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All men are aware, that the present is a crisis of this sort; and why it has become so. The repeal of the Test Acts, and then of the Catholic disabilities, has struck many of their admirers with an indescribable astonishment. Those things seemed fixed and immovable; deep as the foundations of the world; and lo! in a moment they have vanished, and their place knows them no more! Our worthy friends mistook the slumbering Leviathan for an island; often as they had been assured, that intolerance was, and could be nothing but a Monster; and so, mooring under the lee, they had anchored comfortably in his scaly rind, thinking to take good cheer; as for some space they did. But now their Leviathan has suddenly dived under; and they can no longer be fastened in the stream of time; but must drift forward on it, even like the rest of the world; no very appalling fate, we think, could they but understand it: which, however, they will not yet, for a season. Their little island is gone, and sunk deep amid confused eddies; and what is left worth caring for in the universe? What is it to them, that the great continents of the earth are still standing; and the polestar and all our loadstars, in the heavens, still shining and eternal? Their cherished little haven is gone, and they will not be comforted! And therefore, day after day, in all manner of periodical or perennial publications, the most lugubrious predictions are sent forth. The king has virtually abdicated; the church is a widow, without jointure; public principle is gone; private honesty is going; society, in short, is fast falling in pieces; and a time of unmixed evil is come on us. At such a period, it was to be expected that the rage of prophecy should be more than usually excited. Accordingly, the Millenarians have come forth on the right hand, and the Millites on the left. The Fifth-monarchy men prophesy from the Bible, and the Utilitarians from Bentham. The one announces that the last of the seals is to be opened, positively, in the year 1860; and the other assures us, that "the greatest happiness principle" is to make a heaven of earth, in a still shorter time. We know these symptoms too well, to think it necessary or safe to interfere with them. Time and the hours will bring relief to all parties. The grand encourager of Delphic or other noises is the Echo. Left to themselves, they will soon dissipate, and die away in space.
Meanwhile, we too admit that the present is an important time; as all present time necessarily is. The poorest day that passes over us is the conflux of two Eternities! and is made up of currents that issue from the remotest Past, and flow onwards into the remotest Future. We were wise indeed, could we discern truly the signs of our own time; and by knowledge of its wants and advantages, wisely adjust our own position in it. Let us then, instead of gazing idly into the obscure distance, look calmly around us for a little, on the perplexed scene where we stand. Perhaps, on a more serious inspection, something of its perplexity will disappear, some of its distinclive characters, and deeper tendencies, more ciearly reveal themselves; whereby our own
relations to it, our own true aims and endeavours in it, may also become clearer.
Were we required to characterize this age of ours by any single epithet, we should be tempted to call it, not an Heroical, Devotional, Philosophical, or Moral Age, but, above all others, the Mechanical Age. It is the Age of Machinery, in every outward and inward sense of that word; the age which, with its whole undivided might, forwards, teaches, and prac tises the great art of adopting means to ends. Nothing is now done directly, or by hand; all is by rule and calculated contrivance. For the simplest operation, some helps and accompaniments, some cunning, abbreviating process is in readiness. Our old modes of exertion are all discredited, and thrown aside. On every hand, the living artisan is driven from his workshop, to make room for a speedier, inanimate one. The shuttle drops from the fingers of the weaver, and falls into iron fi”gers that ply it faster. The sailor furls his sail, and lays down his oar, and bids a strong, unwearied servant, on vapourous wings, bear him through the waters. Men have crossed oceans by steam; the Birmingham Fire-king has visited the fabulous East; and the genius of the Cape, were there any Camoens now to sing it, has again been alarmed, and with far stranger thunders than Gama's. There is no end to machinery. Even the horse is stripped of his harness, and finds a fleet fire-horse yoked in his stead. Nay, we have an artist that hatches chickens by steam; the very brood-hen is to be superseded! For all earthly, and for some unearthly purposes, we have machines and mechanic furtherances; for mincing our cabbages; for casting us into magnetic sleep. We remove mountains, and make seas our smooth highway; nothing can resist us. We war with rude nature; and, by our resistless engines, come off always victorious, and loaded with spoils.
What wonderful accessions have thus been made, and are still making, to the physical power of mankind; how much better fed, clothed, lodged, and, in all outward respects, accommodated, men now are, or might be, by a given quantity of labour, is a grateful reflection which forces itself on every one. What changes, too, this addition of power is introducing into the social system; how wealth has more and more increased, and at the same time gathered itself more and more into masses, strangely altering the old relations, and increasing the distance between the rich and the poor, will be a question for Political Economists, and a much more complex and important one than any they have yet engaged with. But leaving these matters for the present, let us observe how the mechanical genius of our time has diffused itself into quite other provinces. Not the external and physical alone is now managed by machinery, but the inter nal and spiritual also. Here, too, nothing fol lows its spontaneous course, nothing is left to be accomplished by old, natural methods. Every thing has its cunningly devised imple ments, its pre-established apparatus; it is not done by hand, but by machinery. Thus we have machines for Education: Lancastrian
SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
machines; Hamiltonian machines; Monitors,phic Institutes. Hence the Royal and Imperial maps, and emblems. Instruction, that myste- Societies, the Bibliothèques, Glyptotheques, rious communing of Wisdom with Ignorance, Technothèques, which front us in all capital is no longer an indefinable tentative process, cities, like so many well-finished hives, to requiring a study of individual aptitudes, and which it is expected the stray agencies of a perpetual variation of means and methods, Wisdom will swarm of their own accord, and to attain the same end; but a secure, univer- hive and make honey. In like manner, among sal, straight-forward business, to be conducted ourselves, when it is thought that religion is in the gross, by proper mechanism, with such declining, we have only to vote half a million's intellect as comes to hand. Then, we have worth of bricks and mortar, and build new Religious machines, of all imaginable varie-churches. In Ireland, it seems they have gone ties; the Bible Society, professing a far higher still farther; having actually established a Penny-a-week Purgatory Society!" Thus and heavenly structure, is found, on inquiry, to be altogether an earthly contrivance, sup- does the Genius of Mechanism stand by to ported by collection of moneys, by fomenting help us in all difficulties and emergencies; of vanities, by puffing, intrigue, and chicane; and, with his iron back, bears all our burdens. and yet, in effect, a very excellent machine for converting the heathen. It is the same in all other departments. Has any man, or any society of men, a truth to speak, a piece of spiritual work to do, they can nowise proceed at once, and with the mere natural organs, but must first call a public meeting, appoint committees, issue prospectuses, eat a public dinner; in a word, construct or borrow machinery, wherewith to speak it and do it. Without machinery they were hopeless, helpless; a colony of Hindoo weavers squatting in the heart of Lancashire. Then every machine must have its moving power, in some of the great currents of society: Every little sect among us, Unitarians, Utilitarians, Anabaptists, Phrenologists, must each have its periodical, its monthly or quarterly magazine, hanging out, like its windmill, into the popularis aura, to grind meal for the society.
These things, which we state lightly enough here, are yet of deep import, and indicate a mighty change in our whole manner of existFor the same habit regulates not our ence. modes of action alone, but our modes of thought and feeling. Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand. They have lost faith in individual endeavour, and in natural force, of any kind. Not for internal perfection, but for external combinations and arrangements, for institutions, constitutions,-for Mechanism of one sort or other, do they hope and struggle. Their whole efforts, attachments, opinions, turn on mechanism, and are of a mechanical character.
With individuals, in like manner, natural No individual now strength avails little. hopes to accomplish the poorest enterprise single-handed, and without mechanical aids; he must make interest with some existing corporation, and till his field with their oxen. In these days, more emphatically than ever, "to live, signifies to unite with a party, or to make one." Philosophy, Science, Art, Literature, all depend on machinery. No Newton, by silent meditation, now discovers the system of the world from the falling of an apple; but some quite other than Newton stands in his Museum, his Scientific Institution, and behind whole batteries of retorts, digesters, and galvanic piles imperatively "interrogates Nature," -who, however, shows no haste to answer. In defect of Raphaels, and Angelos, and Mozarts, we have Royal Academies of Painting, Sculpture, Music; whereby the languishing spirit of art may be strengthened by the more generous diet of a Public Kitchen. Literature, too, has its Paternoster-row mechanism, its Trade dinners, its Editorial conclaves, and huge subterranean puffing bellows; so that books are not only printed, but, in a great measure, written and sold, by machinery. National culture, spiritual benefit of all sorts, is under the same management. No Queen Christina, in these times, needs to send for her Descartes; no King Frederic for his Voltaire, and painfully nourish him with pensions and flattery: bat any sovereign of taste, who wishes to enlighten his people, has only to impose a new tax, and with the proceeds establish Philoso
We may trace this tendency, we think, very distinctly, in all the great manifestations of our time; in its intellectual aspect, the studies it most favours, and its manner of conducting them; in its practical aspects, its politics, arts, religion, morals; in the whole sources, and throughout the whole currents, of its spiritual, no less than its material activity.
Consider, for example, the state of Science generally, in Europe, at this period. It is admitted, on all sides, that the Metaphysical and Moral Sciences are falling into decay, while the Physical are engrossing, every day, more respect and attention. In most of the European nations, there is now no such thing as a Science of Mind; only more or less advancement in the general science, or the special sciences, of matter. The French were the first to desert this school of Metaphysics; and though they have lately affected to revive it, it has yet no signs of vitality. The land of Malebranche, Pascal, Descartes, and Fenelon, has now only its Cousins and Villemains; while, in the department of Physics, it reckons far other Among ourselves, the Philosophy of names. Mind, after a rickety infancy, which never reached the vigour of manhood, fell suddenly into decay, languished, and finally died out, with its last amiable cultivator, Professor Stewart. In no nation but Germany has any decisive effort been made in psychological science; not to speak of any decisive result. The science of the age, in short, is physical, chemical, physiological, and, in all shapes, mechanical. Our favourite Mathematics, the highly prized exponent of all these other sciences, has also become more and more mechanical. Excellence, in what is called its higher departments, depends less on natural genius, than on acquired expertness in wield
ing its machinery. Without undervaluing the | Religion (and it is really worth knowing) are wonderful results which a Lagrange, or La- "a product of the smaller intestines!" We place, educes by means of it, we may remark, have the greatest admiration for this learned that its calculus, differential and integral, is doctor: with what scientific stoicism he walks little else than a more cunningly-constructed through the land of wonders, unwondering; arithmetical mill, where the factors being put like a wise man through some huge, gaudy, in, are, as it were, ground into the true pro- imposing Vauxhall, whose fire-works, casduct, under cover, and without other effort, on cades, and symphonies, the vulgar may enjoy our part, than steady turning of the handle. and believe in,—but where he finds nothing We have more Mathematics certainly than real but the saltpetre, pasteboard, and catgut. ever; but less Mathesis. Archimedes and His book may be regarded as the ultimatum Plato could not have read the Mécanique Céleste; of mechanical metaphysics in our time; a rebut neither would the whole French Institute markable realization of what in Martinus see aught in that saying, "God geometrizes!" Scriblerus was still only an idea, that "as the but a sentimental rodomontade. jack had a meat-roasting quality, so had the body a thinking quality"-upon the strength of which the Nurembergers were to build a wood and leather man," who should reason as well as most country parsons." Vaucanson did indeed make a wooden duck, that seemed to eat and digest; but that bold scheme of the Nurembergers remained for a more modern virtuoso.
This condition of the two great departments of knowledge-the outward, cultivated exclusively on mechanical principles; the inward finally abandoned, because, cultivated on such principles, it is found to yield no result-sufficiently indicates the intellectual bias of our time, its all-pervading disposition towards that line of inquiry. In fact, an inward persua sion has long been diffusing itself, and now and then even comes to utterance, that, except the external, there are no true sciences; that to the inward world (if there be any) our only conceivable road is through the outward; that, in short, what cannot be investigated and understood mechanically, cannot be investigated and understood at all. We advert the more particularly to these intellectual propensities, as to prominent symptoms of our age; because Opinion is at all times doubly related to Action, first as cause, then as effect; and the speculative tendency of any age will there fore give us, on the whole, the best indications of its practical tendency.
Nowhere, for example, is the deep, almost exclusive faith, we have in Mechanism, more visible than in the Politics of this time. Civil government does, by its nature, include much that is mechanical, and must be treated ac
The last class of our Scotch Metaphysicians had a dim notion that much of this was wrong; but they knew not how to right it. The school of Reid had also from the first taken a mechanical course, not seeing any other. The singular conclusions at which Hume, setting out from their admitted premises, was arriving, brought this school into being; they let loose Instinct, as an undiscriminating ban-dog, to guard them against these conclusions; they tugged lustily at the logical chain by which Hume was so coldly towing them and the world into bottomless abysses of Atheism and Fatalism. But the chain somehow snapped between them; and the issue has been that nobody now cares about either, any more than about Hartley's, Darwin's, or Priest- cordingly. We term it, indeed, in ordinary ley's contemporaneous doings in England. language, the Machine of Society, and talk of Hartley's vibrations and vibratiuncles one it as the grand working wheel from which all would think were material and mechanical private machines must derive, or to which enough; but our continental neighbours have they must adapt, their movements. Consider gone still farther. One of their philosophers ed merely as a metaphor, all this is well has lately discovered, that "as the liver se- enough; but here, as in so many other cases, cretes bile, so does the brain secrete thought;" the "foam hardens itself into a shell," and the which astonishing discovery Dr. Cabanis, shadow we have wantonly evoked stands termore lately still, in his Rapports du Physique et ribly before us, and will not depart at our biddu Morale de l'Homme, has pushed into its mi- ding. Government includes much also that is nutest developments. The metaphysical philo- not mechanical, and cannot be treated mesophy of this last inquirer is certainly no sha- chanically; of which latter truth, as appears dowy or unsubstantial one. He fairly lays open to us, the political speculations and exertions ur moral structure with his dissecting-knives of our time are taking less and less cogniand real metal probes; and exhibits it to the in- sance. spection of mankind, by Leuwenhoek microscopes and inflation with the anatomical blowpipe. Thought, he is inclined to hold, is still secreted by the brain; but then Poetry and
From Locke's time downwards, our whole Metaphysics have been physical; not a spiritual Philosophy, but a material one. The singular estimation in which his Essay was so long held as a scientific work, (for the character of the man entitled all he said to veneration,) will one day be thought a curious indication of the spirit of these times. His whole doctrine is mechanical, in its aim and origin, in its method and its results. It is a mere discussion concerning the origin of our consciousness, or ideas, or whatever else they are called; a genetic history of what we see in the mind. But the grand secrets of Necessity and Free-will, of the mind's vital or nonvital dependence on matter, of our mysterious relations to Time and Space, to God, to the universe, are not, in the faintest degree, touched on in these inquiries; and seem not to have the smallest connection with them.
Nay, in the very outset, we might note the mighty interest taken in mere political arrangements, as itself the sign of a mechanical age. The whole discontent of Europe takes this di
rection. The deep, strong cry of all civilized | see continually the faith, hope, and practice nations-a cry which every one now sees, of every one founded on Mechanism of one must and will be answered-is, Give us a re- kind or other, it is apt to seem quite natural, form of Government! A good structure of and as if it could never have been otherwise. legislation, a proper check upon the execu- Nevertheless, if we recollect or reflect a little, tive, a wise arrangement of the judiciary, is we shall find both that it has been, and might all that is wanting for human happiness. The again be, otherwise. The domain of MechanPhilosopher of this age is not a Socrates, a ism,-meaning thereby political, ecclesiastical, Plato, a Hooker, or Taylor, who inculcates on or other outward establishments,-was once men the necessity and infinite worth of moral considered as embracing, and we are pergoodness, the great truth that our happiness suaded can at any time embrace but a fimited depends on the mind which is within us, and portion of man's interests, and by no means not on the circumstances which are without the highest portion. us; but a Smith, a De Lolme, a Bentham, who To speak a little pedantically, there is a chiefly inculcates the reverse of this,-that our science of Dynamics in man's fortunes and nahappiness depends entirely on external circum-ture, as well as of Mechanics. There is a scistances; nay, that the strength and dignity of ence which treats of, and practically addresses, the mind within us is itself the creature and the primary, unmodified forces and energies consequence of these. Were the laws, the of man, the mysterious springs of Love, and government, in good order, all were well with Fear, and Wonder, of Enthusiasm, Poetry, us; the rest would care for itself! Dissen- Religion, all which have a truly vital and infi tients from this opinion, expressed or implied, nile character; as well as a science which are now rarely to be met with; widely and practically addresses the finite, modified deveangrily as men differ in its application, the lopments of these, when they take the shape principle is admitted by all. of immediate "motives," as hope of reward, or as fear of punishment.
Equally mechanical, and of equal simplicity, are the methods proposed by both parties for completing or securing this all-sufficient perfection of arrangement. It is no longer the moral, religious, spiritual condition of the people that is our concern, but their physical, practical, economical condition, as regulated by public laws. Thus is the Body-politic more than ever worshipped and tended: but the Soul-politic less than ever. Love of country, in any high or generous sense, in any other than an almost animal sense, or mere habit, has little importance attached to it in such reforms, or in the opposition shown them. Men are to be guided only by their self-interests. Good government is a good balancing of these; and, except a keen eye and appetite for self-interest, requires no virtue in any quarter. To both parties it is emphatically a machine: to the discontented, a taxing machine;" to the contented, a "machine for securing property." Its duties and its faults are not those of a father, but of an active parish constable.
Now it is certain, that in former times the wise men, the enlightened lovers of their kind, who appeared generally as Moralists, Poets, or Priests, did, without neglecting the Mechanical province, deal chiefly with the Dynamical; applying themselves chiefly to regulate, increase, and purify the inward primary powers of man; and fancying that herein lay the main difficulty, and the best service they could undertake. But a wide difference is manifest in our age. For the wise men, who now appear as Political Philosophers, deal exciusively with the Mechanical province; and occupying themselves in counting up and estimating men's motives, strive by curious checking and balancing, and other adjustments of Profit and Loss, to guide them to their true advantage: while, unfortunately, those same "motives are so innumerable, and so variable in every individual, that no really useful conclusion can ever be drawn from their enumeration. But though Mechanism, wisely contrived, has done much for Thus it is by the mere condition of the ma- man, in a social and moral point of view, we chine; by preserving it untouched, or else by cannot be persuaded that it has ever been the re-constructing it, and oiling it anew, that chief source of his worth or happiness. Conman's salvation as a social being is to be in- sider the great elements of human enjoyment, sured and indefinitely promoted. Contrive the the attainments and possessions that exalt fabric of law aright, and without farther effort man's life to its present height, and see what on your part, that divine spirit of freedom. part of these he owes to institutions, to Mewhich all hearts venerate and long for, will of chanism of any kind; and what to the inherself come to inhabit it; and under her stinctive, unbounded force, which Nature healing wings every noxious influence will herself lent him, and still continues to him. wither, every good and salutary one more Shall we say, for example, that Science and and more expand. Nay, so devoted are we to Art are indebted principally to the foundthis principle, and at the same time so curi- ers of Schools and universities? Did not ously mechanical, that a new trade, specially Science originate rather, and gain advance. grounded in it, has arisen among us, under the ment, in the obscure closets of the Roger Ba name of "Codification," or code-making in cons, Keplers, Newtons; in the workshops of the abstract; whereby any people, for a rea- the Fausts and the Watts; wherever, and in sonable consideration, may be accommodated what guise soever Nature, from the first times with a patent code,-more easily than curious downwards, had sent a gifted spirit upon the individuals with patent breeches, for the peo-earth? Again, were Homer and Shakspeare ple does not need to be measured first. members of any beneficial guild, or made Poets by means of it? Were Painting and Sculp
To us who live in the midst of all this, and
ture created by forethought, brought into the | Purse sake, but for Conscience sake. Nay, world by institutions for that end? No; Sci- in our own days, it is no way different. The ence and Art have, from first to last, been the French Revolution itself had something higher free gift of Nature; an unsolicited, unexpected in it than cheap bread and a Habeas-corpus gift: often even a fatal one. These things act. Here, too, was an Idea; a Dynamic, not rose up, as it were by spontaneous growth, in a Mechanic force. It was a struggle, though the free soil and sunshine of Nature. They a blind and at last an insane one, for the infinite, were not planted or grafted, nor even greatly divine nature of Right, of Freedom, of Country, multiplied or improved by the culture or manuring of institutions. Generally speaking, they have derived only partial help from these: often have suffered damage. They made constitutions for themselves. They originated in the Dynamical nature of man, and not in his Mechanical nature.
Thus does man, in every age, vindicate, con sciously or unconsciously, his celestial birthright. Thus does nature hold on her wondrous, unquestionable course; and all our systems and theories are but so many froth-eddies or sand-banks, which from time to time she casts up and washes away. When we can drain the Ocean into our mill-ponds, and bottle up the Force of Gravity, to be sold by retail, in our gas-jars; then may we hope to comprehend the infinitudes of man's soul under for mulas of Profit and Loss; and rule over this too, as over a patent engine, by checks, and valves, and balances.
Or, to take an infinitely higher instance, that of the Christian Religion, which, under every theory of it, in the believing or the unbelieving mind, must be ever regarded as the crowning glory, or rather the life and soul, of our whole modern culture: How did Christianity arise and spread abroad among men ? Was it by institutions, and establishments, and well-arranged systems of mechanism? Not so; on the contrary, in all past and existing institutions for those ends, its divine spirit has invariably been found to languish and decay. It arose in the mystic deeps of man's soul; and was spread abroad by the "preaching of the word," by simple, altogether natural and individual efforts; and flew, like hallowed fire, from heart to heart, till all were purified and illuminated by it; and its heavenly light shone, as it still shines, and as sun or star will ever shine, through the whole dark destinies of man. Here again was no Mechanism; man's highest attainment was accomplished, Dynamically, not Mechanically. Nay, we will venture to say, that no high attainment, not even any far-extending movement among men, was ever accomplished otherwise. Strange as it may seem, if we read History with any degree of thoughtfulness, we shall find, that the checks and balances of Profit and Loss have never been the grand agents with man; that they have never been roused into deep, thorough, all-pervading efforts by any computable prospect of Profit and Loss, for any visible, finite object; but always for some invisible and infinite one. The Crusades took their rise in Religion; their visible object was, commercially speaking, worth nothing. It was the boundless, Invisible world that was laid bare in the imaginations of those men; and in its burning light, the visible shrunk as a scroll. Not mechanical, nor produced by mechanical means, was this vast movement. No dining at Freemasons' Tavern, with the other long train of modern machinery; no cunning reconciliation of "vested interests," was required here: only the passionate voice of one man, the rapt soul looking through the eyes of one man; and rugged, steel-clad Europe trembled beneath his words, and followed him whither he listed. In later ages, it was still the same. The Reformation had an invisible, mystic, and ideal aim; the result was indeed to be embodied in external things; but its spirit, its worth, was internal, invisible, infinite. Our English Revolution, too, originated in Religion. Men did battle, in those days, not for
Nay, even with regard to Government itself, can it be necessary to remind any one that Freedom, without which indeed all spiritual life is impossible, depends on infinitely more complex influences than either the extension or the curtailment of the "democratic interest?" Who is there that, "taking the high priori road," shall point out what these influences are; what deep, subtle, inextricably entangled influences they have been, and may be? For man is not the creature and product of Mechanism; but, in a far truer sense, its creator and producer: it is the noble people that makes the noble Government; rather than conversely. On the whole, Institutions are much; but they are not all. The freest and highest spirits of the world have often been found under strange outward circumstances: Saint Paul and his brother Apostles were politically slaves; Epictetus was personally one. Again, forget the influences of Chivalry and Religion, and ask, -what countries produced Columbus and Las Casas? Or, descending from virtue and heroism, to mere energy and spiritual talent: Cor tes, Pizarro, Alba, Ximenes? The Spaniards of the sixteenth century were indisputably the noblest nation of Europe; yet they had the Inquisition, and Philip II. They have the same government at this day; and are the lowest nation. The Dutch, too, have retained their old constitution; but no Siege of Leyden, no William the Silent, not even an Egmont or De Witt, any longer appears among them. With ourselves, also, where much has changed, effect has no wise followed cause, as it should have done: two centuries ago, the Commons' Speaker addressed Queen Elizabeth on bended knees, happy that the virago's foot did not even smite him; yet the people were then governed, not by a Castlereagh, but by a Burghley; they had their Shakspeare and Philip Sidney, where we have our Sheridan Knowles and Beau Brummel.
These and the like facts are so familiar, the truths which they preach so obvious, and have in all past times been so universally believed and acted on, that we should almost feel ashamed for repeating them; were it not that, on every hand, the memory of them seems to