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conceived by an ancient philosopher*, resembles that of men chained down from their infancy in a cavern, with their backs towards the light, and thus left to contemplate the figures projected upon the sides of their prison, mistaking them for the real objects. · Man in this shadowy state is fond of shadows, and turns his back upon the world of realities. He will dwell with rapture on the power of Raphael's pencil displaying the histories and characters of scripture, without any regard to the real nature of the things represented; and will speculate with wonder on the earth and visible heavens, which shall soon pass away and be dissolved, while he remains insensible to that world which knows neither time nor change, and to which he stands so nearly related.
The sum is this: That so far as the arts and sciences are of use to set forth the glory of the Creator, as manifested in his works; or to facilitate the means of human subsist
* See Plat. rep. lib. 7. initio.
ence; or even so far as they bestow on life an agreeable, yet sparing and chaste ornament; and by affording employment, prevent one part of mankind from becoming a burden or a nuisance to the other; they are warranted by the severest policy. But, on the other hand, when we oppose to these advantages, their liableness to be abused, and how commonly they are abused, to the purposes of vanity and luxurious indulgence, their utility, on the whole, then becomes not a little uncertain and problematical.
On the Savage and Civilized State of Man.
A few remarks on the savage and civilized state of man, compared with each other, will conclude this first part of the present work.
Some modern writers have exerted all the force of their genius and eloquence, in attempting to elevate the savage above the civilized state of man. Instead of Greeks and Romans, we hear of Caffres and Esquimaux, of Cherokees and Chickesaws; to these, or to other hordes who are supposed still more entirely under the tuition of uncorrupted nature, we are directed for examples of pure virtue and unmingled felicity.
Whether the indigence and rudeness of savage life is preferable to a wealthy and luxurious state of society, I am not anxious to determine; but it may safely be affirmed, that there is a middle period which is preferable to either, after a people have emerged from barbarism, and before they have arrived at false refinement.
It is easy for the fancy to invest with borrowed qualities, persons and things with which we are little acquainted. A voyager who touches upon a strange coast, and there beholds a company of the natives seated at their ease under the foliage of some spreading oak or plantain, while others are seen diverting themselves on the lawn with the dance and the song, is ready to imagine himself transported to a paradisiacal region where all is innocence and delight; and should he happen to be received to a hospitable repast, instead of being devoured himself, he will be disposed to requite them with the praise of every virtue that can adorn humanity. To appearances much less flattering than these, we are probably indebted for some late panegyrics upon savage life and manners. We all know how common it is for men, especially for travellers, out of mere vanity to embellish. their narratives; and we may know too, that there are not wanting some, who will both embellish and invent, from a malignant design of exalting nature at the expence of christianity.
To counteract the ill effect of such fictions, which are the more dangerous as they are countenanced and supported by men who have too long passed under the guise of philosophers; I would oppose the authority of the celebrated and unfortunate navigator M. de la Perouse, who was sent out by the French government on a voyage of discovery, and appears to have been eminently qualified for such an enterprise. « Philosophers,” says he, “write books in their closets, while I have been engaged in voyages during a course of thirty years. I have been a witness to the injustice and deceptions of these people (savages) whom they have described to us as so good, because they are very near to a state of nature. It is not possible to form society with man in a state of nature, because he is barbarous, deceitful, and wicked. In this opinion I have