Изображения страниц

portance, inasmuch as it not only discloses the visions of hope and progress floating before the eyes of the Oxford Reformers, but also embodies, as I think I have been able to show, perhaps one of the boldest declarations of a political creed ever uttered by an English statesman on his entry into a king's service.

For the latter it proved to be. Within a few months of the publication of the “ Utopia,” More yielded to the king's persuasions, and became a courtier. There can be little doubt that Henry VIII. must have read the book, and that his persisting in his determination to draw More into his court, notwithstanding its outspoken censure of his royal policy, was another proof added to those which he had repeatedly given to Colet, that he could appreciate honesty and boldness, and other high qualities, even when taking the form of opposition to himself.

In the spring of 1517, More did become a courtier. And Roper tells us that the occasion of his doing so was the great ability shown by him in the conduct of a suit respecting “a great ship" belonging to the Pope, which the king claimed for a forfeiture. In connection with which, Roper tells us, that More, “in defence on the Pope's side, argued so learnedly, that both was the aforesaid forfeiture restored to the Pope; and himself, among all the hearers for his upright and commendable demeanour therein, so greatly renowned, that for no entreaty would the king from henceforth be induced any longer to forbear his service.”2

What passed between the king and his new courtier on this occasion, and upon what conditions More yielded to the king's entreaties, we are not informed; but that he maintained his independence of thought and action, may be inferred from the fact that eighteen years after, when in peril of his life from royal displeasure, he had occasion upon his knees to remind his sovereign of “the most godly words that his highness spake unto him, at his first coming into his noble service—the most virtuous lesson that ever a prince taught his servant-willing him first to look to God, and after God unto him."


[ocr errors]

(1) Eras., Epist. cxxvii. Louvain, ap. 1517; also, cclxxxii. app. Louvain 24 ap. [1517.) That the latter was written in 1517 see cclxxxv. app., which shows that Erasmus was in Basle April 13, 1518, to print the second edition of the New Testament. See also ccclxxvii. Basle, 26th July, 1518, and which must have been written in that year, as it mentions Ammonius as dead, who died August 19, 1517.

(2) Roper, p. 11. (3) Roper, p. 48.


In home politics for the last fortnight nothing has been stirring. Mr. Gladstone has wisely been prevailed upon to resist the temptations of the democracy, and flee to Rome, where he will shortly be followed by the greater portion of the late Cabinet. Mr. Mill is recovering as far as he can his philosophical equilibrium at Avignon, and Mr. Bright alone is equal to the fatigues of perpetual agitation. Mr. Bright performs a useful function in the body politic -he is the continual test of the soundness of our institutions; like the workman hammering at the wheels of the carriages, when we take a railway journey, to see that they ring properly, and that our course will be safe and prosperous. He is to our monarchy what aquafortis is to the precious metals, what the devil's advocate is to the saint about to be received into the Roman Calendar. He thinks it his duty to point out every flaw (are we wrong in saying so ?), to magnify every defect; to show, as far as he can, the evil results and evil tendencies of our existing institutions; to deny any merit in our forefathers, or that the present state of the British Empire should be a source of pride or satisfaction to any Englishman. He would as quickly as possible get rid of all privileged classes, and would accept all other conclusions which would necessarily flow from this measure. He looks upon the United States as the perfect State, at the perpetual turmoil of elections there as the noblest use of human faculties, and every energy of his own superior mind is devoted, during a lifelong struggle, to turn England into a particular kind of republic. He would be anxious that that time should arrive as soon as possible, because his mind is perfectly satisfied with the purely material prosperity of the United States. But what says his friend and coadjutor, Mr. Mill—not Mr. Mill the member of Parliament, but Mr. Mill the philosopher? He fairly and fully speaks his mind out in a passage on the state of society in America, the greater part of which is not to be found in the latest edition of his works. It was doubtless expunged after Mr. Mill entered on his career of practical politics, to succeed in which he considers violent partisanship to be a duty, and that it is unsafe to utter your real sentiments, because they may clash with the political action which, “per fas aut nefas,” you think it your duty to support The

