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Title: The Map of Life - Conduct and Character
Author: Lecky, William Edward Hartpole, 1838-1903
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *


The Rt. Hon. W. E. H. LECKY.

  Library Edition. 8vo. Vols. I. and II. 1700-1760. 36s. Vols.
III. and IV. 1760-1784. 36s. Vols. V. and VI. 1784-1793. 36s.
Vols. VII. and VIII. 1793-1800. 36s.
  Cabinet Edition. ENGLAND. 7 vols. Crown 8vo. 6s. each.
IRELAND. 5 vols. Crown 8vo. 6s. each.

  2 vols. Crown 8vo. 12s.

HISTORY of the RISE and INFLUENCE of the
  2 vols. Crown 8vo. 12s.

  Library Edition. 2 vols. 8vo. 36s.
  Cabinet Edition. 2 vols. Crown 8vo. 12s.

THE MAP OF LIFE: Conduct and Character.
  Library Edition. 8vo. 10s. 6d.
  Cabinet Edition. Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

POEMS. Fcp. 8vo. 5s.

        LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO.
   39 Paternoster Row, London, and Bombay.

       *       *       *       *       *


Conduct and Character



     'La vie n'est pas un plaisir ni une douleur, mais une affaire grave
     dont nous sommes chargés, et qu'il faut conduire et terminer à
     notre honneur'                           TOCQUEVILLE

New Impression

Longmans, Green, and Co.
39 Paternoster Row, London
New York and Bombay

All rights reserved

Bibliographical Note.

   _First printed_, _8vo_, _September 1899_. _Reprinted November
   1899_; _December 1899_; _January 1900 (with corrections)_. _Cabinet
   Edition_, _Crown 8vo_, _February 1901_. _Reprinted December, 1902_.
   _July, 1904_



How far reasoning on happiness is of any use                   1
The arguments of the Determinist                               2
The arguments for free will                                    3
_Securus judicat orbis terrarum_                               5


Happiness a condition of mind and often confused with
  the means of attaining it                                    7
Circumstances and character contribute to it in different
  degrees                                                      7
Religion, Stoicism, and Eastern nations seek it mainly by
 acting on disposition                                         7
Sensational philosophies and industrial and progressive
  nations seek it chiefly in improved circumstances            8
English character                                              8
Action of the body on happiness                               10
Influence of predispositions in reasonings on life            12
Promotion of health by legislation, fashion and self-culture  12
Slight causes of life failures                                14
Effects of sanitary reform                                    14
Diminished disease does not always imply a higher level of
  health                                                      15
Two causes depressing health                                  16
Encroachments on liberty in sanitary legislation              16
Sanitary education--its chief articles--its possible
  exaggeration                                                17
Constant thought about health not the way to attain it        18


Some general rules of happiness--1. A life full of
  work.--Happiness should not be the main object of pursuit   19
Carlyle on Ennui                                              20
2. Aim rather at avoiding suffering than attaining pleasure   21
3. The greatest pleasures and pains in spheres accessible to
  all                                                         22
4. Importance and difficulty of realising our blessings while
  they last                                                   24
Comparison and contrast                                       26
Content not the quality of progressive societies              27
The problem of balancing content and the desire for progress  28
What civilisation can do for happiness                        28


The relation of morals to happiness.--The Utilitarian
  justification of virtue insufficient                        30
Power of man to aim at something different from and higher
  than happiness                                              32
General coincidence of duty and happiness                     33
The creation of unselfish interests one of the chief elements
  of happiness                                                34
Burke on a well-ordered life                                  35
Improvement of character more within our power than
  improvement of intellect                                    36
High moral qualities often go with low intellectual power     36
Dangers attaching to the unselfish side of our nature.--Active
  charity personally supervised least subject to abuse        37
Disproportioned compassion                                    38
Treatment of animals                                          41


Changes of morals chiefly in the proportionate value attached
  to different virtues                                        44
Military, civic, and intellectual virtues                     44
The mediæval type                                             45
Modifications introduced by Protestantism                     47
Bossuet and Louis XIV.                                        48
Persecution.--Operations at childbirth.--Usury                50
Every great religion and philosophic system produces or
  favours a distinct moral type                               51
Variations in moral judgments                                 51
Complexity of moral influences of modern times.--The industrial
  type                                                        53
Qualified by other influences                                 54
Unnecessary suffering                                         57
Goethe's exposition of modern morals                          58
Morals hitherto too much treated negatively                   59
Possibility of an over-sensitive conscience                   60
Increased sense of the obligations of an active life          61


In the guidance of life action more important than pure
  reasoning                                                   62
The enforcement of active duty now specially needed           62
Temptations to luxurious idleness                             63
Rectification of false ideals.--The conqueror                 64
The luxury of ostentation                                     64
Glorification of the demi-monde                               66
Study of ideals                                               67
The human mind more capable of distinguishing right
  from wrong than of measuring merit and demerit              67
Fallibility of moral judgments                                68
Rules for moral judgment                                      73


The school of Rousseau considers man by nature wholly
  good                                                        76
Other schools maintain that he is absolutely depraved         76
Exaggerations of these schools                                78
The restraining conscience distinctively human.--Comparison
  with the animals                                            79
Reality of human depravity.--Illustrated by war               81
Large amount of pure malevolence.--Political crime.--The
  press                                                       83
Mendacity in finance                                          85
The sane view of human character                              86
We learn with age to value restraints, to expect moderately
and value compromise                                          86


Moral compromise a necessity in life.--Statement of Newman    88
Impossibility of acting on it                                 88
Moral considerations though the highest must not absorb
  all others                                                  90
Truthfulness--cases in which it may be departed from          91

_Moral compromise in war_
    War necessarily stimulates the malevolent passions and
      practises deception                                     92
    Rights of war in early stages of civilisation             93
    Distinction between Greeks and Barbarians                 94
    Roman moralists insisted on just causes of war and on
      formal declaration                                      95
    Treatment of prisoners.--Combatants and non-combatants    95
    Treatment of private property                             96
    Lawful and unlawful methods of conducting war             96
    Abdication by the soldier of private judgment and free
      will                                                    98
    Distinctions and compromises                              99
    Cases in which the military oath may be broken.--Illegal
      orders                                                 100
    Violation of religious obligations.--The Sepoy mutiny    101
    The Italian conscript.--Fenians in the British army      104


_Moral compromise in the law_
    What advocates may and may not do                        108
    Inevitable temptations of the profession                 109
    Its condemnation by Swift, Arnold, Macaulay, Bentham     109
    Its defence by Paley, Johnson, Basil Montagu             110
    How far a lawyer may support a bad case.--St. Thomas
      Aquinas and Catholic casuists                          111
    Sir Matthew Hale.--General custom in England             113
    Distinction between the etiquette of prosecution and
      of defence                                             113
    The case of Courvoisier                                  114
    Statement of Lord Brougham                               115
    The license of cross-examination.--Technicalities defeating
      justice                                                116
    Advantage of trial by jury                               119
    Necessity of the profession of advocate                  119

_Moral compromise in politics_
    Necessity of party                                       120
    How far conscientious differences should impair party
      allegiance                                             121
    Lines of conduct adopted when such differences arise     121
    Parliamentary obstruction                                123
    Moral difficulties inseparable from party                124
    Evil of extreme view of party allegiance.--Government
      and the Opposition                                     125
    Relations of members to their constituents               127
    Votes given without adequate knowledge                   131
    Diminished power of the private member                   134



Duty of a statesman when the interests and wishes of his
  nation conflict                                            136
Nature and extent of political trusteeship                   137
Temperance questions                                         138
Legitimate and illegitimate time-serving                     141
Education questions                                          141
Inconsistency in politics--how far it should be condemned    147
The conduct of Peel in 1829 and 1845                         148
The conduct of Disraeli in 1867                              149
Different degrees of weight to be attached to party
  considerations                                             151
Temptations to war                                           153
Temptations of aristocratic and of democratic governments    155
Necessity of assimilating legislation                        157
Legislation violating contracts.--Irish land legislation     158
Questions forced into prominence for party objects           164
The judgment of public servants who have committed
  indefensible acts                                          165
The French _coup d'état_ of 1851                             166
Judgments passed upon it                                     177
Probable multiplication of _coups d'état_                    182
Governor Eyre                                                184
The Jameson raid                                             185
How statesmen should deal with political misdeeds            190
The standard of international morals--questions connected
  with it                                                    191
The ethics of annexation                                     195
Political morals and public opinion                          196


_Moral compromise in the Church_
    Difficulties of reconciling old formularies with changed
      beliefs                                                198
    Cause of some great revolutions of belief.--The Copernican
      system.--Discovery of Newton                           198
    The antiquity of the world, of death, and of man         200
    The Darwinian theory                                     201
    Comparative mythology.--Biblical criticism.--Scientific
      habits of thought                                      201
    General incorporation of new ideas into the Church       204
    Growth of the sacerdotal spirit                          204
    The two theories of the Reformation                      205
    Modern Ritualism                                         210
    Its various elements of attraction                       211
    Diversity of teaching has not enfeebled the Church       213
    Its literary activity.--Proofs that the Church is in
      touch with educated laymen                             214
    Its political influence--how far this is a test of
      vitality                                               218
    Its influence on education                               219
    Its spiritual influence                                  220
    How far clergymen who dissent from parts of its
      theology can remain within it                          221
    Newman on a Latitudinarian establishment                 223
    Obligations imposed on the clergy by the fact of
      Establishment                                          224
    Attitude of laymen towards the Church                    225
    Increasing sense of the relativity of belief             226
    This tendency strengthens with age                       227
    The conflict between belief and scepticism               229
    Power of religion to undergo transformation              229
    Probable influence of the sacerdotal spirit on the
      Church                                                 231



A sound judgment of our own characters essential to moral
  improvement                                                235
Analogies between character and taste                        236
The strongest desire generally prevails, but desires may be
  modified                                                   238
Passions and habits                                          239
Exaggerated regard for the future.--A happy childhood        239
Choice of pleasures.--Athletic games                         240
The intellectual pleasures                                   242
Their tendency to enhance other pleasures.--Importance of
  specialisation                                             243
And of judicious selection                                   243
Education may act specially on the desires or on the will    245
Modern education and tendencies of the former kind           245
Old Catholic training mainly of the will.--Its effects       247
Anglo-Saxon types in the seventeenth century                 248
Capriciousness of willpower--heroism often succumbs to vice  249
Courage--its varieties and inconsistencies                   250
The circumstances of life the school of will.--Its place in
  character                                                  251
Dangers of an early competence.--Choice of work              252
Choice of friends.--Effect of early friendship on character  254
Mastery of will over thoughts.--Its intellectual importance  255
Its importance in moral culture                              255
Great difference among men in this respect                   256
Means of governing thought                                   258
The dream power--its great place in life                     258
Especially in the early stages of humanity                   261
Moral safety valves--danger of inventing unreal crimes       262
Character of the English gentleman                           266
Different ways of treating temptation                        266



Henry Taylor on its relation to character                    268
Difference between real and professed beliefs about money    268
Its relation to happiness in different grades of life        269
The cost of pleasures                                        275
Lives of the millionaires                                    281
Leaders of Society                                           284
The great speculator                                         287
Expenditure in charity.--Rules for regulating it             288
Advantages and disadvantages of a large very wealthy class
  in a nation                                                292
Directions in which philanthropic expenditure may be best
  turned                                                     296



Its importance and the motives that lead to it               300
The moral and intellectual qualities it specially demands    302
Duty to the unborn.--Improvident marriages                   305
The doctrine of heredity and its consequences                306
Religious celibacy                                           308
Marriages of dissimilar types often peculiarly happy         309
Marriages resulting from a common weakness                   310
Independent spheres in marriage.--Effect on character        311
The age of marriage                                          312
Increased independence of women                              314



Success depends more on character than on intellect          316
Especially that accessible to most men and most conducive
  to happiness                                               317
Strength of will, tact and judgment.--Not always joined      317
Their combination a great element of success                 318
Good nature                                                  319
Tact: its nature and its importance                          320
Its intellectual and moral affinities                        323
Value of good society in cultivating it.--Newman's description
  of a gentleman                                             324
Disparities between merit and success                        326
Success not universally desired                              326



Rebellion of human nature against the essential conditions
  of life                                                    328
Time 'the stuff of life'                                     330
Various ways of treating it                                  330
Increased intensity of life                                  331
Sleep                                                        332
Apparent inequalities of time                                335
The tenure of life not too short                             337
Old age                                                      341
The growing love of rest.--How time should be regarded       341



Death terrible chiefly through its accessories               343
Pagan and Christian ideas about it                           344
Premature death                                              349
How easily the fear of death is overcome                     351
The true way of regarding it                                 352



One of the first questions that must naturally occur to every writer who
deals with the subject of this book is, what influence mere discussion
and reasoning can have in promoting the happiness of men. The
circumstances of our lives and the dispositions of our characters mainly
determine the measure of happiness we enjoy, and mere argument about the
causes of happiness and unhappiness can do little to affect them. It is
impossible to read the many books that have been written on these
subjects without feeling how largely they consist of mere sounding
generalities which the smallest experience shows to be perfectly
impotent in the face of some real and acute sorrow, and it is equally
impossible to obtain any serious knowledge of the world without
perceiving that a large proportion of the happiest lives and characters
are to be found where introspection, self-analysis and reasonings about
the good and evil of life hold the smallest place. Happiness, indeed,
like health, is one of the things of which men rarely think except when
it is impaired, and much that has been written on the subject has been
written under the stress of some great depression. Such writers are
like the man in Hogarth's picture occupying himself in the debtors'
prison with plans for the payment of the National Debt. There are
moments when all of us feel the force of the words of Voltaire:
'Travaillons sans raisonner, c'est le seul moyen de rendre la vie

That there is much truth in such considerations is incontestable, and it
is only within a restricted sphere that the province of reasoning
extends. Man comes into the world with mental and moral characteristics
which he can only very imperfectly influence, and a large proportion of
the external circumstances of his life lie wholly or mainly beyond his
control. At the same time, every one recognises the power of skill,
industry and perseverance to modify surrounding circumstances; the power
of temperance and prudence to strengthen a naturally weak constitution,
prolong life, and diminish the chances of disease; the power of
education and private study to develop, sharpen and employ to the best
advantage our intellectual faculties. Every one also recognises how
large a part of the unhappiness of most men may be directly traced to
their own voluntary and deliberate acts. The power each man possesses in
the education and management of his character, and especially in the
cultivation of the dispositions and tendencies which most largely
contribute to happiness, is less recognised and is perhaps less
extensive, but it is not less real.

The eternal question of free will and determinism here naturally meets
us, but on such a subject it is idle to suppose that a modern writer can
do more than define the question and state his own side. The
Determinist says that the real question is not whether a man can do
what he desires, but whether he can do what he does not desire; whether
the will can act without a motive; whether that motive can in the last
analysis be other than the strongest pleasure. The illusion of free
will, he maintains, is only due to the conflict of our motives. Under
many forms and disguises pleasure and pain have an absolute empire over
conduct. The will is nothing more than the last and strongest desire; or
it is like a piece of iron surrounded by magnets and necessarily drawn
by the most powerful; or (as has been ingeniously imagined) like a
weathercock, conscious of its own motion, but not conscious of the winds
that are moving it. The law of compulsory causation applies to the world
of mind as truly as to the world of matter. Heredity and Circumstance
make us what we are. Our actions are the inevitable result of the mental
and moral constitutions with which we came into the world, operated on
by external influences.

The supporters of free will, on the other hand, maintain that it is a
fact of consciousness that there is a clear distinction between the Will
and the Desires, and that although they are closely connected no sound
analysis will confuse them. Coleridge ingeniously compared their
relations to 'the co-instantaneous yet reciprocal action of the air and
the vital energy of the lungs in breathing.'[1] If the will is
powerfully acted on by the desires, it has also in its turn a power of
acting upon them, and it is not a mere slave to pleasure and pain. The
supporters of this view maintain that it is a fact of the plainest
consciousness that we can do things which we do not like; that we can
suspend the force of imperious desires, resist the bias of our nature,
pursue for the sake of duty the course which gives least pleasure
without deriving or expecting from it any pleasure, and select at a
given moment between alternate courses. They maintain that when various
motives pass before the mind, the mind retains a power of choosing and
judging, of accepting and rejecting; that it can by force of reason or
by force of imagination bring one motive into prominence, concentrating
its attention on it and thus intensifying its power; that it has a
corresponding power of resisting other motives, driving them into the
background and thus gradually diminishing their force; that the will
itself becomes stronger by exercise, as the desires do by indulgence.
The conflict between the will and the desires, the reality of
self-restraint and the power of Will to modify character, are among the
most familiar facts of moral life. In the words of Burke, 'It is the
prerogative of man to be in a great degree a creature of his own
making.' There are men whose whole lives are spent in willing one thing
and desiring the opposite, and all morality depends upon the supposition
that we have at least some freedom of choice between good and evil. 'I
ought,' as Kant says, necessarily implies 'I can.' The feeling of moral
responsibility is an essential part of healthy and developed human
nature, and it inevitably presupposes free will. The best argument in
its favour is that it is impossible really to disbelieve it. No human
being can prevent himself from viewing certain acts with an indignation,
shame, remorse, resentment, gratitude, enthusiasm, praise or blame,
which would be perfectly unmeaning and irrational if these acts could
not have been avoided. We can have no higher evidence on the subject
than is derived from this fact. It is impossible to explain the mystery
of free will, but until a man ceases to feel these emotions he has not
succeeded in disbelieving in it. The feelings of all men and the
vocabularies of all languages attest the universality of the belief.

Newman, in a well-known passage in his 'Apologia,' describes the immense
effect which the sentence of Augustine, 'Securus judicat orbis
terrarum,' had upon his opinions in determining him to embrace the
Church of Rome. The force of this consideration in relation to the
subject to which Dr. Newman refers does not appear to have great weight.
It means only that at a time when the Christian Church included but a
small fraction of the human race; when all questions of orthodoxy or the
reverse were practically in the hands of the priesthood; when ignorance,
credulity and superstition were at their height and the habits of
independence and impartiality of judgment running very low; and when
every kind of violent persecution was directed against those who
dissented from the prevailing dogmas,--certain councils of priests found
it possible to attain unanimity on such questions as the two natures in
Christ or the relations of the Persons in the Trinity, and to expel from
the Church those who differed from their views, and that the once
formidable sects which held slightly different opinions about these
inscrutable relations gradually faded away. Such an unanimity on such
subjects and attained by such methods does not appear to me to carry
with it any overwhelming force. There are, however, a certain number of
beliefs that are not susceptible of demonstrative proof, and which must
always rest essentially on the universal assent of mankind. Such is the
existence of the external world. Such, in my opinion, is the existence
of a distinction between right and wrong, different from and higher than
the distinction between pleasure and pain, and subsisting in all human
nature in spite of great diversities of opinion about the acts and
qualities that are comprised in either category; and such also is the
kindred belief in a self-determining will. If men contend that these
things are mere illusions and that their faculties are not to be
trusted, it will no doubt be difficult or impossible to refute them; but
a scepticism of this kind has no real influence on either conduct or


[1] _Aids to Reflection_, p. 68.


