kind, and that peat.” Indian Emperor.
they may content themselves with
heartlessly sneering at all that is If any account can be given of the noble or worthy in action or preten reason why birds sing, it may, per- sion. Now, although we do not mean haps, be said to be an expression of to take the same easy and vulgar méjoy, or of agreeable feelings. This is thod of getting at truth, which mercountenanced by the analogous in- . cantile arbitrators resort to for getting stance of cats purring when they are at right, which, in most cases, is ta pleased, and the house cricket chirrup- divide the difference, we must say, ing while it basks on the warm hearth. that the truth here must lie some sy But neither this explanation, nor the where between the two extremes. 121 poetical hypothesis, will account for We do not agree, exactly, either with 1: the sedge-bird being roused to sing by the divines or the philosophers. But throwing, a stone into the bush where we concede to the one, that much evil it is, as was remarked by our country- has arisen from ungoverned passion, man, Mr White, one of the most cu- and ill-regulated enthusiasm ; and to
the other, that there are, and have feels in consequence of the gratificabeen, men deficient in warmth, ear- tion or non-gratification of his various nestness, sincerity; and that persons senses, can be extinguished only with with cold hearts, and peevish tempers, life itself ; nor do they cease to be of have occasioned no little mischief importance at any age of the indiviYet we see no reason for apprehend- dual, or in any stage of society. To ing an exhaustion of sympathy, or an these, too, must be added, the still extinction of that curiosity which is more numerous pains and pleasures of commonly designated a thirst for sympathy, morals, and religion. Saknowledge. Were men immortal, vages, even, are not placed entirely there might be room for listening to beyond the reach of sympathy. The such fears; but as the generations of social or sympathetic principle is opemen are renewed once, at least, in 30 rative, less or more, in all the stages years, and as each individual has to of civilization ; while in refined socommence life, and acquire knowledge ciety it exerts a mighty influence over for himself, there is little risk, we the conduct and habits of men. In think, that, during the small span of civilized life the moral desires become human existence, any one shall ex- a complete match for the animal aphaust all that may be known of him- petites; for although the latter are self, and of the natural and moral phe- never altogether eradicated, they are nomena with which he is encompass- subdued, regulated, and often 'suped. Innumerable events are constant- pressed by the former. We are as ly springing up, of which the causes are naturally desirous of a good name,not at once discernible. The causes of the regard, approbation, and esteem of many other events are altogether of others, as of food and clothing; inscrutable. The progress of science and we will deny ourselves as much, is unbounded ; and, to improvement place ourselves under as many rein the arts, no limits can ever be as- straints, and make as many sacrifices signed. Ample and unbounded fields and exertions for the one as for the are thus laid open for the exercise of other. We cannot help giving to intellect; but, although all that is in others a portion of our good-will, nor the external world, and beyond man can we avoid desiring a share in the himself, were exhausted, the moralist, friendship and of the good-services of or the Christian, has a never-failing others. Every one is anxious to sesubject of care and study in his own cure what has been called the popular heart. His aspirations after what is sanction. From being interpreters, pure and good; with the self-abase. men become regulators of the conduct ment which arises from a conscious- of each other. The expressed and reness of daily short-comings and errors, corded opinions of the best and wisest without saying any thing of guilt, of men, as to what line of conduct is are sufficient, not only to keep him most worthy and honourable, have an alive, but on the alert ;-tocompel him incredible influence over the conduct to mix humility with his pride; to of contemporary men, and succeeding induce him to be tolerant and kind to generations; and although the actions others, from the conviction that he, of individuals may differ in some dehimself, stands in need of forbearancé gree according to temper, habits, and and forgiveness. Man, we conceive, means of knowledge, yet the opinions can never cease to meet with, or to of all have a mighty power in regulata feel, what is novel; the principle of ing the conduct of all. curiosity which is excited at the very These remarks appear to us to conthreshhold of life, can never be ex- tain a key to the whole argument. tinguished. But, supposing for a mo- The questions at issue are only two. ment that it could; there would still The first is, Whether an increase of remain in the human constitution so knowledge has a tendency to incrcase many sources of pleasures and pains, the influence of prospective considethat no one could feel a want of inte- rations over conduct? The second rest or zest in his individual existence. is, Whether this influence can be Man is a corporeal as well as an intele much extended without extinguishlectual being; from his cradle to bis ing curiosity, repressing enthusiasm grave he is susceptibleof animal wants, too far, and depriving life of its reand capable of animal enjoyments. quisite interest? To the first we ana The pains and pleasures which he swer unuesitatingly, that knowledge
has the desirable effect pointed at in given to that quality, which is oppos-
dangerous agitation to a no less dan- and obligations. The moral influence, gerous stagnation ; but they may be the sense of duty, may thus be rencombined so as to produce nothing dered so strong as habitually to subbut a healthy activity. Individuals, due and regulate the passions and apamong men, have, indeed, a preca- petites. This is seldom admitted in rious existence, but their reason and its full extent by divines, while it principle may be perpetuated for ever. seems to be carried too far, on the oEach must acquire knowledge for ther hand, by certain ingenious spehimself ; but the labours and disco- culators in philosophy. To our veries of one may increase the facili- minds, the principles we have endeaties of acquisition in another. The voured to illustrate, which are the knowledge of one generation is record- principles of human nature, present a ed and transmitted to that which suc- rather flattering prospect respecting ceeds it; and thus it is possible at the future fortunes of the human least, for each succeeding generation race. We are not advocates for the to be wiser than its precursor. In infinite perfectibility of man, in the the arts and sciences, we have no he- sense in which it has been explained sitation, from what we have seen of by Condorcet, Godwin, and some othe steam-engine, cotton-machinery, thers. But, while we feel that man, gas-light, and other moderna inven- when brought to the touchstone of tions, in asserting that knowledge is perfection, is, and always will be, power. In morals, though not equal. both weak and wicked, we yet hold ly obvious, the proposition is no less that no limit can be assigned to the true. If, by cultivation, the natural extent of his discoveries in science or soil is brought to support plants and invention in the arts ; nor, in consemature fruit that would not otherwise quence, to his power of adding to the have taken root in it, so, in the moral comforts and conveniences of his own soil, virtues are generated, nourished, life. Even in morals we are inclined and brought to maturity by cultiva- to assume a paradox, like that which tion, which otherwise would never is so well known in mathematics, have appeared in the human constitu- that man may be for ever approachtion. To be satisfied of this, we have ing nearer and nearer to the straight only to compare the society of Eng- line of rectitude, and yet never reach land with that of the Indians of North it. Between what man is, and what Americı, or of any other semi-barba- he ought to be, there is still an infirous people. The elementɛ of the nite space for progressive improvesoil are, no doubt, every where the ment; and we see every reason to same; but the products differ im- think that society is to improve momensely both in value and variety. rally, rather than to retrograde. By Differences of the same nature are studying poetry, we become more atsufficiently observable as they are ex- tached to it, and, if not defective in hibited in different individuals among organization, acquire more or less of ourselves; and although some of these the poetical talent and temperament. varieties may be explained, by advert. It is an art which may be cultivated. ing to radical distinctions, enough of But so also is morality. When we them for our purpose may be account- have once tasted the pleasure of posed for by the differences in their mo- sessing a good name, and felt the pains ral education and discipline. The which arise from a threatened loss of tone of feeling and temper of mind it; when we have once experienced are greatly modified and affected, if the power, and solace, and joy, which not altogether moulded, by early edu- arise from a consciousness of doing cation and society. We do not say good, the cause of morality becomes that early associations are every thing; our own, and we are happy or miserbut we contend that the power of mo- able exactly in proportion as we have ral restraint, the degree of moral re been able to discharge what our mind sponsibility, the good faith, probity, or conscience tells us was our duty. and principle in the character, depend But, as knowledge accumulates,mas greatly upon them. Knowledge of our relations to others are more easily men and things increases the relations and better understood,—the moral of the sentient being; and, as his re- pleasures, as well as the disciples of lations are increased, so generally are morality, will be increased. Men are his moral perceptions, feelings, ties, immoral chiefly from a misconception
