Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

East lives in the memories of the past, the West is the stage of action at this present. We are no longer exclusively beholden to the records of Greece or Rome for standard examples of intellectual or moral greatness. We may boldly compare Shakespeare with Homer, or Newton with Archimedes, or Bacon with Aristotle, and the comparison need not be confined to these. In deeds of noble daring we do not concede the palm. To go no further back than the late war: we may set it over against the proudest achievements of ancient chivalry. The battle of the Alma may well be matched with that of the Granicus; the field of Balaklava may vie with that of Marathon; and the heights of Inkerman are more glorious than the passes of Thermopylæ. But courage, it may be said, is the constitutional virtue of the soldier. What shall we say then of the undaunted charity of him who voluntarily sacrificed his life to bind up the wounds of his enemies. Two whole burning days and freezing nights did the Armysurgeon Thompson pass alone among the dying Russians on the blood-stained banks of the Alma. To match such a deed as this, we should search in vain the records of antiquity. But neither in ancient nor modern story can we parallel the unsurpassable grandeur of the self-immolation displayed on board the sinking Birkenhead. You are all, no doubt, familiar with this noble manifestation of British fortitude, which braves death in the discharge of duty. The ship Birkenhead was engaged to carry troops to the Cape of Good Hope. When near the termination of her voyage, she struck on a rock at some distance from the coast of Southern Africa. In a short time it was ascertained that nothing could save the ship. She was fast sinking. The boats were all launched, and drawn up alongside the vessel. Did the soldiers, the strong men, breaking loose from all discipline in the face of impending death, rush forward and each for himself struggle to secure the best place he could in the nearest boat. Life was sweet, and why should he not make an effort to save it? No, that was not the way the British soldier acted. The women and children were placed deliberately and carefully on board the boats by their illustrious leader, Major Seaton, and sent off for the main land, while the men fell into their ranks on deck, as if on parade ground; thus silent, collected and undismayed, they stood, while the ship was slowly settling down. Unflinchingly they met their self-imposed doom. So these men died, neither urged on by some fanatical conviction, nor in the excitement of the battle field, nor in the presence of admiring multitudes of sympathizing spectators, but far away beyond the sight of men, on the solitary bosom of the ocean, the wide horizon unbroken by a single sail or speck of life. Under His all-seeing eye alone, while the grave opened to receive them, they gave back this practical answer to their country's watchword, England expects that every man will do his duty. Whole armies are not equivalent to such a deed as this. So long as English History shall be read—so long as the English language shall be spoken-so long as the name of England shall be heard, the glory of this deed will not grow dim; and so long as true greatness is held in honour among men, the moral grandeur of this self-sacrifice will never be forgotten. Now, a nation which can claim such men, and glory in such achievements, requires not to be stimulated by the examples of the illustrious men of other nations, or by the records of departed greatness. The Englishman can find in the poetry, oratory, literature, and science of our time, patterns of excellence which cannot be surpassed. In the noble deeds of men, whose names as household words are familiar to our ears, he will behold examples as bright and glorious as any that are to be found in classic legend or modern story.

But to return from this digression. There are other and more pressing considerations which will suggest to you, and to many others as well, the direction you ought in prudence to give to your reading. Just observe the change that is rapidly taking place in the standing and emoluments of what are called, by courtesy, the learned professions in this country. Take the Church, for example, and I am now looking at it not as a religious institution, but simply as a profession. What startling but faithful pictures do the columns of The Times for the last few weeks disclose, of clerical starvation and surpliced destitution. The working clergy of the Church of England are fast lapsing into the original poverty, but not the primitive dignity, of the early Christian fathers, and the worst feature of the case, what renders a remedy to this state of things hopeless, is this, that for every wretched piece of preferment as it is called, there are fifty applicants. Why? you can hire a curate for less than you can a ploughman or

a blacksmith. The labourer is worthy of his hire, and a labourer's wages he receives. Again, look at the condition of the Bar. It is stated, apparently on official authority, “ that there are no less than 40 sets of chambers now to let in the Middle Temple, and that the entries of students are about one-fifth of what they were 10 years ago. The calls to the Bar have fallen to a mere nothing,* compared with what they were formerly. Whereas, the Middle Temple used to call a few

