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We contemplate those principles with horror. Yet they possess a kind of wild justice well calculated to spread them among the grossly ignorant. To unenlightened minds, there are terrible charms in the idea of retribution, however savagely it be inculcated. The groans of the oppressors make fearful yet pleasant music to the ear of him, whose mind is darkness, and into whose soul the iron has entered.
This class, at present, is comparatively small—yet soon to form an overwhelming majority, unless great and immediate efforts are used to lessen the intolerable grievances of our poor brethren, and infuse into their sorely wounded hearts the healing qualities of knowledge.
we wonder that men should want humanity, who want all the circumstances of life that humanize? Can we wonder that with the ignorance of brutes they should unite their ferocity? Peace and comfort be with these! But let us shudder to hear from men of dissimilar opportunities sentiments of similar revengefulness. The purifying alchemy of education may transmute the fierceness of an ignorant man into virtuous energy; but what remedy shall we apply to him whom plenty has not softened, whom knowledge has not taught benevolence ? This is one among the many fatal effects which result from the want of fixed principles.
There is a third class among the friends of freedom, who possess not the wavering character of the first description, nor the ferocity last delineated. They pursue the interests of freedom steadily, but with narrow and self-centering views: they anticipate with exultation the abolition of privileged orders, and of acts that persecute by exclusion from the right of citizenship. Whatever is above them they are most willing to drag down; but every proposed alteration that would elevate their poorer brethren, they rank among the dreams of visionaries : as if there were any thing in the superiority of lord to gentleman so mortifying in the barrier, so fatal to happiness in the consequences, as the more real distinction of master and servant, of rich man and of poor. Wherein am I made worse by my ennobled neighbour? Do the childish titles of aristocracy detract from my domestic comforts, or prevent my intellectual acquisitions? But those institutions of society which should condemn me to the necessity of twelve hours' daily toil, would make my soul a slave, and sink the rational being in the mere animal. It is a mockery of our fellow-creatures' wrongs to call them equal in rights, when by the bitter compulsion of their wants we make them inferior to us in all that can soften the heart, or dignify the understanding. Let us not say that this is the work of time—that it is impracticable at present, unless we each in our individual capacities do strenuously and perseveringly endeavour to diffuse among our domestics those comforts and that illumination which far beyond all political ordinances are the true equalizers of men.
We turn with pleasure to the contemplation of that small but glorious band, whom we may truly distinguish by the name of thinking and disinterested patriots. These are the men who have encouraged the sympathetic passions till they have become irresistible habits, and made their duty a necessary part of their self-interest, by the long-continued cultivation of that moral taste which derives our most exquisite pleasures from the contemplation of possible perfection, and proportionate pain from the perception of existing depravity. Accustomed to regard all the affairs of man as a process, they never hurry and they never pause. Theirs is not that twilight of political knowledge which gives us just light enough to place one foot before the other ; as they advance the scene still opens upon them, and they press right onward with a vast and various landscape of existence around them. Calmness and energy mark all their actions. Convinced that vice originates not in the man, but in the surrounding circumstances; not in the heart, but in the understanding; the Christian patriot is hopeless concerning no one ;—to correct a vice or generate a virtuous conduct he pollutes not his hands with the scourge of coercion ; but by endeavouring to alter circumstances would remove, or by strengthening the intellect disarm, the temptation. The unhappy children of vice and folly, whose tempers are adverse to their own happiness as well as to the happiness of others, will at times awaken a natural pang ; but he looks forward with gladdened heart to that glorious period when justice shall have established the universal fraternity of love. These soul-ennobling views bestow the virtues which they anticipate. He whose mind is habitually impressed with them soars above the present state of humanity, and may be justly said to dwell in the presence of the Most High.
Would the forms
* Akenside. Pleasures of Imagination, 1st edit. B. III. 615. The words in italics are altered. -Ed.
That general illumination should precede revolution, is a truth as obvious, as that the vessel should be cleansed before we fill it with a pure liquor. But the mode of diffusing it is not discoverable with equal facility. We certainly should never attempt to make proselytes by appeals to the selfish feelings, and consequently, should plead for the oppressed, not to them. The author of an essay on political justice considers private societies as the sphere of real utility ;--that each one illuminating those immediately beneath him,) truth by a gradual descent
may at last reach the lowest order. But this is rather plausible than just or practicable. Society as at present constituted does not resemble a chain that ascends in a continuity of links. Alas! between the parlour and the kitchen, the coffee-room and the tap, there is a gulf that may not be passed. He would appear to me to have adopted the best as well as the most benevolent mode of diffusing truth, who, uniting the zeal of the Methodist with the views of the philosopher, should be personally among the poor, and teach them their duties in order that he may render them susceptible of their rights.
Yet by what means can the lower classes be made to learn their duties, and urged to practise them? The human race may perhaps possess the capability of all excellence; and truth, I doubt not, is omnipotent to a mind already disciplined for its reception; but assuredly the over-worked labourer, skulking into an ale-house, is not likely to exemplify the one, or prove the other. In that barbarous tumult of inimical interests, which the present state of society exhibits, religion appears to offer the only means universally efficient. The perfectness of future men is indeed a benevolent tenet, and may operate on a few visionaries, whose studious habits supply them with employment, and seclude them from temptation. But a distant prospect, which we are never to reach, will seldom quicken our footsteps, however lovely it may appear; and a blessing, which not ourselves but posterity are destined to enjoy, will scarcely influence the actions of any—still less of the ignorant, the prejudiced, and the selfish.
Preach the Gospel to the poor. By its simplicity it will meet their comprehension, by its benevolence soften their affections, by its precepts it will direct their conduct, by the vastness of its motives insure their obedience. The situation of the poor is perilous: they are indeed both
from within and from without Unarmed to all temptations.
Prudential reasonings will in general be powerless with them. For the incitements of this world are weak in proportion as we are wretched :
The world is not my friend, nor the world's law.
They too, who live from hand to mouth, will most frequently become improvident. Possessing no stock of happiness they eagerly seize the gratifications of the moment, and snatch the froth from the wave as it passes by them. Nor is the desolate state of their families a restraining motive, unsoftened as they are by education, and benumbed into selfishness by the torpedo touch of extreme want. Domestic affections depend on association. We love an object if, as often as we see or recollect it, an agreeable sensation arises in our minds. But alas ! how should he glow with the charities of father and husband, who gaining scarcely more than his own necessities demand, must have been accustomed to regard his