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nation; those characters which resemble it are encouraged and multiplied; those contrasted with it are persecuted and made fewer. In a generation or two, the look of the nation becomes quite different; the characteristic men who stand out are different, the men imitated are different; the result of the imitation is different. A lazy nation may be changed into an industrious, a rich into a poor, a religious into a profane, as if by magic, if any single cause, though slight, or any combination of causes, however subtle, is strong enough to change the favourite and detested types of character.
This principle will, I think, help us in trying to solve the question why so few nations have progressed, ihough to us progress seems so natural—what is the cause or set of causes which have prevented that progress in the vast majority of cases, and produced it in the feeble minority. But there is a preliminary difficulty: What is progress, and what is decline ? Even in the animal world there is no applicable rule accepted by physiologists, which settles what animals are higher or lower than others; there are controversies about it. Still more then in the more complex combinations and politics of human beings it is likely to be hard to find an agreed criterion for saying which nation is before another, or what age of a nation was marching forward and which was falling back. Archbishop Manning would have one rule of progress and decline ; Professor Huxley, in most important points, quite an opposite rule; what one would set down as an advance, the other would set down as a retreat. Each has a distinct end which he wishes and a distinct calamity which he fears, but the desire of the one is pretty near the fear of the other; books would not hold the controversy between them. Again, in art, who is to settle what is advance and what decline? Would Mr. Ruskin agree with anyone else on this subject, would he even agree with himself, or could any common enquirer venture to say whether he was right or wrong?
I am afraid that I must, as Sir Wm. Hamilton used to say, 'truncate a problem which I cannot solve. I must decline to sit in judgment on disputed points of art, morals, or religion. But without so doing I think there is such a thing as verifiable progress, if we may say so; that is, progress which ninety-nine hundredths or more of mankind will admit to be such, against which there is no established or organised opposition creed, and the objectors to which, essentially varying in opinion themselves, and believing one one thing and another the reverse, may be safely and altogether rejected.
Let us consider in what a village of English colonists is superior to a tribe of Australian natives who roam about them. Indisputably in one, and that a main sense, they are superior. They can beat the Australians in war when they like; they can take from them anything they like, and kill any of them they choose.
As a rule, in all the outlying and uncontested districts of the world, the aboriginal native lies at the mercy of the intruding European. Nor is this all. Indisputably in the English village there are more means of happiness, a greater accumulation of the instruments of enjoyment, than in the Australian tribe. The English have all manner of books, utensils, and machines which the others do not use, value, or understand. And in addition, and beyond particular inventions, there is a general strength which is capable of being used in conquering a thousand difficulties, and is an abiding source of happiness, because those who possess it always feel that they can use it.
If we omit the higher but disputed topics of morals and religion, we shall find, I think, that the plainer and agreed-on superiorities of the Englishmen are these: first, that they have a greater command over the powers of nature upon the whole. Though they may fall short of individual Australians in certain feats of petty skill, though they may not throw the boomerang as well, or light a fire with earthsticks as well, yet on the whole twenty Englishmen with their implements and skill can change the material world immeasurably more than twenty Australians and their machines. Secondly, that this power is not external only; it is also internal. The English not only possess better machines for moving nature, but are themselves better machines. Mr. Babbage taught us years ago that one great use of machinery
was not to augment the force of man, but to register and regulate the power of man; and this in a thousand ways civilised man can do, and is ready to do, better and more precisely than the barbarian. Thirdly, civilised man not only has greater powers over nature, but knows better how to use them, and by better I here mean better for the health and comfort of his present body and mind. He can lay up for old age, which a sava ve having no durable means of sustenance cannot; he is ready to lay up because he can distinctly foresee the future, which the vague-minded savage cannot; he is mainly desirous of gentle, continuous pleasure, whereas the barbarian likes wild excitement, and longs for stupefying repletion. Much, if not all, of these three ways may be summed up in Mr. Spencer's phrase, that progress is an increase of adaptation of man to his environment, that is, of his internal powers and wishes to his external lot and life. Something of it too is expressed in the old pagan idea 'mens sana in corpore sano.' And I think this sort of progress may be fairly investigated quite separately, as it is progress in a sort of good everyone worth reckoning with admits and agrees in. No doubt there will remain people like the aged savage, who in his old age went back to his savage tribe and said that he had tried civilisation for forty years, and it was not worth the trouble. But we need not take account of the mistaken ideas of unfit men and beaten races. On the whole the plainer sort of civilisation, the simpler moral training, and the more elementary education are plain benefits.
And though there may be doubt as to the edges of the conception yet there certainly is a broad road of 'verifiable progress' which not only discoverers and admirers will like, but which all those who come upon it will use and value.
Unless some kind of abstraction like this is made ir the subject the great problem 'What causes progress ? ' will, I am confident, long remain unsolved. Unless we are content to solve simple problems first, the whole history of philosophy teaches that we shall never solve hard problems. This is the maxim of scientific humility 80 often insisted on by the highest enquirers that, in investigations, as in life, those who exalt themselves shall be abased, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted;' and though we may seem mean only to look for the laws of plain comfort and simple present happiness, yet we must work out that simple case first, before we encounter the incredibly harder additional difficulties of the higher art, morals and religion.
The difficulty of solving the problem even thus limited is exceedingly great. The most palpable facts are exactly the contrary to what we should expect. Lord Macaulay tells us that 'In erery experimental science there is a tendency towards perfection. In every human being there is a tendency to ameliorate his condition;'and these two principles operating everywhere and always, might well have been expected to