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sion, the members would virtually be bound to their good behaviour: and the evil of a defective order would be remedied as far as such associations might extend. The effect even of the Saxon law would thus in a great degree be brought about, and that without the slightest intrenchment upon individual freedom, and in all respects unexceptionably.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Something of this might be effected more easily by making your parochial government more efficient; that is, by making it what it ought to be, and indeed what it originally was.
A parish is in itself a little commonwealth; but in these little governments, as in some great ones, though the machinery exists and is kept up, it no longer works according to its original design. What you have indicated is certainly one practicable means of producing great improvement where it is most needed; so it is perceived to be, and so it will one day be made. But the best parochial police must fall far short of effecting what these voluntary associations might accomplish. The difficulty is that which Archimedes felt: a place is wanted where to plant the machine; and in London this difficulty is almost insuperable. In a provincial town
the experiment might more easily be made; but funds for the first outlay are not likely to be forthcoming. Large sums are sometimes bequeathed by humourists in strange ways,.. to odd purposes more frequently than to useful
That such a chance may occur in this case is barely possible. It is somewhat less unlikely that capital may be embarked in it as a speculation, when no other means of employing it are at hand. And perhaps it is even probable that the principle may be taken up by some religious enthusiast, as the foundation for a new sect.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
In that case the evil would be greater than the good. The fanatics who should set out on such a principle would soon find themselves on the road to Munster.
MONTESINOS. I think not. The Moravians on the continent carry it farther than we are now contemplating; and yet they are an inoffensive, and even in some respects, an exemplary people: so much so, that in spite of the obloquy which they provoked at their outset, no sect has ever in so great a degree enjoyed and deserved the good will and good opinion of all other Christian communities. There are more points of resemblance between Geneva and Rome, than between Hernnhut and Munster. The danger in these days is not from religious fanaticism, but from the fanaticism of impiety.
SIR THOMAS MORE..
The one generates the other, and the state of things with you affords opportunity and encouragement for both. But wherefore do you think that the Owenite scheme is likely to be carried into effect only by sectarian agency?
MONTESINOS. Because a degree of generous and virtuous excitement is required for overcoming the first difficulties, which nothing but religious feeling can call forth. With all Owen's efforts and all his eloquence, (and there are few men who speak better, or who write so well,) he has not been able in ten years to raise funds for trying his experiment: while during that time the Bible Society has every year levied large contributions upon the public, and more than once a larger sum within the year than he has asked for. Had he connected his scheme with any system of belief, though it had been as visionary as Swedenborgianism, as fabulous as Popery, as monstrous as Calvinism, as absurd as the
dreams of Joanna Southcote,.. or perhaps even as cold as Unitarianism, the money would have been forthcoming
SIR THOMAS MORE. And surely it is honourable to human nature that it should be so!
MONTESINOS. How? honourable to human nature that we should be acted upon more powerfully by error and delusion, than by a reasonable prospect of direct and tangible benefit to ourselves and others?
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Say rather that what is spiritual affects men more than what is material; that they seek more ardently after ideal good than after palpable and perishable realities. This is honourable to your nature: and no man will ever be ranked among the great benefactors of his species unless he feels and understands this truth and acts upon it. Upon this ground it is that the moral Archimedes must take his stand. We must take wider views of the subject. For the present I leave you to your young companions, who are waiting yonder with expectation in their looks.
By this time we had nearly past over the
fell, and had begun to descend upon Castlerigg. The children had halted beside a rocky basin in the mountain-stream, to remind me of a sight which we had once enjoyed there, and to enjoy it again in recollection. It was a flock of geese who in the bright sunshine of a summer's day were sporting in that basin, and with such evident joyousness that it was a pleasure to behold their joy. Sometimes they thrust their long necks under the water straight down, and turned up their broad yellow feet; sometimes rose half up, shaking and clapping their wings; sometimes with retorted head pruned themselves as they floated. Their motion did not in the slightest degree defile the water; for there was no soil to disturb; the stream, flowing from its mountainsprings, over a bed of rock, had contracted no impurity in its course, and these birds were so delicately clean that they could not sully it; the few feathers which they plucked or shook off were presently carried away by the current. It was the most beautiful scene of animal enjoyment that I ever beheld, or ever shall behold: the wildness of the spot, the soft green turf upon the bank, the beauty of that basin, (and they only who have seen mountain-streams in a country of clear waters can imagine how beautiful such basins are, the colour of the