Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/101

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European brethren. Bacon discountenanced this view so far as concerned the savages of "Florida" or North Eastern America, and the foundation of English colonies there on a corresponding footing. He bade Englishmen throw aside ideas which to his thinking savoured less of reality than of antiquated romances like Amadis de Gaul, and take up Caesar's Commentaries. If Englishmen must perforce colonise, he pointed out to them as the proper field of colonial enterprise, the adjacent island of Ireland, whose aboriginal people were sunk in a barbarism more shameful than American savagery, because of their immediate proximity to, and close relations with, one of the most civilised nations on the globe.

These instances by no means represent the full influence exercised by the New World on the most powerful mind of modern times, and through him on ages which have realised his ideas without adding anything to their transcendent scope and penetration. There can be little doubt that Bacon's whole scheme for the reconstitution of knowledge on a broader basis and firmer foundation, in accordance with the truth of things and without regard to the routine of scholastic tradition, and with such fulness that, in his own words, the "crystalline globe" of the understanding should faithfully reflect all that the "material globe," or external world, offers to his apprehension, was suggested to him by the facts briefly sketched in the foregoing pages. Truth, he wrote, was not the daughter of Authority, but of Time. America was certainly "the greatest birth of time"; Bacon applied these words to the philosophic system of which he was the founder. The discovery of America gave the human intellect what is known to mechanics as a "dead lift." It dispelled a secular illusion; it destroyed the old blind reverence for antiquity, which Spenser might well have depicted as a sightless monster, stifling mankind in its serpentine embraces. Truth, to borrow from Milton an allegory worthy of Bacon, had been hewn, like the body of Osiris, into a thousand pieces. Philosophy, like Isis, the disconsolate spouse, wandered over the earth in quest of them: and the time would come when they should be "gathered limb to limb, and moulded into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection." What "grounds of hope," to use Bacon's phrase, for that glorious reunion—or rather, what certain auguries of its ultimate attainment—he gathered from the New Cosmography, his writings abundantly testify. His own vast survey of knowledge, attained or that ought to be attained, he modestly described as a coasting voyage or periegesis of the "New Intellectual World." He loved to compare his own conjectures and anticipations of the boundless results which he knew his method destined to achieve in the hands of posterity with the faint indications which had inspired Colombo to attempt that "mirabilis navigatio," that daring six weeks' voyage westward across the Atlantic. Feebly, indeed, and through the darkness of night, he says, blew the breeze of hope from the shores