« 上一頁繼續 »
when our adversary shall be lulled in unsuspecting security. We are rapacious, with no symptom that the appetite for gain within us will ever be appeased; and we practise a thousand deceits, that it may
be the sooner, and to the greater degree glutted. The ambition of man is unbounded; and he hesitates at no means in the course it prompts him to pursue. In short, man is to man ever the most fearful and dangerous foe: and it is in this view of his nature that the king of Brobdingnag says to Gulliver, “ I cannot but conclude the bulk of your race to be the most pernicious generation of little, odious vermin, that were ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.” The comprehensive faculties of man therefore, and the refinements and subtlety of his intellect, serve only to render him the more formidable companion, and to hold us up as a species to merited condemnation.
It is obvious however that the picture thus drawn is greatly overcharged, that it describes a very small part of our race, and that even as to them it sets before us a few features only, and a partial representation.
History—the successive scenes of the drama in which individuals play their part—is a labyrinth, of which no man has as yet exactly seized the clue.
It has long since been observed, that the history of the four great monarchies, of tyrannies and free states, of chivalry and clanship, of Mahometanism and the Christian church, of the balance of Europe
and the revolution of empires, is little else than a tissue of crimes, exhibiting nations as if they were so many herds of ferocious animals, whose genuine occupation was to tear each other to pieces, and to deform their mother-earth with mangled carcases and seas of blood.
But it is not just that we should establish our opinion of human nature purely from the records of history. Man is alternately devoted to tranquillity and to violence. But the latter only affords the proper materials of narration. When he is wrought upon by some powerful impulse, our curiosity is most roused to observe him. We remark his emotions, his energies, his tempest. It is then that he becomes the person of a drama. And, where this disquietude is not the affair of a single individual, but of several persons together, of nations, it is there that history finds her harvest. She goes into the field with all the implements of her industry, and fills her storehouses and magazines with the abundance of her crop. But times of tranquillity and peace
furnish her with no materials. They are dismissed in a few slight sentences, and leave no memory behind.
Let us divide this spacious earth into equal compartments, and see in which violence, and in which tranquillity prevails. Let us look through the various ranks and occupations of human society, and endeavour to arrive at a conclusion of a similar sort. The soldier by occupation, and the officer
who commands him, would seem, when they are employed in their express functions, to be men of strife. Kings and ministers of state have in a multitude of instances fallen under this description. Conquerors, the firebrands of the earth, have sufficiently displayed their noxious propensities.
But these are but a small part of the tenantry of the many-peopled globe. Man lives by the sweat of his brow. The teeming earth is given him, that by his labour he may raise from it the means of his subsistence. Agriculture is, at least among
civilised nations, the first, and certainly the most indispensible of professions. The profession itself is the emblem of peace. All its occupations, from seedtime to harvest, are tranquil; and there is nothing which belongs to it, that can obviously be applied to rouse the angry passions, and place men in a frame of hostility to each other. Next to the cultivator, come the manufacturer, the artificer, the carpenter, the mason, the joiner, the cabinet-maker, all those numerous classes of persons, who are employed in forming garments for us to wear, houses to live in, and moveables and instruments for the accommodation of the species. All these
persons are, of necessity, of a peaceable demeanour. So are those who are not employed in producing the conveniencies of life, but in conducting the affairs of barter and exchange. Add to these, such as are engaged in literature, either in the study of what has already been produced, or in adding to the
stock, in science or the liberal arts, in the instructing mankind in religion and their duties, or in the education of youth. “Civility,” “civil,” are indeed terms which express a state of peaceable occupation, in opposition to what is military, and imply a tranquil frame of mind, and the absence of contention, uproar and violence. It is therefore clear, that the majority of mankind are civil, devoted to the arts of peace, and so far as relates to acts of violence innocent, and that the sons of rapine constitute the exception to the general character.
We come into the world under a hard and unpalatable law, “In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread.” It is a bitter decree that is promulgated against us, “ He that will not work, neither shall he eat.” We all of us love to do our own will, and to be free from the manacles of restraint. What our hearts“ find us to do,” that we are disposed to execute “with all our might.” Some men are lovers of strenuous occupation. They build and they plant; they raise splendid edifices, and lay out pleasure-grounds of mighty extent. Or they devote their minds to the acquisition of knowledge; they
-outwatch the bear,
Others again would waste perhaps their whole lives in reverie and idleness. They are constituted of
materials so kindly and serene, that their spirits never flag from want of occupation and external excitement. They could lie for ever on a sunny bank, in a condition divided between thinking and no thinking, refreshed by the fanning breeze, viewing the undulations of the soil, and the rippling of the brook, admiring the azure heavens, and the vast, the bold, and the sublime figure of the clouds, yielding themselves occasionally to “thick-coming fancies," and day-dreams, and the endless romances of an undisciplined mind;
And find no end, in wandering mazes lost.
But all men, alike the busy of constitution and the idle, would desire to follow the impulses of their own minds, unbroken in upon by harsh necessity, or the imperious commands of their fellows.
We cannot however, by the resistless law of our existence, live, except the few who by the accident of their birth are privileged to draw their supplies from the labour of others, without exerting ourselves to procure by our efforts or ingenuity the necessaries of food, lodging and attire. He that would obtain them for himself in an uninhabited island, would find that this amounted to a severe tax upon that freedom of motion and thought which would otherwise be his inheritance. And he who has his lot cast in a populous community, exists in a condition somewhat analogous to that of a negro slave, except that he may to a limited extent