Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

The celebrated series of letters which have appeared in the Morning Chronicle from one of its commissioners, have produced a deep impression, and led to a great deal of enquiry, which must do good. The emigration scheme for oppressed needlewomen is the first practical result of these valuable communications.

The Lancashire Public School Association has had a conference and meeting. The members for Manchester have also had a special entertainment. The north of England is at the present moment full of activity in the great progress movements.

The Wesleyan Movement maintains, if it does not increase, in its interest and intensity.

In Scotland the Total Abstinence question has, of late, excited considerable attention. The cause in London is growing from the impetus given by the large Exeter Hall meetings, and by the increased activity of the Working Men's Teetotal Association.

The demands for cheaper and better gas, and cheaper and better water, in the Metropolis, are resulting in the means for the multiplication facilities for larger supplies of these valuable commodities.

Ragged Schools and Model Lodging-houses have recently called into existence an increased nterest and activity in their favour.

The acquittal of Waldeck in Berlin has dumbounded the lovers of oppression in that city, and has done much to put constitutional liberty on a firm foundation in Prussia.

The Peace Society has had a course of lectures delivered for it to large audiences in Crosby Hall, by A. B. Stephens, John Burnet, and Asa Mahan.

It is pleasing to see that mechanics' institutes and literary societies are gradually multiplying and generally increasing in influence and importance. Particular mention may be made of the Whittington Club, which numbers nearly 1,500 members.

Many of the agriculturists have been holding large meetings to try to create an agitation for the re-enactment of the corn laws. But all

their efforts will be useless. It is almost as reasonable to agitate for a resurrection of feudalism, as to ask for a re-establishment of the bread monopoly in England. It would be much more reasonable on the part of the landlords and tenant-farmers to join with the financial and parliamentary reformers in asking for economy and retrenchment, and an extension of political rights. "To this complexion they must come at last."

Though it has been stated a hundred times recently at public meetings, and in some of the newspapers, that England is fast going to the dogs under the Free Trade regime, it must not be forgotten that the revenue is in an encouraging position, that employment in the manufacturing districts is becoming more abundant, that the poor rates in a vast majority of the unions of Great Britain are gradually declining.

The Vegetarians of Salford and Manchester have recently held several meetings to discuss the important question of human dietetics and health. It is high time that the people enquired into the true philosophy of eating and drinking. It has been sadly neglected hitherto. "The proper study of mankind is man."

It must be encouraging to every reformer to know that cheap periodical literature of a useful and elevating tendency, is gradually increasing, and displacing some of the poisoned literature which perpetually streams from London.

Several meetings of assistants and of employers, of a very practical character, and other public meetings, have been held under the auspices of the Early Closing Association, and have been well attended. It is uphill work to change the injurious habits of a nation, but so sure as the heart and mind of society continue to improve, deep-rooted abuses will gradually decrease. In very many provincial towns and cities, shops are now closed at seven o'clock, which used to be closed at nine and ten. Why should not all shops be closed at five in winter and six in summer?

The news from California is as sparkling as its "diggings."

The Emigration and Colonization Movement does not diminish in interest. If all were to emigrate and colonize who talk about it, our continental neighbours might think about emigrating to England to cultivate our waste lands.

With all the talk about the Pope returning to Rome, he has not yet done so, neither is it likely that be soon will. But let him do so tomorrow or any other time, he will never again be invested with uncontrolable temporal and spiritual authority, or wield the supreme political or ecclesiastical power which so many of his predecessors did. The power of the Pope is a power of the past.

The Emperor of Russia still continues to growl at the democratic doings of Western Europe. He can only growl. His demanding the extradition of the Polish and Hungarian refugees, and then yielding to the firm determination of Turkey, backed up by France and England, has virtually humiliated him in the eyes of Europe. The spirit of the imprisoned Kossuth is a mightier thing in this world than the absolute Emperor of the Russias.

[ocr errors]

HAPPINESS.

WHENEVER human life is contemplated apart from its temporary and immediate interests, the inquiry arises, What is the authentic aim of Being?-to what end ought men to live? To this question it is replied, by a prominent class of speculators, that the evident purpose of existence is the happiness of the individual; and that therefore every man is under a natural obligation to pursue the course by which he may be most effectually rendered happy. The desire for happiness being universal, and tending continually to stimulate men in its pursuit, it is conceived that nothing short of its attainment is calculated to satisfy the reasonable aspirations of human nature. It may be admitted that the doctrine is not devoid of plausibility; and being also eminently flattering to the uncultivated understanding, it has not failed to gain a wide acceptance and celebrity. If the opinion of the majority were sufficient to determine the validity of any article of belief, the point in question might be considered to have been long since established affirmatively. There has always existed, however, among the more severe and independent order of thinkers, a small number of heretics against the general faith, who assert that the pursuit of happiness is not the chief aim of man, but that there is something infinitely higher, and of far nobler consideration; and they instance, as a proof of the futility of the common doctrine, that it is utterly incommensurate to the furtherance of the object which it inculcates, inasmuch as no practical efforts after happiness have hitherto conducted any one to its realization.

being. From the common and wellknown meaning of the word, it is rarely defined with any clearness, but from the manner of its application, it is not difficult to perceive that it is ordinarily used to signify that condition of existence which affords the maximum of enjoyment. In this sense it appears to be uniformly understood, whatever differences of opinion may be entertained respecting the nature of the enjoyments most appropriate to man. According as men incline to a material or spiritual way of thought, they will differ as to what really constitutes true happiness; but they may agree in the general notion that it consists in the highest state of pleasurable sensation, and that towards this it most behoves them to direct their efforts. There may be a great diversity of sentiment concerning the means and methods best adapted to attain the end in view; but in their customary estimate of what tends to make them happy, men for the most part refer to the possession of such things as are agreeable to their desires, -to such a condition of life as seems most consonant with their inclinations' or ambition, and promises to afford them the largest measure of the gratifications which they most esteem. We thus perceive that Happiness is but a synonymous term for Pleasure;-this latter term, however, being susceptible of many explanations, according as a man is a coarse sensualist, a matter-offact aspirant after material prosperity, or a person of intelligent refinement; and that, when men speak or think of happiness, they usually mean only the utmost extent of satisfaction of which they are constitutionally capable. The pleasure desiderated may be a mere immediate excitement, or it may be matter of ultimate expectation in so far as it relates to the entire scheme of life, or it may refer to the fruitions of an ulterior existence; but in each case it is nothing more than Pleasure, of one kind or another, which is really the object of pursuit, and the desire of the incident enjoyment is apparently the motive which induces the particular course of action out of which it is expected to proceed.

Now, apart from the historical fact

It is evident that, owing to the ambiguities of language, such a controversy might be interminable; both parties meanwhile contending lustily for the truth,-as indeed is by no means unfrequent in controversial proceedings. To reduce it within manageable limits, it is obviously needful to fix the signification of the term Happiness. And this will be done best by adopting the sense attached to it by those who hold that happiness is the primary end of

B

that the highest teachers in all ages have borne testimony to the presence of aspirations in man altogether foreign and superior to this love of pleasure, it may be remarked that the doctrine tends materially to frustrate the substantial welfare of those who consciously adopt it. Happiness being everywhere recognized as the only true and appropriate pursuit of life-the same being also taught and enforced by "poets and philosophers" of great distinction and repute the thoughtless and uncultivated man, feeling sensibly that, as far as he is individually concerned, the dogma is unexceptionable, and ought to have a practical exemplification, reckons with himself in such wise as always to expect happiness; and whenever the contrary comes to pass in his experience, he, with a plausible shew of consequence, attributes the disagreeable anomaly to some signal maladjustment of the general affairs, whereby through human, diabolical, or other agency, he is ungenerously defrauded of his proper gratifications and immunities. Having always striven after happiness, and nothing else, it is incomprehensible to him that he should ever be otherwise than happy ;-philosophy and ethics very clearly justifying the anticipation of that result, as may be shewn on reference to Pope, Paley, and Bentham, and other learned and polite writers. A morbid dissatisfaction with his fate grows with every successive disappointment, until the struggle for well-being declines eventually into weariness and distraction. With the phantom of happiness for ever before his eyes, his fluttering efforts to grasp it end only in delusion; and in the eagerness of the insane pursuit he is incessantly diverging, more and more remotely, from the paths of useful quietude, wherein alone his chances of wellbeing are safely to be sought. Were it not better that a man should utterly renounce his hope of happiness altogether, and, with reference to the mere reward of his exertion, adjust his life to humble aims, bracing himself, if need ful, to the very pitch of indifferency? Seeing that the utmost struggle after a sensuous contentedness yields nothing of endurable satisfaction, but, even in

