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still the guiding creed of the large part of the world that is scarcely altered after two thousand years. And this much we may concede to the secular moralists, unless a man have from nature a selective tact which shuns the unlimited, unless he bave a detective instinct which unconsciously but sensitively shrinks from the extravagant, he will never enjoy a placid life, he will not pass through a simple and consistent career. The placid moderation which is necessary to coherent success cannot be acquired, it must be born.
Perhaps we may seem already to have more than accounted for the prominence of Mr. Gladstone's characteristic defects. We may seem to have alleged sufficient reasons for his being changeable and impulsive, a vehement advocate, and an audacious financier. But we had other causes to assign which have aggravated these faults. We shall not, indeed, after what
, we have said, venture to dwell on them at length. We will bear in mind the precept, “If you wish to exhaust your readers,
, exhaust your subject.” But we will very slightly allude to them.
A writer like Mr. Gladstone, fond of deriving illustration from the old theology, might speak of public life in England as an economy. It is a world of its own, far more than most Englishmen are aware of. It presents the characters of public men in a disguised form ; and by requiring the seeming adoption of much which is not real, it tends to modify and to distort much which is real. An English statesman in the present day lives by following public opinion; he may profess to guide it a little ; he may hope to modify it in detail; he may help to exaggerate and to develop it; but he hardly hopes for more. Many seem not willing to venture on so much. And what does this mean except that such a statesman has to follow the varying currents of a varying world; to adapt his public expressions, if not his private belief, to the tendencies of the hour; to be in no slight measure the slave—the petted and applauded slave, but still the slave—of the world which he seems to rule. Nor is this all. A minister is not simply the servant of the public, he is likewise the advocate of his colleagues. No one supposes that a cabinet can ever agree; when did fifteen able men-fifteen able men, more or less rivals—ever agree on any thing? We are aware that differences of opinion, more or less radical, exist in every cabinet; that the decisions of every cabinet are in nearly every case modified by concession ; that a minority of the cabinet frequently dissents from them. Yet all this latent discrepancy of opinion is never hinted at, much less is it ever avowed. A cabinet minister comes down to the House habitually to vote and occasionally to speak
in favour of measures which he much dislikes, from which he has in vain attempted to dissuade his colleagues. The life of a great minister is the life of a great advocate. No life can be imagined which is worse for a mind like Mr. Gladstone's. He was naturally changeable, susceptible, prone to unlimited statements--to vehement arguments. He has followed a career in which it is necessary to follow a changing guide, and to obey more or less, but always to some extent, a fluctuating opinion ; to argue vehemently for tenets which you dislike'; to defend boldly a given law to-day, to propose boldly that the same law should be repealed to-morrow. Accumulated experience shows that the public life of our parliamentary statesmen is singularly unsteadying, is painfully destructive of coherent principle; and we may easily conceive how dangerous it must be to a mind like Mr. Gladstone's—to a mind, by its intrinsic nature, impressible, impetuous, and unfixed.
What, then, is to be the future course of the remarkable statesman whose excellencies and whose faults we have ventured to analyse at such length ? No wise man would venture to predict. A wise man does not predict much in this complicated world, least of all will predict the exact course of a perplexing man in perplexing circumstances. But we will hazard three general remarks.
First, Mr. Gladstone is essentially a man who cannot impose his creed on his time, but must learn his creed of his time. Every parliamentary statesman must, as we have said, do so in some measure; but Mr. Gladstone must do so above all men. The vehement orator, the impulsive advocate, the ingenious but somewhat unsettled thinker, is the last man from whom we should expect an original policy, a steady succession of mature and consistent designs. Mr. Gladstone may well be the expositor of his time, the advocate of its conclusions, the admired orator in whom it will take pride ; but he cannot be more. Parliamentary life rarely admits the autocratic supremacy of an original intellect; the present moment is singularly unfavourable to it; Mr. Gladstone is the last man to obtain it.
Secondly, Mr. Gladstone will fail if he follow the seductive example of Sir R. Peel. It is customary to talk of the unfavourable circumstances in which the latter was placed, but in one respect those circumstances were favourable. He had very unusual means of learning the ideas of his time. They were forced upon him by a loud and organised agitation. The repeal of the corn-laws, the revival of the Catholic disabilities,—the two acts by which he will be remembered, -- were not chosen by him, but exacted from him. The world around him clamoured for them. But no future statesman can hope to have such an ad
vantage. The age in which Peel lived was an age of destruction ;
the measures by which he will be remembered were abolitions. We have now reached the term of the destructive period. We cannot abolish all our laws; we have few remaining with which educated men find fault. The questions which remain are questions of construction,-how the lower classes are to be admitted to a share of political power, without absorbing the whole power; how the natural union of Church and State is to be adapted to an age of divided religious opinion, and to the necessary conditions of a parliamentary government. These, and such as these, are the future topics of our home policy. And on these the voice of the nation will never be very distinct. Destruction is easy, construction is very difficult. A statesman who will hereafter learn what our real public opinion is, will not have to regard loud agitators, but to disregard them; will not have to yield to a loud voice, but to listen for a still sınall voice; will have to seek for the opinion which is treasured in secret rather than for that which is noised abroad. If Mr. Gladstone will accept the conditions of his age; if he will guide himself by the mature, settled, and cultured reflection of his time, and not by its loud and noisy organs; if he will look for that which is thought rather than for that which is said,-he may leave a great name, be useful to his country, may steady and balance his own mind. But if not, not. The coherent efficiency of his career will depend on the guide which he takes, the index which he obeys, the daiuwv which he consults.
