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Title: Prose Masterpieces from Modern Essayists
Author: Gladstone, W. E. (William Ewart), 1809-1898 [Contributor], Freeman, Edward Augustus, 1823-1892 [Contributor], Stephen, Leslie, Sir, 1832-1904 [Contributor], Newman, John Henry, 1801-1890 [Contributor], Froude, James Anthony, 1818-1894 [Contributor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  The Knickerbocker Press

  The Knickerbocker Press
  Electrotyped and Printed by
  G. P. Putnam's Sons

  CONTENTS.                                                         PAGE

  THE SCIENCE OF HISTORY. By James Anthony Froude                      3

  RACE AND LANGUAGE. By Edward A. Freeman                             55

  KIN BEYOND SEA. By William Ewart Gladstone                         151

  PRIVATE JUDGMENT. By John Henry Newman                             221

  AN APOLOGY FOR PLAINSPEAKING. By Leslie Stephen                    281



BORN 1818.


FEBRUARY 5, 1864.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--I have undertaken to speak to you this
evening on what is called the Science of History. I fear it is a dry
subject; and there seems, indeed, something incongruous in the very
connection of such words as Science and History. It is as if we were to
talk of the color of sound, or the longitude of the Rule-of-three. Where
it is so difficult to make out the truth on the commonest disputed fact
in matters passing under our very eyes, how can we talk of a science in
things long past, which come to us only through books? It often seems to
me as if History was like a child's box of letters, with which we can
spell any word we please. We have only to pick out such letters as we
want, arrange them as we like, and say nothing about those which do not
suit our purpose.

I will try to make the thing intelligible, and I will try not to weary
you; but I am doubtful of my success either way. First, however, I wish
to say a word or two about the eminent person whose name is connected
with this way of looking at History, and whose premature death struck us
all with such a sudden sorrow. Many of you, perhaps, recollect Mr.
Buckle as he stood not so long ago in this place. He spoke more than an
hour without a note,--never repeating himself, never wasting words;
laying out his matter as easily and as pleasantly as if he had been
talking to us at his own fireside. We might think what we pleased of Mr.
Buckle's views, but it was plain enough that he was a man of uncommon
power; and he had qualities also--qualities to which he, perhaps,
himself attached little value--as rare as they were admirable.

Most of us, when we have hit on something which we are pleased to think
important and original, feel as if we should burst with it. We come out
into the book-market with our wares in hand, and ask for thanks and
recognition. Mr. Buckle, at an early age, conceived the thought which
made him famous, but he took the measure of his abilities. He knew that
whenever he pleased he could command personal distinction, but he cared
more for his subject than for himself. He was contented to work with
patient reticence, unknown and unheard of, for twenty years; and then,
at middle life, he produced a work which was translated at once into
French and German, and, of all places in the world, fluttered the
dovecots of the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg.

Goethe says somewhere, that as soon as a man has done any thing
remarkable, there seems to be a general conspiracy to prevent him from
doing it again. He is feasted, fêted, caressed; his time is stolen from
him by breakfasts, dinners, societies, idle businesses of a thousand
kinds. Mr. Buckle had his share of all this; but there are also more
dangerous enemies that wait upon success like his. He had scarcely won
for himself the place which he deserved, than his health was found
shattered by his labors. He had but time to show us how large a man he
was, time just to sketch the outlines of his philosophy, and he passed
away as suddenly as he appeared. He went abroad to recover strength for
his work, but his work was done with and over. He died of a fever at
Damascus, vexed only that he was compelled to leave it uncompleted.
Almost his last conscious words were: "My book, my book! I shall never
finish my book!" He went away as he had lived, nobly careless of
himself, and thinking only of the thing which he had undertaken to do.

But his labor had not been thrown away. Disagree with him as we might,
the effect which he had already produced was unmistakable, and it is not
likely to pass away. What he said was not essentially new. Some such
interpretation of human things is as early as the beginning of thought.
But Mr. Buckle, on the one hand, had the art which belongs to men of
genius: he could present his opinions with peculiar distinctness; and,
on the other hand, there is much in the mode of speculation at present
current among us for which those opinions have an unusual fascination.
They do not please us, but they excite and irritate us. We are angry
with them; and we betray, in being so, an uneasy misgiving that there
may be more truth in those opinions than we like to allow.

Mr. Buckle's general theory was something of this kind: When human
creatures began first to look about them in the world they lived in,
there seemed to be no order in any thing. Days and nights were not the
same length. The air was sometimes hot and sometimes cold. Some of the
stars rose and set like the sun; some were almost motionless in the sky;
some described circles round a central star above the north horizon. The
planets went on principles of their own; and in the elements there
seemed nothing but caprice. Sun and moon would at times go out in
eclipse. Sometimes the earth itself would shake under men's feet; and
they could only suppose that earth and air and sky and water were
inhabited and managed by creatures as wayward as themselves.

Time went on, and the disorder began to arrange itself. Certain
influences seemed beneficent to men, others malignant and destructive;
and the world was supposed to be animated by good spirits and evil
spirits, who were continually fighting against each other, in outward
nature and in human creatures themselves. Finally, as men observed more
and imagined less, these interpretations gave way also. Phenomena the
most opposite in effect were seen to be the result of the same natural
law. The fire did not burn the house down if the owners of it were
careful, but remained on the hearth and boiled the pot; nor did it seem
more inclined to burn a bad man's house down than a good man's, provided
the badness did not take the form of negligence. The phenomena of nature
were found for the most part to proceed in an orderly, regular way, and
their variations to be such as could be counted upon. From observing the
order of things, the step was easy to cause and effect. An eclipse,
instead of being a sign of the anger of Heaven, was found to be the
necessary and innocent result of the relative position of sun, moon, and
earth. The comets became bodies in space, unrelated to the beings who
had imagined that all creation was watching them and their doings. By
degrees caprice, volition, all symptoms of arbitrary action, disappeared
out of the universe; and almost every phenomenon in earth or heaven was
found attributable to some law, either understood or perceived to exist.
Thus nature was reclaimed from the imagination. The first fantastic
conception of things gave way before the moral; the moral in turn gave
way before the natural; and at last there was left but one small tract
of jungle where the theory of law had failed to penetrate,--the doings
and characters of human creatures themselves.

There, and only there, amidst the conflicts of reason and emotion,
conscience and desire, spiritual forces were still conceived to exist.
Cause and effect were not traceable when there was a free volition to
disturb the connection. In all other things, from a given set of
conditions the consequences necessarily followed. With man, the word
"law" changed its meaning; and instead of a fixed order, which he could
not choose but follow, it became a moral precept, which he might disobey
if he dared.

This it was which Mr. Buckle disbelieved. The economy which prevailed
throughout nature, he thought it very unlikely should admit of this
exception. He considered that human beings acted necessarily from the
impulse of outward circumstances upon their mental and bodily condition
at any given moment. Every man, he said, acted from a motive; and his
conduct was determined by the motive which affected him most powerfully.
Every man naturally desires what he supposes to be good for him; but, to
do well, he must know well. He will eat poison, so long as he does not
know that it is poison. Let him see that it will kill him, and he will
not touch it. The question was not of moral right and wrong. Once let
him be thoroughly made to feel that the thing is destructive, and he
will leave it alone by the law of his nature. His virtues are the result
of knowledge; his faults, the necessary consequence of the want of it. A
boy desires to draw. He knows nothing about it: he draws men like trees
or houses, with their centre of gravity anywhere. He makes mistakes
because he knows no better. We do not blame him. Till he is better
taught, he cannot help it. But his instruction begins. He arrives at
straight lines; then at solids; then at curves. He learns perspective,
and light and shade. He observes more accurately the forms which he
wishes to represent. He perceives effects, and he perceives the means by
which they are produced. He has learned what to do; and, in part, he has
learned how to do it. His after-progress will depend on the amount of
force which his nature possesses; but all this is as natural as the
growth of an acorn. You do not preach to the acorn that it is its duty
to become a large tree; you do not preach to the art-pupil that it is
his duty to become a Holbein. You plant your acorn in favorable soil,
where it can have light and air, and be sheltered from the wind; you
remove the superfluous branches, you train the strength into the leading
shoots. The acorn will then become as fine a tree as it has vital force
to become. The difference between men and other things is only in the
largeness and variety of man's capacities; and in this special capacity,
that he alone has the power of observing the circumstances favorable to
his own growth, and can apply them for himself, yet, again, with this
condition,--that he is not, as is commonly supposed, free to choose
whether he will make use of these appliances or not. When he knows what
is good for him, he will choose it; and he will judge what is good for
him by the circumstances which have made him what he is.

And what he would do, Mr. Buckle supposed that he always had done. His
history had been a natural growth as much as the growth of the acorn.
His improvement had followed the progress of his knowledge; and, by a
comparison of his outward circumstances with the condition of his mind,
his whole proceedings on this planet, his creeds and constitutions, his
good deeds and his bad, his arts and his sciences, his empires and his
revolutions, would be found all to arrange themselves into clear
relations of cause and effect.

If, when Mr. Buckle pressed his conclusions we objected the difficulty
of finding what the truth about past times really was, he would admit it
candidly as far as concerned individuals; but there was not the same
difficulty, he said, with masses of men. We might disagree about the
character of Julius or Tiberius Cæsar, but we could know well enough the
Romans of the Empire. We had their literature to tell us how they
thought; we had their laws to tell us how they governed; we had the
broad face of the world, the huge mountainous outline of their general
doings upon it, to tell us how they acted. He believed it was all
reducible to laws, and could be made as intelligible as the growth of
the chalk cliffs or the coal measures.

And thus consistently Mr. Buckle cared little for individuals. He did
not believe (as some one has said) that the history of mankind is the
history of its great men. Great men with him were but larger atoms,
obeying the same impulses with the rest, only perhaps a trifle more
erratic. With them or without them, the course of things would have been
much the same.

As an illustration of the truth of his view, he would point to the new
science of Political Economy. Here already was a large area of human
activity in which natural laws were found to act unerringly. Men had
gone on for centuries trying to regulate trade on moral principles. They
would fix wages according to some imaginary rule of fairness; they would
fix prices by what they considered things ought to cost; they encouraged
one trade or discouraged another, for moral reasons. They might as well
have tried to work a steam-engine on moral reasons. The great statesmen
whose names were connected with these enterprises might have as well
legislated that water should run up-hill. There were natural laws, fixed
in the conditions of things; and to contend against them was the old
battle of the Titans against the gods.

As it was with political economy, so it was with all other forms of
human activity; and as the true laws of political economy explained the
troubles which people fell into in old times because they were ignorant
of them, so the true laws of human nature, as soon as we knew them,
would explain their mistakes in more serious matters, and enable us to
manage better for the future. Geographical position, climate, air, soil,
and the like, had their several influences. The northern nations are
hardy and industrious, because they must till the earth if they would
eat the fruits of it, and because the temperature is too low to make an
idle life enjoyable. In the south, the soil is more productive, while
less food is wanted and fewer clothes; and, in the exquisite air,
exertion is not needed to make the sense of existence delightful.
Therefore, in the south we find men lazy and indolent.

True, there are difficulties in these views; the home of the languid
Italian was the home also of the sternest race of whom the story of
mankind retains a record. And again, when we are told that the Spaniards
are superstitious because Spain is a country of earthquakes, we remember
Japan, the spot in all the world where earthquakes are most frequent,
and where at the same time there is the most serene disbelief in any
supernatural agency whatsoever.

Moreover, if men grow into what they are by natural laws, they cannot
help being what they are; and if they cannot help being what they are, a
good deal will have to be altered in our general view of human
obligations and responsibilities.

That, however, in these theories there is a great deal of truth, is
quite certain, were there but a hope that those who maintain them would
be contented with that admission. A man born in a Mahometan country
grows up a Mahometan; in a Catholic country, a Catholic; in a Protestant
country, a Protestant. His opinions are like his language: he learns to
think as he learns to speak; and it is absurd to suppose him responsible
for being what nature makes him. We take pains to educate children.
There is a good education and a bad education; there are rules well
ascertained by which characters are influenced; and, clearly enough, it
is no mere matter for a boy's free will whether he turns out well or
ill. We try to train him into good habits; we keep him out of the way of
temptations; we see that he is well taught; we mix kindness and
strictness; we surround him with every good influence we can command.
These are what are termed the advantages of a good education; and if we
fail to provide those under our care with it, and if they go wrong, the
responsibility we feel is as much ours as theirs. This is at once an
admission of the power over us of outward circumstances.

In the same way, we allow for the strength of temptations, and the like.

In general, it is perfectly obvious that men do necessarily absorb, out
of the influences in which they grow up, something which gives a
complexion to their whole after-character.

When historians have to relate great social or speculative changes, the
overthrow of a monarchy, or the establishment of a creed, they do but
half their duty if they merely relate the events. In an account, for
instance, of the rise of Mahometanism, it is not enough to describe the
character of the Prophet, the ends which he set before him, the means
which he made use of, and the effect which he produced; the historian
must show what there was in the condition of the Eastern races which
enabled Mahomet to act upon, them so powerfully; their existing beliefs,
their existing moral and political condition.

In our estimate of the past, and in our calculations of the future, in
the judgments which we pass upon one another, we measure responsibility,
not by the thing done, but by the opportunities which people have had of
knowing better or worse. In the efforts which we make to keep our
children from bad associations or friends, we admit that external
circumstances have a powerful effect in making men what they are.

But are circumstances every thing? That is the whole question. A
science of history, if it is more than a misleading name, implies that
the relation between cause and effect holds in human things as
completely as in all others; that the origin of human actions is not to
be looked for in mysterious properties of the mind, but in influences
which are palpable and ponderable.

When natural causes are liable to be set aside and neutralized by what
is called volition, the word Science is out of place. If it is free to
man to choose what he will do or not do, there is no adequate science of
him. If there is a science of him, there is no free choice, and the
praise or blame with which we regard one another are impertinent and out
of place.

I am trespassing upon these ethical grounds because, unless I do, the
subject cannot be made intelligible. Mankind are but an aggregate of
individuals; History is but the record of individual action: and what is
true of the part is true of the whole.

We feel keenly about such things, and, when the logic becomes
perplexing, we are apt to grow rhetorical about them. But rhetoric is
only misleading. Whatever the truth may be, it is best that we should
know it; and for truth of any kind we should keep our heads and hearts
as cool as we can.

I will say at once, that, if we had the whole case before us; if we were
taken, like Leibnitz's Tarquin, into the council-chamber of Nature, and
were shown what we really were, where we came from, and where we were
going, however unpleasant it might be for some of us to find ourselves,
like Tarquin, made into villains, from the subtle necessities of "the
best of all possible worlds,"--nevertheless, some such theory as Mr.
Buckle's might possibly turn out to be true. Likely enough, there is
some great "equation of the universe" where the value of the unknown
quantities can be determined. But we must treat things in relation to
our own powers and positions, and the question is, whether the sweep of
those vast curves can be measured by the intellect of creatures of a day
like ourselves.

The "Faust" of Goethe, tired of the barren round of earthly knowledge,
calls magic to his aid. He desires, first, to see the spirit of the
Macrocosmos, but his heart fails him before he ventures that tremendous
experiment, and he summons before him, instead, the spirit of his own
race. There he feels himself at home. The stream of life and the storm
of action, the everlasting ocean of existence, the web and the woof,
and the roaring loom of Time,--he gazes upon them all, and in passionate
exultation claims fellowship with the awful thing before him. But the
majestic vision fades, and a voice comes to him,--"Thou art fellow with
the spirits which thy mind can grasp, not with me."

Had Mr. Buckle tried to follow his principles into detail, it might have
fared no better with him than with "Faust."

What are the conditions of a science? and when may any subject be said
to enter the scientific stage? I suppose when the facts begin to resolve
themselves into groups; when phenomena are no longer isolated
experiences, but appear in connection and order; when, after certain
antecedents, certain consequences are uniformly seen to follow; when
facts enough have been collected to furnish a basis for conjectural
explanation; and when conjectures have so far ceased to be utterly vague
that it is possible in some degree to foresee the future by the help of

Till a subject has advanced as far as this, to speak of a science of it
is an abuse of language. It is not enough to say that there must be a
science of human things because there is a science of all other things.
This is like saying the planets must be inhabited because the only
planet of which we have any experience is inhabited. It may or may not
be true, but it is not a practical question; it does not affect the
practical treatment of the matter in hand.

Let us look at the history of Astronomy.

So long as sun, moon, and planets were supposed to be gods or angels; so
long as the sword of Orion was not a metaphor, but a fact; and the
groups of stars which inlaid the floor of heaven were the glittering
trophies of the loves and wars of the Pantheon,--so long there was no
science of Astronomy. There was fancy, imagination, poetry, perhaps
reverence, but no science. As soon, however, as it was observed that the
stars retained their relative places; that the times of their rising and
setting varied with the seasons; that sun, moon, and planets moved among
them in a plane, and the belt of the Zodiac was marked out and
divided,--then a new order of things began. Traces of the earlier stage
remained in the names of the signs and constellations, just as the
Scandinavian mythology survives now in the names of the days of the
week; but, for all that, the understanding was now at work on the thing;
science had begun, and the first triumph of it was the power of
foretelling the future. Eclipses were perceived to recur in cycles of
nineteen years, and philosophers were able to say when an eclipse was to
be looked for. The periods of the planets were determined. Theories were
invented to account for their eccentricities; and, false as those
theories might be, the position of the planets could be calculated with
moderate certainty by them. The very first result of the science, in its
most imperfect stage, was a power of foresight; and this was possible
before any one true astronomical law had been discovered.

We should not therefore question the possibility of a science of history
because the explanations of its phenomena were rudimentary or imperfect:
that they might be, and long continue to be, and yet enough might be
done to show that there was such a thing, and that it was not entirely
without use. But how was it that in those rude days, with small
knowledge of mathematics, and with no better instruments than flat walls
and dial-plates, those first astronomers made progress so considerable?
Because, I suppose, the phenomena which they were observing recurred,
for the most part, within moderate intervals; so that they could
collect large experience within the compass of their natural lives;
because days and months and years were measurable periods, and within
them the more simple phenomena perpetually repeated themselves.

But how would it have been if, instead of turning on its axis once in
twenty-four hours, the earth had taken a year about it; if the year had
been nearly four hundred years; if man's life had been no longer than it
is, and for the initial steps of astronomy there had been nothing to
depend upon except observations recorded in history? How many ages would
have passed, had this been our condition, before it would have occurred
to any one, that, in what they saw night after night, there was any kind
of order at all?

We can see to some extent how it would have been, by the present state
of those parts of the science which in fact depend on remote recorded
observations. The movements of the comets are still extremely uncertain.
The times of their return can be calculated only with the greatest

And yet such a hypothesis as I have suggested would but inadequately
express the position in which we are in fact placed toward history.
There the phenomena never repeat themselves. There we are dependent
wholly on the record of things said to have happened once, but which
never happen or can happen a second time. There no experiment is
possible; we can watch for no recurring fact to test the worth of our
conjectures. It has been suggested fancifully, that, if we consider the
universe to be infinite, time is the same as eternity, and the past is
perpetually present. Light takes nine years to come to us from Sirius:
those rays which we may see to-night, when we leave this place, left
Sirius nine years ago; and could the inhabitants of Sirius see the earth
at this moment, they would see the English army in the trenches before
Sebastopol, Florence Nightingale watching at Scutari over the wounded at
Inkermann, and the peace of England undisturbed by "Essays and Reviews."

As the stars recede into distance, so time recedes with them; and there
may be, and probably are, stars from which Noah might be seen stepping
into the ark, Eve listening to the temptation of the serpent, or that
older race, eating the oysters and leaving the shell-heaps behind them,
when the Baltic was an open sea.

Could we but compare notes, something might be done; but of this there
is no present hope, and without it there will be no science of history.
Eclipses, recorded in ancient books, can be verified by calculations,
and lost dates can be recovered by them; and we can foresee, by the laws
which they follow, when there will be eclipses again. Will a time ever
be when the lost secret of the foundation of Rome can be recovered by
historic laws? If not, where is our science? It may be said that this is
a particular fact, that we can deal satisfactorily with general
phenomena affecting eras and cycles. Well, then, let us take some
general phenomenon; Mahometanism, for instance, or Buddhism. Those are
large enough. Can you imagine a science which would have[1] _foretold_
such movements as those? The state of things out of which they rose is
obscure; but, suppose it not obscure, can you conceive that, with any
amount of historical insight into the old Oriental beliefs, you could
have seen that they were about to transform themselves into those
particular forms and no other?

It is not enough to say, that, after the fact, you can understand
partially how Mahometanism came to be. All historians worth the name
have told us something about that. But when we talk of science, we mean
something with more ambitious pretences, we mean something which can
foresee as well as explain; and, thus looked at, to state the problem is
to show its absurdity. As little could the wisest man have foreseen this
mighty revolution, as thirty years ago such a thing as Mormonism could
have been anticipated in America; as little as it could have been
foreseen that table-turning and spirit-rapping would have been an
outcome of the scientific culture of England in the nineteenth century.

The greatest of Roman thinkers, gazing mournfully at the seething mass
of moral putrefaction round him, detected and deigned to notice among
its elements a certain detestable superstition, so he called it, rising
up amidst the offscouring of the Jews, which was named Christianity.
Could Tacitus have looked forward nine centuries to the Rome of Gregory
VII, could he have beheld the representative of the majesty of the
Cæsars holding the stirrup of the Pontiff of that vile and execrated
sect, the spectacle would scarcely have appeared to him the fulfilment
of a national expectation, or an intelligible result of the causes in
operation round him. Tacitus, indeed, was born before the science of
history; but would M. Comte have seen any more clearly?

Nor is the case much better if we are less hard upon our philosophy; if
we content ourselves with the past, and require only a scientific
explanation of that.

First, for the facts themselves. They come to us through the minds of
those who recorded them, neither machines nor angels, but fallible
creatures, with human passions and prejudices. Tacitus and Thucydides
were perhaps the ablest men who ever gave themselves to writing history;
the ablest, and also the most incapable of conscious falsehood. Yet even
now, after all these centuries, the truth of what they relate is called
in question. Good reasons can be given to show that neither of them can
be confidently trusted. If we doubt with these, whom are we to believe?

Or, again, let the facts be granted. To revert to my simile of the box
of letters, you have but to select such facts as suit you, you have but
to leave alone those which do not suit you, and, let your theory of
history be what it will, you can find no difficulty in providing facts
to prove it.

You may have your Hegel's philosophy of history, or you may have your
Schlegel's philosophy of history; you may prove from history that the
world is governed in detail by a special Providence; you may prove that
there is no sign of any moral agent in the universe, except man; you may
believe, if you like it, in the old theory of the wisdom of antiquity;
you may speak, as was the fashion in the fifteenth century, of "our
fathers, who had more wit and wisdom than we"; or you may talk of "our
barbarian ancestors," and describe their wars as the scuffling of kites
and crows.

You may maintain that the evolution of humanity has been an unbroken
progress toward perfection; you may maintain that there has been no
progress at all, and that man remains the same poor creature that he
ever was; or, lastly, you may say, with the author of the "Contract
Social," that men were purest and best in primeval simplicity,--

  "When wild in woods the noble savage ran."

In all or any of these views, history will stand your friend. History,
in its passive irony, will make no objection. Like Jarno, in Goethe's
novel, it will not condescend to argue with you, and will provide you
with abundant illustrations of any thing which you may wish to believe.

"What is history," said Napoleon, "but a fiction agreed upon?" "My
friend," said Faust to the student, who was growing enthusiastic about
the spirit of past ages,--"my friend, the times which are gone are a
book with seven seals; and what you call the spirit of past ages is but
the spirit of this or that worthy gentleman in whose mind those ages are

One lesson, and only one, history may be said to repeat with
distinctness: that the world is built somehow on moral foundations;
that, in the long run, it is well with the good; in the long run, it is
ill with the wicked. But this is no science; it is no more than the old
doctrine taught long ago by the Hebrew prophets. The theories of M.
Comte and his disciples advance us, after all, not a step beyond the
trodden and familiar ground. If men are not entirely animals, they are
at least half animals, and are subject in this aspect of them to the
conditions of animals. So far as those parts of man's doings are
concerned, which neither have, nor need have, any thing moral about
them, so far the laws of him are calculable. There are laws for his
digestion, and laws of the means by which his digestive organs are
supplied with matter. But pass beyond them, and where are we? In a world
where it would be as easy to calculate men's actions by laws like those
of positive philosophy as to measure the orbit of Neptune with a foot
rule, or weigh Sirius in a grocer's scale.

And it is not difficult to see why this should be. The first principle,
on which the theory of a science of history can be plausibly argued, is
that all actions whatsoever arise from self-interest. It may be
enlightened self-interest, it may be unenlightened; but it is assumed as
an axiom, that every man, in whatever he does, is aiming at something
which he considers will promote his happiness. His conduct is not
determined by his will; it is determined by the object of his desire.
Adam Smith, in laying the foundations of political economy, expressly
eliminates every other motive. He does not say that men never act on
other motives; still less, that they never ought to act on other
motives. He asserts merely that, as far as the arts of production are
concerned, and of buying and selling, the action of self-interest may
be counted upon as uniform. What Adam Smith says of political economy,
Mr. Buckle would extend over the whole circle of human activity.

Now, that which especially distinguishes a high order of man from a low
order of man--that which constitutes human goodness, human greatness,
human nobleness--is surely not the degree of enlightenment with which
men pursue their own advantage: but it is self-forgetfulness, it is
self-sacrifice; it is the disregard of personal pleasure, personal
indulgence, personal advantages remote or present, because some other
line of conduct is more right.

We are sometimes told that this is but another way of expressing the
same thing; that, when a man prefers doing what is right, it is only
because to do right gives him a higher satisfaction. It appears to me,
on the contrary, to be a difference in the very heart and nature of
things. The martyr goes to the stake, the patriot to the scaffold, not
with a view to any future reward, to themselves, but because it is a
glory to fling away their lives for truth and freedom. And so through
all phases of existence, to the smallest details of common life, the
beautiful character is the unselfish character. Those whom we most love
and admire are those to whom the thought of self seems never to occur;
who do simply and with no ulterior aim--with no thought whether it will
be pleasant to themselves or unpleasant--that which is good and right
and generous.

Is this still selfishness, only more enlightened? I do not think so. The
essence of true nobility, is neglect of self. Let the thought of self
pass in, and the beauty of a great action is gone, like the bloom from a
soiled flower. Surely it is a paradox to speak of the self-interest of a
martyr who dies for a cause, the triumph of which he will never enjoy;
and the greatest of that great company in all ages would have done what
they did, had their personal prospects closed with the grave. Nay, there
have been those so zealous for some glorious principle as to wish
themselves blotted out of the book of Heaven if the cause of Heaven
could succeed.

And out of this mysterious quality, whatever it be, arise the higher
relations of human life, the higher modes of human obligation. Kant, the
philosopher, used to say that there were two things which overwhelmed
him with awe as he thought of them. One was the star-sown deep of
space, without limit and without end; the other was, right and wrong.
Right, the sacrifice of self to good; wrong, the sacrifice of good to
self,--not graduated objects of desire, to which we are determined by
the degrees of our knowledge, but wide asunder as pole and pole, as
light and darkness: one the object of infinite love; the other, the
object of infinite detestation and scorn. It is in this marvellous power
in men to do wrong (it is an old story, but none the less true for
that),--it is in this power to do wrong--wrong or right, as it lies
somehow with ourselves to choose--that the impossibility stands of
forming scientific calculations of what men will do before the fact, or
scientific explanations of what they have done after the fact. If men
were consistently selfish, you might analyze their motives; if they were
consistently noble they would express in their conduct the laws of the
highest perfection. But so long as two natures are mixed together, and
the strange creature which results from the combination is now under one
influence and now under another, so long you will make nothing of him
except from the old-fashioned moral--or, if you please,
imaginative--point of view.

Even the laws of political economy itself cease to guide us when they
touch moral government. So long as labor is a chattel to be bought and
sold, so long, like other commodities, it follows the condition of
supply and demand. But if, for his misfortune, an employer considers
that he stands in human relations toward his workmen; if he believes,
rightly or wrongly, that he is responsible for them; that in return for
their labor he is bound to see that their children are decently taught,
and they and their families decently fed and clothed and lodged; that he
ought to care for them in sickness and in old age,--then political
economy will no longer direct him, and the relations between himself and
his dependents will have to be arranged on quite other principles.

So long as he considers only his own material profit, so long supply and
demand will settle every difficulty; but the introduction of a new
factor spoils the equation.

And it is precisely in this debatable ground of low motives and noble
emotions; in the struggle, ever failing yet ever renewed, to carry truth
and justice into the administration of human society; in the
establishment of states and in the overthrow of tyrannies; in the rise
and fall of creeds; in the world of ideas; in the character and deeds of
the great actors in the drama of life, where good and evil fight out
their everlasting battle, now ranged in opposite camps, now and more
often in the heart, both of them, of each living man,--that the true
human interest of history resides. The progress of industries, the
growth of material and mechanical civilization, are interesting; but
they are not the most interesting. They have their reward in the
increase of material comforts; but, unless we are mistaken about our
nature, they do not highly concern us after all.

Once more: not only is there in men this baffling duality of principle,
but there is something else in us which still more defies scientific

Mr. Buckle would deliver himself from the eccentricities of this and
that individual by a doctrine of averages. Though he cannot tell whether
A, B, or C will cut his throat, he may assure himself that one man in
every fifty thousand, or thereabout (I forget the exact proportion),
will cut his throat, and with this he consoles himself. No doubt it is a
comforting discovery. Unfortunately, the average of one generation need
not be the average of the next. We may be converted by the Japanese,
for all that we know, and the Japanese methods of taking leave of life
may become fashionable among us. Nay, did not Novalis suggest that the
whole race of men would at last become so disgusted with their
impotence, that they would extinguish themselves by a simultaneous act
of suicide, and make room for a better order of beings? Anyhow, the
fountain out of which the race is flowing perpetually changes; no two
generations are alike. Whether there is a change in the organization
itself we cannot tell; but this is certain,--that, as the planet varies
with the atmosphere which surrounds it, so each new generation varies
from the last, because it inhales as its atmosphere the accumulated
experience and knowledge of the whole past of the world. These things
form the spiritual air which we breathe as we grow; and, in the infinite
multiplicity of elements of which that air is now composed, it is
forever a matter of conjecture what the minds will be like which expand
under its influence.

From the England of Fielding and Richardson to the England of Miss
Austen, from the England of Miss Austen to the England of Railways and
Free Trade, how vast the change! Yet perhaps Sir Charles Grandison
would not seem so strange to us now as one of ourselves will seem to our
great-grandchildren. The world moves faster and faster; and the
difference will probably be considerably greater.

The temper of each new generation is a continual surprise. The Fates
delight to contradict our most confident expectations. Gibbon believed
that the era of conquerors was at an end. Had he lived out the full life
of man, he would have seen Europe at the feet of Napoleon. But a few
years ago we believed the world had grown too civilized for war, and the
Crystal Palace in Hyde Park was to be the inauguration of a new era.
Battles bloody as Napoleon's are now the familiar tale of every day; and
the arts which have made greatest progress are the arts of destruction.
What next? We may strain our eyes into the future which lies beyond this
waning century; but never was conjecture more at fault. It is blank
darkness, which even the imagination fails to people.

What, then, is the use of History, and what are its lessons? If it can
tell us little of the past, and nothing of the future, why waste our
time over so barren a study?

First, it is a voice forever sounding across the centuries the laws of
right and wrong. Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall,
but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity. For every false
word or unrighteous deed, for cruelty and oppression, for lust or
vanity, the price has to be paid at last; not always by the chief
offenders, but paid by some one. Justice and truth alone endure and
live. Injustice and falsehood may be long-lived, but doomsday comes at
last to them, in French revolutions and other terrible ways.

That is one lesson of history. Another is, that we should draw no
horoscopes; that we should expect little, for what we expect will not
come to pass. Revolutions, reformations,--those vast movements into
which heroes and saints have flung themselves, in the belief that they
were the dawn of the millennium,--have not borne the fruit which they
looked for. Millenniums are still far away. These great convulsions
leave the world changed,--perhaps improved, but not improved as the
actors in them hoped it would be. Luther would have gone to work with
less heart, could he have foreseen the Thirty Years' War, and in the
distance the theology of Tubingen. Washington might have hesitated to
draw the sword against England, could he have seen the country which he
made as we see it now.[2]

The most reasonable anticipations fail us, antecedents the most apposite
mislead us, because the conditions of human problems never repeat
themselves. Some new feature alters every thing,--some element which we
detect only in its after-operation.

But this, it may be said, is but a meagre outcome. Can the long records
of humanity, with all its joys and sorrows, its sufferings and its
conquests, teach us more than this? Let us approach the subject from
another side.

If you were asked to point out the special features in which
Shakespeare's plays are so transcendently excellent, you would mention
perhaps, among others, this--that his stories are not put together, and
his characters are not conceived, to illustrate any particular law or
principle. They teach many lessons, but not any one prominent above
another; and when we have drawn from them all the direct instruction
which they contain, there remains still something unresolved,--something
which the artist gives, and which the philosopher cannot give.

It is in this characteristic that we are accustomed to say Shakespeare's
supreme _truth_ lies. He represents real life. His drama teaches as life
teaches,--neither less nor more. He builds his fabrics, as Nature does,
on right and wrong; but he does not struggle to make Nature more
systematic than she is. In the subtle interflow of good and evil; in the
unmerited sufferings of innocence; in the disproportion of penalties to
desert; in the seeming blindness with which justice, in attempting to
assert itself, overwhelms innocent and guilty in a common
ruin,--Shakespeare is true to real experience. The mystery of
life he leaves as he finds it; and, in his most tremendous
positions, he is addressing rather the intellectual emotions than the
understanding,--knowing well that the understanding in such things is at
fault, and the sage as ignorant as the child.

Only the highest order of genius can represent Nature thus. An inferior
artist produces either something entirely immoral, where good and evil
are names, and nobility of disposition is supposed to show itself in the
absolute disregard of them, or else, if he is a better kind of man, he
will force on Nature a didactic purpose; he composes what are called
moral tales, which may edify the conscience, but only mislead the

The finest work of this kind produced in modern times is Lessing's play
of "Nathan the Wise." The object of it is to teach religious toleration.
The doctrine is admirable, the mode in which it is enforced is
interesting; but it has the fatal fault that it is not true. Nature does
not teach religious toleration by any such direct method; and the result
is--no one knew it better than Lessing himself--that the play is not
poetry, but only splendid manufacture. Shakespeare is eternal; Lessing's
"Nathan" will pass away with the mode of thought which gave it birth.
One is based on fact; the other, on human theory about fact. The theory
seems at first sight to contain the most immediate instruction; but it
is not really so.

Cibber and others, as you know, wanted to alter Shakespeare. The French
king, in "Lear," was to be got rid of; Cordelia was to marry Edgar, and
Lear himself was to be rewarded for his sufferings by a golden old age.
They could not bear that Hamlet should suffer for the sins of Claudius.
The wicked king was to die, and the wicked mother; and Hamlet and
Ophelia were to make a match of it, and live happily ever after. A
common novelist would have arranged it thus; and you would have had your
comfortable moral that wickedness was fitly punished, and virtue had its
due reward, and all would have been well. But Shakespeare would not have
it so. Shakespeare knew that crime was not so simple in its
consequences, or Providence so paternal. He was contented to take the
truth from life; and the effect upon the mind of the most correct theory
of what life ought to be, compared to the effect of the life itself, is
infinitesimal in comparison.

Again, let us compare the popular historical treatment of remarkable
incidents with Shakespeare's treatment of them. Look at "Macbeth." You
may derive abundant instruction from it,--instruction of many kinds.
There is a moral lesson of profound interest in the steps by which a
noble nature glides to perdition. In more modern fashion you may
speculate, if you like, on the political conditions represented there,
and the temptation presented in absolute monarchies to unscrupulous
ambition; you may say, like Doctor Slop, these things could not have
happened under a constitutional government: or, again, you may take up
your parable against superstition; you may dilate on the frightful
consequences of a belief in witches, and reflect on the superior
advantages of an age of schools and newspapers. If the bare facts of the
story had come down to us from a chronicler, and an ordinary writer of
the nineteenth century had undertaken to relate them, his account, we
may depend upon it, would have been put together upon one or other of
these principles. Yet, by the side of that unfolding of the secrets of
the prison-house of the soul, what lean and shrivelled anatomies the
best of such descriptions would seem!

Shakespeare himself, I suppose, could not have given us a theory of what
he meant; he gave us the thing itself, on which we might make whatever
theories we pleased.

Or, again, look at Homer.

The "Iliad" is from two to three thousand years older than "Macbeth,"
and yet it is as fresh as if it had been written yesterday. We have
there no lessons save in the emotions which rise in us as we read. Homer
had no philosophy; he never struggles to press upon us his views about
this or that; you can scarcely tell, indeed, whether his sympathies are
Greek or Trojan: but he represents to us faithfully the men and women
among whom he lived. He sang the tale of Troy, he touched his lyre, he
drained the golden beaker in the halls of men like those on whom he was
conferring immortality. And thus, although no Agamemnon, king of men,
ever led a Grecian fleet to Ilium; though no Priam sought the midnight
tent of Achilles; though Ulysses and Diomed and Nestor were but names,
and Helen but a dream, yet, through Homer's power of representing men
and women, those old Greeks will still stand out from amidst the
darkness of the ancient world with a sharpness of outline which belongs
to no period of history except the most recent. For the mere hard
purposes of history, the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" are the most effective
books which ever were written. We see the hall of Menelaus, we see the
garden of Alcinous, we see Nausicaa among her maidens on the shore, we
see the mellow monarch sitting with ivory sceptre in the market-place
dealing out genial justice. Or, again, when the wild mood is on, we can
hear the crash of the spears, the rattle of the armor as the heroes
fall, and the plunging of the horses among the slain. Could we enter the
palace of an old Ionian lord, we know what we should see there; we know
the words in which he would address us. We could meet Hector as a
friend. If we could choose a companion to spend an evening with over a
fireside, it would be the man of many counsels, the husband of Penelope.

I am not going into the vexed question whether history or poetry is the
more true. It has been sometimes said that poetry is the more true,
because it can make things more like what our moral sense would prefer
they should be. We hear of poetic justice and the like, as if nature and
fact were not just enough.

I entirely dissent from that view. So far as poetry attempts to improve
on truth in that way, so far it abandons truth, and is false to itself.
Even literal facts, exactly as they were, a great poet will prefer
whenever he can get them. Shakespeare in the historical plays is
studious, wherever possible, to give the very words which he finds to
have been used; and it shows how wisely he was guided in this, that
those magnificent speeches of Wolsey are taken exactly, with no more
change than the metre makes necessary, from Cavendish's Life.
Marlborough read Shakespeare for English history, and read nothing else.
The poet only is not bound, when it is inconvenient, to what may be
called the accidents of facts. It was enough for Shakespeare to know
that Prince Hal in his youth had lived among loose companions, and the
tavern in Eastcheap came in to fill out his picture; although Mrs.
Quickly and Falstaff and Poins and Bardolph were more likely to have
been fallen in with by Shakespeare himself at the Mermaid, than to have
been comrades of the true Prince Henry. It was enough for Shakespeare to
draw real men, and the situation, whatever it might be, would sit easy
on them. In this sense only it is that poetry is truer than
History,--that it can make a picture more complete. It may take
liberties with time and space, and give the action distinctness by
throwing it into more manageable compass. But it may not alter the real
conditions of things, or represent life as other than it is. The
greatness of the poet depends on his being true to Nature, without
insisting that Nature shall theorize with him, without making her more
just, more philosophical, more moral than reality; and, in difficult
matters, leaving much to reflection which cannot be explained.

And if this be true of poetry--if Homer and Shakespeare are what they
are from the absence of every thing didactic about them--may we not thus
learn something of what history should be, and in what sense it should
aspire to teach?

If poetry must not theorize, much less should the historian theorize,
whose obligations to be true to fact are even greater than the poet's.
If the drama is grandest when the action is least explicable by laws,
because then it best resembles life, then history will be grandest also
under the same conditions. "Macbeth," were it literally true, would be
perfect history; and so far as the historian can approach to that kind
of model, so far as he can let his story tell itself in the deeds and
words of those who act it out, so far is he most successful. His work is
no longer the vapor of his own brain, which a breath will scatter; it is
the thing itself, which will have interest for all time. A thousand
theories may be formed about it,--spiritual theories. Pantheistic
theories, cause and effect theories? but each age will have its own
philosophy of history, and all these in turn will fail and die. Hegel
falls out of date, Schlegel falls out of date, and Comte in good time
will fall out of date; the thought about the thing must change as we
change; but the thing itself can never change; and a history is durable
or perishable as it contains more or least of the writer's own
speculations. The splendid intellect of Gibbon for the most part kept
him true to the right course in this; yet the philosophical chapters for
which he has been most admired or censured may hereafter be thought the
least interesting in his work. The time has been when they would not
have been comprehended; the time may come when they will seem

It may be said, that in requiring history to be written like a drama, we
require an impossibility.

For history to be written with the complete form of a drama, doubtless
is impossible; but there are periods, and these the periods, for the
most part, of greatest interest to mankind, the history of which may be
so written that the actors shall reveal their characters in their own
words; where mind can be seen matched against mind, and the great
passions of the epoch not simply be described as existing, but be
exhibited at their white heat in the souls and hearts possessed by them.
There are all the elements of drama--drama of the highest order--where
the huge forces of the times are as the Grecian destiny, and the power
of the man is seen either stemming the stream till it overwhelms him, or
ruling while he seems to yield to it.

It is Nature's drama,--not Shakespeare's, but a drama none the less.

So at least it seems to me. Wherever possible, let us not be told
_about_ this man or that. Let us hear the man himself speak, let us see
him act, and let us be left to form our own opinions about him. The
historian, we are told, must not leave his readers to themselves. He
must not only lay the facts before them: he must tell them what he
himself thinks about those facts. In my opinion, this is precisely what
he ought not to do. Bishop Butler says somewhere, that the best book
which could be written would be a book consisting only of premises, from
which the readers should draw conclusions for themselves. The highest
poetry is the very thing which Butler requires, and the highest history
ought to be. We should no more ask for a theory of this or that period
of history, than we should ask for a theory of "Macbeth" or "Hamlet."
Philosophies of history, sciences of history,--all these there will
continue to be: the fashions of them will change, as our habits of
thought will change; each new philosopher will find his chief employment
in showing that before him no one understood any thing; but the drama of
history is imperishable, and the lessons of it will be like what we
learn from Homer or Shakespeare,--lessons for which we have no words.

The address of history is less to the understanding than to the higher
emotions. We learn in it to sympathize with what is great and good; we
learn to hate what is base. In the anomalies of fortune we feel the
mystery of our mortal existence; and in the companionship of the
illustrious natures who have shaped the fortunes of the world, we escape
from the littlenesses which cling to the round of common life, and our
minds are tuned in a higher and nobler key.

For the rest, and for those large questions which I touched in
connection with Mr. Buckle, we live in times of disintegration, and none
can tell what will be after us. What opinions, what convictions, the
infant of to-day will find prevailing on the earth, if he and it live
out together to the middle of another century, only a very bold man
would undertake to conjecture. "The time will come," said Lichtenberg,
in scorn at the materializing tendencies of modern thought,--"the time
will come when the belief in God will be as the tales with which old
women frighten children; when the world will be a machine, the ether a
gas, and God will be a force." Mankind, if they last long enough on the
earth, may develop strange things out of themselves; and the growth of
what is called the Positive Philosophy is a curious commentary on
Lichtenberg's prophecy. But whether the end be seventy years hence, or
seven hundred,--be the close of the mortal history of humanity as far
distant in the future as its shadowy beginnings seem now to lie behind
us,--this only we may foretell with confidence,--that the riddle of
man's nature will remain unsolved. There will be that in him yet which
physical laws will fail to explain,--that something, whatever it be, in
himself and in the world, which science cannot fathom, and which
suggests the unknown possibilities of his origin and his destiny. There
will remain yet

  "Those obstinate questionings
   Of sense and outward things;
   Falling from us, vanishing;
   Blank misgivings of a creature
   Moving about in worlds not realized;
   High instincts, before which our mortal nature
     Doth tremble like a guilty thing surprised."

There will remain

  "Those first affections,
   Those shadowy recollections,
   Which, be they what they may,
   Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,--
   Are yet the master-light of all our seeing,--
   Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
   Our noisy years seem moments in the being
     Of the Eternal Silence."


BORN 1823.



It is no very great time since the readers of the English newspapers
were, perhaps a little amused, perhaps a little startled, at the story
of a deputation of Hungarian students going to Constantinople to present
a sword of honor to an Ottoman general. The address and the answer
enlarged on the ancient kindred of Turks and Magyars, on the long
alienation of the dissevered kinsfolk, on the return of both in these
later times to a remembrance of the ancient kindred and to the friendly
feelings to which such kindred gave birth. The discourse has a strange
sound when we remember the reigns of Sigismund and Wladislaus, when we
think of the dark days of Nikopolis and Varna, when we think of Huniades
encamped at the foot of Hæmus, and of Belgrade beating back Mahomet the
Conqueror from her gates. The Magyar and the Ottoman embracing with the
joy of reunited kinsfolk is a sight which certainly no man would have
looked forward to in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. At an earlier
time the ceremony might have seemed a degree less wonderful. If a man
whose ideas are drawn wholly from the modern map should sit down to
study the writings of Constantine Porphyrogennêtos, he would perhaps be
startled at finding Turks and Franks spoken of as neighbors, at finding
_Turcia_ and _Francia_--we must not translate [Greek: Tourkia] and
[Greek: Phrangia] by _Turkey_ and _France_--spoken of as border-lands. A
little study will perhaps show him that the change lies almost wholly in
the names and not in the boundaries. The lands are there still, and the
frontier between them has shifted much less than one might have looked
for in nine hundred years. Nor has there been any great change in the
population of the two countries. The Turks and the Franks of the
Imperial geographer are there still, in the lands which he calls Turcia
and Francia; only we no longer speak of them as Turks and Franks. The
Turks of Constantine are Magyars; the Franks of Constantine are Germans.
The Magyar students may not unlikely have turned over the Imperial
pages, and they may have seen how their forefathers stand described
there. We can hardly fancy that the Ottoman general is likely to have
given much time to lore of such a kind. Yet the Ottoman answer was as
brim full of ethnological and antiquarian sympathy as the Magyar
address. It is hardly to be believed that a Turk, left to himself, would
by his own efforts have found out the primeval kindred between Turk and
Magyar. He might remember that Magyar exiles had found a safe shelter on
Ottoman territory; he might look deep enough into the politics of the
present moment to see that the rule of Turk and Magyar alike is
threatened by the growth of Slavonic national life. But the idea that
Magyar and Turk owe each other any love or any duty, directly on the
ground of primeval kindred, is certainly not likely to have presented
itself to the untutored Ottoman mind. In short, it sounds, as some one
said at the time, rather like the dream of a professor who has run wild
with an ethnological craze, than like the serious thought of a practical
man of any nation. Yet the Magyar students seem to have meant their
address quite seriously. And the Turkish general, if he did not take it
seriously, at least thought it wise to shape his answer as if he did. As
a piece of practical politics, it sounds like Frederick Barbarossa
threatening to avenge the defeat of Crassus upon Saladin, or like the
French of the revolutionary wars making the Pope Pius of those days
answerable for the wrongs of Vercingetorix. The thing sounds like
comedy, almost like conscious comedy. But it is a kind of comedy which
may become tragedy, if the idea from which it springs get so deeply
rooted in men's minds as to lead to any practical consequences. As long
as talk of this kind does not get beyond the world of hot-headed
students, it may pass for a craze. It would be more than a craze, if it
should be so widely taken up on either side that the statesmen on either
side find it expedient to profess to take it up also.

To allege the real or supposed primeval kindred between Magyars and
Ottomans as a ground for political action, or at least for political
sympathy, in the affairs of the present moment, is an extreme case--some
may be inclined to call it a _reductio ad absurdum_--of a whole range of
doctrines and sentiments which have in modern days gained a great power
over men's minds. They have gained so great a power that those who may
regret their influence cannot afford to despise it. To make any
practical inference from the primeval kindred of Magyar and Turk is
indeed pushing the doctrine of race, and of sympathies arising from
race, as far as it well can be pushed. Without plunging into any very
deep mysteries, without committing ourselves to any dangerous theories
in the darker regions of ethnological inquiry, we may perhaps be allowed
at starting to doubt whether there is any real primeval kindred between
the Ottoman and the Finnish Magyar. It is for those who have gone
specially deep into the antiquities of the non-Aryan races to say
whether there is or is not. At all events, as far as the great facts of
history go, the kindred is of the vaguest and most shadowy kind. It
comes to little more than the fact that Magyars and Ottomans are alike
non-Aryan invaders who have made their way into Europe within recorded
times, and that both have, rightly or wrongly, been called by the name
of Turks. These do seem rather slender grounds on which to build up a
fabric of national sympathy between two nations, when several centuries
of living practical history all pull the other way. It is hard to
believe that the kindred of Turk and Magyar was thought of when a
Turkish Pasha ruled at Buda. Doubtless Hungarian Protestants often
deemed, and not unreasonably deemed, that the contemptuous toleration of
the Moslem Sultan was a lighter yoke than the persecution of the
Catholic Emperor. But it was hardly on grounds of primeval kindred that
they made the choice. The ethnological dialogue held at Constantinople
does indeed sound like ethnological theory run mad. But it is the very
wildness of the thing which gives it its importance. The doctrine of
race, and of sympathies springing from race, must have taken very firm
hold indeed of men's minds before it could be carried out in a shape
which we are tempted to call so grotesque as this.

The plain fact is that the new lines of scientific and historical
inquiry which have been opened in modern times have had a distinct and
deep effect upon the politics of the age. The fact may be estimated in
many ways, but its existence as a fact cannot be denied. Not in a merely
scientific or literary point of view, but in one strictly practical, the
world is not the same world as it was when men had not yet dreamed of
the kindred between Sanscrit, Greek, and English, when it was looked on
as something of a paradox to hint that there was a distinction between
Celtic and Teutonic tongues and nations. Ethnological and philological
researches--I do not forget the distinction between the two, but for the
present I must group them together--have opened the way for new national
sympathies, new national antipathies, such as would have been
unintelligible a hundred years ago. A hundred years ago a man's
political likes and dislikes seldom went beyond the range which was
suggested by the place of his birth or immediate descent. Such birth or
descent made him a member of this or that political community, a subject
of this or that prince, a citizen--perhaps a subject--of this or that
commonwealth. The political community of which he was a member had its
traditional alliances and traditional enmities, and by those alliances
and enmities the likes and dislikes of the members of that community
were guided. But those traditional alliances and enmities were seldom
determined by theories about language or race. The people of this or
that place might be discontented under a foreign government; but, as a
rule, they were discontented only if subjection to that foreign
government brought with it personal oppression, or at least political
degradation. Regard or disregard of some purely local privilege or
local feeling went for more than the fact of a government being native
or foreign. What we now call the sentiment of nationality did not go for
much; what we call the sentiment of race went for nothing at all. Only a
few men here and there would have understood the feelings which have led
to those two great events of our own time, the political reunion of the
German and Italian nations after their long political dissolution. Not a
soul would have understood the feelings which have allowed Panslavism to
be a great practical agent in the affairs of Europe, and which have made
talk about "the Latin race," if not practical, at least possible. Least
of all, would it have been possible to give any touch of political
importance to what would have then seemed so wild a dream as a primeval
kindred between Magyar and Ottoman.

That feelings such as these, and the practical consequences which have
flowed from them, are distinctly due to scientific and historical
teaching there can, I think, be no doubt. Religious sympathy and purely
national sympathy are both feelings of much simpler growth, which need
no deep knowledge nor any special teaching. The cry which resounded
through Christendom when the Holy City was taken by the Mussulmans, the
cry which resounded through Islam when the same city was taken by the
Christians, the spirit which armed England to support French Huguenots
and which armed Spain to support French Leaguers, all spring from
motives which lie on the surface. Nor need we seek for any explanation
but such as lies on the surface for the natural wish for closer union
which arose among Germans or Italians who found themselves parted off by
purely dynastic arrangements from men who were their countrymen in every
thing else. Such a feeling has to strive with the counter-feeling which
springs from local jealousies and local dislikes; but it is a perfectly
simple feeling, which needs no subtle research either to arouse or to
understand it. So, if we draw our illustrations from the events of our
own time, there is nothing but what is perfectly simple in the feeling
which calls Russia, as the most powerful of Orthodox states, to the help
of her Orthodox brethren everywhere, and which calls the members of the
Orthodox Church everywhere to look to Russia as their protector. The
feeling may have to strive against a crowd of purely political
considerations, and by those purely political considerations it may be
outweighed. But the feeling is in itself altogether simple and natural.
So again, the people of Montenegro and of the neighboring lands in
Herzegovina and by the _Bocche_ of Cattaro feel themselves countrymen in
every sense but the political accident which keeps them asunder. They
are drawn together by a tie which every one can understand, by the same
tie which would draw together the people of three adjoining English
counties, if any strange political action should part them asunder in
like manner. The feeling here is that of nationality in the strictest
sense, nationality in a purely local or geographical sense. It would
exist all the same if Panslavism had never been heard of; it might exist
though those who feel it had never heard of the Slavonic race at all. It
is altogether another thing when we come to the doctrine of race, and of
sympathies founded on race, in the wider sense. Here we have a feeling
which professes to bind together, and which as a matter of fact has had
a real effect in binding together, men whose kindred to one another is
not so obvious at first sight as the kindred of Germans, Italians, or
Serbs who are kept asunder by nothing but a purely artificial political
boundary. It is a feeling at whose bidding the call to union goes forth
to men whose dwellings are geographically far apart, to men who may have
had no direct dealings with one another for years or for ages, to men
whose languages, though the scholar may at once see that they are
closely akin, may not be so closely akin as to be mutually intelligible
for common purposes. A hundred years back the Servian might have cried
for help to the Russian on the ground of common Orthodox faith; he would
hardly have called for help on the ground of common Slavonic speech and
origin. If he had done so, it would have been rather by way of grasping
at any chance, however desperate or far-fetched, than as putting forward
a serious and well understood claim which he might expect to find
accepted and acted on by large masses of men. He might have received
help, either out of genuine sympathy springing from community of faith
or from the baser thought than he could be made use of as a convenient
political tool. He would have got but little help purely on the ground
of a community of blood and speech which had had no practical result for
ages. When Russia in earlier days interfered between the Turk and his
Christian subjects, there is no sign of any sympathy felt or possessed
for Slavs as Slavs. Russia dealt with Montenegro, not, as far as one
can see, out of any Slavonic brotherhood, but because an independent
Orthodox state at enmity with the Turk could not fail to be a useful
ally. The earlier dealings of Russia with the subject nations were far
more busy among the Greeks than among the Slavs. In fact, till quite
lately, all the Orthodox subjects of the Turk were in most European eyes
looked on as alike Greeks. The Orthodox Church has been commonly known
as the Greek Church; and it has often been very hard to make people
understand that the vast mass of the members of that so-called Greek
Church are not Greek in any other sense. In truth we may doubt whether,
till comparatively lately, the subject nations themselves were fully
alive to the differences of race and speech among them. A man must in
all times and places know whether he speaks the same language as another
man; but he does not always go on to put his consciousness of difference
into the shape of a sharply drawn formula. Still less does he always
make the difference the ground of any practical course of action. The
Englishman in the first days of the Norman Conquest felt the hardships
of foreign rule, and he knew that those hardships were owing to foreign
rule. But he had not learned to put his sense of hardship into any
formula about an oppressed nationality. So, when the policy of the Turk
found that the subtle intellect of the Greek could be made use of as an
instrument of dominion over the other subject nations, the Bulgarian
felt the hardship of the state of things in which, as it was
proverbially said, his body was in bondage to the Turk and his soul in
bondage to the Greek. But we may suspect that this neatly turned proverb
dates only from the awakening of a distinctly national Bulgarian feeling
in modern times. The Turk was felt to be an intruder and an enemy,
because his rule was that of an open oppressor belonging to another
creed. The Greek, on the other hand, though his spiritual dominion
brought undoubted practical evils with it, was not felt to be an
intruder and an enemy in the same sense. His quicker intellect and
superior refinement made him a model. The Bulgarian imitated the Greek
tongue and Greek manners; he was willing in other lands to be himself
looked on as a Greek. It is only in quite modern times, under the direct
influence of the preaching of the doctrine of race, that a hard and fast
line has been drawn between Greeks and Bulgarians. That doctrine has
cut two ways. It has given both nations, Greek and Bulgarian alike, a
renewed national life, national strength, national hopes, such as
neither of them had felt for ages. In so doing, it has done one of the
best and most hopeful works of the age. But in so doing, it has created
one of the most dangerous of immediate political difficulties. In
calling two nations into a renewed being, it has arrayed them in enmity
against each other, and that in the face of a common enemy in whose
presence all lesser differences and jealousies ought to be hushed into

There is then a distinct doctrine of race, and of sympathies founded an
race, distinct from the feeling of community of religion, and distinct
from the feeling of nationality in the narrower sense. It is not so
simple or easy a feeling as either of those two. It does not in the same
way lie on the surface; it is not in the same way grounded on obvious
facts which are plain to every man's understanding. The doctrine of race
is essentially an artificial doctrine, a learned doctrine. It is an
inference from facts which the mass of mankind could never have found
out for themselves; facts which, without a distinctly learned teaching,
could never be brought home to them in any intelligible shape. Now what
is the value of such a doctrine? Does it follow that, because it is
confessedly artificial, because it springs, not from a spontaneous
impulse, but from a learned teaching, it is therefore necessarily
foolish, mischievous, perhaps unnatural? It may perhaps be safer to hold
that, like many other doctrines, many other sentiments, it is neither
universally good nor universally bad, neither inherently wise nor
inherently foolish. It may be safer to hold that it may, like other
doctrines and sentiments, have a range within which it may work for
good, while in some other range it may work for evil. It may in short be
a doctrine which is neither to be rashly accepted, nor rashly cast
aside, but one which may need to be guided, regulated modified,
according to time, place, and circumstance. I am not now called on so
much to estimate the practical good and evil of the doctrine as to work
out what the doctrine itself is, and to try to explain some difficulties
about it, but I must emphatically say that nothing can be more shallow,
nothing more foolish, nothing more purely sentimental, than the talk of
those who think that they can simply laugh down or shriek down any
doctrine or sentiment which they themselves do not understand. A belief
or a feeling which has a practical effect on the conduct of great masses
of men, sometimes on the conduct of whole nations, may be very false and
very mischievous; but it is in every case a great and serious fact, to
be looked gravely in the face. Men who sit at their ease and think that
all wisdom is confined to themselves and their own clique may think
themselves vastly superior to the great emotions which stir our times,
as they would doubtless have thought themselves vastly superior to the
emotions which stirred the first Saracens or the first Crusaders. But
the emotions are there all the same, and they do their work all the
same. The most highly educated man in the most highly educated society
cannot sneer them out of being.

But it is time to pass to the more strictly scientific aspect of the
subject. The doctrine of race, in its popular form, is the direct
offspring of the study of scientific philology; and yet it is just now,
in its popular form at least, somewhat under the ban of scientific
philologers. There is nothing very wonderful in this. It is in fact the
natural course of things which might almost have been reckoned on
beforehand. When the popular mind gets hold of a truth, it seldom gets
hold of it with strict scientific precision. It commonly gets hold of
one side of the truth; it puts forth that side of the truth only. It
puts that side forth in a form which may not be in itself distorted or
exaggerated, but which practically becomes distorted and exaggerated,
because other sides of the same truth are not brought into their due
relation with it. The popular idea thus takes a shape which is naturally
offensive to men of strict precision, and which men of strict scientific
precision have naturally, and from their own point of view quite
rightly, risen up to rebuke. Yet it may often happen that, while the
scientific statement is the only true one for scientific purposes, the
popular version may also have a kind of practical truth for the somewhat
rough and ready purposes of a popular version. In our present case
scientific philologers are beginning to complain, with perfect truth and
perfect justice from their own point of view, that the popular doctrine
of race confounds race and language. They tell us, and they do right to
tell us, that language is no certain test of race, that men who speak
the same tongue are not therefore necessarily men of the same blood.
And they tell us further, that from whatever quarter the alleged popular
confusion came, it certainly did not come from any teaching of
scientific philologers.

The truth of all this cannot be called in question. We have too many
instances in recorded history of nations laying aside the use of one
language and taking to the use of another, for any one who cares for
accuracy to set down language as any sure test of race. In fact, the
studies of the philologer and those of the ethnologer strictly so called
are quite distinct, and they deal with two wholly different sets of
phenomena. The science of the ethnologer is strictly a physical science.
He has to deal with purely physical phenomena; his business lies with
the different varieties of the human body, and specially, to take that
branch of his inquiries which most impresses the unlearned, with the
various conformations of the human skull. His researches differ in
nothing from those of the zoölogist or the palæontologist, except that
he has to deal with the physical phenomena of man, while they deal with
the physical phenomena of other animals. He groups the different races
of men, exactly as the others group the genera and species of living or
extinct mammals or reptiles. The student of ethnology as a physical
science may indeed strengthen his conclusions by evidence of other
kinds, evidence from arms, ornaments, pottery, modes of burial. But all
these are secondary; the primary ground of classification is the
physical conformation of man himself. As to language, the ethnological
method, left to itself, can find out nothing whatever. The science of
the ethnologer then is primarily physical; it is historical only in that
secondary sense in which palæontology, and geology itself, may fairly be
called historical. It arranges the varieties of mankind according to a
strictly physical classification; what the language of each variety may
have been, it leaves to the professors of another branch of study to
find out.

The science of the philologer, on the other hand, is strictly
historical. There is doubtless a secondary sense in which purely
philological science may be fairly called physical, just as there is a
secondary sense in which pure ethnology may be called historical. That
is to say, philology has to deal with physical phenomena, so far as it
has to deal with the physical aspect of the sounds of which human
language is made up. Its primary business, like the primary business of
any other historical science, is to deal with phenomena which do not
depend on physical laws, but which do depend on the human will. The
science of language is, in this respect, like the science of human
institutions or of human beliefs. Its subject-matter is not, like that
of pure ethnology, what man is, but, like that of any other historical
science, what man does. It is plain that no man's will can have any
direct influence on the shape of his skull. I say no direct influence,
because it is not for me to rule how far habits, places of abode, modes
of life, a thousand things which do come under the control of the human
will, may indirectly affect the physical conformation of a man himself
or of his descendants. Some observers have made the remark that men of
civilized nations who live in a degraded social state do actually
approach to the physical type of inferior races. However this may be, it
is quite certain, that as no man can by taking thought add a cubit to
his stature, so no man can by taking thought make his skull
brachycephalic or dolichocephalic. But the language which a man speaks
does depend upon his will; he can by taking thought make his speech
Romance or Teutonic. No doubt he has in most cases practically no choice
in the matter. The language which he speaks is practically determined
for him by fashion, habit, early teaching, a crowd of things over which
he has practically no control. But still the control is not physical and
inevitable, as it is in the case of the shape of his skull. If we say
that he cannot help speaking in a particular way; that is, that he
cannot help speaking a particular language, this simply means that his
circumstances are such that no other way of speaking presents itself to
his mind. And in many cases, he has a real choice between two or more
ways of speaking; that is, between two or more languages. Every word
that a man speaks is the result of a real, though doubtless unconscious,
act of his free will. We are apt to speak of gradual changes in
language, as in institutions or any thing else, as if they were the
result of a physical law, acting upon beings who had no choice in the
matter. Yet every change of the kind is simply the aggregate of various
acts of the will on the part of all concerned. Every change in speech,
every introduction of a new sound or a new word, was really the result
of an act of the will of some one or other. The choice may have been
unconscious; circumstances may have been such as practically to give him
but one choice; still he did choose; he spoke in one way, when there was
no physical hindrance to his speaking in another way, when there was no
physical compulsion to speak at all. The Gauls need not have changed
their own language for Latin; the change was not the result of a
physical necessity, but of a number of acts of the will on the part of
this and that Gaul. Moral causes directed their choice, and determined
that Gaul should become a Latin-speaking land. But whether the skulls of
the Gauls should be long or short, whether their hair should be black or
yellow, those were points over which the Gauls themselves had no direct
control whatever.

The study of men's skulls then is a study which is strictly physical, a
study of facts over which the will of man has no direct control. The
study of men's languages is strictly an historical study, a study of
facts over which the will of man has a direct control. It follows
therefore from the very nature of the two studies that language cannot
be an absolutely certain test of physical descent. A man cannot, under
any circumstances, choose his own skull; he may, under some
circumstances, choose his own language. He must keep the skull which has
been given him by his parents; he cannot, by any process of taking
thought, determine what kind of skull he will hand on to his own
children. But he may give up the use of the language which he has
learned from his parents, and he may determine what language he will
teach to his children. The physical characteristics of a race are
unchangeable, or are changed only by influences over which the race
itself has no direct control. The language which the race speaks may be
changed, either by a conscious act of the will or by that power of
fashion which is in truth the aggregate of countless unconscious acts of
the will. And, as the very nature of the case thus shows that language
is no sure test of race, so the facts of recorded history equally prove
the same truth. Both individuals and whole nations do in fact often
exchange the language of their forefathers for some other language. A
man settles in a foreign country. He learns the language of that
country; sometimes he forgets the use of his own language. His children
may perhaps speak both tongues; if they speak one tongue only, it will
be the tongue of the country where they live. In a generation or two all
trace of foreign origin will have passed away. Here then language is no
test of race. If the great-grandchildren speak the language of their
great-grandfathers, it will simply be as they may speak any other
foreign language. Here are men who by speech belong to one nation, by
actual descent to another. If they lose the physical characteristics of
the race to which the original settler belonged, it will be due to
intermarriage, to climate, to some cause altogether independent of
language. Every nation will have some adopted children of this kind,
more or fewer; men who belong to it by speech, but who do not belong to
it by race. And what happens in the case of individuals happens in the
case of whole nations. The pages of history are crowded with cases in
which nations have cast aside the tongue of their forefathers, and have
taken instead the tongue of some other people. Greek in the East, Latin
in the West, became the familiar speech of millions who had not a drop
of Greek or Italian blood in their veins. The same has been the case in
later times with Arabic, Persian, Spanish, German, English. Each of
those tongues has become the familiar speech of vast regions where the
mass of the people are not Arabian, Spanish, or English, otherwise than
by adoption. The Briton of Cornwall has, slowly but in the end
thoroughly, adopted the speech of England. In the American continent
full-blooded Indians preside over commonwealths which speak the tongue
of Cortes and Pizarro. In the lands to which all eyes are now turned,
the Greek, who has been busily assimilating strangers ever since he
first planted his colonies in Asia and Sicily, goes on busily
assimilating his Albanian neighbors. And between renegades, janissaries,
and mothers of all nations, the blood of many a Turk must be physically
any thing rather than Turkish. The inherent nature of the case, and the
witness of recorded history, join together to prove that language is no
certain test of race, and that the scientific philologers are doing good
service to accuracy of expression and accuracy of thought by
emphatically calling attention to the fact that language is no such

But, on the other hand, it is quite possible that the truth to which our
attention is just now most fittingly called may, if put forth too
broadly and without certain qualifications, lead to error quite as
great as the error at which it is aimed. I do not suppose that any one
ever thought that language was, necessarily and in all cases, an
absolute and certain test. If anybody does think so, he has put himself
altogether out of court by shutting his eyes to the most manifest facts
of the case. But there can be no doubt that many people have given too
much importance to language as a test of race. Though they have not
wholly forgotten the facts which tell the other way, they have not
brought them out with enough prominence. But I can also believe that
many people have written and spoken on the subject in a way which cannot
be justified from a strictly scientific point of view, but which may
have been fully justified from the point of view of the writers and
speakers themselves. It may often happen that a way of speaking may not
be scientifically accurate, but may yet be quite near enough to the
truth for the purposes of the matter in hand. It may, for some practical
or even historical purpose, be really more true than the statement which
is scientifically more exact. Language is no certain test of race; but
if a man, struck by this wholesome warning, should run off into the
belief that language and race have absolutely nothing to do with one
another, he had better have gone without the warning. For in such a case
the last error would be worse than the first. The natural instinct of
mankind connects race and language. It does not assume that language is
an infallible test of race; but it does assume that language and race
have something to do with one another. It assumes, that though language
is not an accurately scientific test of race, yet it is a rough and
ready test which does for many practical purposes. To make something
more of an exact definition, one might say, that though language is not
a test of race, it is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a
presumption of race; that though it is not a test of race, yet it is a
test of something which, for many practical purposes, is the same as

Professor Max Müller warned us long ago that we must not speak of a
Celtic skull. Mr. Sayce has more lately warned us that we must not infer
from community of Aryan speech that there is any kindred in blood
between this or that Englishman and this or that Hindoo. And both
warnings are scientifically true. Yet any one who begins his studies on
these matters with Professor Müller's famous Oxford Essay will
practically come to another way of looking at things. He will fill his
mind with a vivid picture of the great Aryan family, as yet one,
dwelling in one place, speaking one tongue, having already taken the
first steps toward settled society, recognizing the domestic relations,
possessing the first rudiments of government and religion, and calling
all these first elements of culture by names of which traces still abide
here and there among the many nations of the common stock. He will go on
to draw pictures equally vivid of the several branches of the family
parting off from the primeval home. One great branch he will see going
to the south-east, to become the forefathers of the vast, yet isolated
colony in the Asiatic lands of Persia and India. He watches the
remaining mass sending off wave after wave, to become the forefathers of
the nations of historical Europe. He traces out how each branch starts
with its own share of the common stock--how the language, the creed, the
institutions, once common to all, grow up into different, yet kindred,
shapes, among the many parted branches which grew up, each with an
independent life and strength of its own. This is what our instructors
set before us as the true origin of nations and their languages. And,
in drawing out the picture, we cannot avoid, our teachers themselves do
not avoid, the use of words which imply that the strictly family
relation, the relation of community of blood, is at the root of the
whole matter. We cannot help talking about the family and its branches,
about parents, children, brothers, sisters, cousins. The nomenclature of
natural kindred exactly fits the case; it fits it so exactly that no
other nomenclature could enable us to set forth the case with any
clearness. Yet we cannot be absolutely certain that there was any real
community of blood in the whole story. We really know nothing of the
origin of language or the origin of society. We may make a thousand
ingenious guesses; but we cannot prove any of them. It may be that the
group which came together, and which formed the primeval society which
spoke the primeval Aryan tongue, were not brought together by community
of blood, but by some other cause which threw them in one another's way.
If we accept the Hebrew genealogies, they need not have had any
community of blood nearer than common descent from Adam and Noah. That
is, they need not have been all children of Shem, of Ham, or of
Japheth; some children of Shem, some of Ham, and some of Japheth may
have been led by some cause to settle together. Or if we believe in
independent creations of men, or in the development of men out of
mollusks, the whole of the original society need not have been
descendants of the same man or the same mollusk. In short, there is no
theory of the origin of man which requires us to believe that the
primeval Aryans were a natural family; they may have been more like an
accidental party of fellow-travellers. And if we accept them as a
natural family, it does not follow that the various branches which grew
into separate races and nations, speaking separate though kindred
languages, were necessarily marked off by more immediate kindred. It may
be that there is no nearer kindred in blood between this or that
Persian, this or that Greek, this or that Teuton, than the general
kindred of all Aryans. For, when this or that party marched off from the
common home, it does follow that those who marched off together were
necessarily immediate brothers or cousins. The party which grew into
Hindoos or Teutons may not have been made up exclusively of one set of
near kinsfolk. Some of the children of the same parents or forefathers
may have marched one way, while others marched another way, or stayed
behind. We may, if we please, indulge our fancy by conceiving that there
may actually be family distinctions older than distinctions of nation
and race. It may be that the Gothic _Amali_ and the Roman _Æmilii_--I
throw out the idea as a mere illustration--were branches of a family
which had taken a name before the division of Teuton and Italian. Some
of the members of that family may have joined the band of which came the
Goths, while other members joined the band of which came the Romans.
There is no difference but the length of time to distinguish such a
supposed case from the case of an English family, one branch of which
settled in the seventeenth century at Boston in Massachusetts, while
another branch stayed behind at Boston in Holland. Mr. Sayce says truly
that the use of a kindred language does not prove that the Englishman
and the Hindoo are really akin in race; for, as he adds, many Hindoos
are men of non-Aryan race who have simply learned to speak tongues of
Sanscrit origin. He might have gone on to say, with equal truth, that
there is no positive certainty that there was any community in blood
among the original Aryan group itself, and that if we admit such
community of blood in the original Aryan group, it does not follow that
there is any further special kindred between Hindoo and Hindoo or
between Englishman and Englishman. The original group may not have been
a family, but an artificial union. And if it was a family, those of its
members who marched together east or west or north or south may have had
no tie of kindred beyond the common cousinship of all.

