« PreviousContinue »
individuals ? Nay sometimes, it is to be feared, the whole species is hated for the faults of a single person. But could not the evils arising from the faults of one, or a few, be repaired without totally abandoning the world, and deserting its interests ? If the misanthrope will make an induction, and draw a general conclusion from particular instances, let him open his eyes to the good which the generality of men are sincerely desirous of promoting; I will venture to say, that he would discover enough to make him, with no worse reasoning than he uses for the ground of his hatred, regard the human species as an object of universal love.
11. Our next business after exposing the Fallacies of Misanthropy, is to point out the mischiefs with which it is attended. Many indeed have already appeared, whilst we were speaking of hatred in general, and of the nature of misanthropy in particular, (Art. 31. part 1. Art. 3. part 2.) yet others may be worth mentioning.
Excessive blame of persons and actions, defeats itself; men see its injustice, and resist it, as they would oppression, cruelty, or ingratitude. And not only the mild and candid do this, but the vicious see the advantage which opens upon them: they venture to become professed advocates for vice ; and they are much more specious, and powerful, and therefore much more dangerous, on account of the unreasonable severity of their adversaries.
12. Misanthropy has a pernicious influence on public or social happiness. It disqualifies men for the hurry and bustle of public life ; for the unmeritted blame and opposition which all must expect to encounter, who exercise authority. It indisposes men to act with such as are apt to push themselves into power ; that is, with the generality; and, what is the worst part of the matter, it disqualifies and indisposes those men who have the most moral feeling; who are the most likely to be above perversion and corruption ; and to apply their influence, according to the true intent and meaning of the Trusts committed to them; without falshood, fraud, or any manner of deception, or duplicity. Nor must it be said, that the temper here described is uot so much a
constant state of mind, as the temporary effect of occa. sional dejection ; that would only lead us to observe, that the man who has a tendency to contract an aversion to his species, is more apt to fall into fits of dejection than others are. This is true. 'He sees, that whatever is accounted valuable becomes, by the eagerness with which it is snatched at, a matter of illiberal contention and skirmishing; or of artful trigue and plotting: this he feels to be beneath the dignity of Virtue. Or if he can prevail upon himself to go so far as to enter into competition, he feels his hopes of esteem and honour blasted by malicious slander. Conscious that he de. serves something much more encouraging, he is dispirited, and retires to meditation and solitude ; but this does not send him back to the world, though dissatisfaction on quitting it is one of his torments. This dissatisfaction conspiring with those feelings which occasioned his retirement, generates, by degrees the fixed temper of misanthropy; and then only one step remains; which is, to believe that hating the wicked race to which he belongs, is Virtue. Virtue has always been the object of his pursuit : so long as he thought virtue consisted in resisting with firmness all prevailing corruptions, he sustained the conflict; but when it appeared to him to be perfected by hatred of men ; the case became desperate ; all motives
to make himself useful lost their power and energy. Thus misanthropy does harm to the public by depriving it of those services which would be the most beneficial, the consequence of which must be, opening the avenues to power for those who have little or no moral feeling; who consider public trusts only as instruments of their ambition and rapacity.
13. Misanthropy is hurtful to that private good which is independent of Government and authority. The way to promote private happiness is to explore all the sources from which it seems likely to spring; to make experiments, and correct and improve them from time to time, On disappointment and failure, to find those remedies which the Author of Nature has provided ; and to combat our feelings by enlarged views of general good, as opposed to that good or evil which is partial ; to retain also the activity and elasticity of the mind, by which, after being depressed, it returns to its wonted shape and tone. Now the man who abandons bimself to sentiments of disgust and aversion towards his species, deprives himself of every one of these expedients: he takes no pains to examine the various circumstances from which human happiness may be derived : He never is employed by any such principle as the hope of good, and never regulates any rude trials made for the purpose of producing it. If he cannot at once enjoy what he fixes his heart upon, be will enjoy nothing : In this his example is of pernicious tendency: submission and resignation are made for man; and if they are genuine, leave the mind at liberty to find and pursue new resources. But the man-hater is too sullen to look about for those treasures of happiness which are diffused through the world; he sees not that when one mine is exhausted, there are numberless others unopened and untouched; he reflects not, that alacrity and address in quitting one expedient and flying to another; in bringing nearer to him the more distant sorts of good ; in extracting from what is within his reach all. possible enjoyment, would entirely prevent his ever being destitute of happiness. He takes for granted that which he can never know, that the good he now enjoys, or may enjoy, is inferior to that which he regrets. In such a state, his mind is so enfeebled as to lose its spring, and fall into habitual inactivity.
14. An evil which is of a growing nature, must he estimated as greater on that account. And misanthropy grows with age. Indeed every man, who attends to the nature of Duties, grows more clear and ready in discerning them, as he grows older; is more struck with deviations from them ; feels more surprised that any thing so plain, depending only on common sense, should be so frequently missed; and therefore, if there were nothing to counteract this, and if perfection were always deemed indispensable, every man would perceive fastidiousness to grow upon him, and the circle of those. whom he loved and esteemed to become continually narrower; but if a man with encreasing age retains his health and his benevolence, he finds fastidiousness re
strained by increasing candour, aud the circle of the objects of his esteem and love even enlarged, by the enlargements of his views and opinions. Youth is fre- w quently indignant and intolerant ; but the man who has observed things carefully, comprehends the great variety of principles upon which different persons act; sees how men equally well-meaning rashly blame each other ; watches the manner in which error and vice creep into the mind unperceived ; is able to discover in men unthinkingly condemned, good qualities, which make them on the whole equal in worth to those who presume to be their judges. Now misanthropy heightens the strictness and fastidiousness here described, and checks the growth of the candour by which it should be tempered.-a progression of sentiment that must greatly interupt those mutual regards, upon which the pleasing and useful intercourse of mankind chiefly depends.
15. Amongst the mischiefs of misanthropy there is no reason why we should omit such as the man-hater brings upon himself; although they may be more merited than such as he brings upon others. The mind of man is always restless and uneasy when deprived of the exercise of benevolence. He therefore who liates mankind, must feel himself under confinement of a very irksome and vexatious sort. He is continually tending towards a pleasing object, which his malignant passions will not suffer him to embrace. Shame, obstinacy, illhumour, prevent his owning his uneasiness, and therefore his rescuing himself from it; though their influence upon his mind, and his secret consciousness of it, aggravate his slavery, and make his fetters more galling Moreover, his temperainent is such, that all the different kinds of malevolent sentiments take fire in his breast, and mutually inflame each other; so as to overpower all resistance from reason and conscience. Hence it is at one time anger which appears as the immediate *cause of his excesses; at another time jealousy; though neither of them would have appeared at all had not his mind been previously heated.“ Impelled
Impelled by this variety of malevolent passions, he runs into difficulties, from which he is never afterwards perfectly free; his want of self-government is so plainly seen, that'snares are laid
for him ; he is artfully exasperated, and becomes the dupe of men much inferior to himself both in understanding and morals: ensnared and entangled, he looks around him for friendly assistance: and friends he may find; more easily than he can rid himself of his suspicions, and his prejudices against them. But I fear it sometimes happens, that the securities and the sacrifices to his humours, which he suggests, revolt the most friendly; and their coolness must encrease his irritation. Deprived of the attentions of the most benevolent and disinterested, what can be his resources? It is well if the indulgence of some depraved passion or appetite do not grow upon him : there is but too much reason to dread the brutal stupidity of solitary intemperance. Nay when such indulgence permits any intervals of sen. sibility, máy he not make his own destruction the prin. cipal subject of his gloomy deliberations ?
16. But let us now, in the fourth and last place, en. deavour to propose some remedies for the evils which we have enumerated. In all mental disorders, remedies must first be applied to the Understanding, and afterwards to the heart and affections. For though the weak arguments used to justify the irregular indulgence of passion are frequently more the work of feeling than of reason, yet it always happens, that when the affections are in disorder, some important truths are overlooked and nego lected. In the disorder called misanthropy the following may serve as instances ;
Virtue in all men is imperfect; it consists of rules gradually brought to light by experience; and that experience is imperfect amongst the wisest, and extremely defective amongst the less informed. Iinprovement may be an object of our hope; but perfection is beyond our ken. Hence we must expect to find in different men different degrees of knowledge respecting duties, even where there is not any opposition of opinions, or any faulty intention. Such imperfection requires inindulgence, both for the ignorant and enlightened. And particularly for the enlightened when acting to. wards the ignorant; for your duties to any man depend not only on your own notions, but on his.' Yoù are not to trust a savage as you would a civilized person of good