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2.- The Decline of the French Monarchy. By HENRI MARTIN.
Translated from the fourth Paris edition. By Mary L. BOOTH. 2 Vols. 8vo. Boston: Walker, Fuller & Co. 1866.
This is the last section of "the History of France from the most remote period,” giving the decadence of the Monarchy under the old Bourbon dynasty, from 1748 to 1789 — the steep down grade into the abysm of the Jacobin Revolution of '90.
The author thus traverses a field of moral and political interest hardly second to any since our era began. It includes the state of Europe during that period with its American complications, involving the wars of the continent in which France had a hand, the
progress of European empire in Asia, and also the old French and the
nary wars on this side the ocean. It takes up the history of opinions as promulgated by such men as Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, the Encyclopædists, giving much attention to the effects of their speculations on the national life. Generally the historian's criticisms of these leaders of the public thought of that day, would be accepted as just and sensible by intelligent readers, bating an occasional effervescence of French sentiment. His admiration of their genius and mental power, of which as a countryman of theirs he naturally is proud, though leading him to treat them tenderly, does not blind him to the perception of their errors, delusions and crimes. His pictures of these men are vivacious and mostly true, done with a few bold, vivid strokes, as of Voltaire : "his mind, always eager to live outside of itself” “ with little depth and immense surface.” It is obvious that our author puts the influence of this notorious publicist, upon his times, much below that of the profounder and more sentimental Rousseau. In this he agrees with the judgment of the better class of historical students. There was, indeed, a wonderful despotism in the pen of the half savage philosopher and theorist. He has the bad preëminence of an imperial misleader of men. Yet it would be unjust to deny that some of his speculations embrace truths of exceeding moment to the right educational and social progress of the world.
It certainly would have been impossible to write any just account of the period reviewed in this work, without dwelling in detail upon its philosophical and literary features. But what is thus true of that country is true, in a degree, of every nation. We hope the time is about passed when authors will dignify a mere recital of military and political changes with the name of history. If the national life is the progress of its thinking, reasoning intellect, and conscience, that life can neither be known or recorded without a constant refer
ence to its literature, particularly those departments of this which involve the moral and religious ideas of the people. What, without this, would be the narrative of our last half century?
It ought, we suppose, to be a sufficient voucher for the literary ability and the historical fidelity of this work, that it has been honored with the prize in this department of letters, from the French Academy. That judgment has been amply affirmed by ablest critics. It is learned, full, reflective, and spirited as the Parisian litterateurs know so well how to make their pages. The somewhat extended debate respecting the translation of these volumes, which M. Martin, by the way, highly compliments, seems narrowing down to this— that its defects lie not so much in a want of accuracy, as in an alleged stiffness and obscureness of style. We have found, however, no special trouble, either in reading or understanding its attractive pages. The satisfaction of our people with this series of volumes will doubtless be yet further enhanced by the warm sympathy which the historian avows with our nation, and especially with our recent glorious struggle against rebellion. He manifestly understands the significancy of that war of ideas to both sides of the Atlantic, and has a profound conception of its spiritual grandeur. We trust his strongly expressed prayer for the continuance and perpetual harmony of America with “her earliest ally” will be granted.
We are not disposed to enter into any debate with Mr. Dawson, (editor of the Federalist), who furnishes an Appendix of notes on that part of the text pertaining to our Revolution, for the purpose apparently of withstanding what he calls “the extraordinary but systematic pretensions of Massachusetts to priority in the cause of the Republic, and to superior importance in the family of States." His references may be credible, but his temper is hardly creditable, as witness the rough remark which he makes of “the ignorant, selfconceited inefficiency of General Israel Putnam, who held the immediate command of that post,” to which Mr. Dawson attributes the defeat at Brooklyn. Even if this were so, it might be put in words more courteous to a man whose name is one of our national treasures.
The publishers are issuing this standard history in excellent style, as its high merit deserves. Their enterprise and taste ought to find an ample and prompt reward from the lovers of good literature. The earlier volumes of the series as yet unpublished, will be put to press with as little delay as the nature of the work will allow.
3.-Life of Robert Owen. 12mo. Philadelphia : Ashmead & Evans.
Owen's life, as he lived and recorded it, was a much more elaborate “ Liber pro insipiente” than the old monk wrote against Anselm, and a thoroughly futile “ Plea” for him who says that there is no God” in or over the world.
His beginnings were unique and not hopeful, though indicative of great power. At seven, he had triumphed over a weak and unwise parental government by sheer self-will; at ten, he was out in the world shifting for himself with much success; before twenty, he was partner in an extensive cotton factory, with its entire management in his own hands involving the control of several hundreds of operatives, and the lucrative employment of a quarter of a million of dollars. Meanwhile he had satisfied himself that Religion is the source of the bulk of human troubles, and that Fatalism is the true philosophy of character and conduct. At this early date, he had adopted the creed from which he never swerved : " That the qualities of a man are forced upon him by nature; that his language, religion, and habits are forced upon him by society-nature giving him the qualities which society directs.” Elsewhere he maintained, in exact accord with this opinion—that it is as unreasonable to esteem or disesteem different kinds of disposition and action, as it would be to praise a tall, fine tree, or to censure one that was scrawny and rough with warts; as it would be to blame a cow with crumpled horn, or to eulogize a blade of wheat because it is an inch or two taller than its neighbors. pp. 25, 115, 116.
