« 上一頁繼續 »
time their manner to a discerning eye will, in spite of all their precautions, disclose the very truth.
. The institution of ballot not only teaches us that our best actions are those which we ought most steadily to disavow, but carries distrust and suspicion into all our most familiar relations. The man I want to deceive, and throw out in the keenness of his hunting, is my landlord. But how shall I most effectually conceal the truth from him ? May I be allowed to tell it to my wife or my child ? I had better not. It is a known maxim of worldly prudence, that the truth which may be a source of serious injury to me, is safest, when it is shut up in my own bosom. If I once let it out, there is no saying where the communication may stop. “Day unto day uttereth speech; and night unto night sheweth forth knowledge.”
And is this the proud attitude of liberty, to which we are so eager to aspire ? After all, there will be some ingenuous men in the community, who will not know how for ever to suppress what is dearest to their hearts. But at any rate this institution holds out a prize to him that shall be most secret and untraceable in his proceedings, that shall “ shoe his horses with felt,” and proceed in all his courses with silence and suspicion.
The first principle of morality to social man is, that we act under the eye of our fellows. The truly virtuous man would do as he ought, though no eye
observed him. Persons, it is true, who deport themselves merely as “men-pleasers,” for ever considering how the by-standers will pronounce of their conduct, are entitled to small commendation. The good man, it is certain, will see
To do what virtue would, though sun and moon
Were in the flat sea sunk. But, imperfect creatures as we mortals usually are, these things act and react upon each other. A man of honourable intentions will demean himself justly, from the love of right. But he is confirmed in his just dealing by the approbation of his fellows; and, if he were tempted to step awry, he would be checked by the anticipation of their censure. Such is the nature of our moral education. It is with virtue, as it is with literary fame. If I write well, I can scarcely feel secure that I do so, till I obtain the suffrage of some competent judges, confirming the verdict which I was before tempted to pronounce in my own favour. This acting as in a theatre, where men and Gods are judges of my conduct, is the true destination of man; and we cannot violate the universal law under which we were born, without having reason to fear the most injurious effects. And is this mysterious and concealed way
proceeding one of the forms through which we are to pass in the school of liberty? The great end of all liberal institutions is, to make a man fearless, frank as the day, acting from a lively and earnest impulse, which will not be restrained, disdains all half-mea
sures, and prompts us, as it were, to carry our hearts in our hands, for all men to challenge, and all men to comment on. It is true, that the devisers of liberal institutions will have foremost in their thoughts, how men shall be secure in their personal liberty, unrestrained in the execution of what their thoughts prompt them to do, and uncontroled in the administration of the fruits of their industry. But the moral end of all is, that a man shall be worthy of the name, erect, independent of mind, spontaneous of decision, intrepid, overflowing with all good feelings, and open in the expression of the sentiments they inspire. If man is double in his weightiest purposes, full of ambiguity and concealment, and not daring to give words to the impulses of his soul, what matters it that he is free? We may pronounce of this man, that he is unworthy of the blessing that has fallen to his lot, and will never produce the fruits that should be engendered in the lap of liberty.
There is however, it should seem, a short answer to all this. It is in vain to expatiate to us upon the mischiefs of lying, hypocrisy and concealment, since it is only through them, as the way by which we are to march, that nations can be made free.
This certainly is a fearful judgment awarded upon our species: but is it true?
We are to begin, it seems, with concealing from our landlord, or our opulent neighbour, our political determinations; and so his corrupt influence will
be broken, and the humblest individual will be safe in doing that which his honest and unbiased feelings may prompt him to do.
No: this is not the way in which the enemy of the souls of men is to be defeated. We must not begin with the confession of our faint-heartedness and our cowardice. A quiet, sober, unaltered frame of judgment, that insults no one, that has in it nothing violent, brutal and defying, is the frame that becomes us. If I would teach another man, my superior in rank, how he ought to construe and decide upon the conduct I hold, I must begin by making that conduct explicit.
It is not in morals, as it is in war. There stratagem is allowable, and to take the enemy by surprise. “Who enquires of an enemy, whether it is by fraud or heroic enterprise that he has gained the day?" But it is not so that the cause of liberty is to be vindicated in the civil career of life.
The question is of reducing the higher ranks of society to admit the just immunities of their inferiors. I will not allow that they shall be cheated into it. No: no man was ever yet recovered to his senses in a question of morals, but by plain, honest, soul-commanding speech. Truth is omnipotent, if we do not violate its majesty by surrendering its outworks, and giving up that vantage-ground, of which if we deprive it, it ceases to be truth. It finds a responsive chord in every human bosom. Whoever hcars its voice, at the same time recognises its
power. However corrupt he may be, however steeped in the habits of vice, and hardened in the practices of tyranny, if it be mildly, distinctly, emphatically enunciated, the colour will forsake his cheek, his speech will alter and be broken, and he will feel himself unable to turn it off lightly, as a thing of no impression and validity. In this way the erroneous man, the man nursed in the house of luxury, a stranger to the genuine, unvarnished state of things, stands a fair chance of being corrected.
But, if an opposite, and a truer way of thinking than that to which he is accustomed, is only brought to his observation by the reserve of him who entertains it, and who, while he entertains it, is reluctant to hold communion with his wealthier neighbour, who regards him as his adversary, and hardly admits him to be of the same common nature, there will be no general improvement. Under this discipline the two ranks of society will be perpetually inore estranged, view each other with eye askance, and will be as two separate and hostile states, though inhabiting the same territory. Is this the picture we desire to see of genuine liberty, philanthropic, desirous of good to all, and overflowing with all generous emotions ?
I hate where vice can bolt her arguments,
And virtue has no tongue to check her pride. The man who interests himself for his country and its cause, who acts bravely and independently, and knows that he runs some risk in doing so, must