Now the tendency of this kind of argument is to lead to something a good
deal more startling than the doctrine that language is no certain test
of race. Its tendency is to go on further, and to show that race is no
certain test of community of blood. And this comes pretty nearly to
saying that there is no such thing as race at all. For our whole
conception of race starts from the idea of community of blood. If the
word "race" does not mean community of blood, it is hard to see what it
does mean. Yet it is certain that there can be no positive proof of real
community of blood, even among those groups of mankind which we
instinctively speak of as families and races. It is not merely that the
blood has been mingled in after-times; there is no positive proof that
there was any community of blood in the beginning. No living Englishman
can prove with absolute certainty that he comes in the male line of any
of the Teutonic settlers in Britain in the fifth or sixth centuries. I
say in the male line, because any one who is descended from any English
king can prove such descent, though he can prove it only through a long
and complicated web of female successions. But we may be sure that in no
other case can such a pedigree be proved by the kind of proof which
lawyers would require to make out the title to an estate or a peerage.
The actual forefathers of the modern Englishman may chance to have been,
not true-born Angles or Saxons, but Britons, Scots, in later days
Frenchmen, Flemings, men of any other nation who learned to speak
English and took to themselves English names. But supposing that a man
could make out such a pedigree, supposing that he could prove that he
came in the male line of some follower of Hengest or Cerdic, he would be
no nearer to proving original community of blood either in the
particular Teutonic race or in the general Aryan family. If direct
evidence is demanded, we must give up the whole doctrine of families
and races, as far as we take language, manners, institutions, any thing
but physical conformation, as the distinguishing marks of races and
families. That is to say, if we wish never to use any word of whose
accuracy we cannot be perfectly certain, we must leave off speaking of
races and families at all from any but the purely physical side. We must
content ourselves with saying that certain groups of mankind have a
common history, that they have languages, creeds, and institutions in
common, but that we have no evidence whatever to show how they came to
have languages, creeds, and institutions in common. We cannot say for
certain what was the tie which brought the members of the original group
together, any more than we can name the exact time and the exact place
when and where they came together.

We may thus seem to be landed in a howling wilderness of scientific
uncertainty. The result of pushing our inquiries so far may seem to be
to show that we really know nothing at all. But in truth the uncertainty
is no greater than the uncertainty which attends all inquiries in the
historical sciences. Though a historical fact may be recorded in the
most trustworthy documents, though it may have happened in our own
times, though we may have seen it happen with our own eyes, yet we
cannot have the same certainty about it as the mathematician has about
the proposition which he proves to absolute demonstration. We cannot
have even that lower degree of certainty which the geologist has with
regard to the order of succession between this and that _stratum_. For
in all historical inquiries we are dealing with facts which themselves
come within the control of human will and human caprice, and the
evidence for which depends on the trustworthiness of human informants,
who may either purposely deceive or unwittingly mislead. A man may lie;
he may err. The triangles and the rocks can neither lie nor err. I may
with my own eyes see a certain man do a certain act; he may tell me
himself, or some one else may tell me, that he is the same man who did
some other act; but as to his statement I cannot have absolute
certainty, and no one but myself can have absolute certainty as to the
statement which I make as to the facts which I saw with my own eyes.
Historical evidence may range through every degree, from the barest
likelihood to that undoubted moral certainty on which every man acts
without hesitation in practical affairs. But it cannot get beyond this
last standard. If, then, we are ever to use words like race, family, or
even nation, to denote groups of mankind marked off by any kind of
historical, as distinguished from physical, characteristics, we must be
content to use those words, as we use many other words, without being
able to prove that our use of them is accurate, as mathematicians judge
of accuracy. I cannot be quite sure that William the Conqueror landed at
Pevensey, though I have strong reasons for believing that he did so. And
I have strong reasons for believing many facts about race and language
about which I am much further from being quite sure than I am about
William's landing at Pevensey. In short, in all these matters, we must
be satisfied to let presumption very largely take the place of actual
proof; and, if we only let presumption in, most of our difficulties at
once fly away. Language is no certain test of race; but it is a
presumption of race. Community of race, as we commonly understand race,
is no certain proof of original community of blood; but it is a
presumption of original community of blood. The presumption amounts to
moral proof, if only we do not insist on proving such physical community
of blood as would satisfy a genealogist. It amounts to moral proof, if
all that we seek is to establish a relation in which the community of
blood is the leading idea, and in which, where natural community of
blood does not exist, its place is supplied by something which by a
legal fiction is looked upon as its equivalent.

If, then, we do not ask for scientific, for what we may call physical,
accuracy, but if we are satisfied with the kind of proof which is all
that we can ever get in the historical sciences--if we are satisfied to
speak in a way which is true for popular and practical purposes--then we
may say that language has a great deal to do with race, as race is
commonly understood, and that race has a great deal to do with community
of blood. If we once admit the Roman doctrine of adoption, our whole
course is clear. The natural family is the starting-point of every
thing; but we must give the natural family the power of artificially
enlarging itself by admitting adoptive members. A group of mankind is
thus formed, in which it does not follow that all the members have any
natural community of blood, but in which community of blood is the
starting-point, in which those who are connected by natural community of
blood form the original body within whose circle the artificial members
are admitted. A group of mankind thus formed is something quite
different from a fortuitious concurrence of atoms. Three or four
brothers by blood, with a fourth or fifth man whom they agree to look on
as filling in every thing the same place as a brother by blood, form a
group which is quite unlike a union of four or five men, none of whom is
bound by any tie of blood to any of the others. In the latter kind of
union the notion of kindred does not come in at all. In the former kind
the notion of kindred is the groundwork of every thing; it determines
the character of every relation and every action, even though the
kindred between some members of the society and others may be owing to a
legal fiction and not to natural descent. All that we know of the growth
of tribes, races, nations, leads us to believe that they grew in this
way. Natural kindred was the groundwork, the leading and determining
idea; but, by one of those legal fictions which have had such an
influence on all institutions, adoption was in certain cases allowed to
count as natural kindred.[3]

The usage of all languages shows that community of blood was the leading
idea in forming the greater and smaller groups of mankind. Words like
[Greek: phylon, genos], _gens_, _natio_, _kin_, all point to the natural
family as the origin of all society. The family in the narrower sense,
the children of one father in one house, grew into a more extended
family, the _gens_. Such were the Alkmaiônidai, the Julii, or the
Scyldingas, the real or artificial descendants of a real or supposed
forefather. The nature of the _gens_ has been set forth often enough. If
it is a mistake to fancy that every Julius or Cornelius was the natural
kinsman of every other Julius or Cornelius, it is equally a mistake to
think that the _gens Julia_ or _Cornelia_ was in its origin a mere
artificial association, into which the idea of natural kindred did not
enter. It is indeed possible that really artificial _gentes_, groups of
men of whom it might chance that none were natural kinsmen, were formed
in later times after the model of the original _gentes_. Still such
imitation would bear witness to the original conception of the _gens_.
It would be the doctrine of adoption turned the other way; instead of a
father adopting a son, a number of men would agree to adopt a common
father. The family then grew into the _gens_; the union of _gentes_
formed the state, the political community, which in its first form was
commonly a tribe. Then came the nation, formed of a union of tribes.
Kindred, real or artificial, is the one basis on which all society and
all government has grown up.

Now it is plain, that as soon as we admit the doctrine of artificial
kindred--that is, as soon as we allow the exercise of the law of
adoption, physical purity of race is at an end. Adoption treats a man as
if he were the son of a certain father; it cannot really make him the
son of that father. If a brachycephalic father adopts a dolichocephalic
son, the legal act cannot change the shape of the adopted son's skull. I
will not undertake to say whether, not indeed the rite of adoption, but
the influences and circumstances which would spring from it, might not,
in the course of generations, affect even the skull of the man who
entered a certain _gens_, tribe, or nation by artificial adoption only.
If by any chance the adopted son spoke a different language from the
adopted father, the rite of adoption itself would not of itself change
his language. But it would bring him under influences which would make
him adopt the language of his new _gens_ by a conscious act of the will,
and which would make his children adopt it by the same unconscious act
of the will by which each child adopts the language of his parents. The
adopted son, still more the son of the adopted son, became, in speech,
in feelings, in worship, in every thing but physical descent, one with
the _gens_ into which he was adopted. He became one of that _gens_ for
all practical, political, historical, purposes. It is only the
physiologist who could deny his right to his new position. The nature of
the process is well expressed by a phrase of our own law. When the
nation--the word itself keeps about it the remembrance of birth as the
groundwork of every thing--adopts a new citizen, that is, a new child of
the state, he is said to be _naturalized_. That is, a legal process puts
him in the same position, and gives him the same rights, as a man who
is a citizen and a son by birth. It is assumed that the rights of
citizenship come by nature--that is, by birth. The stranger is admitted
to them only by a kind of artificial birth; he is naturalized by law;
his children are in a generation or two naturalized in fact. There is
now no practical distinction between the Englishman whose forefathers
landed with William, or even between the Englishman whose forefathers
sought shelter from Alva or from Louis the Fourteenth, and the
Englishman whose forefathers landed with Hengest. It is for the
physiologist to say whether any difference can be traced in their
several skulls; for all practical purposes, historical or political, all
distinction between these several classes has passed away.

We may, in short, say that the law of adoption runs through every thing,
and that it may be practised on every scale. What adoption is at the
hands of the family, naturalization is at the hands of the state. And
the same process extends itself from adopted or naturalized individuals
to large classes of men, indeed to whole nations. When the process takes
place on this scale, we may best call it assimilation. Thus Rome
assimilated the continental nations of Western Europe to that degree
that, allowing for a few survivals here and there, not only Italy, but
Gaul and Spain, became Roman. The people of those lands, admitted step
by step to the Roman franchise, adopted the name and tongue of Romans.
It must soon have been hard to distinguish the Roman colonist in Gaul or
Spain from the native Gaul or Spaniard who had, as far as in him lay,
put on the guise of a Roman. This process of assimilation has gone on
everywhere and at all times. When two nations come in this way into
close contact with one another, it depends on a crowd of circumstances
which shall assimilate the other, or whether they shall remain distinct
without assimilation either way. Sometimes the conquerors assimilate
their subjects; sometimes they are assimilated by their subjects;
sometimes conquerors and subjects remain distinct forever. When
assimilation either way does take place, the direction which it takes in
each particular case will depend, partly on their respective numbers,
partly on their degrees of civilization. A small number of less
civilized conquerors will easily be lost among a greater number of more
civilized subjects, and that even though they give their name to the
land and people which they conquer. The modern Frenchman represents,
not the conquering Frank, but the conquered Gaul, or, as he called
himself, the conquered Roman. The modern Bulgarian represents, not the
Finnish conqueror, but the conquered Slav. The modern Russian
represents, not the Scandinavian ruler, but the Slav who sent for the
Scandinavian to rule over him. And so we might go on with endless other
cases. The point is that the process of adoption, naturalization,
assimilation, has gone on everywhere. No nation can boast of absolute
purity of blood, though no doubt some nations come much nearer to it
than others. When I speak of purity of blood, I leave out of sight the
darker questions which I have already raised with regard to the groups
of mankind in days before recorded history. I assume great groups like
Celtic, Teutonic, Slavonic, as having what we may call a real corporate
existence, however we may hold that that corporate existence began. My
present point is that no existing nation is, in the physiologist's sense
of purity, purely Celtic, Teutonic, Slavonic, or any thing else. All
races have assimilated a greater or less amount of foreign elements.
Taking this standard, one which comes more nearly within the range of
our actual knowledge than the possibilities of unrecorded times, we may
again say that, from the purely scientific or physiological point of
view, not only is language no test of race, but that, at all events
among the great nations of the world, there is no such thing as purity
of race at all.

But, while we admit this truth, while we even insist upon it from the
strictly scientific point of view, we must be allowed to look at it with
different eyes from a more practical standing point. This is the
standing point, whether of history which is the politics of the past, or
of politics which are the history of the present. From this point of
view, we may say unhesitatingly that there are such things as races and
nations, and that to the grouping of those races and nations language is
the best guide. We cannot undertake to define with any philosophical
precision the exact distinction between race and race, between nation
and nation. Nor can we undertake to define with the like precision in
what way the distinctions between race and race, between nation and
nation, began. But all analogy leads us to believe that tribes, nations,
races, were all formed according to the original model of the family,
the family which starts from the idea of the community of blood, but
which allows artificial adoption to be its legal equivalent. In all
cases of adoption, naturalization, assimilation, whether of individuals
or of large classes of men, the adopted person or class is adopted into
an existing community. Their adoption undoubtedly influences the
community into which they are adopted. It at once destroys any claim on
the part of that community to purity of blood, and it influences the
adopting community in many ways, physical and moral. A family, a tribe,
or a nation, which has largely recruited itself by adopted members,
cannot be the same as one which has never practised adoption at all, but
all whose members come of the original stock. But the influence which
the adopting community exercises upon its adopted members is far greater
than any influence which they exercise upon it. It cannot change their
blood; it cannot give them new natural forefathers; but it may do every
thing short of this; it may make them, in speech, in feeling, in
thought, and in habit, genuine members of the community which has
artificially made them its own. While there is not in any nation, in any
race, any such thing as strict purity of blood, yet there is in each
nation, in each race, a dominant element--or rather something more than
an element--something which is the true essence of the race or nation,
something which sets its standard and determines its character,
something which draws to itself and assimilates to itself all other
elements. It so works that all other elements are not co-equal elements
with itself, but mere infusions poured into an already existing body.
Doubtless these infusions do in some measure influence the body which
assimilates them; but the influence which they exercise is as nothing
compared to the influence which they undergo. We may say that they
modify the character of the body into which they are assimilated; they
do not affect its personality. Thus, assuming the great groups of
mankind as primary facts, the origin of which lies beyond our certain
knowledge, we may speak of families and races, of the great Aryan family
and of the races into which it parted, as groups which have a real,
practical existence, as groups founded on the ruling primeval idea of
kindred, even though in many cases the kindred may not be by natural
descent, but only by law of adoption. The Celtic, Teutonic, Slavonic
races of man are real living and abiding groups, the distinction
between which we must accept among the primary facts of history. And
they go on as living and abiding groups, even though we know that each
of them has assimilated many adopted members, sometimes from other
branches of the Aryan family, sometimes from races of men alien to the
whole Aryan stock. These races which, in a strictly physiological point
of view, have no existence at all, have a real existence from the more
practical point of view of history and politics. The Bulgarian calls to
the Russian for help, and the Russian answers to his call for help, on
the ground of their being alike members of the one Slavonic race. It may
be that, if we could trace out the actual pedigree of this or that
Bulgarian, of this or that Russian, we might either find that there was
no real kindred between them, or we might find that there was a real
kindred, but a kindred which must be traced up to another stock than
that of the Slav. In point of actual blood, instead of both being Slavs,
it may be that one of them comes, it may be that both of them come, of a
stock which is not Slavonic or even Aryan. The Bulgarian may chance to
be a Bulgarian in a truer sense than he thinks; for he may come of the
blood of those original Finnish conquerors who gave the Bulgarian name
to the Slavs among whom they were merged. And if this or that Bulgarian
may chance to come of the stock of Finnish conquerors assimilated by
their Slavonic subjects, this or that Russian may chance to come of the
stock of Finnish subjects assimilated by their Slavonic conquerors. It
may then so happen that the cry for help goes up and is answered on a
ground of kindred which in the eye of the physiologist has no existence.
Or it may happen that the kindred is real in a way which neither the
suppliant nor his helper thinks of. But in either case, for the
practical purposes of human life, the plea is a good plea; the kindred
on which it is founded is a real kindred. It is good by the law of
adoption. It is good by the law the force of which we all admit whenever
we count a man as an Englishman whose forefathers, two generations or
twenty generations back, came to our shores as strangers. For all
practical purposes, for all the purposes which guide men's actions,
public or private, the Russian and the Bulgarian, kinsmen so long
parted, perhaps in very truth no natural kinsmen at all, are members of
the same race, bound together by the common sentiment of race. They
belong to the same race, exactly as an Englishman whose forefathers came
into Britain fourteen hundred years back, and an Englishman whose
forefathers came only one or two hundred years back, are alike members
of the same nation, bound together by a tie of common nationality.

And now, having ruled that races and nations, though largely formed by
the working of an artificial law, are still real and living things,
groups in which the idea of kindred is the idea around which every thing
has grown, how are we to define our races and our nations? How are we to
mark them off one from the other? Bearing in mind the cautions and
qualifications which have been already given, bearing in mind large
classes of exceptions which will presently be spoken of, I say
unhesitatingly that for practical purposes there is one test, and one
only, and that that test is language. It is hardly needful to show that
races and nations cannot be defined by the merely political arrangements
which group men under various governments. For some purposes of ordinary
language, for some purposes of ordinary politics, we are tempted,
sometimes driven, to take this standard. And in some parts of the
world, in our own Western Europe for instance, nations and governments
do, in a rough way, fairly answer to one another. And, in any case,
political divisions are not without their influence on the formation of
national divisions, while national divisions ought to have the greatest
influence on political divisions. That is to say, _primâ facie_ a nation
and government should coincide. I say only _primâ facie_; for this is
assuredly no inflexible rule; there are often good reasons why it should
be otherwise; only, whenever it is otherwise, there should be some good
reason forthcoming. It might even be true that in no case did a
government and a nation exactly coincide, and yet it would none the less
be the rule that a government and a nation should coincide. That is to
say, so far as a nation and a government coincide, we accept it as the
natural state of things, and ask no question as to the cause. So far as
they do not coincide, we mark the case as exceptional, by asking what is
the cause. And by saying that a government and a nation should coincide
we mean that, as far as possible, the boundaries of governments should
be so laid out as to agree with the boundaries of nations. That is, we
assume the nation as something already existing, something primary, to
which the secondary arrangements of government should, as far as
possible, conform. How then do we define the nation, which is, if there
is no especial reason to the contrary, to fix the limits of a
government? Primarily, I say, as a rule, but a rule subject to
exceptions,--as a _primâ facie_ standard, subject to special reasons to
the contrary,--we define the nation by language. We may at least apply
the test negatively. It would be unsafe to rule that all speakers of the
same language must have a common nationality; but we may safely say that
where there is not community of language, there is no common nationality
in the highest sense. It is true that without community of language
there may be an artificial nationality, a nationality which may be good
for all political purposes, and which may engender a common national
feeling. Still this is not quite the same thing as that fuller national
unity which is felt where there is community of language. In fact
mankind instinctively takes language as the badge of nationality. We so
far take it as the badge, that we instinctively assume community of
language as a nation as the rule, and we set down any thing that departs
from that rule as an exception. The first idea suggested by the word
Frenchman or German or any other national name, is that he is a man who
speaks French or German as his mother-tongue. We take for granted, in
the absence of any thing to make us think otherwise, that a Frenchman is
a speaker of French and that a speaker of French is a Frenchman. Where
in any case it is otherwise, we mark that case as an exception, and we
ask the special cause. Again, the rule is none the less the rule, nor
the exceptions the exceptions, because the exceptions may easily
outnumber the instances which conform to the rule. The rule is still the
rule, because we take the instances which conform to it as a matter of
course, while in every case which does not conform to it we ask for the
explanation. All the larger countries of Europe provide us with
exceptions; but we treat them all as exceptions. We do not ask why a
native of France speaks French. But when a native of France speaks as
his mother-tongue some other tongue than French, when French, or
something which popularly passes for French, is spoken as his
mother-tongue by some one who is not a native of France, we at once ask
the reason. And the reason will be found in each case in some special
historical cause which withdraws that case from the operation of the
general law. A very good reason can be given why French, or something
which popularly passes for French, is spoken in parts of Belgium and
Switzerland whose inhabitants are certainly not Frenchmen. But the
reason has to be given, and it may fairly be asked.

In the like sort, if we turn to our own country, whenever within the
bounds of Great Britain we find any tongue spoken other than English, we
at once ask the reason and we learn the special historic cause. In a
part of France and a part of Great Britain we find tongues spoken which
differ alike from English and from French, but which are strongly akin
to one another. We find that these are the survivals of a group of
tongues once common to Gaul and Britain, but which the settlement of
other nations, the introduction and the growth of other tongues, have
brought down to the level of survivals. So again we find islands which
both speech and geographical position seem to mark as French, but which
are dependencies, and loyal dependencies, of the English crown. We soon
learn the cause of the phenomenon which seems so strange. Those islands
are the remains of a state and a people which adopted the French tongue,
but which, while it remained one, did not become a part of the French
state. That people brought England by force of arms under the rule of
their own sovereigns. The greater part of that people were afterward
conquered by France, and gradually became French in feeling as well as
in language. But a remnant clave to their connection with the land which
their forefathers had conquered, and that remnant, while keeping the
French tongue, never became French in feeling. This last case, that of
the Norman islands, is a specially instructive one. Normandy and England
were politically connected, while language and geography pointed rather
to a union between Normandy and France. In the case of continental
Normandy, where the geographical tie was strongest, language and
geography together could carry the day, and the continental Norman
became a Frenchman. In the islands, where the geographical tie was less
strong, political traditions and manifest interest carried the day
against language and a weaker geographical tie. The insular Norman did
not become a Frenchman. But neither did he become an Englishman. He
alone remained Norman, keeping his own tongue and his own laws, but
attached to the English crown by a tie at once of tradition and of
advantage. Between states of the relative size of England and the Norman
islands, the relation naturally becomes a relation of dependence on the
part of the smaller members of the union. But it is well to remember
that our forefathers never conquered the forefathers of the men of the
Norman islands, but that their forefathers did once conquer ours.

These instances, and countless others, bear out the position that, while
community of language is the most obvious sign of common nationality,
while it is the main element, or something more than an element, in the
formation of nationality, the rule is open to exceptions of all kinds,
and that the influence of language is at all times liable to be
overruled by other influences. But all the exceptions confirm the rule,
because we specially remark those cases which contradict the rule, and
we do not specially remark those cases which do not conform to it.

In the cases which we have just spoken of, the growth of the nation as
marked out by language, and the growth of the exceptions to the rule of
language, have both come through the gradual, unconscious working of
historical causes. Union under the same government, or separation under
separate governments, have been among the foremost of those historical
causes. The French nation consists of the people of all that extent of
continuous territory which has been brought under the rule of the French
kings. But the working of the cause has been gradual and unconscious.
There was no moment when any one deliberately proposed to form a French
nation by joining together all the separate duchies and counties which
spoke the French tongue. Since the French nation has been formed, men
have proposed to annex this or that land on the ground that its people
spoke the French tongue, or perhaps only some tongue akin to the French
tongue. But the formation of the French nation itself was the work of
historical causes, the work doubtless of a settled policy acting through
many generations, but not the work of any conscious theory about races
and languages. It is a special mark of our time, a special mark of the
influence which doctrines about race and language have had on men's
minds, that we have seen great nations united by processes in which
theories of race and language really have had much to do with bringing
about their union. If statesmen have not been themselves moved by such
theories, they have at least found that it suited their purpose to make
use of such theories as a means of working on the minds of others. In
the reunion of the severed German and Italian nations, the conscious
feeling of nationality, and the acceptance of a common language as the
outward badge of nationality, had no small share. Poets sang of language
as the badge of national union; statesmen made it the badge, so far as
political considerations did not lead them to do anything else. The
revived kingdom of Italy is very far from taking in all the speakers of
the Italian tongue. Lugano, Trent, Aquileia--to take places which are
clearly Italian, and not to bring in places of more doubtful
nationality, like the cities of Istria and Dalmatia--form no part of the
Italian political body, and Corsica is not under the same rule as the
other two great neighboring islands. But the fact that all these places
do not belong to the Italian body at once suggests the twofold question,
why they do not belong to it, and whether they ought not to belong to
it. History easily answers the first question; it may perhaps also
answer the second question in a way which will say Yes as regards one
place and No as regards another. Ticino must not lose her higher
freedom; Trieste must remain the needful mouth for southern Germany;
Dalmatia must not be cut off from the Slavonic mainland; Corsica would
seem to have sacrificed national feeling to personal hero-worship. But
it is certainly hard to see why Trent and Aquileia should be kept apart
from the Italian body. On the other hand, the revived Italian kingdom
contains very little which is not Italian in speech. It is perhaps by a
somewhat elastic view of language that the dialect of Piedmont and the
dialect of Sicily are classed under one head; still, as a matter of
fact, they have a single classical standard, and they are universally
accepted as varieties of the same tongue. But it is only in a few Alpine
valleys that languages are spoken which, whether Romance or Teutonic,
are in any case not Italian. The reunion of Italy, in short, took in all
that was Italian, save when some political cause hindered the rule of
language from being followed. Of any thing not Italian by speech so
little has been taken in that the non-Italian parts of Italy,
Burgundian Aosta and the Seven German Communes--if these last still keep
their Teutonic language,--fall under the rule that there are some things
too small for laws to pay heed to.

But it must not be forgotten that all this simply means that in the
lands of which we have just been speaking the process of adoption has
been carried out on the largest scale. Nations, with languages as their
rough practical test, have been formed; but they have been formed with
very little regard to physical purity of blood. In short, throughout
Western Europe assimilation has been the rule. That is to say, in any of
the great divisions of Western Europe, though the land may have been
settled and conquered over and over again, yet the mass of the people of
the land have been drawn to some one national type. Either some one
among the races inhabiting the land has taught the others to put on its
likeness, or else a new national type has arisen which has elements
drawn from several of those races. Thus the modern Frenchman may be
defined as produced by the union of blood which is mainly Celtic with a
speech which is mainly Latin, and with an historical polity which is
mainly Teutonic. That is, he is neither Gaul, Roman, nor Frank, but a
fourth type which has drawn important elements from all three. Within
modern France this new national type has so far assimilated all others
as to make every thing else merely exceptional. The Fleming of one
corner, the Basque of another, even the far more important Breton of a
third corner, have all in this way become mere exceptions to the general
type of the country. If we pass into our own islands, we shall find that
the same process has been at work. If we look to Great Britain only, we
shall find that, though the means have not been the same, yet the end
has been gained hardly less thoroughly than in France. For all real
political purposes, for every thing which concerns a nation in the face
of other nations, Great Britain is as thoroughly united as France is.
Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen, feel themselves one people in the
general affairs of the world. A secession of Scotland or Wales is as
unlikely as a secession of Normandy or Languedoc. The part of the island
which is not thoroughly assimilated in language, that part which still
speaks Welsh or Gaelic, is larger in proportion than the non-French part
of modern France. But however much either the northern or the western
Briton may, in a fit of antiquarian politics, declaim against the Saxon,
for all practical political purposes he and the Saxon are one. The
distinction between the southern and the northern English--for the men
of Lothian and Fife must allow me to call them by this last name--is,
speaking politically and without ethnological or linguistic precision,
much as if France and Aquitaine had been two kingdoms united on equal
terms, instead of Aquitaine being merged in France. When we cross into
Ireland, we indeed find another state of things, and one which comes
nearer to some of the phenomena which we shall come to in other parts of
the world. Ireland is, most unhappily, not so firmly united to Great
Britain as the different parts of Great Britain are to one another.
Still even here the division arises quite as much from geographical and
historical causes as from distinctions of race strictly so called. If
Ireland had had no wrongs, still two great islands can never be so
thoroughly united as a continuous territory can be. On the other hand,
in point of language, the discontented part of the United Kingdom is
much less strongly marked off than that fraction of the contented part
which is not thoroughly assimilated. Irish is certainly not the
language of Ireland in at all the same degree in which Welsh is the
language of Wales. The Saxon has commonly to be denounced in the Saxon

In some other parts of Western Europe, as in the Spanish and
Scandinavian peninsulas, the coincidence of language and nationality is
stronger than it is in France, Britain, or even Italy. No one speaks
Spanish except in Spain or in the colonies of Spain. And within Spain
the proportion of those who do not speak Spanish, namely the Basque
remnant, is smaller than the non-assimilated element in Britain and
France. Here two things are to be marked: First, the modern Spanish
nation has been formed, like the French, by a great process of
assimilation; secondly, the actual national arrangements of the Spanish
peninsula are wholly due to historical causes, we might almost say
historical accidents, and those of very recent date. Spain and Portugal
are separate kingdoms, and we look on their inhabitants as forming
separate nations. But this is simply because a Queen of Castile in the
fifteenth century married a King of Aragon. Had Isabel married a King of
Portugal, we should now talk of Spain and Aragon as we now talk of
Spain and Portugal, and we should count Portugal for part of Spain. In
language, in history, in every thing else, Aragon was really more
distinct from Castile than Portugal was. The King of Castile was already
spoken of as King of Spain, and Portugal would have merged in the
Spanish kingdom at last as easily as Aragon did. In Scandinavia, on the
other hand, there must have been less assimilation than anywhere else.
In the present kingdoms of Norway and Sweden, there must be a nearer
approach to actual purity of blood than in any other part of Europe. One
cannot fancy that much Finnish blood has been assimilated, and there
have been no conquests or settlements later than that of the Northmen

When we pass into Central Europe we shall find a somewhat different
state of things. The distinctions of race seem to be more lasting. While
the national unity of the German Empire is greater than that of either
France or Great Britain, it has not only subjects of other languages,
but actually discontented subjects, in three corners, on its French, its
Danish, and its Polish frontiers. We ask the reason, and it will be at
once answered that the discontent of all three is the result of recent
conquest, in two cases of very recent conquest indeed. But this is one
of the very points to be marked; the strong national unity of the German
Empire has been largely the result of assimilation; and these three
parts, where recent conquest has not yet been followed by assimilation,
are chiefly important because, in all three cases, the discontented
territory is geographically continuous with a territory of its own
speech outside the Empire. This does not prove that assimilation can
never take place; but it will undoubtedly make the process longer and

So again, wherever German-speaking people dwell outside the bounds of
the revived German state, as well as when that revived German state
contains other than German-speaking people, we ask the reason and we can
find it. Political reasons forbade the immediate annexation of Austria,
Tyrol, and Salzburg. Combined political and geographical reasons, and,
if we look a little deeper, ethnological reasons too, forbade the
annexation of Courland, Livonia, and Esthonia. Some reason or other
will, it may be hoped, always be found to hinder the annexation of
lands which, like Zürich and Bern, have reached a higher political
level. Outlying brethren in Transsilvania or at Saratof again come under
the rule "De minimis non curat lex." In all these cases the rule that
nationality and language should go together, yields to unavoidable
circumstances. But, on the other hand, where French or Danish or
Slavonic or Lithuanian is spoken within the bounds of the new Empire,
the principle that language is the badge of nationality, that without
community of language nationality is imperfect, shows itself in another
shape. One main object of modern policy is to bring these exceptional
districts under the general rule by spreading the German language in
them. Everywhere, in short, wherever a power is supposed to be founded
on nationality, the common feeling of mankind instinctively takes
language as the test of nationality. We assume language as the test of a
nation, without going into any minute questions as to the physical
purity of blood in that nation. A continuous territory, living under the
same government and speaking the same tongue, forms a nation for all
practical purposes. If some of its inhabitants do not belong to the
original stock by blood, they at least belong to it by adoption.

The question may now fairly be asked, What is the case in those parts of
the world where people who are confessedly of different races and
languages inhabit a continuous territory and live under the same
government? How do we define nationality in such cases as these? The
answer will be very different in different cases, according to the means
by which the different national elements in such a territory have been
brought together. They may form what I have already called an artificial
nation, united by an act of its own free will. Or it may be simply a
case where distinct nations, distinct in every thing which can be looked
on as forming a nation, except the possession of an independent
government, are brought together, by whatever causes, under a common
ruler. The former case is very distinctly an exception which proves the
rule, and the latter is, though in quite another way, an exception which
proves the rule also. Both cases may need somewhat more in the way of
definition. We will begin with the first, the case of a nation which has
been formed out of elements which differ in language, but which still
have been brought together so as to form an artificial nation. In the
growth of the chief nations of Western Europe, the principle which was
consciously or unconsciously followed has been that the nation should be
marked out by language, and the use of any tongue other than the
dominant tongue of the nation should be at least exceptional. But there
is one nation in Europe, one which has a full right to be called a
nation in a political sense, which has been formed on the directly
opposite principle. The Swiss Confederation has been formed by the union
of certain detached fragments of the German, Italian, and Burgundian
nations. It may indeed be said that the process has been in some sort a
process of adoption, that the Italian and Burgundian elements have been
incorporated into an already existing German body; that, as those
elements were once subjects or dependents or protected allies, the case
is one of clients or freedmen who have been admitted to the full
privileges of the _gens_. This is undoubtedly true, and it is equally
true of a large part of the German element itself. Throughout the
Confederation, allies and subjects have been raised to the rank of
confederates. But the former position of the component elements does not
matter for our purpose. As a matter of fact, the foreign dependencies
have all been admitted into the Confederation on equal terms. German is
undoubtedly the language of a great majority of the Confederation; but
the two recognized Romance languages are each the speech, not of a mere
fragment or survival, like Welsh in Britain or Breton in France, but of
a large minority forming a visible element in the general body. The
three languages are all of them alike recognized as national languages,
though, as if to keep up the universal rule that there should be some
exceptions to all rules, a fourth language still lives on within the
bounds of the Confederation, which is not admitted to the rights of the
other three, but is left in the state of a fragment or a survival.[4] Is
such an artificial body as this to be called a nation? It is plainly not
a nation by blood or by speech. It can hardly be called a nation by
adoption. For, if we choose to say that the three elements have all
agreed to adopt one another as brethren, yet it has been adoption
without assimilation. Yet surely the Swiss Confederation is a nation. It
is not a a mere power, in which various nations are brought together,
whether willingly or unwillingly, under a common ruler, but without any
further tie of union. For all political purposes, the Swiss
Confederation is a nation, a nation capable of as strong and true
national feeling as any other nation. Yet it is a nation purely
artificial, one in no way defined by blood or speech. It thus proves the
rule in two ways. We at once feel that this artificially formed nation,
which has no common language, but each of whose elements speaks a
language common to itself with some other nation, is something different
from those nations which are defined by a universal or at least a
predominant language. We mark it as an exception, as something different
from other cases. And when we see how nearly this artificial nation
comes, in every point but that of language, to the likeness of those
nations which are defined by language, we see that it is a nation
defined by language which sets the standard, and after the model of
which the artificial nation forms itself. The case of the Swiss
Confederation and its claim to rank as a nation would be like the case
of those _gentes_, if any such there were, which did not spring even
from the expansion of an original family, but which were artificially
formed in imitation of those which did, and which, instead of a real or
traditional forefather, chose for themselves an adopted one.