Men continually forget that Happiness is a condition of Mind and not a
disposition of circumstances, and one of the most common of errors is
that of confusing happiness with the means of happiness, sacrificing the
first for the attainment of the second. It is the error of the miser,
who begins by seeking money for the enjoyment it procures and ends by
making the mere acquisition of money his sole object, pursuing it to the
sacrifice of all rational ends and pleasures. Circumstances and
Character both contribute to Happiness, but the proportionate attention
paid to one or other of these great departments not only varies largely
with different individuals, but also with different nations and in
different ages. Thus Religion acts mainly in the formation of
dispositions, and it is especially in this field that its bearing on
human happiness should be judged. It influences, it is true, vastly and
variously the external circumstances of life, but its chief power of
comforting and supporting lies in its direct and immediate action upon
the human soul. The same thing is true of some systems of philosophy of
which Stoicism is the most conspicuous. The paradox of the Stoic that
good and evil are so entirely from within that to a wise man all
external circumstances are indifferent, represents this view of life in
its extreme form. Its more moderate form can hardly be better expressed
than in the saying of Dugald Stewart that 'the great secret of
happiness is to study to accommodate our own minds to things external
rather than to accommodate things external to ourselves.'[2] It is
eminently the characteristic of Eastern nations to place their ideals
mainly in states of mind or feeling rather than in changes of
circumstances, and in such nations men are much less desirous than in
European countries of altering the permanent conditions of their lives.

On the other hand, the tendency of those philosophies which treat
man--his opinions and his character--essentially as the result of
circumstances, and which aggrandise the influence of the external world
upon mankind, is in the opposite direction. All the sensational
philosophies from Bacon and Locke to our own day tend to concentrate
attention on the external circumstances and conditions of happiness. And
the same tendency will be naturally found in the most active, industrial
and progressive nations; where life is very full and busy; where its
competitions are most keen; where scientific discoveries are rapidly
multiplying pleasures or diminishing pains; where town life with its
constant hurry and change is the most prominent. In such spheres men
naturally incline to seek happiness from without rather than from
within, or, in other words, to seek it much less by acting directly on
the mind and character than through the indirect method of improved

English character on both sides of the Atlantic is an eminently
objective one--a character in which thoughts, interests and emotions
are most habitually thrown on that which is without. Introspection and
self-analysis are not congenial to it. No one can compare English life
with life even in the Continental nations which occupy the same rank in
civilisation without perceiving how much less Englishmen are accustomed
either to dwell upon their emotions or to give free latitude to their
expression. Reticence and self-restraint are the lessons most constantly
inculcated. The whole tone of society favours it. In times of great
sorrow a degree of shame is attached to demonstrations of grief which in
other countries would be deemed perfectly natural. The disposition to
dilate upon and perpetuate an old grief by protracted mournings, by
carefully observed anniversaries, by long periods of retirement from the
world, is much less common than on the Continent and it is certainly
diminishing. The English tendency is to turn away speedily from the
past, and to seek consolation in new fields of activity. Emotions
translate themselves speedily into action, and they lose something of
their intensity by the transformation. Philanthropy is nowhere more
active and more practical, and religion has in few countries a greater
hold on the national life, but English Protestantism reflects very
clearly the national characteristics. It, no doubt, like all religions,
lays down rules for the government of thought and feeling, but these are
of a very general character. Preeminently a regulator of conduct, it
lays comparatively little stress upon the inner life. It discourages, or
at least neglects that minutely introspective habit of thought which the
confessional is so much calculated to promote, which appears so
prominently in the writings of the Catholic Saints, and which finds its
special representation in the mystics and the religious contemplative
orders. Improved conduct and improved circumstances are to an English
mind the chief and almost the only measures of progress.

That this tendency is on the whole a healthy one, I, at least, firmly
believe, but it brings with it certain manifest limitations and somewhat
incapacitates men from judging other types of character and happiness.
The part that circumstances play in the formation of our characters is
indeed very manifest, and it is a humiliating truth that among these
circumstances mere bodily conditions which we share with the animals
hold a foremost place. In the long run and to the great majority of men
health is probably the most important of all the elements of happiness.
Acute physical suffering or shattered health will more than
counterbalance the best gifts of fortune, and the bias of our nature and
even the processes of our reasoning are largely influenced by physical
conditions. Hume has spoken of that 'disposition to see the favourable
rather than the unfavourable side of things which it is more happiness
to possess than to be heir to an estate of 10,000_l._ a year;' but this
gift of a happy temperament is very evidently greatly due to bodily
conditions. On the other hand, it is well known how speedily and how
powerfully bodily ailments react upon our moral natures. Every one is
aware of the morbid irritability that is produced by certain maladies of
the nerves or of the brain; of the deep constitutional depression which
often follows diseases of the liver, or prolonged sleeplessness and
other hypochondriacal maladies, and which not only deprives men of most
of their capacity of enjoyment, but also infallibly gives a colour and a
bias to their reasonings on life; of the manner in which animal passions
as well as animal spirits are affected by certain well-known conditions
of age and health. In spite of the 'coelum non animum mutant' of
Horace, few men fail to experience how different is the range of spirits
in the limbo-like atmosphere of a London winter and beneath the glories
of an Italian sky or in the keen bracing atmosphere of the mountain
side, and it is equally apparent how differently we judge the world when
we are jaded by a long spell of excessive work or refreshed after a
night of tranquil sleep. Poetry and Painting are probably not wrong in
associating a certain bilious temperament with a predisposition to envy,
or an anæmic or lymphatic temperament with a saintly life, and there are
well-attested cases in which an acute illness has fundamentally altered
characters, sometimes replacing an habitual gloom by buoyancy and
light.[3] That invaluable gift which enables some men to cast aside
trouble and turn their thoughts and energies swiftly and decisively into
new channels can be largely strengthened by the action of the will, but
according to some physiologists it has a well-ascertained physical
antecedent in the greater or less contractile power of the blood-vessels
which feed the brain causing the flow of blood into it to be stronger or
less rapid. If it be true that 'a healthy mind in a healthy body' is the
supreme condition of happiness, it is also true that the healthy mind
depends more closely than we like to own on the healthy body.

These are but a few obvious instances of the manner in which the body
acts upon happiness. They do not mean that the will is powerless in the
face of bodily conditions, but that in the management of character it
has certain very definite predispositions to encounter. In reasonings on
life, even more than on other things, a good reasoner will consider not
only the force of the opposing arguments, but also the bias to which his
own mind is subject. To raise the level of national health is one of the
surest ways of raising the level of national happiness, and in
estimating the value of different pleasures many which, considered in
themselves, might appear to rank low upon the scale, will rank high, if
in addition to the immediate and transient enjoyment they procure, they
contribute to form a strong and healthy body. No branch of legislation
is more really valuable than that which is occupied with the health of
the people, whether it takes the form of encouraging the means by which
remedies may be discovered and diffused, or of extirpating by combined
efforts particular diseases, or of securing that the mass of labour in
the community should as far as possible be carried on under sound
sanitary conditions. Fashion also can do much, both for good and ill. It
exercises over great multitudes an almost absolute empire, regulating
their dress, their education, their hours, their amusements, their food,
their scale of expenditure; determining the qualities to which they
principally aspire, the work in which they may engage, and even the form
of beauty which they most cultivate. It is happy for a nation when this
mighty influence is employed in encouraging habits of life which are
beneficial or at least not gravely prejudicial to health. Nor is any
form of individual education more really valuable than that which
teaches the main conditions of a healthy life and forms those habits of
temperance and self-restraint that are most likely to attain it.

With its great recuperative powers Youth can do with apparent impunity
many things which in later life bring a speedy Nemesis; but on the other
hand Youth is pre-eminently the period when habits and tastes are
formed, and the yoke which is then lightly, willingly, wantonly assumed
will in after years acquire a crushing weight. Few things are more
striking than the levity of the motives, the feebleness of the impulses
under which in youth fatal steps are taken which bring with them a
weakened life and often an early grave. Smoking in manhood, when
practised in moderation, is a very innocent and probably beneficent
practice, but it is well known how deleterious it is to young boys, and
how many of them have taken to it through no other motive than a desire
to appear older than they are--that surest of all signs that we are very
young. How often have the far more pernicious habits of drinking, or
gambling, or frequenting corrupt society been acquired through a similar
motive, or through the mere desire to enjoy the charm of a forbidden
pleasure or to stand well with some dissipated companions! How large a
proportion of lifelong female debility is due to an early habit of tight
lacing, springing only from the silliest vanity! How many lives have
been sacrificed through the careless recklessness which refused to take
the trouble of changing wet clothes! How many have been shattered and
shortened by excess in things which in moderation are harmless, useful,
or praiseworthy,--by the broken blood-vessel, due to excess in some
healthy athletic exercise or game; by the ruined brain overstrained in
order to win some paltry prize! It is melancholy to observe how many
lives have been broken down, ruined or corrupted in attempts to realise
some supreme and unattainable desire; through the impulse of
overmastering passion, of powerful and perhaps irresistible temptation.
It is still sadder to observe how large a proportion of the failures of
life may be ultimately traced to the most insignificant causes and might
have been avoided without any serious effort either of intellect or

The success with which medicine and sanitary science have laboured to
prolong life, to extirpate or diminish different forms of disease and to
alleviate their consequences is abundantly proved. In all civilised
countries the average of life has been raised, and there is good reason
to believe that not only old age but also active, useful, enjoyable old
age has become much more frequent. It is true that the gain to human
happiness is not quite as great as might at first sight be imagined.
Death is least sad when it comes in infancy or in extreme old age, and
the increased average of life is largely due to the great diminution in
infant mortality, which is in truth a very doubtful blessing. If extreme
old age is a thing to be desired, it is perhaps chiefly because it
usually implies a constitution which gives many earlier years of robust
and healthy life. But with all deductions the triumphs of sanitary
reform as well as of medical science are perhaps the brightest page in
the history of our century. Some of the measures which have proved most
useful can only be effected at some sacrifice of individual freedom and
by widespread coercive sanitary regulations, and are thus more akin to
despotism than to free government. How different would have been the
condition of the world, and how far greater would have been the
popularity of strong monarchy if at the time when such a form of
government generally prevailed rulers had had the intelligence to put
before them the improvement of the health and the prolongation of the
lives of their subjects as the main object of their policy rather than
military glory or the acquisition of territory or mere ostentatious and
selfish display!

There is, however, some reason to believe that the diminution of disease
and the prolongation of average human life are not necessarily or even
generally accompanied by a corresponding improvement in general health.
'Acute diseases,' says an excellent judge, 'which are eminently fatal,
prevail, on the contrary, in a population where the standard of health
is high.... Thus a high rate of mortality may often be observed in a
community where the number of persons affected with disease is small,
and on the other hand general physical depression may concur with the
prevalence of chronic maladies and yet be unattended with a great
proportion of deaths.'[4] An anæmic population, free from severe
illness, but living habitually at a low level of health and with the
depressed spirits and feeble capacity of enjoyment which such a
condition produces, is far from an ideal state, and there is much reason
to fear that this type is an increasing one. Many things in modern life,
among which ill-judged philanthropy and ill-judged legislation have no
small part, contribute to produce it, but two causes probably dominate
over all others. The one is to be found in sanitary science itself,
which enables great numbers of constitutionally weak children who in
other days would have died in infancy to grow up and marry and propagate
a feeble offspring. The other is the steady movement of population from
the country to the towns, which is one of the most conspicuous features
of modern civilisation. These two influences inevitably and powerfully
tend to depress the vitality of a nation, and by doing so to lower the
level of animal spirits which is one of the most essential elements of
happiness. Whether our improved standards of living and our much greater
knowledge of sanitary conditions altogether counteract them is very

In this as in most questions affecting life there are opposite dangers
to be avoided, and wisdom lies mainly in a just sense of proportion and
degree. That sanitary reform, promoted by governments, has on the whole
been a great blessing seems to me scarcely open to reasonable question,
but many of the best judges are of opinion that it may easily be pushed
to dangerous extremes. Pew things are more curious than to observe how
rapidly during the past generation the love of individual liberty has
declined; how contentedly the English race are submitting great
departments of their lives to a web of regulations restricting and
encircling them. Each individual case must be considered on its merits,
and few persons will now deny that the right of adult men and women to
regulate the conditions of their own work and to determine the risks
that they will assume may be wisely infringed in more cases than the
Manchester School would have admitted. At the same time the marked
tendency of this generation to extend the stringency and area of
coercive legislation in the fields of industry and sanitary reform is
one that should be carefully watched. Its exaggerations may in more ways
than one greatly injure the very classes it is intended to benefit.

A somewhat corresponding statement may be made about individual sanitary
education. It is, as I have said, a matter of the most vital importance
that we should acquire in youth the knowledge and the habits that lead
to a healthy life. The main articles of the sanitary creed are few and
simple. Moderation and self-restraint in all things--an abundance of
exercise, of fresh air, and of cold water--a sufficiency of steady work
not carried to excess--occasional change of habits and abstinence from a
few things which are manifestly injurious to health, are the cardinal
rules to be observed. In the great lottery of life, men who have
observed them all may be doomed to illness, weak vitality, and early
death, but they at least add enormously to the chances of a strong and
full life. The parent will need further knowledge for the care of his
children, but for self-guidance little more is required, and with early
habits an observance of the rules of health becomes almost instinctive
and unconscious. But while no kind of education is more transcendently
important than this, it is not unfrequently carried to an extreme which
defeats its own purpose. The habit that so often grows upon men with
slight chronic maladies, or feeble temperament, or idle lives, of making
their own health and their own ailments the constant subject of their
thoughts soon becomes a disease very fatal to happiness and positively
injurious to health. It is well known how in an epidemic the
panic-stricken are most liable to the contagion, and the life of the
habitual valetudinarian tends promptly to depress the nerve energy which
provides the true stamina of health. In the words of an eminent
physician, 'It is not by being anxious in an inordinate or unduly fussy
fashion that men can hope to live long and well. The best way to live
well is to work well. Good work is the daily test and safeguard of
personal health.... The practical aim should be to live an orderly and
natural life. We were not intended to pick our way through the world
trembling at every step.... It is worse than vain, for it encourages and
increases the evil it attempts to relieve.... I firmly believe one half
of the confirmed invalids of the day could be cured of their maladies if
they were compelled to live busy and active lives and had no time to
fret over their miseries.... One of the most seductive and mischievous
of errors in self-management is the practice of giving way to inertia,
weakness and depression.... Those who desire to live should settle this
well in their minds, that nerve power is the force of life and that the
will has a wondrously strong and direct influence over the body through
the brain and the nervous system.'[5]


[2] _Active and Moral Powers_, ii. 312.

[3] Much curious information on this subject will be found in Cabanis'
_Rapports du physique et du moral de l'homme_.

[4] Kay's _Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes_, p. 75.

[5] Mortimer Granville's _How to Make the Best of Life_.


Before entering into a more particular account of the chief elements of
a happy life it may be useful to devote a few pages to some general
considerations on the subject.

One of the first and most clearly recognised rules to be observed is
that happiness is most likely to be attained when it is not the direct
object of pursuit. In early youth we are accustomed to divide life
broadly into work and play, regarding the first as duty or necessity and
the second as pleasure. One of the great differences between childhood
and manhood is that we come to like our work more than our play. It
becomes to us, if not the chief pleasure, at least the chief interest of
our lives, and even when it is not this, an essential condition of our
happiness. Few lives produce so little happiness as those that are
aimless and unoccupied. Apart from all considerations of right and
wrong, one of the first conditions of a happy life is that it should be
a full and busy one, directed to the attainment of aims outside
ourselves. Anxiety and Ennui are the Scylla and Charybdis on which the
bark of human happiness is most commonly wrecked. If a life of luxurious
idleness and selfish ease in some measure saves men from the first
danger, it seldom fails to bring with it the second. No change of scene,
no multiplicity of selfish pleasures will in the long run enable them
to escape it. As Carlyle says, 'The restless, gnawing ennui which, like
a dark, dim, ocean flood, communicating with the Phlegethons and Stygian
deeps, begirdles every human life so guided--is it not the painful cry
even of that imprisoned heroism?... You ask for happiness. "Oh give me
happiness," and they hand you ever new varieties of covering for the
skin, ever new kinds of supply for the digestive apparatus.... Well,
rejoice in your upholsteries and cookeries if so be they will make you
"happy." Let the varieties of them be continual and innumerable. In all
things let perpetual change, if that is a perpetual blessing to you, be
your portion instead of mine. Incur the prophet's curse and in all
things in this sublunary world "make yourselves like unto a wheel."
Mount into your railways; whirl from place to place at the rate of fifty
or, if you like, of five hundred miles an hour; you cannot escape from
that inexorable, all-encircling ocean moan of ennui. No; if you could
mount to the stars and do yacht voyages under the belts of Jupiter or
stalk deer on the ring of Saturn it would still begirdle you. You cannot
escape from it; you can but change your place in it without solacement
except one moment's. That prophetic Sermon from the Deeps will continue
with you till you wisely interpret it and do it or else till the Crack
of Doom swallow it and you.'[6]

It needs but a few years of life experience to realise the profound
truth of this passage. An ideal life would be furnished with abundant
work of a kind that is congenial both to our intellects and our
characters and that brings with it much interest and little anxiety. Few
of us can command this. Most men's work is largely determined for them
by circumstances, though in the guidance of life there are many
alternatives and much room for skilful pilotage. But the first great
rule is that we must do something--that life must have a purpose and an
aim--that work should be not merely occasional and spasmodic, but steady
and continuous. Pleasure is a jewel which will only retain its lustre
when it is in a setting of work, and a vacant life is one of the worst
of pains, though the islands of leisure that stud a crowded,
well-occupied life may be among the things to which we look back with
the greatest delight.

Another great truth is conveyed in the saying of Aristotle that a wise
man will make it his aim rather to avoid suffering than to attain
pleasure. Men can in reality do very little to mitigate the force of the
great bereavements and the other graver calamities of life. All our
systems of philosophy and reasoning are vain when confronted with them.
Innate temperament which we cannot greatly change determines whether we
sink crushed beneath the blow or possess the buoyancy that can restore
health to our natures. The conscious and deliberate pursuit of pleasure
is attended by many deceptions and illusions, and rarely leads to
lasting happiness. But we can do very much by prudence, self-restraint
and intelligent regulation so to manage life as to avoid a large
proportion of its calamities and at the same time, by preserving the
affections pure and undimmed, by diversifying interests and forming
active habits, to combat its tedium and despondency.

