ePub 版

Now, this particular instance of the falsification of history is the consequence of two conditions of Mr. Emerson's writings he must assault Christianity, and he must construct the sentences, in which he does so, after a carefully elaborated model. As an assailant of the received doctrine of Christianity, we know how to ward off his weapons, and, having done so, willingly transfer him to another tribunal. But as the founder or promoter of the peculiar style of writing in which he attempts this, we wholly denounce the model, not only as inadequate, but misleading. For no thinker can record his experience and discoveries without the admission of modifications, exceptions, and explanations, which demand a style unfettered in its construction by any rules which terminate in itself. But the epigrammatic style inverts this true idea of style, and, making it an end and not the means, seems to lay a perpetual trap to stop the mind in its pursuit of simple truth and hence the fact, or opinion, or truth, which admits not of being exactly stretched along this Procrustean bed, must be regarded as an intruder. "For every Stoic was a Stoic; but in Christendom, where is the Christian?" We have shown that the point of this depends altogether upon a misrepresentation of facts. The plain truth must have been thus stated:"Both Stoicism and Christianity presented too lofty an ideal for human nature to embody in the lives of their professors; so that both systems have furnished specimens of saints, the half-hearted and hypocrites." This example, which is only one out of a large fraternity, sustains our opinion of this style, that it lays snares for the intellect from which the conscience itself cannot escape.

We will conclude this article with a quotation from the Essay on" Compensation," in which there is a striking expansion, after the auhtor's own fashion, of a deep truth which is, we believe, but imperfectly apprehended and expounded by public teachers:

"Ever since I was a boy, I have wished to write a discourse on compensation: for it seemed to me, when very young, that, on this subject, life was a-head of theology, and the people knew more than the preachers taught. It appeared that, if this doctrine could be stated in twins with any resemblance to those bright intuitions in which this truth is sometimes revealed to us, it would be a star in many dark hours and crooked passages in our journey that would not suffer us to lose our way. I was lately confirmed in these desires by hearing a sermon at church. The preacher, a man esteemed for his orthodoxy, unfolded in the ordinary manner the doctrine of the last judgment. He assumed that judgment is not executed in this life; that the


wicked are successful; that the good are miserable; and then urged from reason and from Scripture a compensation to be made to both parties in the next life. No offence appeared to be taken by the congregation at this doctrine. As far as I could observe, when the meeting broke up, they separated without remark on the sermon; yet what was the import of this teaching? What did the preacher mean by saying that the good are miserable in this life? Was it that houses and lands, offices, wine, horses, dress, luxury, are had by unprincipled men, whilst the saints are poor and despised; and that a compensation is to be made to these hereafter by giving them the like gratifications another day-bank-stock and doubloons, venison and champagne? This must be the compensation intended for what else? Is it that they are to have leave to pray and praise?-to love and serve men? Why, that they can do now. The legitimate inference the disciple would draw was, we are to have such a good time as the sinners have now: or, to push it to the extreme, import- You sin now: we shall sin byand-by: we would sin now if we could; not being successful, we expect our revenge to-morrow.' The fallacy lay in the immense concession that the bad are successful-that justice is not done now."

As we have already said, we believe there is far more truth in this important rule of the divine government-that an earthly crime is overtaken by an earthly punishment-than enters into the popular theology. Our only charge, therefore, against the essayist is, that he overstates it, with the intention, as we believe, of lessening the importance and necessity of the Christian doctrine of the last judgment. Indeed, his analogies, taken from the natural world, seem to exclude this doctrine, inasmuch as justice never punishes twice for the same offence. But from the nature of the case, all analogies from the natural world, to illustrate the laws of the moral world, must be liable to mislead, unless they are carefully modified. It is true that we meet with "polarity, or action and reaction," in every part of nature, in darkness and light, in the ebb and flow of the tides; and, in the mechanic forces, where what is saved in power is lost in time. And, passing on to the moral world, it is also true that every excess causes a defect, and every sweet has its sour, and every evil its good. But the question between the essayist and ourselves is thisare the latter as strictly and fully compensating as the former? The tide fully compensates for the ebb; but, does the sour as fully compensate for the sweet? The analogy must fail here.

For no reasonable man doubts that the millionaire, who has built up his fortune by fraud and wrong, eats, drinks, sleeps, walks, talks, and sums up his bank-stock, under the lash. But does this moral cat-o'-nine-tails, which is made up-one lasht

of outraged public opinion, another of personal fear, another of conscience, and so on-compensate for what he with daily joy parades before the world? Mr. Emerson, and we ourselves, think the scourgings of any one of these nine lashes a dreadful "compensation." But, we submit, the question is not general, but individual. Does the strccessful villain himself thus judge of the "compensation?" The estimate may be made: would he, to escape all these, renounce his wealth? Does he not prefer the wealth with the retribution, before poverty without it? If so, we contend, the "compensating" punishment is not adequate; and, therefore, to realize the idea of a righteous moral government, we are driven to look forward to a future judgment. It is the absence of a distinct recognition of this view that impairs the force of this, in other respects, original and striking essay.

ART. HI-The Plantation Scheme; or, the West of Ireland as a Field for Investment. By JAMES CAIRD, Farmer, Baldoon. 8vo. Edinburgh and London: 1850. Blackwood.

AN opinion is entertained that the British empire approaches. its decline. Many consider that it has now, for some centuries, attained maturity, and reached the maximum of its strength; that, during those centuries, the seeds of future decay have been slowly and successively accumulating, and now constitute a vast mass of particles in its system tending to disorganization; and that they must at no distant period, by a natural process, exhibit the commencement of a series of changes which will ultimately result in its disintegration and downfal. Such is doubtless the law of existence of empires, as of organie beings; but, without pausing to determine the exact period of its working at which we are arrived, or to examine either the opinions on the subject or the grounds on which they are formed, we desire at once to pass to one remarkable fact: that we possess, within our own islands, an immense district, full of natural resources undeveloped at this very day: a district, not matured and needing preservation to keep it from decay, but in its very infancy, and containing within itself all the elements of growth. That district is the West of Ireland.

It is more or less the same throughout the British Islands. The sturdy, healthy, germ-cells of future increase are everywhere diffused. In whatever stage of our political growth we are, the development of our natural wealth has not nearly attained its prime: our producing powers are capable of being nearly doubled: land lies waste and cultivation is imperfect : thousands of advantages are neglected: yet it is to these that we must turn and direct new strength and skill, under the auspices of a bounteous Providence, to support the institutions of our country in the new order of things introduced by our commercial policy, and to enable ourselves to stand in the competition with foreign nations. We might say more, and question whether an empire with such a race of progression before it, conscious of its position, and preparing to take advantage of it, can be in its declining years; but we prefer to direct attention to the instance laid before us in the present work by Mr. Caird, especially as it has hitherto been a stumbling-block.

And a stumbling-block it still remains. Surrounded with difficulties, of which not the smallest is an undeserved bad name; and, as it contains much poverty and misery, it seems strange to adduce such a district as a proof of latent strength. Our greatest statesmen have been clogged by it: our best energies have there been crippled: our wealth has been lavished, we had almost said wasted, on it: capital has been sunk there and plantations made, and in a few years all has been absorbed and things have reverted to their former state. It has been our reproach abroad, and the cause of ceaseless jarring and political contention at home; and it has come to be identified in our minds with a vague and magnified idea of hopeless wretchedness, barbarism, and outrage. But, putting aside all this and examining coolly the details of its actual condition, there are to be found in it, side by side, the elements both of strength and weakness; and the latter, though extensive, are tending to diminish. Bad management and dishonesty have gone their full length, and adversity, the natural consequence, seems to have done its worst; a better spirit and better influences are at work; new causes for hope are springing up; and it is believed that the long night of darkness and sorrow, which has hung over Ireland for centuries, is now indeed about to break and give place to a dawn which shall spread and brighten into the rich sunlight of prosperity. If this be so, that district will be our pride and support instead of our hindrance; its latent powers will be called forth; its dormant capabilities will be awakened and

developed; and, raised to its true level, it will form not the least prosperous part of our strengthened empire.

To bring this to pass is possible and practicable; but vague notions and fears must be dismissed, and real facts ascertained. Then will the evils there be understood and measured and the capabilities known, and it will be seen what can be done and what is required; and Ireland will no longer be a place to stand aloof from for fear of being involved in her misfortunes.

With some such views as these an examination of the West of Ireland has been undertaken by Mr. Caird, and the results embodied in the work before us. Ourselves acquainted with the country, and having lately visited some of its remotest wilds, our object now is to present to the reader a true picture of its state: in doing which we shall follow Mr. Caird's table of contents, noticing, first, the journey across Ireland, the localities in the western counties and their condition, and, subsequently, the means now at work for their improvement, and the measures yet required.

I. The journey to the west of Ireland is tedious, the conveyances, except the railway, being insufficient, compared with what they should be. This circumstance presses heavily on the far west, and contributes to keep it back from prosperity. The country traversed is chiefly limestone intersected with bog, and is most fertile and improveable; but the feeling produced by its aspect is one of melancholy, from its level uninteresting character, the absence of wood, the bad and slovenly cultivation, the number of ruined houses and cottages, and the lazy and ragged appearance of the people; though the exceptions met with, of comfortable dwellings, wooded demesnes, and thriving farms, cheer the hopeful mind by showing of what the land is capable. All this is accurately described by Mr. Caird. He was present at the great annual fair of Ballinasloe, which "lasts about a week, beginning with sheep, then horses, and ending with cattle. The stock of the western counties are disposed of at this fair, and generally bought by the great graziers of the eastern and midland counties, to be fattened on their rich pastures, and passed on to Dublin or the English market."

II. 1. From this he proceeded to the county of Mayo, reputed the poorest in Ireland. He visited some of its best parts; the land between Lough Corrib and Castlebar, and the neighbourhood of Westport and Newport; and reports very favourably of the soil, climate, and capabilities, and of the opportunities now open to farmers of skill and capital to settle

« 上一頁繼續 »