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The Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 online

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object of their art to keep things as they are, or rather as they
were. But the human race is not at rest; and bands with which, for
a moment, it may be restrained, break all the more violently the
longer they hold. No man can stop the march of destiny. * * * The
origin, existence, and death of nations depend thus on physical
influences, which are themselves the result of immutable laws.
Nations are only transitional forms of humanity. They must undergo
obliteration as do the transitional forms offered by the animal
series. There is no more an immortality for an embryo in any one of
the manifold forms passed through in its progress of development.

'We must, therefore, no longer regard nations or groups of men as
offering a permanent picture. Human affairs must be looked upon as
in continuous movement, not wandering in an arbitrary manner here
and there, but proceeding in a perfectly definite course. Whatever
may be the present state, it is altogether transient. All systems
of civil life are therefore necessarily ephemeral. Time brings new
conditions; the manner of thought is modified; with thought,
action. Institutions of all kinds must hence participate in this
fleeting nature; and, though they may have allied themselves to
political power, and gathered therefrom the means of coercion,
their permanency is but little improved thereby; for, sooner or
later, the population on whom they have been imposed, following the
external variations, spontaneously outgrows them, and their ruin,
though it may have been delayed, is none the less certain. For the
permanency of any such system it is essentially necessary that it
should include with its own organization a law of change, and not
of change only, but change in the right direction - the direction in
which the society interested is about to pass. It is in an
oversight of this last essential condition that we find an
explanation of the failure of so many such institutions. Too
commonly do we believe that the affairs of men are determined by a
spontaneous action or free will; we keep that overpowering
influence which really controls them in the background. In
individual life we also accept a like deception, living in the
belief that everything we do is determined by the volition of
ourselves or of those around us; nor is it until the close of our
days that we discern how great is the illusion, and that we have
been swimming, playing, and struggling in a stream which, in spite
of all our voluntary motions, has silently and resistlessly borne
us to a predetermined shore.'

These lines were written before the commencement of our civil war. The
following sentence, taken from the postscript to the preface, gives
them, at this time, additional significance:

'When a nation has reached one of the epochs of its life, and is
preparing itself for another period of progress under new
conditions; it is well for every thoughtful man interested in its
prosperity to turn his eyes from the contentions of the present to
the accomplished facts of the past, and to seek for a solution of
existing difficulties in the record of what other people in former
times have done.'

Guided by this law of development, Professor Draper sets out on his task
of investigating the course of European progress. For the purpose of
facilitating this investigation, he divides the intellectual progress of
the nations examined, into five periods: 1, The Age of Credulity; 2, The
Age of Inquiry; 3, The Age of Faith; 4, The Age of Reason; 5, The Age of
Decrepitude; corresponding with the five divisions of individual life,
as previously stated, from infancy to old age. The general line of
examination and its results may be stated by giving the opening
paragraphs of his closing chapter:

'The object of this book is to impress upon its reader a conviction
that civilization does not proceed in an arbitrary manner, or by
chance, but that it passes through a determinate succession of
stages, and is a development according to law.

'For this purpose we considered the relations between individual
and social life, and showed that they are physiologically
inseparable from one another, and that the course of communities
bears an unmistakable resemblance to the progress of an individual,
and that man is the archetype or exemplar of society.

'We then examined the intellectual history of Greece - a nation
offering the best and most complete illustration of the life of
humanity. From the beginning of its mythology in old Indian
legends, and of its philosophy in Ionia, we saw that it passed
through phases like those of the individual to its decrepitude and
death in Alexandria.

'Then addressing ourselves to the history of Europe, we found that,
if suitably divided into groups of ages, these groups, compared
with each other in chronological succession, present a striking
resemblance to the successive phases of Greek life, and therefore
to that which Greek life resembles - that is to say, individual
life.'

Looking at the successive phases of individual life, Professor Draper
finds intellectual advancement to be their chief characteristic. The
anatomist discovers that the human form advances to its highest
perfection through provisions in its nervous structure for intellectual
improvement. In like manner the physiologist ranks the vast series of
animals now inhabiting the earth in the order of their intelligence. The
geologist declares that there has been an orderly improvement in
intellectual power of the beings that have successively inhabited the
earth.

The sciences, therefore, join with history, infers Professor Draper, in
affirming that the great aim of nature is intellectual improvement;
intellectual improvement in the individual, and hence, man being the
archetype of society, intellectual advancement in the race.