Another truth is that both the greatest pleasures and the keenest pains
of life lie much more in those humbler spheres which are accessible to
all than on the rare pinnacles to which only the most gifted or the most
fortunate can attain. It would probably be found upon examination that
most men who have devoted their lives successfully to great labours and
ambitions, and who have received the most splendid gifts from Fortune,
have nevertheless found their chief pleasure in things unconnected with
their main pursuits and generally within the reach of common men.
Domestic pleasures, pleasures of scenery, pleasures of reading,
pleasures of travel or of sport have been the highest enjoyment of men
of great ambition, intellect, wealth and position. There is a curious
passage in Lord Althorp's Life in which that most popular and successful
statesman, towards the close of his long parliamentary life, expressed
his emphatic conviction that 'the thing that gave him the greatest
pleasure in the world' was 'to see sporting dogs hunt.'[7] I can myself
recollect going over a country place with an old member of Parliament
who had sat in the House of Commons for nearly fifty years of the most
momentous period of modern English history. If questioned he could tell
about the stirring scenes of the great Reform Bill of 1832, but it was
curious to observe how speedily and inevitably he passed from such
matters to the history of the trees on his estate which he had planted
and watched at every stage of their growth, and how evidently in the
retrospect of life it was to these things and not to the incidents of a
long parliamentary career that his affections naturally turned. I once
asked an illustrious public man who had served his country with
brilliant success in many lands, and who was spending the evening of his
life as an active country gentleman in a place which he dearly loved,
whether he did not find this sphere too contracted for his happiness.
'Never for a day,' he answered; 'and in every country where I have been,
in every post which I have filled, the thought of this place has always
been at the back of my mind.' A great writer who had devoted almost his
whole life to one gigantic work, and to his own surprise brought it at
last to a successful end, sadly observed that amid the congratulations
that poured in to him from every side he could not help feeling, when he
analysed his own emotions, how tepid was the satisfaction which such a
triumph could give him, and what much more vivid gratification he had
come to take in hearing the approaching steps of some little children
whom he had taught to love him.

It is one of the paradoxes of human nature that the things that are most
struggled for and the things that are most envied are not those which
give either the most intense or the most unmixed joy. Ambition is the
luxury of the happy. It is sometimes, but more rarely, the consolation
and distraction of the wretched; but most of those who have trodden its
paths, if they deal honestly with themselves, will acknowledge that the
gravest disappointments of public life dwindle into insignificance
compared with the poignancy of suffering endured at the deathbed of a
wife or of a child, and that within the small circle of a family life
they have found more real happiness than the applause of nations could
ever give.

     Look down, look down from your glittering heights,
       And tell us, ye sons of glory,
     The joys and the pangs of your eagle flights,
       The triumph that crowned the story,

     The rapture that thrilled when the goal was won,
       The goal of a life's desire;
     And a voice replied from the setting sun,
       Nay, the dearest and best lies nigher.

     How oft in such hours our fond thoughts stray
       To the dream of two idle lovers;
     To the young wife's kiss; to the child at play;
       Or the grave which the long grass covers!

     And little we'd reck of power or gold,
       And of all life's vain endeavour,
     If the heart could glow as it glowed of old,
        And if youth could abide for ever.

Another consideration in the cultivation of happiness is the importance
of acquiring the habit of realising our blessings while they last. It is
one of the saddest facts of human nature that we commonly only learn
their value by their loss. This, as I have already noticed, is very
evidently the case with health. By the laws of our being we are almost
unconscious of the action of our bodily organs as long as they are
working well. It is only when they are deranged, obstructed or impaired
that our attention becomes concentrated upon them. In consequence of
this a state of perfect health is rarely fully appreciated until it is
lost and during a short period after it has been regained. Gray has
described the new sensation of pleasure which convalescence gives in
well-known lines:

     See the wretch who long has tost
       On the thorny bed of pain,
     At length repair his vigour lost
       And breathe and walk again;
     The meanest floweret of the vale,
     The simplest note that swells the gale,
       The common sun, the air, the skies,
       To him are opening Paradise.

And what is true of health is true of other things. It is only when some
calamity breaks the calm tenor of our ways and deprives us of some gift
of fortune we have long enjoyed that we feel how great was the value of
what we have lost. There are times in the lives of most of us when we
would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though
that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed.
Sometimes, indeed, our perception of this contrast brings with it a
lasting and salutary result. In the medicine of Nature a chronic and
abiding disquietude or morbidness of temperament is often cured by some
keen though more transient sorrow which violently changes the current of
our thoughts and imaginations.

The difference between knowledge and realisation is one of the facts of
our nature that are most worthy of our attention. Every human mind
contains great masses of inert, passive, undisputed knowledge which
exercise no real influence on thought or character till something occurs
which touches our imagination and quickens this knowledge into
activity. Very few things contribute so much to the happiness of life as
a constant realisation of the blessings we enjoy. The difference between
a naturally contented and a naturally discontented nature is one of the
marked differences of innate temperament, but we can do much to
cultivate that habit of dwelling on the benefits of our lot which
converts acquiescence into a more positive enjoyment. Religion in this
field does much, for it inculcates thanksgiving as well as prayer,
gratitude for the present and the past as well as hope for the future.
Among secular influences, contrast and comparison have the greatest
value. Some minds are always looking on the fortunes that are above them
and comparing their own penury with the opulence of others. A wise
nature will take an opposite course and will cultivate the habit of
looking rather at the round of the ladder of fortune which is below our
own and realising the countless points in which our lot is better than
that of others. As Dr. Johnson says, 'Few are placed in a situation so
gloomy and distressful as not to see every day beings yet more forlorn
and miserable from whom they may learn to rejoice in their own lot.'

The consolation men derive amid their misfortunes from reflecting upon
the still greater misfortunes of others and thus lightening their own by
contrast is a topic which must be delicately used, but when so used it
is not wrong and it often proves very efficacious. Perhaps the pleasure
La Rochefoucauld pretends that men take in the misfortunes of their best
friends, if it is a real thing, is partly due to this consideration, as
the feeling of pity which is inspired by some sudden death or great
trouble falling on others is certainly not wholly unconnected with the
realisation that such calamities might fall upon ourselves. It is worthy
of notice, however, that while all moralists recognise content as one of
the chief ingredients of happiness, some of the strongest influences of
modern industrial civilisation are antagonistic to it. The whole theory
of progress as taught by Political Economy rests upon the importance of
creating wants and desires as a stimulus to exertion. There are
countries, especially in southern climates, where the wants of men are
very few, and where, as long as those wants are satisfied, men will live
a careless and contented life, enjoying the present, thinking very
little of the future. Whether the sum of enjoyment in such a population
is really less than in our more advanced civilisation is at least open
to question. It is a remark of Schopenhauer that the Idyll, which is the
only form of poetry specially devoted to the description of human
felicity, always paints life in its simplest and least elaborated form,
and he sees in this an illustration of his doctrine that the greatest
happiness will be found in the simplest and even most uniform life
provided it escapes the evil of ennui. The political economist, however,
will pronounce the condition of such a people as I have described a
deplorable one, and in order to raise them his first task will be to
infuse into them some discontent with their lot, to persuade them to
multiply their wants and to aspire to a higher standard of comfort, to a
fuller and a larger existence. A discontent with existing circumstances
is the chief source of a desire to improve them, and this desire is the
mainspring of progress. In this theory of life, happiness is sought,
not in content, but in improved circumstances, in the development of new
capacities of enjoyment, in the pleasure which active existence
naturally gives. To maintain in their due proportion in our nature the
spirit of content and the desire to improve, to combine a realised
appreciation of the blessings we enjoy with a healthy and well-regulated
ambition, is no easy thing, but it is the problem which all who aspire
to a perfect life should set before themselves. _In medio tutissimus
ibis_ is eminently true of the cultivation of character, and some of its
best elements become pernicious in their extremes. Thus prudent
forethought, which is one of the first conditions of a successful life,
may easily degenerate into that most miserable state of mind in which
men are perpetually anticipating and dwelling upon the uncertain dangers
and evils of an uncertain future. How much indeed of the happiness and
misery of men may be included under those two words, realisation and

There is no such thing as a Eudæmometer measuring with accuracy the
degrees of happiness realised by men in different ages, under different
circumstances, and with different characters. Perhaps if such a thing
existed it might tend to discourage us by showing that diversities and
improvements of circumstances affect real happiness in a smaller degree
than we are accustomed to imagine. Our nature accommodates itself
speedily to improved circumstances, and they cease to give positive
pleasure while their loss is acutely painful. Advanced civilisation
brings with it countless and inestimable benefits, but it also brings
with it many forms of suffering from which a ruder existence is exempt.
There is some reason to believe that it is usually accompanied with a
lower range of animal spirits, and it is certainly accompanied with an
increased sensitiveness to pain. Some philosophers have contended that
this is the best of all possible worlds. It is difficult to believe so,
as the whole object of human effort is to make it a better one. But the
success of that effort is more apparent in the many terrible forms of
human suffering which it has abolished or diminished than in the higher
level of positive happiness that has been attained.


[6] _Latter-day Pamphlets:_ 'Jesuitism.'

[7] Le Marchant's _Life of Althorp_, p. 143.


Though the close relationship that subsists between morals and happiness
is universally acknowledged, I do not belong to the school which
believes that pleasure and pain, either actual or anticipated, are the
only motives by which the human will can be governed; that virtue
resolves itself ultimately into well-considered interest and finds its
ultimate reason in the happiness of those who practise it; that 'all our
virtues,' as La Rochefoucauld has said, 'end in self-love as the rivers
in the sea.' Such a proverb as 'Honesty is the best policy' represents
no doubt a great truth, though it has been well said that no man is
really honest who is only honest through this motive, and though it is
very evident that it is by no means an universal truth but depends
largely upon changing and precarious conditions of laws, police, public
opinion, and individual circumstances. But in the higher realms of
morals the coincidence of happiness and virtue is far more doubtful. It
is certainly not true that the highest nature is necessarily or even
naturally the happiest. Paganism has produced no more perfect type than
the profoundly pathetic figure of Marcus Aurelius, while Christianity
finds its ideal in one who was known as the 'Man of Sorrows.' The
conscience of Mankind has ever recognised self-sacrifice as the supreme
element of virtue, and self-sacrifice is never real when it is only the
exchange of a less happiness for a greater one. No moral chemistry can
transmute the worship of Sorrow, which Goethe described as the essence
of Christianity, into the worship of happiness, and probably with most
men health and temperament play a far larger part in the real happiness
of their lives than any of the higher virtues. The satisfaction of
accomplished duty which some moralists place among the chief pleasures
of life is a real thing in so far as it saves men from internal
reproaches, but it is probable that it is among the worst men that pangs
of conscience are least dreaded, and it is certainly not among the best
men that they are least felt. Conscience, indeed, when it is very
sensitive and very lofty, is far more an element of suffering than the
reverse. It aims at an ideal higher than we can attain. It takes the
lowest view of our own achievements. It suffers keenly from the many
shortcomings of which it is acutely sensible. Far from indulging in the
pleasurable retrospect of a well-spent life, it urges men to constant,
painful, and often unsuccessful effort. A nature that is strung to the
saintly or the heroic level will find itself placed in a jarring world,
will provoke much friction and opposition, and will be pained by many
things in which a lower nature would placidly acquiesce. The highest
form of intellectual virtue is that love of truth for its own sake which
breaks up prejudices, tempers enthusiasm by the full admission of
opposing arguments and qualifying circumstances, and places in the
sphere of possibility or probability many things which we would gladly
accept as certainties. Candour and impartiality are in a large degree
virtues of temperament; but no one who has any real knowledge of human
nature can doubt how much more pleasurable it is to most men to live
under the empire of invincible prejudice, deliberately shutting out
every consideration that could shake or qualify cherished beliefs.
'God,' says Emerson, 'offers to every mind its choice between truth and
repose. Take which you please. You can never have both.' One of the
strongest arguments of natural religion rests upon the fact that virtue
so often fails to bring its reward; upon the belief that is so deeply
implanted in human nature that this is essentially unjust and must in
some future state be remedied.

For such reasons as these I believe it to be impossible to identify
virtue with happiness, and the views of the opposite school seem to me
chiefly to rest upon an unnatural and deceptive use of words. Even when
the connection between virtue and pleasure is most close, it is true, as
the old Stoics said, that though virtue gives pleasure, this is not the
reason why a good man will practise it; that pleasure is the companion
and not the guide of his life; that he does not love virtue because it
gives pleasure, but it gives pleasure because he loves it.[8] A true
account of human nature will recognise that it has the power of aiming
at something which is different from happiness and something which may
be intelligibly described as higher, and that on the predominance of
this loftier aim the nobility of life essentially depends. It is not
even true that the end of man should be to find peace at the last. It
should be to do his duty and tell the truth.

But while this great truth of the existence of a higher aim than
happiness should be always maintained, the relations between morals and
happiness are close and intimate and well worthy of investigation. As
far as the lower or more commonplace virtues are concerned there can be
no mistake. It is very evident that a healthy, long and prosperous life
is more likely to be attained by industry, moderation and purity than by
the opposite courses. It is very evident that drunkenness and sensuality
ruin health and shorten life; that idleness, gambling and disorderly
habits ruin prosperity; that ill-temper, selfishness and envy kill
friendship and provoke animosities and dislike; that in every
well-regulated society there is at least a general coincidence between
the path of duty and the path of prosperity; dishonesty, violence and
disregard for the rights of others naturally and usually bringing their
punishment either from law or from public opinion or from both. Bishop
Butler has argued that the general tendency of virtue to lead to
happiness and the general tendency of vice to lead to unhappiness prove
that even in its present state there is a moral government of the world,
and whatever controversy may be raised about the inference there can at
least be no doubt about the substantial truth of the facts. Happiness,
as I have already said, is best attained when it is not the direct or at
least the main object that is aimed at. A wasted and inactive life not
only palls in itself but deprives men of the very real and definite
pleasure that naturally arises from the healthful activity of all our
powers, while a life of egotism excludes the pleasures of sympathy which
play so large a part in human happiness. One of the lessons which
experience most clearly teaches is that work, duty and the discipline of
character are essential elements of lasting happiness. The pleasures of
vice are often real, but they are commonly transient and they leave
legacies of suffering, weakness, or care behind them. The nobler
pleasures for the most part grow and strengthen with advancing years.
The passions of youth, when duly regulated, gradually transform
themselves into habits, interests and steady affections, and it is in
the long forecasts of life that the superiority of virtue as an element
of happiness becomes most apparent.

It has been truly said that such words as 'pastime' and 'diversion'
applied to our pleasures are among the most melancholy in the language,
for they are the confession of human nature that it cannot find
happiness in itself, but must seek for something that will fill up time,
will cover the void which it feels, and divert men's thoughts from the
conditions and prospects of their own lives. How much of the pleasure of
Society, and indeed of all amusements, depends on their power of making
us forget ourselves! The substratum of life is sad, and few men who
reflect on the dangers and uncertainties that surround it can find it
even tolerable without much extraneous aid. The first and most vital of
these aids is to be found in the creation of strong interests. It is one
of the laws of our being that by seeking interests rather than by
seeking pleasures we can best encounter the gloom of life. But those
only have the highest efficiency which are of an unselfish nature. By
throwing their whole nature into the interests of others men most
effectually escape the melancholy of introspection; the horizon of life
is enlarged; the development of the moral and sympathetic feelings
chases egotistic cares, and by the same paradox that we have seen in
other parts of human nature men best attain their own happiness by
absorbing themselves in the pursuit of the happiness of others.

The aims and perspective of a well-regulated life have never, I think,
been better described than in one of the letters of Burke to the Duke of
Richmond. 'It is wise indeed, considering the many positive vexations
and the innumerable bitter disappointments of pleasure in the world, to
have as many resources of satisfaction as possible within one's power.
Whenever we concentre the mind on one sole object, that object and life
itself must go together. But though it is right to have reserves of
employment, still some one object must be kept principal; greatly and
eminently so; and the other masses and figures must preserve their due
subordination, to make out the grand composition of an important
life.'[9] It is equally true that among these objects the disinterested
and the unselfish should hold a predominant place. With some this side
of their activity is restricted to the narrow circle of home or to the
isolated duties and charities of their own neighbourhood. With others it
takes the form of large public interests, of a keen participation in
social, philanthropic, political or religious enterprises. Character
plays a larger part than intellect in the happiness of life, and the
cultivation of the unselfish part of our nature is not only one of the
first lessons of morals but also of wisdom.

Like most other things its difficulties lie at the beginning, and it is
by steady practice that it passes into a second and instinctive nature.
The power of man to change organically his character is a very limited
one, but on the whole the improvement of character is probably more
within his reach than intellectual development. Time and Opportunity are
wanting to most men for any considerable intellectual study, and even
were it otherwise every man will find large tracts of knowledge and
thought wholly external to his tastes, aptitudes and comprehension. But
every one can in some measure learn the lesson of self-sacrifice,
practise what is right, correct or at least mitigate his dominant
faults. What fine examples of self-sacrifice, quiet courage, resignation
in misfortune, patient performance of painful duty, magnanimity and
forgiveness under injury may be often found among those who are
intellectually the most commonplace!

The insidious growth of selfishness is a disease against which men
should be most on their guard; but it is a grave though a common error
to suppose that the unselfish instincts may be gratified without
restraint. There is here, however, one important distinction to be
noted. The many and great evils that have sprung from lavish and
ill-considered charities do not always or perhaps generally spring from
any excess or extravagance of the charitable feeling. They are much more
commonly due to its defect. The rich man who never cares to inquire into
the details of the cases that are brought before him or to give any
serious thought to the ulterior consequences of his acts, but who is
ready to give money at any solicitation and who considers that by so
doing he has discharged his duty, is far more likely to do harm in this
way than the man who devotes himself to patient, plodding, house to
house work among the poor. The many men and the probably still larger
number of women who give up great portions of their lives to such work
soon learn to trace with considerable accuracy the consequences of their
charities and to discriminate between the worthy and the unworthy. That
such persons often become exclusive and one-sided, and acquire a kind of
professional bent which induces them to subordinate all national
considerations to their own subject and lose sight of the true
proportion of things, is undoubtedly true, but it will probably not be
found with the best workers that such a life tends to unduly intensify
emotion. As Bishop Butler has said with profound truth, active habits
are strengthened and passive impressions weakened by repetition, and a
life spent in active charitable work is quite compatible with much
sobriety and even coldness of judgment in estimating each case as it
arises. It is not the surgeon who is continually employed in operations
for the cure of his patients who is most moved at the sight of

This is, I believe, on the whole true, but it is also true that there
are grave diseases which attach themselves peculiarly to the unselfish
side of our nature, and they are peculiarly dangerous because men,
feeling that the unselfish is the virtuous and nobler side of their
being, are apt to suffer these tendencies to operate without supervision
or control. Yet it is hardly possible to exaggerate the calamities that
have sprung from misjudged unselfish actions. The whole history of
religious persecution abundantly illustrates it, for there can be
little question that a large proportion of the persecutors were
sincerely seeking what they believed to be the highest good of mankind.
And if this dark page of human history is now almost closed, there are
still many other ways in which a similar evil is displayed. Crotchets,
sentimentalities and fanaticisms cluster especially around the unselfish
side of our nature, and they work evil in many curious and subtle ways.
Few things have done more harm in the world than disproportioned
compassion. It is a law of our being that we are only deeply moved by
sufferings we distinctly realise, and the degrees in which different
kinds of suffering appeal to the imagination bear no proportion to their
real magnitude. The most benevolent man will read of an earthquake in
Japan or a plague in South America with a callousness he would never
display towards some untimely death or some painful accident in his
immediate neighbourhood, and in general the suffering of a prominent and
isolated individual strikes us much more forcibly than that of an
undistinguished multitude. Few deaths are so prominent, and therefore
few produce such widespread compassion, as those of conspicuous
criminals. It is no exaggeration to say that the death of an
'interesting' murderer will often arouse much stronger feelings than
were ever excited by the death of his victim; or by the deaths of brave
soldiers who perished by disease or by the sword in some obscure
expedition in a remote country. This mode of judgment acts promptly upon
conduct. The humanitarian spirit which mitigates the penal code and
makes the reclamation of the criminal a main object is a perfectly
right thing as long as it does not so far diminish the deterrent power
of punishment as to increase crime, and as long as it does not place the
criminal in a better position of comfort than the blameless poor, but
when these conditions are not fulfilled it is much more an evil than a
good. The remote, indirect and unrealised consequences of our acts are
often far more important than those which are manifest and direct, and
it continually happens that in extirpating some concentrated and
obtrusive evil, men increase or engender a diffused malady which
operates over a far wider area. How few, for example, who share the
prevailing tendency to deal with every evil that appears in Society by
coercive legislation adequately realise the danger of weakening the
robust, self-reliant, resourceful habits on which the happiness of
Society so largely depends, and at the same time, by multiplying the
functions and therefore increasing the expenses of government, throwing
new and crushing burdens on struggling industry! How often have
philanthropists, through a genuine interest for some suffering class or
people, advocated measures which by kindling, prolonging, or enlarging a
great war would infallibly create calamities far greater than those
which they would redress! How often might great outbursts of savage
crime or grave and lasting disorders in the State, or international
conflicts that have cost thousands of lives, have been averted by a
prompt and unflinching severity from which an ill-judged humanity
recoiled! If in the February of 1848 Louis Philippe had permitted
Marshal Bugeaud to fire on the Revolutionary mob at a time when there
was no real and widespread desire for revolution in France, how many
bloody pages of French and European history might have been spared!

Measures guaranteeing men, and still more women, from excessive labour,
and surrounding them with costly sanitary precautions, may easily, if
they are injudiciously framed, so handicap a sex or a people in the
competition of industry as to drive them out of great fields of
industry, restrict their means of livelihood, lower their standard of
wages and comfort, and thus seriously diminish the happiness of their
lives. Injudicious suppressions of amusements that are not wholly good,
but which afford keen enjoyment to great masses, seldom fail to give an
impulse to other pleasures more secret and probably more vicious.
Injudicious charities, or an extravagant and too indulgent poor law
administration, inevitably discourage industry and thrift, and usually
increase the poverty they were intended to cure. The parent who shrinks
from inflicting any suffering on his child, or withholding from him any
pleasure that he desires, is not laying the foundation of a happy life,
and the benevolence which counteracts or obscures the law of nature that
extravagance, improvidence and vice lead naturally to ruin, is no real
kindness either to the upright man who has resisted temptation or to the
weak man whose virtue is trembling doubtfully in the balance. Nor is it
in the long run for the benefit of the world that superior ability or
superior energy or industry should be handicapped in the race of life,
forbidden to encounter exceptional risks for the sake of exceptional
rewards, reduced by regulations to measures of work and gain intended
for the benefit of inferior characters or powers.

The fatal vice of ill-considered benevolence is that it looks only to
proximate and immediate results without considering either alternatives
or distant and indirect consequences. A large and highly respectable
form of benevolence is that connected with the animal world, and in
England it is carried in some respects to a point which is unknown on
the Continent. But what a strange form of compassion is that which long
made it impossible to establish a Pasteur Institute in England, obliging
patients threatened with one of the most horrible diseases that can
afflict mankind to go--as they are always ready to do--to Paris, in
order to undergo a treatment which what is called the humane sentiment
of Englishmen forbid them to receive at home! What a strange form of
benevolence is that which in a country where field sports are the
habitual amusement of the higher ranks of Society denounces as criminal
even the most carefully limited and supervised experiments on living
animals, and would thus close the best hope of finding remedies for some
of the worst forms of human suffering, the one sure method of testing
supposed remedies which may be fatal or which may be of incalculable
benefit to mankind! Foreign critics, indeed, often go much further and
believe that in other forms connected with this subject public opinion
in England is strangely capricious and inconsistent. They compare with
astonishment the sentences that are sometimes passed for the
ill-treatment of a woman and for the ill-treatment of a cat; they ask
whether the real sufferings caused by many things that are in England
punished by law or reprobated by opinion are greater than those caused
by sports which are constantly practised without reproach; and they are
apt to find much that is exaggerated or even fantastic in the great
popularity and elaboration of some animal charities.[10] At the same
time in our own country the more recognised field sports greatly trouble
many benevolent natures. I will here only say that while the positive
benefits they produce are great and manifest, those who condemn them
constantly forget what would be the fate of the animals that are
slaughtered if such sports did not exist, and how little the balance of
suffering is increased or altered by the destruction of beings which
themselves live by destroying. As a poet says--

     The fish exult whene'er the seagull dies,
     The salmon's death preserves a thousand flies.

On most of these questions the effect on human character is a more
important consideration than the effect on animal happiness. The best
thing that legislation can do for wild animals is to extend as far as
possible to harmless classes a close time, securing them immunity while
they are producing and supporting their young. This is the truest
kindness, and on quite other grounds it is peculiarly needed, as the
improvement of firearms and the increase of population have completely
altered, as far as man is concerned, the old balance between production
and destruction, and threaten, if unchecked, to lead to an almost
complete extirpation of great classes of the animal world. It is
melancholy to observe how often sensitive women who object to field
sports and who denounce all experiments on living animals will be found
supporting with perfect callousness fashions that are leading to the
wholesale destruction of some of the most beautiful species of birds,
and are in some cases dependent upon acts of very aggravated cruelty.


[8] Seneca, _De Vita Beata_.

[9] Burke's _Correspondence_, i. 376, 377.

[10] As I am writing these pages I find the following paragraph in a
newspaper which may illustrate my meaning:--'DOGS' NURSING. A case was
heard at the Brompton County Court on Friday in which some suggestive
evidence was given of the medical treatment of dogs. The proprietor of a
dogs' infirmary at Tattersall's Corner sued Mr. Harding Cox for the
board and lodging of seven dogs, and the _régime_ was explained. They
are fed on essence of meat, washed down with port wine, and have as a
digestive eggs beaten up in milk and arrowroot. Medicated baths and
tonics are also supplied, and occasionally the animals are treated to a
day in the country. This course of hygiene necessitated an expenditure
of ten shillings a week. The defendant pleaded that the charges were
excessive, but the judge awarded the plaintiff £25. How many hospital
patients receive such treatment?'--_Daily Express_, February 16, 1897.


The illustrations given in the last chapter will be sufficient to show
the danger of permitting the unselfish side of human nature to run wild
without serious control by the reason and by the will. To see things in
their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid
imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life, and in no fields
is it more needed than in those we have been reviewing. At the same time
every age has its own ideal moral type towards which the strongest and
best influences of the time converge. The history of morals is
essentially a history of the changes that take place not so much in our
conception of what is right and wrong as in the proportionate place and
prominence we assign to different virtues and vices. There are large
groups of moral qualities which in some ages of the world's history have
been regarded as of supreme importance, while in other ages they are
thrown into the background, and there are corresponding groups of vices
which are treated in some periods as very serious and in others as very
trivial. The heroic type of Paganism and the saintly type of
Christianity in its purest form, consist largely of the same elements,
but the proportions in which they are mixed are altogether different.
There are ages when the military and civic virtues--the qualities that
make good soldiers and patriotic citizens--dominate over all others. The
self-sacrifice of the best men flows habitually in these channels. In
such an age integrity in business relations and the domestic virtues
which maintain the purity of the family may be highly valued, but they
are chiefly valued because they are essential to the well-being of the
State. The soldier who has attained to the highest degree the best
qualities of his profession, the patriot who sacrifices to the services
of the State his comforts, his ambitions and his life, is the supreme
model, and the estimation in which he is held is but little lowered even
though he may have been guilty, like Cato, of atrocious cruelty to his
slaves, or, like some of the heroes of ancient times, of scandalous
forms of private profligacy.

There are other ages in which military life is looked upon by moralists
with disfavour, and in which patriotism ranks very low in the scale of
virtues, while charity, gentleness, self-abnegation, devotional habits,
and purity in thought, word and act are pre-eminently inculcated. The
intellectual virtues, again, which deal with truth and falsehood, form a
distinct group. The habit of mind which makes men love truth for its own
sake as the supreme ideal, and which turns aside from all falsehood,
exaggeration, party or sectarian misrepresentation and invention, is in
no age a common one, but there are some ages in which it is recognised
and inculcated as virtue, while there are others in which it is no
exaggeration to say that the whole tendency of religious teaching has
been to discourage it. During many centuries the ascetic and purely
ecclesiastical standard of virtue completely dominated. The domestic
virtues, though clearly recognised, held altogether a subordinate place
to what were deemed the higher virtues of the ascetic celibate.
Charity, though nobly cultivated and practised, was regarded mainly
through a dogmatic medium and practised less for the benefit of the
recipient than for the spiritual welfare of the donor.

In the eyes of multitudes the highest conception of a saintly life
consisted largely if not mainly in complete detachment from secular
interests and affections. No type was more admired, and no type was ever
more completely severed from all active duties and all human relations
than that of the saint of the desert or of the monk of one of the
contemplative orders. To die to the world; to become indifferent to its
aims, interests and pleasures; to measure all things by a standard
wholly different from human happiness, to live habitually for another
life was the constant teaching of the saints. In the stress laid on the
cultivation of the spiritual life the whole sphere of active duties sank
into a lower plane; and the eye of the mind was turned upwards and
inwards and but little on the world around. 'Happy,' said one saint, 'is
the mind which sees but two objects, God and self, one of which
conceptions fills it with a sovereign delight and the other abases it to
the extremest dejection.'[11] 'As much love as we give to creatures,'
said another saint, 'just so much we steal from the Creator.'[12] 'Two
things only do I ask,' said a third,[13] 'to suffer and to die.'
'Forsake all,' said Thomas à Kempis, 'and thou shalt find all. Leave
desire and thou shalt find rest.' 'Unless a man be disengaged from the
affection of all creatures he cannot with freedom of mind attend unto
Divine things.'

The gradual, silent and half-unconscious modification in the type of
Morals which took place after the Reformation was certainly not the
least important of its results. If it may be traced in some degree to
the distinctive theology of the Protestant Churches, it was perhaps
still more due to the abolition of clerical celibacy which placed the
religious teachers in the centre of domestic life and in close contact
with a large circle of social duties. There is even now a distinct
difference between the morals of a sincerely Catholic and a sincerely
Protestant country, and this difference is not so much, as
controversialists would tell us, in the greater and the less as in the
moral type, or, in other words, in the different degrees of importance
attached to different virtues and vices. Probably nowhere in the world
can more beautiful and more reverent types be found than in some of the
Catholic countries of Europe which are but little touched by the
intellectual movements of the age, but no good observer can fail to
notice how much larger is the place given to duties which rest wholly on
theological considerations, and how largely even the natural duties are
based on such considerations and governed, limited, and sometimes even
superseded by them. The ecclesiastics who at the Council of Constance
induced Sigismund to violate the safe-conduct he had given, and, in
spite of his solemn promise, to condemn Huss to a death of fire,[14] and
the ecclesiastics who at the Diet of Worms vainly tried to induce
Charles V. to act with a similar perfidy towards Luther, represent a
conception of morals which is abundantly prevalent in our day. It is no
exaggeration to say that in Catholic countries the obligation of
truthfulness in cases in which it conflicts with the interests of the
Church rests wholly on the basis of honour, and not at all on the basis
of religion. In the estimates of Catholic rulers no impartial observer
can fail to notice how their attitude towards the interest of the Church
dominates over all considerations of public and private morals.

In past ages this was much more the case. The Church filled in the minds
of men a place at least equal to that of the State in the Roman
Republic. Men who had made great sacrifices for it and rendered great
services to it were deemed, beyond all others, the good men, and in
those men things which we should regard as grossly criminal appeared
mere venial frailties. Let any one who doubts this study the lives of
the early Catholic saints, and the still more instructive pages in which
Gregory of Tours and other ecclesiastical annalists have described the
characters and acts of the more prominent figures in the secular history
of their times, and he will soon feel that he has passed into a moral
atmosphere and is dealing with moral measurements and perspectives
wholly unlike those of our own day.[15]

In highly civilised ages the same spirit may be clearly traced. Bossuet
was certainly no hypocrite or sycophant, but a man of austere virtue and
undoubted courage. He did not hesitate to rebuke the gross profligacy
of the life of Louis XIV., and although neither he nor any of the other
Catholic divines of his age seriously protested against the wars of pure
egotism and ostentation which made that sovereign the scourge of Europe
and brought down upon his people calamities immeasurably greater than
the faults of his private life--although, indeed, he has spoken of those
wars in language of rapturous and unqualified eulogy[16]--he had at
least the grace to devote a chapter of his 'Politique tirée de
l'Écriture Sainte' to the theme that 'God does not love war.' But in the
eyes of Bossuet the dominant fact in the life of Louis XIV. was the
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the savage persecution of the
Huguenots, and this was sufficient to place him among the best of

To those who will candidly consider the subject there is nothing in this
which need excite surprise. The doctrine that the Catholic Church is the
inspired guide, representing the voice of the Divinity on earth and
deciding with absolute authority all questions of right and wrong, very
naturally led to the conviction that nothing which was conducive to its
interests could be really criminal, and in all departments of morals it
regulated the degrees of praise and blame. The doctrine which is still
so widely professed but now so faintly realised, that the first
essential to salvation is orthodox belief, placed conduct on a lower
plane of importance than dogma, while the conviction that it is in the
power of man to obtain absolute certainty in religious belief, that
erroneous belief is in the eyes of the Almighty a crime bringing with it
eternal damnation, and that the teacher of heresy is the greatest enemy
of mankind, at once justified in the eyes of the believer acts which now
seem the gravest moral aberrations. Many baser motives and elements no
doubt mingled with the long and hideous history of the religious
persecutions of Christendom, but in the eyes of countless conscientious
men this teaching seemed amply sufficient to justify them and to stifle
all feeling of compassion for the victims. Much the same considerations
explain the absolute indifference with which so many good men witnessed
those witch persecutions which consigned thousands of old, feeble and
innocent women to torture and to death.

Other illustrations of a less tragical kind might be given. Thus in
cases of child-birth the physician is sometimes placed in the
alternative of sacrificing the life of the mother or of the unborn
child. In such cases a Protestant or freethinking physician would not
hesitate to save the adult life as by far the most valuable. The
Catholic doctrine is that under such circumstances the first duty of the
physician is to save the life of the unbaptized child.[18] Large numbers
of commercial transactions which are now universally acknowledged to be
perfectly innocent and useful would during a long period have been
prohibited on account of the Catholic doctrine of usury which condemned
as sinful even the most moderate interest on money if it was exacted as
the price of the loan.[19]

Every religious and indeed every philosophical system that has played a
great part in the history of the world has a tendency either to form or
to assimilate with a particular moral type, and in the eyes of a large
and growing number it is upon the excellency of this type, and upon its
success in producing it, that its superiority mainly depends. The
superstructure or scaffolding of belief around which it is formed
appears to them of comparatively little moment, and it is not uncommon
to find men ardently devoted to a particular type long after they have
discarded the tenets with which it was once connected. Carlyle, for
example, sometimes spoke of himself as a Calvinist, and used language
both in public and private as if there was no important difference
between himself and the most orthodox Puritans, yet it is very evident
that he disbelieved nearly all the articles of their creed. What he
meant was that Calvinism had produced in all countries in which it
really dominated a definite type of character and conception of morals
which was in his eyes the noblest that had yet appeared in the world.

'_Above all things_, my brethren, swear not.' If, as is generally
assumed, this refers to the custom of using profane oaths in common
conversation, how remote from modern ideas is the place assigned to
this vice, which perhaps affects human happiness as little as any other
that can be mentioned, in the scale of criminality, and how curiously
characteristic is the fact that the vice to which this supremacy of
enormity is attributed continued to be prevalent during the ages when
theological influences were most powerful, and has in all good society
faded away in simple obedience to a turn of fashion which proscribes it
as ungentlemanly! For a long period Acts condemning it were read at
stated periods in the churches,[20] and one of these described it as
likely, by provoking God's wrath, to 'increase the many calamities these
nations now labour under.' How curiously characteristic is the
restriction in common usage of the term 'immoral' to a single vice, so
that a man who is untruthful, selfish, cruel, or intemperate might still
be said to have led 'a moral life' because he was blameless in the
relations of the sexes! In the estimates of the character of public men
the same disproportionate judgment may be constantly found in the
comparative stress placed upon private faults and the most gigantic
public crimes. Errors of judgment are not errors of morals, but any
public man who, through selfish, ambitious, or party motives, plunges or
helps to plunge his country into an unrighteous or unnecessary war,
subordinates public interest to his personal ambition, employs himself
in stimulating class, national, or provincial hatreds, lowers the moral
standard of public life, or supports a legislation which he knows to
tend to or facilitate dishonesty, is committing a crime before which, if
it be measured by its consequences, the gravest acts of mere private
immorality dwindle into insignificance. Yet how differently in the case
of brilliant and successful politicians are such things treated in the
judgment of contemporaries, and sometimes even in the judgments of

It is, I think, a peculiarity of modern times that the chief moral
influences are much more various and complex than in the past. There is
no such absolute empire as that which was exercised over character by
the State in some periods of Pagan antiquity and by the Church during
the Middle Ages. Our civilisation is more than anything else an
industrial civilisation, and industrial habits are probably the
strongest in forming the moral type to which public opinion aspires.
Slavery, which threw a deep discredit on industry and on the qualities
it fosters, has passed away. The feudal system, which placed industry in
an inferior position, has been abolished, and the strong modern tendency
to diminish both the privileges and the exclusiveness of rank and to
increase the importance of wealth is in the same direction. An
industrial society has its special vices and failings, but it naturally
brings into the boldest relief the moral qualities which industry is
most fitted to foster and on which it most largely depends, and it also
gives the whole tone of moral thinking a utilitarian character. It is
not Christianity but Industrialism that has brought into the world that
strong sense of the moral value of thrift, steady industry, punctuality
in observing engagements, constant forethought with a view to providing
for the contingencies of the future, which is now so characteristic of
the moral type of the most civilised nations.

Many other influences, however, have contributed to intensify, qualify,
or impair the industrial type. Protestantism has disengaged primitive
Christian ethics from a crowd of superstitious and artificial duties
which had overlaid them, and a similar process has been going on in
Catholic countries under the influence of the rationalising and
sceptical spirit. The influence of dogmatic theology on Morals has
declined. Out of the vast and complex religious systems of the past, an
eclectic spirit is bringing into special and ever-increasing prominence
those Christian virtues which are most manifestly in accordance with
natural religion and most clearly conducive to the well-being of men
upon the earth. Philanthropy or charity, which forms the centre of the
system, has also been immensely intensified by increased knowledge and
realisation of the wants and sorrows of others; by the sensitiveness to
pain, by the softening of manners and the more humane and refined tastes
and habits which a highly elaborated intellectual civilisation naturally
produces. The sense of duty plays a great part in modern philanthropy,
and lower motives of ostentation or custom mingle largely with the
genuine kindliness of feeling that inspires it; but on the whole it is
probable that men in our day, in doing good to others, look much more
exclusively than in the past to the benefit of the recipient and much
less to some reward for their acts in a future world. As long, too, as
this benefit is attained, they will gladly diminish as much as possible
the self-sacrifice it entails. An eminently characteristic feature of
modern philanthropy is its close connection with amusements. There was a
time when a great philanthropic work would be naturally supported by an
issue of indulgences promising specific advantages in another world to
all who took part in it. In our own generation balls, bazaars,
theatrical or other amusements given for the benefit of the charity,
occupy an almost corresponding place.

