Obrázky stránek

nents, since it enables Uncle Sam to retire from a doubtful bargain. The two-thirds majority of Senators present required to ratify, he confesses, enables a faction to deal with foreign policy in narrow, sectional, electioneering


spirit.* Mr. Brown succeeded in getting a treaty drawn up, but the Senate would not consider it. He went about the work with his customary vigour and decision. Many persons in Congress who were dubious or antagonistic he won over by his enthusiasm and the logical force of his arguments. He paid a visit to New York and enlisted the sympathy of powerful journals like the Herald and the Times, knowing from his experience as a journalist the aid which could be rendered by the press. Mr. Brown's experience with Mr. Secretary Fish, whom he found timorous and uncertain, constantly making new demands, and, in the end, afraid to let the Executive father the measure, make diverting reading. Toward the end of June the draft instrument was sent to the Senate, but that body adjourned without taking action. In December Mr. Brown again went down after Congress had assembled, but Mr. Fish was more doubtful than ever, and the Senate returned the draft treaty to the President, stating that its adoption was inexpedient. The following year, when the Canadian statesman gave his explanations of this mission, he expressed the hope that the negotiations would ultimately succeed. But the tariff legislation of both countries put off all attempts for over fifteen years.

The negotiations of 1892 are too recent to require more than the briefest mention. All the circumstances which led up to them are subjects of the keenest political controversy, and it would be well-nigh impossible to frame a statement of the facts without rousing the ire of the party politicians. The outcome of the visit of Hon. Robert Bond, Colonial Secretary in the Newfoundland Government, to Washington in October, 1890, and his conferences with Mr. Blaine, Secretary of State, re

*The American Commonwealth, by James Bryce, 1894

sulted in the intervention of Canada. The British Minister proposed to Mr. Blaine that a general discussion of all outstanding questions with the Dominion should take place. Canada suggested as a basis for negotiation the terms of the Elgin Treaty of 1854, with such modifications and extensions as might be mutually acceptable. The conference, after several delays, finally came off in February, 1892. The Canadian delegates were Sir John Thomp son, Sir Mackenzie Bowell and Hon. George E. Foster. Mr. Blaine declared the policy of the United States to be, first, that reciprocity should embrace manufactured goods as well as natural products, and, secondly, that any treaty must be in the nature of a preferential bargain between the two countries, and that "other countries which were not parties to it should not enjoy gratuitously the favours which the two neighbouring countries might reciprocally concede to each other for valuable considerations, and at a large sacrifice of their respective revenues."* This practically broke off the negotiations for reciprocity.

It seems, therefore, that at least five distinct missions to Washington for the purpose of obtaining a reciprocity treaty have been taken, not to mention the other offers made in connection with the fishery discussion. Except in the case of Lord Elgin's effort all these resulted in nothing, and the United States authorities have naturally imbibed the notion that we are extremely anxious to obtain trade concessions. The remarks of the Prime Minister at Montreal a few days ago do not indicate that the present Government differs vitally from all previous Canadian Governments in the nature of the price to be paid. An agreement covering the fisheries and the canals would appear, therefore, to be the most probable outcome, if any, of the negotiations that will take place after President McKinley assumes office this month.

*Executive Documents U. S., No. 114, 52nd Congress, 1st Session.

A. H. U. Colquhoun

[ocr errors]


"How use doth breed a habit in a man."-Shakespere, T. G. of V., 5: 4.

define habit scientifically would be difficult, nor is it essential to the discussion of our subject, since the general meaning of the term, which is to all intents and purposes correct, is easy of understanding and is universally known. To say that "habit is a new pathway of discharge formed in the brain, by which certain incoming currents ever after tend to escape," (1) will not greatly aid the comprehension of one who is unfamiliar with this subject. So that perhaps it will be simpler to discuss habit without attempting by definition to alter the ordinary meaning of the word.

Having done a certain thing once the second attempt is easier and the third requires still less effort, and soon we come to perform the operation almost mechanically. That is, the habit of doing the thing has been acquired, and all that is necessary is that the motor centres be given the first impulse, when they will automatically complete the task. For example, first attempts at writing are, to say the least, labourious, the fingers clutch the pen and react with twice the necessary force, and the direction of their movement is uncertain. Practice makes perfect and soon the habit of writing overcomes the natural clumsiness of the hand, the writing becomes almost self-controlling and is assured, a given letter being regularly of the same form. It is habit, setting aside the question of mere association, which gives such great value to the violins of famous players. The constant playing of a master, with his assured yet delicate touch, habituates the molecules composing the instrument to vibrate in the best way. The inanimate particles have acquired habits which will influence all the music which they may subsequently give forth. The master's hand has made the habit good,

(1.) James Psychology, Briefer Course, p. 134.

and it is for the habit that the price is charged. The lock on a lady's bracelet turns with less friction, and the mighty engines of the ocean liner beat more smoothly with use, and what is this use but the habit of the thing. Again, who does not find it easier to consult books which he has handled many times before than those that are strange to him? Is any shoe so comfortable as an old shoe? These are but instances of habit in inanimate objects, and truly it is a mighty master that trains lifeless matter to yield, making it react under similar impulses each time with less resistance.

Habit, we have seen, controls both animate and inanimate things. This no one can deny, since it is the teaching of everyone's experience. It is reasonable, then, to expect that some physical and tangible change will be wrought by so powerful an agent. And that this is actually the fact a very brief consideration of the question will be sufficient to show. And the same thought will teach us that animate bodies are affected by habit in a different manner from things of wood and stone. The habituation of the lock or the steam-engine to action is purely negative, that is, it consists in the lessening of friction through the destruction and removal of substance. On the other hand, the results of habit in living beings are positive. In these, use does not merely reduce friction; it does more, it builds up tissue where that tissue will be of most service. Do we regard the wings or the legs of the wild duck as the more delicate morsels? It is the use or habit of long flights that has strengthened and toughened the muscles of the wings so that they are tireless, and incidentally provoke the carver's wrath. And, conversely, the seldom-tried wings of the tame fowl are tender, where

as the use of their legs has made those members sturdy. The bones, too, show the influence of habit. Careful measurements prove that the wingbones of the wild duck average larger than do those of the tame bird. And, on the other hand, similar measurements tell us that the leg-bones of the tame duck are heavier than those of its free cousin. It is on the immense number of facts similar to those just cited that the theory of evolution is based. The scent of wild beasts, always on the alert for danger, is far more keen than that of domesticated animals, and habit prodded by necessity has pricked up the ears of the selfdependent animal.

Habit, in like manner, leaves its traces more or less intelligible on man also. It requires no instruction to distinguish from the artisan the man whose regular tool is the pen. That the varying habits of the different trades and professions dog-ear the book of each man's mental and bodily life, each in its own way, is self-evident. But does a given habit leave any tangible mark on the brain? Mental activity of any kind draws blood to the brain, as may be ascertained by Mosso's balancing table (2). Does that blood plow out special furrows for each act, or do its repeated journeys for the same act follow the same furrow, and if so, do they leave any physical impress on the brain? It makes a simple working hypothesis very easy of comprehension to assert that habit cuts fixed and tangible paths through the brain substance, like the threads on a screw, and that each reaction perforce traverses and deepens the threads cut by a similar reaction at some previous time. But can such an assertion be confirmed? No one would dare to say, "All these men have such and such a habit, and I find by trepanning that the reaction for the habit starts here and runs through this particular groove, which is reserved for this habit, and would not exist except for the habit. The most

(2) This is a delicately-balanced table, on which the subject lies. It is, in fact, a very sensitive scale whose equilibrum is disturbed by the rush of blood to the head when any mental action takes place.

that can be said is that habit in some way brings it about that repetition is easier than original action, and that it wisely prepares for this by strengthening the muscles at the same time, making them more sensitive. But the claim that habit actually produces in the brain certain routes of mental reaction, which can be examined microscopically or otherwise, must be thrown out for lack of proof, or left as an open question.

We are told that, psychologically speaking, habit means, "loss of oversight, diffusion of attention, subsiding consciousness." (3) In other words, that habit is reaction of one kind or another freed from the controlling supervision of the brain. The readiest simile is found in electricity, by saying that habit short circuits the battery below the galvanometer. The electric fluid of reaction is still circulating, but the galvanometer, the brain, is no longer affected. But does this tell us anything more than that unconscious habit is action of which the brain is unconscious?