In the Swiss Confederation, then, we have a case of a nation formed by
an artificial process, but which still is undoubtedly a nation in the
face of other nations. We now come to the other class, in which
nationality and language keep the connection which they have elsewhere,
but in which nations do not even in the roughest way answer to
governments. We have only to go into the Eastern lands of Europe to find
a state of things in which the notion of nationality, as marked out by
language and national feeling, has altogether parted company from the
notion of political government. It must be remembered that this state of
things is not confined to the nations which are or have lately been
under the yoke of the Turk. It extends also to the nations or fragments
of nations which make up the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In all the lands
held by these two powers we come across phenomena of geography, race,
and language, which stand out in marked contrast with any thing to which
we are used in Western Europe. We may perhaps better understand what
those phenomena are, if we suppose a state of things which sounds absurd
in the West, but which has its exact parallel in many parts of the East.
Let us suppose that in a journey through England we came successively to
districts, towns, or villages, where we found, one after another, first,
Britons speaking Welsh; then Romans speaking Latin; then Saxons or
Angles speaking an older form of our own tongue; then Scandinavians
speaking Danish; then Normans speaking Old-French; lastly perhaps a
settlement of Flemings, Huguenots, or Palatines, still remaining a
distinct people and speaking their own tongue. Or let us suppose a
journey through Northern France, in which we found at different stages,
the original Gaul, the Roman, the Frank, the Saxon of Bayeux, the Dane
of Coutances, each remaining a distinct people, each of them keeping the
tongue which they first brought with them into the land. Let us suppose
further that, in many of these cases, a religious distinction was added
to a national distinction. Let us conceive one village Roman Catholic,
another Anglican, others Nonconformist of various types, even if we do
not call up any remnants of the worshippers of Jupiter or of Woden. All
this seems absurd in any Western country, and absurd enough it is. But
the absurdity of the West is the living reality of the East. There we
may still find all the chief races which have ever occupied the country,
still remaining distinct, still keeping separate tongues, and those for
the most part, their own original tongues. Within the present and late
European dominions of the Turk, the original races, those whom we find
there at the first beginnings of history, are all there still, and two
of them keep their original tongues. They form three distinct nations.
First of all there are the Greeks. We have not here to deal with them as
the representatives of that branch of the Roman Empire which adopted
their speech, but simply as one of the original elements in the
population of the Eastern peninsula. Known almost down to our own day by
their historical name of Romans, they have now fallen back on the name
of Hellênes. And to that name they have a perfectly good claim. If the
modern Greeks are not all true Hellênes, they are an aggregate of
adopted Hellênes gathered round and assimilated to a true Hellenic
kernel. Here we see the oldest recorded inhabitants of a large part of
the land abiding, and abiding in a very different case from the remnants
of the Celt and the Iberian in Western Europe. The Greeks are no
survival of a nation; they are a true and living nation, a nation whose
importance is quite out of its proportion to its extent in mere numbers.
They still abide, the predominant race in their own ancient and again
independent land, the predominant race in those provinces of the
continental Turkish dominion which formed part of their ancient land,
the predominant race through all the shores and islands of the Ægæan and
of part of the Euxine also. In near neighborhood to the Greeks still
live another race of equal antiquity, the Skipetar or Albanians. These,
as I believe is no longer doubted, represent the ancient Illyrians. The
exact degree of their ethnical kindred with the Greeks is a scientific
question which need not here be considered; but the facts that they are
more largely intermingled with the Greeks than any of the other
neighboring nations, that they show a special power of identifying
themselves with the Greeks, a power, so to speak, of becoming Greeks
and making part of the artificial Greek nation, are matters of practical
history. It must never be forgotten, that among the worthies of the
Greek War of Independence, some of the noblest were not of Hellenic but
Albanian blood. The Orthodox Albanian easily turns into a Greek; and the
Mahometan Albanian is something which is broadly distinguished from a
Turk. He has, as he well may have, a strong national feeling, and that
national feeling has sometimes got the better of religious divisions. If
Albania is among the most backward parts of the peninsula, still it is,
by all accounts, the part where there is most hope of men of different
religions joining together against the common enemy.

Here then are two ancient races, the Greeks and another race, not indeed
so advanced, so important, or so widely spread, but a race which equally
keeps a real national being. There is also a third ancient race which
survives as a distinct people, though they have for ages adopted a
foreign language. These are the Vlachs or Roumans, the surviving
representatives of the great race, call it Thracian or any other, which
at the beginning of history held the great inland mass of the Eastern
peninsula, with the Illyrians to the west of them and the Greeks to the
south. Every one knows, that in the modern principality of Roumania and
in the adjoining parts of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, there is to be
seen that phenomenon so unique in the East, a people who not only, as
the Greeks did till lately, still keep the Roman name, but who speak
neither Greek nor Turkish, neither Slav nor Skipetar, but a dialect of
Latin, a tongue akin, not to the tongues of any of their neighbors, but
to the tongues of Gaul, Italy, and Spain. And any one who has given any
real attention to this matter knows that the same race is to be found,
scattered here and there, if in some parts only as wandering shepherds,
in the Slavonic, Albanian, and Greek lands south of the Danube. The
assumption has commonly been that this outlying Romance people owe their
Romance character to the Roman colonization of Dacia under Trajan. In
this view, the modern Roumans would be the descendants of Trajan's
colonists and of Dacians who had learned of them to adopt the speech and
manners of Rome. But when we remember that Dacia was the first Roman
province to be given up--that the modern Roumania was for ages the
highway of every barbarian tribe on its way from the East to the
West--that the land has been conquered and settled and forsaken over and
over again,--it would be passing strange if this should be the one land,
and its people the one race, to keep the Latin tongue when it has been
forgotten in all the neighboring countries. In fact, this idea has been
completely dispersed by modern research. The establishment of the
Roumans in Dacia is of comparatively recent date, beginning only in the
thirteenth century. The Roumans of Wallachia, Moldavia, and
Transsilvania, are isolated from the scattered Rouman remnant on Pindos
and elsewhere. They represent that part of the inhabitants of the
peninsula which became Latin, while the Greeks remained Greek, and the
Illyrians remained barbarian. Their lands, Moesia, Thrace specially so
called, and Dacia, were added to the empire at various times from
Augustus to Trajan. That they should gradually adopt the Latin language
is in no sort wonderful. Their position with regard to Rome was exactly
the same as that of Gaul and Spain. Where Greek civilization had been
firmly established, Latin could nowhere displace it. Where Greek
civilization was unknown, Latin overcame the barbarian tongue. It would
naturally do so in this part of the East exactly as it did in the

Here then we have in the Southeastern peninsula three nations which have
all lived on to all appearances from the very beginnings of European
history, three distinct nations, speaking three distinct languages. We
have nothing answering to this in the West. It needs no proof that the
speakers of Celtic and Basque in Gaul and in Spain do not hold the same
position in Western Europe which the Greeks, Albanians, and Roumans do
in Eastern Europe. In the East the most ancient inhabitants of the land
are still there, not as scraps or survivals, not as fragments of nations
lingering on in corners, but as nations in the strictest sense, nations
whose national being forms an element in every modern and political
question. They all have their memories, their grievances, and their
hopes; and their memories, their grievances, and their hopes are all of
a practical and political kind. Highlanders, Welshmen, Bretons, French
Basques, whatever we say of the Spanish brethren, have doubtless
memories, but they have hardly political grievances or hopes. Ireland
may have political grievances; it certainly has political hopes; but
they are not exactly of the same kind as the grievances or hopes of the
Greek, the Albanian, and the Rouman. Let Home Rule succeed to the extent
of setting up an independent king and parliament of Ireland, yet the
language and civilization of that king and parliament would still be
English. Ireland would form an English state, politically hostile, it
may be, to Great Britain, but still an English state. No Greek,
Albanian, or Rouman state would be in the same way either Turkish or

On these primitive and abiding races came, as on other parts of Europe,
the Roman conquest. That conquest planted Latin colonies on the
Dalmatian coast, where the Latin tongue still remains in its Italian
variety as the speech of literature and city life; it Romanized one
great part of the earlier inhabitants; it had the great political effect
of all, that of planting the Roman power in a Greek city, and thereby
creating a state, and in the end a nation, which was Roman on one side,
and Greek on the other. Then came the Wandering of the Nations, on
which, as regards men of our own race, we need not dwell. The Goths
marched at will through the Eastern Empire; but no Teutonic settlement
was ever made within its bounds, no lasting Teutonic settlement was ever
made even on its border. The part of the Teuton in the West was played,
far less perfectly indeed, by the Slav in the East. He is there what the
Teuton is here, the great representative of what we may call the modern
European races, those whose part in history began after the
establishment of the Rouman power. The differences between the position
of the two races are chiefly these. The Slav in the East has præ-Roman
races standing alongside of him in a way in which the Teuton has not in
the West. On the Greeks and Albanians he has had but little influence;
on the Rouman and his language his influence has been far greater, but
hardly so great as the influence of the Teuton on the Romance nations
and languages of Western Europe. The Slav too stands alongside of races
which have come in since his own coming, in a way in which the Teuton in
the West is still further from doing. That is to say, besides Greeks,
Albanians, and Roumans, he stands alongside of Bulgarians, Magyars, and
Turks, who have nothing to answer to them in the West. The Slav, in the
time of his coming, in the nature of his settlement, answers roughly to
the Teuton; his position is what that of the Teuton would be, if Western
Europe had been brought under the power of an alien race at some time
later than his own settlement. The Slavs undoubtedly form the greatest
element in the population of the Eastern peninsula, and they once
reached more widely still. Taking the Slavonic name in its widest
meaning, they occupy all the lands from the Danube and its great
tributaries southward to the strictly Greek border. The exceptions are
where earlier races remain, Greek or Italian on the coast-line, Albanian
in the mountains. The Slavs hold the heart of the peninsula, and they
hold more than the peninsula itself. The Slav lives equally on both
sides of what is or was the frontier of the Austrian and Ottoman
empires; indeed, but for another set of causes which have effected
Eastern Europe, the Slav might have reached uninterruptedly from the
Baltic to the Ægæan.

This last set of causes are those which specially distinguish the
histories of Eastern and of Western Europe; a set of causes which,
though exactly twelve hundred years old,[6] are still fresh and living,
and which are the special causes which have aggravated the special
difficulties of the last five hundred years. In Western Europe, though
we have had plenty of political conquests, we have had no national
migrations since the days of the Teutonic settlements--at least, if we
may extend these last so as to take in the Scandinavian settlements in
Britain and Gaul. The Teuton has pressed to the East at the expense of
the Slav and the Old-Prussian: the borders between the Romance and the
Teutonic nations in the West have fluctuated; but no third set of
nations has come in, strange alike to the Roman and the Teuton and to
the whole Aryan family. As the Huns of Attila showed themselves in
Western Europe as passing ravagers, so did the Magyars at a later day;
so did the Ottoman Turks in a day later still, when they besieged Vienna
and laid waste the Venetian mainland. But all these Turanian invaders
appeared in Western Europe simply as passing invaders; in Eastern Europe
their part has been widely different. Besides the temporary dominion of
Avars, Patzinaks, Chazars, Cumans, and a crowd of others, three bodies
of more abiding settlers, the Bulgarians, the Magyars, and the Mongol
conquerors of Russia, have come in by one path; a fourth, the Ottoman
Turks, have come in by another path. Among all these invasions we have
one case of thorough assimilation, and only one. The original Finnish
Bulgarians have, like Western conquerors, been lost among Slavonic
subjects and neighbors. The geographical function of the Magyar has been
to keep the two great groups of Slavonic nations apart. To his coming,
more than to any other cause, we may attribute the great historical gap
which separates the Slav of the Baltic from his southern kinsfolk. The
work of the Ottoman Turk we all know. These latter settlers remain
alongside of the Slav, just as the Slav remains alongside of the earlier
settlers. The Slavonized Bulgarians are the only instance of
assimilation such as we are used to in the West. All the other races,
old and new, from the Albanian to the Ottoman, are still there, each
keeping its national being and its national speech. And in one part of
the ancient Dacia we must add quite a distinct element, the element of
Teutonic occupation in a form unlike any in which we see it in the West,
in the shape of the Saxons of Transsilvania.

We have thus worked out our point in detail. While in each Western
country some one of the various races which have settled in it has,
speaking roughly, assimilated the others, in the lands which are left
under the rule of the Turk, or which have been lately delivered from his
rule, all the races that have ever settled in the country still abide
side by side. So when we pass into the lands which form the
Austro-Hungarian monarchy, we find that that composite dominion is just
as much opposed as the dominion of the Turk is to those ideas of
nationality toward which Western Europe has been long feeling its way.
We have seen by the example of Switzerland that it is possible to make
an artificial nation out of fragments which have split off from three
several nations. But the Austro-Hungarian monarchy is not a nation, not
even an artificial nation of this kind. Its elements are not bound
together in the same way as the three elements of the Swiss
Confederation. It does indeed contain one whole nation in the form of
the Magyars: we might say that it contains two, if we reckon the Czechs
for a distinct nation. Of its other elements, we may for the moment set
aside those parts of Germany which are so strangely united with the
crowns of Hungary and Dalmatia. In those parts of the monarchy which
come within the more strictly Eastern lands--the _Roman_ and the
_Rouman_,--we may so distinguish the Romance-speaking inhabitants of
Dalmatia and the Romance-speaking inhabitants of Transsilvania. The Slav
of the north and of the south, the Magyar conqueror, the Saxon
immigrant, all abide as distinct races. That the Ottoman is not to be
added to our list in Hungary, while he is to be added in lands farther
south, is simply because he has been driven out of Hungary, while he is
allowed to abide in lands farther south. No point is more important to
insist on now than the fact that the Ottoman once held the greater part
of Hungary by exactly the same right, the right of the strongest, as
that by which he still holds Macedonia and Epeiros. It is simply the
result of a century of warfare, from Sobieski to Joseph the Second,
which fixed the boundary which only yesterday seemed eternal to
diplomatists, but which now seems to have vanished. That boundary has
advanced and gone back over and over again. As Buda once was Turkish,
Belgrade has more than once been Austrian. The whole of the southeastern
lands, Austrian, Turkish, and independent, from the Carpathian Mountains
southward, present the same characteristic of permanence and
distinctness among the several races which occupy them. The several
races may lie, here in large continuous masses, there in small detached
settlements; but there they all are in their distinctness. There is
among them plenty of living and active national feeling; but while in
the West political arrangements for the most part follow the great lines
of national feeling, in the East the only way in which national feeling
can show itself is by protesting, whether in arms or otherwise,
against existing political arrangements. Save the Magyars alone, the
ruling race in the Hungarian kingdom, there is no case in those lands in
which the whole continuous territory inhabited by speakers of the same
tongue is placed under a separate national government of its own. And,
even in this case, the identity between nation and government is
imperfect in two ways. It is imperfect, because, after all, though
Hungary has a separate national government in internal matters, yet it
is not the Hungarian kingdom, but the Austro-Hungarian monarchy of which
it forms a part, which counts as a power among the other powers of
Europe. And the national character of the Hungarian government is
equally imperfect from the other side. It is national as regards the
Magyar; it is not national as regards the Slav, the Saxon, and the
Rouman. Since the liberation of part of Bulgaria, no whole European
nation is under the rule of the Turk. No one nation of the Southeast
peninsula forms a single national government. One fragment of a nation
is free under a national government, another fragment is ruled by
civilized strangers, a third is trampled down by barbarians. The
existing states of Greece, Roumania, and Servia are far from taking in
the whole of the Greek, Rouman, and Servian nations. In all these lands,
Austrian, Turkish, and independent, there is no difficulty in marking
off the several nations; only in no case do the nations answer to any
existing political power.

In all these cases, where nationality and government are altogether
divorced, language becomes yet more distinctly the test of nationality
than it is in Western lands where nationality, and government do to
some extent coincide. And when nationality and language do not coincide
in the East, it is owing to another cause, of which also we know nothing
in the West. In many cases religion takes the place of nationality; or
rather the ideas of religion and nationality can hardly be
distinguished. In the West a man's nationality is in no way affected by
the religion which he professes, or even by his change from one religion
to another. In the East it is otherwise. The Christian renegade who
embraces Islam becomes for most practical purposes a Turk. Even if, as
in Crete and Bosnia, he keeps his Greek or Slavonic language, he remains
Greek or Slav only in a secondary sense. For the first principle of the
Mahometan religion, the lordship of the true believer over the infidel,
cuts off the possibility of any true national fellowship between the
true believer and the infidel. Even the Greek or Armenian who embraces
the Latin creed goes far toward parting with his nationality as well as
with his religion. For the adoption of the Latin creed implies what is
in some sort the adoption of a new allegiance, the accepting of the
authority of the Roman Bishop. In the Armenian indeed we are come very
near to the phenomena of the further East, where names like Parsee and
Hindoo, names in themselves as strictly ethnical as Englishman or
Frenchman, have come to express distinctions in which religion and
nationality are absolutely the same thing. Of this whole class of
phenomena the Jew is of course the crowning example. But we speak of
these matters here only as bringing in an element in the definition of
nationality to which we are unused in the West. But it quite comes
within our present subject to give one definition from the Southeastern
lands. What is the Greek? Clearly he who is at once a Greek in speech
and Orthodox in faith. The Hellenic Mussulmans in Crete, even the
Hellenic Latins in some of the other islands, are at the most imperfect
members of the Hellenic body. The utmost that can be said is that they
keep the power of again entering that body, either by their own return
to the national faith, or by such a change in the state of things as
shall make difference in religion no longer inconsistent with true
national fellowship.

Thus, wherever we go, we find language to be the rough practical test of
nationality. The exceptions are many; they may perhaps outnumber the
instances which conform to the rule. Still they are exceptions.
Community of language does not imply community of blood; it might be
added that diversity of language does not imply diversity of blood. But
community of language is, in the absence of any evidence to the
contrary, a presumption of the community of blood, and it is proof of
something which for practical purposes is the same as community of
blood. To talk of "the Latin race," is in strictness absurd. We know
that the so-called race is simply made up of those nations which adopted
the Latin language. The Celtic, Teutonic, and Slavonic races may
conceivably have been formed by a like artificial process. But the
presumption is the other way; and if such a process ever took place, it
took place long before history began. The Celtic, Teutonic, and Slavonic
races come before us as groups of mankind marked out by the test of
language. Within those races separate nations are again marked out by a
stricter application of the test of language. Within the race we may
have languages which are clearly akin to each other, but which need not
be mutually intelligible. Within the nation we have only dialects which
are mutually intelligible, or which, at all events, gather round some
one central dialect which is intelligible to all. We take this standard
of races and nations, fully aware that it will not stand a physiological
test, but holding that for all practical purposes adoption must pass as
equivalent to natural descent. And, among the practical purposes which
are affected by the facts of race and nationality, we must, as long as a
man is what he is, as long as he has not been created afresh according
to some new scientific pattern, not shrink from reckoning those generous
emotions which, in the present state of European feeling, are beginning
to bind together the greater as well as the lesser groups of mankind.
The sympathies of men are beginning to reach wider than could have been
dreamed of a century ago. The feeling which was once confined to the
mere household extended itself to the tribe or the city. From the tribe
or city it extended itself to the nation; from the nation it is
beginning to extend itself to the whole race. In some cases it can
extend itself to the whole race far more easily than in others. In some
cases historical causes have made nations of the same race bitter
enemies, while they have made nations of different races friendly
allies. The same thing happened in earlier days between tribes and
cities of the same nation. But, when hindrances of this kind do not
exist, the feeling of race, as something beyond the narrower feeling of
nationality, is beginning to be a powerful agent in the feelings and
actions of men and of nations. A long series of mutual wrongs, conquest,
and oppression on one side, avenged by conquest and oppression on the
other side, have made the Slav of Poland and the Slav of Russia the
bitterest of enemies. No such hindrance exists to stop the flow of
natural and generous feeling between the Slav of Russia and the Slav of
the Southeastern lands. Those whose statesmanship consists in some
hand-to-mouth shift for the moment, whose wisdom consists in refusing to
look either back to the past or onward to the future, cannot understand
this great fact of our times; and what they cannot understand they mock
at. But the fact exists and does its work in spite of them. And it does
its work none the less because in some cases the feeling of sympathy is
awakened by a claim of kindred, where, in the sense of the physiologist
or the genealogist, there is no kindred at all. The practical view,
historical or political, will accept as members of this or that race or
nation many members whom the physiologist would shut out, whom the
English lawyer would shut out, but whom the Roman lawyer would gladly
welcome to every privilege of the stock on which they were grafted. The
line of the Scipios, of the Cæsars, and of the Antonines, was continued
by adoption; and for all practical purposes the nations of the earth
have agreed to follow the examples set them by their masters.


BORN 1809.



  "When Love unites, wide space divides in vain,
   And hands may clasp across the spreading main."

It is now nearly half a century since the works of De Tocqueville and De
Beaumont, founded upon personal observation, brought the institutions of
the United States effectually within the circle of European thought and
interest. They were co-operators, but not upon an equal scale. De
Beaumont belongs to the class of ordinary, though able, writers: De
Tocqueville was the Burke of his age, and his treatise upon America may
well be regarded as among the best books hitherto produced for the
political student of all times and countries.

But higher and deeper than the concern of the Old World at large in the
thirteen colonies, now grown into thirty-eight States, besides eight
Territories, is the special interest of England in their condition and

I do not speak of political controversies between them and us, which are
happily, as I trust, at an end. I do not speak of the vast contribution
which, from year to year, through the operations of a colossal trade,
each makes to the wealth and comfort of the other; nor of the friendly
controversy, which in its own place it might be well to raise, between
the leanings of America to Protectionism, and the more daring reliance
of the old country upon free and unrestricted intercourse with all the
world. Nor of the menace which, in the prospective development of her
resources, America offers to the commercial pre-eminence of England.[8]
On this subject I will only say that it is she alone who, at a coming
time, can, and probably will, wrest from us that commercial primacy. We
have no title, I have no inclination, to murmur at the prospect. If she
acquires it, she will make the acquisition by the right of the
strongest; but, in this instance, the strongest means the best. She
will probably become what we are now, the head servant in the great
household of the world, the employer of all employed; because her
service will be the most and ablest. We have no more title against her,
than Venice, or Genoa, or Holland has had against us. One great duty is
entailed upon us, which we, unfortunately, neglect: the duty of
preparing, by a resolute and sturdy effort, to reduce our public
burdens, in preparation for a day when we shall probably have less
capacity than we have now to bear them.

Passing by all these subjects, with their varied attractions, I come to
another, which lies within the tranquil domain of political philosophy.
The students of the future, in this department, will have much to say in
the way of comparison between American and British institutions. The
relationship between these two is unique in history. It is always
interesting to trace and to compare Constitutions, as it is to compare
languages; especially in such instances as those of the Greek States and
the Italian Republics, or the diversified forms of the feudal system in
the different countries of Europe. But there is no parallel in all the
records of the world to the case of that prolific British mother, who
has sent forth her innumerable children over all the earth to be the
founders of half-a-dozen empires. She, with her progeny, may almost
claim to constitute a kind of Universal Church in politics. But, among
these children, there is one whose place in the world's eye and in
history is superlative: it is the American Republic. She is the eldest
born. She has, taking the capacity of her land into view as well as its
mere measurement, a natural base for the greatest continuous empire ever
established by man. And it may be well here to mention what has not
always been sufficiently observed, that the distinction between
continuous empire, and empire severed and dispersed over sea, is vital.
The development, which the Republic has effected, has been unexampled in
its rapidity and force. While other countries have doubled, or at most
trebled, their population, she has risen, during one single century of
freedom, in round numbers, from two millions to forty-five. As to
riches, it is reasonable to establish, from the decennial stages of the
progress thus far achieved, a series for the future; and, reckoning upon
this basis, I suppose that the very next census, in the year 1880, will
exhibit her to the world as certainly the wealthiest of all the nations.
The huge figure of a thousand millions sterling, which may be taken
roundly as the annual income of the United Kingdom, has been reached at
a surprising rate; a rate which may perhaps be best expressed by saying,
that if we could have started forty or fifty years ago from zero, at the
rate of our recent annual increment, we should now have reached our
present position. But while we have been advancing with this portentous
rapidity, America is passing us by as if in a canter. Yet even now the
work of searching the soil and the bowels of the territory, and opening
out her enterprise throughout its vast expanse, is in its infancy. The
England and the America of the present are probably the two strongest
nations of the world. But there can hardly be a doubt, as between the
America and the England of the future, that the daughter, at some no
very distant time, will, whether fairer or less fair, be unquestionably
yet stronger than the mother.

  "O matre forti filia fortior."[9]

But all this pompous detail of material triumphs, whether for the one
or for the other, is worse than idle, unless the men of the two
countries shall remain, or shall become, greater than the mere things
that they produce, and shall know how to regard those things simply as
tools and materials for the attainments of the highest purposes of their
being. Ascending, then, from the ground-floor of material industry
toward the regions in which these purposes are to be wrought out, it is
for each nation to consider how far its institutions have reached a
state in which they can contribute their maximum to the store of human
happiness and excellence. And for the political student all over the
world, it will be beyond any thing curious as well as useful to examine
with what diversities, as well as what resemblances, of apparatus the
two greater branches of a race born to command have been minded, or
induced, or constrained to work out, in their sea-severed seats, their
political destinies according to the respective laws appointed for them.

No higher ambition can find vent in a paper such as this, than to
suggest the position and claims of the subject, and slightly to indicate
a few outlines, or, at least, fragments, of the working material.

In many and the most fundamental respects the two still carry in
undiminished, perhaps in increasing, clearness, the notes of resemblance
that beseem a parent and a child.

Both wish for self-government; and, however grave the drawbacks under
which in one or both it exists, the two have, among the great nations of
the world, made the most effectual advances toward the true aim of
rational politics.

They are similarly associated in their fixed idea that the force, in
which all government takes effect, is to be constantly backed, and, as
it were, illuminated, by thought in speech and writing. The ruler of St.
Paul's time "bare the sword" (Rom. xiii: 4). Bare, it as the Apostle
says, with a mission to do right; but he says nothing of any duty, or
any custom, to show by reason that he was doing right. Our two
governments, whatsoever they do, have to give reasons for it; not
reasons which will convince the unreasonable, but reasons which on the
whole will convince the average mind, and carry it unitedly forward in a
course of action, often, though not always, wise, and carrying within
itself provisions, where it is unwise, for the correction of its own
unwisdom before it grow into an intolerable rankness. They are
governments, not of force only, but of persuasion.

Many more are the concords, and not less vital than these, of the two
nations, as expressed in their institutions. They alike prefer the
practical to the abstract. They tolerate opinion, with only a reserve on
behalf of decency; and they desire to confine coercion to the province
of action, and to leave thought, as such, entirely free. They set a high
value on liberty for its own sake. They desire to give full scope to the
principle of self-reliance in the people, and they deem self-help to be
immeasurably superior to help in any other form; to be the only help, in
short, which ought not to be continually, or periodically, put upon its
trial, and required to make good its title. They mistrust and mislike
the centralization of power; and they cherish municipal, local, even
parochial liberties, as nursery grounds, not only for the production
here and there of able men, but for the general training of public
virtue and independent spirit. They regard publicity as the vital air of
politics; through which alone, in its freest circulation, opinions can
be thrown into common stock for the good of all, and the balance of
relative rights and claims can be habitually and peaceably adjusted. It
would be difficult in the case of any other pair of nations, to present
an assemblage of traits at once so common and so distinctive, as has
been given in this probably imperfect enumeration.

There were, however, the strongest reasons why America could not grow
into a reflection or repetition of England. Passing from a narrow island
to a continent almost without bounds, the colonists at once and vitally
altered their conditions of thought as well as of existence, in relation
to the most important and most operative of all social facts, the
possession of the soil. In England, inequality lies embedded in the very
base of the social structure; in America it is a late, incidental,
unrecognized product, not of tradition, but of industry and wealth, as
they advance with various and, of necessity, unequal steps. Heredity,
seated as an idea in the heart's core of Englishmen, and sustaining far
more than it is sustained by those of our institutions which express it,
was as truly absent from the intellectual and moral store, with which
the colonists traversed the Atlantic, as if it had been some forgotten
article in the bills of lading that made up their cargoes. Equality
combined with liberty, and renewable at each descent from one
generation to another, like a lease with stipulated breaks, was the
groundwork of their social creed. In vain was it sought, by arrangements
such as those connected with the name of Baltimore or of Penn, to
qualify the action of those overpowering forces which so determined the
case. Slavery itself, strange as it now may seem, failed to impair the
theory however it may have imported into the practice a hideous
solecism. No hardier republicanism was generated in New England than in
the Slave States of the South, which produced so many of the great
statesmen of America.

It may be said that the North, and not the South, had the larger number
of colonists; and was the centre of those commanding moral influences
which gave to the country as a whole its political and moral atmosphere.
The type and form of manhood for America was supplied neither by the
Recusant in Maryland, nor by the Cavalier in Virginia, but by the
Puritan of New England; and it would have been a form and type widely
different could the colonization have taken place a couple of centuries,
or a single century, sooner. Neither the Tudor, nor even the Plantagenet
period, could have supplied its special form. The Reformation was a
cardinal factor in its production; and this in more ways than one.

Before that great epoch, the political forces of the country were
represented on the whole by the monarch on one side, and the people on
the other. In the people, setting aside the latent vein of Lollardism,
there was a general homogeneity with respect to all that concerned the
relation of governors and governed. In the deposition of sovereigns, the
resistance to abuses, the establishment of institutions for the defence
of liberty, there were no two parties to divide the land. But, with the
Reformation, a new dualism was sensibly developed among us. Not a
dualism so violent as to break up the national unity, but yet one so
marked and substantial, that thenceforward it was very difficult for any
individual or body of men to represent the entire English character, and
the old balance of its forces. The wrench which severed the Church and
people from the Roman obedience left for domestic settlement thereafter
a tremendous internal question, between the historical and the new,
which in its milder form perplexes us to this day. Except during the
short reign of Edward VI, the civil power, in various methods and
degrees, took what may be termed the traditionary side, and favored the
development of the historical more than the individual aspect of the
national religion. These elements confronted one another during the
reigns of the earlier Stuarts, not only with obstinacy but with
fierceness. There had grown up with the Tudors, from a variety of
causes, a great exaggeration of the idea of royal power; and this
arrived, under James I and Charles I, at a rank maturity. Not less, but
even more masculine and determined, was the converse development. Mr.
Hallam saw, and has said, that at the outbreak of the Great Rebellion,
the old British Constitution was in danger, not from one party but from
both. In that mixed fabric had once been harmonized the ideas, both of
religious duty, and of allegiance as related to it, which were now held
in severance. The hardiest and dominating portion of the American
colonists represented that severance in its extremest form, and had
dropped out of the order of the ideas, which they carried across the
water, all those elements of political Anglicism, which give to
aristocracy in this country a position only second in strength to that
of freedom. State and Church alike had frowned upon them; and their
strong reaction was a reaction of their entire nature, alike of the
spiritual and the secular man. All that was democratic in the policy of
England, and all that was Protestant in her religion, they carried with
them, in pronounced and exclusive forms, to a soil and a scene
singularly suited for their growth.

It is to the honor of the British Monarchy that, upon the whole, it
frankly recognized the facts, and did not pedantically endeavor to
constrain by artificial and alien limitations the growth of the infant
states. It is a thing to be remembered that the accusations of the
colonies in 1776 were entirely levelled at the king actually on the
throne, and that a general acquittal was thus given by them to every
preceding reign. Their infancy had been upon the whole what their
manhood was to be, self-governed and republican. Their Revolution, as we
call it, was like ours in the main, a vindication of liberties inherited
and possessed. It was a Conservative revolution; and the happy result
was that, notwithstanding the sharpness of the collision with the
mother-country, and with domestic loyalism, the Thirteen Colonies made
provision for their future in conformity, as to all that determined
life and manners with the recollections of their past. The two
Constitutions of the two countries express indeed rather the differences
than the resemblances of the nations. The one is a thing grown, the
other a thing made; the one a _praxis_, the other a _poiesis_: the one
the offspring of tendency and indeterminate time, the other of choice
and of an epoch. But, as the British Constitution is the most subtle
organism which has proceeded from the womb and the long gestation of
progressive history, so the American Constitution is, so-far as I can
see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the
brain and purpose of man. It has had a century of trial, under the
pressure of exigencies caused by an expansion unexampled in point of
rapidity and range: and its exemption from formal change, though not
entire, has certainly proved the sagacity of the constructors, and the
stubborn strength of the fabric.

One whose life has been greatly absorbed in working, with others, the
institutions of his own country, has not had the opportunities necessary
for the careful and searching scrutiny of institutions elsewhere. I
should feel, in looking at those of America, like one who attempts to
scan the stars with the naked eye. My notices can only be few, faint,
and superficial; they are but an introduction to what I have to say of
the land of my birth. A few sentences will dispose of them.

America, whose attitude toward England has always been masculine and
real, has no longer to anticipate at our hands the frivolous and
offensive criticisms which were once in vogue among us. But neither
nation prefers (and it would be an ill sign if either did prefer) the
institutions of the other; and we certainly do not contemplate the great
Republic in the spirit of mere optimism. We see that it has a marvellous
and unexampled adaptation for its peculiar vocation; that it must be
judged, not in the abstract, but under the fore-ordered laws of its
existence; that it has purged away the blot with which we brought it
into the world; that it gravely and vigorously grapples with the problem
of making a continent into a state; and that it treasures with fondness
the traditions of British antiquity, which are in truth unconditionally
its own, as well, and as much as they are ours. The thing that perhaps
chiefly puzzles the inhabitants of the old country is why the American
people should permit their entire existence to be continually disturbed
by the business of the Presidential elections; and, still more, why they
should raise to its maximum the intensity of this perturbation by
providing, as we are told, for what is termed a clean sweep of the
entire civil service, in all its ranks and departments, on each
accession of a chief magistrate. We do not perceive why this arrangement
is more rational than would be a corresponding usage in this country on
each change of Ministry. Our practice is as different as possible. We
limit to a few scores of persons the removals and appointments on these
occasions; although our Ministries seem to us, not unfrequently, to be
more sharply severed from one another in principle and tendency than are
the successive Presidents of the great Union.

It would be out of place to discuss in this article occasional phenomena
of local corruption in the United States, by which the nation at large
can hardly be touched: or the mysterious manipulations of votes for the
Presidency, which are now understood to be under examination; or the
very curious influences which are shaping the politics of the negroes
and of the South. These last are corollaries to the great
slave-question: and it seems very possible that after a few years we may
see most of the laborers, both in the Southern States and in England,
actively addicted to the political support of that section of their
countrymen who to the last had resisted their emancipation.

But if there be those in this country who think that American democracy
means public levity and intemperance, or a lack of skill and sagacity in
politics, or the absence of self-command and self-denial, let them bear
in mind a few of the most salient and recent facts of history which may
profitably be recommended to their reflections. We emancipated a million
of negroes by peaceful legislation; America liberated four or five
millions by a bloody civil war: yet the industry and exports of the
Southern States are maintained, while those of our negro colonies have
dwindled; the South enjoys all its franchises, but we have, _proh
pudor!_ found no better method of providing for peace and order in
Jamaica, the chief of our islands, than by the hard and vulgar, even
where needful, expedient of abolishing entirely its representative

The Civil War compelled the States, both North and South, to train and
embody a million and a half of men, and to present to view the greatest,
instead of the smallest, armed forces in the world. Here there was
supposed to arise a double danger. First, that on a sudden cessation of
the war, military life and habits could not be shaken off, and, having
become rudely and widely predominant, would bias the country toward an
aggressive policy, or, still worse, would find vent in predatory or
revolutionary operations. Secondly, that a military caste would grow up
with its habits of exclusiveness and command, and would influence the
tone of politics in a direction adverse to republican freedom. But both
apprehensions proved to be wholly imaginary. The innumerable soldiery
was at once dissolved. Cincinnatus, no longer an unique example, became
the commonplace of every day, the type and mould of a nation. The whole
enormous mass quietly resumed the habits of social life. The generals of
yesterday were the editors, the secretaries, and the solicitors of
to-day. The just jealousy of the State gave life to the now forgotten
maxim of Judge Blackstone, who denounced as perilous the erection of a
separate profession of arms in a free country. The standing army,
expanded by the heat of civil contest to gigantic dimensions, settled
down again into the framework of a miniature with the returning
temperature of civil life, and became a power wellnigh invisible, from
its minuteness, amidst the powers which sway the movements of a society
exceeding forty millions.