passage in Mr. Mill's writings is the following :-“I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other's heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of humankind, or anything but the disagreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress. The northern and middle States of America are a specimen of this stage of civilisation in very favourable circumstances; having apparently got rid of all social injustices and inequalities that affect persons of Caucasian race and of the male sex, while the proportion of population to capital and land is such as to ensure abundance to every able-bodied member of the community who does not forfeit it by misconduct. They have the six points of Chartism, and they have no poverty; and all that these advantages do for them is, that the life of the whole of one sex is devoted to dollar-hunting, and of the other to breeding dollar-hunters. This is not a kind of social perfection which philanthropists to come will feel any very eager desire to assist in realising.” (“Pol. Econ.," vol. ii. p. 309). These sentiments, expressed by Mr. Mill a few years ago, are such as must hare passed through the mind of every educated Englishman during a visit to the United States; they are such as are entertained by many highly-educated Americans, and they are the real motives why so many of them leave their own country and live away from it in Europe. They do not think their country by any means perfect in its present political state, and these opinions are quite consistent with enlightened and affectionate patriotism. They would wish to see less agitation and less turmoil, fewer elections, more fixed authorities, less jealousy of superior excellence, and greater weight allowed to education, learning, and virtue. Some might wish to see a new virtue introduced on American soil-humility; and are led to ask whether the wire-pullers and panderers to popular passions and prejudices, who have such a grand career of power, influence, and profit open to them in the United States, are not nearly as great an evil as an hereditary aristocracy? Mr. Mill concludes the passage we have quoted above with two remarkable sentences, giving his view as to what should be the proper state of feeling in a perfect state :-"Most fitting indeed it is that while riches are power, and to grow as rich as possible the universal object of ambition, the path to its attainment should be open to all, without favour or partiality. But the best state of human nature is that in which, while no one is poor, no one desires to be richer, nor has any reason to fear being thrust back by the efforts of others to push themselves forward.”

Now we would ask Mr. Mill in which country is this state of mind nearest realisation, in the United States or England. We are inclined to think the latter. We grant that there is a very unsatisfactory distribution of wealth at present, and that this is our weak point, but we also maintain that the decided tendency during the last twenty years has been to reduce the great inequality which prevailed, and that this tendency has been during the last few years greatly increasing. There is, however, in a remarkable degree, that spirit of contentment which Mr. Mill thinks, or used to think, so desirable, when he says, “While no one is poor, no one desires to be richer," and the characteristic of Englishmen generally is that, while they work hard and are as skilful as those of any other country, they are not absorbed in their toil, do not think work the great end of existence, take an interest in general affairs and the cultivation of their minds; and are even too much inclined to spend in social intercourse with their families and friends their hard-earned wages. It was this cheerful, happy, contented, well-balanced character which in former times earned for us the name of “merrie England,” but intense competition introduced into our political life will assuredly alter our national character. Whether the increased “struggling, pushing, and treading on one another's heels" is likely to raise it, we leave our readers to judge. An ancient philosopher, Aristotle, has been much quoted of late, and not without reason, for no man ever possessed a clearer reason or sounder sense, combined with great experience in various forms of government. He had also the advantage of being merely a spectator and not a member of Parliament. He says that “ a State should be a partnership, aiming not merely at subsistence but at well-being, and subservient not merely to the interests of life, but to the interests of that kind of life which is

[ocr errors]


ultimately desirable to man as the perfection of his social and moral nature.” We cannot have a better picture of the state of society at which we should aim than what is here depicted, but it is an ideal very much higher than that which is presented to us by the United States, and it is one which we shall not reach by abandoning wholly the conduct of affairs to the uneducated classes. Much as they can assist the State by generous emotions in great emergencies, it is the educated classes which can alone conduct it in a course of steady and sure progress, and the very great extension of the suffrage aimed at by Messrs. Beales and Odgers, and apparently approved of by Mr. Bright and Mr. Mill, would place political power in the same hands as possess it in the United States, and probably lead to the same political condition.

May we not, therefore, aim at a higher ideal than is presented to us by any existing State, and seek from our own history the proper mode of perfecting our institutions? There is a continuity of growth in English institutions unparalleled in any other country. We have laid under contribution the wisdom of Roman civilisation, freshened by the natural justice of the free barbaric tribes. We have gone on mending and improving according to the wants of each generation, without suddenly transforming ourselves to some philosophical ideal; and it may well be questioned whether our real progress has not been as great or greater by this system of patchwork, than if we had advanced by jumps to some state of perfection thought out by certain ingenious men among us.

