Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> An Oration Delivered Before the Two Societies of the South Carolina College, on the 4th of Dec., 1849 >> Page 200

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Page 200

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 200
Indeed a calm observer of mankind in our era
might be led to think that the Utilitarians and most
of the enthusiastic admirers of modern progress, be-
lieve that the seeds of it spontaneously germinated
and could never fail ; that discoveries and inventions
are lucky accidents that will constantly recur; that the
great events which influence the higher destinies of
our species are the results of chance ; and that the
only task for man is to make the best use, each for
himself, of whatever good fortune may throw in his
way. But such absurd opinions no one will openly
acknowledge that he entertains. All admit, when
forced to reason, that there must be causes for effects.
And, in general, the improvements of our age are
attributed to the advance of physical and experimen-
tal philosophy, of which Lord Bacon is referred to as
the founder.
The opinion that modern progress dates from the
era of Bacon, and rests upon the philosophy with
which his name is now most associated, has of late
been so widely diffused, and so strenuously inculcated,
that it is becoming, even among the most intelligent, a
fixed belief; and, to look further back than to him
and his doctrines, is deemed unnecessary for any use-
ful purpose of the present day all beyond being
matters of curious inquiry and fit studies for elegant
leisure, but of little value to the earnest and practical
man of our enlightened age. And in the same spirit
we are taught to pass lightly by all moral theories, and
to treat with contempt all metaphysical discussion.
But the causes thus assigned for the progress of
mankind, during the last two centuries, are wholly
inadequate, and to a very great degree untrue. Who-