so far as it is successful, serves mainly to inflame the insatiate capacity of Appetite, and thus perpetuate both struggle and disappointment,—it were surely wiser to lower our too lofty pretensions, and consider rather what possibilities of good may lie in the faithful performance of duties which every day presents, without regard to the pleasantness or infelicities of their execution, In literal reality, a man's welfare is not attainable by the chase of happiness; but it is his highest and blessed privilege to be the willing servant of Truth and Goodness, and find therein his noblest and imperishable distinction. If he will fritter away his life in the vain effort to be happy, he will inevitably expend his powers without profit to his manhood, and delude himself continually with a dream of the Unapproachable. Boundless as may seem his enjoyments, his desires are still more boundless, and have in truth no limit short of absolute infinity.

By the paltry philosophy which af firms happiness to be the authentic aim of life, the world has been grievously misled. Nearly all the current teaching is grounded on this gross assumption: men being most commonly urged to become virtuous, out of regard to the pleasant or profitable advantages which virtue is supposed to be competent to furnish; and to avoid the practices of vice and folly, that so they may not incur the perils and penalties incident to their commission. Such motives of appeal, indeed, may not be altogether useless or improper as secondary or initiatory incitements to amendment; but the teaching which respects them as final and fundamental may be safely pronounced to be spurious, and calculated to lead men astray from the perception of their worthiest prerogatives. Virtue, in its older and diviner sense, is not estimable by any considerations of sensible loss or profit; but signifies emphatically that which is becoming to a man, and its possession is ever the indication and advertisement of a spiritual elevation. A man by virtue is more godlike-more in harmony with the everlasting dispensations of the Spirit of all Goodness-partakes more largely of that sacred celestial

Beauty which lies eternally at the heart of things, and whose beneficent loveliness transcends all thought of appreciable advantage. Virtue and Wisdom are the strong and glorious pinions whereby the soul ascends nearer to the presence of that absolute and undiminishable Purity, which we name and reverence as God. What, then, is the character of that teaching, which instructs us to measure these grand realities by their "profits," or their "pleasures?" To calculate their perceptible compensations, in order to see whether these do not preponderate somewhat over the opposite allurements of unintelligence and vice?-thus, reducing their august solemnity and significance to a value measureable by the profane material standards which are current in worldly market-places. Is it not a desecration so to estimate that sublime and unspeakable Liberty, wherein it is a man's privilege to become established, in proportion as soul is participant of Truth? If you stretch the love of happiness to infinitude, you cannot transmute it into virtue; cannot make it other than an interminable yearning after Pleasure; a boundless unappeased desire for some more or less refined and sublimated species of enjoyment. The doctrine which teaches this to be the primary aim of man, announces to him a gospel of degradation-addresses itself not to his soul, but to his senses; disrobes him as far as possible of that mystical divinity, which is the highest attribute and glory of his nature: it is the apotheosis of appetite, the exaltation, not of his boundless unselfish love, but of his merely sensuous inclinations, longing to be infinite and immortal. If man has no loftier aspirings, then assuredly his boasted pre-eminence in the creation is but a pitiful distinction, and he must be reckoned only as a superior organization, susceptible of subtler delights than the more gross and inferior forms of being, but limited like them to a range of gratifications, which originate and end in sensibility. And, therefore, it were well for him to abolish from his memory any lingering vestiges of the tradition, that he is a free and divinely inspired soul. This doctrine being true, it were, then, the

soundest admonition,

Eat, drink, and take thine ease; in every imaginable sense enjoy thyself;" for to assume that the "malady of thought," and the exercise of generosity, yield more acute and acceptable pleasures than result from the concentration of all accessible satisfactions within one's self, is to deny the validity of the general experience, and to represent the selfishness of man as permanently opposed to its own enjoyment. Any way considered, this theory of the love of happiness being the fundamental rule of life, leads us inevitably to base and degrading views of human nature.