Having thus mentioned on the one hand the purely physical idea of habit, and on the other the psychological statement, it remains for us to consider what habit does for the world at large. Is it advantageous or is it harmful? Our theorem will be that it is in the main beneficial. The reader may deny this statement and cite in evidence the habitual drunkard, and those whom the necessities of use have made excessive smokers, even to their destruction. And the same critic of my statement would open any daily paper and point to the victims of the morphine and opium habits. These are, however, individual cases, unfortunate in themselves, but in relation to the population of the world few in number and insignificant in the harm they do. How then does habit work to the advantage of the world? By acting for society the same part that is taken for the engine by its fly-wheel. The momentum of the wheel, which might be called its force of habit, carries it on

(3) Baldwin, Elements of Psychology, p. 51.

round past the centres and practically integrates the broken motion of the piston. It allows the engine to run smoothly, and takes off strain. Habit serves man in the same way. One who has certain tasks to regularly perform which, being disagreeable, he does only from necessity at first, soon finds the burden of them lightened, so that eventually the labour may even be entirely unnoticed, and for this respite he must thank habit. It is habit, the habit of respecting meum et tuum, that saves many and keeps the number of absconding clerks limited. What is it that holds a labourer chained fast to a trade which galls his soul, and at which he can scarce earn his bread; or which he knows is ruining his health? Necessity frequently, but almost as frequently habit. He has got into a rut, and in that rut he sticks fast, unable even to make an effort to change his occu

pation. It is this same habit of yielding that keeps the horse hitched to the plow, and it is the same power that saves the rich from a gigantic uprising of the poor. The horse is stronger than the plowman, and the vast hordes of poor are mightier than the few and scattered rich. But habit controls all these, holding each to his post. The fly-wheel of the engine is the exponent of mechanical, and habit of mental, inertia. That is to say, habit is the force which opposes change.

To sum up, no one word seems to define habit so clearly as the one we have just been using, inertia. And the power of this inertia or force of habit is so overwhelming as to have caused the Duke of Wellington to say: "Habit is a second nature! Habit is ten times nature!" And few will think that the great soldier was extravagant in his


[merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

If opposed. Smite with strength; then disband them.

On to the battle! Forth to the fight!

[blocks in formation]



THERE is no doubt that Canadian

Poetry has been the subject of much ill-advised praise, but it is a poor remedy to disparage the work of those who labour wisely and well. An article appeared in the December number of the Canadian Magazine which sins in this respect and sins against good taste as well as against good criticism. The critic has a right to his own views and predilections and a right to express them freely, but unfair statements can never be excused. In the article in question, Prof. Roberts' "Songs of the Common Day" is said to contain "about forty sonnets, and a similar number of what he terms poems." Of the fine "Tantramar Revisited" it is said: "Tantramar opens and closes with reflections of no mean interest, but the intermediate lines run on at great length in an utterly ineffective. twaddle of description." Carman possesses a "weird and grotesque vagueness." And more thereto.

But the men who are thus dealt with have won fame in a wider than Canad'an field, and deserve juster treatment. Their critic himself remarks: "They are not without merits, and it may fairly be said that they are all men of great talent." To grant a writer talent, and then to run amuck through the work which displays that talent is, to put it mildly, inconsistent. Nor is it pleasant, reading of men whom all Canadians respect for their literary ability, to meet with a statement such as the following: "It is not enough that they find a ready market for their writings to fill up the vacant pagespaces of magazines, or even that their art is the affectation or the fad of a literary coterie." For there are considerations, besides the burning question of "filling up the vacant page-spaces,' which influence editors in their choice of material. Poems accepted by The

Century, or Scribner's, or Harper's, must possess a certain amount of literary merit as well as a certain number of lines; and the editors of these periodicals are not without knowledge as to what constitutes literary worth. Α sentence such as the last quoted is distinctly unfair. It serves no purpose whatever, except as the expression of personal dissatisfaction, which is not

and never will be criticism. Moreover, it is peculiarly ungracious. for a Canadian to gird at Canadian poets. They receive little financial encouragement in Canada, yet there is no doubt that their work, in its patriotism (which Mr. Waldron affirms) and its poetic quality (which Mr. Waldron denies), has done service to their country. At least let Canadians bid them God-speed.

But let us turn to the more criticalor less uncritical-portions of Mr. Waldron's article. We shall quote his theory as well and as truly as we can, and then test its value as a measure of poetic worth. It is as follows:"It may be safely said that no poetry of lasting merit is possible which does not base its claim to our attention on action or reflection concerning action." "Language is not adequate to the detailed description of scenery; aside altogether from its limited interest, and its meagre power to appeal to human feeling, it cannot be represented in detail by the poet as vividly as action." (One is inclined to ask if Mr. Waldron has read Tennyson's "Day Dream.") "The poet attempting detailed description, and not merely suggestion, produces on the mind of the reader only a confused and distracted effect." Description must not call up the "particular image in a poet's mind, but general images in the mind of the reader. This the poet does by suggestion." True poetry, then,

« PředchozíPokračovat »