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ed of such an intention; on the contrary, they necessarily took for granted the instinctive and indestructible belief for which they found it so difficult to account. Their whole reasonings consist of an attempt to explain that admitted fact, and to ascertain the grounds upon which that belief depends. In the end, they agree with their adversaries that these grounds cannot be ascertained: and the only difference between them is, that the adversary maintains that they need no explanation; while the sceptic insists that the want of it still leaves a possibility that the belief may be fallacious, and at any rate establishes a distinction in degree between the primary evidence of consciousness, which it is impossible to distrust without a contradiction, and the secondary evidence of perception and memory, which may be clearly conceived to be erroneous.
To this extent, we are clearly of opinion that the sceptics are right; and though the value of the discovery certainly is as small as possible, we are just as well satisfied that its consequences are perfectly harmless. Their reasonings are about as ingenious and as innocent as some of those which have been employed to establish certain strange paradoxes as to the nature of motion, or the infinite divisibility of matter. The argument is perfectly logical and unanswerable; and yet no man in his senses can admit the conclusion. Thus, it can be strictly demonstrated, that the swiftest moving body can never overtake the slowest which is before it at the commencement of the motion; or, in the words of the original problem, that the swiftfooted Achilles could never overtake a snail that had a few yards the start of him. The reasoning upon which this valuable proposition is founded, does not admit, we believe, of any direct confutation; and yet there are few, we believe, who, upon the faith of it, would take a bet as to the result of such a race. sceptical reasonings as to the mind lead to no other practical conclusions; and may be answered or acquiesced in with the same good nature.
Such, however, are the chief topics which Dr Beattie has discussed in this Essay, with a vehemence of temper, and an impotence of reasoning, equally surprising and humiliating to the cause of philosophy. The subjects we have mentioned occupy the greater part of this Essay, and are indeed almost the only ones to which its title at all applies. Yet we think it must be already apparent, that there is nothing whatsoever in the doctrines he opposes, to call down his indignation, or to justify his abuse. That there are other doctrines in some of the books which he has aimed at confuting, which would justify the most zealous opposition of every friend to religion, we readily admit; but these have no necessary dependence on the general specula
tive scepticism to which we have now been alluding, and will be best refuted by those who lay all that general reasoning entirely out of consideration. Mr Hume's theory of morals, which, when rightly understood, we conceive to be both salutary and true, certainly has no connexion with his doctrine of ideas and impressions; and the great question of liberty and necessity, which Dr Beattie has settled, by mistaking, throughout, the power of doing what we will, for the power of willing without motives, evidently depends upon considerations altogether separate from the nature and immutability of truth. It has always appeared to us, indeed, that too much importance has been attached to theories of morals, and to speculations on the sources of approbation. Our feelings of approbation and disapprobation, and the moral distinctions which are raised upon them, are facts which no theory can alter, although it may fail to explain. While these facts remain, they must regulate the conduct, and affect the happiness of mankind, whether they are well or ill accounted for by the theories of philosophers. It is the same nearly with regard to the controversy about cause and effect. It does not appear to us that Mr Hume ever meant to deny the existence of such a relation, or of the relative idea of power. He has merely given a new theory as to its genealogy or descent; and detected some very gross inaccuracies in the opinions and reasonings which were formerly prevalent on that subject.
If Dr Beattie had been able to refute these doctrines, we cannot help thinking that he would have done it with more temper and moderation; and disdained to court popularity by so much fulsome cant about common sense, virtue and religion, and his contempt and abhorrence for infidels, sophists, and metaphysicians; by such babyish interjections, as fy on it! fy on it!-such triumphant exclamations, as, say, ye candid and intelligent !'--or such terrific addresses, as, ye traitors to human kind! ye murderers of the human soul!' vain hypocrites! perfidious profligates!' and a variety of other embellishments, as dignified as original in a philosophical and argumentative treatise. The truth is, that the Essay acquired its popularity, partly from the indifference and dislike which has long prevailed in England, as to metaphysical inquiries; partly from the perpetual appeal which it affects to make from philosophical subtlety to common sense; and partly from the accidental circumstances of the author. It was a great matter for the orthodox scholars of the south, who knew little of metaphysics themselves, to get a Scotch professor of philosophy to take up the gauntlet in their behalf. The contempt with which he chose to speak of his antagonists was the very tone which they wished to be adopted; and, some of them,
imposed on by the confidence of his manner, and some resolved to give it all chances of imposing on others, they joined in one clamour of approbation, and proclaimed a triumph for a mere rash skirmisher, while the leader of the battle was still doubtful of the victory. The book, thus dandled into popularity by bishops and good ladies, contained many pieces of nursery eloquence, and much innocent pleasantry it was not fatiguing to the understanding; and read less heavily, on the whole, than most of the Sunday library. In consequence of all these recommendations, it ran through various editions, and found its way into most well regulated families; and, though made up of such stuff, as we really believe no grown man who had ever thought of the subject could possibly go through without nausea and compassion, still retains its place among the meritorious performances, by which youthful minds are to be purified and invigorated. We shall hear no more of it, however, among those who have left college.