In foreign politics the most important event of the last fortnight has undoubtedly been the French Emperor's Circular. Read fairly, it exactly expresses the views which every enlightened Liberal in England would be inclined to take of the recent transformation of power in Germany, and of the proper position of France in Europe. It states plainly and justly the divided opinions of the French public on recent events—the desirable results, and the apparently undesirable results, which have been the consequences of a great political movement. It frankly states that if France had been really injuriously affected, it would have been the duty of her chief to lead the nation to war; but that, considered in a broad and liberal view, both Europe and France have benefited by the enfranchisement of Germany and Italy. We dare say it may not have struck some of our readers how cleverly the much-abused treaties of 1815 fulfilled one great object of their enactment, viz., to hem in France by a very powerful organisation, extending, as the Emperor says, from Luxemburg to Triest, from the Baltic to Trent, backed in most cases, on account of the similarity of political principles, by Russia, which would then give a compact mass from the Rhine to the Ural Mountains, ever ready to repress the sometimes too exuberant energies of the Gallic people, and confine them to the bounds which had been marked out for them. Their value as regards this object is brought out with great perspicuity in the Circular, and shows why French statesmen united with the popular voice in condemning these treaties which were a real curb on the ambition of France, as well as a badge of conquest. France by this system was left without any ally worth having on the Continent, while at the same time a check was placed on the development of the nations which had been thus banded together for an object which, from the altered feeling of Europe, was no longer considered desirable. This system the Emperor justly takes the credit of having put an end to, sometimes by arms, as in the case of Italy, sometimes by diplomacy, as in the case of Germany; and the popular cry can never again be raised in France, “ À bas les traites de 1815!” The Emperor has answered that cry, and so far fulfilled one of the dearest wishes of the French people. “The coalition of the three Northern Courts is broken up. The new principle which governs Europe is freedom of alliances. All the Great Powers are restored to the plenitude of their independence, to the proper development of their destinies.” Now, until lately, people who thought themselyes far-sighted politicians in England were chuckling at the events of the German war, at the Emperor being overreached, and at his having raised up an united Germany without getting his stipulated pay. But he has in this manifesto a very good account to give for what he has done; and if he has not succeeded in getting the frontier of the Rhine, he has yet done a great service to France by promoting what we believe all must acknowledge as a great step towards the union of Germany. Then follows a comparison of the masses which will be united in each European State, showing that by the break-up of the German Confederation France possesses the largest mass of population in Europe after Russia, having 40,000,000 against the 60,000,000 of Russia; while there being now so many powerful States in Europe, unbound by any ties to one another, she is freer to contract alliances according to the interest of the moment, at the same time that the liberal principles which recent events have done so much to develop, will forbid any idea of combinations with a view to conquer or coerce any civilised State. The Emperor then touches on a point which must seem an axiom to the rising generation, namely, “the irresistible powercan it be regretted ?—which impels peoples to unite themselves in great masses, by causing the disappearance of minor States." Except in very exceptional circumstances, such as Switzerland, we see everywhere the inconveniences attending small States. They exist only on the forbearance of their neighbours. The expenses of their government are disproportionate to their size, and they have no suitable career to offer for the ablest of their citizens. If well governed, they can really only form a subordinate division of some larger State, as Coburg we believe was of Prussia; if ill governed, their citizens are peculiarly obnoxious to over-taxation and tyranny, like the unfortunate inhabitants of Hesse-Cassel. Therefore the sooner they disappear the better, and if we mistake not, the absorption already begun in Europe is not yet completed. We can place no limit on the size which States may attain with advantage to the citizens as civilisation progresses. At present the best limit seems to be from 30,000,000 to 40,000,000, on a tolerably close area—such as England or France. When the population is much scattered, and settlements exist at a great distance from the central authority, as happens in Russia and the United States, every traveller in those countries can bear witness how imperfect is the administration of the government.

With time, however, as the Emperor says, the amount of population which can be conveniently assembled in one State may become greater, and countries like the United States and Russia, which have unlimited room for expansion, may increase in a century to 100,000,000 each. Europe should be prepared for such a contingency, and none can blame the Emperor for looking beforehand at the proper means to secure to the old countries of Europe an equal amount of prosperity and power. He lays down the rules which he thinks

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »