Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

1350; and, indeed, it was not generally adopted till near a century after. Its ultimate effect has been to modify the art of war; to render it more dependent on science and intellectual combinations, and less a conflict of animal strength and courage. It has sunk the mere hero of muscle into insignificance, and given ascendency to the leader who combined intellect with skill. It has, at the same time, served to render wars less bloody, and has given opportunity to soften, with certain amenities, even the field of battle.

The invention of printing, about the year 1444, by Guttenberg, also of Mayence, was the crowning art of modern times. Prior to this, all books were written with a pen. A copy of the Bible required four years

A of labor even for an expert writer, and its value was equal to that of a house and farm. Few, indeed, could possess such a treasure. At the present time, a single day's labor of a common workman will purchase two copies of this sacred volume. In the production of books, Guttenberg's invention has increased the power of man, probably, five thousand fold. It now serves not only to record every passing event, every useful invention, every discovery in art and science, but it has also written down, and multiplied in a thousand forms, all that is left of the past history of mankind. Thus all human knowledge is placed upon record, scattered over the four quarters of the globe, and rendered indestructible by any event less extensive than the devastation of the entire surface of the earth. Nor is even this all; knowledge with its illuminating power is diffused among all classes of men ; it is everywhere shedding light upon the darkened minds of the mass ;

it is bursting open the doors of prisons, sundering the fetters of tyranny, spreading about the equalizing power of Christianity, and teaching even kings and princes to look upon their subjects as their fellow-men, with rights as sacred as their own, in the eye of reason and of God.

The revival of letters had commenced in the thirteenth century. Dante was born in 1265, Petrarch in 1304, and Boccaccio in 1313. These shining lights were but forerunners of others that soon followed. The discovery or revival of Justinian's Code of Roman Law, in the twelfth century, served to modify the bar. barism of the Middle Ages, and to make preparation for the dawn of a brighter era. The invention of the mariner's compass, though the date of it is lost in obscurity, was applied to maritime purposes about the year 1403; and the enlargement of navigation, and the discovery of America in 1492, were the important consequences.

During the Middle Ages, the Romish Church had acquired and exercised a powerful ascendency over the minds of all classes of men, simple and sage,

the plebeian and the prince. However our notions of religious liberty may be shocked at the dominion thus exerted, we cannot deny that we owe much to the monks of this period. Whatever of Christian piety existed was excited and cherished by them ; copies of the sacred Scriptures were chiefly preserved and multiplied in the monasteries ; and the remains of classical literature have been handed down to us through the same channel.

But the period at last arrived, when the temporal power of the Pope was to receive a decisive check, and the Church over which he presided was to undergo a fiery trial. Luther, a Saxon monk, began his attack in 1517, and thus commenced that mighty movement which is known in history as the Reformation. The result of this was, to strip the see of Rome of its claims to dominion in secular matters, and to diffuse among the people at large the consciousness of a right, before denied, to exercise their private judgment in religious concerns.

From this period we can see a rapid advance in the march of civilization, and even amidst the violent agitations of society. In 1648, Charles the First of Eng. land was brought to the block for the exercise of power which had been more harshly employed, without opposition, by his predecessors. In 1789, the French Revolution commenced, and a heavy reckoning was rendered for bygone years of tyranny, profligacy, and crime. Bonaparte rose like a being of enchantment from the seething caldron of blood, and strode over the earth as a personification of Destiny, conquering and to conquer. Europe in arms hurled him from his pinnacle of power, and the Bourbons sat once more on the throne of France. But, while they had slept, the world had gone on, and society had advanced beyond the possibility of enduring their selfish sway. Another earthquake was necessary to shake down the last lingering remains of an odious dynasty ; another revolution, therefore, broke out in 1830, which ended in sweeping away the relics of the former system, and founding a monarchy upon the basis of a written constitution.

The characteristic of modern times in Europe is agitation; old dynasties have passed away and new

[ocr errors]

ones have arisen ; old institutions have ceased, and others have been formed in their place. And even where governments and institutions exist with the same external form as in earlier days, there is generally a change in their spirit and influence. Everywhere there is a recognition of the power of the people, and more or less respect to their rights. There can be no better evidence of this, than the steps taken by Prussia, France, Holland, Belgium, &c., to bestow education upon the mass, by means of which they hope to mould them to obedience. They dare no longer to count upon the ignorance and blindness of the people ; they therefore seek to throw over them the web of loyalty, by means of discipline and association. Prisons are not now the instruments by which kings expect to sustain their thrones. Even the emperor of Austria, or the czar of Russia, would lose rather than gain power by building a Bastile. A system of general education would better accord with the

poligy While, therefore, the aspect of society appears to be marked with fluctuation, like the surface of the sea, we can perceive a general onward tide of improvement. While the political and religious liberties of the people are becoming better understood and more generally acknowledged, the arts which contribute to their happiness are being more extensively diffused. The mass are better able to obtain a living than formerly, and their standard of comfort is daily becoming higher.

Another remarkable characteristic of modern times is the application of science to the arts. Science is no longer a being of the closet, - holding itself aloof in mysterious abstraction from mankind; but it conde

of the age.

scends to mingle in the common affairs of life ; it is found in the smithy and at the forge ; it is in the factory, the foundery, and the machine shop; it is upon the farm, and in the kitchen ; it is in the toiling steamer on the ocean, and the whizzing car upon the railroad track; it is in the city, lighting it with gas, - in the mine a hundred fathoms deep, protecting its laborers from the fatal fire-damp; it is in the wick of the Argand lamp, in the stearin candle, and the friction match. Everywhere the discoveries of science are made applicable to the arts of life, and in a thousand forms they are contributing to make existence more comfortable and more desirable to the mass of mankind.

a

[graphic][ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »