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The Printing Press, it is admitted, first gave us knowledge: now the highest merit of the Steam Engine seems to be that it has carried what the other has made ! To argue that the Steam Engine is the greater, because it has distributed what the Press has printed, is just like saying that the porter who carries a book is greater than the author who wrote it ! Surely the original discoverer of America is greater than the captains who now sail thither; and surely the originator of any great invention is greater than its mere accelerator.
Suppose the Printing Press had never been invented, where would Steam have been then ? Or suppose the Steam Engine had existed without the Printing Press, what good could it have done us? Would it have given us cheap Bibles, correct histories, good education, and all the other great advantages that we are told we owe to it? No! it would have improved us physically, but it would have left us just as mentally and morally dark as
To me, just as the one Book seems the source of all morality, books in general seem the source of all knowledge and wisdom. Long before the Steam Engine was dreamt of, books were civilising and moralising and Christianising man; and long after it is replaced by other inventions, the Press will continue to improve and exalt us.
I will not offer any further arguments, Sir, upon
this subject; but I think I have thrown out some suggestions which will not prove altogether unworthy of consideration.
SEVENTH SPEAKER. — Sir, A great writer * has said “that there is nothing more wonderful than a book.” “In books,” he continues, “lies the soul of the whole past time. All that mankind has done, thought, or seen: it is lying, as in magic preservation, in the pages of books.” And it is this truth, doubtless, that has led so many of the speakers on this question to accord so great a value to the Printing Press, the producer of books.
But surely that which will take us to the sources of knowledge must be greater and more beneficial to us than the mere second-hand record of knowledge! Which is the wiser man ? he who knows from actual observation, or he who knows from reading ? Which man, for instance, knows France better? he who
there and sees it, or he who reads about it in a book?
The Press was called by the last speaker “the source of knowledge.” It is not so; it is the source of second-hand knowledge. The Press simply leads us to other men's views of knowledge, and fails to give us actual, experimental knowledge for ourselves. But the Steam Engine enables us to go to the sources of knowledge direct. By the
• Thomas Carlyle.
rapidity of its movements, it carries us from place to place in scarcely more time than it formerly took us to read about them; and we now can see for ourselves what we were once obliged to take
The result thus obtained for us by the Steam Engine must be eminently serviceable to truth and morality. From books however clearly written, we do not get exact idvas: the Greece we fancy in reading about it is quite different from the actual Greece when we see it. Travelling corrects the errors we form in reading, and thus clears the mind of false impressions, and fills it with true ones.
Books of History, Geography, and Travels, which once were implicitly relied on, are now found to be full of misstatements and mistakes. Errors of topography, soil, climate, and produce, have been discovered and rectified. Doubted assertions have been either verified or totally disproved; and thus truth has been established and extended.
One cannot forbear the reflection, that if the Printing Press has promulgated much truth, it has also circulated much error. It has been employés to record and publish falsehood, atheism, blasphemy, sophistry, infidelity, and vice of every kind and shape. It is true that we owe to it our knowledge of the Bible and of Shakspere; but we also owe to it the “ Age of Reason” and Voltaire.
If, then, we sum up the good and evil of the Press, and compare the total with the unmixed value of the benefits we derive from the Steam Engine, we shall, I think, be led to decide unhesitatingly in favour of the latter.
Eighth SPEAKER. — Sir, Our friend who has just spoken has referred to the evil (as well as good) that the Press has generated. Now the Steam Engine seems to me to do some evil, too. It has destroyed, from its imperfections, numerous human lives, the lives of those who have either tended to it or travelled by it: and thus society has been injured by the loss of its members.
Further, it has superseded manual labour, and has thus thrown men out of employment. It has supplanted all kinds of industry, and therefore has deprived millions of the comforts they once used to earn. This will go far to explain, I think, the awful distress that exists amongst our manufacturing population at the present time. Human labour is now so cheap that the best wages will hardly support a man with any degree of decency or comfort.
It is said that the press generates error: but at any rate the Steam Engine does as much harm boy circulating it. If the defenders of the Steam Engine claim the good which the Press does, bocause it helps to print and distribute it, they must
hold themselves liable to be charged with the evil
Ninth SPEAKER. — Sir, The Steam Engine is charged with destroying human lives, and also with supplanting human labour: let me say a word or two with reference to both these arguments.
First, as to destroying human life: it is quite true that on our Railways and in our Mines and Steam Packets, great loss of life often occurs : but the Steam Engine is at least less chargeable in this respect than the contrivances it has superseded. The old Stage Coaches, the old Machines for draining mines, and the old Sailing Vessels, were the causes of far more fatal and frequent accidents than the Steam Engine causes. It is capable of the clearest proof that the loss of life (and, let me add, of property) is infinitely smaller since Steam has been used as a working power than it was under any former system of conveyance, pedestrianism included. We read of accidents, it is true; but they are few and far between: whilst coaches, carts, wagons, and horses were formerly for ever doing mischief.
A man, in fact, may now travel three hundred miles along a Railway with less personal risk than he encounters if he walks a mile. Besides, the Steam Engine is capable of being brought to