There are two topics which are especially critical. Mr. Gladstone must not object to war because it is war, or to expenditure because it is expenditure. Upon these two points Mr. Gladstone has shown a tendency, -not, we hope, an uncontrollable tendency, but still a tendency—to differ from the best opinion of the age. He has been unfortunately placed. His humane and Christian feelings are opposed to war; he has a financial ideal which has been distorted, if not destroyed, by a growing expenditure. But war is often necessary; finance is but an end ; money is but a means. A statesman who would lead his age must learn its duties. It may be that the defence of England, the military defence, is one of our duties ; if so, we must not sit down to count the cost. If so, it is not the age for arithmetic. If so, it is for our statesmen—it is especially for Mr. Gladstone, who is the most splendidly gifted amongst them—to sacrifice cherished hopes; to forego treasured schemes; to put out of their thoughts the pleasant duties of a pacific time; to face the barbarism of war; to vanquish the instinctive shrinkings of a delicate mind.
Lastly, Mr. Gladstone must beware how he again commits himself to a long period of bewildering opposition. Office is a steadying situation. A minister has means of learning from his colleagues, from his subordinates, from unnumbered persons who are only too ready to give him information what the truth is, and what public opinion is. Opposition, on the other hand, is an exciting and a misleading situation. The bias of every one who is so placed is to oppose the ministry. Yet on a hundred questions the ministry are likely to be right. They have special information, long consultations, skilled public servants to guide them. On most points there is no misleading motive. Every minister decides, to the best of his ability, upon most of the questions which come before him. A bias to oppose him, therefore, is always dangerous. It is peculiarly dangerous to those in whom the contentious impulse is strong, whose life is in debate. If Mr. Gladstone's mind is to be kept in a useful track, it must be by the guiding influence of office; by an exemption from the misguiding influence of opposition.
No one desires more than we do that Mr. Gladstone's future course should be enriched, not only with oratorical fame, but with useful power. Such gifts as his are amongst the rarest that are given to men ; they are amongst the most valuable ; they are singularly suited to our parliamentary life. England cannot afford to lose such a man. If in the foregoing pages we have seemed often to find fault, it has not been for the sake of finding fault. It is necessary that England should comprehend Mr. Gladstone. If the country have not a true conception of a great statesman, his popularity will be capricious, his power irregular, and his usefulness insecure.
BOOKS OF THE QUARTER SUITABLE FOR READING
Modern Painters, Vol. V., completing the work, and containing: Part
VI. Of Leaf Beauty; VII. Of Cloud Beauty; VIII. Of Ideas of Relation, (1) Of Invention Formal; IX. Of Ideas of Relation, (2)
Of Invention Spiritual. By John Ruskin, M.A. Smith and Elder. Froude's History of England. Vols. V. and VI. J. W. Parker.
[Reviewed in Article IX.] Lord Macaulay's Miscellaneous Writings. 2 vols. Longman.
[Containing many striking essays of Lord Macaulay not previously col
lected; as, for example, the remarkable essay on Barère.] Metaphysics ; or, the Philosophy of Consciousness, Phenomenal and Real. By Henry Longueville Mansel, B.D. Black. [A reprint from the Encyclopædia Britannica. The “ Phenomenal"
section is distinguished by Mr. Mansel's well-known acuteness; the “Ontological" section reproduces the views on which we have com.
mented in former Numbers.] The Province of Reason: a Criticism of the Bampton Lecture on the
“ Limits of Religious Thought.” By John Young, LL.D. Smith and Elder.
[The author has got well hold of the fundamental errors in Mr. Mansel's
book, but his treatment of them is not very satisfactory.] Christ in Life: Life in Christ. By J. C. M. Bellew. Chapman and Hall.
[Eloquent, and marked by the characteristic faults and merits of elo
quence.] Glimpses of the Heaven that lies about us. By T. E. Poynting. Whitfield.
[The second part of this book is a very thoughtful and valuable contri
bution to the philosophy of science, which we should have preferred
to have had alone. It deserves careful study.] Thoughts in Aid of Faith, gathered chiefly from recent works in Theology and Philosophy. By Sara S. Hennell. George Manwaring:
(We would be the last to deny that these thoughts are an aid to Miss
Hennell's faith. They are earnest, intelligent, and candid. But the
tives aids us in grasping affirmatives.] Memorials of Thomas Hood. Collected, arranged, and edited by his
Daughter; with a Preface and Notes by his Son. Illustrated with many Copies from his own Sketches. Edward Moxon.