At the same time increasing knowledge, and especially the kind of
knowledge which science gives, has in other ways largely affected our
judgments of right and wrong. The mental discipline, the habits of sound
and accurate reasoning, the distrust of mere authority and of untested
assertions and traditions that science tends to produce, all stimulate
the intellectual virtues, and science has done much to rectify the chart
of life, pointing out more clearly the true conditions of human
well-being and disclosing much baselessness and many errors in the
teaching of the past. It cannot, however, be said that the civic or the
military influences have declined. If the State does not hold altogether
the same place as in Pagan antiquity, it is at least certain that in a
democratic age public interests are enormously prominent in the lives of
men, and there is a growing and dangerous tendency to aggrandise the
influence of the State over the individual, while modern militarism is
drawing the flower of Continental Europe into its circle and making
military education one of the most powerful influences in the formation
of characters and ideals.

I do not believe that the world will ever greatly differ about the
essential elements of right and wrong. These things lie deep in human
nature and in the fundamental conditions of human life. The changes that
are taking place, and which seem likely to strengthen in the future, lie
chiefly in the importance attached to different qualities.

What seems to be useless self-sacrifice and unnecessary suffering is as
much as possible avoided. The strain of sentiment which valued suffering
in itself as an expiatory thing, as a mode of following the Man of
Sorrows, as a thing to be for its own sake embraced and dwelt upon, and
prolonged, bears a very great part in some of the most beautiful
Christian lives, and especially in those which were formed under the
influence of the Catholic Church. An old legend tells how Christ once
appeared as a Man of Sorrows to a Catholic Saint, and asked him what
boon he would most desire. 'Lord,' was the reply, 'that I might suffer
most.' This strain runs deeply through the whole ascetic literature and
the whole monastic system of Catholicism, and outside Catholicism it has
been sometimes shown by a reluctance to accept the aid of anæsthetics,
which partially or wholly removed suffering supposed to have been sent
by Providence. The history of the use of chloroform furnishes striking
illustrations of this. Many of my readers may remember the French monks
who devoted themselves to cultivating one of the most pestilential spots
in the Roman Campagna, which was associated with an ecclesiastical
legend, and who quite unnecessarily insisted on remaining there during
the season when such a residence meant little less than a slow suicide.
They had, as they were accustomed to say, their purgatory upon earth,
and they remained till their constitutions were hopelessly shattered and
they were sent to die in their own land. Touching examples might be
found in modern times of men who, in the last extremes of disease or
suffering, scrupled, through religious motives, about availing
themselves of the simplest alleviations,[21] and something of the same
feeling is shown in the desire to prolong to the last possible moment
hopeless and agonising disease. All this is manifestly and rapidly
disappearing. To endure with patience and resignation inevitable
suffering; to encounter courageously dangers and suffering for some
worthy and useful end, ranks, indeed, as high as it ever did in the
ethics of the century, but suffering for its own sake is no longer
valued, and it is deemed one of the first objects of a wise life to
restrict and diminish it.

No one, I think, has seen more clearly or described more vividly than
Goethe the direction in which in modern times the current of morals is
flowing. His philosophy is a terrestrial philosophy, and the old
theologians would have said that it allowed the second Table of the Law
altogether to supersede or eclipse the first. It was said of him with
much truth that 'repugnance to the supernatural was an inherent part of
his mind.' To turn away from useless and barren speculations; to
persistently withdraw our thoughts from the unknowable, the inevitable,
and the irreparable; to concentrate them on the immediate present and on
the nearest duty; to waste no moral energy on excessive introspection or
self-abasement or self-reproach, but to make the cultivation and the
wise use of all our powers the supreme ideal and end of our lives; to
oppose labour and study to affliction and regret; to keep at a distance
gloomy thoughts and exaggerated anxieties; 'to see the individual in
connection and co-operation with the whole,' and to look upon effort and
action as the main elements both of duty and happiness, was the lesson
which he continually taught. 'The mind endowed with active powers, and
keeping with a practical object to the task that lies nearest, is the
worthiest there is on earth.' 'Character consists in a man steadily
pursuing the things of which he feels himself capable.' 'Try to do your
duty and you will know what you are worth.' 'Piety is not an end but a
means; a means of attaining the highest culture by the purest
tranquillity of soul.' 'We are not born to solve the problems of the
world, but to find out where the problem begins and then to keep within
the limits of what we can grasp.'

To cultivate sincere love of truth and clear and definite conceptions,
and divest ourselves as much as possible from prejudices, fanaticisms,
superstitions, and exaggeration; to take wide, sound, tolerant,
many-sided views of life, stands in his eyes in the forefront of ethics.
'Let it be your earnest endeavour to use words coinciding as closely as
possible with what we feel, see, think, experience, imagine, and
reason;' 'remove by plain and honest purpose false, irrelevant and
futile ideas.' 'The truest liberality is appreciation.' 'Love of truth
shows itself in this, that a man knows how to find and value the good in

In the eyes of this school of thought one of the great vices of the old
theological type of ethics was that it was unduly negative. It thought
much more of the avoidance of sin than of the performance of duty. The
more we advance in knowledge the more we shall come to judge men in the
spirit of the parable of the talents; that is by the net result of their
lives, by their essential unselfishness, by the degree in which they
employ and the objects to which they direct their capacities and
opportunities. The staple of moral life becomes much less a matter of
small scruples, of minute self-examination, of extreme stress laid upon
flaws of character and conduct that have little or no bearing upon
active life. A life of idleness will be regarded with much less
tolerance than at present. Men will grow less introspective and more
objective, and useful action will become more and more the guiding
principle of morals.

In theory this will probably be readily admitted, but every good
observer will find that it involves a considerable change in the point
of view. A life of habitual languor and idleness, with no faculties
really cultivated, and with no result that makes a man missed when he
has passed away, may be spent without any act which the world calls
vicious, and is quite compatible with much charm of temper and demeanour
and with a complete freedom from violent and aggressive selfishness.
Such a life, in the eyes of many moralists, would rank much higher than
a life of constant, honourable self-sacrificing labour for the good of
others which was at the same time flawed by some positive vice. Yet the
life which seems to be comparatively blameless has in truth wholly
missed, while the other life, in spite of all its defects, has largely
attained what should be the main object of a human life, the full
development and useful employment of whatever powers we possess. There
are men, indeed, in whom an over-sensitive conscience is even a
paralysing thing, which by suggesting constant petty and ingenious
scruples holds them back from useful action. It is a moral infirmity
corresponding to that exaggerated intellectual fastidiousness which so
often makes an intellectual life almost wholly barren, or to that
excessive tendency to look on all sides of a question and to realise the
dangers and drawbacks of any course which not unfrequently in moments of
difficulty paralyses the actions of public men. Sometimes, under the
strange and subtle bias of the will, this excessive conscientiousness
will be unconsciously fostered in inert and sluggish natures which are
constitutionally disinclined to effort. The main lines of duty in the
great relations of life are sufficiently obvious, and the casuistry
which multiplies cases of conscience and invents unreal and factitious
duties is apt to be rather an impediment than a furtherance to a noble

It is probable that as the world goes on morals will move more and more
in the direction I have described. There will be at the same time a
steadily increasing tendency to judge moral qualities and courses of
conduct mainly by the degree in which they promote or diminish human
happiness. Enthusiasm and self-sacrifice for some object which has no
real bearing on the welfare of man will become rarer and will be less
respected, and the condemnation that is passed on acts that are
recognised as wrong will be much more proportioned than at present to
the injury they inflict. Some things, such as excessive luxury of
expenditure and the improvidence of bringing into the world children for
whom no provision has been made, which can now scarcely be said to enter
into the teaching of moralists, or at least of churches, may one day be
looked upon as graver offences than some that are in the penal code.


[11] St. Francis de Sales.

[12] St. Philip Neri.

[13] St. Teresa.

[14] 'Cum dictus Johannes Hus fidem orthodoxam pertinaciter impugnans,
se ab omni con ductu et privilegio reddiderit alienum, nec aliqua sibi
fides aut promissio de jure naturali divino vel humano, fuerit in
præjudicium Catholicæ fidei observanda.' Declaration of the Council of
Constance. See Creighton's _History of the Papacy_, ii. 32.

[15] I have collected some illustrations of this in my _History of
European Morals_, ii. 235-242.

[16] See, e.g. his funeral oration on Marie Thérèse d'Autriche.

[17] See the enthusiastic eulogy of the persecution of the Huguenots in
his funeral oration on Michel le Tellier. It concludes: 'Épanchons nos
coeurs sur la piété de Louis; poussons jusqu'au ciel nos acclamations,
et disons à ce nouveau Constantin, à ce nouveau Théodose, à ce nouveau
Marcien, à ce nouveau Charlemagne ce que les six cent trente Pères
dirent autrefois dans le Concile de Chalcédoine: "Vous avez affermi la
foi; vous avez exterminé les hérétiques; c'est le digne ouvrage de votre
règne; c'en est le propre caractère. Par vous l'hérésie n'est plus, Dieu
seul a pu faire cette merveille. Roi du ciel, conservez le roi de la
terre; c'est le voeu, des Églises; c'est le voeu des Évêques."'

[18] See Migne, _Encyclopédie Théologique_, 'Dict. de Cas de
Conscience,' art. _Avortement_.

[19] See on this subject my _History of Rationalism_, ii. 250-270, and
my _Democracy and Liberty_, ii., ch. viii.

[20] 21 James I. c. 20; 19 Geo. II. c. 21. The penalties, however, were
fines, the pillory, or short periods of imprisonment. The obligation of
reading the statute in churches was abolished in 1823, but the custom
had before fallen into desuetude. In 1772 a vicar was (as an act of
private vengeance) prosecuted and fined for having neglected to read it.
(_Annual Register_, 1772, p. 115.)

[21] The following beautiful passage from a funeral sermon by Newman is
an example: 'One should have thought that a life so innocent, so active,
so holy, I might say so faultless from first to last, might have been
spared the visitation of any long and severe penance to bring it to an
end; but in order doubtless to show us how vile and miserable the best
of us are in ourselves ... and moreover to give us a pattern how to bear
suffering ourselves, and to increase the merits and to hasten and
brighten the crown of this faithful servant of his Lord, it pleased
Almighty God to send upon him a disorder which during the last six years
fought with him, mastered him, and at length has destroyed him, so far,
that is, as death now has power to destroy.... It is for those who came
near him year after year to store up the many words and deeds of
resignation, love and humility which that long penance elicited. These
meritorious acts are written in the Book of Life, and they have followed
him whither he is gone. They multiplied and grew in strength and
perfection as his trial proceeded; and they were never so striking as at
its close. When a friend visited him in the last week, he found he had
scrupled at allowing his temples to be moistened with some refreshing
waters, and had with difficulty been brought to give his consent; he
said he feared it was too great a luxury. When the same friend offered
him some liquid to allay his distressing thirst his answer was the
same.'--Sermon at the funeral of the Right Rev. Henry Weedall, pp. 19,

[22] See the excellent little book of Mr. Bailey Saunders, called _The
Maxims and Reflections of Goethe_.


The tendency to regard morals rather in their positive than their
negative aspects, and to estimate men by the good they do in the world,
is a healthy element in modern life. A strong sense of the obligation of
a full, active, and useful life is the best safeguard both of individual
and national morals at a time when the dissolution or enfeeblement of
theological beliefs is disturbing the foundations on which most current
moral teaching has been based. In the field of morals action holds a
much larger place than reasoning--a larger place even in elucidating our
difficulties and illuminating the path on which we should go. It is by
the active pursuit of an immediate duty that the vista of future duties
becomes most clear, and those who are most immersed in active duties are
usually little troubled with the perplexities of life, or with minute
and paralysing scruples. A public opinion which discourages idleness and
places high the standard of public duty is especially valuable in an age
when the tendency to value wealth, and to measure dignity by wealth, has
greatly increased, and when wealth in some of its most important forms
has become wholly dissociated from special duties. The duties of the
landlord who is surrounded by a poor and in some measure dependent
tenantry, the duties of the head of a great factory or shop who has a
large number of workmen or dependents in his employment, are
sufficiently obvious, though even in these spheres the tie of duty has
been greatly relaxed by the growing spirit of independence, which makes
each class increasingly jealous of the interference of others, and by
the growing tendency of legislation to regulate all relations of
business and contracts by definite law instead of leaving them, as in
the past, to voluntary action. But there are large classes of fortunes
which are wholly, or almost wholly, dissociated from special and
definite duties. The vast and ever-increasing multitude whose incomes
are derived from national, or provincial, or municipal debts, or who are
shareholders or debenture-holders in great commercial and industrial
undertakings, have little or no practical control over, or interest in,
those from whom their fortunes are derived. The multiplication of such
fortunes is one of the great characteristics of our time, and it brings
with it grave dangers. Such fortunes give unrivalled opportunities of
luxurious idleness, and as in themselves they bring little or no social
influence or position, those who possess them are peculiarly tempted to
seek such a position by an ostentation of wealth and luxury which has a
profoundly vulgarising and demoralising influence upon Society. The
tendency of idleness to lead to immorality has long been a commonplace
of moralists. Perhaps our own age has seen more clearly than those that
preceded it that complete and habitual idleness _is_ immorality, and
that when the circumstances of his life do not assign to a man a
definite sphere of work it is his first duty to find it for himself. It
has been happily said that in the beginning of the reign of Queen
Victoria young men in England who were really busy affected idleness,
and at the close of the reign young men who are really idle pretend to
be busy. In my own opinion, a disproportionate amount of English energy
takes political forms, and there is a dangerous exaggeration in the
prevailing tendency to combat all social and moral abuses by Acts of
Parliament. But there are multitudes of other and less obtrusive spheres
of work adapted to all grades of intellect and to many types of
character, in which men who possess the inestimable boon of leisure can
find abundant and useful fields for the exercise of their powers.

The rectification of moral judgments is one of the most important
elements of civilisation; it is upon this that the possibility of moral
progress on a large scale chiefly depends. Few things pervert men more
than the habit of regarding as enviable persons or qualities injurious
to Society. The most obvious example is the passionate admiration
bestowed on a brilliant conqueror, which is often quite irrespective of
the justice of his wars and of the motives that actuated him. This false
moral feeling has acquired such a strength that overwhelming military
power almost certainly leads to a career of ambition. Perverted public
opinion is the main cause. Glory, not interest, is the lure, or at least
the latter would be powerless if it were not accompanied by the
former--if the execration of mankind naturally followed unscrupulous

Another and scarcely less flagrant instance of the worship of false
ideals is to be found in the fierce competition of luxury and
ostentation which characterises the more wealthy cities of Europe and
America. It is no exaggeration to say that in a single festival in
London or New York sums are often expended in the idlest and most
ephemeral ostentation which might have revived industry, or extinguished
pauperism, or alleviated suffering over a vast area. The question of
expenditure on luxuries is no doubt a question of degree which cannot be
reduced to strict rule, and there are many who will try to justify the
most ostentatious expenditure on the ground of the employment it gives
and of other incidental advantages it is supposed to produce. But
nothing in political economy is more certain than that the vast and
ever-increasing expenditure on the luxury of ostentation in modern
societies, by withdrawing great masses of capital from productive
labour, is a grave economical evil, and there is probably no other form
of expenditure which, in proportion to its amount, gives so little real
pleasure and confers so little real good. Its evil in setting up
material and base standards of excellence, in stimulating the worst
passions that grow out of an immoderate love of wealth, in ruining many
who are tempted into a competition which they are unable to support, can
hardly be overrated. It is felt in every rank in raising the standard of
conventional expenses, excluding from much social intercourse many who
are admirably fitted to adorn it, and introducing into all society a
lower and more material tone. Nor are these its only consequences.
Wealth which is expended in multiplying and elaborating real comforts,
or even in pleasures which produce enjoyment at all proportionate to
their cost, will never excite serious indignation. It is the colossal
waste of the means of human happiness in the most selfish and most
vulgar forms of social advertisement and competition that gives a force
and almost a justification to anarchical passions which menace the
whole future of our civilisation. It is such things that stimulate class
hatreds and deepen class divisions, and if the law of opinion does not
interfere to check them they will one day bring down upon the society
that encourages them a signal and well-merited retribution.

A more recognised, though probably not really more pernicious example of
false ideals, is to be found in the glorification of the _demi-monde_,
which is so conspicuous in some societies and literatures. In a healthy
state of opinion, the public, ostentatious appearance of such persons,
without any concealment of their character, in the great concourse of
fashion and among the notabilities of the State, would appear an
intolerable scandal, and it becomes much worse when they give the tone
to fashion and become the centres and the models of large and by no
means undistinguished sections of Society. The evils springing from this
public glorification of the class are immeasurably greater than the
evils arising from its existence. The standard of popular morals is
debased. Temptation in its most seductive form is forced upon
inflammable natures, and the most pernicious of all lessons is taught to
poor, honest, hard-working women. It is indeed wonderful that in
societies where this evil prevails so much virtue should still exist
among graceful, attractive women of the shopkeeping and servant class
when they continually see before them members of their own class, by
preferring vice to virtue, rising at once to wealth, luxury and
idleness, and even held up as objects of admiration or imitation.

In judging wisely the characters of men, one of the first things to be
done is to understand their ideals. Try to find out what kind of men or
of life; what qualities, what positions seem to them the most desirable.
Men do not always fully recognise their own ideals, for education and
the conventionalities of Society oblige them to assert a preference for
that which may really have no root in their minds. But by a careful
examination it is usually possible to ascertain what persons or
qualities or circumstances or gifts exercise a genuine, spontaneous,
magnetic power over them--whether they really value supremely rank or
position, or money, or beauty, or intellect, or superiority of
character. If you know the ideal of a man you have obtained a true key
to his nature. The broad lines of his character, the permanent
tendencies of his imagination, his essential nobility or meanness, are
thus disclosed more effectually than by any other means. A man with high
ideals, who admires wisely and nobly, is never wholly base though he may
fall into great vices. A man who worships the baser elements is in truth
an idolater though he may have never bowed before an image of stone.

The human mind has much more power of distinguishing between right and
wrong, and between true and false, than of estimating with accuracy the
comparative gravity of opposite evils. It is nearly always right in
judging between right and wrong. It is generally wrong in estimating
degrees of guilt, and the root of its error lies in the extreme
difficulty of putting ourselves into the place of those whose characters
or circumstances are radically different from our own. This want of
imagination acts widely on our judgment of what is good as well as of
what is bad. Few men have enough imagination to realise types of
excellence altogether differing from their own. It is this, much more
than vanity, that leads them to esteem the types of excellence to which
they themselves approximate as the best, and tastes and habits that are
altogether incongruous with their own as futile and contemptible. It is,
perhaps, most difficult of all to realise the difference of character
and especially of moral sensibility produced by a profound difference of
circumstances. This difficulty largely falsifies our judgments of the
past, and it is the reason why a powerful imagination enabling us to
realise very various characters and very remote circumstances is one of
the first necessities of a great historian. Historians rarely make
sufficient allowance for the degree in which the judgments and
dispositions even of the best men are coloured by the moral tone of the
time, society and profession in which they lived. Yet it is probable
that on the whole we estimate more justly the characters of the past
than of the present. No one would judge the actions of Charlemagne or of
his contemporaries by the strict rules of nineteenth-century ethics. We
feel that though they committed undoubted crimes, these crimes are at
least indefinitely less heinous than they would have been under the
wholly different circumstances and moral atmosphere of our own day. Yet
we seldom apply this method of reasoning to the different strata of the
same society. Men who have been themselves brought up amid all the
comforts and all the moralising and restraining influences of a refined
society, will often judge the crimes of the wretched pariahs of
civilisation as if their acts were in no degree palliated by their
position. They say to themselves 'How guilty should I have been if I
had done this thing,' and their verdict is quite just according to this
statement of the case. They realise the nature of the act. They utterly
fail to realise the character and circumstances of the actor.

And yet it is scarcely possible to exaggerate the difference between the
position of such a critic and that of the children of drunken, ignorant
and profligate parents, born to abject poverty in the slums of our great
cities. From their earliest childhood drunkenness, blasphemy,
dishonesty, prostitution, indecency of every form are their most
familiar experiences. All the social influences, such as they are, are
influences of vice. As they grow up Life seems to them to present little
more than the alternative of hard, ill-paid, and at the same time
precarious labour, probably ending in the poor-house, or crime with its
larger and swifter gains, and its intervals of coarse pleasure probably,
though not certainly, followed by the prison or an early death. They see
indeed, like figures in a dream, or like beings of another world, the
wealthy and the luxurious spending their wealth and their time in many
kinds of enjoyment, but to the very poor pleasure scarcely comes except
in the form of the gin palace or perhaps the low music hall. And in many
cases they have come into this reeking atmosphere of temptation and vice
with natures debased and enfeebled by a long succession of vicious
hereditary influences, with weak wills, with no faculties of mind or
character that can respond to any healthy ambition; with powerful inborn
predispositions to evil. The very mould of their features, the very
shape of their skulls, marks them out as destined members of the
criminal class. Even here, no doubt, there is a difference between right
and wrong; there is scope for the action of free will; there are just
causes of praise and blame, and Society rightly protects itself by
severe penalties against the crimes that are most natural; but what
human judge can duly measure the scale of moral guilt? or what
comparison can there be between the crimes that are engendered by such
circumstances and those which spring up in the homes of refined and
well-regulated comfort?

Nor indeed even in this latter case is a really accurate judgment
possible. Men are born into the world with both wills and passions of
varying strength, though in mature life the strength or weakness of each
is largely due to their own conduct. With different characters the same
temptation, operating under the same external circumstances, has
enormously different strength, and very few men can fully realise the
strength of a passion which they have never themselves experienced. To
repeat an illustration I have already used, how difficult is it for a
constitutionally sober man to form in his own mind an adequate
conception of the force of the temptation of drink to a dipsomaniac, or
for a passionless man to conceive rightly the temptations of a
profoundly sensual nature! I have spoken in a former chapter of the
force with which bodily conditions act upon happiness. Their influence
on morals is not less terrible. There are diseases well known to
physicians which make the most placid temper habitually irritable;
give a morbid turn to the healthiest disposition; fill the purest
mind with unholy thoughts. There are others which destroy the force
of the strongest will and take from character all balance and
self-control.[23] It often happens that we have long been blaming a man
for manifest faults of character till at last suicide, or the disclosure
of some grave bodily or mental disease which has long been working
unperceived, explains his faults and turns our blame into pity. In
madness the whole moral character is sometimes reversed, and tendencies
which have been in sane life dormant or repressed become suddenly
supreme. In such cases we all acknowledge that there is no moral
responsibility, but madness, with its illusions and irresistible
impulses, and idiocy with its complete suspension of the will and of the
judgment, are neither of them, as lawyers would pretend, clearly defined
states, marked out by sharp and well-cut boundaries, wholly distinct
from sanity. There are incipient stages; there are gradual
approximations; there are twilight states between sanity and insanity
which are clearly recognised not only by experts but by all sagacious
men of the world. There are many who are not sufficiently mad to be shut
up, or to be deprived of the management of their properties, or to be
exempted from punishment if they have committed a crime, but who, in the
common expressive phrase, 'are not all there'--whose eccentricities,
illusions and caprices are on the verge of madness, whose judgments are
hopelessly disordered; whose wills, though not completely atrophied, are
manifestly diseased. In questions of property, in questions of crime, in
questions of family arrangements, such persons cause the gravest
perplexity, nor will any wise man judge them by the same moral standard
as well-balanced and well-developed natures.

The inference to be drawn from such facts is certainly not that there is
no such thing as free will and personal responsibility, nor yet that we
have no power of judging the acts of others and distinguishing among our
fellowmen between the good and the bad. The true lesson is the extreme
fallibility of our moral judgments whenever we attempt to measure
degrees of guilt. Sometimes men are even unjust to their own past from
their incapacity in age of realising the force of the temptations they
had experienced in youth. On the other hand, increased knowledge of the
world tends to make us more sensible of the vast differences between the
moral circumstances of men, and therefore less confident and more
indulgent in our judgments of others. There are men whose cards in life
are so bad, whose temptations to vice, either from circumstances or
inborn character, seem so overwhelming, that, though we may punish, and
in a certain sense blame, we can scarcely look on them as more
responsible than some noxious wild beast. Among the terrible facts of
life none is indeed more terrible than this. Every believer in the wise
government of the world must have sometimes realised with a crushing or
at least a staggering force the appalling injustices of life as shown in
the enormous differences in the distribution of unmerited happiness and
misery. But the disparity of moral circumstances is not less. It has
shaken the faith of many. It has even led some to dream of a possible
Heaven for the vicious where those who are born into the world with a
physical constitution rendering them fierce or cruel, or sensual, or
cowardly, may be freed from the nature which was the cause of their
vice and their suffering upon earth; where due allowance may be made for
the differences of circumstances which have plunged one man deeper and
ever deeper into crime, and enabled another, who was not really better
or worse, to pass through life with no serious blemish, and to rise
higher and higher in the moral scale.

Imperfect, however, as is our power of judging others, it is a power we
are all obliged to exercise. It is impossible to exclude the
considerations of moral guilt and of palliating or aggravating
circumstances from the penal code, and from the administration of
justice, though it cannot be too clearly maintained that the criminal
code is not coextensive with the moral code, and that many things which
are profoundly immoral lie beyond its scope. On the whole it should be
as much as possible confined to acts by which men directly injure
others. In the case of adult men, private vices, vices by which no one
is directly affected, except by his own free will, and in which the
elements of force or fraud are not present, should not be brought within
its range. This ideal, it is true, cannot be fully attained. The
legislator must take into account the strong pressure of public opinion.
It is sometimes true that a penal law may arrest, restrict, or prevent
the revival of some private vice without producing any countervailing
evil. But the presumption is against all laws which punish the voluntary
acts of adult men when those acts injure no one except themselves. The
social censure, or the judgment of opinion, rightly extends much
further, though it is often based on very imperfect knowledge or
realisation. It is probable that, on the whole, opinion judges too
severely the crimes of passion and of drink, as well as those which
spring from the pressure of great poverty and are accompanied by great
ignorance. The causes of domestic anarchy are usually of such an
intimate nature and involve so many unknown or imperfectly realised
elements of aggravation or palliation that in most cases the less men
attempt to judge them the better. On the other hand, public opinion is
usually far too lenient in judging crimes of ambition, cupidity, envy,
malevolence, and callous selfishness; the crimes of ill-gotten and
ill-used wealth, especially in the many cases in which those crimes are
unpunished by law.

It is a mere commonplace of morals that in the path of evil it is the
first step that costs the most. The shame, the repugnance, and the
remorse which attend the first crime speedily fade, and on every
repetition the habit of evil grows stronger. A process of the same kind
passes over our judgments. Few things are more curious than to observe
how the eye accommodates itself to a new fashion of dress, however
unbecoming; how speedily men, or at least women, will adopt a new and
artificial standard and instinctively and unconsciously admire or blame
according to this standard and not according to any genuine sense of
beauty or the reverse. Few persons, however pure may be their natural
taste, can live long amid vulgar and vulgarising surroundings without
losing something of the delicacy of their taste and learning to
accept--if not with pleasure, at least with acquiescence--things from
which under other circumstances they would have recoiled. In the same
way, both individuals and societies accommodate themselves but too
readily to lower moral levels, and a constant vigilance is needed to
detect the forms or directions in which individual and national
character insensibly deteriorate.


[23] See Ribot, _Les Maladies de la Volonté_, pp. 92, 116-119.


It is impossible for a physician to prescribe a rational regimen for a
patient unless he has formed some clear conception of the nature of his
constitution and of the morbid influences to which it is inclined; and
in judging the wisdom of various proposals for the management of
character we are at once met by the initial controversy about the
goodness or the depravity of human nature. It is a subject on which
extreme exaggerations have prevailed. The school of Rousseau, which
dominated on the Continent in the last half of the eighteenth century,
represented mankind as a being who comes into existence essentially
good, and it attributed all the moral evils of the world, not to any
innate tendencies to vice, but to superstition, vicious institutions,
misleading education, a badly organised society. It is an obvious
criticism that if human nature had been as good as such writers
imagined, these corrupt and corrupting influences could never have grown
up, or at least could never have obtained a controlling influence, and
this philosophy became greatly discredited when the French Revolution,
which it did so much to produce, ended in the unspeakable horrors of the
Reign of Terror and in the gigantic carnage of the Napoleonic wars. On
the other hand, there are large schools of theologians who represent man
as utterly and fundamentally depraved, 'born in corruption, inclined to
evil, incapable by himself of doing good;' totally wrecked and ruined
as a moral being by the catastrophe in Eden. There are also moral
philosophers--usually very unconnected with theology--who deny or
explain away all unselfish elements in human nature, represent man as
simply governed by self-interest, and maintain that the whole art of
education and government consists of a judicious arrangement of selfish
motives, making the interests of the individual coincident with those of
his neighbours. It is not too much to say that Society never could have
subsisted if this view of human nature had been a just one. The world
would have been like a cage-full of wild beasts, and mankind would have
soon perished in constant internecine war.

It is indeed one of the plainest facts of human nature that such a view
of mankind is an untrue one. Jealousy, envy, animosities and selfishness
no doubt play a great part in life and disguise themselves under many
specious forms, and the cynical moralist was not wholly wrong when he
declared that 'Virtue would not go so far if Vanity did not keep her
company,' and that not only our crimes but even many of what are deemed
our best acts may be traced to selfish motives. But he must have had a
strangely unfortunate experience of the world who does not recognise the
enormous exaggeration of the pictures of human nature that are conveyed
in some of the maxims of La Rochefoucauld and Schopenhauer. They tell us
that friendship is a mere exchange of interests in which each man only
seeks to gain something from the other; that most women are only pure
because they are untempted and regret that the temptation does not come;
that if we acknowledge some faults it is in order to persuade ourselves
that we have no greater ones, or in order, by our confession, to regain
the good opinion of our neighbours; that if we praise another it is
merely that we may ourselves in turn be praised; that the tears we shed
over a deathbed, if they are not hypocritical tears intended only to
impress our neighbours, are only due to our conviction that we have
ourselves lost a source of pleasure or of gain; that envy so
predominates in the world that it is only men of inferior intellect or
women of inferior beauty who are sincerely liked by those about them;
that all virtue is an egotistic calculation, conscious or unconscious.

Such views are at least as far removed from truth as the roseate
pictures of Rousseau and St. Pierre. No one can look with an unjaundiced
eye upon the world without perceiving the enormous amount of
disinterested, self-sacrificing benevolence that pervades it; the
countless lives that are spent not only harmlessly and inoffensively but
also in the constant discharge of duties; in constant and often painful
labour for the good of others. The better section of the Utilitarian
school has fully recognised the truth that human nature is so
constituted that a great proportion of its enjoyment depends on
sympathy; or, in other words, on the power we possess of entering into
and sharing the happiness of others. The spectacle of suffering
naturally elicits compassion. Kindness naturally produces gratitude. The
sympathies of men naturally move on the side of the good rather than of
the bad. This is true not only of the things that immediately concern
us, but also in the perfectly disinterested judgments we form of the
events of history or of the characters in fiction and poetry. Great
exhibitions of heroism and self-sacrifice touch a genuine chord of
enthusiasm. The affections of the domestic circle are the rule and not
the exception; patriotism can elicit great outbursts of purely unselfish
generosity and induce multitudes to risk or sacrifice their lives for
causes which are quite other than their own selfish interests. Human
nature indeed has its moral as well as its physical needs, and naturally
and instinctively seeks some object of interest and enthusiasm outside

If we look again into the vice and sin that undoubtedly disfigure the
world we shall find much reason to believe that what is exceptional in
human nature is not the evil tendency but the restraining conscience,
and that it is chiefly the weakness of the distinctively human quality
that is the origin of the evil. It is impossible indeed, with the
knowledge we now possess, to deny to animals some measure both of reason
and of the moral sense. In addition to the higher instincts of parental
affection and devotion which are so clearly developed we find among some
animals undoubted signs of remorse, gratitude, affection,
self-sacrifice. Even the point of honour which attaches shame to some
things and pride to others may be clearly distinguished. No one who has
watched the more intelligent dog can question this, and many will
maintain that in some animals, though both good and bad qualities are
less widely developed than in man, the proportion of the good to the
evil is more favourable in the animal than in the man. At the same time
in the animal world desire is usually followed without any other
restraint than fear, while in man it is largely though no doubt very
imperfectly limited by moral self-control. Most crimes spring not from
anything wrong in the original and primal desire but from the
imperfection of this higher, distinct or superadded element in our
nature. The crimes of dishonesty and envy, when duly analysed, have at
their basis simply a desire for the desirable--a natural and inevitable
feeling. What is absent is the restraint which makes men refrain from
taking or trying to take desirable things that belong to another.
Sensual faults spring from a perfectly natural impulse, but the
restraint which confines the action of that impulse to defined
circumstances is wanting. Much, too, of the insensibility and hardness
of the world is due to a simple want of imagination which prevents us
from adequately realising the sufferings of others. The predatory,
envious and ferocious feelings that disturb mankind operate unrestrained
through the animal world, though man's superior intelligence gives his
desires a special character and a greatly increased scope, and
introduces them into spheres inconceivable to the animal. Immoderate and
uncontrolled desires are the root of most human crimes, but at the same
time the self-restraint that limits desire, or self-seeking, by the
rights of others, seems to be mainly, though not wholly, the prerogative
of man.

Considerations of this kind are sufficient to remedy the extreme
exaggeration of human corruption that may often be heard, but they are
not inconsistent with the truth that human nature is so far depraved
that it can never be safely left to develop unimpeded without strong
legal and social restraint. It is not necessary to seek examples of its
depravity within the precincts of a prison or in the many instances
that may be found outside the criminal population of morbid moral taints
which are often as clearly marked as physical disease. On a large scale
and in the actions of great bodies of men the melancholy truth is
abundantly displayed. On the whole Christianity has been far more
successful in influencing individuals than societies. The mere spectacle
of a battle-field with the appalling mass of hideous suffering
deliberately and ingeniously inflicted by man upon man should be
sufficient to scatter all idyllic pictures of human nature. It was once
the custom of a large school of writers to attribute unjust wars solely
to the rulers of the world, who for their own selfish ambitions
remorselessly sacrificed the lives of tens of thousands of their
subjects. Their guilt has been very great, but they would never have
pursued the course of ambitious conquest if the applause of nations had
not followed and encouraged them, and there are no signs that democracy,
which has enthroned the masses, has any real tendency to diminish war.

In modern times the danger of war lies less in the intrigues of
statesmen than in deeply seated international jealousies and
antipathies; in sudden, volcanic outbursts of popular passion. After
eighteen hundred years' profession of the creed of peace, Christendom is
an armed camp. Never, or hardly ever, in times of peace had the mere
preparations of war absorbed so large a proportion of its population and
resources, and very seldom has so large an amount of its ability been
mainly employed in inventing and in perfecting instruments of
destruction. Those who will look on the world without illusion will be
compelled to admit that the chief guarantees for its peace are to be
found much less in moral than in purely selfish motives. The financial
embarrassments of the great nations; their profound distrust of one
another; the vast cost of modern war; the gigantic commercial disasters
it inevitably entails; the extreme uncertainty of its issue; the utter
ruin that may follow defeat--these are the real influences that restrain
the tiger passions and the avaricious cravings of mankind. It is also
one of the advantages that accompany the many evils of universal
service, that great citizen armies who in time of war are drawn from
their homes, their families, and their peaceful occupations have not the
same thirst for battle that grows up among purely professional soldiers,
voluntarily enlisted and making a military life their whole career. Yet,
in spite of all this, what trust could be placed in the forbearance of
Christian nations if the path of aggression was at once easy, lucrative
and safe? The judgments of nations in dealing with the aggressions of
their neighbours are, it is true, very different from those which they
form of aggressions by their own statesmen or for their own benefit. But
no great nation is blameless, and there is probably no nation that could
not speedily catch the infection of the warlike spirit if a conqueror
and a few splendid victories obscured, as they nearly always do, the
moral issues of the contest.

War, it is true, is not always or wholly evil. Sometimes it is
justifiable and necessary. Sometimes it is professedly and in part
really due to some strong wave of philanthropic feeling produced by
great acts of wrong, though of all forms of philanthropy it is that
which most naturally defeats itself. Even when unjustifiable, it calls
into action splendid qualities of courage, self-sacrifice, and
endurance which cast a dazzling and deceptive glamour over its horrors
and its criminality. It appeals too, beyond all other things, to that
craving for excitement, adventure, and danger which is an essential and
imperious element in human nature, and which, while it is in itself
neither a virtue nor a vice, blends powerfully with some of the best as
well as with some of the worst actions of mankind. It is indeed a
strange thing to observe how many men in every age have been ready to
risk or sacrifice their lives for causes which they have never clearly
understood and which they would find it difficult in plain words to

But the amount of pure and almost spontaneous malevolence in the world
is probably far greater than we at first imagine. In public life the
workings of this side of human nature are at once disclosed and
magnified, like the figures thrown by a magic lantern on a screen, to a
scale which it is impossible to overlook. No one, for example, can study
the anonymous press without perceiving how large a part of it is
employed systematically, persistently and deliberately in fostering
class, or race, or international hatreds, and often in circulating
falsehoods to attain this end. Many newspapers notoriously depend for
their existence on such appeals, and more than any other instruments
they inflame and perpetuate those permanent animosities which most
endanger the peace of mankind. The fact that such newspapers are
becoming in many countries the main and almost exclusive reading of the
poor forms the most serious deduction from the value of popular
education. How many books have attained popularity, how many seats in
Parliament have been won, how many posts of influence and profit have
been attained, how many party victories have been achieved, by appealing
to such passions! Often they disguise themselves under the lofty names
of patriotism and nationality, and men whose whole lives have been spent
in sowing class hatreds and dividing kindred nations may be found
masquerading under the name of patriots, and have played no small part
on the stage of politics. The deep-seated sedition, the fierce class and
national hatreds that run through European life would have a very
different intensity from what they now unfortunately have if they had
not been artificially stimulated and fostered through purely selfish
motives by demagogues, political adventurers and public writers.

