If we compare the present with the past, if we trace events at all epochs to their causes, if we examine the elements of human growth, we find that Nature has raised us to what we are, not by fixed laws, but by provisional expedients, and that the principle which in one age effected the advancement of a nation, in the next age retarded the mental movement, or even destroyed it altogether. War, despotism, slavery, and superstition are now injurious to the progress of Europe, but they were once the agents by which progress was produced. By means of war the animated life was slowly raised upward in the scale, and quadrupeds passed into man. By means of war the human intelligence was brightened, and the affections were made intense; weapons and tools were invented; foreign wives were captured, and the marriages of blood relations were forbidden; prisoners were tamed, and the women set free; prisoners were exchanged, accompanied with presents; thus commerce was established, and thus, by means of war, men were first brought into amicable relations with one another. By war the tribes were dispersed all over the world, and adopted various pursuits according to the conditions by which they were surrounded. By war the tribes were compressed into the nation. It was war which founded the Chinese Empire. It was war which had locked Babylonia, and Egypt, and India. It was war which developed the genius of Greece. It was war which planted the Greek language in Asia, and so rendered possible the spread of Christianity. It was war which united the world in peace from the Cheviot Hills to the Danube and the Euphrates. It was war which saved Europe from the quietude of China. It was war which made Mecca the centre of the East. It was war which united the barons in the Crusades, and which destroyed the feudal system.
Even in recent times the action of war has been useful in condensing scattered elements of nationality, and in liberating subject populations. United Italy was formed directly or indirectly by the war of 1859, 1866, and 187O. The last war realised the dreams of German poets, and united the Teutonic nations more closely than the shrewdest statesmen could have conceived to be possible a few years ago. That same war, so calamitous for France, will yet regenerate that great country, and make her more prosperous than she has ever been. The American War emancipated four million men, and decided for ever the question as to whether the Union was a nationality or a league. But the Crimean War was injurious to civilisation; it retarded a useful and inevitable event. Turkey will some day be covered with corn-fields; Constantinople will some day be a manufacturing town; but a generation has been lost. Statesmen and journalists will learn in time that whatever is conquered for civilisation is conquered for all. To preserve the Balance of Power was an excellent policy in the Middle Ages, when war was the only pursuit of a gentleman, and when conquest was the only ambition of kings. It is now suited only for the highlands of Abyssinia. The jealousy with which 'true Britons' regard the Russian success in Central Asia is surely a very miserable feeling. That a vast region of the earth should be opened, that robbery and rapine and slave-making raids should be suppressed, that waste-lands should be cultivated, that new stores of wealth should be discovered, that new markets should be established for the products of European industry, our own among the rest, that Russia should adjoin England in Asia as she adjoins Germany in Europe--what a lamentable occurrence, what an ominous event! In Central Africa it often happens that between two barbarous. and distrustful nations there is a wide neutral ground, inhabited by wild beasts, which prey upon the flocks and herds on either side. Such is the policy which maintains the existence of barbarous kingdoms between two civilised frontiers.
The great Turkish and Chinese Empires, the lands of Morocco, Abyssinia, and Tibet, will be eventually filled with free, industrious, and educated populations. But those people will never begin to advance until their property is rendered secure, until they enjoy the rights of man; and these they will never obtain except by means of European conquest. In British India the peasant reaps the rice which he has sown; and the merchant has no need to hide his gold beneath the ground. The young men of the new generation are looking forward to the time when the civil appointments of their country will he held by them. The Indian Mutiny was a mutiny only, and not a rebellion; the industrial and mercantile classes were on the English side. There is a sickly school of politicians who declare that all countries belong to their inhabitants, and that to take them is a crime. If any country in Asia did belong to its inhabitants, there might be some force in this objection. But Asia is possessed by a few kings and by their soldiers; these rulers are usually foreigners; the masses of the people are invariably slaves. The conquest of Asia by European Powers is therefore in reality emancipation, and is the first step towards the establishment of Oriental nationality. It is needless to say that Europe will never engage in crusades to liberate servile populations; but the pride and ignorance of military despots will provoke foreign wars, which will prove fatal to their rule. Thus war will, for long years yet to come, be required to prepare the way for freedom and progress in the East; and in Europe itself, it is not probable that war will ever absolutely cease until science discovers some destroying force, so simple in its administration, so horrible in its effects, that all art, all gallantry, will be at an end, and battles will be massacres which the feelings of mankind will be unable to endure.
A second expedient of Nature is religion. Men believe in the existence of beings who can punish and reward them in this life or in the next, who are the true rulers of the world, and who have deputed certain men, called priests, to collect tribute and to pass laws on their behalf. By means of these erroneous ideas, a system of government is formed to which kings themselves are subjected; the moral nature of man is improved, the sciences and arts are developed, distinct and hostile races are united. But error, like war, is only provisional. In Europe, religion no longer exists as a political power, but it will probably yet render service to civilisation in assisting to Europeanise the barbarous nations whom events will in time bring under our control.
A third expedient of Nature is inequality of conditions. Sloth is the natural state of man; prolonged and monotonous labour is hard for him to bear. The savage can follow a trail through the forest, or can lie in ambush for days at a time; this pertinacity and patience are native to his mind,; they belong to the animals from whom he is descended: but the cultivation of the soil is a new kind of labour, and it is only followed from compulsion. It is probable that when domestic slavery was invented, a great service was rendered to mankind, and it has already been shown that when prisoners of war were tamed and broken in, women were set free, and became beautiful, long-haired, low-voiced, sweet-eyed creatures, delicate in form, modest in demeanour, and refined in soul. It was also by means of slavery that a system of superfluous labour was established; for women, when slaves, are made only to labour for the essentials of life. It was by means of slavery that leisure was created, that the priests were enabled to make experiments, and to cultivate the arts, that the great public buildings of the ancient lands were raised. It was slavery which arrested the progress of Greece; but it was also slavery which enabled all the free men of a Greek town to be sculptors, poets, and philosophers. Slavery is now happily extinct, and can never be revived under the sanction of civilised authority. But a European Government, ought perhaps to introduce compulsory labour among the barbarous races that acknowledge its sovereignty and occupy its land. Children are ruled and schooled by force, and it is not an empty metaphor to say that savages are children. If they were made to work, not for the benefit of others, but for their own; if the rewards of their labour were bestowed, not on their masters, but on themselves, the habit of work would become with them a second nature, as it is with us, and they would learn to require luxuries which industry only could obtain. A man is not a slave in being compelled to work against his will, but in being compelled to work without hope and without reward. Enforced labour is undoubtedly a hardship, but it is one which at present belongs to the lot of man, and is indispensable to progress.
Mankind grows because men desire to better themselves in life, and this desire proceeds from the inequality of conditions. A time will undoubtedly arrive when all men and women will be equal, and when the love of money, which is now the root of all industry, and which therefore is now the root of all good, will cease to animate the human mind. But changes so prodigious can only be effected in prodigious periods of time. Human nature cannot be transformed by a coup d'etat, as the Comtists and Communists imagine. It is a complete delusion to suppose that wealth can be equalised and happiness impartially distributed by any process of law, Act of Parliament, or revolutionary measure. It is easy to compose a pathetic scene in a novel, or a loud article in a magazine by contrasting Dives lunching on turtle at Birch's with Lazarus feeding on garbage in a cellar. But the poor man loses nothing , because another man is rich. The Communist might as well denounce one man for enjoying excellent health, while another man is a victim to consumption. Wealth, like health, is in the air; if a man makes a fortune he draws money from Nature and gives it to the general stock. Every millionaire enriches the community. It is undoubtedly the duty of the government to mitigate so far as lies within its power, the miseries which result from overpopulation. But as long as men continue unequal in patience, industry, talent, and sobriety, so long there will be rich men and poor men -- men who roll in their carriages, and men who die in the streets. If all the property of this country were divided, things would soon return to their actual condition, unless some scheme could also be devised for changing human nature; and as for the system of the Commune, which makes it impossible for a man to rise or to fall, it is merely the old caste system revived; if it could be put into force, all industry would be disheartened, emulation would cease, mankind would go to sleep.
