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now only substituted a horse-hair petticoat. There is not much to choose between these several modes and tastes. One is not much better or wiser than another. The only error can be in supposing the prevailing taste to be most rational and the best. In fashions of mind and opinion we change and re-change with a no less rapid facility; only the subjects are apt to be more serious, and of more important consequence. The last fashion and theory in politics, in geology, in mesmerism, in phrenology, and often in theology, is just as wise and stable, and as well founded in reason, as your wigs and whimples, and your low heads and high heads, and short waists and long waists, and large bonnets and little bonnets, and your hoops, and founces, and trains, and tails, and hair petticoats.
If such be the effect of fashion where the changes are sudden and rapid,-if its power be so great to reconcile us to subjects which have once been hateful and opposite to us,—what must its strength be where there has been no opposition, no apparent error or contrariety; but every change has been gradual and progressive : each stage and step rising up out of the last with an easy gradation; and no ascent has ever been steep enough to cause a stumble or exertion, or even to draw notice and attention. So the human reason has gradually gained ascendancy over revelation and faith, in England; so the Genevan Church have gradually digressed from Calvinism to Unitarianism; the Lutherans to Mysticism.
With these likelihoods and illustrations, and these
examples before us, let us allow something at least for this prejudice, against ourselves, and the present fashion in opinion, in all our discussions of the great topics upon which our judgment must turn in estimating our political, moral, and religious state and progress, and comparing them with those points in which other people and nations, and other generations, differ from us in opinion, manners, habits, and principles.
FAILURE OF THE PRESENT SYSTEM.
IN THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH-OF HAPPINESS-OF POLITICAL
We have noticed above, in the first Essay, when comparing some of the most obvious symptoms of decline and improvement, the increase of pauperism, the decrease of religious reverence and good will towards the clergy, the difficulties of trade, the increase also of crime, of drunkenness, turbulence, and the greater separation of the different orders ; so that we cannot with reason call ourselves a happy, quiet, and contented people. I will now endeavour, by a somewhat closer and more intimate view, to show that those points in which we most particularly pride ourselves—that our riches and wisdom-are not altogether so prosperous and great ; and that far from leading us to the many great results which we fondly attribute to them, they are producing many of the opposite effects to those for which we expressly and confidently pursue them. Power, prosperity, happiness, ease, contentment, freedom, stability, permanence, virtue, truth, are among the ends which we would set before ourselves, as the results of all our labours, in learning and philosophizing, and political
economy and money-getting. It will appear that these ends are not arrived at, but are defeated and thwarted and placed further off at an immeasurable distance, by the very
instruments and means which we choose and exercise, with the confident assurance of their attainment.
The use of riches is to spend them—to spend them according to our wishes and choice, and without compulsion of another man's will, of authority, or circumstance. What we pay in taxes and rates is not enjoyed; it is a diminution of our fortune for the protection of the remainder. What is paid in rent is scarcely more willingly paid than the mortgage interest of a debt, contracted for past pleasures, or the mortgaged taxes annually and everlastingly due, for former national excesses and aggrandizement. Nor is the enjoyment of a grand and roomy house and grounds, when by use it has become necessary to us, greater than that of a trim and tiny box, or snug villa, at fifty or thirty pounds a-year, when we have been used to nothing more grand and ennobling
All our luxuries and comforts are growing more and more into the nature of necessaries, and current expenditure; so that, though comfort and luxury and magnicence are incomparably greater at this time, in comparison with any other former time in England, or any other country, yet the proportion and amount which in each rank and station any person can call his own, and use at any given moment according to his discretion and as it pleases him, is daily diminishing. There never was a time when greater indisposition was shown to pay tithes
and taxes and rates and public imposts. The revenue is most difficult to raise, and, even in the time of peace, is by no means equal to the expenditure. We are getting deeper into debt. Rich folks cannot afford to be liberal and hospitable; the current expenses and style of living, and their establishment, is too great to bear it. We cannot provide sufficiently for our poor. The clergy are very inadequately paid ; and yet their endowments are called enormous, and are grudged to them. There never was a time when liberality could less be attributed, as giving a name and character to the age or habits of the nation. Economy is the national ensign and watchword and characteristic. Anything that tends to economy in expenditure, that is, not to the moderation of expenses, but to the attaining of the greatest possible amount and quantity of luxury at a given cost, that is, at the full extent of our incomes,is accepted and hailed as wise and admirable. Luxury and economy, namely, the producing of the greatest possible amount of magnificence and comfort, of envied appearance and style, and personal enjoyment, at the least possible expense, is the great problem for solution, the great aim and object in private life. And in public life and government,—whatever is free and liberal, and self-denying and moderate, is shunned and avoided and out-reasoned, and is not found consistent with sound policy, and modern enlightenment, and the wisdom of the age, and the general good of mankind, and political economy. How can a country and age be enjoying its riches, in which economy is almost the only thing valued and vaunted, and is of absolute necessity ?