Some of the very worst acts of which man can be guilty are acts which
are commonly untouched by law and only faintly censured by opinion.
Political crimes which a false and sickly sentiment so readily condones
are conspicuous among them. Men who have been gambling for wealth and
power with the lives and fortunes of multitudes; men who for their own
personal ambition are prepared to sacrifice the most vital interests of
their country; men who in time of great national danger and excitement
deliberately launch falsehood after falsehood in the public press in the
well-founded conviction that they will do their evil work before they
can be contradicted, may be met shameless, and almost uncensured, in
Parliaments and drawing-rooms. The amount of false statement in the
world which cannot be attributed to mere carelessness, inaccuracy, or
exaggeration, but which is plainly both deliberate and malevolent, can
hardly be overrated. Sometimes it is due to a mere desire to create a
lucrative sensation, or to gratify a personal dislike, or even to an
unprovoked malevolence which takes pleasure in inflicting pain.

Very often it is intended for purposes of stockjobbing. The financial
world is percolated with it. It is the common method of raising or
depreciating securities, attracting investors, preying upon the ignorant
and credulous, and enabling dishonest men to rise rapidly to fortune.
When the prospect of speedy wealth is in sight, there are always numbers
who are perfectly prepared to pursue courses involving the utter ruin of
multitudes, endangering the most serious international interests,
perhaps bringing down upon the world all the calamities of war. It is no
doubt true that such men are only a minority, though it is less certain
that they would be a minority if the opportunity of obtaining sudden
riches by immoral means was open to all, and it is no small minority who
are accustomed to condone these crimes when they have succeeded. It is
much to be questioned whether the greatest criminals are to be found
within the walls of prisons. Dishonesty on a small scale nearly always
finds its punishment. Dishonesty on a gigantic scale continually
escapes. The pickpocket and the burglar seldom fail to meet with their
merited punishment, but in the management of companies, in the great
fields of industrial enterprise and speculation, gigantic fortunes are
acquired by the ruin of multitudes and by methods which, though they
evade legal penalties, are essentially fraudulent. In the majority of
cases these crimes are perpetrated by educated men who are in possession
of all the necessaries, of most of the comforts, and of many of the
luxuries of life, and some of the worst of them are powerfully favoured
by the conditions of modern civilisation. There is no greater scandal or
moral evil in our time than the readiness with which public opinion
excuses them, and the influence and social position it accords to mere
wealth, even when it has been acquired by notorious dishonesty or when
it is expended with absolute selfishness or in ways that are positively
demoralising. In many respects the moral progress of mankind seems to me
incontestable, but it is extremely doubtful whether in this respect
social morality, especially in England and America, has not seriously

In truth, while it is a gross libel upon human nature to deny the vast
amount of genuine kindness, self-sacrifice and even heroism that exists
in the world, it is equally idle to deny the deplorable weakness of
self-restraint, the great force and the widespread influence of purely
evil passions in the affairs of men. The distrust of human character
which the experience of life tends to produce is one great cause of the
Conservatism which so commonly strengthens with age. It is more and more
felt that all the restraints of law, custom, and religion are essential
to hold together in peaceful co-operation the elements of society, and
men learn to look with increasing tolerance on both institutions and
opinions which cannot stand the test of pure reason and may be largely
mixed with delusions if only they deepen the better habits and give an
additional strength to moral restraints. They learn also to appreciate
the danger of pitching their ideals too high, and endeavouring to
enforce lines of conduct greatly above the average level of human
goodness. Such attempts, when they take the form of coercive action,
seldom fail to produce a recoil which is very detrimental to morals. In
this, as in all other spheres, the importance of compromise in practical
life is one of the great lessons which experience teaches.


The phrase Moral Compromise has an evil sound, and it opens out
questions of practical ethics which are very difficult and very
dangerous, but they are questions with which, consciously or
unconsciously, every one is obliged to deal. The contrasts between the
rigidity of theological formulæ and actual life are on this subject very
great, though in practice, and by the many ingenious subtleties that
constitute the science of casuistry, many theologians have attempted to
evade them. A striking passage from the pen of Cardinal Newman will
bring these contrasts into the clearest light. 'The Church holds,' he
writes, 'that it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for
the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die
of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes,
than that one soul, I will not say should be lost, but should commit one
single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no
one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse.'[24]

It is certainly no exaggeration to say that such a doctrine would lead
to consequences absolutely incompatible with any life outside a
hermitage or a monastery. It would strike at the root of all
civilisation, and although many may be prepared to give it their formal
assent, no human being actually believes it with the kind of belief
that becomes a guiding influence in life. I have dwelt on this subject
in another book, and may here repeat a few lines which I then wrote. If
'an undoubted sin, even the most trivial, is a thing in its essence and
its consequences so unspeakably dreadful that rather than it should be
committed it would be better that any amount of calamity which did not
bring with it sin should be endured, even that the whole human race
should perish in agonies, it is manifest that the supreme object of
humanity should be sinlessness, and it is equally manifest that the
means to this end is the absolute suppression of the desires. To expand
the circle of wants is necessarily to multiply temptations and therefore
to increase the number of sins.' No material and intellectual
advantages, no increase of human happiness, no mitigation of the
suffering or dreariness of human life can, according to this theory, be
other than an evil if it adds even in the smallest degree or in the most
incidental manner to the sins that are committed. 'A sovereign, when
calculating the consequences of a war, should reflect that a single sin
occasioned by that war, a single blasphemy of a wounded soldier, the
robbery of a single hen-coop, the violation of the purity of a single
woman is a greater calamity than the ruin of the entire commerce of his
nation, the loss of her most precious provinces, the destruction of all
her power. He must believe that the evil of the increase of unchastity
which invariably results from the formation of an army is an
immeasurably greater calamity than any national or political disasters
that army can possibly avert. He must believe that the most fearful
plagues and famines that desolate his land should be regarded as a
matter of rejoicing if they have but the feeblest and most transient
influence in repressing vice. He must believe that if the agglomeration
of his people in great cities adds but one to the number of their sins,
no possible intellectual or material advantages can prevent the
construction of cities being a fearful calamity. According to this
principle every elaboration of life, every amusement that brings
multitudes together, almost every art, every accession of wealth, that
awakens or stimulates desires is an evil, for all these become the
sources of some sins, and their advantages are for the most part purely

Considerations of this kind, if duly realised, bring out clearly the
insincerity and the unreality of much of our professed belief. Hardly
any sane man would desire to suppress Bank Holidays simply because they
are the occasion of a considerable number of cases of drunkenness which
would not otherwise have taken place. No humane legislator would
hesitate to suppress them if they produced an equal number of deaths or
other great physical calamities. This manner of measuring the relative
importance of things is not incompatible with a general acknowledgment
of the fact that there are many amusements which produce an amount of
moral evil that overbalances their advantages as sources of pleasure, or
of the great truth that the moral is the higher and ought to be the
ruling part of our being. But the realities of life cannot be measured
by rigid theological formulæ. Life is a scene in which different kinds
of interest not only blend but also modify and in some degree
counterbalance one another, and it can only be carried on by constant
compromises in which the lines of definition are seldom very clearly
marked, and in which even the highest interest must not altogether
absorb or override the others. We have to deal with good principles that
cannot be pushed to their full logical results; with varying standards
which cannot be brought under inflexible law.

Take, for example, the many untruths which the conventional courtesies
of Society prescribe. Some of these are so purely matter of phraseology
that they deceive no one. Others chiefly serve the purpose of courteous
concealment, as when they enable us to refuse a request or to decline an
invitation or a visit without disclosing whether disinclination or
inability is the cause. Then there are falsehoods for useful purposes.
Few men would shrink from a falsehood which was the only means of saving
a patient from a shock which would probably produce his death. No one, I
suppose, would hesitate to deceive a criminal if by no other means he
could prevent him from accomplishing a crime. There are also cases of
the suppression of what we believe to be true, and of tacit or open
acquiescence in what we believe to be false, when a full and truthful
disclosure of our own beliefs might destroy the happiness of others, or
subvert beliefs which are plainly necessary for their moral well-being.
Cases of this kind will continually occur in life, and a good man who
deals with each case as it arises will probably find no great difficulty
in steering his course. But the vague and fluctuating lines of moral
compromise cannot without grave moral danger be reduced to fixed rules
to be carried out to their full logical consequences. The immortal pages
of Pascal are sufficient to show to what extremes of immorality the
doctrine that the end justifies the means has been pushed by the
casuists of the Church of which Cardinal Newman was so great an

A large and difficult field of moral compromise is opened out in the
case of war, which necessarily involves a complete suspension of great
portions of the moral law. This is not merely the case in unjust wars;
it applies also, though in a less degree, to those which are most
necessary and most righteous. War is not, and never can be, a mere
passionless discharge of a painful duty. It is in its essence, and it is
a main condition of its success, to kindle into fierce exercise among
great masses of men the destructive and combative passions--passions as
fierce and as malevolent as that with which the hound hunts the fox to
its death or the tiger springs upon its prey. Destruction is one of its
chief ends. Deception is one of its chief means, and one of the great
arts of skilful generalship is to deceive in order to destroy. Whatever
other elements may mingle with and dignify war, this at least is never
absent; and however reluctantly men may enter into war, however
conscientiously they may endeavour to avoid it, they must know that when
the scene of carnage has once opened these things must be not only
accepted and condoned, but stimulated, encouraged and applauded. It
would be difficult to conceive a disposition more remote from the morals
of ordinary life, not to speak of Christian ideals, than that with which
the soldiers most animated with the fire and passion that lead to
victory rush forward to bayonet the foe.

War indeed, which is absolutely indispensable in our present stage of
civilisation, has its own morals which are very different from those of
peaceful life. Yet there are few fields in which, through the stress of
moral motives, greater changes have been effected. In the early stages
of human history it was simply a question of power. There was no
distinction between piracy and regular war, and incursions into a
neighbouring State without provocation and with the sole purpose of
plunder brought with them no moral blame. To carry the inhabitants of a
conquered country into slavery; to slaughter the whole population of a
besieged town; to destroy over vast tracts every town, village and
house, and to put to death every prisoner, were among the ordinary
incidents of war. These things were done without reproach in the best
periods of Greek and Roman civilisation. In many cases neither age nor
sex was spared![25] In Rome the conquered general was strangled or
starved to death in the Mamertine prison. Tens of thousands of captives
were condemned to perish in gladiatorial shows. Julius Cæsar, whose
clemency has been so greatly extolled, 'executed the whole senate of the
Veneti; permitted a massacre of the Usipetes and Tencteri; sold as
slaves 40,000 natives of Genabum; and cut off the right hands of all the
brave men whose only crime was that they held to the last against him
their town of Uxellodunum.'[26] No slaughter in history is more terrible
than that which took place at Jerusalem under the general who was
called 'the delight of the human race,' and when the last spasm of
resistance had ceased, Titus sent Jewish captives, both male and female,
by thousands to the provincial amphitheatres to be devoured by wild
beasts or slaughtered as gladiators.

Yet from a very early period lines were drawn forming a clear though
somewhat arbitrary code of military morals. In Greece a broad
distinction was made between wars with Greek States and with Barbarians,
the latter being regarded as almost outside the pale of moral
consideration. It is a distinction which in reality was not very widely
different from that which Christian nations have in practice continually
made between wars within the borders of Christendom, and wars with
savage or pagan nations. Greek, and perhaps still more Roman, moralists
have written much on the just causes of war. Many of them condemn all
unjust, aggressive, or even unnecessary wars. Some of them insist on the
duty of States always endeavouring by conferences, or even by
arbitration, to avert war, and although these precepts, like the
corresponding precepts of Christian divines, were often violated, they
were certainly not without some influence on affairs. It is probably not
too much to say that in this respect Roman wars do not compare
unfavourably with those of Christian periods. It is remarkable how large
a part of the best Christian works on the ethics of war is based on the
precepts of pagan moralists, and although in antiquity as in modern
times the real cause of war was often very different from the pretexts,
the sense of justice in war was as clearly marked in Roman as in most
Christian periods.[27]

Great stress was laid upon the duty of a formal declaration of war
preceding hostilities. Polybius mentions the reprobation that was
attached in Greece to the Ætolians for having neglected this custom. It
was universal in Roman times, and during the mediæval period the custom
of sending a challenge to the hostile power was carefully observed. In
modern times formal declaration of war has fallen greatly into
desuetude. The hostilities between England and Spain under Elizabeth,
and the invasion of Germany by Gustavus Adolphus, were begun without any
such declaration, and there have been numerous instances in later

The treatment of prisoners has been profoundly modified. Quarter, it is
true, has been very often refused in modern wars to rebels, to soldiers
in mutiny, to revolted slaves, to savages who themselves give no
quarter. It has been often--perhaps generally--refused to irregular
soldiers like the French Francs-tireurs in the War of 1870, who without
uniforms endeavoured to defend their homes against invasion. It was long
refused to soldiers who, having rejected terms of surrender, continued
to defend an indefensible place, but this severity during the last three
centuries has been generally condemned. But, on the whole, the treatment
of the conquered soldier has steadily improved. At one time he was
killed. At another he was preserved as a slave. Then he was permitted to
free himself by payment of a ransom; now he is simply kept in custody
till he is exchanged or released on parole, or till the termination of
the war. In the latter half of the present century many elaborate and
beneficent regulations for the preservation of hospitals and the good
treatment of the wounded have been sanctioned by international
agreement. The distinction between the civil population and combatants
has been increasingly observed. As a general rule non-combatants, if
they do not obstruct the enemy, are subjected to no further injury than
that of paying war contributions and in other ways providing for the
subsistence of the invaders. The wanton destruction of private property
has been more and more avoided. Such an act as the devastation of the
Palatinate under Louis XIV. would now in a European war be universally
condemned, though the wholesale destruction of villages in our own
Indian frontier wars and the methods employed on both sides in the civil
war in Cuba appear to have borne much resemblance to it. In the
treatment of merchants the rule of reciprocity which was laid down in
Magna Charta is largely observed, and the Conference of Brussels in 1874
pronounced it to be contrary to the laws of war to bombard an
unfortified town. The great Civil War in America probably contributed
not a little to raise the standard of humanity in war; for while few
long wars have been fought with such determination or at the cost of so
many lives, very few have been conducted with such a scrupulous
abstinence from acts of wanton barbarity.

Many restrictive rules also have been accepted tending in a small degree
to mitigate the actual operations of war, and they have had some real
influence in this direction, though it is not possible to justify the
military code on any clear principle either of ethics or logic.
Assassination and the encouragement of assassination; the use of poison
or poisoned weapons; the violation of parole; the deceptive use of a
flag of truce or of the red cross; the slaughter of the wounded; the
infringement of terms of surrender or of other distinct agreements, are
absolutely forbidden, and in 1868 the Representatives of the European
Powers assembled at St. Petersburg agreed to abolish the use in war of
explosive bullets below the weight of 14 ounces, and to forbid the
propagation in an enemy's country of contagious disease as an instrument
of war. It laid down the general principle that the object of war is
confined to disabling the enemy, and that weapons calculated to inflict
unnecessary suffering, beyond what is required for attaining that
object, should be prohibited. At the same time explosive shells,
concealed mines, torpedoes and ambuscades lie fully within the permitted
agencies of war. Starvation may be employed, and the cutting off of the
supply of water, or the destruction of that supply by mixing with it
something not absolutely poisonous which renders it undrinkable. It is
allowable to deceive an enemy by fabricated despatches purporting to
come from his own side; by tampering with telegraph messages; by
spreading false intelligence in newspapers; by sending pretended spies
and deserters to give him untrue reports of the numbers or movements of
the troops; by employing false signals to lure him into an ambuscade. On
the use of the flag and uniform of an enemy for purposes of deception
there has been some controversy, but it is supported by high military
authority.[29] The use of spies is fully authorised, but the spy, if
discovered, is excluded from the rights of war and liable to an
ignominious death.

Apart from the questions I have discussed there is another class of
questions connected with war which present great difficulty. It is the
right of men to abdicate their private judgment by entering into the
military profession. In small nations this question is not of much
importance, for in them wars are of very rare occurrence and are usually
for self-defence. In a great empire it is wholly different. Hardly any
one will be so confident of the virtue of his rulers as to believe that
every war which his country wages in every part of its dominions, with
uncivilised as well as civilised populations, is just and necessary, and
it is certainly _primâ facie_ not in accordance with an ideal morality
that men should bind themselves absolutely for life or for a term of
years to kill without question, at the command of their superiors, those
who have personally done them no wrong. Yet this unquestioning obedience
is the very essence of military discipline, and without it the
efficiency of armies and the safety of nations would be hopelessly
destroyed. It is necessary to the great interests of society, and
therefore it is maintained, strengthened by the obligation of an oath
and still more efficaciously by a code of honour which is one of the
strongest binding influences by which men can be governed.

It is not, however, altogether absolute, and a variety of distinctions
and compromises have been made. There is a difference between the man
who enlists in the army of his own country and a man who enlists in
foreign service either permanently or for the duration of a single war.
If a man unnecessarily takes an active part in a struggle between two
countries other than his own, it may at least be demanded that he should
be actuated, not by a mere spirit of adventure or personal ambition, but
by a strong and reasoned conviction that the cause which he is
supporting is a righteous one. The conduct of a man who enlists in a
foreign army which may possibly be used against his own country, and who
at least binds himself to obey absolutely chiefs who have no natural
authority over him, has been much condemned, but even here special
circumstances must be taken into account. Few persons I suppose would
seriously blame the Irish Catholics of the eighteenth century who filled
the armies of France, Austria, Spain and Naples at a time when
disqualifying laws excluded them, on account of their religion, from the
British army and from almost every path of ambition at home. There is
also perhaps some distinction between the position of a soldier who is
obliged to serve, and a soldier in a country where enlisting is
voluntary, and also between the position of an officer who can throw up
his commission without infringing the law, and a private who cannot
abandon his flag without committing a grave legal offence. At the
beginning of the war of the American Revolution some English officers
left the army rather than serve in a cause which they believed to be
unrighteous. It was in their full power to do so, but probably none of
them would have desired that private soldiers who had no legal choice in
the matter should have followed their example and become deserters from
the ranks.