of their interests. 'If these were well fections as real as any pecuniary or ounderstood,-if it were once known ther strictly selfish interest known in universally, and universally believed, society. Self-love, therefore, which that the pleasures of a just and moral is generally supposed to be the bane life were infinitely greater, and its of morals, may be enlisted on their pains fewer, than those of a vicious side. By cultivating the interests of one,-we should have no criminals. the heart, we eulogize ourselves, and It is ignorance of what secures plea- are eulogized of others; we flatter sure, and protects from pain, that principles, and gratify desires which leads to all crimes and immoralities. have a strong hold in our constituAnd, as you impart knowledge of the tion; and when good to ourselves, civil interests of man, you lessen the and society, is to be the result, it is inducements and temptations to com- surely more creditable, honourable, mit crime. Every thing that operates and beneficial, to cultivate the social in the nature of a motive does so by and benevolent feelings,-to pursue promising either pleasure of some sort the pleasures of morality and intelor other, or a security from some sort lect; than those of the coarser appeof pain; and a perfect knowledge of tites or senses, which lead in the end all consequences would be a perfect to disease, suffering, and death. It preservative of right conduct. This is our interest, as well as our duty, to knowledge, however, will never be at follow that which is good. And, so tained; but an approximation may far is religion from throwing an obbe macle to it; and the nearer we ap- stacle in the way, that it calls upon us proach to perfection, the inore intel- imperiously to think of and perform icctual, the more moral and spiritual, whatsoever is true, honest, just, pure, the more elevated and noble, shall we lovely, and of good report. If there, become; the more complete and satis- be any virtue, if there be any praise, fying will be our sense of existence. it calls on us to think of these things. Knowledge, therefore, when it does Religion does not supersede morality: not fall among thorns, or on a cold It presupposes the existence of moral barren soil, becomes the seed of wis- feeling, and addresses us, as if the dom. It discloses the relations of men moral duties were all perceived and to all that surrounds thein, and, to understood. In the ordinary affairs those of sound heads, and commonly of lite, it superadds its own sanction and ordinarily honest hearts, this is to that of morality. Let every man, equivalent to a disclosure of rights it says, be persuaded in his own mind, and duties. It is as if our moral ob- and when so persuaded, let him feel, ligations were all previously formed, that, in doing justice, and loving merand merely uncovered by the aid of cy, he is obeying God, as well as knowledge. To all those whose blood serving man. It is of the very essence circulates freely, or maintains the or- of religion, to place us beyond the dinary quantity of passion and feeling, touch of ridicule in the discharge of the presence of knowledge is requisite duty. The aims of the moderns, as a sedative and controlling power. therefore, may be as great, and their In such cases, it moderates, but does hopes must obviously be higher, and not destroy; and, although on some more definite, than those of the ancold, weak, and vain natures, know- cients. There was no true virtue aledge may only generate a desire to mong the nations of antiquity that is shine and dazzle, it is of substantial not enforced upon the moderns under benefit to the great body of mankind. the Christian dispensation ; and, as In the great majority of our species, these virtues must, in consequence of knowledge increases, in the clearest the progress of knowledge, be more and most decisive manner, the influ- readily perceived, and the interests of ence of prospective considerations. Its men in acting upon them more strongtendency is manifestly to give a surer ly felt, we must, upon the soundest hold of, and a greater command over, principles, anticipate an amelioration the future.
in the condition of the human race. Our hopes of melioration are the It may be true, that, on some partistronger, that they are not founded on cular occasions, the leaders, or wouldany thing that is truly disinterested in be-leaders, of the public, are cold, conduct. There is an interest in fastidious, sneering, and cynical ; conyielding to sympathetic and moral af sidering all merit which is ascribed to