It is not, however, strange that superficial writers should suppose that the evils of social life can be altered by changes in government and law. In the lands of the East, in the Spain and Portugal of the sixteenth century, in the France of the eighteenth century, in the American Colonies, and in England itself, whole classes were at one time plunged by misgovernment into suffering of body and apathy of mind. But a government can confer few benefits upon a people except by destroying its own laws. The great reforms which followed the publication of "The Wealth of Nations" may all be summed up in the word Repeal.Commerce was regulated in former times by a number of paternal laws, which have since been happily withdrawn. The government still pays with our money a number of gentlemen to give us information respecting a future state, and still requires that in certain business transactions a document shall be drawn up with mysterious rites in a mediaeval jargon; but, placing aside hereditary evils which, on account of vested interests, it is impossible at once to remove, it may fairly be asserted that the government of this country is as nearly perfect as any government can be. Power rests upon public opinion, and is so beautifully poised that it can be overthrown and replaced without the business of the state being interrupted for a day. If the Executive is condemned by the nation, the press acts with irresistible force upon the Commons; a vote of censure is passed and the rulers of a great empire abdicate their thrones. The House of Lords is also an admirable Upper Chamber; for if it were filled with ambitious men elected by the people it would enter into conflict with the Commons. And as for the Royal Image it costs little and is useful as an emblem. The government of England possesses at the same time the freedom which is only found in a republic, and the loyalty which is only felt towards a monarch.
Some writers believe that this monarchy is injurious to the public and argue as follows: There are no paupers in America, and America is a republic. There are many paupers in England, and England is a monarchy. Therefore England should imitate America. It may astonish these writers to learn that America is in reality more of a monarchy than England. Buckingham Palace is a private dwelling; but the White House, though it has none of the pomp, has all the power of a Court. The king of America has more to give away than any king of Great Britain since the time of Charles the Second. He has the power to discharge of his own good pleasure and mere motion every ambassador, every consul, every head of department, every government employé, down to the clerk on two hundred dollars a year, and to fill their places with his own friends. In America the opinion of the public can with difficulty act upon the government. The press has no dignity, and very little power. Practices occur in the House of Representatives which have been unknown in England since the days of Walpole. If the prosperity of a country depended on its government, America would be less prosperous than England. But in point of fact America is the happiest country in the world. There is not a man in the vast land which lies between the oceans who, however humble his occupation may be, does not hope to make a fortune before he dies. The whole nation is possessed with the spirit which may be observed in Fleet Street and Cheapside; the boys sharp-eyed and curious, the men hastening eagerly along, even the women walking as if they had an object in view. There are in America no dull-eyed heavy-footed labourers, who slouch to and fro from their cottage to their work, from their work to the beer-house, without a higher hope in life than a sixpence from the squire when they open a gate. There are no girls of the milliner class who prefer being the mistresses of gentlemen to marrying men of their own station with a Cockney accent and red hands. The upper classes in America have not that exquisite refinement which exists in the highest circles of society in Europe. But if we take the whole people through and through, we find them the most civilised nation on the earth. They, preserve in a degree hitherto without example the dignity of human nature unimpaired. Their nobleness of character results from prosperity; and their prosperity is due to the nature of their land. Those who are unable to earn a living in the east, have only to move towards the west.
This then is the reason that the English race in America is more happy, more enlightened, and more thriving, than it is in the mother-land. Politically speaking, the emigrant gains nothing; he is as free in England as he is in America; but he leaves a land where labour is depreciated, and goes to a land where labour is in demand. That England may become as prosperous as America, it must be placed under American conditions; that is to say, food must be cheap, labour must be dear, emigration must be easy. It is not by universal suffrage, it is not by any Act of Parliament that these conditions can be created. It is Science alone which can Americanise England; it is Science alone which can ameliorate the condition of the human race.
When Man first wandered in the dark forest, he was Nature's serf; he offered tribute and prayer to the winds, and the lightning, and the rain, to the cave-lion, which seized his burrow for its lair, to the mammoth, which devoured his scanty crops. But as time passed on, he ventured, to rebel; he made stone his servant; he discovered fire and vegetable poison; he domesticated iron; he slew the wild beasts or subdued them; he made them feed him and give him clothes. He became a chief surrounded by his slaves; the fire lay beside him with dull red eye and yellow tongue waiting his instructions to prepare his dinner, or to make him poison, or to go with him to the war, and fly on the houses of the enemy, hissing, roaring, and consuming all. The trees of the forest were his flock, he slaughtered them at his convenience; the earth brought forth at his command. He struck iron upon wood or stone and hewed out the fancies of his brain; he plucked shells, and flowers, and the bright red berries, and twined them in his hair; he cut the pebble to a sparkling gem, he made the dull clay a transparent stone. The river which once he had worshipped as a god, or which he had vainly attacked with sword and spear, he now conquered to his will. He made the winds grind his corn and carry him across the waters; he made the stars serve him as a guide. He obtained from salt and wood and sulphur a destroying force. He drew from fire, and water, the awful power which produces the volcano, and made it do the work of human hands. He made the sun paint his portraits, and gave the lightning a situation in the post-office.
