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1. By Professor HUXLEY
2. By Professor HENRY DRUMMOND
III. 'Shall we Desert the Loyalists?' By H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER
IV. Rural Italy and Peasant Properties. By LADY VERNEY
V. William Cobbett. By C. MILNES GASKELL, M.P.
VI. A Court of Lunacy. By the Right Hon. LORD DE MAULEY
IX. Sensationalism in Social Reform. By Rev. SAMUEL A. BARNETT,
X. Samoa. By C. KINLOCH COOKE.
XI. Alternative Policies in Ireland. By JAMES BRYCE, M.P.
No. CVIII-FEBRUARY 1886
AN AMERICAN VIEW OF POPULAR
I HAVE been reading, with the respect due to everything which Sir Henry Maine produces, his last volume, and particularly that most interesting chapter of it on 'The Prospects of Popular Government.' I confess, however, to having laid it down, after a careful perusal, without getting a very clear idea of the lesson he undertakes to teach. He says in his preface :
In the essay on the Prospects of Popular Government I have shown that as a matter of fact Popular Government, since its reintroduction into the modern world, has proved itself to be extremely fragile. In the essay on the Nature of Democracy I have given reasons for thinking that, in the extreme form to which it tends, it is of all kinds of government by far the most difficult. In the Age of Progress I have argued that, in the perpetual change which, as understood in modern times, it appears to demand, it is not in harmony with the normal forces ruling human nature, and is apt, therefore, to lead to cruel disappointment or serious disaster.
Now the phrase 'reintroduction into the modern world' implies that Popular Government existed in the ancient world, and, if so, an account of its working in the ancient world would certainly be a very important aid in judging whether it is really as fragile' as Sir Henry Maine thinks it: for the longer the period in which we watch the working of an institution, the more we know about its durability. But he disposes of what he calls 'the short-lived Athenian Democracy under whose shelter Art, Science, and Philosophy shot so wonderfully upwards' by saying that it was only an aristocracy which rose on the ruins of still another.' In fact, he lays it down as a general proposition 'that the progress of mankind has hitherto been effected by the rise VOL. XIX.-No. 108. N
and fall of aristocracies, by the formation of one aristocracy within another,' and that there have been many so-called democracies which have rendered services beyond price to civilisation, but they were only peculiar forms of aristocracy.' It is fair, I think, to conclude from this that there was no such thing as Popular Government in the ancient world at all, and that its appearance in the modern world was its first appearance anywhere, and was therefore not a reintroduction.' Consequently all that Sir Henry Maine, or any one else, knows about its fragility, he knows from observation of its working in the modern world. Whether a thing is durable or not, we can only tell from seeing it exposed, over a long period, to destructive agencies. That this period should in the case of a government be very long indeed, it is hardly necessary to say. Nothing is more delusive in the work of political speculation than short periods of observation. The most durable government the modern world has seen was that of the Venetian Republic, but there were in its history several periods of ten, twenty, or even fifty, years in which its continuance must have seemed to contemporaries something hardly to be looked for.
Now what opportunities for observing the durability of Popular Government has Sir Henry Maine had, on his own showing? The ancient world has afforded him none: what has the modern world afforded him? In other words, when did Popular Government first reveal itself to the philosophic eye? There is no doubt, he says, that Popular Government is of purely English origin, and that it made its first appearance in the triumph of the doctrine that government is the servant of the community, over the doctrine that it is the master of the community. The former, he says, after tremendous struggles,' was in spirit, if not in words, affirmed in 1689.' But that triumph was not complete, for he adds: 'It was long before this doctrine was either fully carried out by the nation, or fully accepted by its rulers.' In fact, he gives us to understand that it has not yet reached its final stage-that is, the stage at which tests of durability can begin to be applied to it. What we are witnessing, he says, in West European politics is not so much the establishment of a definite system, as the continuance, at various rates, of a process.'
I gather from all this that Popular Government, as now known to uз in the modern world, is a process which began about two centuries ago in a change of opinion on the part of the community in England with regard to the relations of the rulers and the ruled; that it did not, however, really influence English politics until about the beginning of this century. Consequently, Popular Government is, for the purposes of the philosophic observer, about eighty years old, and no more, and anything we desire to know about its durability and its general prospects we must learn from its history during that period. But the history of these eighty years seems to furnish a very small basis for induction on a matter so serious as the nature and