« PreviousContinue »
gory traces the different stages of society with accuracy, from the relation of different voyagers; but we strongly mistrust those observers, who tell us of nations without any trace of religion. It is remarkable that this hafty decision very generally pccurs, where the acquaintance is flight, and the opinion has been often retracted after frequent visits.
The fact is only of importance in the history of the human mind : religion or infidelity would gain little by its establishment. Our author seems to have little respect for the patriarchal form of government; and, in his opinion, a strong argument against it is, that a state of anarchy generally preceded the feudal fystem.
But this mistake seems to have arisen from his not trac. ing the subject to its fource. We shall have another occasion to resume it; and it will appear probable that, if the patriarchal scheme is to be considered as the first form of government, it must have preceded the state of anarchy. It is pecu. liar to this scheme, that, in the earlier stages of population, it was the most obvious and most immediate preservation againit confusion. The practical improvement to be deduced from our author's reasoning is of great consequence, and is worth transcribing.
• As a corollary from the preceding Estay, it seems to follow, that improper means have usually been employed for the civilization of barbarous nations. Missionaries have been sent a. mong them, and schools have been erected for their instruction, without effect. They are found incapable of receiving abstract ideas, or attending to any chain of reasoning on moral or religious topics. It is of little purpose to give a literary education to a few of the children of savages, since it only serves to render them different from the reft of the community, and unfit for that stage of society in which they are engaged. A nation, it appears, must arrive at knowledge and civilization by proper gradations. The first application of which the mind seems cao pable, in a rude state, is to the mechanic arts, The introduc tion of these among uncivilized people will excite their curiosity and their emulation ; and the conveniencies procured by means of these arts will always be a sufficient recommendation of them. If, therefore, it be the object of any government, or public institution, to civilize and instruct a barbarous nation, let it not attempt to make divines and philosophers of the younger savages; let them be made carpenters, imiths, boatbuilders, wheel-wrights, &c. and let the females be taught to spin and to weave. The introduction of these arts will render the society stationary, and an application to agriculture will succeed.
• It is a fact now generally allowed, that Christianity can only be received by people whose minds are disciplined, and capable of more continued attention than savages generally are.
It is found
found by experience too, that the most successful teachers of Christianity among rude nations, are the enthusiastic and
pos pular. The oratory which is calculated to make an impreffion upon them, is inconsistent with taste and science ; nor are their minds sufficiently stayed and sedate for the cool regularity of established worship,'
The second Essay is on the Influence of Physical and Moral Causes on the human Mind.' The opinion of Montesquieu on this subject is now nearly exploded : the effect is flight or tranfitory, and may be eafily counteracted. Mr. Gregory's arguments are juft; but not fufficiently remarkable to induce us to select them.
Remarks on the History of Superstition' follow; but this is too extensive a subject for an Effay. The most remarkable circumstances, infifted on by our author, are polytheism, idolatry, divination and ordeal trials, facrifices, and the fabulpus tales of miraculous and terrific appearances.--The aua thor's account of these subjects is generally correct and satisface tory; but he does not seem aware, that in more than one in ftance he has followed the lively and excentric Voltaire. The following account is to be recommended for its judgment and exactness. It is not new, but an old acquaintance in an attractive and elegant attire.
• Another, perhaps better, solution of the difficulty may be fought for on principles already noted in these Etrays. It has been remarked, that the principle of barbarian justice is revenge. It is therefore probable, that, figuring the Deity like themselves, a sacrifice might be meant to appease his anger, as he could not be satisfied without some retribution. The Egyp, tians imprecated the fins of the people upon the head of the lacrificed beaft; which indicates that they originally meant him to suffer as a substitute for themselves. They also beat and mortified themselves during the sacrifice, which has little appearance
of a joyous ceremony in gratitude to Providence, or a convivial entertainment designed for the Gods.
Probably, on the idea of atonement, human facrifices pre. çeded every other. The nations which were extirpated by the Ifraelites used them, and we do not know that they used any other. This circumstance seems alluded to by one of the Jewish prophets, who, speaking in the character of a fuperftitious per
on, exclaims, “ Shall I give my first-born for my transgressions ? the fruit of my body for the fin of my soul :” The notion of vifiting the sins of the fathers upon the children seems intimately connected with this idea ; and that such a notion was universal in the remote periods of antiquity, we have every reason to believe.
• It has been already remarked, that human facrifices have been common, at one time or other, in every Pagan nation up,
on earth. The Magi who accompanied Xerxes, at a place call-* ed The Nine Ways, facrificed nine youths, and as many vir gins, afrer the Persian manner, burying them alive. Amestris: the wife of Xerxes, arriving at an advanced age, sacrificed in the same manner fourteen noble children to that God, who they fay is beneath the earth, The circumítances attending the per. formance of this horrid rite, in most nations, afford additional proof, that the original intent of sacrifice was to appease a malignant deity. We are well assured, that the o:casion was, in general, when some public calamity befel the nation; and one person was selected to bear the fins- or the misfortunes of the multitude. In Otaheite, on certain solemn days, the priest enters the morai, or temple, and, after staying some time, returns and informs the people, that the deity demands a human facrifice; he then indicates the person, who is immediately seized, and beaten till he is dead. This dangerous power, we may well suppose, is much abused by the prielts; and, to confirm it, the superstitious people are persuaded, that if the priests invoke the evil genius, he will kill, by sudden death, him whom they chuse to mark out as a victim. We may readily imagine in what manner, and by what means, the intentions of his infernal majefty are fulfilled.
• The first relaxation of this rigid branch of superstition is, when the exercise of it is confined to captives, or very inferior persons: beasts are afterwards substituted; and at last the gods are supposed to content themselves with an offering of the simple fruits of the earth,
· The confecration of particular persons to the Deity, feems to be only a refinement upon the practice of offering human sacrifices. I before had occasion to Thew, that the purest and most innocent persons were originally singled out as victims to the gods. The same refinement takes place in the confecration of living offerings, if I may be allowed the expression. As soon as the idea of pollution came to be an nexed to the intercourse of the sexes, it became a leading principle to dedicate to the gods the chalte and unpollutede'
The next Essay is on certain moral Prejudices : it is connected with the former, since they are both mental errors, though on different subjects. Mr. Gregory fufpects a poli. tical motive to have been the original source of many of these, particularly facrificing the immediate attendants of a king, on his death ; or even the voluntary burning of the widow, which the necessity of custom, some time since, had rendered indifpensable.
The fifth Essay contains, · Observations on the Effects of Civilisation, and the Character of the present Times.' In this Essay, the author does not in general appear either a bigotted enthusiast, or a splenetic satiriit. He examines with caution, and appreciates with justice. It is a melancholy re
mark, mark, but it is well founded, that 'no branches of learning have suffered so much neglect as those which concern human pature most; those which respect the mind of man, and the principles of moral conduct.' Science too undoubtedly declines, but not so much as our author suspects, and many superficial inquirers have asserted. It is fo generally diffused, that the progressive voice is almost lost in the number of claim. ants: these too, in each branch, are so numerous, that a man whose studies had been a few years intermitted, would scarcely recognise the objects around him. In this examination our author is a little too nacional. The flippancy and the tinsel of France are often mentioned; and French is almost exclud. ed from his course of education. This is a material error; and we should suspect that it arises from the moft illiberal source ; for not one French book is quoted, so far as we observe, in the whole volume ; and the author asserts, what a person acquainted with French would have known to have been unjuft, that every book of value is translated. In fact, every popular work is translated ; but books of value are not always popular. The tinsel of Sterne too is opposed to the clallic gold of Addison ; Sterne deserves a better character; not for his flippancy and ribaldry, but for his tenderness, his pathos, and his benevolente. Read his works again, fir, without prejudice, if poflible; let the heart, rather than the scrutinising eye of criticism be open, and we hope the genial fuffufion from the moistened cheek will blot this harsh sentence; that it may be seen no more.
The Invention of Language is the next object of his atten. tion; and the remarks on it are frequently curious, and generally satisfactory. We with our limits would allow us to examine them at greater length.
Alphabetical Writing' must have succeeded Language, and it follows the former Essay; but, in this, we perceive little added to the former stock.
• Miscellaneous Observations on the Female Sex’ are more valuable. They are distinguished as well for their candour and delicacy as for their judgment. Women, in our author's opinion, are not inferior in mental powers to men; but this decision should be received with some limitation. We mean not to reject the pretensions of the ladies, but the mental excellencies of each sex cannot be properly compared. The one certainly excels in fancy, spirit, and elegance; the other in strength, judgment, and application. Single instances cannot affect general rules; and the instances are so few, as rather to render the generality more striking. After examining the state of the female fex, in different periods, the author, with great reason, refers the common opinion respecting fe. male chastity, to the right of property; for while the woman was considered as a flave, chastity was in her a duty, which her lord required, while he ranged at liberty. This was undoubtedly the source of the opinion ; but it would have probably been loit in future ages, if it had not been supported by better arguments.
. In the present state, says our author, of society, I fee no means by which the fair sex may reasonably hope to escape the evils of domestic tyranny, but by extreme caution and forethought, in what hands they entrust the future happiness of their lives. Without presuming to lay down a system for their conduct, in a matter of fo much importance to themselves, a little knowledge of character has suggested a few hints, which may be serviceable in preventing improper connexions, and which, on chat account, a fense of duty will not allow me to suppress.
*If on any occasion the morals, as well the temper of the party, with whom a connexion is to be formed, ought to be reç garded, it is when the whole of temporal enjoyment and satisfaction is at stake. No vulgar maxim has proved more detrimental to female happiness, than," that a reformed rake makes the best of husbands.' In every instance that has fallen within my observation, the direct contrary has happened. For, in the first place, if the maxim were true, it is far from certain that matrimony will produce a reform. The vanity of an enamoured female may flatter her, that her amiable qualities will effect a reformation ; but experience tells us, that the reformation must go deeper than that which is only the momentary effect of an impetuous paffion; it must extend to the moral principle, to the whole mode of thinking. A rake is but another term for a sensualift, which in itself implies the quality selfish; he has been accustomed to facrifice the best interest of others to his personal gratification ; and there are more ways than one of trifling with the happiness of a fellow creature, Further, the libertine has acquired a despicable opinion of the sex, from conversing only with the depraved part of it: and we know that matrimonial tyranny usually originates from a contemptible opinion of the female sex. Lastly, in marrying a rake, there are many chances to one, that a woman marries a drunkard; and drunko enness is perhaps the only vice, that is never to be reformed. I might add, that without some notion of religion, morality has but an uncertain basis and what rake would be thought to ens tertain any respect for religion !
"I would not have the ladies fall into the opposite extreme, and to avoid a profligate take up with a bigot. Religious enthusiasm has a natural tendency to sour the temper: and the fanatic deriyes his morality nos from the mild and equitable precepts of