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Whether, on the whole, the world is really advancing, is a question which admits of much being said on both sides. Macaulay's picture of English progress would lead us to decide that question in the affirmative, as far as England is concerned. He tells us, that could England of Charles the Second's reign be set before Englishmen now, they would not know one landscape in a hundred, or one building in ten thousand. She had then but little more than five millions of inhabitants; the annual revenue of the Crown was about £1,400,000; agriculture was in a rude and imperfect state; St. James's Square was a receptacle for dead cats and dogs; the streets of London were involved in such profound darkness as to make walking dangerous; the roads in the country were bogs and sloughs, in which carriages were often swamped unless they had six horses; sixpence a day was paid the weaver at the loom; children of six years old were thought fit to labor in the clothing trade; meat was so dear that it is estimated by King, that of the 880,000 families of England, 440,000 only ate animal food twice a week, and the remainder ate it not at all, or at most not oftener than once a week; the great mass of the nation lived almost entirely on rye, barley and oats; the paupers and beggars were estimated at 1,330,000 out of a population of 5,550,000, as great as it is at present, with a population four times as large; the rate of deaths in the capital was one in twenty-three, now it is one in forty; men died faster in the country than they do now in towns; noblemen had not the comforts which are now common to their servants. But if it be contended that these were still good times, morally, socially and intellectually, let us bear in mind some further facts related by our historian.--He tells us, what indeed has ever since been matter of world-wide notoriety, that in those days extravagant licentiousness prevailed, and that woman was morally and intellectually degraded; the profligacy of the English plays, satires, songs and novels, far exceeded the most disgusting productions of Eugene Sue and his obscene disciples; the poets rejoiced to put their loosest and most indecent verses into the mouths of women, to be repeated at the theatres; husbands of station beat their wives without compunction; statesmen, without giving scandal, could easily accumulate princely estates; the most savage intemperance of party spirit prevailed; blood could not flow fast enough to satisfy the thirst for political revenge; Whigs hooted at Tory victims and Tories at Whigs as they passed on to execution; there was no daily paper in England; few of the gentry had libraries as good as English footmen now possess; female education was almost entirely neglected; the poetry and eloquence of Greece were not familiar even to accomplished gentlemen; men were pressed to death for refusing to plead and women burned for coining; moss troopers and robbers so abounded in parts of the kingdom that the gentry and larger farm-houses were fortified, and parishes were obliged to keep blood-hounds for the purpose of hunting freebooters, while there were portions of the metropolis in which the warrant of the Chief Justice could not be executed without the aid of a body of armed men. And yet, may it not be too soon to accept this picture of Macaulay as decisive of the question? There are social anomalies in her civilization which remain to be solved, and which may yet perplex and confound the master spirits of the age. It remains to be seen whether the bulk of her population are always going to drudge from morn till night for bare necessities of life, and with all the intellectual and moral differences which this implies. We have seen a nation which had made more rapid progress than England come suddenly to grief. How long is it since the London Times spoke thus admiringly of American progress? "In an interval of little more than half a century it appears that this extraordinary people have increased above five hundred per cent in numbers; their national revenue has augmented near seven hundred per cent., while their expenditure has been increased little more than four hundred per cent. The prodigious extension of their commerce is indicated by an increase of near five hundred per cent. in their imports and exports, and six hundred per cent. in their shipping. The increased activity of their internal communications is expounded by the number of their post-offices, which has been increased more than a hundred-fold, the extent of their post roads, which has been increased thirty-six fold, and the cost of their post-office, which has been augmented into a seventy-two-fold ratio. The augmentation of their machinery of public instruction is indicated by the extent of their public libraries, which have increased in a thirty-two fold ratio, and by the creation of school libraries, amounting to 2,000,000 volumes. "They have completed a system of canal navigation which, placed in a continuous link, would extend from London to Calcutta, and a system of railways which, continuously extended, would stretch from London to Van Dicman's Land, and have provided locomotive machinery by which that distance would by traveled over in three weeks, at the cost of one and a half pence per mile. They have created a system of inland navigation, the aggregate tonnage of which is probably not inferior in amount to the collective inland tonnage of all the other countries in the world; and they possess many hundreds of river steamers, which import to the roads of water the marvellous celerity of roads of iron. They have, in fine, constructed lines of electric telegraph, which, laid continuously, would extend over a space longer by three thousand miles than the distance from the North to the South Pole, and have provided apparatus of transmission by which a message of three hundred words, dispatched under such circumstances from the North Pole, might be delivered in writing at the South Pole in one minute, and by which, consequently, an answer of equal length could be sent back to the North Pole in an equal interval." Who can pretend to say that a blight as sudden and dismal as that which has come upon this luxuriant prosperity may not one day throw England centuries back in the march of progress? Yet, there is high authority for a more hopeful view of human affairs. An able Scottish writer informs us that he once asked M.Guizot, who, for many years, was the first minister of France, who had lived through some of the most interesting and troubled periods of human history, who had studied men contemplatively, as well as acted with them and governed them,--what feeling was strongest in his mind as he looked back and looked forward — hope or despondency for his country and the world. The reply of this sagacious philosopher and statesman was: "I do not feel that my experience of man has either disposed me to think worse of them, or indisposed me to serve them; nor, in spite of failures which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge, and of the present gloomy aspect of affairs, do I despair of the future. On the contrary, I hope; I see glimpses of daylight; I see elements of rescue; I see even now faint dawning of a better day. The truth I take to be this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires are so impatient — the work of progress is so immense, and our means of aiding it so feeble,--the life of humanity is so long, and that of individual man so brief, that what we see is often only the ebb of the advancing wave; and thus discouragement is our inevitable lot. It is only history that teaches us to hope." Let us trust, if we can, that M. Guizot may be right, and that man is not a pendulum, constantly vibrating between the opposite extremes of civilization and barbarism.
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