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factories ;—but are any of these adequate to the growth of the evil, or are all of these things more than the necessities arising out of a very bad state and system? or are they proofs of progress and soundness, any more than the use of doctors and strong medicines is the evidence of health ?* Where two spring up in the place of each one, the cutting off one or more of the hydra's heads is no evidence of his destruction.
The Sabbath is more strictly observed by some few; but Sunday travelling has very greatly increased. A few country towns have refused to receive letters on Sunday ;—it is because the government proposed to transmit letters through London on that day. The tithe question is settled by a commutation ;-it is because the very name of tithes is hated; and people were more ready to pay tithes even to the absentee lay-rector than to the resident clergyman. Pledges of temperance are taken, and of total abstinence; but they are strong and artificial medicines, proving the aggravation of the disease.
Our missions of Christianity are extended everywhere; but the curses of our commercial spirit always attend them, and are so great, that the monarchs of China and Sandwich are forced to prohibit on pain of death the gin and opium which the propagators of Christianity introduce; and contact between European
* “Where laws are many, voluminous, and intricate, 'tis a certain sign of a very unsound constitution : like a sick man's apartment filled with glasses and gallipots.”—The Art of Government by Parties, 8vo. 1701, p. 82. The vast digests of the Roman law were made in the decline of the empire.
and barbarous manners is not productive of civilization, but extermination.
These are some points which warrant us in doubting the rapid approach towards perfection with which we are urged to flatter ourselves. They do by no means conclude the question. We must continue to pursue the subject by a more perfect exposure of the changing habits and principles of European society, and a more intimate dissection of them.
THE FORCE OF FASHION.
IN DRESS-IN MORALS-IN OPINIONS-IN RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES
TO ENABLE us to take a dispassionate view of the general tendency of society, it is necessary that we should have a correct knowledge of the influence of fashion, and make a just estimate of its force in forming our opinions upon all subjects. In common and passing topics this force need hardly be considered. In matters of great and permanent concern, it requires to be observed and estimated almost more than any other. The moon has one motion round the earth; which is sufficient to be considered, in calculating the changes during one single revolution of it. But it has another motion round the sun, under the influence of the earth, and as its satellite; and this requires to be considered, in estimating its power and place at different seasons. Neither ourselves nor the earth have any perceptible motion round its axis, or round the sun; and no use could arise from considering any such motion, in reckoning our day's march, or the projection of a cannon ball. But if the question were to be, whether we should fall within the
lash of the tail of a comet, or should have light for three hours more, or summer three months hence, this consideration would be the chief and most important topic; and any one who calculated by clocks only, or the last week's experience, would be deceived greatly. So it is in topics of high interest and importance in the affairs of life.
Nothing can be a higher treason against taste than to call a lady's new bonnet whimsical; though two months ago she would not have endured to look at such a thing, and in two months more she will call it hideous. Nothing can be a greater offence against the enlightenment of the age, and the majesty and wisdom of society, than to question the capability to arrive at all truth by pursuing the train of thought, and the course of study and investigation, in which the world is at present busy, and occupied expectingly.
It is in the nature of things, that the public mind should not be able to perceive its own errors and deficiencies. Individual minds may sometimes distrust their own views and opinions, by collision and comparison with other opinions and minds, exercising an antagonist influence. But the general mind, being one and alone, and having and desiring no subjects of comparison, is led onward, and leads on those who follow and are governed by it, irresistibly, in a blind, and as if infallible course.
The mind which gives itself up to be ruled by fashion and the force of example, being completely enveloped by the medium in which it is suspended, is like one in a balloon, unconscious of the motion of the vehicle
which bears him onward. The only possible means by which he can ascertain his direction and progress is by keeping his eye fixed on some known objects, the facility of which is diminished in proportion as they become distant. But if the shades of night should overtake the aëronaut, or even if a mist or gloom should shut out distant objects from distinct vision, the voyager must pursue his course in perfect ignorance; the winds and currents may sweep along, but he cannot perceive them; storms may rush over the earth, spreading ruin and producing changes and devastation, but he must be unconscious of them; he feels no storm or current rushing beside him; he cannot tell, having no relative motion with the medium he is dependent in, whether. his course is backward or onward, or what is the rate of it, or even whether he and all nature be not still and stationary; for all around him at least is calm, and constant, and peaceful, and contenting. *
But even should he be able to guess rightly the direction of his motion, how can he estimate the rapidity and extent of it.t “ Add to this the uncertainty that from henceforth began to pervade the whole of our course,-an uncertainty that every moment increased as we proceeded deeper into the shades of night, and
.“ The absence of all currents of air is one of the peculiar characteristics of aërial navigation.”-Monck Mason's Description of the Nocturnal Voyage of the Nassau Balloon, (at the average rate of about thirty miles an hour,) p. 32. Thirty miles an hour is the rate at which the wind travels in a moderate storm.
+ “ To this step, the uncertainty in which we necessarily were, with respect to the exact position we occupied, owing to our ignorance of the distance we had come, especially determined us.” – Ibid. p. 38.