Thus Man has taken into his service, and modified to his use, the animals, the plants, the earths and the stones, the waters and the winds, and the more complex forces of heat, electricity, sunlight, magnetism, with chemical powers of many kinds. By means of his inventions and discoveries, by means of the arts and trades, and by means of the industry resulting from them, he has raised himself from the condition of a serf to the condition of a lord. His triumph, indeed, is incomplete; his kingdom is not yet come. The Prince of Darkness is still triumphant in many regions of the world; epidemics still rage, death is yet victorious. But the God of Light, the Spirit of Knowledge, the Divine Intellect, is gradually spreading over the planet and upwards to the skies. The beautiful legend will yet come true; Ormuzd will vanquish Ahriman; Satan will be overcome; Virtue will descend from heaven, surrounded by her angels, and reign over the hearts of men. Earth, which is now a purgatory, will be made a paradise, not by idle prayers and supplications, but by the efforts of man himself, and by means of mental achievements analogous to those which have raised him to his present state. Those inventions and discoveries which have made him, by the grace of God, king of the animals, lord of the elements, and sovereign of steam and electricity, were all of them founded on experiment and observation. We can conquer Nature only by obeying her laws, and in order to obey her laws we must first learn what they are. When we have ascertained, by means of Science, the method of Nature's operations, we shall be able to take her place and to perform them for ourselves. When we understand the laws which regulate the complex phenomena of life, we shall be able to predict the future as we are already able to predict comets and eclipses and the planetary movements.
Three inventions which perhaps may be long delayed, but which possibly are near at hand, will give to this overcrowded island the prosperous conditions of the United States. The first is the discovery of a motive force which will take the place of steam, with its cumbrous fuel of oil or coal; secondly, the invention of aerial locomotion which will transport labour at a trifling cost of money and of time to any part of the planet, and which, by annihilating distance, will speedily extinguish national distinctions; and thirdly, the manufacture of flesh and flour from the elements by a chemical process in the laboratory, similar to that which is now performed within the bodies of the animals and plants. Food will then be manufactured in unlimited quantities at a trifling expense; and our enlightened posterity will look back upon us who eat oxen and sheep just as we look back upon cannibals. Hunger and starvation will then be unknown, and the best part of the human life will no longer be wasted in the tedious process of cultivating the fields. Population will mightily increase, and the earth will be a garden. Governments will be conducted with the quietude and regularity of club committees. The interest which is now felt in politics will be transferred to science; the latest news from the laboratory of the chemist, or the observatory of the astronomer, or the experimenting room of the biologist will be eagerly discussed. Poetry and the fine arts will take that place in the heart which religion now holds. Luxuries will be cheapened and made common to all; none will be rich, and none poor. Not only will Man subdue the forces of evil that are without; he will also subdue those that are within. He will repress the base instincts and propensities which he has inherited from the animals below; he will obey the laws that are written on his heart; he will worship the divinity within him. As our conscience forbids us to commit actions which the conscience of the savage allows, so the moral sense of our successors will stigmatise as crimes those offences against the intellect which are sanctioned by ourselves. Idleness and stupidity will be regarded with abhorrence. Women will become the companions of men, and the tutors of their children. The whole world will be united by the same sentiment which united the primeval clan, and which made its members think, feel, and act as one. Men will look upon this star as their fatherland; its progress will be their ambition; the gratitude of others their reward. These bodies which now we: wear belong to the lower animals; our minds have already outgrown them; already we look upon them with contempt. A time will come when Science will transform them by means which we cannot conjecture, and which, even if explained to us, we could not now under stand, just as the savage cannot understand electricity, magnetism, steam. Disease will be extirpated; the causes of decay will be removed; immortality will be invented. And then, the earth being small, mankind will migrate into space, and will cross the airless Saharas which separate planet from planet, and sun from sun. The earth will become a Holy Land which will be visited by pilgrims from all the quarters of the universe. Finally, men will master the forces of Nature; they will become themselves architects of systems, manufacturers of worlds.
Man then will be perfect; he will then be a creator; he will therefore be what the vulgar worship as a god. But even then, he will in reality be no nearer than he is at present to the First Cause, the Inscrutable Mystery, the GOD.