This was the sandy foundation on which the social reformer undertook to build ; and he built nothing which did not tumble down before it was old enough to need repairs. His operations at New Lanark, Scotland, were based upon a capital of over half a million dollars, and, besides their great pecuniary success, bestowed unusual comfort upon the laboring classes around him. Mr. Owen had great administrative resources, and a truly benevolent heart. But it appears that the real germ of the New Lanark humanitarian improvement lay back in the thorough Christian philanthropy and wisdom of its former proprietor, Mr. Dale, whose daughter Owen had married. That was by far the most successful of his communities, and there he gathered fruit which was not of the seed of his planting. His own independent experiments, as at New Harmony, Indiana, were the completest failures conceivable. It is laughable to measure the actual duration of that Western enterprise undertaken after the breakdown of all his schemes in the old country, and now no morem with the ten thousand years' lease on which his followers here began their operations. Did he think the Methusalehs were coming back again on the banks of the Wabash ?
It is computed that this good natured and most energetic enthusiast sunk $200,000 in his various plans and speculations to bring in the social millennium, the advent of which he was always sure was just ahead. We admire his unconquerable hopefulness, and the perfect equanimity with which he settled the bills of his expensive failures, and of others as well. But, as the biographer suggests, if nobody was responsible for any thing, but all character and life and fortune, or its missing, be ruled absolutely by circumstances, he had no ground for complaint. He was baffled at all points, tried vainly to get into Parliament, to get the ear of rulers, of the nation, of the world, but never for a moment had the shadow of a doubt in himself as the predestinated saviour of society. He was a most singular mixture of business sagacity and theoretical absurdity. Could men only be taken away from where they were, and set down, in parallelograms as communities living in common, under his peculiar system of educational, industrial, sanitary and general government, without any religion to hamper them, they would inevitably be happy, virtuous, well to do in every respect, because the “ circumstances" would all be right, and, of course, two and two must make four. But what a presumption was this attempting to create these omnipotent " circumstances”! Yet Owen the elder thought himself able for this task, if others had only not been in his way. Alas! alas ! His egotism was equal to his theorizing. He writes himself in his autobiography, amid his socialistic failures, as “by far the most popular individual in the civilized world.” And when, shortly after, on the Continent, he falls in with some distinguished persons, he says:
“We four-La Place, Cuvier, Pictet and myself—met often. La and Cuvier were at the head of their respective sciences; Professor Pictet was at the head of the savans of Europe; and I was now considered by these men as the advanced mind in a practical knowledge of human nature.” p. 160.
We must give one other illustration of this overweening self-estimation as quoted from his autobiography—it is but one among many :
“ There would have been no difficulty in forcing, without individual punishment or reward, a good character upon all," at New Lanark, "nor in enabling them with pleasure to surround themselves, at all times, with a superfluity of the most valuable wealth, if I had had the means to create, on a new foundation and site, the combination of conditions which can alone effect these results. Society has never yet put it in my power to show the world an example of these conditions ; although it is the highest and most permanent interest of all that this example should be given in my lifetime, because my experience in scientific, practical arrangements for superseding evil by good conditions, is the only experience of that character yet known to the world.” pp. 76, 77.
Owen's main mistake was the rejection of Christianity from his own individual faith, and from all his scheming for human improvement and elevation. The Bible, the church, the entire Christian evangelization was to him nothing as a temporal or eternal salvation for men.
His total religion was secularism. No one need doubt his philanthropy. He was not a sour, bitter, recalcitrating infidel. But infidel he was, if the word applies to any one. He had no God in all his studies for his race, and his work has been blown away as the down of a thistle on the strong breeze.
We thank the anonymous author or editor of this volume for its timely aid in arresting the Godless humanitarianism of the day. It should be in every parish, town and circulating library in the land. Our working people should read and digest it. The biographer has done his task in a good spirit and with much ability. It is not a preaching biography, yet it contains a great and most solemn sermon. It is elegantly issued, with a good index. We only want, in addition, now and then, a marginal figure to indicate the age of the subject of the memoir. This would spare the reader the labor of some ciphering, to ascertain the progress of the years. Will our publishers of such books bear this in mind ?
4.-The Pilgrim's Wallet; or, Scraps of Travel Gathered in Eng
land, France and Germany. By GILBERT HAVEN. 12 mo. New York; Hurd & Houghton. Boston: E. P. Dutton & Co. 1866.
Two classes of persons, this author tells us, are fond of reading travels : those who have and those who have not seen the places described. This is a large generalization, and a fair specimen of his clever way of putting things. We think the first kind of people have the greater enjoyment here, and principally from an aroma of pleasant memories which starts up as one turns such pages, like the fragrance of some rich flower not yet quite exhausted.
Mr. Haven has some excellent points as a tourist. He has the true wayfaring nonchalance, sangfroid, or whatever you choose to call it, which takes every thing cheerily, is quick-witted to adapt untried means to desired but not readily compassed ends; which makes the best of a bad bargain, and the most of a small opportunity. He has a sharp eye, a genial temper, a warm sympathy with human