Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/577

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CIVILIZATION AND MORALS.

In ancient Greece, even at the golden prime of that splendid narrow culture which exhibited itself so incomparably in art, in literature, and in civic virtue, the moral rules which concern liberty and life, and the simpler of the moral rules which concern rights of property, were defined very perfectly as between the fellow-citizens of each state, and between the kindred states, but very imperfectly beyond that strict limit of familiar association. The stranger, the alien, the enslaved captive, the barbarian of the non-Hellenic world, were not human fellows to the Greek; at the most they were only human creatures of some different variety, having that similitude and approaching somewhat to that relation, but quite excluded from his cognition of fellowship by all the habits of his feeling and his thought. According to his perception, they were clearly proper subjects of predatory warfare and piracy; he could kill them, plunder them, enslave them, with no more compunction of conscience than the modern hunter feels in capturing or killing the game-animals of the forest. And yet the same conscience was acting in the Greek that acts in men to-day; but only with more narrowness of range in the perceptions upon which it acted.

We shall have to pass far beyond the Greek in history to find much of a moral change in these respects. The Englishman of the Elizabethan age was a tolerably cultured man, as well morally as otherwise. So far as his fellow-Englishmen were concerned, he had notions of right conduct that were quite accurately formed. But he found it hard to carry many of these notions beyond the shore-bounds of his little island. The sea in that time—not only the Spanish Main, but the English Channel, and the very Thames itself—was swarming with English pirates and buccaneers, who were the contemporaries of Shakespeare, and Bacon, and Spenser, and Coke; who boasted the best names of the English gentry in their ranks; who received more than half countenance from the public sentiment and the public policy of the English nation; and who pillaged Spanish, French, and Flemish traders with serene impartiality, killing captains and crews without remorse when it suited their convenience to kill. In fact, Mr. Fronde tells us that the well-encouraged piracy of the sixteenth century was "the very source and seed-vessel" of the future naval power of England.

This insulation of moral ideas, which established one code of conduct for fellow-citizens and another for foreigners, one code for neighbors and another for strangers, characterized every people until recent times; but it has been disappearing rapidly among all the foremost races since the modern growth of universal commerce began. There is no mistaking the reason why. In the footsteps of commerce, every kind of communication and intercourse between men has closely followed, like the threads behind a weaver's shuttle. By travel, by migration, by correspondence—through the post, the newspaper, and the telegraph—men are fetched nowadays from the farthest corners