More remarkable still was the financial sequel to the great conflict.
The internal taxation for Federal purposes, which before its
commencement had been unknown, was raised, in obedience to an exigency
of life and death, so as to exceed every present and every past example.
It pursued and worried all the transactions of life. The interest of the
American debt grew to be the highest in the world, and the capital
touched five hundred and sixty millions sterling. Here was provided for
the faith and patience of the people a touchstone of extreme severity.
In England, at the close of the great French war, the propertied
classes, who were supreme in Parliament, at once rebelled against the
Tory Government, and refused to prolong the income tax even for a single
year. We talked big, both then and now, about the payment of our
national debt; but sixty-three years have since elapsed, all of them
except two called years of peace, and we have reduced the huge total by
about one ninth; that is to say, by little over one hundred millions, or
scarcely more than one million and a half a year. This is the conduct of
a State elaborately digested into orders and degrees, famed for wisdom
and forethought, and consolidated by a long experience. But America
continued long to bear, on her unaccustomed and still smarting
shoulders, the burden of the war taxation. In twelve years she has
reduced her debt by one hundred and fifty-eight millions sterling, or at
the rate of thirteen millions for every year. In each twelve months she
has done what we did in eight years; her self-command, self-denial, and
wise forethought for the future have been, to say the least, eightfold
ours. These are facts which redound greatly to her honor; and the
historian will record with surprise that an enfranchised nation
tolerated burdens which in this country a selected class, possessed of
the representation, did not dare to face, and that the most unmitigated
democracy known to the annals of the world resolutely reduced at its own
cost prospective liabilities of the State, which the aristocratic, and
plutocratic, and monarchical government of the United Kingdom has been
contented ignobly to hand over to posterity. And such facts should be
told out. It is our fashion so to tell them, against as well as for
ourselves; and the record of them may some day be among the means of
stirring us up to a policy more worthy of the name and fame of England.

It is true, indeed, that we lie under some heavy and, I fear, increasing
disadvantages, which amount almost to disabilities. Not, however, any
disadvantage respecting power, as power is commonly understood. But,
while America has a nearly homogeneous country, and an admirable
division of political labor between the States individually and the
Federal Government, we are, in public affairs, an overcharged and
overweighted people.[10]

We have undertaken the cares of empire upon a scale, and with a
diversity, unexampled in history; and, as it has not yet pleased
Providence to endow us with brain-force and animal strength in an
equally abnormal proportion, the consequence is that we perform the work
of government, as to many among its more important departments, in a
very superficial and slovenly manner. The affairs of the three
associated kingdoms, with their great diversities of law, interest, and
circumstance, make the government of them, even if they stood alone, a
business more voluminous, so to speak, than that of any other
thirty-three millions of civilized men. To lighten the cares of the
central legislature by judicious devolution, it is probable that much
might be done; but nothing is done, or even attempted to be done. The
greater colonies have happily attained to a virtual self-government; yet
the aggregate mass of business connected with our colonial possessions
continues to be very large. The Indian Empire is of itself a charge so
vast, and demanding so much thought and care, that if it were the sole
transmarine appendage to the crown, it would amply tax the best ordinary
stock of human energies. Notoriously it obtains from the Parliament only
a small fraction of the attention it deserves. Questions affecting
individuals, again, or small interests, or classes, excite here a
greater interest, and occupy a larger share of time, than, perhaps, in
any other community. In no country, I may add, are the interests of
persons or classes so favored when they compete with those of the
public; and in none are they more exacting, or more wakeful to turn this
advantage to the best account. With the vast extension of our enterprise
and our trade, comes a breadth of liability not less large, to consider
every thing that is critical in the affairs of foreign states; and the
real responsibilities thus existing for us, are unnaturally inflated for
us by fast-growing tendencies toward exaggeration of our concern in
these matters, and even toward setting up fictitious interests in cases
where none can discern them except ourselves, and such continental
friends as practice upon our credulity and our fears for purposes of
their own. Last of all, it is not to be denied that in what I have been
saying, I do not represent the public sentiment. The nation is not at
all conscious of being overdone. The people see that their House of
Commons is the hardest-working legislative assembly in the world: and,
this being so, they assume it is all right. Nothing pays better, in
point of popularity, than those gratuitous additions to obligations
already beyond human strength, which look like accessions or assertion
of power; such as the annexation of new territory, or the silly
transaction known as the purchase of shares in the Suez Canal.

All my life long I have seen this excess of work as compared with the
power to do it; but the evil has increased with the surfeit of wealth,
and there is no sign that the increase is near its end. The people of
this country are a very strong people; but there is no strength that can
permanently endure, without provoking inconvenient consequences, this
kind of political debauch. It may be hoped, but it cannot be predicted,
that the mischief will be encountered and subdued at the point where it
will have become sensibly troublesome, but will not have grown to be
quite irremediable.

The main and central point of interest, however, in the institutions of
a country is the manner in which it draws together and compounds the
public forces in the balanced action of the State. It seems plain that
the formal arrangements for this purpose in America are very different
from ours. It may even be a question whether they are not, in certain
respects, less popular; whether our institutions do not give more rapid
effect, than those of the Union, to any formed opinion, and resolved
intention, of the nation.

In the formation of the Federal Government we seem to perceive three
stages of distinct advancement. First, the formation of the
Confederation, under the pressure of the War of Independence. Secondly,
the Constitution, which placed the Federal Government in defined and
direct relation with the people inhabiting the several States. Thirdly,
the struggle with the South, which for the first time, and definitely,
decided that to the Union, through its Federal organization, and not to
the State governments, were reserved all the questions not decided and
disposed of by the express provisions of the Constitution itself.[11]
The great _arcanum imperii_, which with us belongs to the three branches
of the Legislature, and which is expressed by the current phrase,
"omnipotence of Parliament," thus became the acknowledged property of
the three branches of the Federal Legislature; and the old and
respectable doctrine of State independence is now no more than an
archæological relic, a piece of historical antiquarianism. Yet the
actual attributions of the State authorities cover by far the largest
part of the province of government; and by this division of labor and
authority, the problem of fixing for the nation a political centre of
gravity is divested of a large part of its difficulty and danger, in
some proportions to the limitations of the working precinct.

Within that precinct, the initiation as well as the final sanction in
the great business of finance is made over to the popular branch of the
Legislature, and a most interesting question arises upon the comparative
merits of this arrangement, and of our method, which theoretically
throws upon the Crown the responsibility of initiating public charge,
and under which, until a recent period, our practice was in actual and
even close correspondence with this theory.

We next come to a difference still more marked. The Federal Executive is
born anew of the nation at the end of each four years, and dies at the
end. But, during the course of those years, it is independent, in the
person both of the President and of his Ministers, alike of the people,
of their representatives, and of that remarkable body, the most
remarkable of all the inventions of modern politics, the Senate of the
United States. In this important matter, whatever be the relative
excellencies and defects of the British and American systems, it is most
certain that nothing would induce the people of this country, or even
the Tory portion of them, to exchange our own for theirs. It may,
indeed, not be obvious to the foreign eye what is the exact difference
of the two. Both the representative chambers hold the power of the
purse. But in America its conditions are such that it does not operate
in any way on behalf of the Chamber or of the nation, as against the
Executive. In England, on the contrary, its efficiency has been such
that it has worked out for itself channels of effective operation, such
as to dispense with its direct use, and avoid the inconveniences which
might be attendant upon that use. A vote of the House of Commons,
declaring a withdrawal of its confidence, has always sufficed for the
purpose of displacing a Ministry; nay, persistent obstruction of its
measures, and even lighter causes, have conveyed the hint, which has
been obediently taken. But the people, how is it with them? Do not the
people in England part with their power, and make it over to the House
of Commons, as completely as the American people part with it to the
President? They give it over for four years: we for a period which on
the average is somewhat more: they, to resume it at a fixed time; we, on
an unfixed contingency, and at a time which will finally be determined,
not according to the popular will, but according to the views which a
Ministry may entertain of its duty or convenience.

All this is true; but it is not the whole truth. In the United Kingdom,
the people as such cannot commonly act upon the Ministry as such. But
mediately, though not immediately, they gain the end: for they can work
upon that which works upon the Ministry, namely, on the House of
Commons. Firstly, they have not renounced, like the American people, the
exercise of their power for a given time; and they are at all times free
by speech, petition, public meeting, to endeavor to get it back in full
by bringing about a dissolution. Secondly, in a Parliament with nearly
660 members, vacancies occur with tolerable frequency; and, as they are
commonly filled up forthwith, they continually modify the color of the
Parliament, conformably, not to the past, but to the present feeling of
the nation; or, at least, of the constituency, which for practical
purposes is different indeed, yet not very different. But, besides
exercising a limited positive influence on the present, they supply a
much less limited indication of the future. Of the members who at a
given time sit in the House of Commons, the vast majority, probably more
than nine-tenths, have the desire to sit there again, after a
dissolution which may come at any moment. They therefore study political
weather-wisdom, and in varying degrees adapt themselves to the
indications of the sky. It will now be readily perceived how the popular
sentiment in England, so far as it is awake, is not meanly provided with
the ways of making itself respected, whether for the purpose of
displacing and replacing a Ministry, or of constraining it (as sometimes
happens) to alter or reverse its policy sufficiently, at least, to
conjure down the gathering and muttering storm.

It is true, indeed, that every nation is of necessity, to a great
extent, in the condition of the sluggard with regard to public policy;
hard to rouse, harder to keep aroused, sure after a little while to sink
back into his slumber:--

                          "Pressitque jacentem
  Dulcis et alta quies, placidæque simillima morti."

  --Æn., vi., 522.

The people have a vast, but an encumbered power; and, in their struggles
with overweening authority, or with property, the excess of force, which
they undoubtedly possess, is more than counterbalanced by the constant
wakefulness of the adversary, by his knowledge of their weakness, and by
his command of opportunity. But this is a fault lying rather in the
conditions of human life than in political institutions. There is no
known mode of making attention and inattention equal in their results.
It is enough to say that in England, when the nation can attend, it can
prevail. So we may say, then, that in the American Union the Federal
Executive is independent for each four years both of the Congress and of
the people. But the British Ministry is largely dependent on the people
whenever the people firmly will it; and is always dependent on the House
of Commons, except of course when it can safely and effectually appeal
to the people.

So far, so good. But if we wish really to understand the manner in which
the Queen's Government over the British Empire is carried on, we must
now prepare to examine into some sharper contrasts than any which our
path has yet brought into view. The power of the American Executive
resides in the person of the actual President, and passes from him to
his successor. His Ministers, grouped around him, are the servants, not
only of his office, but of his mind. The intelligence, which carries on
the Government, has its main seat in him. The responsibility of failures
is understood to fall on him; and it is round his head that success
sheds its halo. The American Government is described truly as a
Government composed of three members, of three powers distinct from one
another. The English Government is likewise so described, not truly, but
conventionally. For in the English Government there has gradually formed
itself a fourth power, entering into and sharing the vitality of each of
the other three, and charged with the business of holding them in
harmony as they march.

This Fourth Power is the Ministry, or more properly the Cabinet. For the
rest of the Ministry is subordinate and ancillary; and, though it
largely shares in many departments the labors of the Cabinet, yet it has
only a secondary and derivative share in the higher responsibilities. No
account of the present British Constitution is worth having which does
not take this Fourth Power largely and carefully into view. And yet it
is not a distinct power, made up of elements unknown to the other three;
any more than a sphere contains elements other than those referable to
the three co-ordinates, which determine the position of every point in
space. The Fourth Power is parasitical to the three others; and lives
upon their life, without any separate existence. One portion of it forms
a part, which may be termed an integral part, of the House of Lords,
another of the House of Commons; and the two conjointly, nestling within
the precinct of Royalty, form the inner Council of the Crown, assuming
the whole of its responsibilities, and in consequence wielding, as a
rule, its powers. The Cabinet is the threefold hinge that connects
together for action the British Constitution of King or Queen, Lords and
Commons. Upon it is concentrated the whole strain of the Government, and
it constitutes from day to day the true centre of gravity for the
working system of the State, although the ultimate superiority of force
resides in the representative chamber.

There is no statute or legal usage of this country which requires that
the Ministers of the Crown should hold seats in the one or the other
House of Parliament. It is perhaps upon this account that, while most of
my countrymen would, as I suppose, declare it to be a becoming and
convenient custom, yet comparatively few are aware how near the seat of
life the observance lies, how closely it is connected with the equipoise
and unity of the social forces. It is rarely departed from, even in an
individual case; never, as far as my knowledge goes, on a wider scale.
From accidental circumstances it happened that I was Secretary of State
between December 1845 and July 1846, without a seat in the House of
Commons. This (which did not pass wholly without challenge) is, I
believe, by much the most notable instance for the last fifty years; and
it is only within the last fifty years that our Constitutional system
has completely settled down. Before the reform of Parliament it was
always easy to find a place for a Minister excluded from his seat; as
Sir Robert Peel for example, ejected from Oxford University, at once
found refuge and repose at Tamworth. I desire to fix attention on the
identification, in this country, of the Minister with the member of a
House of Parliament.

It is, as to the House of Commons, especially, an inseparable and vital
part of our system. The association of the Ministers with the
Parliament, and through the House of Commons with the people, is the
counterpart of their association as Ministers with the Crown and the
prerogative. The decisions that they take are taken under the competing
pressure of a bias this way and a bias that way, and strictly represent
what is termed in mechanics the composition of forces. Upon them, thus
placed, it devolves to provide that the House of Parliament shall
loyally counsel and serve the Crown, and that the Crown shall act
strictly in accordance with its obligations to the nation. I will not
presume to say whether the adoption of the rule in America would or
would not lay the foundation of a great change in the Federal
Constitution; but I am quite sure that the abrogation of it in England
would either alter the form of government, or bring about a crisis.
That it conduces to the personal comfort of Ministers, I will not
undertake to say. The various currents of political and social
influences meet edgeways in their persons, much like the conflicting
tides in St. George's Channel or the Straits of Dover; for, while they
are the ultimate regulators of the relations between the Crown on the
one side, and the people through the Houses of Parliament on the other,
they have no authority vested in them to coerce or censure either way.
Their attitude toward the Houses must always be that of deference; their
language that of respect, if not submission. Still more must their
attitude and language toward the Sovereign be the same in principle, and
yet more marked in form; and this, though upon them lies the ultimate
responsibility of deciding what shall be done in the Crown's name in
every branch of administration, and every department of policy, coupled
only with the alternative of ceasing to be Ministers, if what they may
advisedly deem the requisite power of action be denied them.

In the ordinary administration of the government, the Sovereign
personally is, so to speak, behind the scenes; performing, indeed, many
personal acts by the Sign-manual, or otherwise, but, in each and all of
them, covered by the counter-signature or advice of Ministers, who stand
between the august Personage and the people. There is, accordingly, no
more power, under the form of our Constitution, to assail the Monarch in
his personal capacity, or to assail through him, the line of succession
to the Crown, than there is at chess to put the king in check. In truth,
a good deal, though by no means the whole, of the philosophy of the
British Constitution is represented in this central point of the
wonderful game, against which the only reproach--the reproach of Lord
Bacon--is that it is hardly a relaxation, but rather a serious tax upon
the brain.

The Sovereign in England is the symbol of the nation's unity, and the
apex of the social structure; the maker (with advice) of the laws; the
supreme governor of the Church; the fountain of justice; the sole source
of honor; the person to whom all military, all naval, all civil service
is rendered. The Sovereign owns very large properties; receives and
holds, in law, the entire revenue of the State; appoints and dismisses
Ministers; makes treaties; pardons crime, or abates its punishment;
wages war, or concludes peace; summons and dissolves the Parliament;
exercises these vast powers for the most part without any specified
restraint of law; and yet enjoys, in regard to these and every other
function, an absolute immunity from consequences. There is no provision
in the law of the United Empire, or in the machinery of the
Constitution, for calling the Sovereign to account; and only in one
solitary and improbable, but perfectly defined, case--that of his
submitting to the jurisdiction of the Pope--is he deprived by Statute of
the Throne. Setting aside that peculiar exception, the offspring of a
necessity still freshly felt when it was made, the Constitution might
seem to be founded on the belief of a real infallibility in its head.
Less, at any rate, cannot be said than this. Regal right has, since the
Revolution of 1688, been expressly founded upon contract; and the breach
of that contract destroys the title to the allegiance of the subject.
But no provision, other than the general rule of hereditary succession,
is made to meet either this case, or any other form of political
miscarriage or misdeed. It seems as though the Genius of the Nation
would not stain its lips by so much as the mere utterance of such a
word; nor can we put this state of facts into language more justly than
by saying that the Constitution would regard the default of the Monarch,
with his heirs, as the chaos of the State, and would simply trust to the
inherent energies of the several orders of society for its legal

The original authorship of the representative system is commonly
accorded to the English race. More clear and indisputable is its title
to the great political discovery of Constitutional Kingship. And a very
great discovery it is. Whether it is destined, in any future day, to
minister in its integrity to the needs of the New World, it may be hard
to say. In that important branch of its utility which is negative, it
completely serves the purposes of the many strong and rising Colonies of
Great Britain, and saves them all the perplexities and perils attendant
upon successions to the headship of the Executive. It presents to them,
as it does to us, the symbol of unity, and the object of all our
political veneration, which we love to find rather in a person, than in
an abstract entity, like the State. But the Old World, at any rate,
still is, and may long continue, to constitute the living centre of
civilization, and to hold the primacy of the race; and of this great
society the several members approximate, in a rapidly extending series,
to the practice and idea of Constitutional Kingship. The chief States of
Christendom, with only two exceptions, have, with more or less
distinctness, adopted it. Many of them, both great and small, have
thoroughly assimilated it to their system. The autocracy of Russia, and
the Republic of France, each of them congenial to the present wants of
the respective countries, may yet, hereafter, gravitate toward the
principle, which elsewhere has developed so large an attractive power.
Should the current, that has prevailed through the last half-century,
maintain its direction and its strength, another fifty years may see all
Europe adhering to the theory and practice of this beneficent
institution, and peaceably sailing in the wake of England.

No doubt, if tried by an ideal standard, it is open to criticism.
Aristotle and Plato, nay, Bacon, and perhaps Leibnitz, would have
scouted it as a scientific abortion. Some men would draw disparaging
comparisons between the mediæval and the modern King. In the person of
the first was normally embodied the force paramount over all others in
the country, and on him was laid a weight of responsibility and toil so
tremendous, that his function seems always to border upon the
superhuman; that his life commonly wore out before the natural term; and
that an indescribable majesty, dignity, and interest surround him in his
misfortunes, nay, almost in his degradation; as, for instance, amidst

  "The shrieks of death, through Berkeley's roof that ring,
   Shrieks of an agonizing King."[12]

For this concentration of power, toil, and liability, milder realities
have now been substituted; and Ministerial responsibility comes between
the Monarch and every public trial and necessity, like armor between the
flesh and the spear that would seek to pierce it; only this is an armor
itself also fleshy, at once living and impregnable. It may be said, by
an adverse critic, that the Constitutional Monarch is only a depository
of power, as an armory is a depository of arms; but that those who wield
the arms, and those alone, constitute the true governing authority. And
no doubt this is so far true, that the scheme aims at associating in the
work of government with the head of the State the persons best adapted
to meet the wants and wishes of the people, under the conditions that
the several aspects of supreme power shall be severally allotted;
dignity and visible authority shall lie wholly with the wearer of the
crown, but labor mainly, and responsibility wholly, with its servants.
From hence, without doubt, it follows that should differences arise, it
is the will of those in whose minds the work of government is
elaborated, that in the last resort must prevail. From mere labor, power
may be severed; but not from labor joined with responsibility. This
capital and vital consequence flows out of the principle that the
political action of the Monarch shall everywhere be mediate and
conditional upon the concurrence of confidential advisers. It is
impossible to reconcile any, even the smallest, abatement of this
doctrine, with the perfect, absolute immunity of the Sovereign from
consequences. There can be in England no disloyalty more gross, as to
its effects, than the superstition which affects to assign to the
Sovereign a separate, and so far as separate, transcendental sphere of
political action. Anonymous servility has, indeed, in these last days,
hinted such a doctrine[13]; but it is no more practicable to make it
thrive in England, than to rear the jungles of Bengal on Salisbury

There is, indeed, one great and critical act, the responsibility for
which falls momentarily or provisionally upon the Sovereign; it is the
dismissal of an existing Ministry, and the appointment of a new one.
This act is usually performed with the aid drawn from authentic
manifestations of public opinion, mostly such as are obtained through
the votes or conduct of the House of Commons. Since the reign of George
III there has been but one change of Ministry in which the Monarch acted
without the support of these indications. It was when William IV, in
1834, dismissed the Government of Lord Melbourne, which was known to be
supported, though after a lukewarm fashion, by a large majority of the
existing House of Commons. But the royal responsibility was, according
to the doctrine of our Constitution, completely taken over, _ex post
facto_, by Sir Robert Peel, as the person who consented, on the call of
the King, to take Lord Melbourne's office. Thus, though the act was
rash, and hard to justify, the doctrine of personal immunity was in no
way endangered. And here we may notice, that in theory an absolute
personal immunity implies a correlative limitation of power, greater
than is always found in practice. It can hardly be said that the King's
initiative left to Sir R. Peel a freedom perfectly unimpaired. And, most
certainly, it was a very real exercise of personal power. The power did
not suffice for its end, which was to overset the Liberal predominance;
but it very nearly sufficed. Unconditionally entitled to dismiss the
Ministers, the Sovereign can, of course, choose his own opportunity. He
may defy the Parliament, if he can count upon the people. William IV, in
the year 1834, had neither Parliament nor people with him. His act was
within the limits of the Constitution, for it was covered by the
responsibility of the acceding Ministry. But it reduced the Liberal
majority from a number considerably beyond three hundred to about
thirty; and it constituted an exceptional but very real and large action
on the politics of the country, by the direct will of the King. I speak
of the immediate effects. Its eventual result may have been different,
for it converted a large disjointed mass into a smaller but organized
and sufficient force, which held the fortress of power for the six
years 1835-41. On this view it may be said that, if the Royal
intervention anticipated and averted decay from natural causes, then
with all its immediate success, it defeated its own real aim.

But this power of dismissing a Ministry at will, large as it may be
under given circumstances, is neither the safest nor the only power
which, in the ordinary course of things, falls Constitutionally to the
personal share of the wearer of the crown. He is entitled, on all
subjects coming before the Ministry, to knowledge and opportunities of
discussion, unlimited save by the iron necessities of business. Though
decisions must ultimately conform to the sense of those who are to be
responsible for them, yet their business is to inform and persuade the
Sovereign, not to overrule him. Were it possible for him, within the
limits of human time and strength, to enter actively into all public
transactions, he would be fully entitled to do so. What is actually
submitted is supposed to be the most fruitful and important part, the
cream of affairs. In the discussion of them, the Monarch has more than
one advantage over his advisers. He is permanent, they are fugitive; he
speaks from the vantage-ground of a station unapproachably higher; he
takes a calm and leisurely survey, while they are worried with the
preparatory stages, and their force is often impaired by the pressure of
countless detail. He may be, therefore, a weighty factor in all
deliberations of State. Every discovery of a blot, that the studies of
the Sovereign in the domain of business enable him to make, strengthens
his hands and enhances his authority. It is plain, then, that there is
abundant scope for mental activity to be at work under the gorgeous
robes of Royalty.

This power spontaneously takes the form of influence; and the amount of
it depends on a variety of circumstances; on talent, experience, tact,
weight of character, steady, untiring industry, and habitual presence at
the seat of government. In proportion as any of these might fail, the
real and legitimate influence of the Monarch over the course of affairs
would diminish; in proportion as they attain to fuller action, it would
increase. It is a moral, not a coercive, influence. It operates through
the will and reason of the Ministry, not over or against them. It would
be an evil and a perilous day for the Monarchy, were any prospective
possessor of the Crown to assume or claim for himself final, or
preponderating, or even independent power, in any one department of the
State. The ideas and practice of the time of George III, whose will in
certain matters limited the action of the Ministers, cannot be revived,
otherwise than by what would be, on their part, nothing less than a base
compliance, a shameful subserviency, dangerous to the public weal, and
in the highest degree disloyal to the dynasty. Because, in every free
State, for every public act, some one must be responsible; and the
question is, Who shall it be? The British Constitution answers: The
Minister, and the Minister exclusively. That he may be responsible, all
action must be fully shared by him. Sole action, for the Sovereign,
would mean undefended, unprotected action; the armor of irresponsibility
would not cover the whole body against sword or spear; a head would
project beyond the awning, and would invite a sunstroke.

The reader, then, will clearly see that there is no distinction more
vital to the practice of the British Constitution, or to a right
judgment upon it, than the distinction between the Sovereign and the
Crown. The Crown has large prerogatives, endless functions essential to
the daily action, and even the life, of the State. To place them in the
hands of persons who should be mere tools in a Royal will, would expose
those powers to constant unsupported collision with the living forces of
the nation, and to a certain and irremediable crash. They are therefore
entrusted to men, who must be prepared to answer for the use they make
of them. This ring of responsible Ministerial agency forms a fence
around the person of the Sovereign, which has thus far proved
impregnable to all assaults. The august personage, who from time to time
may rest within it, and who may possess the art of turning to the best
account the countless resources of the position, is no dumb and
senseless idol; but, together with real and very large means of
influence upon policy, enjoys the undivided reverence which a great
people feels for its head; and is likewise the first and by far the
weightiest among the forces, which greatly mould, by example and
legitimate authority, the manners, nay the morals, of a powerful
aristocracy and a wealthy and highly trained society. The social
influence of a Sovereign, even if it stood alone, would be an enormous
attribute. The English people are not believers in equality; they do
not, with the famous Declaration of July 4, 1776, think it to be a
self-evident truth that all men are born equal. They hold rather the
reverse of that proposition. At any rate, in practice, they are what I
may call determined inequalitarians; nay, in some cases, even without
knowing it. Their natural tendency, from the very base of British
society, and through all its strongly built gradations, is to look
upward: they are not apt to "untune degree." The Sovereign is the
highest height of the system, is, in that system, like Jupiter among the
Roman gods, first without a second.

  "Nec viget quicquam simile aut secundum."[14]

Not, like Mont Blanc, with rivals in his neighborhood; but like Ararat
or Etna, towering alone and unapproachable. The step downward from the
King to the second person in the realm is not like that from the second
to the third: it is more even than a stride, for it traverses a gulf. It
is the wisdom of the British Constitution to lodge the personality of
its chief so high, that none shall under any circumstances be tempted to
vie, no, nor dream of vieing, with it. The office, however, is not
confused, though it is associated, with the person; and the elevation of
official dignity in the Monarch of these realms has now for a testing
period worked well, in conjunction with the limitation of merely
personal power.

In the face of the country, the Sovereign and the Ministers are an
absolute unity. The one may concede to the other; but the limit of
concessions by the Sovereign is at the point where he becomes willing to
try the experiment of changing his Government, and the limit of
concessions by the Minister is at the point where they become unwilling
to bear, what in all circumstances they must bear while they remain
Ministers, the undivided responsibility of all that is done in the
Crown's name. But it is not with the Sovereign only that the Ministry
must be welded into identity. It has a relation to sustain to the House
of Lords; which need not, however, be one of entire unity, for the House
of Lords, though a great power in the State, and able to cause great
embarrassment to an Administration, is not able by a vote to doom it to
capital punishment. Only for fifteen years, out of the last fifty, has
the Ministry of the day possessed the confidence of the House of Lords.
On the confidence of the House of Commons it is immediately and vitally
dependent. This confidence it must always possess, either absolutely
from identity of political color, or relatively and conditionally. This
last case arises when an accidental dislocation of the majority in the
Chamber has put the machine for the moment out of gear, and the unsafe
experiment of a sort of provisional government, doomed on the one hand
to be feeble, or tempted on the other to be dishonest, is tried; much as
the Roman Conclave has sometimes been satisfied with a provisional Pope,
deemed likely to live for the time necessary to reunite the factions of
the prevailing party.

I have said that the Cabinet is essentially the regulator of the
relations between King, Lords, and Commons; exercising functionally the
powers of the first, and incorporated, in the persons of its members,
with the second and the third. It is, therefore, itself a great power.
But let no one suppose it is the greatest. In a balance nicely poised, a
small weight may turn the scale; and the helm that directs the ship is
not stronger than the ship. It is a cardinal axiom of the modern British
Constitution, that the House of Commons is the greatest of the powers
of the State. It might, by a base subserviency, fling itself at the feet
of a Monarch or a Minister; it might, in a season of exhaustion, allow
the slow persistence of the Lords, ever eyeing it as Lancelot was eyed
by Modred, to invade its just province by baffling its action at some
time propitious for the purpose. But no Constitution can anywhere keep
either Sovereign, or Assembly, or nation, true to its trust and to
itself. All that can be done has been done. The Commons are armed with
ample powers of self-defence. If they use their powers properly, they
can only be mastered by a recurrence to the people, and the way in which
the appeal can succeed is by the choice of another House of Commons more
agreeable to the national temper. Thus the sole appeal from the verdict
of the House is a rightful appeal to those from whom it received its

This superiority in power among the great State forces was, in truth,
established even before the House of Commons became what it now is,
representative of the people throughout its entire area. In the early
part of the century, a large part of its members virtually received
their mandate from members of the Peerage, or from the Crown, or by the
direct action of money on a mere handful of individuals, or, as in
Scotland, for example, from constituencies whose limited numbers and
upper-class sympathies usually shut out popular influences. A real
supremacy belonged to the House as a whole; but the forces of which it
was compounded were not all derived from the people, and the
aristocratic power had found out the secret of asserting itself within
the walls of the popular chamber, in the dress and through the voices of
its members. Many persons of gravity and weight saw great danger in a
measure of change like the first Reform Act, which left it to the Lords
to assert themselves, thereafter, by an external force, instead of
through a share in the internal composition of a body so formidable. But
the result proved that they were sufficiently to exercise, through the
popular will and choice, the power which they had formerly put in action
without its sanction, though within its proper precinct and with its
title falsely inscribed.

The House of Commons is superior, and by far superior, in the force of
its political attributes, to any other single power in the State. But it
is watched; it is criticized; it is hemmed in and about by a multitude
of other forces: the force, first of all, of the House of Lords, the
force of opinion from day to day, particularly of the highly
anti-popular opinion of the leisured men of the metropolis, who, seated
close to the scene of action, wield an influence greatly in excess of
their just claims; the force of the classes and professions; the just
and useful force of the local authorities in their various orders and
places. Never was the great problem more securely solved, which
recognizes the necessity of a paramount power in the body politic to
enable it to move, but requires for it a depository such that it shall
be safe against invasion, and yet inhibited from aggression.

The old theories of a mixed government, and of the three powers, coming
down from the age of Cicero, when set by the side of the living British
Constitution, are cold, crude, and insufficient to a degree that makes
them deceptive. Take them, for example, as represented, fairly enough,
by Voltaire: the picture drawn by him is for us nothing but a puzzle:--

  "Aux murs de Vestminster on voit paraître ensemble
   Trois pouvoirs étonnés du noeud qui les rassemble,
   Les députés du peuple, les grands, et le Roi,
   Divisés d' intérêt, réunis par la Loi."[15]

There is here lacking an amalgam, a reconciling power, what may be
called a clearing-house of political forces, which shall draw into
itself every thing, and shall balance and adjust every thing, and
ascertaining the nett result, let it pass on freely for the fulfilment
of the purposes of the great social union. Like a stout buffer-spring,
it receives all shocks, and within it their opposing elements neutralize
one another. This is the function of the British Cabinet. It is perhaps
the most curious formation in the political world of modern times, not
for its dignity, but for its subtlety, its elasticity, and its
many-sided diversity of power. It is the complement of the entire
system; a system which appears to want nothing but a thorough loyalty in
the persons composing its several parts, with a reasonable intelligence,
to insure its bearing, without fatal damage, the wear and tear of ages
yet to come.

It has taken more than a couple of centuries to bring the British
Cabinet to its present accuracy and fulness of development; for the
first rudiments of it may sufficiently be discerned in the reign of
Charles I. Under Charles II it had fairly started from its embryo; and
the name is found both in Clarendon and in the Diary of Pepys.[16] It
was for a long time without a Ministerial head; the King was the head.
While this arrangement subsisted, constitutional government could be but
half established. Of the numerous titles of the Revolution of 1688 to
respect, not the least remarkable is this, that the great families of
the country, and great powers of the State, made no effort, as they
might have done, in the hour of its weakness, to aggrandize themselves
at the expense of the crown. Nevertheless, for various reasons, and
among them because of the foreign origin, and absences from time, of
several Sovereigns, the course of events tended to give force to the
organs of Government actually on the spot, and thus to consolidate, and
also to uplift, this as yet novel creation. So late, however, as the
impeachment of Sir Robert Walpole, his friends thought it expedient to
urge on his behalf, in the House of Lords, that he had never presumed to
constitute himself a Prime-Minister.

The breaking down of the great offices of State by throwing them into
commission, and last among them of the Lord High Treasurership after the
time of Harley, Earl of Oxford, tended, and may probably have been
meant, to prevent or retard the formation of a recognized Chiefship in
the Ministry; which even now we have not learned to designate by a true
English word, though the use of the imported phrase "Premier" is at
least as old as the poetry of Burns. Nor can any thing be more curiously
characteristic of the political genius of the people, than the present
position of this most important official personage. Departmentally, he
is no more than the first-named of five persons, by whom jointly the
powers of the Lord Treasurership are taken to be exercised; he is not
their master, or, otherwise than by mere priority, their head: and he
has no special function or prerogative under the formal Constitution of
the office. He has no official rank except that of Privy Councillor.
Eight members of the Cabinet, including five Secretaries of State, and
several other members of the Government, take official precedence of
him. His rights and duties as head of the Administration are nowhere
recorded. He is almost, if not altogether, unknown to the Statute Law.

Nor is the position of the body, over which he presides, less singular
than his own. The Cabinet wields, with partial exceptions, the powers of
the Privy Council, besides having a standing ground in relation to the
personal will of the Sovereign, far beyond what the Privy Council ever
held or claimed. Yet it has no connection with the Privy Council, except
that every one, on first becoming a member of the Cabinet, is, if not
belonging to it already, sworn a member of that body. There are other
sections of the Privy Council, forming regular Committees for Education
and for Trade. But the Cabinet has not even this degree of formal
sanction, to sustain its existence. It lives and acts simply by
understanding, without a single line of written law or constitution to
determine its relations to the Monarch, or to the Parliament, or to the
nation; or the relations of its members to one another, or to their
head. It sits in the closest secrecy. There is no record of its
proceedings, nor is there any one to hear them, except upon the very
rare occasions when some important functionary, for the most part
military or legal, is introduced, _pro hac vice_, for the purpose of
giving to it necessary information.

Every one of its members acts in no less than three capacities: as
administrator of a department of State; as member of a legislative
chamber; and as a confidential adviser of the Crown. Two at least of
them add to those three characters a fourth; for in each House of
Parliament it is indispensable that one of the principal Ministers
should be what is termed its Leader. This is an office the most
indefinite of all, but not the least important. With very little of
defined prerogative, the Leader suggests, and in a great degree fixes,
the course of all principal matters of business, supervises and keeps in
harmony the action of his colleagues, takes the initiative in matters of
ceremonial procedure, and advises the House in every difficulty as it
arises. The first of these, which would be of but secondary consequence
where the assembly had time enough for all its duties, is of the utmost
weight in our overcharged House of Commons, where, notwithstanding all
its energy and all its diligence, for one thing of consequence that is
done, five or ten are despairingly postponed. The overweight, again, of
the House of Commons is apt, other things being equal, to bring its
Leader inconveniently near in power to a Prime-Minister who is a Peer.
He can play off the House of Commons against his chief; and instances
might be cited, though they are happily most rare, when he has served
him very ugly tricks.

The nicest of all the adjustments involved in the working of the British
Government is that which determines, without formally defining, the
internal relations of the Cabinet. On the one hand, while each Minister
is an adviser of the Crown, the Cabinet is a unity, and none of its
members can advise as an individual, without, or in opposition actual or
presumed to, his colleagues. On the other hand, the business of the
State is a hundred-fold too great in volume to allow of the actual
passing of the whole under the view of the collected Ministry. It is
therefore a prime office of discretion for each Minister to settle what
are the departmental acts in which he can presume the concurrence of his
colleagues, and in what more delicate, or weighty, or peculiar cases, he
must positively ascertain it. So much for the relation of each Minister
to the Cabinet; but here we touch the point which involves another
relation, perhaps the least known of all, his relation to its head.

The head of the British Government is not a Grand Vizier. He has no
powers, properly so called, over his colleagues: on the rare occasions,
when a Cabinet determines its course by the votes of its members, his
vote counts only as one of theirs. But they are appointed and dismissed
by the Sovereign on his advice. In a perfectly organized administration,
such for example as was that of Sir Robert Peel in 1841-6, nothing of
great importance is matured, or would even be projected, in any
department without his personal cognizance; and any weighty business
would commonly go to him before being submitted to the Cabinet. He
reports to the Sovereign its proceedings, and he also has many audiences
of the august occupant of the Throne. He is bound in these reports and
audiences, not to counterwork the Cabinet; not to divide it; not to
undermine the position of any of his colleagues in the Royal favor. If
he departs in any degree from strict adherence to these rules, and uses
his great opportunities to increase his own influence, or pursue aims
not shared by his colleagues, then, unless he is prepared to advise
their dismissal, he not only departs from rule, but commits an act of
treachery and baseness. As the Cabinet stands between the Sovereign and
the Parliament, and is bound to be loyal to both, so he stands between
his colleagues and the Sovereign, and is bound to be loyal to both.

As a rule, the resignation of the First Minister, as if removing the
bond of cohesion in the Cabinet, has the effect of dissolving it. A
conspicuous instance of this was furnished by Sir Robert Peel in 1846;
when the dissolution of the Administration, after it had carried the
repeal of the Corn Laws, was understood to be due not so much to a
united deliberation and decision as to his initiative. The resignation
of any other Minister only creates a vacancy. In certain circumstances,
the balance of forces may be so delicate and susceptible that a single
resignation will break up the Government; but what is the rule in the
one case is the rare exception in the other. The Prime Minister has no
title to override any one of his colleagues in any one of the
departments. So far as he governs them, unless it is done by trick,
which is not to be supposed, he governs them by influence only. But upon
the whole, nowhere in the wide world does so great a substance cast so
small a shadow; nowhere is there a man who has so much power, with so
little to show for it in the way of formal title or prerogative.

The slight record that has here been traced may convey but a faint idea
of an unique creation. And, slight as it is, I believe it tells more
than, except in the school of British practice, is elsewhere to be
learned of a machine so subtly balanced, that it seems as though it were
moved by something not less delicate and slight than the mainspring of a
watch. It has not been the offspring of the thought of man. The Cabinet,
and all the present relations of the Constitutional powers in this
country, have grown into their present dimensions, and settled into
their present places, not as the fruit of a philosophy, not in the
effort to give effect to an abstract principle; but by the silent action
of forces, invisible and insensible, the structure has come up into the
view of all the world. It is, perhaps, the most conspicuous object on
the wide political horizon; but it has thus risen, without noise, like
the temple of Jerusalem.

  "No workman steel, no ponderous hammers rung;
   Like some tall palm the stately fabric sprung."[17]

When men repeat the proverb which teaches us that "marriages are made in
heaven," what they mean is that, in the most fundamental of all social
operations, the building up of the family, the issues involved in the
nuptial contract, lie beyond the best exercise of human thought, and
the unseen forces of providential government make good the defect in our
imperfect capacity. Even so would it seem to have been in that curious
marriage of competing influences and powers, which brings about the
composite harmony of the British Constitution. More, it must be
admitted, than any other, it leaves open doors which lead into blind
alleys; for it presumes, more boldly than any other, the good sense and
good faith of those who work it. If, unhappily, these personages meet
together, on the great arena of a nation's fortunes, as jockeys meet
upon a racecourse, each to urge to the uttermost, as against the others,
the power of the animal he rides; or as counsel in a court, each to
procure the victory of his client, without respect to any other interest
or right: then this boasted Constitution of ours is neither more nor
less than a heap of absurdities. The undoubted competency of each
reaches even to the paralysis or destruction of the rest. The House of
Commons is entitled to refuse every shilling of the supplies. That
House, and also the House of Lords, is entitled to refuse its assent to
every bill presented to it. The Crown is entitled to make a thousand
Peers to-day and as many to-morrow: it may dissolve all and every
Parliament before it proceeds to business; may pardon the most atrocious
crimes; may declare war against all the world; may conclude treaties
involving unlimited responsibilities, and even vast expenditure, without
the consent, nay, without the knowledge, of Parliament, and this not
merely in support or in development, but in reversal, of policy already
known to and sanctioned by the nation. But the assumption is that the
depositaries of power will all respect one another; will evince a
consciousness that they are working in a common interest for a common
end; that they will be possessed, together with not less than an average
intelligence, of not less than an average sense of equity and of the
public interest and rights. When these reasonable expectations fail,
then, it must be admitted, the British Constitution will be in danger.

Apart from such contingencies, the offspring only of folly or of crime,
this Constitution is peculiarly liable to subtle change. Not only in the
long run, as man changes between youth and age, but also, like the human
body, with a quotidian life, a periodical recurrence of ebbing and
flowing tides. Its old particles daily run to waste, and give place to
new. What is hoped among us is, that which has usually been found, that
evils will become palpable before they have grown to be intolerable.

There cannot, for example, be much doubt among careful observers that
the great conservator of liberty in all former times, namely, the
confinement of the power of the purse to the popular chamber, has been
lamentably weakened in its efficiency of late years; weakened in the
House of Commons, and weakened by the House of Commons. It might indeed
be contended that the House of Commons of the present epoch does far
more to increase the aggregate of public charge than to reduce it. It
might even be a question whether the public would take benefit if the
House were either intrusted annually with a great part of the
initiative, so as to be really responsible to the people for the
spending of their money; or else were excluded from part at least of its
direct action upon expenditure, intrusting to the executive the
application of given sums which that executive should have no legal
power to exceed.

Meantime, we of this island are not great political philosophers; and we
contend with an earnest, but disproportioned, vehemence about changes
which are palpable, such as the extension of the suffrage, or the
redistribution of Parliamentary seats, neglecting wholly other
processes of change which work beneath the surface, and in the dark, but
which are even more fertile of great organic results. The modern English
character reflects the English Constitution in this, that it abounds in
paradox; that it possesses every strength; but holds it tainted with
every weakness; that it seems alternately both to rise above and to fall
below the standard of average humanity; that there is no allegation of
praise or blame which, in some one of the aspects of its many-sided
formation, it does not deserve; that only in the midst of much default,
and much transgression, the people of this United Kingdom either have
heretofore established, or will hereafter establish, their title to be
reckoned among the children of men, for the eldest born of an imperial

In this imperfect survey, I have carefully avoided all reference to the
politics of the day and to particular topics, recently opened, which may
have undergone a great development even before these lines appear in
print on the other side of the Atlantic. Such reference would, without
any countervailing advantage, have lowered the strain of these remarks,
and would have complicated with painful considerations a statement
essentially impartial and general in its scope.

For the yet weightier reason of incompetency, I have avoided the topics
of chief present interest in America, including that proposal to tamper
with the true monetary creed which (as we should say) the Tempter lately
presented to the Nation in the Silver Bill. But I will not close this
paper without recording my conviction that the great acts, and the great
forbearances, which immediately followed the close of the Civil War form
a group which will ever be a noble object, in his political retrospect,
to the impartial historian; and that, proceeding as they did from the
free choice and conviction of the people, and founded as they were on
the very principles of which the multitude is supposed to be least
tolerant, they have, in doing honor to the United States, also rendered
a splendid service to the general cause of popular government throughout
the world.[18]


BORN 1801.



There is this obvious, undeniable difficulty in the attempt to form a
theory of Private Judgment, in the choice of a religion, that Private
Judgment leads different minds in such different directions. If, indeed,
there be no religious truth, or at least no sufficient means of arriving
at it, then the difficulty vanishes: for where there is nothing to find,
there can be no rules for seeking, and contradiction in the result is
but a _reductio ad absurdum_ of the attempt. But such a conclusion is
intolerable to those who search, else they would not search; and
therefore on them the obligation lies to explain, if they can, how it
comes to pass, that Private Judgment is a duty, and an advantage, and a
success, considering it leads the way not only to their own faith,
whatever that may be, but to opinions which are diametrically opposite
to it; considering it not only leads them right, but leads others wrong,
landing them as it may be in the Church of Rome, or in the Wesleyan
Connection, or in the Society of Friends.

Are exercises of mind, which end so diversely, one and all pleasing to
the Divine Author of faith; or rather must they not contain some
inherent or some incidental defect, since they manifest such divergence?
Must private judgment in all cases be a good _per se_; or is it a good
under circumstances, and with limitations? Or is it a good, only when it
is not an evil? Or is it a good and evil at once, a good involving an
evil? Or is it an absolute and simple evil? Questions of this sort rise
in the mind on contemplating a principle which leads to more than the
thirty-two points of the compass, and, in consequence, whatever we may
here be able to do, in the way of giving plain rules for its exercise,
be it greater or less, will be so much gain.


Now the first remark which occurs is an obvious one, and, we suppose,
will be suffered to pass without much opposition, that whatever be the
intrinsic merits of Private Judgment, yet, if it at all exerts itself in
the direction of proselytism and conversion, a certain _onus probandi_
lies upon it, and it must show cause why it should be tolerated, and
not rather treated as a breach of the peace, and silenced _instanter_ as
a mere disturber of the existing constitution of things. Of course it
may be safely exercised in defending what is established; and we are far
indeed from saying that it is never to advance in the direction of
change or revolution, else the Gospel itself could never have been
introduced; but we consider that serious religious changes have _primâ
facie_ case against them; they have something to get over, and have to
prove their admissibility, before it can reasonably be allowed; and
their agents may be called upon to suffer, in order to prove their
earnestness, and to pay the penalty of the trouble they are causing.
Considering the special countenance given in Scripture to quiet,
unanimity, and contentedness, and the warnings directed against
disorder, insubordination, changeableness, discord, and division;
considering the emphatic words of the Apostle, laid down by him as a
general principle, and illustrated in detail, "Let every man abide in
the same calling wherein he was called"; considering, in a word, that
change is really the characteristic of error, and unalterableness the
attribute of truth, of holiness, of Almighty God Him self, we consider
that when Private Judgment moves in the direction of innovation, it may
well be regarded at first with suspicion and treated with severity. Nay,
we confess even a satisfaction, when a penalty is attached to the
expression of new doctrines, or to a change of communion. We repeat it,
if any men have strong feelings, they should pay for them; if they think
it a duty to unsettle things established, they show their earnestness by
being willing to suffer. We shall be the last to complain of this kind
of persecution, even though directed against what we consider the cause
of truth. Such disadvantages do no harm to that cause in the event, but
they bring home to a man's mind his own responsibility; they are a
memento to him of a great moral law, and warn him that his private
judgment, if not a duty, is a sin.

An act of private judgment is, in its very idea, an act of individual
responsibility; this is a consideration which will come with especial
force on a conscientious mind, when it is to have so fearful an issue as
a change of religion. A religious man will say to himself, "If I am in
error at present, I am in error by a disposition of Providence, which
has placed me where I am; if I change into an error, this is my own
act. It is much less fearful to be born at disadvantage, than to place
myself at disadvantage."

And if the voice of men in general is to weigh at all in a matter of
this kind, it does but corroborate these instinctive feelings. A convert
is undeniably in favor with no party; he is looked at with distrust,
contempt, and aversion by all. His former friends think him a good
riddance, and his new friends are cold and strange; and as to the
impartial public, their very first impulse is to impute the change to
some eccentricity of character, or fickleness of mind, or tender
attachment, or private interest. Their utmost praise is the reluctant
confession that "doubtless he is very sincere." Churchmen and
Dissenters, men of Rome and men of the Kirk, are equally subject to this
remark. Not on extraordinary occasions only, but as a matter of course,
whenever the news of a conversion to Romanism, or to Irvingism, or to
the Plymouth Sect, or to Unitarianism, is brought to us, we say, one and
all of us: "No wonder, such a one has lived so long abroad"; or, "he is
of such a very imaginative turn"; or, "he is so excitable and odd"; or,
"what could he do? all his family turned"; or, "it was a reaction in
consequence of an injudicious education"; or, "trade makes men cold," or
"a little learning makes them shallow in their religion." If, then, the
common voice of mankind goes for any thing, must we not consider it to
be the _rule_ that men change their religion, not on reason, but for
some extra-rational feeling or motive? else, the world would not so

Now, for ourselves, we are not quarrelling with this testimony,--we are
willing to resign ourselves to it; but we think there are parties whom
it concerns much to ponder it. Surely it is a strong, and, as they ought
to feel, an alarming proof, that, for all the haranguing and protesting
which goes on in Exeter and other halls, this great people is not such a
conscientious supporter of the sacred right of Private Judgment as a
good Protestant would desire. Why should we go out of our way, one and
all of us, to impute personal motives in explanation of the conversion
of every individual convert, as he comes before us, if there were in us,
the public, an adhesion to that absolute, and universal, and unalienable
principle, as its titles are set forth in heraldic style, high and
broad, sacred and awful, the right, and the duty, and the possibility of
Private Judgment? Why should we confess it in the general, yet promptly
and pointedly deny it in every particular, if our hearts retained more
than the "magni nominis umbra," when we preached up the Protestant
principle? Is it not sheer wantonness and cruelty in Baptist,
Independent, Irvingite, Wesleyan, Establishment-man, Jumper, and
Mormonite, to delight in trampling on and crushing these manifestations
of their own pure and precious charter, instead of dutifully and
reverently exalting, at Bethel, or at Dan, each instance of it, as it
occurs, to the gaze of its professing votaries? If a staunch
Protestant's daughter turns Roman, and betakes herself to a convent, why
does he not exult in the occurrence? Why does he not give a public
breakfast, or hold a meeting, or erect a memorial, or write a pamphlet
in honor of her, and of the great undying principle she has so
gloriously vindicated? Why is he in this base, disloyal style, muttering
about priests, and Jesuits, and the horrors of nunneries, in solution of
the phenomenon, when he has the fair and ample form of Private Judgment
rising before his eyes, and pleading with him, and bidding him impute
good motives, not bad, and in very charity ascribe to the influence of
a high and holy principle, to a right and a duty of every member of the
family of man, what his poor human instincts are fain to set down as a
folly or a sin. All this would lead us to suspect that the doctrine of
private judgment, in its simplicity, purity, and integrity,--private
judgment, all private judgment, and nothing but private judgment,--is
held by very few persons indeed; and that the great mass of the
population are either stark unbelievers in it, or deplorably dark about
it; and that even the minority who are in a manner faithful to it, have
glossed and corrupted the true sense of it by a miserably faulty
reading, and hold, not the right of private judgment, but the private
right of judgment; in other words, their own private right, and no one's
else. To us it seems as clear as day, that they consider that they
themselves, indeed, individually can and do act on reason, and on
nothing but reason; that they have the gift of advancing, without bias
or unsteadiness, throughout their search, from premise to conclusion,
from text to doctrine; that they have sought aright, and no one else,
who does not agree with them; that they alone have found out the art of
putting the salt upon the bird's tail, and have rescued themselves from
being the slaves of circumstance and the creatures of impulse. It is
undeniable, then, if the popular feeling is to be our guide, that, high
and mighty as the principle of private judgment is in religious
inquiries, as we most fully grant it is, still it bears some similarity
to Saul's armor which David rejected, or to edged tools which have a bad
trick of chopping at our fingers, when we are but simply and innocently
meaning them to make a dash forward at truth.

Any tolerably serious man will feel this in his own case more vividly
than in that of any one else. Who can know ever so little of himself
without suspecting all kinds of imperfect and wrong motives in
everything he attempts? And then there is the bias of education and of
habit; and, added to the difficulties thence resulting, those which
arise from weakness of the reasoning faculty; ignorance or imperfect
knowledge of the original languages of Scripture, and again, of history
and antiquity. These things being considered, we lay it down as a truth,
about which, we think, few ought to doubt, that Divine aid alone can
carry any one safely and successfully through an inquiry after
religious truth. That there are certain very broad contrasts between one
religion and another, in which no one would be at fault what to think
and what to choose, is very certain; but the problem proposed to private
judgment at this day, is of a rather more complicated nature. Taking
things as they are, we all seem to be in Solomon's case, when he said,
"I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in; and Thy
servant is in the midst of a great people, that cannot be numbered nor
counted for multitude. Give, therefore, Thy servant an understanding
heart, that I may discern between good and bad." It is useless, surely,
attempting to inquire or judge, unless a Divine command enjoin the work
upon us, and a Divine promise sustain us through it. Supposing, indeed,
such a command and promise be given, then, of course, there is no
difficulty in the matter. Whatever be our personal infirmities, He whom
we serve can overrule or supersede them. An act of duty must always be
right; and will be accepted, whatever be its success, because done in
obedience to His will. And he can bless the most unpromising
circumstances; He can even lead us forward by means of our mistakes; He
can turn our mistakes into a revelation; He can convert us, if He will,
through the very obstinacy, or self-will, or superstition, which mixes
itself up with our better feelings, and defiles, yet is sanctified by
our sincerity. And much more can He shed upon our path supernatural
light, if He so will, and give us an insight into the meaning of
Scripture, and a hold of the sense of Antiquity, to which our own
unaided powers never could have attained.

All this is certain: He continually leads us forward in the midst of
darkness; and we live, not by bread only, but by His Word converting the
hard rock or salt sea into nourishment. The simple question is, _has_
He, in this particular case, commanded? has He promised? and how far? If
He has, and as far as He has, all is easy; if He has not, all is, we
will not say, impossible, but what is worse, undutiful or presumptuous.
Our business is to ask with St. Paul, when arrested in the midst of his
frenzy, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" This is the simple
question. He can bless our present state; He can bless our change;
_which_ is it His will to bless? If Wesleyan or Independent has come
over to us apart from this spirit, we do not much pride ourselves in our
convert. If he joins us because he thinks he has a right to judge for
himself, or because forms are of no consequence, or merely because
sectarianism has its errors and inconveniences, or because an
Established Church is an efficacious means of spreading religion, he
plainly thinks that the choice of a communion is not a more serious
matter than the choice of a neighborhood or of an insurance office. In
like manner, if members of our communion have left it for Rome, because
of the _æsthetic_ beauty of the latter, and the grandeur of its
pretensions, we are grieved, but, good luck to them, we can spare them.
And if Roman Catholics join us or our "Dissenting brethren," because
their own Church is behind the age, insists on Aristotelic dogmas, and
interferes with liberty of thought, such a conversion is no triumph over
popery, but over St. Peter and St. Paul. Our only safety lies in
obedience; our only comfort in keeping it in view.

If this be so, we have arrived at the following conclusion: that it is
our duty to betake ourselves to Scripture, and to observe how far the
private search of a religion is there sanctioned, and under what
circumstances. This then is the next point which comes under


Now the first and most ordinary kind of Private Judgment, if it deserves
the name, which is recognized in Scripture, is that in which we engage
without conscious or deliberate purpose. While Lydia heard St. Paul
preach, her heart was opened. She had it not in mind to exercise any
supposed sacred right, she was not setting about the choice of a
religion, but she was drawn on to accept the Gospel by a moral
persuasion. "To him that hath more shall be given," not in the way of
judging or choosing, but by an inward development met by external
disclosures. Lydia's instance is the type of a multitude of cases,
differing very much from each other, some divinely ordered, others
merely human, some which would commonly be called cases of private
judgment, and others which certainly would not, but all agreeing in
this, that the judgment exercised is not recognized and realized by the
party exercising it, as the subject-matter of command, promise, duty,
privilege, or any thing else. It is but the spontaneous stirring of the
affections within, or the passive acceptance of what is offered from
without. St. Paul baptized Lydia's household also; it would seem then
that he baptized servants or slaves, who had very little power of
judging between a true religion and a false; shall we say that they,
like their mistress, accepted the Gospel on private judgment or not? Did
the thousands baptized in national conversions exercise their private
judgment or not? Do children when taught their catechism? Most persons
will reply in the negative: yet it will be difficult to separate their
case in principle from what Lydia's may have been; that is, the case of
religious persons who are advancing forward into the truth--how, they
know not. Neither the one class nor the other have undertaken to inquire
and judge, or have set about being converted, or have got their reasons
all before them and together, to discharge at an enemy or passer-by on
fit occasions. The difference between these two classes is in the state
of their hearts; the one party consist of unformed minds, or senseless
and dead, or minds under temporary excitement, who are brought over by
external or accidental influences, without any real sympathy for the
religion, which is taught them _in order_ that they may _learn_ sympathy
with it, and who, as time goes on, fall away again if they are not happy
enough to become imbued with it; and in the other party there is already
a sympathy between the external Word and the heart within. The one are
proselytized by force, authority, or their mere feelings, the others
through their habitual and abiding frame of mind and cast of opinion.
But neither can be said, in the ordinary sense of the word, to inquire,
reason, and decide about religion. And yet in a great number of these
cases,--certainly where the persons in question are come to years of
discretion and show themselves consistent in their religious profession
afterward,--they would be commonly set forth by Protestant minds as
instances of the due exercise of the right of private judgment.

Such are the greater number perhaps of converts at this day, in whatever
direction their conversion lies; and their so-called exercise of private
judgment is neither right nor wrong in itself, it is a spontaneous act
which they do not think about; if it is any thing, it is but a means of
bringing out their moral characteristics one way or the other. Often, as
in the case of very illiterate and unreflecting persons, it proves
nothing either way; but in those who are not so, it is right or wrong,
as their hearts are right or wrong; it is an exercise not of reason but
of heart. Take, for instance, the case of a servant in a family; she is
baptized and educated in the Church of England, and is religiously
disposed; she goes into Scotland and conforms to the Kirk, to which her
master and mistress belong. She is of course responsible for what she
does, but no one would say that she had formed any purpose, or taken any
deliberate step. In course of time, when perhaps taxed with the change,
she would say in her defence that outward forms matter not, and that
there are good men in Scotland as well as in England; but this is an
after-thought. Again, a careless person, nominally a Churchman, falls
among serious-minded Dissenters, and they reclaim him from vice or
irreligion; on this he joins their communion, and as time goes on,
boasts perhaps of his right of private judgment. At the time itself,
however, no process of inquiry took place within him at all; his heart
was "opened," whether for good or for bad, whether by good influences or
by good and bad mixed. He was not conscious of convincing reasons, but
he took what came to hand, he embraced what was offered, he felt and he
acted. Again, a man is brought up among Unitarians, or in the frigid and
worldly school which got a footing in the Church during last century,
and has been accustomed to view religion as a matter of reason and
form, of obligation, to the exclusion of affectionateness and devotion.
He falls among persons of what is called an Evangelical cast, and finds
his heart interested, and great objects set before it. Such a man falls
in with the sentiments he finds, rather than adopts them. He follows the
leadings of his heart, perhaps of Divine grace, but certainly not any
course of inquiry and proof. There is nothing of argument, discussion,
or choice in the process of his conversion. He has no systems to choose
between, and no grounds to scrutinize.

Now, in all such cases, the sort of private judgment exercised is right
or wrong, not as private judgment, but according to its circumstances.
It is either the attraction of a Divine Influence, such as the mind
cannot master, or it is a suggestion of reason, which the mind has yet
to analyze, before it can bring it to the test of logic. If it is the
former, it is above a private judgment, popularly so-called; if the
latter, it is not yet so much as one.

A second class of conversions on private judgment consists of those
which take place upon the sight or the strong testimony of miracles.
Such was the instance of Rahab, of Naaman, if he may be called a
convert, and of Nebuchadnezzar; of the blind man in John ix, of St.
Paul, of Cornelius, of Sergius Paulus, and many others. Here again the
act of judgment is of a very peculiar character. It is not exactly an
unconscious act, but yet it is hardly an act of judgment. Our belief in
external sensible facts cannot properly be called an act of private
judgment; yet since Protestants, we suppose, would say that the blind
man or Sergius Paulus were converted on private judgment, let it even so
be called, though it is of a very particular kind. Again, conviction
after a miracle also implies the latent belief that such acts are signs
of the Divine Presence, a belief which may be as generally recognized
and maintained, and is as little a peculiar or private feeling as the
impression on the senses of the miracle itself. And this leads to the
mention of a further instance of the sort of private judgments to which
men are invited in Scripture, viz., the exercise of the moral sense. Our
Creator has stamped certain great truths upon our minds, and there they
remain in spite of the fall. St. Paul appeals to one of these at Lystra,
calling on the worshippers of idols to turn from these vanities unto the
Living God; and at Athens, "not to think that the Godhead is like unto
gold, or silver, or stone graven by art and man's device," but to
worship "God who made the world and all things therein." In the same
tone he reminds the Thessalonians of their having "turned to God from
idols to serve the Living and True God." In like manner, doubtless,
other great principles also of religion and morals are rooted in the
minds so deeply, that their denial by any religion would be a
justification of our quitting or rejecting it. If a pagan found his
ecclesiastical polity essentially founded on lying and cheating, or his
ritual essentially impure, or his moral code essentially unjust or
cruel, we conceive this would be a sufficient reason for his renouncing
it for one which was free from these hateful characteristics. Such again
is the kind of private judgment exercised, when maxims of principles,
generally admitted by bodies of men, are acted upon by individuals who
have been ever taught them, as a matter of course, without questioning
them; for instance, if a member of the English Church, who had always
been taught that preaching is the great ordinance of the Gospel, to the
disparagement of the Sacraments, thereupon placed himself under the
ministry of a powerful Wesleyan preacher; or if, from the common belief
that nothing is essential but what is on the surface of Scripture, he
forthwith attached himself to the Baptists, Independents, or Unitarians.
Such men indeed often take their line in consequence of some inward
liking for the religious system they adopt; but we are speaking of their
proceeding as far as it professes to be an act of judgment.

A third class of private judgments recorded in Scripture are those which
are exercised at one and the same time by a great number; if it be not a
contradiction to call such judgments private. Yet here again we suppose
staunch Protestants would maintain that the three thousand at Pentecost,
and the five thousand after the miracle on the lame man, and the "great
company of the priests," which shortly followed, did avail themselves,
and do afford specimens, of the sacred right in question; therefore let
it be ruled so. Such, then, is the case of national conversions to which
we have already alluded. Again, if the Lutheran Church of Germany with
its many theologians, or our neighbor the Kirk,--General Assembly, Men
of Strathbogie, Dr. Chalmers, and all,--came to a unanimous or
quasi-unanimous resolve to submit to the Archbishop of Canterbury as
their patriarch, this doubtless would be an exercise of private judgment
perfectly defensible on Scripture precedents.

Now, before proceeding, let us observe, that as yet nothing has been
found in Scripture to justify the cases of private judgment which are
exemplified in the popular religious biographies of the day. These
generally contain instances of conversions made on the judgment,
definite, deliberate, independent, isolated, of the parties converted.
The converts in these stories had not seen miracles, nor had they
developed their own existing principles or beliefs, nor had they changed
their religion in company with others, nor had they received new truths,
they knew not how. Let us then turn to Scripture a second time, to see
whether we can gain thence any clearer sanction of Private Judgment as
now exercised among us, than our search into Scripture has hitherto


There certainly is another method of conversion upon private judgment
described in Scripture, which is much more to our purpose, viz., by
means of the study of Scripture itself. Thus our Lord says to the Jews,
"Search the Scriptures"; and the treasurer of Candace was reading the
book of Isaiah when St. Philip met him; and the men of Berea are said to
be "more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the
word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily,
whether those things were so." And it is added, "therefore many of them
believed." Here at length, it will be said, is a precedent for such acts
of private judgment as are most frequently recommended and instanced in
religious tales; and indeed these texts commonly are understood to make
it certain beyond dispute, that individuals ordinarily may find out the
doctrines of the Gospel for themselves from the private study of
Scripture. A little consideration, however, will convince us that even
these are precedents for something else, that they sanction, not an
inquiry about Gospel doctrine, but about the Gospel teacher; not what
has God revealed, but whom has He commissioned? And this is a very
different thing.

The context of the passage in which our Lord speaks of searching the
Scriptures, shows plainly that their office is that of leading, not to a
knowledge of the Gospel, but of Himself, its Author and Teacher. "Whom
He hath sent," He says, "Him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures, for
in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which _testify
of Me_." He adds, that they "will not come unto Him, that they may have
life," and that "He is come in His Father's name, and they receive Him
not." And again, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for
he _wrote of Me_." It is plain that in this passage our Lord does not
send His hearers to the Old Testament to gain thence the knowledge of
the doctrines of the Gospel by means of their private judgment, but to
gain tests or notes by which to find out and receive Him who was the
teacher of those doctrines; and, though the treasurer of Candace appears
in the narrative to be contemplating our Lord in prophecy, not as the
teacher but the object of the Christian faith, yet still in confessing
that he could not "understand" what he was reading, "unless some man
should guide him," he lays down the principle broadly, which we desire
here to maintain, that the private study of Scripture is not intended
ordinarily as the means of getting a knowledge of the Gospel. In like
manner, St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, refers to the book of Joel,
by way of proving thence, not the Christian doctrine, but the divine
promise that new teachers were to be sent in due season, and the fact
that it was fulfilled in himself and his brethren. "This is that," he
says, "which was spoken by the prophet Joel, I will pour out My Spirit
upon all flesh, and _your sons and your daughters shall prophesy_."

While, then, the conversions recorded in Scripture are brought about in
a very marked way through a _teacher_, and _not_ by means of private
judgment, so again, if an appeal _is_ made to private judgment, this is
done in order to settle who the teacher is, and what are his notes or
tokens, rather than to substantiate this or that religious opinion or
practice. And if such instances bear upon our conduct at this day, as it
is natural to think they do, then of course the practical question
before us is, _who_ is the teacher now, from whose mouth are we to seek
the law, and _what are his notes_?

Now, in remarkable coincidence with this view, we find in both
Testaments that teachers are promised under the dispensation of the
Gospel, so that they who, like the noble Bereans, search the Scriptures
daily will be at little loss _whither_ their private judgment should
lead them in order to gain the knowledge of the truth. In the book of
Isaiah we have the following express promises: "Though the Lord give you
the bread of adversity, and the waters of affliction, yet shall not thy
teachers be removed into a corner any more, but _thine eyes shall see
thy teachers_, and thine ears _shall hear a voice behind thee_, saying,
This is the way," etc. Several tests follow descriptive of the condition
of things or the circumstances in which these teachers are to be found.
First, the absence of idolatry: "Ye shall defile also the covering of
thy graven images of silver, and the ornaments of thy molten images of
gold"; and next the multitude of fellow-believers: "Then shall He give
the _rain of thy seed_, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; in that
day shall thy cattle feed _in large pastures_." Elsewhere the appointed
teacher is noted as speaking with authority and judicially, as: "Every
tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn." And
here again the promises or tests of extent and perpetuity appear: "Thou
shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall
inherit the Gentiles"; and "My kindness shall not depart from them,
neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed." Elsewhere holiness
is mentioned: "It shall be called, The way of holiness, the unclean
shall not pass over it." One more promise shall be cited: "My Spirit
that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not
depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed ... from
henceforth and for ever."

In the New Testament we have the same promises stated far more concisely
indeed, but, what is much more apposite than a longer description, with
the addition of the _name_ of our promised teacher: "The _Church_ of the
living God," says St. Paul, "_the pillar and ground of the truth_." The
simple question then for Private Judgment to exercise itself upon is,
what and where is the Church?

Now let it be observed how exactly this view of the province of Private
Judgment, where it is allowable, as being the discovery not of doctrine,
but of the teacher of doctrine, harmonizes both with the nature of
Religion and the state of human society as we find it. Religion is for
practice, and that immediate. Now it is much easier to form a correct
and rapid judgment of persons than of books or of doctrines. Every one,
even a child, has an impression about new faces; few persons have any
real view about new propositions. There is something in the sight of
persons or of bodies of men, which speaks to us for approval or
disapprobation with a distinctness to which pen and ink are unequal.
This is just the kind of evidence which is needed for use, in cases in
which private judgment is divinely intended to be the means of our
conversion. The multitude have neither the time, the patience, nor the
clearness and exactness of thought, for processes of investigation and
deduction. Reason is slow and abstract, cold and speculative; but man is
a being of feeling and action; he is not resolvable into a _dictum de
omni et nullo_, or a series of hypotheticals, or a critical diatribe, or
an algebraical equation. And this obvious fact does, as far as it goes,
make it probable that, if we are providentially obliged to exercise our
private judgment, the point toward which we have to direct it, is the
teacher rather than the doctrine.

In corroboration, it may be observed, that Scripture seems always to
imply the presence of teachers as the appointed ordinance by which men
learn the truth; and is principally engaged in giving cautions against
false teachers, and tests for ascertaining the true. Thus our Lord bids
us "beware of false prophets," not of false books; and look to their
fruits. And He says elsewhere that "the sheep know His voice," and that
"they know not the voice of strangers." And He predicts false Christs,
and false prophets, who are to be nearly successful against even the
elect. He does not give us tests of false doctrines, but of certain
visible peculiarities or notes applicable to persons or parties. "If
they shall say, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth; behold, he is
in the secret chamber, believe it not." St. Paul insists on tokens of a
similar kind: "Mark them which cause divisions, and avoid them"; "is
Christ divided?" "beware of dogs, beware of evil workers"; "be followers
together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an
ensample." Thus the New Testament equally with the Old, as far as it
speaks of private examination into teaching professedly from heaven,
makes the teacher the subject of that inquiry, and not the thing taught;
it bids us ask for his credentials, and avoid him if he is unholy, or
idolatrous, or schismatical, or if he comes in his own name, or if he
claims no authority, or is the growth of a particular spot or of
particular circumstances.

If there are passages which at first sight seem to interfere with this
statement, they admit of an easy explanation. Either they will be found
to appeal to those instinctive feelings of our nature already spoken of
which supersede argument and proof in the judgments we form of persons
or bodies; as in St. Paul's reference to the idolatry of Athenian
worship, or to the extreme moral corruption of heathenism generally. Or,
again, the criterion of doctrine which they propose to the private
judgment of the individual turns upon the question of its novelty or
previous reception. When St. Paul would describe a false gospel, he
calls it _another_ gospel "than that ye have received"; and St. John
bids us "try the spirits," gives us as the test of truth and error the
"confessing that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh," and warns us
against receiving into our houses any one who "brings not this
doctrine." We conceive then that, on the whole, the notion of gaining
religious truth for ourselves by our private examination, whether by
reading or thinking, whether by studying Scripture or other books, has
no broad sanction in Scripture, is neither impressed upon us by its
general tone, nor enjoined in any of its commands. The great question
which it puts before us for the exercise of private judgment is,--Who
is God's prophet, and where? Who is to be considered the voice of the
Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?


Having carried our train of thought as far as this, it is time for us to
proceed to the thesis in which it will be found to issue, viz., that, on
the principles that have been laid down, Dissenters ought to abandon
their own communion, but that members of the English Church ought not to
abandon theirs. Such a position has often been treated as a paradox and
inconsistency; yet we hope to be able to recommend it favorably to the

Now that seceders, sectarians, independent thinkers, and the like, by
whatever name they call themselves, whether "Wesleyans," "Dissenters,"
"professors of the national religion," "well-wishers of the Church," or
even "Churchmen," are in grievous error, in their mode of exercising
their private judgment, is plain as soon as stated, viz., because they
do not use it in looking out for a teacher at all. They who think they
have, in consequence of their inquiries, found the teacher of truth, may
be wrong in the result they have arrived at; but those who despise the
notion of a teacher altogether, are already wrong before they begin
them. They do not start with their private judgment in that one special
direction which Scripture allows or requires. Scripture speaks of a
certain pillar or ground of truth, as set up to the world, and describes
it by certain characteristics; dissenting teachers and bodies, so far
from professing to be themselves this authority, or to contain among
them this authority, assert there is no such authority to be found
anywhere. When, then, we deny that they are the Church in our meaning of
the word, they ought to take no offence at it, for we are not denying
them any thing to which they lay claim; we are but denying them what
they already put away from themselves as much as we can. They must not
act like the dog in the fable (if it be not too light a comparison), who
would neither use the manger himself, nor relinquish it to others; let
them not grudge to others a manifest Scriptural privilege which they
disown themselves. Is an ordinance of Scripture to be fulfilled nowhere,
because it is not fulfilled in them? By the Church we mean what
Scripture means, "the pillar and ground of the truth"; a power out of
whose mouth the Word and the Spirit are never to fail, and whom whoso
refuses to hear becomes thereupon to all his brethren a heathen man and
a publican. Let the parties in question accept the Scripture definition,
or else not resume the Scripture name; or, rather, let them seek
elsewhere what they are conscious is not among themselves. We hear much
of Bible Christians, Bible religion, Bible preaching; it would be well
if we heard a little of the Bible Church also; we venture to say that
Dissenting Churches would vanish thereupon at once, for, since it is
their fundamental principle that they are not a pillar or ground of
truth, but voluntary societies, without authority and without gifts, the
Bible Church they cannot be. If the serious persons who are in dissent
would really imitate the simple-minded Ethiopian, or the noble Bereans,
let them ask themselves: "Of whom speaketh" the Apostle, or the Prophet,
such great things?--Where is the "pillar and ground"?--Who is it that is
appointed to lead us to Christ?--Where are those teachers which were
never to be removed into a corner any more, but which were ever to be
before our eyes and in our ears? Whoever is right, or whoever is wrong,
they cannot be right who profess not to have found, not to look out
for, not to believe in, that Ordinance to which Apostles and Prophets
give their testimony. So much then for the Protestant side of the

One half of it then is easily disposed of; but now we come to the other
side of it, the Roman, which certainly has its intricacies. It is not
difficult to know how we should act toward a religious body which does
not even profess to come to us in the name of the Lord, or to be a
pillar and ground of the truth; but what shall we say when more than one
society, or school, or party, lay claim to be the heaven-sent teacher,
and are rivals one to the other, as are the Churches of England and Rome
at this day? How shall we discriminate between them? Which are we to
follow? Are tests given us for that purpose? Now if tests are given us,
we must use them; but if not, and so far as not, we must conclude that
Providence foresaw that the difference between them would never be so
great as to require of us to leave the one for the other.

However, it is certain that much _is_ said in Scripture about rival
teachers, and that at least some of these rivals are so opposed to each
other, that tests are given us, in order to our shunning the one party,
and accepting the other. In such cases, the one teacher is represented
to be the minister of God, and the other the child and organ of evil.
The one comes in God's name, the other professes to come simply in his
own name. Such a contrast is presented to us in the conflict between
Moses and the magicians of Egypt; all is light on the one side, all
darkness on the other. Or again, in the trial between Elijah and the
prophets of Baal. There is no doubt, in such a case, that it would be
our imperative duty at once to leave the teaching of Satan, and betake
ourselves _to_ the Law and the Prophets. And it will be observed that,
to assist inquirers in doing so, the representatives of Almighty God
have been enabled, in their contests with the enemy, to work miracles,
as Moses was, for instance, and Elijah, in order to make it clear which
way the true teaching lay.

But now will any one say that the contrast between the English and the
Roman, or again, the Greek, Churches, is of this nature?--is any of the
three a "_monstrum nullâ virtute redemptum"?_ Moreover, the magicians
and the priests of Baal "came in their own name"; is that the case with
the Church, English, Roman, or Greek? Is it not certain, even at first
sight, that each of these branches has many high gifts and much grace in
her communion. And, at any rate, as regards our controversy with Rome,
if her champions would maintain that the Church of England is the false
prophet, and she the true one, then let her work miracles as Moses did
in the presence of the magicians, in order to our conviction.

Probably, however, it will be admitted that the contrast between England
and Rome is not of that nature; for the English Church confessedly does
not come in her own name, nor can she reasonably be compared to the
Egyptian magicians or the prophets of Baal; is there any other type in
Scripture into which the difference between her and the Church of Rome
can be resolved? We shall be referred, perhaps, to the case of the false
prophets of Israel and Judah, who professed to come in the name of the
Lord, yet did not preach the truth, and had no part or inheritance with
God's prophets. This parallel is not happier than the former, for a test
was given to distinguish between them, which does not decide between the
Church of Rome and ourselves. This test is the divine accomplishment of
the prophet's message, or the divine blessing upon his teaching, or the
eventual success of his work, as it may be variously stated; a test
under which neither Church, Roman or Anglican, will fail, and neither is
eminently the foremost. Each Church has had to endure trial, each has
overcome it; each has triumphed over enemies; each has had continued
signs of the divine favor upon it. The passages in Scripture to which we
refer are such as the following: Moses, for instance, has laid it down
in the Book of Deuteronomy, that, "when a prophet speaketh in the name
of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the
thing which the Lord hath _not_ spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it
presumptuously." To the same effect, in the Book of Ezekiel, the
denunciation against the false prophet is: "Lo! _when the wall is
fallen_, shall it not be said unto you, _where_ is the daubing wherewith
ye have daubed it?" And Gamaliel's advice to "refrain from these men,
and let them alone, for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will
come to nought," may be taken as an illustration of the same rule of
judgment. Hence Roman Catholics themselves are accustomed to consider,
that eventual failure is the sure destiny of heresy and schism; what
then will they say to us? The English Church has remained in its present
state three hundred years, and at the end of the time is stronger than
at the beginning. This does not look like an heretical or schismatical
Church. However, when she does fall to pieces, then, it may be admitted,
her children _will_ have a reason for deserting her; till then, she has
no symptom of being akin to the false prophets who professed the Lord's
name, and deceived the simple and unlearned; she has no symptom of being
a traitor to the _faith_.

However, there is a third type of rival teaching mentioned in Scripture,
under which the dissension between Rome and England may be considered to
fall, and which it may be well to notice. Let it be observed, then, that
even in the Apostles' age very grave outward differences seem to have
existed between Christian teachers--that is, the organs of the one
Church; and yet those differences were not, in consequence, any call
upon inquirers and beholders to quit one teacher and betake themselves
to another. The state of the Corinthian Christians will exemplify what
we mean: Paul, Cephas, and Apollos were all friends together, yet
parties were formed round each separately, which disagreed with each
other, and made the Apostles themselves seem in disagreement. Is not
this, at least in great measure, the state of the Churches of England
and Rome? Are they not one in faith, so far forth as they are viewed in
their essential apostolical character? are they not in discord, so far
as their respective children and disciples have overlaid them with
errors of their own individual minds? It was a great fault, doubtless,
that the followers of St. Paul should have divided from the followers of
St. Peter, but would it have mended matters, had any individuals among
them gone over to St. Peter? Was that the fitting remedy for the evil?
Was not the remedy that of their putting aside partisanship altogether,
and regarding St. Paul "not after the flesh," but simply as "the
minister by whom they believed," the visible representative of the
undivided Christ, the one Catholic Church? And, in like manner, surely
if party feelings and interests have separated us from the members of
the Roman communion, this does not prove that our Church itself is
divided from theirs, any more than that St. Paul was divided from St.
Peter, nor is it our duty to leave our place and join them;--nothing
would be gained by so unnecessary a step;--but our duty is, remaining
where we are, to recognize in our own Church, not an establishment, not
a party, not a mere Protestant denomination, but the Holy Church
Catholic which the traditions of men have partially obscured,--to rid it
of these traditions, to try to soften bitterness and animosity of
feeling, and to repress party spirit and promote peace as much as in us
lies. Moreover, let it be observed, that St. Paul was evidently superior
in gifts to Apollos, yet this did not justify Christians attaching
themselves to the former rather than the latter; for, as the Apostle
says, they both were but ministers of one and the same Lord, and nothing
more. Comparison, then, is not allowed us between teacher and teacher,
where each has on the whole the notes of a divine mission; so that even
could the Church of Rome be proved superior to our own (which we put
merely as an hypothesis, and for argument's sake), this would as little
warrant our attaching ourselves to it instead of our own Church, as
there was warrant for one of the converts of Apollos to call himself by
the name of Paul. Further, let it be observed, that the apostle reproves
those who attached themselves to St. Peter equally with the Paulines or
with the disciples of Apollos; is it possible he could have done so,
were St. Peter the head and essence of the Church in a sense in which
St. Paul was not? And, again, there was an occasion when not only their
followers were at variance, but the Apostles themselves; we refer to the
dissimulation of St. Peter at Antioch, and the resistance of St, Paul to
it: was this a reason why St. Peter's disciples should go over to St.
Paul, or rather why they should correct their dissimulation?

We are surely bound to prosecute this search after the promised Teacher
of truth entirely as a practical matter, with reference to our duty and
nothing else. The simple question which we have to ask ourselves is, Has
the English Church _sufficiently_ upon her the signs of an Apostle? is
she the divinely-appointed teacher to _us_? If so, we need not go
further; we have no reason to break through the divine rule of "being
content with such things as we have"; we have no warrant to compare our
own prophet with the prophet given to others. Nor can we: tests are not
given us for the purpose. We may believe that our own Church has certain
imperfections; the Church of Rome certain corruptions: such a belief
has no tendency to lead us to any determinate judgment as to which of
the two on the whole is the better, or to induce or warrant us to leave
the one communion for the other.


One point remains, however, which is so often felt as a difficulty by
members of our Church that we are tempted to say a few words upon it in
conclusion, and to try to show what is the true practical mode of
meeting it. And this perhaps will give us an opportunity of expressing
our general meaning in a more definite and intelligible form.

It cannot be denied, then, that a very plausible ground of attack may be
taken up against the Church of England, from the circumstance that she
is separated from the rest of Christendom; and just such a ground as it
would be allowable for private judgment to rest and act upon, supposing
its office to be what we have described it to be. "As to the particular
doctrines of Anglicanism, (it may be urged,) Scripture may, if so be,
supply private judgment with little grounds for quarrelling with them;
but what can be said to explain away the note of forfeiture, which
attaches to us in consequence of our isolated state? We are, in fact,
(it may be objected,) cut off from the whole of the Christian world;
nay, far from denying that excommunication, in a certain sense we glory
in it, and that under a notion, that we are so very pure that it must
soil our fingers to touch any other Church whatever upon the earth, in
north, east, or south. How is this reconcilable with St. Paul's clear
announcement that there is but one body as well as one spirit? or with
our Lord's, that 'by this shall _all men know_,' as by a note obvious to
the intelligence even of the illiterate and unreasoning, 'that ye are My
disciples, if ye have love one to another'? or again, with His prayer
that His disciples might all be one, 'that the world may know that _Thou
hast sent Me_, and hast _loved them_ as Thou hast loved Me'? Visible
unity, then, would seem to be both the main evidence for Christianity,
and the sign of our own participation in its benefits; whereas we
English despise the Greeks and hate the Romans, turn our backs on the
Scotch Episcopalians, and do but smile distantly upon our American
cousins. We throw ourselves into the arms of the State, and in that
close embrace forget that the Church was meant to be Catholic; or we
call ourselves _the_ Catholics, and the mere Church of England _our_
Catholic Church; as if, forsooth, by thus confining it all to ourselves,
we did not _ipso facto_ all claim to be considered Catholics at all."

What increases the force of this argument is, that St. Augustine seems,
at least at first sight, virtually to urge it against us in his
controversy with the Donatists, whom he represents as condemned, simply
because separate from the "orbis terrarum," and styles the point in
question "quæstio facillima," and calls on individual Donatists to
decide it by their private judgment.[19]

Now this is an objection which we must honestly say is deeply felt by
many people, and not inconsiderable ones; and the more it is openly
avowed to be a difficulty the better; for then there is the chance of
its being acknowledged, and in the course of time obviated, as far as
may be, by those who have the power. Flagrant evils cure themselves by
being flagrant; and we are sanguine that the time is come when so great
an evil as this is, cannot stand its ground against the good feeling and
common-sense of religious persons. It is the very strength of Romanism
against us; and, unless the proper persons take it into their very
serious consideration, they may look for certain to undergo the loss, as
time goes on, of some whom they would least like to be lost to our
Church. If private judgment can be exercised on any point, it is on a
matter of the senses; now our eyes and our ears are filled with the
abuse poured out by members of our Church on her sister Churches in
foreign lands. It is not that their corrupt practices are gravely and
tenderly pointed out, as may be done by men who feel themselves also to
be sinful and ignorant, and know that they have their own great
imperfections, which their brethren abroad have not,--but we are apt not
to acknowledge them as brethren at all; we treat them in an arrogant
John Bull way, as mere Frenchmen, or Spaniards, or Austrians, not as
Christians. We act as if we could do without brethren; as if our having
brethren all over the world were not the very tenure on which we are
Christians at all; as if we did not cease to be Christians, if at any
time we ceased to have brethren. Or again, when our thoughts turn to the
East, instead of recollecting that there are sister Churches there, we
leave it to the Russians to take care of the Greeks, and to the French
to take care of the Romans and we content ourselves with erecting a
Protestant Church at Jerusalem, or with helping the Jews to rebuild
their temple there, or with becoming the august protectors of
Nestorians, Monophysites, and all the heretics we can hear of, or with
forming a league with the Mussulman against Greeks and Romans together.
Can any one doubt that the British power is not considered a Church
power by any country whatever into which it comes? and if so, is it
possible that the English Church, which is so closely connected with
that power, can be said in any true sense to exert a Catholic influence,
or to deserve the Catholic name? How can any Church be called Catholic,
which does not act beyond its own territory? and when did the rulers of
the English Church ever move one step beyond the precincts, or without
the leave, of the imperial power?

              "pudet hæc opprobria nobis
  Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli."

There is indeed no denying them; and if certain persons are annoyed at
the confession, as if we were thereby putting weapons into our enemies'
hands, let them be annoyed more by the fact, and let them alter the
fact, and, they may take our word for it, the confession will cease of
itself. The world does not feel the fact the less for its not being
confessed; it _is_ felt deeply by many, and is doing incalculable
mischief to our cause, and is likely to hurt it more and more. In a
word, this isolation is doing as much as any one thing can do to
unchurch us, and it and our awakened claims to be Catholic and Apostolic
cannot long stand together. This, then, is the main difficulty which
serious people feel in accepting the English Church as the promised
prophet of truth, and we are far indeed from undervaluing it, as the
above remarks show.

But now taking the objection in a simply practical view, which is the
only view in which it ought to concern or perplex any one, we consider
that it can have legitimately no effect whatever in leading us from
England to Rome. We do not say no legitimate tendency in itself to move
us, but no legitimate influence with serious men, who wish to know how
their duty lies. For this reason--because if the note of schism on the
one hand lies against England, an antagonist disgrace lies upon Rome,
the note of idolatry. Let us not be mistaken here: we are neither
accusing Rome of being idolatrous nor ourselves of being
schismatical,--we think neither charge tenable; but still the Roman
Church practises what looks so very like idolatry, and the English
glories in what looks so very like schism, that, without deciding what
is the duty of a Roman Catholic toward the Church of England in her
present state, we do seriously think that members of the English Church
have a providential direction given them, how to comport themselves
toward the Church of Rome, while she is what she is. We are discussing
the subject, not of decisive proofs, but of probable indications and of
presumptive notes of the divine will. Few men have time to scrutinize
accurately; all men may have general impressions, and the general
impressions of conscientious men are true ones. Providence has
graciously met their need, and provided for them those very means of
knowledge which they can use and turn to account. He has cast around the
institutions and powers existing in the world marks of truth or
falsehood, or, more properly, elements of attraction and repulsion, and
notices for pursuit and avoidance, sufficient to determine the course of
those who in the conduct of life desire to approve themselves to Him.
Now, whether or no what we see in the Church of Rome be sufficient to
warrant a religious person to leave her, (a question, we repeat, about
which we have no need here to concern ourselves,) we certainly think it
sufficient to deter him from joining her; and, whatever be the
perplexity and distress of his position in a communion so isolated as
the English, we do not think he would mend the matter by placing himself
in a communion so superstitious as the Roman; especially considering,
agreeably to a remark we have already made, that even if he be
schismatical at present, he is so by the act of Providence, whereas he
would be entering into superstition by his own. Thus an Anglo-Catholic
is kept at a distance from Rome, if not by our own excellences, at least
by her errors.

That this is the state of the Church of Rome, is, alas! not fairly
disputable. Dr. Wiseman has lately attempted to dispute it; but if we
may judge from the present state of the controversy, facts are too clear
for him. It has lately been broadly put forward, as all know, that,
whatever may be said in defence of the _authoritative documents_ of the
faith of Rome, this imputation lies against her _authorities_, that they
have countenanced and established doctrines and practices from which a
Christian mind, not educated in them, shrinks; and that in the number of
these a worship of the creature which to most men will seem to be a
quasi-idolatry is not the least prominent.[20] Dr. Wiseman, for whom we
entertain most respectful feelings personally, and to whom we impute
nothing but what is straight-forward and candid, has written two
pamphlets on the subject, toward which we should be very sorry to deal
unfairly; but he certainly seems to us in the former of them to deny the
fact of these alleged additions in the formal profession of his Church,
and then, in the second, to turn right round and maintain them. What
account is to be given of self-contradiction such as this, but the fact,
that he would deny the additions, if he could, and defends them, because
he can't? And that dilemma is no common one; for, as if to show that
what he holds in excess of our creed is in excess also of primitive
usage, he has in his defence been forced upon citations from the
writings of the Fathers, the chief of which, as Mr. Palmer has shown,
are spurious; thus setting before us vividly what he looks for in
Antiquity, but what he cannot find there. However, it is not our
intention to enter into a controversy which is in Mr. Palmer's hands;
nor need we do more than refer the reader to the various melancholy
evidences, which that learned, though over-severe writer, and Dr. Pusey,
and Mr. Ward adduce, in proof of the existence of this note of dishonor
in a sister or mother, toward whom we feel so tenderly and reverently,
and whom nothing but some such urgent reason in conscience could make us
withstand so resolutely.

So much has been said on this point lately as to increase our
unwillingness to insist upon a subject in itself very ungrateful; but a
reference to it is unavoidable, if we would adequately show what is the
legitimate use and duty of private judgment, in dealing with those notes
of truth and error, by which Providence recommends to us or disowns the
prophets that come in His name.

What imparts an especial keenness to the grief which the teaching in
question causes in minds kindly disposed toward the Church of Rome, is,
that not only are we expressly told in Scripture that the Almighty will
not give His glory to another, but it is predicted as His especial grace
upon the Christian Church, "the idols He shall utterly abolish"; so
that, if Anglicans are almost unchurched by the Protestantism which has
mixed itself up with their ecclesiastical proceedings, Romanists, also,
are almost unchurched by their superstitions. Again and again in the
Prophets is this promise given: "From all your filthiness, and from all
your idols will I cleanse you"; "Neither shall they defile themselves
any more with their idols"; "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any
more with idols?" "I will cut off the names of the idols out of the
land." And the warning in the New is as strong as the promise in the
Old: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols"; "Let no man beguile
you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels";
and the angel's answer, to whom St. John fell down in worship, was "See
thou do it not, _for_ I am thy fellow-servant; worship God."[21]

It is then a note of the Christian Church, as decisive as any, that she
is not idolatrous; and any semblance of idolatrous worship in the Church
of Rome as plainly dissuades a man of Catholic feelings from her
communion, as the taint of a Protestant or schismatical spirit in our
communion may tempt him to depart from us. This is the Via Media which
we would maintain; and thus without judging Rome on the one hand, or
acquiescing in our own state on the other, we may use what we see, as a
providential intimation to _us_, not to quit what is bad for what may be
worse, but to learn resignation to what we inherit, nor seek to escape
into a happier state by suicide.


And in such a state of things, certain though it be that St. Austin
invites individual Donatists to the Church, on the simple ground that
the larger body must be the true one, he is not, he cannot be, a guide
of _our_ conduct here. The Fathers are our teachers, but not our
confessors or casuists; they are the prophets of great truths, not the
spiritual directors of individuals. How can they possibly be such,
considering the subject-matter of conduct? Who shall say that a point
of practice which is right in one man, is right even in his next-door
neighbor? Do not the Fathers differ with each other in matters of
teaching and action, yet what fair persons ever imputed inconsistency to
them in consequence? St. Augustine bids us stay in persecution, yet St.
Dionysius takes to flight; St. Cyprian at one time flees, at another
time stays. One bishop adorns churches with paintings, another tears
down a pictured veil; one demolishes the heathen temples, another
consecrates them to the true God. St. Augustine at one time speaks
against the use of force in proselytizing, at another time he speaks for
it. The Church at one time comes into General Council at the summons of
the Emperor; at another time she takes the initiative. St. Cyprian
re-baptizes heretics; St. Stephen accepts their baptism. The early ages
administer, the later deny, the Holy Eucharist to children.[22] Who
shall say that in such practical matters, and especially in points of
casuistry, points of the when, and the where, and the by whom, and the
how, words written in the fourth century are to be the rule of the

We have not St. Austin to consult; we cannot go to him with his works in
our hand, and ask him whether they are to be taken to the letter under
our altered circumstances. We cannot explain to him that, as far as the
appearance of things goes, there are, besides our own, at least two
Churches, one Greek, the other Roman; and that they are both marked by a
certain peculiarity which does not appear in his own times, or in his
own writings, and which much resembles what Scripture condemns as
idolatry. Nor can we remind him, that the Donatists had a note of
disqualification upon them, which of itself would be sufficient to
negative their claims to Catholicity, in that they refused the name of
Catholic to the rest of Christendom; and, moreover, in their bitter
hatred and fanatical cruelty toward the rival communion in Africa.
Moreover, St. Austin himself waives the question of the innocence or
guilt of Cæcilian, on the ground that the _orbis terrarum_ could not be
expected to have accurate knowledge of the facts of the case;[23] and,
if contemporary judgments might be deceived in regard to the merits of
the African Succession, yet, without blame, much more may it be
maintained, without any want of reverence to so great a saint, that
private letters which he wrote fourteen hundred years ago, do not take
into consideration the present circumstances of Anglo-Catholics. Are we
sure, that had he known them, they would not have led to an additional
chapter in his Retractions? And again, if ignorance would have been an
excuse, in his judgment, for the Catholic world's passing over the crime
of the Traditors, had Cæcilian and his party been such, much more, in so
nice a question as the Roman claim to the _orbis terrarum_ at this day,
in opposition to England and Greece, may we fairly consider that he who
condemned the Donatists only in the case of "quæstio facillima," would
excuse us, even if mistaken, from the notorious difficulties which lie
in the way of a true judgment. Nor, moreover, would he, who so
constantly sends us to Scripture for the notes of the Church Catholic,
condemn us for shunning communions, which had been so little sensitive
of the charge made against them of idolatry. But even let us suppose
him, after full cognizance of our case, to give judgment against us;
even then we shall have the verdict of St. Chrysostom, St. Basil, and
others virtually in our favor, supporters and canonizers as they were of
Meletius, Bishop of Antioch, who in St. Augustine's own day lived and
died out of the communion of Rome and Alexandria.[24]

We do not think, then, that St. Austin's teaching can be taken as a
direction to us to quit our Church on account of its incidental
Protestantism, unsatisfactory as it is to have such a note lying against
us. And it is pleasant to believe, that there are symptoms at this time
of our improvement; and we only wish we could see as much hope of a
return to a healthier state in Rome, as is at present visible in our own
communion. There is among us a growing feeling, that to be a mere
Establishment is unworthy of the Catholic Church; and that to be shut
out from the rest of Christendom is not a subject of boasting. We seem
to have embraced the idea of the desirableness of being on a good
understanding with the Greek and Eastern Churches; and we are aiming at
sending out bishops to distant places, where they must come in contact
with foreign communions and though the extreme vagueness, indecision,
and confusion, in which our theological and ecclesiastical notions at
present lie, will be almost sure to involve us in certain mistakes and
extravagances, yet it would be un-thankful to "despise the day of small
things," and not to recognize in these movements a hopeful stirring of
hearts, and a religious yearning after something better than we have.
But not to dwell unduly on these public manifestations of a Catholic
tendency, we should all recollect that a restoration of intercommunion
with other Churches is, in a certain sense, in the power of individuals.
Every one who desires unity, who prays for it, who endeavors to further
it, who witnesses for it, who behaves Christianly toward the members of
Churches alienated from us, who is at amity with them, (saving his duty
to his own communion and to the truth itself,) who tries to edify them,
while he edifies himself and his own people, may surely be considered,
as far as he himself is concerned, as breaking down the middle wall of
the division, and renewing the ancient bonds of unity and concord by the
power of charity. Charity can do all things for us; charity is at once a
spirit of zeal and peace; by charity we shall faithfully protest against
what our private judgment warrants us in condemning in others; and by
charity we have it in our own hands, let all men oppose us, to restore
in our own circle the intercommunion of the Churches.

There is only one quarter from which a cloud can come over us, and
darken and bewilder our course. If, _nefas dictu_, our Church is by any
formal acts rendered schismatical, while Greek and Roman idolatry
remains not of the Church, but in it merely, denounced by Councils,
though admitted by authorities of the day,--if our own communion were to
own itself Protestant, while foreign communions disclaimed the
superstition of which they are too tolerant,--if the profession of
Ancient Truth were to be persecuted in our Church, and its teachings
forbidden,--then doubtless, for a season, Catholic minds among us would
be unable to see their way.


BORN 1832.



All who would govern their intellectual course by no other aim than the
discovery of truth, and who would use their faculty of speech for no
other purpose than open communications of their real opinions to others,
are met by protests from various quarters. Such protests, so far as they
imply cowardice or dishonesty, must of course be disregarded, but it
would be most erroneous to confound all protests in the same summary
condemnation. Reverent and kindly minds shrink from giving an
unnecessary shock to the faith which comforts many sorely tried souls;
and even the most genuine lovers of truth may doubt whether the time has
come at which the decayed scaffolding can be swept away without injuring
the foundations of the edifice. Some reserve, they think, is necessary,
though reserve, as they must admit, passes but too easily into

And thus, it is often said by one class of thinkers, Why attack a system
of beliefs which is crumbling away quite fast enough without your help?
Why, says another class, try to shake beliefs which, whether true or
false, are infinitely consoling to the weaker brethren? I will endeavor
to conclude these essays, in which I have possibly made myself liable to
some such remonstrances, by explaining why I should think it wrong to be
bound by them; I will, however, begin by admitting frankly that I
recognize their force so far as this; namely, that I have no desire to
attack wantonly any sincere beliefs in minds unprepared for the
reception of more complete truths. This book, perhaps, would be
unjustifiable if it were likely to become a text-book for school-girls
in remote country parsonages. But it is not very probable that it will
penetrate to such quarters; nor do I flatter myself that I have brought
forward a single argument which is not already familiar to educated men.
Whatever force there may be in its pages is only the force of an appeal
to people who already agree in my conclusions to state their agreement
in plain terms; and, having said this much, I will answer the questions
suggested as distinctly as I am able.

To the first question, why trouble the last moments of a dying creed, my
reply would be in brief that I do not desire to quench the lingering
vitality of the dying so much as to lay the phantoms of the dead. I
believe that one of the greatest dangers of the present day is the
general atmosphere of insincerity in such matters, which is fast
producing a scepticism not as to any or all theologies, but as to the
very existence of intellectual good faith. Destroy credit, and you ruin
commerce; destroy all faith in religious honesty and you ruin something
of infinitely more importance than commerce; ideas should surely be
preserved as carefully as cotton from the poisonous influence of a
varnish intended to fit them for public consumption. "The time is come,"
says Mr. Mill in his autobiography, "in which it is the duty of all
qualified persons to speak their minds about popular religious beliefs."
The reason which he assigns is that they would thus destroy the "vulgar
prejudice" that unbelief is connected with bad qualities of head and
heart. It is, I venture to remark, still more important to destroy the
belief of sceptics themselves that in these matters a system of pious
frauds is creditable or safe. Effeminating and corrupting as all
equivocation comes to be in the long run, there are other evils behind.
Who can see without impatience the fearful waste of good purpose and
noble aspiration caused by our reticence at a time when it is of primary
importance to turn to account all the forces which make for the
elevation of mankind? How much intellect and zeal runs to waste in the
spasmodic effort of good men to cling _to_ the last fragments of
decaying systems, to galvanize dead formulæ into some dim semblance of
life! Society will not improve as it might when those who should be
leaders of progress are staggering backward and forward with their eyes
passionately reverted to the past. Nay, we shall never be duly sensitive
to the miseries and cruelties which make the world a place of torture
for so many, so long as men are encouraged in the name of religion to
look for a remedy, not in fighting against surrounding evils, but in
cultivating aimless contemplations of an imaginary ideal. Much of our
popular religion seems to be expressly directed to deaden our sympathies
with our fellow-men by encouraging an indolent optimism; our thoughts of
the other world are used in many forms as an opiate to drug our minds
with indifference to the evils of this; and the last word of half our
preachers is, dream rather than work.

To the other question, Why deprive men of their religious consolations?
I must make a rather longer reply. In the first place, I must observe
that the burden of proof does not rest with me. If any one should tell
me explicitly, a certain dogma is false, but it is better not to destroy
it, I would not reply summarily that he is preaching grossly immoral
doctrine; but I would only refrain from the reply because I should think
that he does not quite mean what he says. His real intention, I should
suppose, would be to say that every dogma includes some truth, or is
inseparably associated with true statements, and that I ought to be
careful not to destroy the wheat with the tares. The presumption
remains, at any rate, that a false doctrine is so far mischievous; and
its would-be protector is bound to show that it is impossible to assail
it without striking through its sides at something beyond. If Christ is
not God, the man who denies him to be God is certainly _primâ facie_
right, though it may perhaps be possible to show that such a denial
cannot be made in practice without attacking a belief in morality. We
may, or it is possible to assert that we may, be under this miserable
necessity, that we cannot speak undiluted truth; truth and falsehood
are, it is perhaps maintainable, so intricately blended in the world
that discrimination is impossible. Still the man who argues thus is
bound to assign some grounds for his melancholy scepticism; and to show
further that the destruction of the figment is too dearly bought by the
assertion of the truth. Therefore, I might be content to say that, in
such cases, the innocence of the plain speaker ought to be assumed until
his guilt is demonstrated. If we had always waited to clear away shams
till we were certain that our action would produce absolutely unmixed
benefits, we should still be worshipping Mumbo-Jumbo.

But, whilst claiming the advantage of this presumption, I am ready to
meet the objector on his own ground, and to indicate, simply and
inefficiently enough, the general nature of the reasons which convince
me that the objection could not be sustained. To what degree, in fact,
are these sham beliefs, which undoubtedly prevail so widely, a real
comfort to any intelligent person? Many believers have described the
terrible agony with which they had at one period of their lives
listened to the first whisperings of scepticism. The horror with which
they speak of the gulf after managing to struggle back to the right side
is supposed to illustrate the cruelty of encouraging others to take the
plunge. That such sufferings are at times very real and very acute, is
undeniable; and yet I imagine that few who have undergone them would
willingly have missed the experience. I venture even to think that the
recollection is one of unmixed pain only in those cases in which the
sufferer has a half-consciousness that he has not escaped by legitimate
means. If in his despair he has clutched at a lie in order to extricate
himself as quickly as possible and at any price, it is no wonder that he
looks back with a shudder. When the disease has been driven inward by
throwing in abundant doses of Paley, Butler, with perhaps an oblique
reference to preferment and respectability, it continues to give many
severe twinges, and perhaps it may permanently injure the constitution.
But, if it has been allowed to run its natural course, and the sufferer
has resolutely rejected every remedy except fair and honest argument, I
think that the recovery is generally cheering. A man looks back with
something of honest pride at the obstacles through which he has forced
his way to a purer and healthier atmosphere. But, whatever the nature of
such crises generally, there is an obvious reason why, at the present
day, the process is seldom really painful. The change which takes place
is not, in fact, an abandonment of beliefs seriously held and firmly
implanted in the mind, but a gradual recognition of the truth that you
never really held them. The old husk drops off because it has long been
withered, and you discover that beneath is a sound and vigorous growth
of genuine conviction. Theologians have been assuring you that the world
would be intolerably hideous if you did not look through their
spectacles. With infinite pains you have turned away your eyes from the
external light. It is with relief, not regret, that you discover that
the sun shines, and that the world is beautiful without the help of
these optical devices which you had been taught to regard as essential.

This, of course, is vehemently denied by all orthodox persons; and the
hesitation with which the heterodox impugn their assumption seems to
testify to its correctness. "After all," the believer may say, with much
appearance of truth, "you don't really believe that I can walk by
myself, if you are so tender of removing my crutches." The taunt is fair
enough, and should be fairly met. Cynicism and infidelity are supposed
to be inseparably connected; it is assumed that nobody can attack the
orthodox creed unless he is incapable of sympathizing with the noblest
emotions of our nature. The adversary on purely intellectual grounds
would be awed into silence by its moral beauty, unless he were deficient
in reverence, purity, and love. It must therefore be said, distinctly,
although it cannot be argued at length, that this ground also appears to
me to be utterly untenable. I deny that it is impossible to speak the
truth without implying a falsehood; and I deny equally that it is
impossible to speak the truth without drying up the sources of our
holiest feelings. Those who maintain the affirmative of those
propositions appear to me to be the worst of sceptics, and they would
certainly reduce us to the most lamentable of dilemmas. If we cannot
develop our intellects but at the price of our moral nature, the case is
truly hard. Some such conclusion is hinted by Roman Catholics, but I do
not understand how any one raised under Protestant teaching should
regard it as any thing but cowardly and false. Let me endeavor in the
briefest possible compass to say why, as a matter of fact, the dilemma
seems to me to be illusory. What is it that Christian theology can now
do for us; and in what way does it differ from the teaching of free

The world, so far as our vision extends, is full of evil. Life is a sore
burden to many, and a scene of unmixed happiness to none. It is useless
to inquire whether on the whole the good or the evil is the more
abundant, or to decide whether to make such an inquiry be any thing else
than to ask whether the world has been, on the whole, arranged to suit
our tastes. The problem thus presented is utterly inscrutable on every
hypothesis. Theology is as impotent in presence of it as science.
Science, indeed, withdraws at once from such questions; whilst theology
asks us to believe that this "sorry scheme of things" is the work of
omnipotence guided by infinite benevolence. This certainly makes the
matter no clearer, if it does not raise additional difficulties; and,
accordingly, we are told that the existence of evil is a mystery. In any
case, we are brought to a stand: and the only moral which either science
or theology can give is that we should make the best of our position.

Theology, however, though it cannot explain, or can only give verbal
explanations, can offer a consolation. This world, we are told, is not
all; there is a beyond and a hereafter; we may hope for an eternal life
under conditions utterly inconceivable, though popular theology has made
a good many attempts to conceive them. If it were further asserted that
this existence would be one of unmixed happiness, there would be at
least a show of compensation. But, of course, that is what no theologian
can venture to say. It is needless to call the Puritan divine, with his
babes of a span long now lying in hell, or that Romanist priest who
revels in describing the most fiendish torture inflicted upon children
by the merciful Creator who made them and exposed them to evil, or any
other of the wild and hideous phantasms that have been evoked by the
imagination of mankind running riot in the world of arbitrary figments.
Nor need we dwell upon the fact, that where theology is really vigorous
it produces such nightmares by an inevitable law; inasmuch as the next
world can be nothing but the intensified reflection of this. It is
enough to say that, if the revelation of a future state be really the
great claim of Christianity upon our attentions, the use which it has
made of that state has been one main cause of its decay. "St. Lewis the
king, having sent Ivo, Bishop of Chartres, on an embassy, the bishop met
a woman on the way, grave, sad, fantastic, and melancholic; with fire in
one hand and water in the other. He asked what those symbols meant. She
answered, 'My purpose is with fire to burn Paradise, and with my water
to quench the flames of hell, that men may serve God without the
incentives of hope and fear, and purely for the love of God.'" "The
woman," adds Jeremy Taylor, "began at the wrong end." Is that so clear?
The attempts of priests to make use of the keys of heaven and hell
brought about the moral revolt of the Reformation; and, at the present
day, the disgust excited by the doctrine of everlasting damnation is
amongst the strongest motives to popular infidelity; all able apologists
feel the strain. Some reasoners quibble about everlasting and eternal;
and the great Catholic logician "submits the whole subject to the
theological school," a process which I do not quite understand, though I
assume it to be consolatory. The doctrine, in short, can hardly be made
tangible without shocking men's consciences and understandings. It
ought, it may be, to be attractive, but when firmly grasped, it becomes
incredible and revolting.

The difficulty is evaded in two ways. Some amiable and heterodox sects
retain heaven and abolish hell. A kingdom in the clouds may, of course,
be portioned off according to pleasure. The doctrine, however, is
interesting in an intellectual point of view only as illustrating in the
naïvest fashion the common fallacy of confounding our wishes with our
beliefs. The argument that because evil and good are mixed wherever we
can observe, therefore there is elsewhere unmixed good, does not obey
any recognized canons of induction. It would certainly be pleasant to
believe that everybody was going to be happy forever, but whether such a
belief would be favorable to that stern sense of evil which should fit
us to fight the hard battle of this life is a question too easily
answered. Thinkers of a high order do not have recourse to these simple
devices. They retain the doctrine as a protest against materialism, but
purposely retain it in the vaguest possible shape. They say that this
life is not all; if it were all, they argue, we should be rightly ruled
by our stomachs; but they scrupulously decline to give form and
substance to their anticipations. We must, they think, have avowedly a
heavenly background to the world, but our gaze should be restricted
habitually within the visible horizon. The future life is to tinge the
general atmosphere, but not to be offered as a definite goal of action
or a distinct object of contemplation.

The persons against whom, so far as I know, the charge of materialism
can be brought with the greatest plausibility at the present day are
those who still force themselves to bow before the most grossly material
symbols, and give a physical interpretation to the articles of her
creed. A man who proposes to look for God in this miserable world and
finds Him visiting the diseased imagination of a sickly nun, may perhaps
be in some sense called a materialist, and there is more materialism of
this variety in popular sentimentalisms about the "blood of Jesus" than
in all the writings of the profane men of science. But in a
philosophical sense the charge rests on a pure misunderstanding.

The man of science or, in other words, the man who most rigidly confines
his imagination within the bounds of the knowable, is every whit as
ready to protest against "materialism" as his antagonist. Those who
distinguish man into two parts, and give the higher qualities to the
soul and the sensual to the body, assume that all who reject their
distinction abolish the soul, and with it abolish all that is not
sensual. Yet every genuine scientific thinker believes in the existence
of love and reverence as he believes in any other facts, and is likely
to set just as high a value upon them as his opponent. He believes
equally with his opponent, that to cultivate the higher emotions, man
must habitually attach himself to objects outside the narrow sphere of
his own personal experience. The difference is that whereas one set of
thinkers would tell us to fix our affections on a state entirely
disparate from that in which we are actually placed, the other would
concentrate them upon objects which form part of the series of events
amongst which we are moving. Which is the more likely to stimulate our
best feelings? We must reply by asking whether the vastness or the
distinctness of a prospect has the greater effect upon the imagination.
Does a man take the greater interest in a future which he can definitely
interpret to himself, or upon one which is admittedly so inconceivable
that it is wrong to dwell upon it, but which allows of indefinite
expansion? Putting aside our own personal interest, do we care more for
the fate of our grandchildren whom we shall never see, or for the
condition of spiritual beings the conditions of whose existence are
utterly unintelligible to us? If sacrifice of our lower pleasures be
demanded, should we be more willing to make them in order that a coming
generation may be emancipated from war and pauperism, or in order that
some indefinite and indefinable change may be worked in a world utterly
inscrutable to our imaginations? The man who has learned to transfer his
aspirations from the next world to this, to look forward to the
diminution of disease and vice here, rather than to the annihilation of
all physical conditions, has, it is hardly rash to assert, gained more
in the distinctness of his aims than he has lost (if, indeed, he has
lost any thing) in their elevation.

Were it necessary to hunt out every possible combination of opinion, I
should have to inquire whether the doctrine of another world might not
be understood in such a sense as to involve no distortion of our views.
The future world may be so arranged that the effect of the two sets of
motives upon our minds may be always coincident. Our interest in our
descendants might be strengthened without being distracted by a belief
in our own future existence. Of such a theory I have now only space to
say that it is not that which really occurs in practice: and that the
instincts which make us cling to a vivid belief in the future always
spring from a vehement revolt against the present. Meanwhile, however,
the answers generally given to sceptics are apparently contradictory. To
limit our hopes to this world, it is sometimes said, is to encourage
mere grovelling materialism; in the same breath it is added that to ask
for an interest in the fate of our fellow-creatures here, instead of
ourselves hereafter, is to make excessive demands upon human
selfishness. The doctrine it seems is at once too elevated and too

The theory on which the latter charge rests seems to be that you can
take an interest in yourself at any distance, but not in others if they
are outside the circle of your own personality. This doctrine, when
boldly expressed, seems to rest upon the very apotheosis of selfishness.
Theologians have sometimes said, in perfect consistency, that it would
be better for the whole race of man to perish in torture than that a
single sin should be committed. One would rather have thought that a man
had better be damned a thousand times over than allow of such a
catastrophe; but, however this may be, the doctrine now suggested
appears to be equally revolting, unless diluted so far as to be
meaningless. It amounts to asserting that our love of our own
infinitesimal individuality is so powerful that any matter in which we
are personally concerned has a weight altogether incommensurable with
that of any matter in which we have no concern. People who hold such a
doctrine would be bound in consistency to say that they would not cut
off their little finger to save a million of men from torture after
their own death. Every man must judge of his own state of mind; though
there is nothing on which people are more liable to make mistakes; and I
am charitable enough to hope that the actions of such men would be in
practice as different as possible from what they anticipate in theory.
But it is enough to say that experience, if it proves any thing, proves
this to be an inaccurate view of human nature. All the threats of
theologians with infinite stores of time and torture to draw upon,
failed to wean men from sins which gave them a passing gratification,
even when faith was incomparably stronger than it is now, or is likely
to be again. One reason, doubtless, is that the conscience is as much
blunted by the doctrines of repentance and absolution as it is
stimulated by the threats of hell-fire. But is it not contrary to all
common-sense to expect that the motive will retain any vital strength
when the very people who rely upon it admit that it rests on the most
shadowy of grounds? The other motive, which is supposed to be so
incomparably weaker that it cannot be used as a substitute, has yet
proved its strength in every age of the world. As our knowledge of
nature and the growth of our social development impress upon us more
strongly every day that we live the close connection in which we all
stand to each other, the intimate "solidarity" of all human interests,
it is not likely to grow weaker; a young man will break a blood-vessel
for the honor of a boat-club; a savage will allow himself to be tortured
to death for the credit of his tribe; why should it be called visionary
to believe that a civilized human being will make personal sacrifices
for the benefit of men whom he has perhaps not seen, but whose intimate
dependence upon himself he realizes at every moment of his life? May not
such a motive generate a predominant passion with men framed to act upon
it by a truly generous system of education? And is it not an insult to
our best feelings and a most audacious feat of logic, to declare on _à
priori_ grounds that such feelings must be a straw in the balance when
weighed against our own personal interest in the fate of a being whose
nature is inconceivable to us, whose existence is not certain, whose
dependence upon us is indeterminate, simply because it is said that, in
some way or other, it and we are continuous?

The real meaning, however, of this clinging to another life is doubtless
very different. It is simply an expression of the reluctance of the
human being to use the awful word "never." As the years take from us,
one by one, all that we have loved, we try to avert our gaze; we are
fain to believe that in some phantom world all will be given back to us,
and that our toys have only been laid by in the nursery upstairs. Who,
indeed, can deny that to give up these dreams involves a cruel pang?
But, then, who but the most determined optimist can deny that a cruel
pang is inevitable? Is not the promise too shadowy to give us real
satisfaction? The whole lesson of our lives is summed up in teaching us
to say "never" without needless flinching, or, in other words, in
submitting to the inevitable. The theologian bids us repent, and waste
our lives in vain regrets for the past, and in tremulous hopes that the
past may yet be the future. Science tells us--what, indeed, we scarcely
need to learn from science--that what is gone, is gone, and that the
best wisdom of life is the acceptance of accomplished facts.

  "The moving Finger writes, and having writ,
   Moves on; nor all your piety nor wit
   Can lure it back to cancel half a line,
   Nor all your tears wipe out a word of it."

Never repent, unless by repentance you mean drawing lessons from past
experience. Beating against the bars of fate you will only wound
yourself, and mar what yet remains to you. Grief for the past is useful
so far as it can be transmuted into renewed force for the future. The
love of those we have lost may enable us to love better those who
remain, and those who are to come. So used, it is an infinitely precious
possession, and to be cherished with all our hearts. As it leads to
vain regrets, it is at best an enervating enjoyment, and a needless
pain. The figments of theology are a consecration of our delusive
dreams; the teaching of the new faith should be the utilization of every
emotion to the bettering of the world of the future.

The ennobling element of the belief in a future life is beyond the
attack, or rather is strengthened by the aid, of science. Science, like
theology, bids us look beyond our petty personal interests, and
cultivate faculties other than the digestive. Theology aims at
stimulating the same instincts, but provides them with an object in some
shifting cloud-land of the imagination instead of the definite _terra
firma_ of this tangible earth. The imagination, bound by no external
laws, may form what rules it pleases, and may therefore lend itself to a
refined selfishness, or to dreamy sentimentalism. When we rise beyond
ourselves we are most in need of some definite guidance, and in the
greatest danger of following some delusive phantom. The process
illustrated by this case is operative throughout the whole sphere of
religious thought. The essence of theology, as popularly understood, is
the division of the universe into two utterly disparate elements. God
is conceived as a ruler external to the ordinary series of phenomena,
but intervening at more or less frequent intervals; between the natural
and the supernatural, the human and the divine element, there can be no
proper comparison. Man must be vile that God may be exalted; reason must
be folly when put beside revelation; the force of man must be weakness
when it encounters Providence. Wherever, in short, we recognize the
Divine hand, we can but prostrate ourselves in humble adoration. In
franker times, when people meant what they said, this creed was followed
to its logical results. The dogmas of the literal inspiration of the
Scripture, or of the infallibility of the Church, recognized the
presence of a flawless perfection in the midst of utter weakness. The
corruption of human nature, the irresistible power of Divine grace, the
magical efficacy of the Sacraments are corollaries from the same theory.
In the phraseology popular with a modern school we are told that the
essence of Christianity is the belief in the fatherhood of God. That
doctrine is intelligible and may be beautiful so long as we retain a
sufficient degree of anthropomorphism. But as our conceptions of the
universe and, therefore, of its Ruler are elevated, we too often feel
that the use of the word "father" does not prevent the weight of His
hand from crushing us. If noble souls can convert even suffering into
useful discipline, it is but a flimsy optimism which covers all
suffering by the name of paternal chastisement. The universe partitioned
between infinite power and infinite weakness becomes a hopeless chaos;
and when we proceed farther, and try to identify the Divine and the
human elements amidst this intricate blending of good and evil we are in
danger of vital error at every step. What, in fact, can be more
disastrous, and yet more inevitable, than to mistake our corrupt
instincts for the voice of God, or, on the other hand, to condemn the
Divine intimations as sinful? How can we avoid at every instant
committing the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the ineffable
Holiness? And if, indeed, the distinction be groundless, are we not of
necessity dislocating our conceptions of the universe, and hopelessly
perplexing our sense of duty?

Take, for instance, one common topic which is typical of the general
process. Divines never tire of holding up to us the example of Christ.
If Christ were indeed a man like ourselves, his example may be fairly
quoted. We willingly place him in the very front rank of the heroes who
have died for the good of our race. But if Christ were in any true sense
God or inseparably united to God, the example disappears. We honor him
because he endured agonies and triumphed over doubts and weaknesses that
would have paralyzed a less noble soul. The agonies and the doubts and
the weakness are unintelligible on the hypothesis of an incarnate God.
Theologians escape by the old loophole of mystery, ordinary believers by
thinking of Christ as man and God alternately. We can doubtless deceive
ourselves by such juggling, but we cannot honestly escape from the
inevitable dilemma. In paying a blasphemous reverence to Christ,
theologians have either placed him beyond the reach of our sympathies,
or have lowered God to the standard of humanity. Let us, if possible,
dwell with an emotion of brotherly love on the sufferings of every
martyr in the cause of humanity, but you sever the very root of our
sympathy when you single out one as divine and raise him to the skies.
Why stand we gazing into heaven when we have but to look round to catch
the contagion of noble enthusiasm from men of our own race? The ideal
becomes meaningless when it is made supernatural.

The same perplexity meets us at every step; we are to follow Christ's
example. Be humble, it is said, as Christ was humble. Theology indeed
would prescribe annihilation rather than humiliation. Man in presence of
the Infinite is absolutely nothing. Science, according to a glib
commonplace of popular writers, agrees with theology in prescribing
humility. But that very ambiguous word has a totally different meaning
in the two cases. Science bids us recognize the inevitable limitation of
our powers, and the feebleness of any individual as compared with the
mass. We can do but little: and at every step we are dependent upon the
co-operation of countless millions of our race and an indefinite series
of past generations. We are like the coral insects, who can add but a
hair's breadth to the structure which has been raised by their
predecessors. Yet the little which we can do is something; and we will
neither degrade ourselves nor our race. As measured by an absolute
standard, man may be infinitesimal, but the absolute is beyond our
powers. Science tells us that our little individuality might be swept
out of existence without appreciable injury to the world; but it adds
that the world is built up of infinitesimal atoms, and that each must
co-operate in the general result. Theology crushes us into nothingness
by placing us in the presence of the infinite God; and then compensates
by making us divine ourselves. Man is a mere worm, but he can by
priestly magic bring God to earth; he is hopelessly ignorant, but set on
a throne and properly manipulated he becomes an infallible vice-God; he
is a helpless creature, and yet this creature can define with more than
scientific accuracy the precise nature of his inconceivable Creator; he
grovels on the ground as a miserable sinner and stands up to declare
that he is the channel of Divine inspiration; all his wisdom is
ignorance, but he has written one book of which every line is absolutely
perfect: and meanwhile that which one man singles out as the Divine
element is to another the diabolical, so strangely dim is our vision,
and so imperceptible is the difference between the Infinite and the

Or, again, we are to deny ourselves as Christ denied himself. But what
are the limits and the purpose of this self-denial? Am I to carry on an
indefinite warfare against the body, which you say that God has given
me, and to crush the physical for the sake of the spiritual element?
What is the line between the spirit which is of God, and the body which
is hopelessly corrupt? All sound reasoning prescribes a training with
the given purpose of bringing the instincts of the individual into
harmony with the interests of the whole social organism. Theology trying
to lay down an absolute law sometimes encourages the extremes of
asceticism, sometimes it inclines to antinomianism; and sometimes
sanctions the condonation of sin in consideration of acts of

We are to resign ourselves to God's will, say theologians, but what is
God's will? If it is the inevitable, then theology falls in with free
reason. But if God's will be, as theologians maintain, something which
we are at liberty to resist or to obey, then resignation implies our
ignoble yielding to evils which might be extirpated. Theology deifies
the force of circumstances, when our life should be a victory over
circumstances, and encourages us to repine over misfortunes, where all
repining is useless.

Christ, you say, died for us; and Butler, in the book which still
receives more praise than any other attempt at reconciling philosophy
and theology, tries to show that here, at least, the two doctrines are
in harmony. He has probably produced, in men of powerful intellects,
more atheism than he has cured; for he tries to demonstrate explicitly
what is tacitly assumed by most theologians--the injustice of God. The
doctrine may be horrible, but he says that facts prove it to be true.
His whole logic consists in simply begging the question by calling
suffering punishment. That the potter should be angry with his pots is
certainly inconceivable; but when you once attempt to trace the
supernatural in life, it undoubtedly follows that God is not only weak
with the creatures he has made, but punishes the innocent for the
guilty. Theologians may rest complacently in such a conclusion; to
unprejudiced persons, it appears to be the clearest illustration of the
futility of their theories. Free thought declines to call suffering a
punishment; but it admits and turns to account the undoubted fact, that
men are so closely connected, that every injury inflicted upon one is
inevitably propagated to others. If morality be the science of
minimizing human misery, to say that sin brings suffering, is merely to
express an identical proposition. The lesson, however, remains for us
that we should look beyond our petty, personal interests, because no
act can be merely personal. The stone which we throw spreads widening
circles to all eternity, and to realize that fact is to intensify the
sense of responsibility; but the same doctrine translated into the
theological dialect becomes shocking or "mysterious."

Finally, we are to love our brothers as Christ loved us. That, truly, is
an excellent doctrine, but translated into the theological, does it not
lose half its efficacy? Love them that are of the household is the more
natural corollary from the Christian tenets than love all mankind.
People sometimes express surprise that the mild doctrines of
Christianity should be pressed into the service of persecution. What
more natural? "We love you," says the theologian to the heathen, "but
still you are children of the devil. We love men, but the human heart is
desperately wicked. We love your souls, but we hate your bodies. We love
you as brothers; but then God, who so loved the world as to give His Son
to die for it, has left the vast majority to follow their own road to
perdition, and given to us a monopoly of truth and grace. We can only
follow His example, and adore the mysterious dispensations of

"Ah!" replies a different school, "that is indeed a blasphemous and
hideous doctrine. We will not presume to divide the human from the
divine. God is the father of all men; His grace is confined to no sect
or creed. His revelation is made to the universal human heart as well as
to a select number of prophets and apostles. He is known in the order of
nature as well as by miracles. The body has been created by Him as well
as the soul, and all instincts are of heavenly origin and require
cultivation not extirpation."

Whether this doctrine is reconcilable with Christianity is a question
not to be discussed here. It certainly does not imply those flat
contradictions of the lessons of experience which emerge from the other
method of thought. It asks us to believe no miracles. It involves no
supernaturalism. Whatever is, is natural, and is at the same time
divine. Stated, indeed, as a bare logical formula, the doctrine seems to
elude our grasp. It is intelligible to say that Christ was divine and
Mahomet human, for the statement implies a comparison between two
different terms; but if you say that Christ and Mahomet are both of the
same class, what does it matter whether you call them both divine or
both human? Every logical statement implies an exclusion as well as
inclusion. To say that A is B is meaningless if you add that every other
conceivable letter is also B. You attempt to make everybody rich by
reckoning their property in pence instead of pounds, and the process,
though at first sight attractive, is unsatisfactory. In fact, this phase
of opinion generally slips back into the preceding. We find that
exceptions are insensibly made, and that after pronouncing nature to be
divine, it is tacitly assumed there is an indefinite region which is
somehow outside nature. Few people have the reasoning tendency
sufficiently developed to follow out this view to its logical result in
Pantheism. Yet short of that, there is no really stable resting-place.

Let us glance, however, for a moment at the ordinary application of the
doctrine. The theologian agrees with the man of science in admitting
that we are governed by unalterable laws, or, as the man of science
prefers to say, that the world shows nothing but a series of invariable
sequences and co-existences. The difference is, in other words, that the
theologian puts a legislator behind the laws, whilst the man of science
sees nothing behind them but impenetrable mystery. The difference, so
far as any practical conclusions are concerned, is obviously nothing.
The laws of Nature, you tell us, are the work of infinite goodness and
wisdom. But we are utterly unable to say what infinite goodness and
wisdom would do, except by showing what it has done. Therefore, the
ultimate appeal of the theologian, is as unequivocally to the laws as
the primary appeal of the man of science. He has made a show of going to
a higher court only to be referred back again to the original tribunal.
History, for example, shows that mankind blunders by degrees into an
improved condition and calls the process progress. Theology can give no
additional guaranty for progress, for a state of things once compatible
may, for any thing we can say, always remain compatible with infinite
wisdom and goodness. As a matter of historical fact, theology only
suggested the dogma of man's utter vileness, and all genuine theologians
are marked by their readiness to believe in deterioration instead of
progress. They look forward to a future world instead of this. But what
reason have they to believe in this future of blessedness? God's love
for His creatures? But the most prominent fact written on the whole
surface of the world is what we cannot help calling the reckless and
profuse waste of life. If every thing we see teaches us that millions of
individuals are crushed at every step by the progress of the race, and
if that process is, as it must be, compatible with infinite goodness,
why suppose that infinite goodness will act differently in future? It is
an ever-recurring but utterly fruitless sophistry which first infers God
from nature, and then pronounces God to be different from nature.

The only meaning, indeed, which can be given to the theological
statement when thus interpreted is that we should accustom ourselves to
look with reverence and love upon the universe. That love and reverence
are emotions which deserve our most strenuous efforts at cultivation;
that we should be profoundly impressed by the vast system of which we
form an infinitesimal part; that we should habitually think of ourselves
in relation to the long perspective of events which stretches far away
from us to the dim distance and toward the invisible future, are indeed
lessons which all sound reasoning tends to confirm. But when we are
invited to love and wonder at the world, as the work of God, we must
guard against the old trick of substitution which is constantly played
upon us. Once more, the God of nature is turned into the God of a part
of nature. Theology of the old stamp, so far from encouraging us to love
nature, teaches us that it is under a curse. It teaches us to look upon
the animal creation with shuddering disgust; upon the whole race of man,
outside our narrow sect, as delivered over to the devil; and upon the
laws of nature at large as a temporary mechanism, in which we have been
caught, but from which we are to anticipate a joyful deliverance. It is
science, not theology, which has changed all this; it is the atheists,
infidels, and rationalists, as they are kindly called, who have taught
us to take fresh interest in our poor fellow denizens of the world, and
not to despise them because Almighty benevolence could not be expected
to admit them to heaven; to the same teaching we owe the recognition of
the noble aspirations embodied in every form of religion, and the
destruction of the ancient monopoly of Divine influences; and it is
science again that has taught us to accommodate ourselves to the laws in
which we are placed, instead of fruitlessly struggling against them and
invoking miraculous interference to conquer them. The theology of which
I am now speaking differs, indeed, radically from the old, so radically
that one is at times surprised that the agreement, to use a common word,
should reconcile vital differences in faith. But it often tends to the
same end by a different path. It attempts to deny the existence of
evils, instead of proclaiming their ultimate destruction. Every thing
comes from a paternal hand; why struggle against it? Disease and
starvation and nakedness are, somehow or other, parts of a divine system
which is somehow or other deserving of our sincerest adoration. If
anybody who is in fact naked or sick or starving takes that phrase in
the sense that he had better submit cheerfully to evils which he cannot
help, there is little to be said against it. If the doctrine of the
Divine origin of all things is compatible with the belief that a vast
number of things are utterly hateful, that we ought to spend our whole
energy in eradicating them, and to protest against them with our latest
breath, then the doctrine is certainly innocuous. But whether there is
much use in language thus employed seems a little questionable; and, in
any case, it is clear that it really adds nothing, except words, to the
teaching of science.

Here again people cling passionately to the old formulæ because they
appear to sanction a soothing optimism. We cannot be happy, it is said,
unless we believe that our wishes will be fulfilled; and we endeavor to
convert our wishes into a guaranty for their own fulfilment. If we
cannot make up our minds to say "never," neither can we resolve to admit
that there is really evil. We passionately assert that the past will
come back and that pain will turn out to be an illusion. The argument
against the infidel comes essentially to this; you tell me that my hopes
will not be realized, and therefore you make me necessarily and
needlessly miserable. For God's sake, do not disperse my dreams. People
are not satisfied with the answer that the nightmare has gone as well as
the vision of bliss, and that fears are destroyed as much as hopes;
because, as a matter of fact, they can contrive to dwell upon that part
of the doctrine which is comfortable for the moment. We have power over
our dreams though we conceal its exercise from ourselves. But the
argument itself involves the fundamental fallacy. To destroy a
groundless hope is not to destroy a man's happiness. The instantaneous
effort may be painful: but it is the price which we have to pay for a
cure of deep-seated complaints. The infidel's reply is substantially
this: I may destroy your hopes; but I do not destroy your power of
hoping. I bid you no longer fix your mind on a chimera but on tangible
and realizable prospects. I warn you that efforts to soar above the
atmosphere can only lead to disappointment, and that time spent in
squaring the circle is simply time spent. Apply your strength and your
intellect on matters which lie at hand and on problems which admit of a
solution. The happiest man is not the man who has the grandest dreams,
but the man whose aspirations are best fitted to guide his talents: the
most efficient worker is not the one who mistakes his own fancies for an
external support, but he who has most accurately gauged the conditions
under which he is laboring. Trust in Providence may lead you to pass
successfully through dangers which would have repelled an unbeliever, or
it may lead you to break your neck in pursuing a dream. It makes heroes
and cowards, patriots and assassins, saints and bigots who each mistake
their wisdom or their folly for divine intimations. Providence for us
can only be that aggregate of external forces to which willingly or
unwillingly we must adapt ourselves. We should calmly calculate by all
available means the conditions of our life, and then dare, without
ignoring, the dangers that are inevitable. Through all human affairs
there runs an element of uncertainty which cannot be suppressed, and we
seek in vain to disguise it under names consecrated by old associations;
there are evils which are only made more poignant by our efforts to
explain them away; and to each of us will very speedily come an end of
his labors in the world. We can best fortify ourselves by recognizing
and submitting to the inevitable and by anchoring our minds on the
firmest holding ground. Science will tell us that by working with the
great forces that move the world, we may contribute some fragment to an
edifice which will not be broken down; that to think for others instead
of limiting our hopes to our petty interests is the best remedy for
unavailing regret. We can take our part in the long warfare of man
against the world, which is nothing else but the gradual accommodation
of the race to the conditions of its dwelling-place. By so disciplining
our thoughts that we may fight eagerly and hopefully, we have the best
security for happiness, and not in encouraging an idle dwelling upon
visions which can never be verified, and which are apt to become most
ghastly when we most wish for consolation.

To the question, then, from which I started, it seems that an
unequivocal reply can be given. Why help to destroy the old faith from
which people derive, or believe themselves to derive, so much spiritual
solace? The answer is, that the loss is overbalanced by the gain. We
lose nothing that ought to be really comforting in the ancient creeds;
we are relieved from much that is burdensome to the imagination and to
the intellect. Those creeds were indeed in great part the work of the
best and ablest of our forefathers; they therefore provide some
expression for the highest emotions of which our nature is capable; but,
to say nothing of the lower elements which have intruded, of the
concessions made to bad passions, and to the wants of a ruder form of
society, they are at best the approximations to the truth of men who
entertained a radically erroneous conception of the universe.
Astronomers who went on the Ptolemaic theory managed to provide a very
fair description of the actual phenomena of the heavens; but the solid
result of their labors was not lost when the Copernican system took its
place; and incalculable advantages followed from casting aside the old
cumbrous machinery of cycles and epicycles in favor of the simpler
conceptions of the new doctrine. A similar change follows when man is
placed at the centre of the religious and moral system. We still retain
the faiths at which theologians arrived by a complex machinery of
arbitrary contrivances destined to compensate one set of dogmas by
another. The justice of God the Father is tempered by the mercy of God
the Son, as the planet wheeled too far forward by the cycle is brought
back to its place by the epicycle. When we strike out the elaborate
arrangements, the truths which they aim at expressing are capable of far
simpler statements; infinite error and distortion disappear, and the
road is open for conceptions impossible under the old circuitous and
erroneous methods.

We have arrived at the point from which we can detect the source of
ancient errors, and extract the gold from the dross. One thing, indeed,
remains for the present impossible. The old creed, elaborated by many
generations, and consecrated to our imaginations by a vast wealth of
associations, is adapted in a thousand ways to the wants of its
believers. The new creed--whatever may be its ultimate form--has not
been thus formulated and hallowed to our minds. We, whose fetters are
just broken, cannot tell what the world will look like to men brought up
in the full blaze of day, and accustomed from infancy to the free use of
their limbs. For centuries all ennobling passions have been
industriously associated with the hope of personal immortality, and base
passions with its rejection. We cannot fully realize the state of men
brought up to look for a reward of heroic sacrifice in the consciousness
of good work achieved in this world instead of in the hope of posthumous
repayment. Nor again, have we, if we shall ever have, any system capable
of replacing the old forms of worship by which the imagination was
stimulated and disciplined. That such reflections should make many men
pause before they reveal the open secret is intelligible enough. But
what is the true moral to be derived from them? Surely that we should
take courage and speak the truth. We should take courage, for even now
the new faith offers to us a more cheering and elevating prospect than
the old. When it shall have become familiar to men's minds, have worked
itself into the substance of our convictions, and provided new channels
for the utterance of our emotions, we may anticipate incomparably higher
results. We are only laying the foundations of the temple, and know not
what will be the glories of the completed edifice. Yet already the
prospect is beginning to clear. The sophistries which entangle us are
transparent. That faith is not the noblest which enables us to believe
the greatest number of articles on the least evidence; nor is that
doctrine really the most productive of happiness which encourages us to
cherish the greatest number of groundless hopes. The system which is
really most calculated to make men happy is that which forces them to
live in a bracing atmosphere; which fits them to look facts in the face
and to suppress vain repinings by strenuous action instead of luxurious

And hence, too, the time is come for speaking plainly. If you would wait
to speak the truth until you can replace the old decaying formula by a
completely elaborated system, you must wait for ever; for the system
can never be elaborated until its leading principles have been boldly
enunciated. Reconstruct, it is said, before you destroy. But you must
destroy in order to reconstruct. The old husk of dead faith is pushed
off by the growth of living beliefs below. But how can they grow unless
they find distinct utterance? and how can they be distinctly uttered
without condemning the doctrines which they are to replace? The truth
cannot be asserted without denouncing the falsehood. Pleasant as the
process might be of announcing the truth and leaving the falsehood to
decay of itself, it cannot be carried into practice. Men's minds must be
called back from the present of phantoms and encouraged to follow the
only path which tends to enduring results. We cannot afford to make the
tacit concession that our opinions, though true, are depressing and
debasing. No; they are encouraging and elevating. If the medicine is
bitter to the taste, it is good for the digestion. Here and there, a
bold avowal of the truth will disperse a pleasing dream, as here and
there it will relieve us of an oppressing nightmare. But it is not by
striking balances between these pains and pleasures that the total
effect of the creed is to be measured; but by the permanent influence on
the mind of seeing things in their true light and dispersing the old
halo of erroneous imagination. To inculcate reticence at the present
moment is simply to advise us to give one more chance to the development
of some new form of superstition. If the faith of the future is to be a
faith which can satisfy the most cultivated as well as the feeblest
intellects, it must be founded on an unflinching respect for realities.
If its partisans are to win a definitive victory, they must cease to
show quarter to lies. The problem is stated plainly enough to leave no
room for hesitation. We can distinguish the truth from falsehood, and
see where confusion has been reproduced, and truth pressed into the
service of falsehood. Nothing more is wanted but to go forward boldly,
and reject once for all the weary compromises and elaborate adaptations
which have become a mere vexation to all honest men. The goal is clearly
in sight, though it may be distant; and we decline any longer to travel
in disguise by circuitous paths, or to apologize for being in the right.
Let us think freely and speak plainly, and we shall have the highest
satisfaction that man can enjoy--the consciousness that we have done
what little lies in ourselves to do for the maintenance of the truths on
which the moral improvement and the happiness of our race depend.


[1] It is objected that geology is a science: yet that geology cannot
foretell the future changes of the earth's surface. Geology is not a
century old, and its periods are measured by millions of years. Yet, if
geology cannot foretell future facts, it enabled Sir Roderick Murchison
to foretell the discovery of Australian gold.

[2] February, 1864.

[3] I am here applying to this particular purpose a line of thought
which both myself and others have often applied to other purposes. See,
above all, Sir Henry Maine's lecture on "Kinship as the Basis of
Society" in the lectures on the "Early History of Institutions"; I would
refer also to my own lecture on "The State" in "Comparative Politics."

[4] While the Swiss Confederation recognizes German, French, and Italian
as all alike national languages, the independent Romance language, which
is still used in some parts of the Canton of Graubünden, that which is
known specially as _Romansch_, is not recognized. It is left in the same
position in which Welsh and Gaelic are left in Great Britain, in which
Basque, Breton, Provençal, Walloon, and Flemish are left within the
borders of that French kingdom which has grown so as to take them all

[5] On Rouman history I have followed Roesler's _Romänische Studien_ and
Jirecek's _Geschichte der Bulgaren_.

[6] It should be remembered that, as the year 1879 saw the beginning of
the liberated Bulgarian state, the year 679 saw the beginning of the
first Bulgarian kingdom south of the Danube.

[7] Published in the _North American Review_ for September, 1878.
Republished by permission.

[8] This topic was much more largely handled by me in the Financial
Statement which I delivered, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, on May 2,
1866. I recommend attention to the excellent article by Mr. Henderson,
in the _Contemporary Review_ for October, 1878: and I agree with the
author in being disposed to think that the protective laws of America
effectually bar the full development of her competing power.--W. E. G.,
Nov. 6, 1878.

[9] See Hor., Od. I., 16.

[10] This subject has been more fully developed by me in an article on
"England's Mission," contributed to _The Nineteenth Century_ for
September of the present year.--W. E. G., December, 1878.

[11] This is a proposition of great importance in a disputed
subject-matter; and consequently I have not announced it in a dogmatic
manner, but as a portion of what we "seem to perceive" in the progress
of the American Constitution. It expresses an opinion formed by me upon
an examination of the original documents, and with some attention to the
history, which I have always considered, and have often recommended to
others, as one of the most fruitful studies of modern politics. This is
not the proper occasion to develop its grounds: but I may say that I am
not at all disposed to surrender it in deference to one or two rather
contemptuous critics.--W. E. G., December, 1878.

[12] Gray's "Bard."

[13] _Quarterly Review_, April, 1878, Art. I.

[14] Hor. Od., I, xii, 18.

[15] Henriade, I.

[16] Vol. v, pp. 94, 95. Ed. London, 1877.

[17] Heber's "Palestine." The word "stately" was in later editions
altered by the author to "noiseless."

[18] [In reply to the intended work of Mr. Adams on the Constitution of
the United States, Mr. Livingstone, under the title of a Colonist of New
Jersey, published an Examination of the British Constitution, and
compared it unfavorably as it had been exhibited by Adams, and by
Delolme, with the institutions of his own country. In this work, of
which I have a French translation (London and Paris, 1789), there is not
the smallest inkling of the action of our political mechanism, such as I
have endeavored to describe it. On this subject I need hardly refer the
reader to the valuable work of Mr. Bagehot, entitled "The English
Constitution," or to the Constitutional History of Sir T. Erskine
May.--W. E. G., December, 1878.]

[19] Ego cùm audio quenquam bono ingenio præditum, doctrinisque
liberalibus eruditum, quamquam non ibi salus animæ constituta sit, tamen
in _quæstione facillima_ sentire aliud quàm veritas postulat, quo magis
miror, eò magis exardesco nosse hominem et cum eo colloqui; vel si id
non possim, saltem litteris quæ longissimè volant [to the nineteenth
century?] attingere mentem ejus atque ab eo vicissim attingi desidero.
Sicut te esse audio talem virum, et ab Ecclesiâ Catholicâ, quæ sicut
Sancto Spiritu pronunciata est, toto orbe diffunditur, discerptum doleo
atque seclusum.--Ep. 87. _vid._ ep. 61.

[20] This is an exaggeration; I have reconsidered the whole subject in
my essay on "Development of Doctrine," in 1845; and in my letter to Dr.
Pusey in 1866.

[21] This passage proves, on the one hand, that such worship as St. John
offered is wrong; on the other, that it does not unchurch, unless we can
fancy St. John guilty of mortal sin.

[22] All these are merely points of discipline or conduct; but whether
there is a visible Church, and whether it is visibly one, is a question
which as it is answered affirmatively or negatively changes the
essential idea and the entire structure of Christianity.

[23] Epp. 93, 144.

[24] As has been said above, this statement is too absolute; at least,
Athanasius was reconciled to Meletius.

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