Page images
PDF
EPUB

4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, so does our spirit of society. All men plume them- Selfselves on the improvement of society, Reliance and no man improves. Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. Its progress is only apparent, like the workers of a treadmill. It undergoes continual changes: it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration. For every thing that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts. What a contrast between the well-clad, reading, writing, thinking American, with a watch, a pencil and a bill of exchange in his pocket, and the naked New Zealander, whose property is a club, a spear, a mat and an undivid

ed twentieth of a shed to sleep under.

But compare the health of the two Self-men, and you shall see that his Reliance aboriginal strength the white man

has lost. If the traveler tell us truly, strike the savage with a broad axe, and in a day or two the flesh shall unite and heal as if you struck the blow into soft pitch, and the blow shall send the white to his grave. The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but loses so much support of muscle. He has got a fine Geneva watch, but he has lost the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not observe; the equinox he knows as little ; and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind sem His note-books impair his memory; Selfhis libraries overload his wit; the Reliance insurance office increases the number of accidents; and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, by a christianity entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue. For every stoic was a a stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian? There is no more deviation in the moral standard than in the standard of height or bulk. No greater men are now than ever were. A singular equality may be observed between the great men of the first and of the last ages; nor can all the science, art, religion and philosophy of the

Nineteenth Century avail to educate

greater men than Plutarch's heroes, Self- three or four centuries ago. Not in Reliance time is the race progressive. Pho

cion, Socrates, Anaxagoras, Diogenes, are great men, but they leave no class. He who is really of their class will not be called by their name, but be wholly his own man, and in turn the founder of a sect. The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate men. The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good. Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishingboats, as to astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equipment exhausted the resoures of science and art. Galileo, with an opera-glass, discovered a more splendid series of facts than any one since. Columbus found the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see the period*ical disuse and perishing of means Selfand machinery which were intro- Reliance duced with loud laudation, a few years or centuries before. The great genius returns to essential man. We reckoned the improvements of the art of war among the triumphs of science, and yet Napol. eon conquered Europe by the Biv. ouac, which consisted of falling back on naked valor, and disencumbering it of all aids. The Emperor held it impossible to make a perfect army, says Las Casas, without abolishing our arms, magazines, commissaries and carriages, until in imitation of the Roman custom, the soldier should receive his supply of corn, grind it in his hand-mill, and bake his bread himself."

« PreviousContinue »