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That consequently it was, to say the least, highly probable that modern civilization would be permanent. Nay, that the world would continue to go on, until the tide of improvement should be spread over every part of it, as the water covered the channels of the ocean.
Such were the reasonings adduced in favour of that view of the subject, which we must all ardently desire, if we do not very confidently expect to be realized.
In opposition to this it was contended, that there are no sufficient data in the condition of the modern world to justify an expectation that it will escape the degeneracy of past ages. That nations, like individuals, have their decline as well as their infancy and maturity; and the progress of society establishes the fact. The history of one nation is, indeed, in this respect, the history of all others. They begin in poverty--they are stimulated to industry--they acquire riches --they indulge in luxury and extravagance-they degenerate, and terminate where they commenced. Viewing the world at large, the condition of the human species undergoes change from age to age, but it does not aggregately improve. Comparing one era with another, and estimating the whole, there are now as many of the inhabitants in an unpolished state, as there were at any former period. Although some portions of Europe and America are now more cultivated than in ancient times, yet Africa and Asia, as well as other parts of Europe, are in an inferior state when compared with the splendour of many ancient countries, and the magnificence of many extensive cities, Witness Phænicia and Egypt, Persepolis, Nineveh, and Babylon.
History informs us, that civilization commenced in the East. In that region it now appears to have declined; reposing for a time in Europe, its course seems now directed to the western world. Many ancient kingdoms, which formerly flourished in the South of the vast continent of America, are
The principle of decay was alike prevalent there as it is in all other parts of the globe.
There may be exceptions, but it appears to be generally true, that where civilization has once declined, it never revives. We have not, at least, any instance of it in authentic history, Neither Egypt, nor Greece, nor Italy, has possessed a second era of prosperity. Western Europe is now the most civilized, and, for the first time. Not many centuries ago, it was in a state of the rudest barbarity.
There seems to be a point beyond which civilization cannot pass. When great elevation has been obtained by one age, it prevents further exertions of the same kind. Moral and intellectual qualities, like physical, decay when unexercised.
Now no more,
Oratory declined at Athens after Demosthenes, and at Rome after Cicero. Men love distinction, and when the ground is occupied, they give up the contest. Genius is indolent, and enthusiasm, unless excited, expires. Habitual ease is an inveterate barrier to all improvement.
There is nothing in soil, climate, or situation, that can stay the fluctuations of Civilization, or arrest her flight. She has inhabited and deserted all countries. Neither Islands nor Continents have stayed her progress. The plain, the hill, and valley, have alike been visited and left. Fertility and barrenness; heat and cold; have all been tried and all deserted. What new circumstances now exist that can reasonably be expected to vary the course which has hitherto always prevailed:
Although there is not the same class of barbarians to overrun Europe, as that by which the Roman empire was attacked, there are vast tribes included under the Russian dominion, and in other regions, sufficiently numerous to be formidable, and inhabiting a country sufficiently inferior to these cultivated regions, to render migration both desirable and tempting: Perhaps, the lower classes of society are more civilized and better educated than they were formerly; but the present century could not support a parallel with the last, on the greater number of those points, which distinguish a country in the summit of its greatness. It is probable, that the labour. ing classes, in the time of Augustus and Trojan, were less educated than in the time of a Commodus or a Basil; but who would insist, that civilization was at a greater pitch of excellence under the latter, than under the former, reigns ? -Although the religion in the present age was a favourable circumstance, still it was no ground for supposing that the civilized parts of Europe would be freed from the fate of other countries, whose glories had long mouldered into dust. The Emperors of Constantinople, (Julian, the Apostate excepted) from Constantine, till the time when the city was taken by Mahomet the Second, were Christians, most of their subjects were Christians, and yet they were not exempted from the arm of the barbarians, or the ignorance of their conquerors. The bright constellations of genius and literature vanished from one hemisphere; the night of ignorance brooded upon all Europe; and the almost impenetrable darkness was only interrupted by the occasional meteors of Justinian,Belisarius,-Narses,—which shot athwart the gloomy horizon. These things have been, and what guarantee have we that they will not recur again? That such a guarantee existe, has pot yet been proved.
The question, intellectually considered, might be thus resolved: mind is not hereditary. There are but few instances in which the posterity of great men are eminent. They repose on ancestral fame. They are not furnished with the stimuli to exertion. They have neither a name nor fortune to acquire, and they use no peculiar energy. There is no part of the modern world more intellectual than were the Athenians. In the sciences we may advance to whatever is abstruse and minute, but all the great and useful principles bave been long known. The modern discoveries will not stay the steps of civilization. Our exertions, indeed, seem directed chiefly to minute refinements and to the discovery of elements and first causes ; and these, however curious and interesting, can have no effect on the stability of knowledge.
The fine and liberal arts depend on individual genius, not on the aggregate body, and necessarily fluctuate. They flourish in a certain stage of affluence. Nations are, in spite of themselves, sometimes poor and miserable, and then the arts naturally decline.