'What, then, is the conclusion inculcated by these doctrines as
regards the social progress of great communities? It is that all
political institutions - imperceptibly or visibly, spontaneously or
purposely - should tend to the improvement and organization of
national intellect. * * *

'A great community, aiming to govern itself by intellect rather
than by coercion, is a spectacle worthy of admiration. * * * Brute
force holds communities together as an iron nail binds pieces of
wood by the compression it makes - a compression depending on the
force with which it has been hammered in. It also holds more
tenaciously if a little rusted with age. But intelligence binds
like a screw. The things it has to unite must be carefully adjusted
to its thread. It must be gently turned, not driven, and so it
retains the consenting parts firmly together. * * *

'Forms of government, therefore, are of moment, though not in the
manner commonly supposed. Their value increases in proportion as
they permit or encourage the natural tendency for development to be
satisfied.'

Intellectual freedom should be secured in free countries, adds Dr.
Draper, as completely as the rights of property and personal liberty.
Philosophical opinions and scientific discoveries are entitled to be
judged of by their truth, not by their relation to existing interests.

'There is no literary crime greater than that of exciting a social,
and especially a theological odium against ideas that are purely
scientific, none against which the disapproval of every educated
man ought to be more strongly expressed. The republic of letters
owes it to its own dignity to tolerate no longer offences of that
kind.

'To an organization of their national intellect, and to giving it a
political control, the countries of Europe are rapidly advancing.
They are hastening to satisfy their instinctive tendency. The
special form in which they will embody their intentions must, of
course, depend to a great degree on the political forms under which
they have passed their lives, modified by that approach to
homogeneousness, which arises from increased intercommunication.'

In an all-important particular, concludes Dr. Draper, the prospect of
Europe is bright. It approaches the last stage of civil life through
Christianity. Universal benevolence cannot fail to yield better fruit
than has been secured in the past. There is a fairer hope for nations
animated by a sincere religious sentiment, who, whatever their political
history may have been, have always agreed in this, that they were
devout, than for a people who, like the Chinese, now passing through the
last stage of civil life in the cheerlessness of Buddhism dedicate
themselves to a selfish pursuit of material advantages, who have lost
all belief in a future, and are living without any God.

* * * * *

The large space given to the statement of the purpose and drift of 'The
Intellectual Development of Europe,' will allow only a brief
consideration, in this paper, of the two great points presented by its
author. These are, the question of the relative value of moral and
intellectual truths in the progress of the human race; and the nature of
the law of individual and social development. Both Professor Draper and
Mr. Buckle affirm, and endeavor to support the affirmation with array of
proof, that intellectual truths are more important and more concerned in
the march of society, in the advancement of mankind, than moral ones;
and both conclude that the great object of life, its final achievement,
is intellectual culture and mental unfoldment in the individual and in
the race. To the consideration of these points we will, therefore,
direct our attention.

The social, political, religious, and scientific development of the
world proceeds under the operation of two grand antagonistic principles.
One is the principle of Unity. The other that principle which is the
opposite of unity, which we will call Individuality. The first tends to
bring about coöperation, consolidation, convergence, dependence; the
second to produce separation, isolation, divergence, and independence.
Unity is the principle which tends to order; Individuality to freedom.
The desire of order is the animating sentiment of conservatism. The love
of freedom is the vital essence of progress. Unity is the static, and
Individuality the motic force of human society. Both are inherent in the
nature of things, and equally important as elements of a true social
organization. Unity is allied to the affections, which are synthetic in
their character; Individuality, to the intellect, which is mainly
analytical, critical, and disruptive in its tendency. Unity is
predominant in religion, which is static in its nature; Individuality,
in science, which is primarily disturbing. In the distribution of the
mental faculties, Unity relates to the moral powers, and Individuality
to the intellectual; the former being, as both Mr. Buckle and Professor
Draper have shown, more stationary in their character than the latter.

Unity is represented in social affairs by the institutions of community
which tend to bind the people into a composite whole; Individuality, by
the personal independence which liberates from the conventionalities of
association and creates social freedom. In the religious domain, Unity
is represented by faith, which is allied to the emotional or affectional
nature, and is predominantly concessive, unquestioning, and submissive;
Individuality, by the spirit of inquiry and investigation, which will
only believe after intellectual examination and satisfaction. In
political affairs, Unity is represented by the principle of leadership,
seen, in its one-sided and imperfect form, in despotic or monarchical
rule; Individuality, by the democratic principle of political equality.
In science, the two principles have various analogues in different
departments. In rational mechanics, unity is analogous to statics, and
individuality to dynamics. In astronomy, unity to the centripetal, and
individuality to the centrifugal force. Unity is allied to synthetical,
and individuality to analytical chemistry. It will not be necessary to
specify further analogies. These two principles are everywhere present
throughout the universe; and it is through the mutual play of their
opposite drifts, when rightly adjusted and balanced, that harmony is
secured, as in the revolutions of the planets; while disharmony is the
result, wherever it exists, of an undue preponderance, either of the
tendency to unity, on the one hand, or of that to disunity or
individuality, on the other.

In virtue of this analysis, looking at the question solely from the
stand point of abstract science, we should affirm that moral truth, as
the analogue or representative of the principle of unity, and as the
converging tendency, was exactly the equal and counterpart of
intellectual truth, the analogue of the diverging tendency, represented
by the principle of individuality. To assert the contrary, would be
equivalent to averring that dynamics were more important agencies in
mechanics than statics; that the centrifugal force was more essential to
the harmonious movements of the heavenly bodies than the centripetal,
because the functions of statics and centripetal force are more
stationary in their nature; or that the head was more important than the
heart, which two parts are, in the human organism, the respective
representatives of intellect and affection, the basis of moral power.

The truth, in relation to all these particulars, will appear on closer
examination, if not already shown, to be this: _that the principle of
Unity and the principle of Individuality must everywhere be represented
in proximately equal proportions, in order to effect a just balance of
conditions and to secure practical harmony_. Centralization and freedom
must everywhere coexist, and be equally operative. Conservatism is as
important to society as progress. Conservatism overbalancing progress,
destroys society by stagnation, blotting out the individuality of the
person and moulding men into machine-like uniformity; progress
preponderating over conservatism, destroys the community by disrupting
bands of association before new methods are sufficiently understood, and
giving reins to a liberty whose untutored use can end only in anarchy
and unbridled license. Conservatism and progress, the centripetal and
centrifugal forces of society, each being equally balanced, will result
in a harmonization of social interests that will cause community to move
on its career as evenly as the planet moves in its graceful orbit. So
in every other department, wherever these opposite principles are
equally adjusted by allowing each full play, there results perfect
consonance and peace. Order and freedom in government; unity and liberty
in church; individuality and mutuality in society; these are the
elements, when alike operative, of security and success in their
respective domains, in individual and social life.

To secure the highest state of civilization, it is therefore essential
that there should be an equal activity of the intellectual and of the
moral or (as they may be more appropriately called) the religious
faculties: religion being, in its broadest sense, devotion - arising from
a conscientious feeling of duty or obligation - to that which appears to
the individual as the highest truth; and the faculties which are active
in the exercise of this devotion being the moral or religious ones.
Viewed as a question of abstract science merely, the investigation might
be arrested at this point, with the conclusion that intellectual and
moral agencies were both indispensible to the progress of humanity, and
the right relations of society, and, therefore, equally important
elements of social advancement. Additional proof will be given
incidentally, however, of this general truth, in the consideration of
the special case of the relative value of these agencies in the past
progress of the nations.

It has been said that the development of the world proceeds under the
operation of the antagonistic principles of unity and individuality.
Unity, as a prior idea to individuality, which latter arises from the
disintegration of that which was formerly one - had, historically, a
prior development. The period of its paramount sway in the first grand
division of time stretches from the dawn of history up to about the
twelfth century, or to the beginning of the revival of learning. The
principle of individuality then began to be active, and has guided the
subsequent progress of civilization. At no time, nor in any nation,
however, has either one of these principles been entirely inactive. One
or the other has _preponderated_, and thus given distinct
characteristics to its age. It is to these preponderating drifts that
reference is made in the foregoing division, as specially marking
periods.

The opposite tendencies of unity and individuality, and their successive
development have been somewhat vaguely apprehended by Professor
Draper, - who has not, however, perceived them as _principles_, - and have
furnished him with the periods into which he arbitrarily divides the
progressive epochs of social growth. If we change these divisions into
their proper order - an order singularly disarranged by this author - we
shall have substantially the representative periods in the historical
domain, of unity and individuality. The order in which these eras are
placed in 'The Intellectual Development of Europe' is, 1, Age of
Credulity; 2, Age of Inquiry; 3, Age of Faith; 4, Age of Reason; 5, Age
of Decrepitude. It is evident, however, as partially shown by Mr.
Buckle, that the age of inquiry is uniformly subsequent to the age of
faith, and immediately precedes the age of reason. Comparing this
distribution, moreover, with the one given by Dr. Draper of the five
stages of human existence to which he makes it correspond, we find
childhood given as the age of inquiry, youth of faith, and manhood of
reason. The ages of inquiry and faith should, however, change places, in
order to be congruous. In applying these periods to the history of
Greece, the age of inquiry is made to extend from the rise of philosophy
to the time of Socrates; and the age of faith to comprise the epochs of
Socrates, Plato, and the Skeptics, up to about the time of Aristotle.
But in any such division as Dr. Draper attempts, the age of faith should
precede the rise of philosophical speculation, and the age of inquiry
should include the era of ethical as well as of physical investigation.
In the application to European history a similar error is made. The age
of inquiry is given as the epoch of the rise of Christianity and the
establishment of the papal power; then follow the thousand years of the
age of faith, the age of reason beginning a little before the time of
Galileo. The time given to the age of inquiry should have been included
in the age of faith, while the real European age of inquiry is the era
of the restoration of learning, the development of modern languages, the
invention of printing, and the Reformation, an era which Dr. Draper
discusses in a chapter entitled: 'APPROACH TO THE AGE OF REASON IN
EUROPE. _It is preceded by the Rise of Criticism._' Certainly the epoch
of the rise of criticism, of the Reformation, and of printing, is the
age of inquiry, if any age is entitled to that name.

Changing then the places of the age of inquiry and that of faith, we
shall have, so far as the grand or European division is concerned, the
epochs of credulity and faith, both essentially stationary elements,
included within the stage of the development of the principle of unity;
and those of inquiry and reason, both mainly productive of change,
within the period of the reign of the principle of individuality.
Judging now solely from our knowledge of the nature of these opposite
drifts, what should we expect to discover as the prevalent
characteristics of their respective periods of supremacy? We should
look, during the time in which the principle of unity was developing its
powers, for the predominant manifestation of all those elements of
progress which belong on the side of order, strength, stability,
permanence, conservatism, community of interests, associative effort,
uniformity in political and religious belief, moral activity; for all
those elements, in fine, which tend toward the unification of social
power and interest, and toward progress by coöperation; and we should
expect a corresponding lack of tendencies of an opposite kind. On the
other hand, during the era in which the principle of individuality
predominated, we should be prepared to see a preponderating
manifestation of all those elements which tend to freedom, change,
disintegration of interests, antagonistic or competitive effort,
diversity in political and religious belief, intellectual activity; of
all those drifts, in short, which relate to the individualizing of
social power and interests, and to progress by antagonism; with
corresponding absence of the elements active in the preceding epoch.

Turning now to Dr. Draper's storehouse of historical facts, do we find
our expectations realized or disappointed?

We discover that during the age in which the principle of unity was
dominant, vast, magnificent, opulent empires existed, consolidated,
stable, powerful, orderly; but whose subjects possessed comparatively no
freedom, which resisted all effort at progression, denied to men
political equality, and sought to prevent all desire of change. We see a
religious organization which bound the people in a single faith by a
common creed; which fostered a spirit of brotherly sympathy; kept alive
the fire of holy zeal by pious ministrations; taught the universal
brotherhood of the human race; cultured the emotional nature of its
worshippers; sought to eradicate pauperism, to abolish slavery, and to
inculcate practical humility, treating peasant and king as equals before
God; endeavored to provide for the spiritual and material wants of
mankind; to become the guardian of the weak, the educator of the
ignorant, the rescuer of the vicious, the comforter of the sorrowing,
and the strong hand of protection between selfish or brutal power and
the lowly; which, however, resisted all efforts at intellectual freedom,
shut its ears to the voice of science, strove to repress the rising
desires of the soul and keep it in perpetual bondage and darkness. We
behold, next, a social organization in which, as a general rule, though
with many exceptions, each individual held his fitting place, the
station for which he was best adapted by natural character and training;
in which each rank recognized its obligations of deference toward
superiors, and of guardianship toward inferiors, and fulfilled, in the
main, as they were then understood, the practical duties which these
obligations created; in which the rich and powerful were the social
fathers of the poor and humble, securing them from physical want and
from the snares of designing men; but in which the spirit of
independence was not alive, the dignity of labor was denied, the
development which results from competitive struggles unknown, and
education uncared for.

But the achievements of this stage of individual and social growth,
those which stand out as the illustrious and characteristic features of
the time, were its moral or religious accomplishments. The pages of
history which detail the events of this epoch, are crowded with
relations of heroic devotion to the individual's highest ideal of truth,
not as occasional acts of life, but as the dominating purpose of
existence; of loyalty to men and women of superior powers; of
self-sacrifice for the welfare of others. The sentiments of
Christianity, which appeal mainly to the heart, took fast hold on the
emotional and affectional natures of a simple people not yet developed
in their intellectual faculties. A sense of responsibility for his every
action rested heavily on every person. Men shut themselves in dungeons,
scourged their flesh, lacerated their bodies, inflicted all manner of
torture on their frames, that they might purge away every evil desire,
every wrong propensity, and conquer their material elements into


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Online LibraryVariousThe Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 → online text (page 9 of 20)