Изображения страниц


[ocr errors]

view a great spiritual injustice, which finds its only excuse in the blindness of those who would perpetrate it, to its real character.

The world is slowly opening its eyes to the necessity of greater breadth and comprehensiveness in the bonds of Christian communion; and these liberal tendencies are not confined to any denomination. Nothing wider in principle, or nobler in spirit, can be conceived than the recommendation of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, at this time the most popular orthodox preacher in America, in his Life Thoughts : “You are to accept as a Christian every one whose life and disposition are Christlike, no matter how heretical the denomination may be to which he belongs. Wherever

you find faith, and righteousness, and love, and joy in the Holy Ghost, you are to look upon them as the stamped coin of Christ's kingdom, and as a legal tender from God to you."* The immediate Future of Christianity, especially in its more liberal and learned forms, seems to us to depend on the right solution of this question. Men who are really attached to their Religion, and can separate its substance from its forms, will not endure to see the science, the earnestness, the patriotism, and the philanthropy of the age drifting away from the Church, and powerfully organising themselves for good, in an attitude, if not of actual hostility, yet of absolute indifference to its institutions. We do not object to more limited clusters of fellow-workers, held together by a common conviction, and attracted by similarity of taste and sentiment, or coincidence of immediate object,--for wherever there is the earnestness of strong conviction, there will be fruitful working; but what we do desire to see realised, as the great want of this age, is the cheerful recognition of each other by all these separate groups of associated workers, as the inheritors of a common name and a common mission,-making Christianity, not what it now too generally is, an obstructive and dividing agency, but the healing and restorative principle of society; giving men power in their several positions, and from their different points of view, to coöperate for the extirpation of falsehood, ignorance, and wrong, and the establishment of a universal reign of know

, ledge, purity, and love. The foes to human peace and progress are so many and so malignant, that they require to be met by the hearty union of all good men. The Church, by which we mean the visible embodiment in worship and communion of the spiritual principle in humanity represented by Christ, has always gained strength by comprehension, and lost it by exclusion. The reason is obvious. Men can only enter into large associations through the attractive force of what is fundamental and essential. They separate into sects and schools on what is unessential and accidental.

Quoted in the Proceedings of Progressive Friends for 1858, p. 116.

While they are united, the unessential falls into its just relation to the fundamental; when they mutually disown each other, as incapable of joint action, the unessential is artificially forced up into undue proininence, and becomes for the time, to those who are associated under it, the essential. Men are choice and delicate in selecting the elements of their Church, and are jealous of what they consider its purity. But purity in this sense may be purchased at too dear a price: it can never replace a tithe of the spiritual strength that is lost by the exclusion of one earnest and devout heretic like Theodore Parker.


Fraser's Magazine for December. Last Article. IN an article entitled “A few Words on Non-intervention," published in the December Number of Fraser, Mr. Mill has spoken as freely, forcibly, and weightily as he is wont to do, on the necessity of clearing up from misapprehension abroad and at home the principles which should guide the foreign policy of England. Much of what Mr. Mill states or implies as to our prevailing national weakness or indolence in controlling or watching the action of our foreign statesmanship, and the complementary faults of our foreign ministers, indifference to or ignorance of the feelings of the nation they represent, is historically and unquestionably true; and much of what he says as to the excuse which our contemptuous indifference to being misunderstood by foreigners really gives their unthinking masses for summarily putting upon us the character of selfish and narrow unscrupulousness, -indicated by such nicknames as perfidious Albion, the polypus-arms of Britain, and so forth,is equally just and to the purpose. From one cause or another, it is certain that neither the powers and peoples with whom we are brought in contact, nor the English people itself, nor those that act for that people in its relations with the outer world, appear to know intuitively on any particular occasion what the real gist of the policy of England should or will be, or what are the cardinal points to which that policy should hold. The imperfect soundings taken by the minister of the feeling of the country compel him to act upon sudden emergencies with a balancing and tentative uncertainty of the genuine strength of purpose and energy which he may count upon at his back. Instances may easily be noted in which the fortunes of political parties have been more suddenly and completely inverted on the wheel by a single false motion in the external attitude of the government arising from this cause, than ordinarily happens in the gradual working out of a problem of domestic policy, of which the popularity or urgency has been skilfully gauged in debates and on the hustings. Between the fear of giving some unforeseen vantage-ground to sharp-eyed rivals at home, and the disadvantage of contending with traditional distrust abroad, our international policy has an unfortunate tendency to perpetuate a wavering, ill-defined, and contradictory character, both in conception and in execution.

