CIVILIZATION

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CIVILIZATION is one of those comprehensive words which are most used and least understood. Most people take tlieii own time, and, very often, their own country, as the standard whereby they judge the civilization of other ages and other countries. Whether our age has reached a higher point of civilization than any preceding one, is, of course, a matter of very great doubt, but there is no doubt that it makes louder claims to superiority m this respect than any previous period. Such pretensions are generally the consequence of ignorance of other times and their productions. It is certainly a circumstance worthy of some consideration, that persons whose talents and acquirements have enabled them to take wide and penetrating views of the past and present, have shown the least disposition to echo the cry of the march of intellect. The different opinions respecting civilization may be comprised under a few heads: 1. Some people believe in the possibility of constant advancement, and the ultimate attainment of perfect civilization, a consequence of which will be perfect happiness. 2. Others believe that eveiy nation, which arrives at a marked intellectual developement, goes through certain stages of civilization, and, after reaching the highest point which it is capable of attaining, declines ; that, moreover, the march of improvement in different nations shows itself in different ways, e. g., by the progress of the fine arts and philosophy among the Greeks, by the advancement of the natural sciences and the construction of great works of architecture among the Egyptians, by the developement of the law among the Romans, &c. 3. Some believe in a general progress of the intellect to a certain point, after which an equally general decline commences, thus making the race subject to the same laws as the individual. 4. Some persons cannot discover any regularity in the march of civilization.However these different opinions may appear, when measured by metaphysical theories, the second seems to be most conformable to history, with this qualification, however, that the increasing communication between nations has subjected many to similar influences, so that the opinion is applicable, at present, rather to families of nations than to single ones. Another subject, on wnich much difference of opinion exists, is, respecting the place frhere civilization originated. It is usually said, in Asia: some inquirers, however, make Ethiopia its first seat, hi support of which opinion, various passages are cited firm the Greek writers. Little doubt seems to exist, that the Greeks received their civilization from Egypt. Mr. Alexander Everett, in his work on America, goes so far as to maintain that it ap pears, from the historical sources we possess, that civilization commenced with the blacks; that " the blameless Ethiopians" of Homer were considered, by the Greeks, as superior beings to themselves ; and that the Egyptians, before they became mingled with white races, were people of color, or Negroesan opinion which the learned gentleman has recently advanced again in a public lecture. A further and highly important question respecting civilization, is, How far was it aided or produced by Christianity ? Some persons contend that all the civilization which we enjoy is owing to Christianity, even our progress in science, &c. Others assert the contrary, and say that history shows that Christianity has hardly ever taken the lead in promoting civilization, which, in every stage of its progress since the birth of Christ, has been urged on by other causes, as the revival of learning, promoted by the conquest of Constantinople, the propagation of democratic notions by the disbelieving philosophers of France, &c, and that Christianity rather accommodated itself to the effects produced by these causes. A third class believe that Christianity had a great influence on civilization in former ages, but that its influence in this respect has become less, as that of science has become stronger. (See Perfectibility.)