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As no man can rightfully be condemned without reference to some definite law, by the knowledge of which he might have avoided the given fault, it is necessary so to define the constituent qualities and conditions of arrogance, that a reason may be assignable why we pronounce one man guilty and acquit another. For merely to call a person arrogant or most arrogant, can convict no one of the vice except perhaps the accuser. I remember, when a young man who had left his books and a glass of water to join a convivial party, each of whom had nearly finished his second bottle, was pronounced very drunk by the whole partyhe looked so strange and pale! Many a man, who has contrived to hide his ruling passion or predominant defect from himself, will betray the same to dispassionate observers, by his proneness on all occasions to suspect or accuse others of it. Now arrogance and presumption, like all other moral qualities, must be shown by some act or conduct : and this too must be an act that implies, if not an immediate concurrence of the will, yet some faulty constitution of the moral habits. For all criminality supposes its essentials to have been within the power of the agent. Either, therefore, the facts adduced do of themselves convey the whole proof of the charge, and the question rests on the truth or accuracy with which they have been stated; or they acquire their character from the circumstances. I have looked into a ponderous review of the corpuscular philosophy by a Sicilian Jesuit, in which the acrimonious Father frequently expresses his doubt, whether he should pronounce Boyle or Newton more impious than presumptuous, or more presumptuous than impious. They had both attacked the reigning opinions on most important subjects, opinions sanctioned by the greatest names of antiquity, and by the general suffrage of their learned contemporaries or immediate predecessors. Locke was assailed with a full cry for his presumption in having deserted the philosophical system at that time generally received by the universities of Europe ; and of late years Dr. Priestley bestowed the epithets of arrogant and insolent on Reid, Beattie, &c., for presuming to arraign certain opinions of Mr. Locke, himself repaid in kind by many of his own countrymen for his theological novelties. It will scarcely be affirmed, that these accusations were all of them just, or that any of them were fit or courteous. Must we therefore say, that in order to avow doubt or disbelief of a popular persua
sion without arrogance, it is required that the dissentient should know himself to possess the genius, and foreknow that he should acquire the reputation, of Locke, Newton, Boyle, or even of a Reid or Beattie? But as this knowledge and prescience are impossible in the strict sense of the words, and could mean no more than a strong inward conviction, it is manifest that such a rule, if it were universally established, would encourage the
presumptuous, and condemn modest and humble minds alone to silence. And as this silence could not acquit the individual's own mind of presumption, unless it were accompanied by conscious acquiescence ; modesty itself must become an inert quality, which even in private society never displays its charms more unequivocally than in its mode of reconciling moral deference with intellectual courage, and general diffidence with sincerity in the avowal of the particular conviction.
We must seek then elsewhere for the true marks, by which presumption or arrogance may be detected, and on which the charge may be grounded with little hazard of mistake or injustice. And as I confine my present observations to literature, I deem such criteria neither difficult to determine nor to apply. The first mark, as it appears to me, is a frequent bare assertion of opinions not generally received, without condescending to prefix or annex the facts and reasons on which such opinions were formed ; especially if this absence of logical courtesy is supplied by contemptuous or abusive treatment of such as happen to doubt of, or oppose, the decisive ipse dixi. But to assert, however nakedly, that a passage in a lewd novel, in which the Sacred Writings are denounced as more likely to pollute the young and innocent mind than a romance notorious for its indecency—to assert, I say, that such a passage argues equal impudence and ignorance in its author, at the time of writing and publishing it—this is not arrogance; although to a vast majority of the decent part of our countrymen it would be superfluous as a m, if it were exclusively an author's business to convey or revive knowledge, and not sometimes his duty to awaken the indignation of his reader by the expression of his own.
A second species of this unamiable quality, which has been often distinguished by the name of Warburtonian arrogance, betrays itself, not as in the former, by proud or petulant omission of proof or argument, but by the habit of ascribing weakness of in
tellect, or want of taste and sensibility, or hardness of heart, or corruption of moral principle, to all who deny the truth of the doctrine, or the sufficiency of the evidence, or the fairness of the reasoning adduced in its support. This is indeed not essentially different from the first, but assumes a separate character from its accompaniments : for though both the doctrine and its proofs may have been legitimately supplied by the understanding, yet the bitterness of personal crimination will resolve itself into naked assertion. We are, therefore, authorized by experience, and justified on the principle of self-defence and by the law of fair retaliation, in attributing it to a vicious temper arrogant from irritability, or irritable from arrogance. This learned arrogance admits of many gradations, and is aggravated or palliated, accordingly as the point in dispute has been more or less controverted, as the reasoning bears a smaller or greater proportion to the virulence of the personal detraction, and as the person or parties, who are the objects of it, are more or less respected, more or less worthy of respect. *
Lastly, it must be admitted as a just imputation of presumption when an individual obtrudes on the public eye, with all the high pretensions of originality, opinions and observations, in regard to which he must plead wilful ignorance in order to be acquitted of dishonest plagiarism. On the same seat must the writer be placed, who in a disquisition on any important subject proves, by falsehoods either of omission or of positive error, that he has neglected to possess himself, not only of the information requisite for this particular subject; but even of those acquirements, and that general knowledge, which could alone authorize him to commence a public instructor. This is an office which can not be procured gratis. The industry, necessary for the due exercise of its functions, is its purchase-inoney; and the absence or insufficiency of the same is so far a species of dishonesty, and implies a presumption in the literal as well as the ordinary sense of the word. He has taken a thing before he had acquired any right or title thereto.
* Had the author of the Divine Legation of Moses more skilfully appropriated his coarse eloquence of abuse, his customary assurances of the idiocy, both in head and heart, of all his opponents; if he had, employed those vigorous arguments of his own vehement humor in the defence of truths acknowledged and reverenced by learned men in general; or if he had confined them to the names of Chubb, Woolston, and other precursors of Thomas Paine; we should perhaps still characterize his mode of controversy by its rude violence, but not so often have heard his name used, even by those who have never read his writings, as a proverbial expression for learned arrogance. But when a novel and doubtful hypothesis of his own formation was the citadel to be defended, and his mephitic handgranados were thrown with the fury of lawless despotism at the fair reputation of a Sykes and a Lardner, we not only confirm the verdict of his independent contemporaries, but cease to wonder, that arrogance should render men objects of contempt in many, and of aversion in all, instances, when it was capable of hurrying a Christian teacher of equal talents and learning into a slanderous vulgarity, which escapes our disgust only when we see the writer's own reputation the sole victim. But throughout his great work, and the pamphlets in which he supported it, he always seems to write as if he had deemed it a duty of decorum to publish his fancies on the Mosaic Law as the Law itself was delivered, that is, in thunders and lightnings: or as if he had applied to his own book instead of the sacred mount, the menace,—There shall not a hand touch it but he shall surely be stoned or shot through.
If in addition to this unfitness which every man possesses the means of ascertaining, his aim should be to unsettle a general belief closely connected with public and private quiet; and if his language and manner be avowedly calculated for the illiterate, and perhaps licentious, part of his countrymen; disgusting as his presumption must appear, it is yet lost or evanescent in the close neighborhood of his guilt. That Hobbes translated Homer into English verse and published his translation, furnishes no positive evidence of his self-conceit, though it implies a great lack of selfknowledge and of acquaintance with the nature of poetry.* A strong wish often imposes itself on the mind for an actual power : the mistake is favored by the innocent pleasure derived from the exercise of versification, perhaps by the approbation of intimates ; and the candidate asks from more impartial readers that sentence, which nature has not enabled him to anticipate. But when the philosopher of Malmesbury waged war with Wallis and the fundamental truths of pure geometry, every instance of his gross ignorance and utter misconception of the very elements of the science he proposed to confute, furnished an unanswerable fact in proof of his high presumption ; and the confident and insulting language of the attack leaves the judicious reader in as little doubt of his gross arrogance.
* At the time I wrote this essay, and indeed till the present month, December, 1818, I had never seen Hobbes' translation of the Odyssey, which, I now find, is by no means to be spoken of contemptuously. It is doubtless as much too ballad-like, as the later versions are too epic; but still, on the whole, it leaves a much truer impression of the original.
An illiterate mechanic, who mistaking some disturbance of his nerves for a miraculous call proceeds alone to convert a tribe of savages, whose language he can have no natural means of acquiring, may have been misled by impulses very different from those of high self-opinion ; but the illiterate perpetrator of the · Age of Reason' must have had his very conscience stupefied by the habitual intoxication of presumptuous arrogance, and his common sense over-clouded by the vapors from his heart.
As long therefore as I obtrude no unsupported assertions on my readers ; and as long as I state my opinions and the evidence which induced or compelled me to adopt them, with calmness and that diffidence in myself, which is by no means incompatible with a firm belief in the justness of the opinions themselves ; while I attack no man's private life from any cause, and detract from no man's honors in his public character, from the truth of his doctrines, or the merits of his compositions, without detailing all my reasons and resting the result solely on the arguments adduced; while I moreover explain fully the motives of duty, which influenced me in resolving to institute such investigation ; while I confine all asperity of censure, and all expressions of contempt, to gross violations of truth, honor, and decency, to the base corrupter and the detected slanderer ; while I write on no subject, which I have not studied with my best attention, on no subject which my education and acquirements have incapacitated me from properly understanding ; and above all while I approve myself, alike in praise and in blame, in close reasoning and in impassioned declamation, a steady friend to the two best and surest friends of all men, truth and honesty ; I will not fear an accusation of either presumption or arrogance from the good and the wise, I shall pity it from the weak, and welcome it from the wicked.