The literature of the Greeks, the Romans, and the age of Elizabeth, was superior to that of the present time. Though of an elegant and a refined nature, literature is now chiefly miscellaneous and superficial. We have nothing epic or dramatic.
The nature of man appears irremediably opposed to the universal progression of improvement. He is characterized by the same features in every age. His passions, his affections, and dispositions, though indulged or exercised in various ways, and on various objects, are still naturally the
There is the same rivalship now as there was at all former periods, both between nations and the individuals that compose them. There is a secret or open hostility. Ambition and avarice, the love of power and the love of wealth, are alike in all ages. The selfish, as well as the social systems, equally prevail. There appears, indeed, to be two opposite principles in active operation; the one individual, the other general. There is an eternal contest and re action between one portion of society and another.
Those who govern, satiated with power, disgusted with its concomitants, and tired of its labours, neglect those qualities by which it was obtained. Their negligence, be it moral or intellectual, is the signal for the activity of others, for no activity is exerted when there is no hope of reward. In the progress of time a mighty change is wrought in the constitution of society. Property changes its possessors, rank is enjoyed by a new class of persons, and fame enrols new names on her tablets. Still it is but a change of persons, the system remains the same, and the measures continue unaltered.
THERE are two ways in which human life may be regarded, slepice --individually, and collectively. We
We may take a survey of such particulars only as are common to every human being, så ie considered merely as one of the species ; or the sphere of our observation may be extended to the condition of mankind in general, considered as forming one vast community. The more limited circle of inquiry would restrict us chiefly to those circumstances by which man is affected like the other parts of the animal creation, such as the commencement, the continuance, and the termination of life. But a more extensive view of the subject, as referring to society at large, will not only include the physical existence of mankind, but will embrace, at the same time, their virtues and their vices, their joys and their sorrows, their desires and pursuits; in short, whatever is found by experience, in the general course of human affairs, to chequer and diversify the busy scene.
Of human life, in both these points of view, there is no chart so complete as that which is presented to us in the Contents of a Newspaper. History and Biography may furnish something of the same kind in a more dignified and classical form ; but not often in a manner so minute, correct, or comprehensive. The historian and the biographer are seldomi able to descend much into detail; when they do, it often happens, that little dependance is to be placed on their statements; and, even were it otherwise, men of eminence are almost the only subjects of their writings. The individuals of whom such accounts are given, being extraordinary characters, and having filled extraordinary situations, are rather to be regarded as exceptions than examples, and are therefore bad illustrations of what human life is in general : but in the evanescent, and too often despised, pages of a Newspaper, (however numerous may be its admitted errors,) there are many details, the correctness of which cannot be disputed, and which relate to characters of every class.
A minute disquisition upon all the topics, which the perusal of a Newspaper might suggest, would be sufficient to occupy volumes. On the present occasion, nothing more is intended than a cursory glance. But, in drawing even a hasty sketch of human life, with such materials as the ground-work of the landscape, the extent of scene and the diversity of view are in
no small degree perplexing. Instead, therefore, of adopting a scientific method of arrangement, (which, if here desirable, would be scarcely attainable, no other order will be observed than such as usually prevails in Newspapers themselves. This will, at least, be attended with the advantage of being familiar to all; and will, perhaps, be more suited to the intended source of illustration, than one of a more philosophical nature.
The Advertisements in a Newspaper, though not generally considered as the most interesting or instructive portion of its contents, for the most part fill the largest space, and occupy the most conspicuous station : indeed, however frequently they may be looked upon with contempt, the nature of human life is illustrated as aptly, as clearly, and as correctly, by these public notices, as by any other part of the sheets which contain them. It should not be forgotten, that, whatever may be the immediate object of those by whom advertisements are inserted, they shew much more than their authors ever intended or conceived. Thus, when a dealer in shawls announces, that “ A New Era has commenced in the career of British Manufactures,” and invites the public to his warehouse, where the manufactures of this new era are exhibited for sale; or, when a blacking-maker, “ Ever anxious to prevent Imposition,” favours the public with an engraved copy of those brilliant pieces of composition, which describe the shining properties of the still more brilliant liquid within ;-the object
, of course, with each advertiser, is to sell the commodity in which he deals. Were this all, it serves, at least, to remind us, how the conveniences of human life, particularly in civilized communities, are distributed throughout society, for the general accommodation, by means of that division of labour and employment, without which it is hardly possible that civilization should exist. But beyond this, we can hardly fail to observe, in such advertisements as these, the effect of neceseity in sharpening the ingenuity of man, as well as the fruits of that ingenuity, in improving articles of taste, in alluring the public to purchase, and in endeavouring to retain the exclusive benefits of sale. The mere existence of such commodities as shawls and blacking, furnishes a proof, that the country in which they are used has made great advances in refinement ; for history shews, that superfluities in dress, like those in food, have been almost entirely unknown to barbarous nations, and have increased in number and minute ness with the progress of civilization.
Professional, commercial, and trade advertisements in ge-
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