There has been one case of late years in which our moral support was given at first in such pronounced and volunteered encouragement to one side in a great struggle, as to have warranted the disappointment and bitter revulsion of feeling among the partisans of that side which followed the discovery that actual help was not to be expected, and that moral support would almost be withdrawn when the greatest need came. There has been another case in which the determination not to run so far into a display of sympathy for the oppressed as to inveigle them into a hope never meant to be realised, reconciled its caution with the zeal for testifying pious disapprobation of irresponsible tyranny by the mild but ineffective expedient of withdrawing from all diplomnatic speaking terms with the offending sovereign. There has also been a case in which the conviction of our adversaries that England was no readier to act in intelligible earnest than usual, - a mistake induced by the over-pacific tone of the statesmen then at the helm of England, who in their turn mistook or undervalued the national feeling on the question,--drifted ourselves and Russia into a war which would never have been provoked, had she known or been able to credit that we should oppose force to her aggressions. Had either her diplomatic dealings with the government of England, her social intercourse with the higher ranks of its polite life, or her careful study of its apparent resources for warlike purposes, enabled or allowed her to fathom the sentiments of the people, she would have weighed more carefully, before committing herself to a casus belli, the question whether the game was worth the cost of the candle. It would not be difficult to point to other instances of the inconsecutive, chance, happy-go-lucky sort of aspect worn by the foreign policy of England, when considered as a whole.

In the latest case of our diplomatic interventions (Lord Malmesbury's attempt towards a peaceful solution of the Italian difficulty), it certainly could not be fairly or plausibly asserted that our attitude of professed standing aloof was in any sense a determining cause of the actual outburst of war. It is probable that nothing short of an absolute threat of impartial hostility to whichever side should first break the peace of Europe would have practically succeeded better than Lord Malmesbury's wellmeant expostulations in holding back two combatants so eager for the fray: and such a threat it certainly was not incumbent on us (if, indeed, it had been justifiable on the part of any single nation) to utter. But it is clear that, from the moment when our various statesmen pledged themselves to the maintenance of an almost imperturbable state of neutrality, the efforts of any minister at reconciliation were sure to be as idle as the wind. There is a point in every species of argument at which it becomes necessary for the disputants to show each other the ultima ratio to which they mean to appeal: and when once that is known, it is superfluous to waste more time in discussing interlocutory issues. The first party, whether principal or mediator, who unnecessarily binds himself under no possible eventuality to outstep a certain line of conduct or argument, or to use any but a particular weapon of fence, virtually gives up whatever game he is playing to any player of less scrupulous character or more interested motives, -in short, to that party who is (for whatever reason) more in earnest in trying the suck of the cards.

It is difficult to lay down any positive rule by which we may be spared such undignified failures, and such an unsatisfactory reputation. Our conduct is hampered by our circumstances, our character, and our institutions. The occasion often comes when it is least thought of. The untying of a knot between two foreign nations cannot wait until the slow-thinking English people has made up its mind. If the question to be disentangled arises during the recess of parliament, it is natural that the minister should use his utmost endeavours to get it quietly settled or smoothed over before the next opportunity for political hay-making at his expense arrives, and so to leave

no opening or pretext for a public sifting of dubious details. If the case occur while the session is going on, free and fair as the ventilation to which the subject has a chance of being submitted may seem, it is rarely that its treatment escapes a slight colouring in accordance with the understood partisan hopes and aims of parliamentary warfare. Except where personal character lends a convincing weight to their assertions, it is not easy to feel sure how far English statesmen are in earnest in their mode of discussing any given foreign topic upon its merits. Until some certainty upon this point is more easily attainable, the support of the English people to the line adopted on any particular occasion by one statesman or another will not be more intuitively or promptly given than it is now. Anxious as it is, in the conduct of such matters, to be led by and to rely upon one who shall be better informed and better able to judge and act than itself, it finds few, if any, among our present generation of public men to whom it could point unreservedly as possessing the entire confidence, and representing wholly the thoughts, instincts, desires, and resolves of England in respect of her foreign relations. And in proportion as the sincerity and sufficiency of her agents is questioned at home, will their influence and weight be diminished in a Congress abroad.

Yet we must work with such tools as we have. Unless we are to retire completely within our insular shell, leave the work of the world for others to do without us, and stretch the doctrine of non-intervention into something equivalent to a permanent political quarantine, we must make up our minds to run such risks as are absolutely unavoidable of being misrepresented or ill served by our servants, and overreached, overruled, and misunderstood by those with whom we have to deal. There is all the more reason for avoiding such risks as are avoidable. If, as Mr. Mill holds, it is possible to draw up any such general instructions as may be available for use upon any specific emergency —to lay down bases of action which may be known and recog. nised as logically unassailable, and as those which England is determined to maintain--this should by all means be done, and in the broadest and strongest manner. "Wherever a principle can be unmistakeably identified as one which marks the line of absolute right and wrong, good and evil, and of which an application must be made in the particular case one way or the other, affirmatively or negatively,—let us understand ourselves, and then let us make others understand, how far we are in earnest in demanding that this principle be affirmed and carried into action. To reduce such a process into practice indubitably presents many difficulties, and multiplies the chances of collision with powers whose views of international morality may differ from our own. But it is almost a truism to repeat, that no public principle can be won against opposition, except by the determination to assert it manfully, and that no public principle is fairly tried unless it is so won. Every step in advance may find its peculiar and unforeseen stumbling-block to clear out of the way; every step will probably be hampered with questions not outwardly bearing on the moral aspects of the case, which may tend to complicate the solution of the main problem, and even to neutralise the immediate visible effect of the gain in principle when it is made. But no gain in the wider acknowledgment of a true principle is ever so indifferent in its consequences to ourselves, as not to be worth struggling for at whatever cost we can



« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »