From The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, and Rare Manuscripts, Volume XXX, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901; pp. 11015-11020.
WHATELY, RICHARD, an eminent English prelate and theologian, Archbishop of Dublin; born at London, February 1, 1787; died at Dublin, October 8, 1863. He finished his studies at Oxford, and had a fellowship there, after which he was rector of Halesworth in Suffolk, principal of St. Albans Hall, Oxford, and, in 1830, professor of political economy. In 1831 he became Archbishop of Dublin. He did much to forward the cause of general education, and to promote liberal views in the English Church. Among his numerous works are: “Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte” (1819), a burlesque aimed at the “destructive school” of criticism; “Essays on the Peculiarities of the Christian Religion” (1825); “Elements of Logic” (1826); “Elements of Rhetoric” (1828); “Difficulties in the Writings of St. Paul” (1828); “Political Economy” (1831); “Introduction to the Study of St. Paul’s Epistles” (1849); “English Synonyms” (1851); “Scripture Doctrine Concerning the Sacraments” (1857); “Lessons on Mind” (1859); “Lessons on the British Constitution” (1859); “Lectures on the Parables” (1860); “Lectures on Prayer” (1860); “Rise, Progress, and Corruption of Christianity” (1860); “Miscellaneous Lectures and Reviews” (1861); “Remains” (1864).
THOUGH Bacon dwelt on the importance of setting out from an accurate knowledge of facts, and on the absurdity of attempting to substitute the reasoning process for an investigation of nature, it would be a great mistake to imagine that he meant to disparage the reasoning process, or to substitute for skill and correctness in that, a mere accumulated knowledge of a multitude of facts. And anyone would be far indeed from being a follower of Bacon who should despise logical accuracy, and trust to what is often called experience; meaning by that an extensive but crude and undigested observation. For, as 11016 books, though indispensably necessary for a student, are of no use to one who has not learned to read, though he distinctly sees black marks on white paper, so is all experience and acquaintance with facts unprofitable to one whose mind has not been trained to read rightly the volume of nature and of human transactions spread before him.
When complaints are made — often not altogether without reason — of the prevailing ignorance of facts on such and such subjects, it will often be found that the parties censured, though possessing less knowledge than is desirable, yet possess more than they know what to do with. Their deficiency in arranging and applying their knowledge, in combining facts, and correctly deducing, and rightly employing general principles, will be perhaps greater than their ignorance of facts. Now, to attempt remedying this defect by imparting to them additional knowledge — to confer the advantage of wider experience on those who have not skill in profiting by experience — is to attempt enlarging the prospect of a short-sighted man by bringing him to the top of a hill. Since he could not, on the plain, see distinctly the objects before him, the wider horizon from the hill-top is utterly lost on him. . . . If Bacon had lived in the present day, I am convinced he would have made his chief complaint against unmethodized inquiry and careless and illogical reasoning.
YOU may hear plausible descriptions given of a supposed race of savages subsisting on wild fruits, herbs, and roots, and on the precarious supplies of hunting and fishing; and then, of the supposed process by which they emerged from this state, and gradually invented the various arts of life, till they became a decidedly civilized people. One man, it has been supposed, wishing to save himself the trouble of roaming through the woods in search of wild fruits and roots, would bethink himself of colleting the seeds of these, and cultivating them in a plot of ground cleared and broken up for the purpose. And finding that he could thus raise more than enough for himself, he might agree with some of his neighbors to exchange a part of his produce for some of the game or fish taken 11017 by them. Another man again, it has been supposed, would contrive to save himself the labor and uncertainty of hunting, by catching some kinds of wild animals alive, and keeping them in an enclosure to breed, that he might have a supply always at hand. And again others, it is supposed, might devote themselves to the occupation of dressing skins for clothing, or of building huts or canoes, or of making bows and arrows, or various kinds of tools; each exchanging his productions with his neighbors for food. And each, by devoting his attention to some one kind of manufacture, would acquire increased skill in that, and strike out new inventions. . . .
Such descriptions as the above, of what it is supposed has actually taken place, or of what possibly might take place, are likely to appear plausible, at the first glance, to those who do not inquire carefully and reflect attentively. But, on examination, all these suppositions will be found to be completely at variance with all history, and inconsistent with the character of such beings as real savages actually are. Such a process of inventions and improvements as that just described is what we may safely say never did, and never possibly can, take place in any tribe of savages left wholly to themselves.
As for the ancient Germans, and the Britons and Gauls, all of whom we have pretty full accounts of in the works of Cæsar and Tacitus, they did indeed fall considerably short, in civilization, of the Greeks and Romans, who were accustomed to comprehend under one sweeping term of “barbarians” all nations but themselves. But it would be absurd to reckon as savages nations which, according to the authors just mentioned, cultivated their land, kept cattle, employed horses in their wars, and made use of metals for their weapons and other instruments. A people so far advanced as that would not be unlikely, under favorable circumstances, to advance further still, and to attain, step by step, to a high degree of civilization.
