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Accordingly no other was even pretended for a moment; Lord Palmerston explained to the House the special clause in the French Constitution which made the Treaty possible; while the Morning Post-the ministerial journal, and Lord Palmerston's peculiar organ in the Press — described (most truly) the Emperor's proceeding as “a commercial coup-d'état,” and justified it as the only means by which free-trade could have been introduced into a country where it is so universally dreaded and disliked.
Now we can perfectly understand that the Emperor of the French—who feels that in this matter he is in advance of the nation, whose strongest characteristic it has always been to be resolutely bent on his ends and utterly unscrupulous as to his means, and whose contempt for the cobweb restrictions of oaths, and institutions, and constitutional forms is perhaps profounder than that of any monarch of his time—should be resolved to benefit his people in their own despite. He thinks himself wiser and more far-seeing than the nation or its representatives; he never concealed from them his opinion that he is where he is to carry out his own purposes, and not theirs; he could feel no hesitation in trainpling on universal suffrage, as he has trampled on every thing else. We do not wonder at him, and we do not blame him,—any more than we compassionate the people who gave him power thus to ignore them, despise them, and dispose of them at pleasure. That he should have acted as he has acted, is comprehensible and defensible enough. That Mr. Cobden, again, caring for free-trade much, and for free institutions comparatively little, essentially fanatical and narrow, devoted to one great principle, and reckless of every other principle which stands in the way of or is likely to postpone its triumph, not precisely immoral or unprincipled, but too much enamoured of material interests to allow to moral considerations their due weight,that Mr. Cobden should have been proud and charmed to become co-conspirator with a great emperor in forcing even nominal free-trade down the throats of a prohibitive and protectionist nation, we can comprehend readily, though we must regret it much. Even Mr. Cobden, however, might have reflected with some misgiving, and with some self-reproach—if a rapturous sense of triumph had allowed him leisure for reflection-on the wide difference between his present victory, and that he won in England fourteen years ago, when discussion, persuasion, truth, and patience were the weapons which conquered his magnificent success; a difference no less than that between changing the convictions of a nation by noble argument, and suppressing and violating them by ignoble force, the difference between a chivalrous wooing and a brutal rape. Nor is it easy to reconcile Mr. Cobden's advocacy of popular claims, and his professed deference
to the will of the numerical majority, with his self-complaisant complicity in a proceeding in which that will and those claims have been so cynically set at naught. Still, knowing the character of the man, his enthusiasm for one great object, and the inherent want of breadth and depth of philosophic vision which has always distinguished him, we can easily explain his temporary alliance with despotism, and a contempt for the principles of liberty, which we trust is only pro hâc vice.
But that the chiefs and administrators of the first constitutional kingdom in the world ; that a Queen whose whole life has been signalised by the most unfailing and most delicate respect for the wishes of her people constitutionally expressed; that ministers who rule only by incessant deference to popular opinion, who never dream of offending or neglecting it, or of taking any important step except after the fullest discussion,-should have made themselves the tools and accomplices of a neighbouring sovereign acting in direct violation of all those principles and habits, and have helped him to do abroad what they would not for one moment have dared to do at home;should, in a word, have proclaimed in a fashion absolutely naked and indecent that the French Chambers did not deserve to be consulted, and that the convictions and desires of the French people were unworthy of the slightest consideration,—this, we confess, does appear to us in the highest degree unseemly and insulting; and we cannot wonder that the insult has been keenly felt. We doubt whether any thing England has ever done has gone so far to alienate and outrage the feelings of our only true friends in France (the Parliamentary party), or to exasperate still further those who have always been our enemies. We, who are par excellence the special votaries and upholders of constitutional proceedings and of regard for popular opinion, have departed in the most avowed and fagrant manner from our usual course of policy, for no other assignable reason than to assist the coup-d'état of a monarch who is beyond all others famous for his habitual trampling upon both. We have said plainly to the French people: “These luxuries, which we so value, which we cherish with the fondest love, and will defend with our hearts' best blood, are unfit for you, and
, we will help your monarch to deprive you of them.”
To reduce taxation is a good thing; to simplify the tariff is a good thing; to liberate trade from fiscal or formal restrictions is a good thing; to extend our markets abroad is a good thing; to inaugurate even the approach to a free commercial policy in a land which has hitherto been the very paradise of prohibition and protection, is perhaps a better thing than all. We at least shall not be charged with undervaluing any of these benefits.
But to effect all these things by indirect methods, and without frank avowal and full discussion; by opening the door to future encroachments on an artificially impoverished revenue, to unwise loans, or still more unwise parsimony; and by coercing the wishes and inflaming the prejudices of an allied people, and trampling on what little remains to them of constitutional forms and popular freedom, - this, we confess, does seem to us“ buying gold too dear.”
The men who have done these things may all of them have meant well — some of them we know meant well. But their error, to use the fine language of Mackintosh (which we quote from memory, and may therefore quote amiss), has been that “of regarding rather immediate results than ultimate success; of too readily allowing exceptions to general rules; of too easy a sanction to the use of doubtful means when the end seemed to them good ;—that, in fine, of believing, unphilosophically as well as dangerously, that there can be any scheme or measure as beneficial to the State as the mere existence of men who would not do a buse act for any public advantage.”
ART. IV.-ST. THOMAS OF CANTERBURY AND HIS
BIOGRAPHERS. Vita S. Thomæ Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi et Martyris. Epistola
Sancti Thomæ Cantuariensis et aliorum. Gilberti Episcopi Londoniensis Epistole. Herberti de Boseham Opera quæ extant
omnia. Edidit J. A. Giles, LL.D. 8 volumes. Oxford, 1845. Joannis Sarisburiensis Opera omnia. Collegit J. A. Giles, J.C.D.
5 volumes. Oxford, 1848. The History of Latin Christianity. By Henry Hart Milman, D.D.
Vol. III. London, 1854 The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of
Canterbury and Legate of the Holy See. By Jolin Morris, Canon
of Northampton. London, 1859. Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. A Biography. By James Craigie
Robertson, M.A., Canon of Canterbury. London, 1850. A FULL catalogue of the materials for the history of the wonderful man whose name heads this Article, a complete list of all the books, old and new, of which he has been the subject, would
up a space rather suited for an article itself than for the
mere heading of one. We have selected a few only of the most recent and important. We have original materials of every sort,-chronicles, biographies, private letters, state-papers; we have the panegyrics of friends, the invectives of enemies, the correspondence of the man himself. And as his own age was divided in its opinion of him, ours seems to be divided no less. He has still enemies who pursue him with the fierceness of a Gilbert Foliot, and idolaters who worship him with the devotion of a Herbert of Bosham. There is hardly any man of past times for estimating whose life and character we have such ample means. Every action of his own, every action of others with regard to him, has been chronicled and commented on by men who where both eye-witnesses and actors. And there are few men about the main features of whose history there is so little doubt. Here and there, among the multitude of witnesses, we find unimportant contradictions; here and there we may have our doubts as to the accuracy of a date or the genuineness of a letter; but the main events of his life, from his birth in London to his murder at Canterbury, are known to us as clearly and vividly as the transactions of our own time. Our materials are not confined either to the land of his birth or to the land of his exile. The vast Thomaic correspondence spreads over the whole Latin world. The terms of peace between a king of England and an archbishop of Canterbury fluctuated according to the triumphs and the failures of a German emperor in Italy. Our materials, in short, are infinite; indeed, until somebody shall kindly put them in order for us, they are overwhelming. We know, or by the help of a decent editor we might know, all about every body and every thing. As to mere matters of fact, the points of controversy, for so vast a field, are exceedingly few. The peculiarity of the history is, that, with the same facts before them, no two people seem to be content to draw the same inferences.
The cause of all this diversity and controversy—a diversity and controversy most fatal to historic truth is to be traced to the unhappy mistake of looking at the men of the twelfth century with the eyes of the nineteenth, and still worse, of hoping to extract something from the events of the twelfth century to do service in the controversies of the nineteenth. Thomas of Canterbury has become surrounded by a mist of theological and quasi-theological disputation ; it is impossible even to name him without raising a storm of controversy. For how is the man to be spoken of? “ Thomas à Becket," on the one hand, and “St. Thomas of Canterbury" both have their dangers, while every intermediate form expresses some intermediate shade of estimation. “ Becket” is perhaps neutral; “ Archbishop Becket" carries with it a degree of reverence for the office, if not for the man. And again, it is doubtful whether his own age even called him Thomas Becket, much less Thomas à Becket, or Becket alone.* King Henry the Eighth’s proclamation has converted his historical title of “ St. Thomas of Canterbury” into a badge of party. Otherwise we might probably have called him Saint Thomas with no more offence than is incurred by speaking historically of Saint Dominic or Saint Dunstan. By way of being safe, we mean to call him, as his contemporaries called him, Thomas, which we hope will not commit us to any thing either way. Thomas of London, Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas the Archdeacon, the Chancellor, the Archbishop, and finally the Martyr, are the only descriptions by which he was commonly known in his own day.
But when we have settled his name, we come to the more important question of his character. Was he a good or a bad man? Is he worthy of honour or of dishonour? To two classes of inquirers no business can be more easy to settle. It is a very simple business to rule either that an archbishop must be right who opposes a king, or that a king must be right who opposes an archbishop. But at the tribunal of historical criticism no such sweeping general principles are admitted. Nor does it at all decide the question to say which side we should take if the same controversy were to arise now. What would be very unreasonable and inexpedient now may have been exactly the opposite seven hundred years back. if we wish fairly to judge of the right and the wrong between Henry and Thomas, we must first of all shut our eyes to all modern controversies whatever. We must not carry into that region any modern theories about Church and State, about Catholicism and Protestantism. We must not think whether the events of those times can be made to help High Church, Low Church, or Broad Church. Even whether we are right or wrong in having no spiritual dealings with the Bishop of Rome, is a question which has just nothing to do with the matter. Yet it has been with at least a sideglance to questions of this sort, that the history of Henry and
* His father was undoubtedly called Gilbert Becket; but in the twelfth century surnames were very fluctuating, and a son, especially if a churchman, did not at all necessarily bear his father's name. The most natural way of calling him would be Thomas of London, just like John of Oxford and Herbert of Bosham, and we find bim actually so called by Gervase (col. 1377). We find the archbishop himself only once called " Thomas Becket," namely, by the knights at his death, according to Edward Grim (ap. Giles, i. 75), where it may be very likely an unusual expression of contempt. This remark, as far as we know, has been made by no English writer; but we find from M. Buss's work (p. 150) that German industry has forestalled us: M. Buss has found one more instance of the use of the name " Becket,” which (perhaps through Dr. Giles's fault) we cannot verify.