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It may be claimed, with the most entire confidence, that history is against Mr. Topp's theory. A single instance will illustrate the inexpugnable quarrel which subsists betwixt this philosophy and the facts of the world. Mr. Topp quotes Greece as an instance, showing that national character is the creation of external physical
He declares confidently that “the early Hellenes owed their wonderful political and intellectual development to their geographical position.” But Greece, like Scotland, stands where it did. Still as of old
The mountains look on Marathon,
The geographical conditions are unchanged; the same azure seas still girdle the same curving shores; the same soft air broods over the same brown plains; the same wild hills, with fringe of vines and crown of olives, still shelter the same green valleys. All physical conditions are unchanged; but the type of national character is utterly transfigured. Where Homer sang, and Plato speculated, and Phidias carved, and Demosthenes “shook the arsenal,” the bandit plunders, and the pashas, until driven out by the disgust of Europe, ruled. Greece, that tamed the pride of Xerxes, and broke the strength of Persia, has now to go begging at all the courts of Europe for a king. The land of Praxiteles has no art; the seas of Salamis have no navy; the descendants of Aristides and of Socrates are the cheats and blacklegs of Europe. And yet, the geographical position of Greece, and all its physical conditions, are exactly what they were three thousand years ago! Mr. Topp must be familiar with what Mill calls the “Method of Concomitant Variations.” Whatever phenomenon varies in any manner, whenever another phenomenon varies in some particular manner, is either a cause or effect of that phenomenon, or is connected with it through some fact of causation. By the inverse application of that “ method,” Mr. Topp's theory is proved to be worthless. National character and physical condition do not vary concurrently; therefore they are not related as cause and effect.
The visible facts of the world, moreover, are against Mr. Topp. Nothing can be plainer, from the mere face of the world, than that the relation betwixt, say, soil and civilisation, or betwixt physical condition and national character, are not constant. If they were, from the latitude and longitude of a country, its mean temperature, geology, &c., we should be able to deduce its political constitution,
its creed, its criminal statistics, the proportion of illegitimate births, &c. But we know this is not the case. For instance, the Swiss and the Dutch, at a hundred points of character are alike: they have the same sturdy independence, the same stubborn courage, the same tenacious industry, the same instinct of self-respecting freedom, the same capacity for self-government, and, to a great extent, the same religious creed. Yet, if we compare physical conditions, there is absolutely nothing in common betwixt them. What likeness is there betwixt the rich mud flats, the sluggish canals of Holland, and the snow-clad mountain peaks, the deep grooved valleys of Switzerland ? What affinity betwixt the low plains, ridged with watery highways, of the one, where above the very house roofs the scows and barges swim; and the frost-splintered peaks to whose bleakness the chalets cling, the deep snow-fed lakes, mirrors for the beetling snowclad summits above, of the other? If we take individuals instead of nations, Mr. Topp's theory breaks down yet more ignominiously. Are men always the creatures of their surroundings? Is every drunkard's child necessarily a drunkard? Must every boy born in Melbourne back slums, be of necessity a thief, and every girl a prostitute? We may not deny the influence of physical surroundings; but shall we consent to the doctrine of their absolute resistlessness ? Surely the nobler creed is that “man is man and master of his fate!" And certainly the every-day history of the world proves that the noblest souls of the race are often those who have been born in evil surroundings, but who have refused to be the slaves of circumstances; who have broken their “birth's invidious bar” and “ grappled with their evil fate;" and, by the discipline of this very conflict with adverse circumstances, they have won a strong-fibred will, a steel-like hardihood and courage which have made them kings amongst men.
The logic of our own consciousness, moreover,disproves this theory. How sure we are of inherent power over our own actions, of power to do or not to do! How deep and indestructible is the sense that the responsibility for our deeds, the guilt of our wrongdoing, knows no transfer. To talk of our acts being forced upon us by a power from without, of their being only links in a chain of inevitable causation, is a mere dance of idle words. For good or ill, the dread dignity of a self-determining will is ours. Man walks amongst the forces of nature a personal will, with an office, which, in a sense, is the image of the very office of God. He moves
amongst these forces a power above them, and having lordship over them; they are his ministers; he can put them into new conjunctions, and produce effects which, in a sense, are super-natural. Would all the forces of nature, would all the lines of causation which reach down out of eternity, apart from man, build a steamship? And in the world of morals, man has the same kingly endowment of self-determining will, a faculty that, amid the play of motives, has a royal power of choice and rejection, that can resist or consent. The seat and reason of all responsibility lie here; and shall we be juggled by any play of words, out of the deepest instinct of our nature, the sense of responsibility ? To quote some fine verses of Mr. Symonds, who is himself an Agnostic, but who, as the London Spectator puts it, is “too true a poet to regard morals as a department of physiology:" "
Blame not the times in which we live,
But blame thyself, O man.
Thou art thyself, O man !
Will blame but thee, O man! It may be added to all this, that the test of practical life proves he falsity of the theory that life is ruled by the rudest sort of pysical necessity. If the theory be true, it is practically so vicious tht in mere self-defence society has to ignore it. It has to act on th assumption that men's deeds are not necessary links in a chain of hysical causation, but voluntary deeds that might have been avoled, and that can be righteously punished. But who would thini of punishing a stone for falling through the air ?
Ti conclude: no one will deny that the character of a nation or an individual is the resultant of many complex forces-of soil anıclimate, of creed, of political condition, of social liberty; of forces tæt flow in from the lives of other men, that reach down out of histor, that come further still, out of eternity, and straight from the veryšpirit of God. All these play upon the human soul, the mysteriou self-acting life within. By what subtle tests shall we measure these mystic influences, and tell how much each
has contributed to the final result? But Mr. Topp and his school dismiss all the other factors in the problem, and take the group that is lowest and rudest of all—the group of physical influences, the forces that stream out of the physical soil, that float in out of the physical atmosphere; and they offer us these as the only forces worth taking into account! All other forces, they say, are only these more or less disguised.
A figure, perhaps, will best set forth the aspect this philosophy wears to many
of A flower in a conservatory is, like a human life, the meeting point and resultant of a thousand diverse forces. It is played upon by a thousand influences, raining upon it from all points of the compass. It has all sorts of relations, terrestrial, planetary and human. The heat of the sun nourishes it; the splintered and disintegrated rays of light stain it. The powers that converge upon it include the vital atmosphere; the laws of the flower's own nature; the human skill and care of the gardener; the electric forces that slumber in the soil; and, last of all, most ignoble of all-the manure heap. What should we say of a philosopher, who, called upon to explain the flower, should put on his spectacles, and ignoring all other causes, should solemnly sit down to meditate on the dung heap, as the original, sole, and all-sufficient cause and author of the flower? Mr. Topp's theory is an example of what—if the term may be used without offence—may be called this dung-cart philosophy; or of what Carlyle-with more point than politeness-calls the Gospel of Dirt !
W. H. FITCHETT.
THE CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT OF GREAT BRITAIN, EUROPE, AND THE
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
The September number opens with one of Mr. J. A. Froude's brilliant and incisive articles on Ireland. The opening sentence strikes the keynote :—“Seven hundred years have now passed since Henry the Second attached Ireland to the English Crown; for all those years successive English administrations have pretended to govern there; and, as a result, we saw in the last winter the miserable Irish people sending their emissaries, hat in hand, round the globe to beg for sixperces for God's sake, to save them from starving." Undeniably, then, the English have failed, and failed ignominiously, in trying to rule Ireland, and bad as any government might be that the Irish if separated from Great Britiain might establish for themselves, it " could hardly be worse than the impotent mockery with which the English connection has provided it.” And the secret of this failure? The secret, Mr. Froude affirms to be, that the English " have never given Ireland a firm, just, and consistent administration." Reviewing in his own masterly style the course of English government from the first, he draws the conclusion that another civil war is inevitable in Ireland if the policy adopted by the Gladstone Government shall be persevered in. A firm hand, rigorous justice, stern repression of all crime, and then revision of the land laws, are the sole means by which, in his opinion, that terrible alternative can be averted.
M. Leclaire, the eminent house decorator of Paris, introduced in 1842 the principle of division of profits with their workmen by employers. There are now forty-six industrial establishments in France, Alsace, and Switzerland alone, conducted on this principle. M. Leclaire was a real patriot and “saviour of society." Mr. Sedley Taylor, struck with what he had heard of the benefits resulting from this co-operative system, has recently visited M. Leclaire's estsblishment, and gives an extremely interesting account of what he saw there. In this direction, or in none, lies the only possible solution of the problem of reconciling the claims of capital and labour.
Lord Carnarvon writes sensibly and well on a cognate subject, namely, the plan of national insurance propounded by the Rev. Mr. Blackley. Without going the length of accepting the proposal, he contends that it is,