years ago from 120 to 130 a year, 20 is now about the average, and even this number shows symptoms of decrease.” If this statement be true, and I have no reason to doubt the authority of the Globe newspaper, which asserts it, the profession of the Bar, so far as it concerns the great body of the public, may be said to be extinct. There is no good citizen whose views extend beyond the present moment that will not regret this weakening of an honourable and high-minded profession, the great assertor of our national liberties, when those liberties had not as yet been placed on their present apparently secure basis. The medical profession is very little better. The physician of fifty years ago, his guinea fee and handsome carriage, are become scarce; the surgeon is rarely met with now out of large cities; the apothecary is fast disappearing. We may all of us soon say with Romeo in the play, “I do remember an apothecary.” The general practitioner becomes the sole representative, and inherits the callings of all three, “ tria juncta in uno,” he prescribes, compounds, and operates. Thus the old established professions are starved by the multitudes which are crowded together in them, and are still crowding into them. While that vast variety of industrial employments, those unnamed and unrecognised productive professions which are unknown to the Earl Marshal, and which have neither station nor precedence in the herald's programme; these are the main support, the strongest

• The following has since appeared in The Times. The Irish BAR.There are but four candidates for admission to the bar during the ensuing term, which commences on Monday next. So diminished a list of aspirants after the long vacation has rarely been published. The introduction of the admirable system of competitive examination, which has opened a new and enlarged field for the ambition of the young men of Ireland, has, no doubt, had the salutary effect of thinning the ranks of students for the overdone profession of the law.—The Times, Nov. 1, 1856.

stay of the vast industrial and commercial prosperity of England. Of these are the men who go forth and build the aqueduct, and level the railroad, and lay down the electric telegraph along the trackless wild, or submerge it beneath the ocean. Of these are the men who are the true pioneers of civilization. Look at the work that remains to be done, and who are the men that are to do it? The vast regions of India and Central Asia, the trackless forests of Canada and the barren steppes of Australia are yet to be scored with railways, while earth's globe itself must be interlaced with the invisible bands, and the network of the electric telegraph. Canals are to be dug, deserts to be irrigated, forests cut down, savage regions to be opened up and made accessible to civilization and Christianity. The vast llanos of South America, the enormous basin of the Amazon, sufficient to grow corn for the whole of earth's existing population, remain yet to be reclaimed. Who is to bring into the family of nations Australia, with all its secret hoards of unimagined treasures, reserved as it were by a special Providence to be discovered in our day to supply the exchangeable capital which renders such works a possibility. And now, what nation but ourselves is to undertake any of those great works? Surely not the effeminate and worn-out tribes of the east? Surely not those nations smarting under oppression, and whose thoughts are of insurrection. Not America, with that speck of black cloud on the southern horizon, and threatening a tempest as violent as one of its own tornados. We must supply, if not the manual labour, the heads to guide, the science to suggest, and the capital to provide for their execution. This is the work which is given us to do, and a proud and glorious work it is.

But you will say, how does all this affect us? How do these considerations bear upon our interests? Why, in this way. You will see Englishmen everywhere abroad, conducting the great manufacturing and engineering establishments of the world. On the platform of the locomotive, and in the engine-room of the steamer, he is to be found. There is but little fear that the industrial professions will become overcrowded, or that the supply will increase beyond the demand. The reason is obvious. The lawyer is no lawyer out of England. The public ministrations of the clergyman cease when he has no flock. The treatment of diseases depends

so much on climate and local influences that the practice of medicine becomes a question of latitude.

But, with respect to those sciences which have to deal with the qualities of matter, the case is far otherwise. The properties of steam are precisely the same in India as in England; the laws of mechanics do not alter with the laws of the countries through which we travel; nor do chemical affinities vary from clime to clime. To the same effect, it was long ago observed by the greatest of reasoners,* that while the laws of moral agents change, those of matter remain invariable; that while, for example, the laws of states are in a certain sense founded on positive institution, the properties of fire remain the same, whether in Persia or in Greece. To apply these principles to the case before us is easy. A profession, engaged in operating on the properties of material objects as its appropriate subject, is not confined in the exercise of its functions to one country more than to another; equally applicable to all regions, it is not restricted to any. As a simple conclusion from these principles, it will follow, that there is no reason essentially involved in the nature of the case, why British science, skill, and genius should not be as widely diffused over the globe as British capital and enterprise.

Now the elements of the knowledge which lie at the very root of all those industrial professions of which I have been speaking, and from which they draw all their strength, are at this present time being taught in the classes of Institutions such as this all over the country. Thoughtful men, of every religious sect and political party, admit the necessity of instruction. You have the means placed before you of acquiring the elements of those sciences on which rest all the great discoveries of this present period of man's history, whether it be the science of pure space or mathematics, with its applications to astronomy and navigation; or mechanics as developed in those great inventions, the power-loom and the steam-engine; or chemistry in its multitudinous applications, embracing every variety of manufacture; or electricity, as exemplified in the

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »