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'Yet with all this fervour of imagination,' as Mr Irving has strikingly observed, ' its fondest dreams fell short of the reality. He died in ignorance of the real grandeur of his discovery. Until his last breath he entertained the idea that he had merely opened a new way to the old resorts of opulent commerce, and had discovered some of the wild regions of the east. He supposed Hispaniola to be the ancient Ophir which had been visited by the ships of Solomon, and that Cuba and Terra Firma were but remote parts of Asia. What visions of glory would have broke upon his mind could he have known that he had indeed discovered a new continent, equal to the whole of the old world in magnitude, and separated by two vast oceans from all the earth hitherto known by civilized man! And how would his magnanimous spirit have been consoled, amidst the afflictions of age and the cares of penury, the neglect of a fickle public, and the injustice of an ungrateful king, could he have anticipated the splendid empires which were to spread over the beautiful world he had discovered; and the nations, and tongues, and languages which were to fill its lands with his renown, and to revere and bless his name to the latest posterity!'
The appendix to Mr Irving's work, which occupies the greater part of the last volume, contains most of the original matter which his learning and research have enabled him to bring to bear on the principal subject, and constitutes indeed a miscellany of a singularly curious and interesting description. It consists, besides very copious and elaborate accounts of the family and descendants of Columbus, principally of extracts and critiques of the discoveries of earlier or contemporary navigators—the voyages of the Carthaginians and the Scandinavians, —of Behem, the Pinzons, Amerigo Vespucci, and others— with some very curious remarks on the travels of Marco Polo, and Mandeville—a dissertation on the ships used by Columbus and his contemporaries—on the Atalantis of Plato—the imaginary island of St Brandan, and of the Seven Cities—together with remarks on the writings of Peter Martyr, Oviedo, Herrera, Las Casas, and the other contemporary chroniclers of those great discoveries. The whole drawn up, we think, with singular judgment, diligence, and candour ; and presenting the reader, in the most manageable form, with almost all the collateral information which could be brought to elucidate the transactions to which they relate.
Such is the general character of Mr Irving's book—and such are parts of its contents. We do not pretend to give any view whatever of the substance of four large historical volumes; and fear that the specimens we have ventured to exhibit of the author's way of writing are not very well calculated to do justice either to the occasional force, or the constant variety, of his style. But for judicious readers they will probably suffice—and, we trust, will be found not only to warrant the praise we have felt ourselves called on to bestow, but to induce many to gratify themselves by the perusal of the work at large.
Mr Irving, we believe, was not in England when his work was printed: and we must say he has been very insufficiently represented by the corrector of the press. We do not recollect ever to have seen so handsome a book with so many gross typographical errors. In many places they obscure the sense—and are very frequently painful and offensive. It will be absolutely necessary that this be looked to in a new impression; and the author would do well to avail himself of the same opportunity, to correct some verbal inaccuracies, and to polish and improve some passages of slovenly writing.
Art. II.—India; or Facts submitted to illustrate the Character and Condition of the Native Inhabitants, with Suggestions for Reforming the present System of Government. By R. Rickards, Esq. Part I. pp. 116. London, J 828.
r¥lHE benefits that were perceived to result from the division -*. of employments, seem to have occasioned the institution of Castes, or the establishment of hereditary professions. The first legislators, struck as they must have been with the advantages derived from the division of labour, or from individuals confining themselves to particular occupations, and making them the principal or the exclusive business of their lives, would naturally be desirous of securing their continuance, and increasing their magnitude. And it would readily occur to minds too rude and inexperienced to trust to individual exertion and enterprize, or to the desire by which every one is animated, of improving his condition, for the advancement of society, that this object would be most effectually promoted, by enforcing the division of labour by legal enactments, and by giving a still further extension to its principle. To prevent the people from relapsing into the primaeval barbarism whence they had emerged, the division of employments would be regulated by the authority of law; and hereditary professions, or castes, would be established as a means of securing and accelerating the advancement of society: For, at first sight, it would seem certain that if individuals were obliged to follow the professions of their fathers, their attention not being diverted to other objects, and all their energies being directed from their earliest years to that pursuit in the prose
cution of which their lives were to be passed, they would attain to much greater proficiency in their respective callings, than could ever be expected when every one was allowed to choose a profession for himself, and to wander at pleasure from one thing to another. Had castes been found only in one or two countries, their establishment might have been ascribed to accident, or to the peculiar views of particular legislators. But castes have not, as has commonly been supposed, been confined to Egypt and India: On the contrary, they have extended to all Asia,• to Greece, + England, % and even America. § Wherever, in short, we have authentic accounts of the early progress of society, we find that castes were established very soon after the first dawnings of civilization. But an institution so universally diffused must have originated in circumstances common to every people in an early stage of their progress. And it seems difficult to believe that these could be any other than the efforts of legislators to secure and extend the advantages resulting from the separation of employments.
When man has renounced the pastoral for the agricultural mode of life, and regular governments have been established, society may generally be divided into four great classes—the husbandmen or agriculturists, the artisans or handicraftsmen, the military or those intrusted with the defence of the state, and the clergy or ministers of religion. No society has ever made any material progress in the career of civilization, in which all the classes now mentioned might not be recognised. And it appears, accordingly, that wherever castes have been established, the people have been distributed into four grand divisions. Cecrops divided the inhabitants of Attica into four hereditary classes; and the same division was made in Egypt and India; and most probably also in Mexico and Peru.
But the expectations of those who imagined that, by distributing the people into tribes or castes, and rendering professions hereditary, the progress of civilization would be greatly accelerated, were not of a sort that could be realized. Instead of contributing to the advancement of the arts and sciences, the ten
* Goguet on the Origin of Laws, &c. Eng. Trans, vol. i. p. 43.
+ Reynier de L'Economie Politique et Rurale des Grecs, p. 51.
j Millar's Historical View of the English Government, vol. i. p. 134, &c .
§ Carli, Lettres Americaines, quoted by the able author of the Art. Caste, in the Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica; who has referred to a variety of authorities to show the universality of the institution.
vOL. XLvITT. NO. 9;>. n
dency of castes is undoubtedly to render them stationary, or to cause them to retrograde. Hereditary professions, in the first place, extinguish all emulation. In countries where the highest objects of ambition arc open to the free competition of every individual, each endeavours to excel in his own peculiar sphere, in the expectation that it may be the means either of advancing himself or his relations to one that is more elevated. Take away the chance and the hope of rising in the world, and you instantly paralyze the exertions of every man, and extinguish that ambition which is the source of all that is great and elevated. It is, moreover, easy to see that hereditary professions are highly objectionable on other grounds. One trade might have an excess of hands, and in another they might be deficient; and yet, were the laws rigidly enforced, it would be impossible for an individual to transfer himself from the one to the other. Again, if hereditary professions do not absolutely extinguish all improvement, new discoveries must every now and then be giving birth to new arts; and how would it be possible to practise those in countries where every individual is already bound to prosecute a specified employment? Of what avail, for example, would the invention of printing have been to us, had there been no individuals to serve either as typefounders, compositors, or pressmen? Not only, however, do new arts arise, but many old ones cease to be practised, in the progress of society : and supposing professions were hereditary, what would become of the families who were the depositories of the decayed arts? But even if it were possible to obviate all these objections, still it would be unquestionably true, that hereditary professions must deprive society of the main advantage resulting from the division of labour,—namely, the power which it gives to every individual of applying himself in preference to such employments as are most congenial to his taste and disposition. It is, indeed, true, as Dr Robertson has observed, that the human mind bends to the law of necessity, and is accustomed to accommodate itself to the restraints imposed upon it.* But the artificial distinctions which would thus isolate one class or order of men from another, and enable a single tribe, or perhaps a few individuals, to engross every situation of power and emolument, to the exclusion of others, will not readily appear, to those who are debarred from all participation in such privileges, to originate in the nature of things, or to be defensible on any such obvious principle of general utility, as to make them acquiesce in their propriety. A class of
Disquisition on Ancient India, p. 201. 8ro etl.
men, united by indissoluble ties, and attached from their infancy to one particular business, acquire a strongly marked esprit du corps, and regard every one else with mingled feelings of contempt, envy, and aversion. In a country where tbe distinction of castes was rigidly maintained, the inferior classes would look with a jealous and jaundiced eye.on the greater wealth and comfort of those above them; while the higher classes would treat those below them as an abject and degraded race. Under such circumstances, there would be no communication, no relation; all would be separate, independent, and hostile. Society would be held together by no common tie of interest, sympathy, or affection ; every germ of future improvement would be effectually destroyed; and so destructive would be the operation of the system, that it is not easy to suppose it could ever have been maintained for any considerable period in a perfect state. The distinction of castes in Attica, and other European countries, was very soon obliterated. It has been contended, indeed, that it was maintained inviolate in ancient Egypt until the invasion of Cambyses ; but there does not seem to be any very good ground for this opinion. It is difficult to suppose that any people could have made so great a progress in the arts as the ancient Egyptians certainly did, had they been always subject to this institution. Its inevitable effect must have been to extinguish all invention; and yet it is certain that many inventions were made in Egypt, in periods posterior to the division of the people into castes. The most probable conclusion then seems to be, that as experience served to disclose the ruinous consequences of hereditary professions, the fetters they imposed would be relaxed; and that though the principal offices might continue to be engrossed by particular tribes, tliose on whom the discharge of the more ordinary duties had devolved, would gradually be intermixed, until, in process of time, the ancient distinctions were, in a great measure, effaced, and a sufficient supply of hands had been found to undertake and prosecute whatever new arts might arise.
But it is said, that whatever may have been the case elsewhere, the institution of castes has been inviolably maintained in India, from the earliest period to the present day. 'What 4 is now in India, has,' we are assured, 'always been there, 'and is likely still to continue.'* The Hindoos of this day are said to be the same as the Hindoos of the age of Alexander the Great. The description of them given by Arrian, has been
Robertson's Disquisition, p. 202.