But as for savages, properly so styled — that is, people sunk as low, or anything near as low, as many tribes that our voyagers have made us acquainted with — there is no one instance recorded of any of them rising into a civilized condition, or indeed, rising at all, without instruction and assistance from a people already civilized. We have numerous accounts of various savage tribes, in different parts of the globe — in hot countries and in cold, in fertile and in barren, in maritime 11018 and in inland situations — who have been visited from time to time, at considerable intervals, by navigators, but have had no settled intercourse with civilized people; and all of them appear to have continued, from age to age, in the same rude condition. Of the savages of Tierra del Fuego, for instance, it is remarked by Mr. Darwin, the naturalist (who was in the “Beagle” on its second voyage of discovery), that they, “in one respect, resemble the brute animals, inasmuch as they make no improvements.” As birds, for instance, which have an instinct for building nests, build them, each species, just as at first, after countless generations; so it is, says he, with this people. “Their canoe, which is their most skilful work of art — and a wretched canoe it is — is exactly the same as it was two hundred and fifty years ago.” The New Zealanders, again, whom Tasman first discovered in 1642, and who were visited for the second time by Cook one hundred and twenty-seven years after, were found by him exactly in the same condition. And yet these last were very far from being in as low a state as the New Hollanders; for they cultivated the ground, raising crops of the Cumera (or sweet potato), and clothed themselves, not with skins, but with mats woven by themselves. . . .
Then, again, if we look at ancient historical records and traditions concerning nations that are reported to have risen from a savage to a civilized state, we find that in every instance they appear to have had the advantage of the instruction and example of civilized men living among them. They always have some tradition of some foreigner, or some Being from heaven, as having first taught them the arts of life. . . . But there is no need to inquire, even if we could do so with any hope of success, what mixture there may be of truth and fable in any of these traditions. For our present purpose it is enough to have pointed out that they all agree in one thing, in representing civilization as having been introduced (whenever it has been introduced) not from within, but from without. . . .
When you try to fancy yourself in the situation of a savage, it may perhaps occur to you that you would set your mind to work to contrive means for bettering your condition, and that you might hit upon such and such useful and very obvious contrivances; and hence you may be led to think it natural that savages should do so, and that some tribes of them may have advanced themselves in the way above described, without any 11019 external help. But what leads some persons to fancy this possible (though it appears to have never really occurred) is, that they themselves are not savages, but have some degree of mental cultivation, and some of the habits of thought of civilized men. And they imagine themselves merely destitute of the knowledge of some things which they actually know; but they cannot succeed in divesting themselves, in imagination, of the civilized character. And hence they form to themselves an incorrect notion of what a savage really is.
ON the whole, then, there seems every reason to believe that, as a general rule, that advancement in national prosperity which mankind are, by the Governor of the universe, adapted and impelled to promote must be favorable to moral improvement. Still more does it appear evident, that such a conclusion must be acceptable to a pious and philanthropic mind. It is not probable, still less is it desirable, that the Deity should have fitted and destined society to make a continual progress, impeded only by slothful and negligent habits, by war, rapine, and oppression (in short, by violation of divine commands), which progress inevitably tends toward a greater and greater moral corruption.
And yet there are some who appear not only to think, but to wish to think, that a condition but little removed from the savage state — one of ignorance, grossness, and poverty — unenlightened, semi-barbarous, and stationary, is the most favorable to virtue. You will meet with persons who will be even offended if you attempt to awaken them from their dreams about primitive rural simplicity, and to convince them that the spread of civilization, which they must see has a tendency to spread, does not tend to increase depravity. Supposing their notion true, it must at least, one would think, be a melancholy truth.
It may be said as a reason, not for wishing, but for believing this, that the moral dangers which beset a wealthy community are designed as a trial. Undoubtedly they are, since no state in which man is placed is exempt from trials. And let it be admitted, also, if you will, that the temptations to evil to which civilized man is exposed are absolutely stronger 11020 than those which existed in a ruder state of society: still, if they are also relatively stronger — stronger in proportion to the counteracting forces, and stronger than the augmented motives to good conduct — and are such, consequently, that, as society advances in civilization, there is less and less virtue, and a continually decreasing prospect of its being attained — this amounts to something more than a state of trial: it is a distinct provision made by the Deity for the moral degradation of His rational creatures.
This can hardly be a desirable conclusion; but if it be, nevertheless, a true one (and our wishes should not be allowed to bias our judgment), those who hold it ought at least to follow it up in practice, by diminishing, as far as is possible, the severity of the trial. . . . Let us put away from us “the accursed thing.” If national wealth be, in a moral point of view, an evil, let us, in the name of all that is good, set about to diminish it. Let us, as he advises, burn our fleets, block up our ports, destroy our manufactories, break up our roads, and betake ourselves to a life of frugal and rustic simplicity; like Mandeville’s bees, who
“flew into a hollow tree,
Blest with content and honesty.”