« PreviousContinue »
in by little and little. Party is like one of those perilons whirlpools sometimes met with at sea. When a vessel reaches the outer edge of one of them, the current moves so slowly, and wit so little of a curve, that the mariners may be uncon. scious of moving in any curve at all, or even of any motion whatever. But each circuit of the spiral increases the velocity, and gradually increases the curve, and brings the vessel nearer to the centre. And perhaps this rapid motion, and the direction of it, are for the first time perceived, when the force of the current has become irresistible.
Some, no doubt, there were, of those who originally joined the Association called United Irishmen,' who, entertaining no evil designs, were seduced by specious appearances and fair professions, and did not enough consider that when once embarked on the stream of Party, no one can be sure how far he may ultimately be carried. They found themselves, doubtless most unexpectedly to many of them, engaged in an attempted revolution, and partners of men in actual rebellion.
No doubt many did draw back, though not without difficulty, and danger, and shame, when they perceived whither they were being hurried; though it is also, I think, highly probable that many were prevented by that difficulty and shame from stopping short and turning back in time; and having stepped in so far,' persevered in a course which, if it had been originally proposed to them, they would have shrunk from with horror, saying, “Is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing?
'It is true that a man may, if he will, withdraw from, and disown, a party which he had formerly belonged to. But this is a step which requires no small degree of moral courage. And not only are we strongly tempted to shrink from taking such a step, but also our dread of doing so is likely rather to mislead our reason, than to overpower it. A man will wish to think it justifiable to adhere to the party: and this wish is likely to bias his judgment, rather than to prevail on him to act contrary to his judgment. For, we know how much the judgment of men is likely to be biassed, as well as how much they are tempted to acquiesce in something against their judg. ment, when earnestly pressed by the majority of those who are acting with them, -whom they look up to,-whose approbation encourages them,—and whose censure they cannot but dread.
"Some doctrine, suppose, is promulgated, or measure proposed, or mode of procedure commenced, which some members of a party do not, in their unbiassed judgment, approve. But any one of them is disposed, first to wish, then to hope, and lastly to believe, that those are in the right whom he would be sorry to think wrong. And again, in any case where his judgment may still be unchanged, he may feel that it is but a small concession he is called on to make, and that there are great benefits to set against it; and that, after all, he is perhaps called on merely to acquiesce silently in what he does not quite approve; and, he is loth to incur censure, as lukewarm in the good cause,-as presumptuous, -as unfriendly towards those who are acting with him. To be a breaker up of the Club' (étaipaç diakutns) was a reproach, the dread of which, we learn from the great historian of Greece, carried much weight with it in, the transactions of the party-warfare he is describing. And we may expect the like in all similar cases.
One may sometimes hear a person say in so many words, though far oftener, in his conduct—'It is true I do not altogether approve of such and such a step; but it is insisted on as essential by those who are acting with us; and if we were to hold out against it, we should lose their co-operation ; which would be a most serious evil. There is nothing to be done, therefore, but to comply.''
Certainly custom is most perfect when it beginneth in young
years: this we call education, which is, in effect, but an early custom.'
Education may be compared to the grafting of a tree. Every gardener knows that the younger the wilding-stock is that is to be grafted, the easier and the more effectual is the operation, because, then, one scion put on just above the root, will become the main stem of the tree, and all the branches it puts forth will be of the right sort. When, on the other hand, a tree is to be grafted at a considerable age (which may be very successfully done), you have to put on twenty or thirty grafts on the several branches; and afterwards you will have to be watching from time to time for the wilding-shoots which the stock will be putting forth, and pruning them off. And even so, one whose character is to be reformed at mature age, will find it necessary not merely to implant a right principle once for all, but also to bestow a distinct attention on the correction of this, that, and the other, bad habit.
It is wonderful that so many persons should confound tvgether being accustomed to certain objects, and accustomed to à certain mode of acting. Aristotle, on the contrary, justly remarks that opposite habits are formed by means of the same things (εκ των αυτων, και δια των αυτων) treated in opposite ways; as, for instance, humanity and inhumanity—by being accustomed to the view of suffering, with and without the effort to relieve it. Of two persons who have been accustomed to the sight of much human misery, one, who has been used to pass it by without any effort to relieve it, will become careless and hardened to such spectacles; while another, who has been in the practice of relieving sufferers, will acquire a strong habit of endeavouring to afford relief. These two persons will both have been accustomed to the same objects, but will have acquired opposite habits, from being accustomed to act in oppo
Suppose that there is in your neighbourhood a loud bell that is rung very early every morning to call the labourers in some great manufactory. At first, and for some time, your rest will be broken by it; but if you accustom yourself to lie still, and try to compose yourself, you will become in a few days so used to it, that it will not even wake you. But any one who makes a point of rising immediately at the call, will become so used to it in the opposite way, that the sound will never fail to rouse him from the deepest sleep. Both will have been accustomed to the samne bell, but will have formed opposite habits from their contrary modes of action.
And we may see the same thing even in the training of brute animals. For instance, of sporting dogs, there are some, such as the greyhound, that are trained to pursue hares; and others, which are trained to stand motionless when they come upon a hare, even though they see it running before them. Now, both kinds are accustomed to hares; and both have originally the
same instincts; for all dogs have an instinctive tendency to pursue game. But the one kind of dog has always been encouraged to run after a hare, and the other has always been chastised if it attempts to do so, and has been trained to stand still
But it must not be forgotten that education resembles the grafting of a tree in this point also, that there must be some affinity between the stock and the graft, though a very important practical difference may exist; for example, between a worthless crab, and a fine apple. Even so, the new nature, as it may
be called, superinduced by education, must always retain some relation to the original one, though differing in most important points. You cannot, by any kind of artificial training, make any thing of any one, and obliterate all trace of the natural character. Those who hold that this is possible, and attempt to effect it, resemble Virgil who (whether in ignorance or, as some think, by way of poetical licence') talks of grafting an oak on an elm : 'glandesque sues fregere sub ulmis.'
One of Doctor Johnson's paradoxes, more popular in his time than now, but far from being now exploded, was, that a given amount of ability may be turned in any direction, even as a man may walk this way or that. And so he can; because walking is the action for which the legs are fitted; but though he may use his eyes for looking at this object
for looking at this object or that, he cannot hear with his eyes, or see with his ears. And the eyes and ears are not more different than, for instance, the poetical faculty, and the mathematical. "Oh, but if Milton had turned his mind to mathematics : and if Newton had turned his mind to poetry, the former might have been the great mathematician, and the latter the great poet.' This is open to the proverbial reply, “If my aunt had been a man, she would have been my uncle. For, the supposition implied in these ifs is, that Milton and Newton should have been quite different characters from what they were.
· Lessons on Morals,
6.... Minds that have not suffered themselves to fix, but have
kept themselves open and prepared to receive continual amendment, which is exceeding rare.'
And as admirable as it is rare. Such minds may indeed print their opinions, but do not stereotype them. Nor does the self-distrust, the perpetual care, the diligent watchfulness, the openness to conviction, the exercise of which is implied in Bacon's description, necessarily involve a state of painful and unceasing doubt. For, in proportion as a man is watchfully and prayerfully on his guard against the unseen current of passions and prejudices, which is ever tending to drive him out of the right course, in the same degree he will have reason for cherishing an humble hope that He, the Spirit of Truth, is, and will be, with him, to enlighten his understanding, to guide his conduct, and to lead him onwards to that state in which Faith shall be succeeded by sight, and hope by enjoyment.
* The force of custom, copulate and conjoined, and collegiate,
is far greater.' For this reason it is, that what is said or done by very inferior persons, is the best sign of what is commonly said or done in the place and time in which they live. A man of resolute character, and of an original turn of thought, being more likely to resist this force of copulate and collegiate custom,' does not furnish so good a sign of what are the prevailing opinions and customs. Hence the proverb:
"A straw best shows
A bar of heavy metal would not be perceptibly influenced by the wind.
I wish I could feel justified in concluding this head without saying anything of Bacon's own character ;—without holding him up as himself a lamentable example of practice at variance with good sentiments, and sound judgment, and right precepts. He thought well, and he spoke well; but he had accustomed himself to act very far from well. And justice requires that