Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

to convulsion. In England this appeared at Run- | better, is to be suspected, through fear of disturb nymede in the reign of John, and in the subver- ance; because they depend upon authority, con sion of the pope's authority in the reign of Henry sent, reputation, and opinion, and not upon dethe Eighth. monstration; but arts and sciences should be like mines, resounding on all sides with new works and further progress."

When the spirit of reform has once been raised, its progress is not easily stayed. Through the ruins of Catholic superstition various defects were discovered in other parts of the fabric: and the 'people, having been spirit-broken during the reign of Henry, and lulled during the reign of Elizabeth, reform now burst with accumulated impetuosity. So true is the doctrine of Bacon, that, "when any of the four pillars of government are mainly shaken, or weakened, which are religion, justice, counsel, and treasure, men had need to pray for fair weather."

Such was the state of his mind upon entering into public life at the commencement of the parliament, which assembled on the 19th of March, 1604, when, having already made some progress in the king's affections, he was returned both for St. Albans and for Ipswich, which borough he elected to represent; and, at this early period, so great a favourite was he with the House, that some of the members proposed him as speaker.

On the 22d of March, the king first addressed the parliament, recommending to their consideration the union of the two kingdoms; the termination of religious discontents; and the improvement of the law.

The state of Bacon's mind at this period may be easily conceived. The love of order and the love of improvement, apparently not really opposed to each other, were his ruling passions: and his mode of improvement was the same in all science, natural or human, by experiment, and only by Upon the return of the Commons to the Lower experiment; by proceeding with the greatest cau- House, the storm commenced. Prayers had tion, and by remembering that, after the most scarcely been ended, and the House settled, when careful research, we may be in the greatest error: one member proposed the immediate considera"for who will take upon him, when the particulars tion of the general abuse and grievance of purwhich a man knows, and which he hath mentioned, veyors ;-the burden and servitude to the subjects appear only on one side, there may not lurk some of the kingdom, attendant upon the wardship of particular which is altogether repugnant: as if children;-the oppression of monopolies ;-the Samuel should have rested in those sons of Jesse abuses of the Exchequer, and the dispensation which were brought before him in the house, and of penal statutes. After this proposal, received should not have sought David, who was absent in by an expressive silence, another member called the field." He never presumed to act until he had the attention of the House to what he termed three tried all things; never used one of Briareus's hun-main grievances: the burden, charge, and vexadred hands, until he had opened all Argus's hun- tion of the commissaries' courts ;-the suspension dred eyes. He acted through life upon his of learned and grave ministers for preaching father's favourite maxim, "Stay a little, that we against popish doctrine;-and depopulations by may make an end the sooner." enclosure.

[ocr errors]

To consider these weighty subjects a select committee of the House was appointed, including Bacon as one of the members. This committee immediately entered upon their inquiries, and, so ready were the parties with their evidence, and so

the 26th Bacon made his report to the House of the result of their investigations.

This was his general mode of proceeding, which, when the experiment was attended with difficulty, generated more caution; and he well knew that, of all experiments, state alterations are the most difficult, the most fraught with danger. Zealous as he was for all improvement; believ-active the members in their proceedings, that on ing, as he did, in the omnipotence of knowledge, that "the spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith he searcheth the inwardness of all secrets;" and branding the idolaters of old times as a scandal to the new, he says, "It is good not to try experiments in states, except the necessity be urgent, or the utility evident: and well to beware that it be the reformation that draweth on the change, and not desire of change that pretendeth the reformation: that novelty, though it be not rejected, yet be always suspected; and, as the Scripture saith, 'that we make a stand upon the ancient way, and then look about us, and discover what is the straight and right way, and so to walk in it;' always remembering that there is a difference in innovations, between arts and civil affairs. In civil affairs, a change, even for the

The political discontent, thus first manifested, increased yearly under the reign of James, and having brought his son to the scaffold, continued till the combustible matter was dispersed. "Cromwell," it was said, "became Protector, because the people of England were tired of kings, and Charles was restored because they were weary of Protectors." Such are the consequences of neglecting gradual reform.

During the whole of the conflicts in the commencement of this stormy session, Bacon's exertions were unremitting. He spoke in every debate. He sat upon twenty-nine committees, many of them appointed for the consideration of the important questions agitated at that eventful time

[ocr errors]

was selected to attend the conferences of the privy| council; to report the result; and to prepare various remonstrances and addresses; was nominated as a mediator between the Commons and the Lords; and chosen by the Commons to present to the king a petition touching purveyors.

To his address, clothed in language the most respectful, yet distinctly pointing out what was expected by the people, the king listened with the patience due from a sovereign to his suffering and oppressed subjects; and instead of the displeasure felt by Elizabeth at his firm and honest boldness, he received it kindly, and replied to it graciously.

Many of his speeches are fortunately preserved: they are all distinguished for their fitness for the hearers and the occasion, their knowledge of affairs, and their pithy, weighty eloquence.

The king had hitherto continued to employ Bacon, in the same manner in which he had served the late queen; but he now thought fit to show him higher marks of favour than he had received from her majesty; and, accordingly, on the 25th of August, 1604, constituted him by patent his counsel learned in the law, with a fee of forty pounds a year, which is said to have been a grace scarce known before;" and he granted him the same day, by another patent under the great seal, a pension of sixty pounds a year, for special services received from his brother Anthony Bacon and himself.

66

It must not be supposed that either political altercations or legal promotions diverted his attention from the acquisition and diffusion of knowledge. He knew well the relative worth of politics and philosophy.

His love of knowledge was never checked, perhaps it was increased by his occupations in active life. "We judge," he says, "that mankind may conceive some hopes from our example, which we offer, not by way of ostentation, but because it may be useful. If any one therefore should despair, let him consider a man as much employed in civil affairs as any other of his age, a man of no great share of health, who must therefore have lost much time, and yet, in this undertaking he is the first that leads the way, unassisted by any mortal, and steadfastly entering the true path, that was absolutely untrod before, and submitting his mind to things, may somewhat have advanced the design." Politics employed, but the love of knowledge occupied his mind. It advanced like the river, which is said to flow without mingling her streams with the waters of the lake through which it passes.

During the vacation of this year, he escaped from exertions respecting the Union, to Eton, where he conversed on the subject of education with his friend, Sir Henry Saville, then provost of the college; to whom, upon his return, he wrote the following letter:

To Sir Henry Saville. Coming back from your invitation at Eton, where I had refreshed myself with company, which I loved; I fell into a consideration of that part of policy whereof philosophy speaketh too much, and laws too little; and that is, of education of youth. Whereupon fixing my mind a while, I found straightways, and noted, even in the discourses of philosophers, which are so large in this argument, a strange silence concerning one principal part of that subject. For as touching the framing and seasoning of youth to moral virtues, (as tolerance of labours, continency from pleasures, obedience, honour, and the like,) they handle it; but touching the improvement and helping of the intellectual powers, as of conceit, memory, and judgment, they say nothing, whether it were, that they thought it to be a matter wherein nature only prevailed, or that they intended it, as referred to the several and proper arts, which teach the use of reason and speech.

But for the former of these two reasons, howsoever it pleaseth them to distinguish of habits and powers; the experience is manifest enough, that the motions and faculties of the wit and memory may be not only governed and guided, but also confirmed and enlarged, by customs and exercise daily applied: as if a man exercise shooting, he shall not only shoot nearer the mark, but also draw a stronger bow. And as for the latter, of comprehending these precepts within arts of logic and rhetoric: if it be rightly considered, their office is distinct altogether from this point; for it is no part of the doctrine of the use or handling of an instrument, to teach how to whet or grind the instru ment, to give it a sharp edge, or how to quench it, or otherwise, whereby to give it a stronger temper.

Wherefore, finding this part of knowledge not broken, I have, but "tanquam aliud agens,” entered into it, and salute you with it; dedicating it, after the ancient manner, first as to a dear friend, and then as to an apt person; for as much as you have both place to practise it, and judgment and leisure to look deeper into it than I have done. Herein you must call to mind, "Apisov pèv idão. Though the argument be not of great height and dignity, nevertheless it is of great and universal use. And yet I do not see why, to consider it rightly, that should not be a learning of height which teacheth to raise the highest and worthiest part of the mind. But howsoever that be, if the world take any light and use by this writing, I will the gratulation be to the good friendship and acquaintance between us two. And so recommend you to God's divine protection.

With this letter he presented a tract upon "Helps to the Intellectual Powers," which contains similar observations upon the importance of knowledge and improvement of the body.

From these suggestions, the germ of his opi- | search of knowledge, and in the judgments it nions upon the same subject in the Advancement makes: yet the last resort a man has recourse of Learning, it appears that he considered the object of education to be knowledge and improvement of the body and of the mind.

[blocks in formation]

These subjects, considered of importance by Bacon, by the ancients, and by all physiologists, do not form any part of our university education. The formation of bodily habits, upon which our happiness and utility must be founded, are left to chance, to the customs of our parents, or the practices of our first college associates. All nature strives for life and for health. The smallest moss cannot be moved without disturbing myriads of living beings. If any part of the animal frame is injured, the whole system is active in restoring it: but man is daily cut off or withered in his prime; and, at the age of fifty, we stand amidst the tombs of our early friends.

At some future time the admonition of Bacon, *hat "although the world, to a Christian travelling to the land of promise, be as it were a wilderness, yet that our shoes and vestments be less worn away while we sojourn in this wilderness, is to be esteemed a gift coming from divine goodness," may, perhaps, be considered deserving at

tention.

to in the conduct of himself is his understanding. A few rules of logic are thought sufficient in this case for those who pretend to the highest improvement: and it is easy to preceive that men are guilty of a great many faults in the exercise and improvement of this faculty of the mind, which hinder them in their progress, and keep them in ignorance and error all their lives."

At some future period our youth will, perhaps, be instructed in the different properties of our minds, understanding, reason, imagination, memory, will, and be taught the nature and extent of our powers for the discovery of truth;-our different motives for the exercise of our powers;— the various obstacles to the acquisition of knowledge, and the art of invention, by which our reason will be "rightly guided, and directed to the place where the star appears, and point to the very house where the babe lies."

In the English universities there are not any lectures upon the passions; but this subject, deemed important by all philosophy, human and divine, is disregarded, except by such indirect information as may be obtained from the poets and historians; by whom the love of our country is taught perhaps, if only one mode is adopted, best taught in the midst of Troy's flames: and friendship by Nisus eagerly sacrificing his own life to save his beloved Euryalus: and with such slight information we are suffered to embark upon our voyage, without any direct instruction as to the tempests by which we may be agitated; by which so many, believing they are led by light from heaven, are wrecked and lost; and so few reach the true haven of a well ordered mind; "that temple of God which he graceth with his perfection and blesseth with his peace, not suffering it to be removed, although the earth be removed, and although the mountains be carried into the midst

of the sea."

At some future time it may be deemed worthy Bacon arranges knowledge respecting the mind of consideration, whether inquiry ought not to be into.

[blocks in formation]

made of the nature of each passion, and the harmony which results from the exact and regular movement of the whole.

In the fall of the year, Bacon expressed to the lord chancellor an inclination to write a history of Great Britain; and he prepared a work, inscribed to the king, upon its true greatness.

"Fortunatos nimium sua si bona norint."

by a few lectures, some meager explanations of In this work, in which, he says, he has not any logic, and some indirect instruction by mathe-purpose vainly to represent this greatness, as in matics upon mental fixedness, any information water, which shows things bigger than they are, imparted upon the nature or conduct of the understanding, and Locke might now repeat what he said more than a century ago: "Although it is of the highest concernment that great care should be taken of the mind, to conduct it right in the VOL. I—(7)

but rather, as by an instrument of art, helping the sense to take a true magnitude and dimension, he intended an investigation of the general truths upon which the prosperity of states depends, with a particular application of them to this island.

(E)

He has, however, only drawn the outline, and | but when they decayed in arms, then greatness filled up two or three detached parts, reserving the minute investigation of the whole subject for other works.

According to his usual method, he commences the tract by clearing the way, in the removal of some erroneous opinions, on the dependence of government upon extent of territory ;-upon wealth;-upon fruitfulness of soil;-and upon fortified towns. Each of these subjects it was his intention to have separately considered, but he has in this fragment completed only the two first sections.

To expose the error, that the strength of a kingdom depends upon the extent of territory, "Look," he says, "at the kingdom of Persia, which extended from Egypt to Bactria and the borders of the East, and yet was overthrown and conquered by a nation not much bigger than the isle of Britain. Look, too, at the state of Rome, which, when too extensive, became no better than a carcass, whereupon all the vultures and birds of prey of the world did seize and ravine for many ages; as a perpetual monument of the essential differences between the scale of miles and the scale of forces: and that the natural arms of each province, or the protecting arms of the principal state, may, when the territory is too extensive, be unable to counteract the two dangers incident to every government, foreign invasion and inward rebellion."

became a burden; like as great stature in a natural body is some advantage in youth, but is a burden in age; so it is with great territory which when a state beginneth to decline, doth make it stoop and buckle so much the faster."

And with respect to each part being profitable to the whole, he says, in allusion to the fable in Æsop, by which Agrippa appeased the tumult, that health of body and of state is promoted by the due action of all its parts, "Some provinces are more wealthy, some more populous, and some more warlike; some situate aptly for the excluding or expulsing of foreigners, and some for the annoying and bridling of suspected and tumultuous subjects: some are profitable in present, and some may be converted and improved to profit by plantations and good policy."

He proceeds with the same minuteness to expose the error, that the power of government consists in riches; by explaining that the real power of wealth depends upon mediocrity, joined with martial valour and intelligence.

The importance of martial valour and high chivalric spirit he avails himself of every opportunity to enforce. "Well," he says, "did Solon, who was no contemplative man, say to Crœsus, upon his showing him his great treasures, When another comes with iron he will be master of all your gold:' so Machiavel justly derideth the adage that money is the sinews of war, by saying, There are no sinews of war but the sinews and muscles of men's arms. "

6

[ocr errors]

Having thus generally refuted this erroneous opinion, he beautifully explains that the power of territory, as to extent, consists in compactness, So impressed was he with the importance of -with the heart sufficient to support the extremi-elevating the national character, that, three years ties;—the arms, or martial virtues, answerable to the greatness of dominion;-and every part of the state profitable to the whole. Each of these sections is explained with his usual extensive and minute investigation, and his usual felicity of familiar illustration.

With respect to compactness, he says, "Remember the tortoise, which, when any part is put forth from the shell, is endangered."

[ocr errors]

With respect to the heart being sufficient to sustain the extremities, "Remember, he says, "that the state of Rome, when it grew great, was compelled to naturalize the Latins, because the Roman stem could not bear the provinces and Italy both as branches; and the like they were contented after to do to most of the Gauls: and Sparta, when it embraced a larger empire, was compared to a river, which, after it had run a great way, and taken other rivers and streams into it, ran strong and mighty, but about the head and fountain was shallow and weak."

With respect to martial valour, "Look," he says, "at every conquered state, at Persia and at Rome, which, while they flourished in arms, the largeness of territory was a strength to them, and added forces, added treasure, added reputation:

before his death, he spoke with still greater energy upon this subject, in his treatise upon the Greatness of States. "Above all things," he says, "cultivate a stout and warlike disposition of the people; for walled towns, stored arsenals, goodly races of horses, chariots of war, elephants, ordnance, artillery, and the like, all this is but sheep in a lion's skin, unless the breeding and disposition of the people be warlike;" and, "as to the illusion that wealth may buy assistance, let the state which trusts to mercenary forces ever remember, that, by these purchases, if it spread its feathers for a time beyond the compass of its nest, it will mew them soon after;" and, in this spirit, he records various maxims to counteract the debasement of character attendant upon the worship of gold: and, above all, the evil of sedentary and within-door mechanical arts, requiring rather the finger than the arm: which in Sparta, Athens, and Rome, was left to slaves, and amongst Christians should be the employment of aliens, and not of the natives, who should be tillers of the ground, free servants, and labourers in strong and manly arts.

Such were the opinions of Bacon. How farthey will meet with the approbation of political econo

In every debate in this session he was the powerful advocate, in speeches which now exist, for the union of the kingdoms and the union of the laws; during which he availed himself, according to his usual mode, when opportunity offered, to recommend as the first reform, the reform of the law, saying, "The mode of uniting the laws seemeth to me no less excellent than the work itself; for if both laws shall be united, it is of necessity for preparation and inducement thereunto, that our own laws be reviewed and recompiled; than the which, I think, there cannot be a work that his majesty can undertake in these his times of peace, more politic, more honourable, nor more beneficial to his subjects, for all ages."

mists in these enlightened times, it is not neces- charge of the Commons respecting ecclesiastical sary in this analysis of his sentiments, to inquire. grievances. If he is in error, he may, in the infancy of the science of government, be pardoned for supposing that the national character would not be elevated by making sentient man a machine, or by those processes, by which bones and sinews, life and all that adorns life, is transmuted into gold. The bell by which the labourers are summoned to these many-windowed fabrics in our manufacturing towns, sweeter to the lovers of gain than holy bell that tolls to parish church, would have sounded upon Bacon's ear with harsher import than the Norman curfew. He may be pardoned, though he should warn us that in these temples, not of liberty, the national character will not be elevated by the employment of children, not in the temper of Him who took them in his arms, put his hands upon them and blessed them, but in never-ceasing labour, with their morals sapped and undermined, their characters lowered and debased. It is possible that if he had witnessed the cowering looks and creeping gait, or shameless mirth of these little slaves, he might have thought of Thebes, or Tyre, or Palmyra, and of the instability of all human governments, whatever their present riches or grandeur may be, unless the people are elevated by virtue.

Such, however, were his sentiments; and, even if they are erroneous, it cannot but be lamented that the only parts of this work which are completed and applied to Great Britain, are those which relate to extent and wealth. The remaining errors of fruitfulness of the soil, and fortified towns, are not investigated.

Having thus cleared the way by showing in what the strength of government does not consist, he intended to explain in what it did consist:

1. In a fit situation, to which his observations are confined.

2. In the population and breed of men.

3. In the valour and military disposition of the people.

4. In the fitness of every man to be a soldier. 5. In the temper of the government to elevate the national character; and,

6. In command of the sea: the dowry of Great Britain.

During the next terms and the next sessions of parliament, (1605, Æt. 45,) his legal and political exertions continued without intermission. Committees were appointed for the consideration of subsidies; of articles for religion; purveyors; recusants; restoring deposed ministers; abuses of the Marshalsea court, and for the better execution of penal laws in ecclesiastical causes. He was a member of them all; and, mindful of the mode in which, during the late session, he had discharged his duties as representative of the House, he was elected to deliver to the king the

In the midst of these laborious occupations he published his celebrated work upon "the Advancement of Learning," which professes to be a survey of the then existing knowledge, with a designation of the parts of science which were unexplored; the cultivated parts of the intellectual world, and the deserts; a finished picture, with an outline of what was untouched.

Within the outline is included the whole of science. After having examined the objections to learning; the advantages of learning;-the places of learning, or universities;-the books of learning, or libraries, "the shrines where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed;"—after having thus cleared the way, and, as it were, "made silence, to have the true nature of learning better heard and understood," he investigates all knowledge:

1st. Relating to the Memory, or History.
2d. Relating to the Imagination, or Poetry.
3d. Relating to the Understanding, or Philo
sophy.

Such is the outline: within it the work is mi-
nutely arranged, abounds with great felicity of
expression, and nervous language: but not con-
tenting himself, by such arrangement, with the
mere exhibition of truth, he adorned it with fa-
miliar, simple, and splendid imagery.

66

When speaking of the error of common minds retiring from active life, he says, " Pythagoras, being asked what he was, answered, that if Hiero were ever at the Olympic games, he knew the manner, that some came as merchants to utter their commodities, and some came to make good cheer, and some came to look on, and that he was one of them that came to look on; but men must know, that in this theatre of man's life, it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers-on." So, when explaining the danger to which intellect is exposed of running out into sensuality on its retirement from active life, he says, in another work, "When I was chancellor I told Gondomar, the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »