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votaries, I have recourse alone to my own reasoning powers, and I ask myself—what am I conscious of, as certain and incontrovertible, as a basis for my reasoning, as an axiom whereon to found my proofs, or as a source whereon I am to seek the solution of my questions; I begin then with sensations. I am conscious of surrounding phenomena, and the sum of my sensations is all that I can become immediately conscious of or perceive the material universe. The manner in which objects are perceived, I find to be by means of an organized nervous system, and as this said nervous system can furnish me with the sensation of objects in sleep which I mistake for realities, how then am I to know of the real existence of external objects? The answer is this: we know the objects of the external world only in their sensible qualities, or in their effects on our Sensorium, and a further investigation shows that in dreams the nervous system is called into action by stimuli, though not by the stimuli of the external objects themselves, and that similar actions being thereby excited in the nervous systems to those which external objects at first excited, we hereby see in our dreams similar phenomena, and not being at that time conscious of time and place we mistake these false sensations for their waking prototypes.
External objects, however, impress the senses in a regular and consistent manner; instead of an irregular one, and in this tegularity consists part of the proof, that external objects really exist, the rest of the proof consists in this; that we have no dreaming sensations or visions that have not had prototypes in our waking perceptions, and physiology has clearly shewn, that in both cases what the mind really perceives is, the configurations of the sensorium; though in the one case, these configurations are precisely correspondent to external stimuli, while in the other, they are illusive repetitions of them performed in the nervous system, and mistaken for realities. Hence the solution of the question, viz. what is matter? For matter is that, which existing externally to ourselves, is known by the effect it produces on our senses in exciting what we call sensible qualities. The rays of light exeite vision, the vibrations of air, sounds, and so on. Now, as similar effects must always proceed from similar causes, and different effects from different causes, otherwise, there could be no regularity in nature, so then there must be as great a variety in external objects themselves, as there are in their sensible qualities. So that though we do not perceive external objects in themselves, but only as they affect our senses, we are, nevertheless, not deceived as to their number or variety, and thus Matter in relation to us is all that we see, feel, and hear, in short, all that we are conscious of by sensation; it is eternal as to time, for we cannot admit that it could ever have caused or originated itself, nor does there appear to our senses any adequate cause for its creation. Its existence is an eternal necessity: it occupies for any thing we
know, a surrounding infinity of space, and has ever existed and will exist to all eternity of time.
But matter undergoes changes by means of which individual forms are produced, matured, and displayed, and those changes of figure are effected by what we call motion. For, as' matter cannot change its own forms, nor move itself, so there must be some other cause for this change; and the cause of this change we call motion. The solution of the second question is this, that motion is an abstract term representing the cause of the changes of figure in matter.
But motion cannot originate itself, nor can matter move itself without some moving agent, so that I must ascribe motion to some other source, and as I perceive in myself a capacity for motion, in what I call my mind, or the source of my volition; so by a natural process of reasoning do I aseribe motion in general to some similar principle. And the Deity, or the eternal and original mind, is regarded as the great cause or origin of all the movements of matter. Hence I can give an answer to the third question proposed, and say, That the word God is an abstract or algebraical sign for a real or supposititious source and centre of motion for the whole universe; and it will be found on inquiry that all the subaltern gods, the Juno, the Minerva, the Neptune of antiquity, and indeed all the gods and goddesses of all the the ologies, are originally emblematical signs for the various powers of the elements—all tributaries to the God of Nature; and that it was not till a later period that priesteraft and superstition converted them into personified beings, subjected to an imaginative God of Grace, who being according to them omnibeneficent, they were obliged to create a Devil in order to account for his imperfect attempts to make all beings happy, of which the misery of the world afforded too glaring a demonstration.
Now according to this very system, God is not omnipotent, nor can he be the creator of the material universe. It amounts to this almost--that God is the Universe, and cannot alter his nature, which was the Platonic opinion, so that every thing takes place according to causes eternally and essentially operating. Thus the matter of the universe may be called, as the ancients called it, God's body, and the source of motion his mind, ghost' or spirit; and motion itself the logos, or fiat, by which forms and organizations are effected, and by which he is metaphorically asserted in the Bible-to have said, Let there be light, and there was light. And this view affords some clue to the explanation of the trinity in unity of the Indians, Egyptians, and Christians.
Man like the universè of which he form's à part, seems to be a phenomenon resulting from three elementary causes, Body, or the matter of his fabric: Vitality, or a peculiar motion in his fluids: and a capacity for sensation and source of motion called Mind. And thus the metaphorical Indians, and after them the Jews and
Christian's spoke of the God of Nature, as creating man in his own image; while priestcraft in tạrn created a God of Grace in the image of man, and endowed him with revenge, jealousy, and all the imperfections of human nature. Now as I have answered your question, What is God? and my own, What is motion? and, What is matter ?, as I can know no more about it all than what I, can derive from reflecting on my sensations of phenomena, I trust, imperfect as it is, that you will be liberal enough to give place to my view of God, and I hope to be able in future to send you some curious corollaries from this doctrine. Matter, Motion, and Mind, like Time and Space, are eternal and essential existences, and while I cannot solve the great mystery, Why, since ponentity seems possible, there should exist ANYTHING rather than NOTHING, I am contented to arrive, as near as I can, to a true philosophy, founded on sensations as axioms. While in order to impress it on my readers, I shall quote it in verse
My Muse has taught how Mind, th' eternal cause
By constancy make what we Nature call." I will proceed in my next to the etymology and present import of words used in theology, then to the history of the polytheistical philosophy, not losing sight, during the investigation, of the metaphysical question, What is God?
TO MR. R. CARLILE.
Edinburgh, 6th Sept. 1826. Though I furnish your publication regularly to others, yet it frequently happens that I am behind all my customers in getting them perused. I only yesterday read the second Number of Vol. XIV. and in it I observe a letter, on which I mean to offer a few remarks ; indeed, there are many subjects agitated in the pages of “ The Republican” on which I feel inclined to say a little; but the constant attention which my business requires, prevents
The letter to which I allude is one addressed by a friend in Liverpool, to Mr. James Cropper, merchant there, on the subject of West India slavery. The sentiments contained in that letter do little credit to the writer; and when published by you, without note or comment, are as little credit to “ The Republican :" but judging from the abuse which has been thrown upon the leaders of Negro emancipation, by many reformers, I am led to conclude, that if they are well themselves they care very little what Negroes suffer.
I do not consider Wilberforce as a friend to the liberties of Englishmen, and probably the same way be said of many other
advocates of Negro emancipation; but that is no reason for us to reject the good which they wish: to perform; their exertions in behalf of the Negroes cannot injure the liberties of Englishmen; and tends to lessen human misery; and so long as there is suffering and sorrow in the world, we should rejoice when they are lessened, although all is not accomplished that we could wish : we should not obstruct a good work, nor abuse men when performing it, although they may leave something quite as necessary undone, It is needless to abuse the abolitionists for endeavouring to promote Negro freedom, although they should neglect the reformers at home; the abolition of slavery in the West Indies would eventually promote the cause of freedom in England. But notwithstanding the opposition of both Reformers and Tories, I hope that every island in the West Indies will yet become a black Republic. · Every good man should endeavour to put an end to slavery there, although another ounce of sugar should never be raised in these islands.
I shall now proceed to make some observations on your Liverpool friend's letter. He says, “ that the meetings which have been got up in various towns throughout the kingdom have been calculated to throw odium on the West India planters.” The fears of the planters and their friends on this head, make it evident that the statements of the abolitionists are well-founded; and that the planters deserve all the odium that has ever been heaped on them. If they are so upright and humane as their friends represent, they should attend these meetings, and defend their cause and character; all their arguments in defence would certainly be heard, but their absence or silence seems to prove, that they are guilty; and the statements against them prove, that they are more cruel tyrants than the Turks; and that their siaves are in a more severe bondage' than the Greeks. there are far more urgent causes at home for our commiseration and interference than that of the well-fed, regularly-worked, singing, dancing, and happy Negroes of the West India Islands.” There are doubtless many cases at home deserving of great commiseration; but even the worst of our artists and tradesmeni in ordinary times are not so miserable as the Negro slaves; nor is their case so entirely hopeless. The West India slaves are driven to their work by the cart-whip, and may at any time be lashed by their drivers, without daring to resist, under pain of the severest punishment. In this country, mechanics or labourers may resist a blow from their master, and bave redress by an action at law besides. Negro parents and children, brothers and sisters, are often forcibly separated, and sold off like cattle, never to see one another again : none can be used so cruelly in Britain. The West India slaves cannot leave their master, let him be ever so harsh and cruel to them :'the mechanics and labourers in Britain may when their term is expired. The Negroes dare not complain
publicly when abused; not meet to petition for redress, although their treatment be ever so hard : in Britain, the poorest individual may petition either Parliament or the King, make a complaint and at least be heard, if the wrongs are not redressed. I believe few labourers or mechanics in this country would exchange their condition with any West India slave, and in ordinary times most of them would spurn such a proposal. The condition of the slaves is so unfairly represented by your friend, that Mr. Cropper might with equal truth tell him, that the operative tradesmen of Manchester and its neighbourhood were idle, drunken, and riotous, without a necessary cause.
He says, “ But granting the propriety of an abolition, of a complete change of property, is this the time to get up petitions ; to load the table of the House of Commons with the signatures of thousands of unthinking individuals, many of whom sign by influence, and probably, who, if asked, would not know the difference between the spirituous sugar of the West, and the sweet elay of the East Indies?” | Your friend seems more anxious about the quality of his sugar than he is about improving the condition of mankind. His assertion, that many sign these petitions through influence, is quite incorrect; I believe no other influence but fair statements of the case is used to procure any signatures to these petitions. The argument of an unfit time, is the same that was used by Mr. Pitt and his friends when resisting all reform; and it is equally suitable in the mouth of your friend, who seems an advocate for West India tyranny; but the man who defends slavery is an enemy to freedom, and would deserve little pity if made a slave himself.
“ Give a Negro an inch, and he'll want or take a fathom ;” that is, give him a little liberty, and he will ask for more: and so would your Liverpool friend, or any other man in the same condition. This was a charge always made by Ministers against Reformers; it is true, and Ministers would have been the same in their-condition; that feeling arises frem our common nature, and is as it should be ; let rulers and masters keep none in bondage, and they will have nothing to complain of on that head.
He says, "t is a well known fact, where there is one act of punishment by British planters, there are ten by the Portuguese and other proprietors, and about twenty in these isles of freedom and liberty.” I consider this to be a very false. assertion, and challenge him to the proof of it. When he has given his proof, I shall say something to the contrary; I do not mean to defend either the Portuguese planter or the British Government, both are bad enough, and so are the British planters, which the Negroes feel by experience.
He says, “ It is a question with me, whether the Negro population of our colonies do not enjoy a greater ratio of happiness