« ForrigeFortsett »
In the foregoing picture then of the several gradations of savage and pastoral life, vice and misery are indeed frightfully prominent; but it would be too preposterous an abuse of terms to say that their of. fice is to repress a mischievous tendency to exuberance in the population, when they are in fact the positive means not only of preventing even a salutary increase, but actually of inducing in many cases a rapid diminution in the existing numbers. As well might the destruction of a city be called a salutary precaution against its too great extension. Neither would it be more reasonable to argue that moral restraint from sexual intercouse would remedy the evils; for in the first place such a virtue cannot be singly implanted so as to flourish in a hotbed of other vices; nor if it were implanted under such conditions would the evils be remedied. For regular habits in this respect would soon rather increase than diminish the number of the people, without having any tendency to increase the quantity of food. Industry therefore, and industry alone, with the moral consequences thence arising, would be sufficient to attain the object, by removing the impediments to the farther production of food. And I must again be permitted to ask in what manner men drowned in apathy and vice can be roused to industrious eaertion, unless by the pressure of some misery which may evidently be referred to the want of that exertion.
But the most unreasonable of all arguments upon this state of society would be to maintain that the pressure of population against subsistence (where it is found to exist) is a necessary consequence of the increase of the former, because it is perfectly obvious that it is wholly to be ascribed to want of exertion in the people who suffer under it. Unless therefore it can be proved that there is any necessity for their perseverance in idleness, for their continuance in a state of barbarism, brutality, ignorance, and vice, it must be admitted that they possess immense resources in the productive powers of their soil, which it only depends upon themselves to appropriate to the purposes of their comfortable subsistence; and that this end will be obtained precisely in proportion to their general moral improvement. Thus then we perceive, not only that the whole mass of the population in these rude stages of society has in all cases a natural tendency to keep within the powers of the soil to afford it subsistence according to the first fundamental proposition in the last chapter, but that any alteration of this tendency so as to produce the pressure of individual want against the actual supply of food comes under the second head of the second proposition, viz., that it arises from grossly impolitic customs depressing the productive energies of the soil considerably below its natural powers; for not the slightest attempt has ever yet been made to excite them into action. With respect to the application of the third and fourth propositions to these states of society, it must of course be rather prospective than immediate. If religion and morality were introduced, that is, if any progress were made towards a general and enlightened desire among individuals so to regulate their actions as to produce happiness to others as well as to themselves; if rational liberty and security of property began to prevail, that is, if the public institutions of the country were in any degree calculated for the general benefit, and with an equal view to
the happiness of the whole community; no reasonable man can doubt but that it would instantly emerge from the states of society which we have now been contemplating; and the improvement would be complete, just in proportion as the means producing it approached towards obtaining a perfect influence: these propositions therefore call for no farther notice on the present occasion except with a view to one important practical inference. Doubtless a savage nation of its own accord, or rather when urged on one side by the spontaneous energies of a superior mind raised up for this purpose, and pressed on the other by the wretchedness of the savage state, might emerge in the course of time into the light of civilization. This inference is fairly deducible from what has been handed down to us of the native heroes of the East, and of ancient Greece and the surrounding countries, whose deification is at once a proof of the gratitude of their countrymen, and of the miseries from which they were relieved. The state of Mexico and Peru on the first discovery of America may also be cited to fortify the same conclusion. But when we consider on the one hand the difficulties arising from the free scope given to the evil propensities of man while living in a state of barbarism, and reflect on the other that the first step, however small, made by a savage tribe towards the attainment of the blessings enumerated in the third and fourth propositions, will lead in the ordinary course of things to their full development; how gravely must it press upon the consciences of those nations who have already run the career of civilization, and are actually living under the full blaze of its meridian splendour, to look back upon the point
whence themselves first rose above the horizon of the moral world;—to recollect the means which have promoted their own advancement, and to impart them to such as now require their guidance and assistance. With this view, the encouragement of zealous but discreet missionaries, the moral uses of commercial intercourse, a provision for the religious interests of distant colonies, the abolition of all cruel, unjust, and oppressive methods of commercial enterprize, are at once erected into plain and positive duties. The Indian hunter must no longer be bribed by intoxicating spirits for the spoils of his chase, nor the African warrior for his more guilty spoils, even his fellow man; but they must be gently led to the knowledge of their duties and their happiness, and of the benevolent designs of Providence in their favour. And above all, these objects must be secured by a provision for keeping alive among the foreign agents of the more civilized country a sense of their moral and religious duties. It is thus, and thus only, that its intercourse with others can be either innocent, or ultimately useful to itself; or that it can be honoured by Divine Providence as the instrument of conveying HIS destined blessings to the uncivilized regions of the Farth. This department of philanthrophy, however, is difficult in proportion to its importance; for the rare combination of zeal with discretion is essential to its successful pursuit. Enthusiasm, though useful and even commendable in some cases, must here be carefully tempered. The growth of zeal in the mind must be perceived only by the fruits of activity and perseverance, while the sincerity and simplicity of its views must be evidenced by the utmost wariness to avoid giving offence, and a cautious abstinence from any display of personal vanity or individual rivalship in the pursuit of philanthropic objects. The neglect of skilfully combining temporal and commercial objects with the apostolic zeal of missionaries engaged in savage and barbarous countries, seems to have been the principal cause of failure in most of the cases where their benevolent designs have proved abortive. This appears evident from the accounts rendered of the missionary voyages to the South Sea Islands (see quarto Account of the Mission), of the mission in the Karroo Deserts (see Barrow's Cochinchina), and of all others, with a few judicious exceptions. The brightest of these is perhaps to be found in the account of two “Attempts made to civilize the North American Indians by the United Friends, 1. of Baltimore, and 2, of Philadelphia.” (See two small Pamphlets under these titles.) The plan they proceeded upon was this:— that whereas most missionaries had (as an Otaheitan Chief expressed himself) bestowed on the objects of their care plenty of parrow (i. e. talk), but very few hatchets (i. e. objects of temporal convenience); these plain and benevolent missionaries, some of whom by the way were carpenters and blacksmiths, reversed this order of proceeding. They began by putting the spade, the hoe, the hammer, the saw, and the anvil, into the possession of the natives, and worked with them personally in constructing houses, cultivating fields, and making the coarser articles of furniture. When the savages with a customary jealousy, which reflects more disgrace on the general conduct of their civilized neighbours than on themselves, began to forget the benefits bestowed, to feel F.