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except through the poor-house, and conveying resources from the domestic, the laborer, and even the child, to the central treasury. This principle of association is worthy the attention of the philosopher, who simply aims to understand society, and its most powerful springs. To the philanthropist and the Christian it is exceedingly interesting, for it is a mighty engine, and must act either for good or for evil, to an extent which no man can foresee or comprehend.
It is very easy, we conceive, to explain this great developement of the principle of coöperation. The main cause is, the immense facility given to intercourse by modern improvements, by increased commerce and travelling, by the post-office, by the steam-boat, and especially by the press, by newspapers, periodicals, tracts, and other publications. Through these means, men of one mind, through a whole country, easily understand one another, and easily act together. The grand manœuvre to which Napoleon owed his victories, we mean the concentration of great numbers on a single point, is now placed within the reach of all parties and sects. It may be said, that, by facilities of intercourse, men are brought within one another's attraction, and become arranged according to their respective affinities. Those who have one great object, find one another out through a vast extent of country, join their forces, settle their mode of operation, and act together with the uniformity of a disciplined army. So extensive have coalitions become, through the facilities now described, and so various and rapid are the means of communication, that, when a few leaders have agreed on an object, an impulse may be given in a month to the whole country, whole states may be deluged with tracts and other pub
lications, and a voice like that of many waters, be called forth from immense and widely separated multitudes. Here is a new power brought to bear on society, and it is a great moral question, how it ought to be viewed, and what duties it imposes.
That this mode of action has advantages and recommendations, is very obvious. The principal arguments in its favor may be stated in a few words. Men, it is justly said, can do jointly, what they cannot do singly. The union of minds and hands works wonders. Men grow efficient by concentrating their powers. Joint effort conquers nature, hews through mountains, rears pyramids, dikes out the ocean. Man, left to himself, living without a fellow, if he could indeed so live, would be one of the weakest of creatures. Associated with his kind, he gains dominion over the strongest animals, over the earth and the sea, and, by his growing knowledge, may be said to obtain a kind of property in the universe.
Nor is this all. Men not only accumulate power by union, but gain warmth and earnestness. The heart is kindled. An electric communication is established between those who are brought nigh, and bound to each other, in common labors. Man droops in solitude. No sound excites him like the voice of his fellow-creature. The mere sight of a human countenance, brightened with strong and generous emotion, gives new strength to act or suffer. Union not only brings to a point forces which before existed, and which were ineffectual through separation, but, by the feeling and interest which it rouses, it becomes a creative principle, calls forth new forces, and gives the mind a consciousness of powers, which would otherwise have been unknown.
We have here given the common arguments by which the disposition to association is justified and recommended. They may be summed up in a few words; namely, that our social principles and relations are the great springs of improvement, and of vigorous and efficient exertion. That there is much truth in this representation of the influences of society, we at once feel. That, without impulses and excitements from abroad, without sympathies and communication with our fellow-creatures, we should gain nothing and accomplish nothing, we mean not to deny. Still we apprehend, that on this subject there is a want of accurate views and just discrimination. We apprehend that the true use of society is not sufficiently understood; that the chief benefit which it is intended to confer, and the chief danger to which it exposes us, are seldom weighed, and that errors or crude opinions on these points deprive us of many benefits of our social connexions. These topics have an obvious bearing on the subject of this article. It is plain that the better we understand the true use, the chief benefit, and the chief peril of our social principles and relations, the better we shall be prepared to judge of associations which are offered to our patronage. On these topics, then, we propose first to give our views; and in so doing, we shall allow ourselves a considerable latitude, because, in our judgment, the influences of society at present tend strongly to excess, and especially menace that individuality of character, for which they can yield no adequate compensation.
The great principle, from which we start in this preliminary discussion, and in which all our views of the topics above proposed are involved, may be briefly expressed. It is this;- Society is chiefly important, as
it ministers to, and calls forth, intellectual and moral energy and freedom. Its action on the individual is beneficial, in proportion as it awakens in him a power to act on himself, and to control or withstand the social influences to which he is at first subjected. Society serves us, by furnishing objects, occasions, materials, excitements, through which the whole soul may be brought into vigorous exercise, may acquire a consciousness of its free and responsible nature, may become a law to itself, and may rise to the happiness and dignity of framing and improving itself without limit or end. Inward, creative energy, is the highest good which accrues to us from our social principles and connexions. The mind is enriched, not by what it passively receives from others, but by its own action on what it receives. We would especially affirm of virtue, that it does not consist in what we inherit, or what comes to us from abroad. It is of inward growth, and it grows by nothing so much as by resistance of foreign influences, by acting from our deliberate convictions, in opposition to the principles of sympathy and imitation. According to these views, our social nature and connexions are means. Inward power is the end; a power which is to triumph over, and control, the influence of society.
We are told, that we owe to society our most valuable knowledge. And true it is, that, were we cast from birth into solitude, we should grow up in brutal ignorance. But it is also true, that the knowledge which we receive is of little value, any farther than it is food and excitement to intellectual action. Its worth is to be measured by the energy with which it is sought and employed. Knowledge is noble, in proportion as it is prolific; in proportion as it quickens the mind to the
acquisition of higher truth. Let it be rested in passively, and it profits us nothing. Let the judgment of others be our trust, so that we cease to judge for ourselves, and the intellect is degraded into a worthless machine. The dignity of the mind is to be estimated by the energy of its efforts for its own enlargement. It becomes heroic, when it reverences itself and asserts its freedom in a cowardly and servile age; when it withstands society through a calm, but invincible love of truth, and a consciousness of the dignity and progressiveness of its powers.
The indispensable necessity of instruction from our fellow-creatures, we in no degree question. But perhaps few are aware how imperfect are the conceptions received from the best instructor, and how much must be done by our own solitary thinking, to give them consistency and vividness. It may be doubted whether a fellow-creature can ever impart to us apprehensions of a complex subject, which are altogether just. Be the teacher ever so unerring, his language can hardly communicate his mind with entire precision; for few words awaken exactly the same thoughts in different men. The views which we receive from the most gifted beings, are at best an approximation to truth. We have spoken of unerring teachers; but where are these to be found? Our daily intercourse is with fallible beings, most of whom are undisciplined in intellect, the slaves of prejudice, and unconscious of their own spiritual energies. The essential condition of intellectual progress in such a world, is the resistance of social influences, or of impressions from our fellow-beings.
What we have said of intellectual, is still more true of moral progress. No human being exists, whose char