Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Another thing apparent in a record of changed opinions would be what I have noticed before, that there is scarcely any such thing in the world as simple conviction. It would be amusing to observe how reason had, in one instance, been overruled into acquiescence by the admiration of a celebrated name, or in another, into opposition by the envy of it; how most opportunely reason discovered the truth just at the time that interests could be essentially served by avowing it; how easily the impartial examiner could be induced to adopt some part of another man's opinions, after that other had zealously approved some favorite, especially if unpopular, part of his; as the Pharisees almost became partial even to Christ, at the moment that he defended one of their doctrines against the Sadducees. It would be curious to see how a respectful estimate of a man's character and talents might be changed, in consequence of some personal inattention experienced from him, into depreciating invective against him or his intellectual performances, and yet the railer, though actuated solely by petty revenge, accounted himself, all the while, the model of equity and sound judgment. It might be seen how the patronage of power could elevate miserable prejudices into revered wisdom, while poor old Experience was mocked with thanks for her instruction: and how the vicinity or society of the rich, and, as they are termed, great, could perhaps transmute a soul that seemed to be of the stern consistence of the early Roman republic, into the gentlest wax on which Corruption could wish to imprint the venerable creed, “The right divine of kings to govern wrong," with the pious and loyal inference of the flagrant iniquity of expelling Tarquin. I am supposing the observer to perceive all these accommodating dexterities of reason; for it were probably absurd to expect that any mind should itself be able, in its review, to detect all its own obliquities, after having been so long beguiled, like the mariners in a story which I remember to have read, who followed the direction of their compass, infallibly right as they could have no doubt, till they arrived at an enemy's port, where they were seized and made slaves. It happened that the wicked captain, in order to betray the ship, had concealed a large loadstone at a little distance on one side of the needle.

On the notions and expectations of one stage of life, I suppose all reflecting men look back with a kind of contempt, though it may be often with a mingling wish that some of its enthusiasm

of feeling could be recovered, -I mean the period between childhood and maturity. They will allow that their reason was then feeble, and they are prompted to exclaim: What fools we have been,– while they recollect how sincerely they entertained and advanced the most ridiculous speculations on the interests of life, and the questions of truth; how regretfully astonished they were to find the mature sense of some of those around them so completely wrong; yet in other instances what veneration they felt for authorities for which they have since lost all their respect; what a fantastic importance they attached to some most trivial things; what complaints against their fate were uttered on account of disappointments which they have since recollected with gayety or self-congratulation; what happiness of Elysium they expected from sources which would soon have failed to impart even common satisfaction; and how certain they were that the feelings and opinions then predominant would continue through life.

If a reflective aged man were to find at the bottom of an old chest, where it had lain forgotten fifty years, a record which he had written of himself when he was young, simply and vividly describing his whole heart and pursuits, reciting verbatim many recent passages of the language sincerely uttered to his favorite companions, would he not read it with more wonder than almost any other writing could at his age inspire? His consciousness would be strangely confused in the attempt to verify his identity with such a being. He would feel the young man, thus introduced to him, separated by so wide a distance of character as to render all congenial communion impossible. At every sentence he might repeat, Foolish youth! I have no sympathy with your feelings, I can hold no converse with your understanding. Thus you see that in the course of a long life a man may be several moral persons, so various from one another, that if you could find a real individual that should nearly exemplify the character in one of these stages, and another that should exemplify it in the next, and so on to the last, and then bring these several persons together into one society, which would thus be a representation of the successive states of one man, they would feel themselves a most heterogeneous party, would oppose and probably despise one another, and soon separate, not caring if they were never to meet again. The dissimilarity in mind between the two extremes, the youth of seventeen and the sage of seventy, might perhaps be little less than that in countenance; and as the one of these contrasts might be contemplated by an old man, if he had a true portrait for which he sat in the bloom of life, and should hold it beside a mirror in which he looks at his present countenance, the other would be powerfully felt if he had such a genuine and detailed memoir as I have supposed. Might it not be worth while for a self-observant person in early life, to preserve for the inspection of the old man, if he should live so long, such a mental likeness of the young one? If it be not drawn near the time, it can never be drawn with sufficient accuracy.

From Letter VII., «On a Man's Writing

Memories of Himself.”

FRANÇOIS MARIE CHARLES FOURIER

(1772-1837)

DOURIER was one of the most remarkable and influential men

of the nineteenth century. In spite of extravagances which

completely discredited him among orthodox economists, he made himself the leader of a world-wide movement for radical changes in existing economic and social conditions. The Civil War in America was largely due to the insistence of his disciples that reform must be immediate, regardless of all considerations of convenience and inconvenience. To the mysticism of Swedenborg and the extravagances of the most radical political reformers, Fourier joined faculties which, when he employs them, often give his logic the severity of Mill. It is said that he was prompted to begin his career as a political writer by seeing a ship's cargo of rice thrown overboard and destroyed as a means of raising the price. He was born April 7th, 1772, at Besançon, France, where his father was a draper. He began life as a chasseur in the French army, but after two years he was discharged on account of ill health. His life for many years subsequently was passed “in subordinate capacities in commercial houses.” In 1808 his « Theory of the Four Movements and of General Destinies » appeared as the beginning of his attempt to reorganize society. It was followed by « The New Industrial and Social World” and “False Industry, constituting together a complete exposition of Fourier's ideas and methods. Instead of competition in trade and production, he proposed «phalansteries organized for profit-sharing. While this produced a notable effect in disturbing conditions then existing, it is much less important practically than the ideas of essays in which Fourier treats single phases of what he finds most objectionable in the world as it is. When he thus restricts himself, his mysticism frequently disappears altogether, and he is severely practical. It is perhaps true that like a much greater thinker — Auguste Comte — he was at times wholly incapable of controlling the operations of his own mind, but when he is at his best his writings display phenomenal force and considerable attractiveness of style. He died October 8th, 1837. .

SPOLIATION OF THE SOCIAL BODY

IN AN age which has carried economy even into the minutest I details, substituting chickory for coffee, and making other

savings which serve only to favor the impositions of tradesmen and to annoy consumers, who can hardly obtain pure and good articles at any price,- in an age so mean and parsimonious, how is it that no one has remarked that the chief economy should be economy of hands, economy of intermediate agents, who might be dispensed with, but who are so abundant in unproductive departments like that of commerce ?

I have already observed that it is frequently our custom to employ a hundred persons in functions which, in Association, would require but two or three, and that after the seventh social Period, twenty men will suffice the markets of a city to which we now send a thousand. In respect to industrial organization, we are as unenlightened as nations ignorant of the use of the mill, and which employ fifty laborers to crush the grain which is ground among us by a single machine. Everywhere the superfluity of agents is frightful; in all commercial operations the number is at least four times larger than is requisite. Since the reign of free competition, we see tradesmen swarming even in our villages. Peasants renounce agriculture to become peddlers; if they have only a calf to sell, they go and spend days in town, idling about markets and public houses.

In cities like Paris, there are as many as three thousand grocers, where three hundred would amply suffice. The profusion of agents is the same in the smallest towns; those which are visited now in course of the year by a hundred commercial travelers and a hundred peddlers were not visited, perhaps, in 1788 by more than ten; yet at that period there was no lack of either provisions or clothing, and at very moderate prices, though tradesmen were less numerous by a third than at the present day.

This multiplicity of rival tradesmen drives them constantly to the adoption of measures the most foolish, and the most ruinous to the community; for superfluous agents, like monks, being consumers and not producers, are spoliators of the social body. It is now admitted that the monks of Spain, the number of whom is estimated at five hundred thousand, might produce enough, if

« AnteriorContinuar »