« PreviousContinue »
SECOND SERIES, NO. XI.-WHOLE NO, XLIII.
THE PRIMITIVE STATE OF MANKIND.
An attempt to prove that the original or most ancient condition
of the human family was CIVILIZED, and not SAVAGE.
By Philip Lindsley, D. D., President of the University of Nashville, Tenneskee.
[Continued from Vol. IV., page 298.] I HAVE said that it can be proved from REASON, SCRIPTURE, and HISTORY, that the primitive state of the human race was civilized. I have shown how reason, prior to any investigation of facts, confirms the position, and how unreasonable is every other hypothesis. I have exhibited the scriptural aecount of man's creation; and exposed the absurdity of supposing that he could have proceeded from the hand of an infinitely wise, good and powerful Being, mature in his corporeal faculties, and yet destitute of mental furniture, or deficient in wisdom and intellect. Or, in other words, that he should have been formed only a full-grown infant ; and, in that helpless condition, have been left by his Creator to grope his way in this new world, friendless, ignorant, unprotected-without a guide or instructor to aid in the gradual development of his rational powers, and in the attainment of that knowledge and skill which his situation imperiously demanded from the beginning; and without which he must either soon have perished, SECOND SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. I.
or remained forever in a degraded and brutish condition. I have shown that Scripture, so far from countenancing any such representation of his original state and character, does directly and most clearly contradict it. I have rapidly sketched his early history, and brought under review the several facts recorded by the pen of inspiration calculated to illustrate this dark period of human society,-extending from the creation to the deluge. I have followed the same safe and infallible guide, from this second commencement of our wayward race, to the building of the tower of Babel: and in all this progress through the lapse and the revolutions of nearly eighteen centuries, we have discovered no trace of savage
the earth. All the data with which we are furnished, and all the analogical reasoning which these data suggest go to the establishment of the proposition, that man existed from the beginning in a state of civilization, with very many, if not all, of the arts and improvements which usually distinguish and adorn such a state; and that he continued in this state down to the period just specified. I have also shown it to be highly probable that, soon after the dispersion of mankind from the fruitful plains of Shinar, they began in many places to degenerate; that, while the arts flourished and extended along the banks of the Tigris, the Euphrates and the Nile-upon the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea—in the intermediate and adjacent countries—and perhaps far into India and the East—they were either totally or nearly lost by the numerous colonies which migrated, under inauspicious circumstances, into more barren, ungenial and inhospitable climes, especially where all future intercourse between the colonies and the parent stock was rendered difficult or impracticable. I have shown how easy it is for men to degenerate into savages; that this is a very natural process and of frequent occurrence;that we everywhere behold families and individuals, even in the midst of the most refined society, and within sight of our proudest institutions of science and noblest monuments of art, ignorant, degraded and removed but a single step from the savage of the wilderness; that it requires the constant care and studious discipline of parents and teachers for many years, to train up children to habits of industry, good order and common civility of deportment,-to make them respectable farmers, mechanics and tradesmen ; much more to imbue their minds with science and literature, to qualify them for distinction and eminence in the liberal arts and professions, and for all the various walks and departments of honorable life and elegant pursuit, which are supposed to be worthy of the ambition of the most exalted genius.
Let children grow up without any portion of this culture, and they will be but little the better or wiser for having been born in a land of light and knowledge. In this respect, the son of a philosopher is on a level with the son of a beggar; and, a priori, it is just as likely that the child of a Cherokee warrior should become, under the same or similar advantages of education, an ornament to the republic of letters, as it is that the child of the President of the United States should be thus distinguished. Cæteris paribus, it is education alone that constitutes the difference between one individual and another. And this same tedious, painful process of tuition and training must be repeated with every generation. Wherever it is relaxed or intermitted, there will appear a corresponding declension or degeneracy. Knowledge cannot be inherited, like property. And none of us will ever be the wiser for the attainments of our ancestors, though we could number in the proud catalogue all the Bacons and Aristotles that have ever lived, unless we pursue a similar laborious course of study and self-cultivation in order to reach the same eminence. All this is sufficiently obvious; though seldom taken into the account by those who speculate on the subject of human improvement.
There is no golden or royal road to science; and yet, some how or other, we are constantly deluding ourselves with the fancy, that, as the world grows older, it must become wiser. That every new generation commences where the former left off, and has nothing to do, but to add to the stock already acquired. In one sense, this is true. It is certainly easier to travel in a beaten path than to discover or strike out a new
It is easier to master a well-digested system of science than to contrive or invent a different or a better. And when an ardent, gifted, talented, enterprising individual shall have mastered what is known, he may possibly advance into the unknown, and contribute something to the general or common fund of human knowledge. But then he must first go through the drudgery of an apprenticeship. He must labor hard, and labor long, in order to become initiated in the profound mystem ries which have exercised the wit and occupied the lives of those who have gone before him. How few, after all, have ever comprehended the science of a Newton--much less improved or enlarged it! How few, among the thousands of erudite and accomplished scholars of modern times, can be named with Sir William Jones in the field of universal literature! And upon whom has fallen the mantle of the recently departed Davy, and Cuvier, and La Place, and Bowditch?
Now this train of remark will apply to every degree of excellence, in every department of knowledge, and to every art and vocation of common life. It shows at once the difficulty of keeping the world up to the mark (if I may so express it,) which it has actually reached, and the facility with which it may
recede or decline from it. And were it not for the art of printing (but recently invented), which perpetuates and widely diffuses every novel discovery and improvement; and which has rendered the vast stores of ancient literature and science easily accessible to all; our own age might have witnessed as barbarous a neglect of the philosophers of the last, as those of Babylon and Egypt and Greece were successively doomed to experience.
I have said that it is impossible for men in a savage state ever to advance, by their own unassisted efforts, to civilization and refinement. The history of every savage tribe, from the most remote ages in which savage life has been known to the present moment, bears testimony to the fact. It is now more than 300 years since Columbus discovered our own continent:but the American savages are, at this day, as distant from civilization as they were when the white man first began to encroach upon their forests, and to exhibit to their view the conveniences and comforts of European art and industry. And, in any case, where they have been tamed, enlightened and civilized, it has been owing to the persevering discipline and culture of the benevolent Christian missionary and teacher, who have generously devoted years to this philanthropic object. In general, too, they have succeeded only with the children of the savage; and that by withdrawing them wholly from their native associates, and by educating them precisely as other children are educated. In all the regions of the old world which are known ever to have been inhabited by barbarous and savage tribes, but which are now civilized and polished, it is easy to show from whence, in what way, and at what period, they severally received the arts and polish of civilized