We turn with pleasure from Dr Beattie's philosophy to his poetry; though this is by no means of the highest order. There is a degree of tenderness and solemnity in some passages of the Minstrel, that recommend it irresistibly to all good minds; and some specimens of large and animated description, which belong to the higher order of poetry: but there is, in general, an air of feebleness and constraint, both in the diction and conception, that continually destroys the illusion of inspiration, and, instead of the fine enchantments of fancy, shows us the laborious artist, with all his scholastic tools about him, exhausting himself in vain efforts of imitation. There is throughout a miserable barrenness of invention, much disjointed and misplaced composition, and innumerable patches of silliness, pedantry, and vulgarity. His other poems are scarcely deserving of notice. The Battle of the Pigmics and Cranes is by far the best versified; and shows a freer use of poetical language than any of his other compositions. The Hermit is also very smooth and mellifluous; the odes and elegies are laborious reading; and the pieces in which he has aimed at pleasantry, are beyond all endurance abominable. The later editions of his poenis are improved by the omission of much trash; but a reader of any nerves must still look with horror on a volume, which may assail him on its opening with such verses as these.
A Spaniard reach'd the moon, upborne by geefe ;
Much fam'd the fhoe Jack Giant-killer wore ;
But modern verfemen mult e'en trudge on foot. It is as a writer of essays, critical and philological, that we think Dr Beattie most uniformly excellent. There is much acuteness, neatness, and delicacy in many of these performancs. They are written in a very pleasing and popular style; generally elegant, and always perspicuous and flowing. His judgment of authors is commonly correct and candid; his illustrations lively and amusing; and his praises bestowed with considerable elegance and felicity of expression. There is much more originality in those works, than in any of his other productions; and though occasionally feeble and affected, they entitle him, we think, to the praise of the most pleasing and ingenious writer on the Belles Lettres of his day. By an extraordinary fatality, they are less heard of than any of his other writings; and his reputation is commonly rested, we must think very injudiciously, upon performances, which must ultimately take their station in the third and fourth ranks of literary excellence.
ART. XIII. A Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, addressed to the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of Yorkshire. By W. Wilberforce Esq. 8vo. pp. 396. London. Cadell & Davies.
IT T is with very sincere pleasure, that we congratulate our readers on the final and complete triumph of the great cause, so often pleaded in this Journal; and which we have had the satisfaction of bringing forward, upon every lawful occasion, from the commencement of our undertaking to the present day. * Of late, indeed, conceiving that the merits of the question were sufficiently known, we have only noticed such new matter as occurred from time to time; and having thus followed the progress of the abolition historically, our labours would be incomplete were we to pass over the present opportunity of bringing this great subject once more before our readers, happily in its very last stage, and, we may be permitted to hope, for the last time. The interesting publication of Mr Wilberforce, the distinguished leader in the contest, was the last work of any note that appeared before its termination. As such, it claims our attention, preN 4
*See No. I. Art. XXI.
vious to the remarks with which we purpose to close our humble efforts in this department.
Mr Wilberforce has exhibited, in the shape of an address to his constituents, a very full and faithful view of the whole arguments which bear upon the question of the slave trade. He takes it up in Africa, and describes at length the evils which this nefarious traffic has entailed upon that continent. He examines minutely the grounds on which his adversaries have disputed the evidence of the abolitionists; exposes the misrepresentations which have enabled them to blind and to mislead the public upon these points; and shows, by a full discussion of the proof, not only that it preponderates on the side of abolition, but that, when rightly sifted, its whole weight lies there. By a similar examination of the evidence, relating both to the middle passage and the West Indian branch of the subject, he extends his conclusions to those points also; and handles, in detail, and with irresistible force, the various arguments, whereby the abolitionists prove, from the mouths of the slave traders themselves, that the prosperity of our marine, and the safety of our colonies, require the extinction of the traffic, as plainly as those common feelings of humanity and justice on which it has been a constant out
To affert that, in the course of this expofition, our author has not adduced many new arguments, or even many novel illustrations of his fubject, would be only to remind the reader, that Mr Wilberforce is here repeating in print what he has by his parlia mentary labours already laid before the country. We have learned thefe things from him upon former occafions, otherwise we should prize them for their novelty as much as for their importance. Yet great talents will every now and then throw new light, even upon topics which their own efforts had long ago rendered trite. And, fo much more inexhaustible is a man's genius than the most extenfive fubject to which he can apply it, that, when new facts and arguments are no longer to be found, after nineteen or twenty years of conftant difcuffion, we fhall find him ftriking out fome happy and unexpected view of the most familiar things. This we have frequently experienced in perusing the tract now before us. It not only gives a luminous ftatement of all the known arguments for the abolition, with a careful expofition of the evidence on both fides, but it contains feveral happy allusions and remarks, which diffuse a new light over fome of the best known parts of the question, and make us for a while forget that we had feen them before.
We confider this publication as valuable in another point of view. Mr Wilberforce is certainly one of the moft eloquent