66

There is a higher fact in the personal constitution, than that which appears in the desire for pleasurable sensations. The soul is indefeasibly divine. Herein shall a man secure his best welfare: by doing those things which are suitable to his nature; resolutely fulfilling his destination, as prefigured in the laws of his own consciousness, by a cheerful surrender of his will to his sincere and enlightened convictions, and by working out into reality all the presentiments of the Moral Reason. The quest of happiness will not direct him hither, till after he has tried and exhausted all methods and modes of being, which, offer him any flattering prospects of enjoyment, and may in the end leave him wretchedly incompetent to shape his life anew, after the nobler conditions to which he is naturally subordinate. A life in conformity with truth is for all men the primary consideration. How he shall best develop the original force wherewith he is constitutionally endowedhow cultivate the energies and aspirations which are the seeds of life within him-how deliver himself of his sublime mission as a man, to whom has been committed the gift and power of immortality, and the responsibility of casting his thought and activity aright into the boundless and ever-active universe, where they shall grow and blend themselves for ever: this, if he will consider it, is the supreme and genuine aim of man. Will he accomplish it, think you, by fuming and perplexing himself incessantly about his happiness?-by cunning and assiduous

contrivances, to reap the utmost crop of exquisite delights? Not so, my friends, now or ever. The better intelligence of man has in all times, and everywhere taught a purer and a braver lesson. In none of the elder systems of human faith was a merely sensitive felicity ever contemplated as being the final purpose of aspiration. This view of mortal and immortal destiny is in great part peculiar to modern ages, to these latter confused times of scepticism, and decay of spiritual integrity, and lingers with us now only for a season. The day will doubtless come when a higher and worthier evangel shall be preached, be more earnestly and generally believed, and perhaps universally accepted as the foundation of a practical way of life. It will recognize the beauty of the moral nature, and esteem its growth and unperverted manifestation as the just and ultimate object of all endeavour. The consideration of "happiness" will not enter perceptibly into the account; but men will learn to regard the character of the action, rather than the reward of it, and be content to know that their efforts and performances are in unison with the constituted laws of humanity and the world. "The ordering of our fortune," as one has said, "is not demanded of us, but only the cultivation of ourselves." We may safely trust the Supreme Beneficence with the latent and remoter issues of our fate; our clear and intelligible duty now is to unfold faithfully whatever capabilities of intellectual or moral worthiness we are invested with, so that the integrity of the universe shall not be impaired by our default. Herein we have a nobler incentive to activity than any that is offered to us in the expectation of "happiness." A true and spiritually enfranchised man, though not insensible to the possession of any benefit, neither solicits nor anticipates ambrosial consolations in return for the struggles he may have endured in the effort to fulfil his high vocation; but in the rich enlargement thereby realized, he discerns a recompense sufficient, and is blessed pre-eminently in this, that something of the might and stability of a living and supernal Power is in his

veins and in his soul, working through him and within him towards godlike consummations.

WOMAN THE REFORMER.

BY MRS. C. L. BALFOUR.

"The woman's cause is man's; they rise or sink together, Dwarfed or Godlike-bond or free." -Tennyson.

Ir seems strange that in this age of investigation and social progress, the power of woman to promote or retard improvement should be so seldom adverted to. A multitude of plans are thought of for mitigating evil and diffusing good, but woman is only indirectly named in reference to these plans. If her influence is tacitly admitted, and her aid invoked, it is as an auxiliary, and not a principal. In many benevolent and religious enterprises she assists by her occasional presence on public occasions; by collecting funds for carrying on the operations of many societies; by the ingenuity and industry of her hands, in providing elegant and useful works for sale, in aid of the treasury of benevolence. All this is well. Every woman thus employing her talents and leisure is doing something to-wards abating the amount of human ignorance and misery. But the mind and principles of women in general are not sufficiently appealed to, as to their duty in actively promoting the public good. They leave to man not only the devising of plans for social advancement, but the comprehending and carrying out of those plans. Women themselves are in error in this matter. They misunderstand their position. They live below their privileges. Something more than a mere tacit assent to different reforms is required of them. A direct personal car rying out of various great principles is their unquestionable duty. And the world will never be regenerated, till woman understands she must be the regenerator.

It is too much the practice for woman to acquiesce with a kind of unenquiring ease to great public questions, or to wrap herself up in the mantle of indifference, saying, "I leave public reforms to man-my sphere is home." Ah ! truly so; but homes are the centres from whence radiate the good and the

« ZurückWeiter »