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THE FROGS AND THE PEOPLE.
k brought to rule the actions, and sway the dispositions of those who rule, and those whose opinions must necessarily exert so unbounded an influence upon the conduct of the rulers of empires, and the W people at large; of nation upon nation; and of
nations and individuals upon the world.
THE PEOPLE AND THEIR UTOPIA.
THE sublime views which Plato took of the capacities of the human soul, apparently led him, as similar views have led many modern philosophers, to open more flattering prospects to society, than yet have been, or probably ever can be, realized from its own merely moral efforts. That a republic should be constituted, in which all its members were to be guided by motives of justice and good conscience in all their dealings and transactions with each other, and to live together happily, enjoying each the fruits of his own labours, or having all things in common, is in the outset assuming that its members will do so upon the plan being suggested to them; not taking into account the variableness of opinion, the fickleness of temper, the depravity of human nature itself, and the vacillation of its circumstances. More's Utopia is, by name at least, familiar to all; and nothing is now commoner than to hear plausible but impracticable schemes of happiness. denominated “ utopian.” The first
term essential to their proposition, is invariably omitted by those who advocate such utopian fraternities. They assert that by pursuing certain rules of justice and reason, man might attain a state of perfect bliss. They assume that the dictates of reason are sufficient to direct; and that men are able to follow them. They omit to premise, that if human nature were perfect, devoid of false appetites and passions, and only susceptible of feeling, thinking, and acting correctly, then they would naturally adopt the rules of justice and reason, and attain the ultimatum of terrestrial felicity. If human nature were perfect, people would act by justice and reason; and then there would be no further occasion for the interference and control of armies and rulers.
Every faction is the result of conflicting interests and opinions. All governments are dependent upon popular opinion or acquiescence. If a people desire any particular legislative change, what is to prevent its taking place? Nothing, but a difference of opinion, as to the circumstances of the change.
When all men are brought under the influence of one Holy Spirit and one divine law, and not till then, their utopia may be realized!
Plato seems to have considered the rectitude of the human conduct to depend upon wisdom, and subduing the passions. There was much wisdom in his conclusion. The peripatetic philosophers made the chief good to consist in following the course of nature. they made mental perfection to
be virtue and sapience; but, like all Pagan philosophers, they possessed only the fallacious standard of human reason to regulate and define what was wise and virtuous. Lenon, and his followers, the stoics, said that all good rested in virtue; a virtue that consisted in taking every thing for the best, ren— dering men at once regular, benevolent, and resigned; yet, like their predecessors, they had only the same standard to direct them; and they even took a more partial view of nature than the former, inasmuch as their passive resignation taught them to resist the common feelings and sympathies of fellow-men. Afterwards came Epicurus, who taught that it was natural to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The sophists, before the time of Socrates, maintained upon a principle similar to this, that pleasure was the only good, and pain the only evil. However, Epicurus extended this principle with greater sagacity, and applied it not only to present pleasure and pain, but taught that those things which ultimately tend to the greatest happiness or misery, are accordingly the best, or the worst, and that therefore virtue was the greatest good, because it proves in the end to be the pleasantest rule of conduct.
Thus some placed happiness in virtue; others, in sapience; and others, in that which tended to the greatest good; and some, in the absence of pain.
So much for heathen philosophers. And as for
modern infidels end
much in the same strain-they advocate justice, reason, and equality; and yet, of all men, they are the most unreasonable who expect the reckless and self-interested majority of mankind to practise any such principles.
"Oh! ye people, would ye enjoy peace and prosperity, independence and contentment? Trust not in your rulers; put not faith in princes—act by prudence and reason; and restrain the tumult of your passions; you will then be your own counsellors; you will then be the promoters of your own comfort." Such might be the language of such teachers.
And others there are, who with a more contracted philosophy, seem to rest all their aspirations and hopes upon some single law, some favourite measure, or darling form of government, which they may have either thought, or read, or heard of; and pertinaciously adhering to that one topic, and lightly esteeming every other, harp so exclusively and frequently upon one string, that like a certain noted Italian upon a more musical instrument, they really bring out astonishing results; and although every one be convinced that their theories are more ingenious than useful, and that the performers themselves, although truly sincere, are notwithstanding politically mad; yet some persons are so charmed and carried away with their confident assurances and pertinent appeals, that every where they foment discontent with the existing institutions of society, and encourage