There are, however, extreme cases in which the violation of the military
oath and disobedience to military discipline are justified. More than
once in French history an usurper or his agent has ordered soldiers to
coerce or fire upon the representatives of the nation. In such cases it
has been said 'the conscience of the soldier is the liberty of the
people,' and the refusal of private soldiers to obey a plainly illegal
order will be generally though not universally applauded. In all such
cases, however, there is much obscurity and inconsistency of judgment.
The rule that the moral responsibility falls exclusively on the person
who gives the order, and that the private has no voice or
responsibility, will even here be maintained by some. Ought a private
soldier to have refused to take part in such an execution as that of the
Duc d'Enghien, or in the _Coup d'État_ of Napoleon III.? Ought he to
refuse to fire on a mob if he doubts the legality of the order of his
superior officer? In such cases there is sometimes a direct conflict
between the civil and the military law, and there have been instances in
which a soldier might be punishable before the first for acts which were
absolutely enforced by the second.[30]

Perhaps the strongest case of justifiable disobedience that can be
alleged is when a soldier is ordered to do something which involves
apostasy from his faith, though even here it would be difficult to show,
in the light of pure reason, that this is a graver thing than to kill
innocent men in an unrighteous cause. In the Early Church there were
some soldier martyrs who suffered death because they believed it
inconsistent with their faith to bear arms, or because they were asked
to do some acts which savoured of idolatry. The story of the Thebæan
legion which was said to have been martyred under Diocletian rests on no
trustworthy authority, but it illustrates the feeling of the Church on
the subject. Josephus tells how Jewish soldiers refused in spite of all
punishments to bring earth with the other soldiers for the reparation of
the Temple of Belus at Babylon. Conflicts between military duty and
religious duty must have not unfrequently arisen during the religious
wars of the sixteenth century, and in our own century and in our own
army there have been instances of soldiers refusing through religious
motives to escort or protect idolatrous processions in India, or to
present arms in Catholic countries when the Host was passing. Quaker
opinions about war are absolutely inconsistent with the compulsory
service which prevails in nearly all European countries, and religious
scruples about conscription have been among the motives that have
brought the Russian Raskolniks into collision with the civil power.

One of the most serious instances of the collision of duties in our time
is furnished by the great Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. From the days of Clive,
Sepoy soldiers have served under the British flag with an admirable
fidelity, and the Mutiny of Vellore in 1806, which was the one
exception, was due, like that of 1857, to a belief that the British
Government were interfering with their faith. Few things in the history
of the great Mutiny are so touching as the profound belief of the
English commanders of the Sepoy regiments in the unalterable loyalty of
their soldiers. Many of them lost their lives through this belief,
refusing even to the last moment and in spite of all evidence to abandon
it. They were deceived, and, in the fierce outburst of indignation that
followed, the conduct of the Sepoy soldiers was branded as the blackest
and the most unprovoked treachery.

Yet assuredly no charge was less true. Agitators for their own selfish
purposes had indeed acted upon the troops, but recent researches have
fully proved that the real as well as the ostensible cause of the Mutiny
was the greased cartridges. It was believed that the cartridges which
had been recently issued for the Sepoy regiments were smeared with a
mixture of cow's fat and pig's fat, one of these ingredients being
utterly impure in the eyes of the Hindoo, and the other in the eyes of
the Mussulman. To bite these cartridges would destroy the caste of the
Hindoo and carry with it the loss of everything that was most dear and
most sacred to him both in this world and in the next. In the eyes both
of the Moslem and the Hindoo it was the gravest and the most irreparable
of crimes, destroying all hopes in a future world, and yet this crime,
in their belief, was imposed upon them as a matter of military duty by
their officers. It was as if the Puritan soldiers of the seventeenth
century had been ordered by their commanders to abjure their hopes of
salvation and to repudiate and insult the Christian faith.

It is true that the existence of these obnoxious ingredients in the new
cartridges was solemnly denied, but the sincerity of the Sepoy belief is
incontestable, and General Anson, the commander-in-chief, having
examined the cartridges, was compelled to admit that it was very
plausible.[31] 'I am not so much surprised,' he wrote to Lord Canning,
'at their objections to the cartridges, having seen them. I had no idea
they contained, or rather are smeared with such a quantity of grease,
which looks exactly like fat. After ramming down the ball, the muzzle of
the musket is covered with it.'

Unfortunately this is not a complete statement of the case. It is a
shameful and terrible truth that, as far as the fact was concerned, the
Sepoys were perfectly right in their belief. In the words of Lord
Roberts, 'The recent researches of Mr. Forrest in the records of the
Government of India prove that the lubricating mixture used in preparing
the cartridges was actually composed of the objectionable ingredients,
cow's fat and lard, and that incredible disregard of the soldiers'
religious prejudices was displayed in the manufacture of these
cartridges.'[32] This was certainly not due, as the Sepoys imagined, to
any desire on the part of the British authorities to destroy caste or to
prepare the way for the conversion of the Sepoys to Christianity. It was
simply a glaring instance of the indifference, ignorance and incapacity
too often shown by British administrators in dealing with beliefs and
types of character wholly unlike their own. They were unable to realise
that a belief which seemed to them so childish could have any depth, and
they accordingly produced a Mutiny that for a time shook the English
power in India to its very foundation.

The horrors of Cawnpore--which were due to a single man--soon took away
from the British public all power of sanely judging the conflict, and a
struggle in which no quarter was given was naturally marked by extreme
savageness; but in looking back upon it, English writers must
acknowledge with humiliation that, if mutiny is ever justifiable, no
stronger justification could be given than that of the Sepoy troops.

Many of my readers will remember an exquisite little poem called 'The
Forced Recruit,' in which Mrs. Browning has described a young Venetian
soldier who was forced by the conscription to serve against his
fellow-countrymen in the Austrian army at Solferino, and who advanced
cheerfully to die by the Italian guns, holding a musket that had never
been loaded in his hand. Such a figure, such a violation of military
law, will claim the sympathy of all, but a very different judgment
should be passed upon those who, having voluntarily entered an army,
betray their trust and their oath in the name of patriotism. In the
Fenian movement in Ireland, one of the chief objects of the conspirators
was to corrupt the Irish soldiers and break down that high sense of
military honour for which in all times and in many armies the Irish
people have been conspicuous. 'The epidemic' [of disaffection], boasts
a writer who was much mixed in the conspiracies of those times, 'was not
an affair of individuals, but of companies and of whole regiments. To
attempt to impeach all the military Fenians before courts martial would
have been to throw England into a panic, if not to precipitate an
appalling mutiny and invite foreign invasion.'[33]

I do not quote these words as a true statement. They are, I believe, a
gross exaggeration and a gross calumny on the Irish soldiers, nor do I
doubt that most, if not all, the soldiers who may have been induced over
a glass of whiskey, or through the persuasions of some cunning agitator,
to take the Fenian oath would, if an actual conflict had arisen, have
proved perfectly faithful soldiers of the Queen. The perversion of
morals, however, which looks on such violations of military duty as
praiseworthy, has not been confined to writers of the stamp of Mr.
O'Brien. A striking instance of it is furnished by a recent American
biography. Among the early Fenian conspirators was a young man named
John Boyle O'Reilly. He was a genuine enthusiast, with a real vein of
literary talent; in the closing years of his life he won the affection
and admiration of very honourable men, and I should certainly have no
wish to look too harshly on youthful errors which were the result of a
misguided enthusiasm if they had been acknowledged as such. As a matter
of fact, however, he began his career by an act which, according to
every sound principle of morality, religion, and secular honour, was in
the highest degree culpable. Being a sworn Fenian, he entered a regiment
of hussars, assumed the uniform of the Queen, and took the oath of
allegiance for the express purpose of betraying his trust and seducing
the soldiers of his regiment. He was detected and condemned to penal
servitude, and he at last escaped to America, where he took an active
part in the Fenian movement. After his death his biography was written
in a strain of unqualified eulogy, but the biographer has honestly and
fully disclosed the facts which I have related. This book has an
introduction written by Cardinal Gibbons, one of the most prominent
Catholic divines in the United States. The reader may be curious to see
how the act of aggravated treachery and perjury which it revealed was
judged by a personage who occupies all but the highest position in a
Church which professes to be the supreme and inspired teacher of morals.
Not a word in this Introduction implies that O'Reilly had done any act
for which he should be ashamed. He is described as 'a great and good
man,' and the only allusion to his crime is in the following terms: 'In
youth his heart agonises over that saddest and strangest romance in all
history--the wrongs and woes of his motherland--that Niobe of the
Nations. In manhood, because he dared to wish her free, he finds himself
a doomed felon, an exiled convict, in what he calls himself the Nether
World.... The Divine faith implanted in his soul in childhood flourished
there undyingly, pervaded his whole being with its blessed influences,
furnished his noblest ideals of thought and conduct.... The country of
his adoption vies with the land of his birth in testifying to the
uprightness of his life.... With all these voices I blend my own, and in
their name I say that the world is brighter for having possessed


[24] Newman's _Anglican Difficulties_, p. 190.

[25] See Grotius, _de Jure_, book iii. ch. iv. On the Jewish notions on
this subject, see Deut. ii. 34; vii. 2, 16; xx. 10-16; Psalm cxxxvii. 9;
1 Sam. xv. 3. I have collected some additional facts on this subject in
my _History of European Morals_.

[26] Tyrrell and Purser's _Correspondence of Cicero_, vol. v. p. xlvii.

[27] See Grotius, _de Jure Belli et Pacis_.

[28] Much information on this subject will be found in a remarkable
pamphlet (said to have been corrected by Pitt) called 'An Enquiry into
the Manner in which the different wars in Europe have commenced during
the last two centuries, by the Author of the History and Foundation of
the Law of Nations in Europe' (1805).

[29] See Tovey's _Martial Law and the Custom of War_, part 2, pp. 13,
29. A striking instance of the deceptive use of a flag occurred in 1781,
when the English, having captured St. Eustatius from the Dutch, allowed
the Dutch flag still to float over its harbour in order that Dutch,
French, Spanish and American ships which were ignorant of the capture
might be decoyed into the harbour and seized as prizes. Some writers on
military law maintain that this was within the rights of war.

[30] See Fitzjames Stephen's _History of the Criminal Law_, i. 205.

[31] Lord Roberts' _Forty-one Years in India_, i. 94.

[32] _Ibid._ p. 431.

[33] _Contemporary Review_, May 1897. Article by William O'Brien, 'Was
Fenianism ever Formidable?'

[34] Roche's _Life of John Boyle O'Reilly_, with introduction by
Cardinal Gibbons. Since the publication of this book Cardinal Gibbons
has written a letter to the _Tablet_ (Dec. 2, 1899), in which he says:
'I feel it due to myself and the interests of truth to declare that till
I read Mr. Lecky's criticism I did not know that Mr. O'Reilly had ever
been a Fenian or a British soldier, or that he had tried to seduce other
soldiers from their allegiance. In fact, up to this moment, I have never
read a line of the biography for which I wrote the introduction.... My
only acquaintance with Mr. O'Reilly's history before he came to America
was the vague information I had that, for some political offence, the
exact nature of which I did not learn, he had been exiled from his
native land to a penal colony, from which he afterwards escaped.'

I gladly accept this assurance of Cardinal Gibbons, though I am
surprised that he should not have even glanced at the book which he
introduced, and that he should have been absolutely ignorant of the most
conspicuous event of the life which, from early youth, he held up to
unqualified admiration. I regret, too, that he has not taken the
opportunity of this letter to reprobate a form of moral perversion which
is widely spread among his Irish co-religionists, and which his own
words are only too likely to strengthen. It is but a short time since an
Irish Nationalist Member of Parliament, being accused of once having
served the Queen as a Volunteer, justified himself by saying that he had
only worn the coat which was worn by Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Boyle
O'Reilly; while another Irish Nationalist Member of Parliament, at a
public meeting in Dublin, and amid the cheers of his audience, expressed
his hope that in the South African war the Irish soldiers under the
British flag would fire on the English instead of on the Boers.


The foregoing chapter will have shown sufficiently how largely in one
great and necessary profession the element of moral compromise must
enter, and will show the nature of some of the moral difficulties that
attend it. We find illustrations of much the same kind in the profession
of an advocate. In the interests of the proper administration of justice
it is of the utmost importance that every cause, however defective, and
every criminal, however bad, should be fully defended, and it is
therefore indispensable that there should be a class of men entrusted
with this duty. It is the business of the judge and of the jury to
decide on the merits of the case, but in order that they should
discharge this function it is necessary that the arguments on both sides
should be laid before them in the strongest form. The clear interest of
society requires this, and a standard of professional honour and
etiquette is formed for the purpose of regulating the action of the
advocate. Misstatements of facts or of law; misquotations of documents;
strong expressions of personal opinion, and some other devices by which
verdicts may be won, are condemned; there are cases which an honourable
lawyer will not adopt, and there are rare cases in which, in the course
of a trial, he will find it his duty to throw up his brief.

But necessary and honourable as the profession may be, there are sides
of it which are far from being in accordance with an austere code of
ideal morals. It is idle to suppose that a master of the art of advocacy
will merely confine himself to a calm, dispassionate statement of the
facts and arguments of his side. He will inevitably use all his powers
of rhetoric and persuasion to make the cause for which he holds a brief
appear true, though he knows it to be false; he will affect a warmth
which he does not feel and a conviction which he does not hold; he will
skilfully avail himself of any mistake or omission of his opponent; of
any technical rule that can exclude damaging evidence; of all the
resources that legal subtlety and severe cross-examination can furnish
to confuse dangerous issues, to obscure or minimise inconvenient facts,
to discredit hostile witnesses. He will appeal to every prejudice that
can help his cause; he will for the time so completely identify himself
with it that he will make its success his supreme and all-absorbing
object; and he will hardly fail to feel some thrill of triumph if by the
force of ingenious and eloquent pleading he has saved the guilty from
his punishment or snatched a verdict in defiance of evidence.

It is not surprising that a profession which inevitably leads to such
things should have excited scruples among many good men. Swift very
roughly described lawyers as 'a society of men bred from their youth in
the art of proving by words, multiplied for the purpose, that white is
black and black is white, according as they are paid.' Dr. Arnold has
more than once expressed his dislike, and indeed abhorrence, of the
profession of an advocate. It inevitably, he maintained, leads to moral
perversion, involving, as it does, the indiscriminate defence of right
and wrong, and in many cases the knowing suppression of truth. Macaulay,
who can hardly be regarded as addicted to the refinements of an
over-fastidious morality, reviewing the professional rules that are
recognised in England, asks 'whether it be right that not merely
believing, but knowing a statement to be true, he should do all that can
be done by sophistry, by rhetoric, by solemn asseveration, by indignant
exclamation, by gesture, by play of features, by terrifying one honest
witness, by perplexing another, to cause a jury to think that statement
false.' Bentham denounced in even stronger language the habitual method
of 'the hireling lawyer' in cross-examining an honest but adverse
witness, and he declared that there is a code of morality current in
Westminster Hall generically different from the code of ordinary life,
and directly calculated to destroy the love of veracity and justice. On
the other hand, Paley recognised among falsehoods that are not lies
because they deceive no one, the statement of 'an advocate asserting the
justice or his belief of the justice of his client's cause.' Dr.
Johnson, in reply to some objections of Boswell, argues at length, but,
I think, with some sophistry, in favour of the profession. 'You are
not,' he says, 'to deceive your client with false representations of
your opinion. You are not to tell lies to the judge, but you need have
no scruple about taking up a case which you believe to be bad, or
affecting a warmth which you do not feel. You do not know your cause to
be bad till the judge determines it.... An argument which does not
convince yourself may convince the judge, and, if it does convince him,
you are wrong and he is right.... Everybody knows you are paid for
affecting warmth for your client, and it is therefore properly no
dissimulation.' Basil Montagu, in an excellent treatise on the subject,
urges that an advocate is simply an officer assisting in the
administration of justice under the impression that truth is best
elicited, and that difficulties are most effectually disentangled, by
the opposite statements of able men. He is an indispensable part of a
machine which in its net result is acting in the real interests of
truth, although he 'may profess feelings which he does not feel and may
support a cause which he knows to be wrong,' and although his advocacy
is 'a species of acting without an avowal that it is acting.'

It is, of course, possible to adopt the principles of the Quaker and to
condemn as unchristian all participation in the law courts, and although
the Catholic Church has never adopted this extreme, it seems to have
instinctively recognised some incompatibility between the profession of
an advocate and the saintly character. Renan notices the significant
fact that St. Yves, a saint of Brittany, appears to be the only advocate
who has found a place in its hagiology, and the worshippers were
accustomed to sing on his festival 'Advocatus et non latro--Res miranda
populo.' It is indeed evident that a good deal of moral compromise must
enter into this field, and the standards of right and wrong that have
been adopted have varied greatly. How far, for example, may a lawyer
support a cause which he believes to be wrong? In some ancient
legislations advocates were compelled to swear that they would not
defend causes which they thought or discovered to be unjust.[35] St.
Thomas Aquinas has laid down in emphatic terms that any lawyer who
undertakes the defence of an unjust cause is committing a grievous sin.
It is unlawful, he contends, to co-operate with any one who is doing
wrong, and an advocate clearly counsels and assists him whose cause he
undertakes. Modern Catholic casuists have dealt with the subject in the
same spirit. They admit, indeed, that an advocate may undertake the
defence of a criminal whom he knows to be guilty, in order to bring to
light all extenuating circumstances, but they contend that no advocate
should undertake a civil cause unless by a previous and careful
examination he has convinced himself that it is a just one; that no
advocate can without sin undertake a cause which he knows or strongly
believes to be unjust; that if he has done so he is himself bound in
conscience to make restitution to the party that has been injured by his
advocacy; that if in the course of a trial he discovers that a cause
which he had believed to be just is unjust he must try to persuade his
client to desist, and if he fails in this must himself abandon the
cause, though without informing the opposite party of the conclusion at
which he had arrived; that in conducting his case he must abstain from
wounding the reputation of his neighbour or endeavouring to influence
the judges by bringing before them misdeeds of his opponent which are
not connected with and are not essential to the case.[36] As lately as
1886 an order was issued from Rome, with the express approbation of the
Pope, forbidding any Catholic, mayor or judge, to take part in a
divorce case, as divorce is absolutely condemned by the Church.[37]

There have been, and perhaps still are, instances of lawyers
endeavouring to limit their practice to cases which they believed to be
just. Sir Matthew Hale is a conspicuous example, but he acknowledged
that he considerably relaxed his rule on the subject, having found in
two instances that cases which at the first blush seemed very worthless
were in truth well founded. As a general rule English lawyers make no
discrimination on this ground in accepting briefs unless the injustice
is very flagrant, nor will they, except in very extreme cases, do their
client the great injury of throwing up a brief which they have once
accepted. They contend that by acting in this way the administration of
justice in the long run is best served, and in this fact they find its

In the conduct of a case there are rules analogous to those which
distinguish between honourable and dishonourable war, but they are less
clearly defined and less universally accepted. In criminal prosecutions
a remarkable though very explicable distinction is drawn between the
prosecutor and the defender. It is the etiquette of the profession that
the former is bound to aim only at truth, neither straining any point
against the prisoner nor keeping back any fact which is favourable to
him, nor using any argument which he does not himself believe to be
just. The defender, however, is not bound, according to professional
etiquette, by such rules. He may use arguments which he knows to be
bad, conceal or shut out by technical objections facts that will tell
against his clients, and, subject to some wide and vague restrictions,
he must make the acquittal of his client his first object.[38]

Sometimes cases of extreme difficulty arise. Probably the best known is
the case of Courvoisier, the Swiss valet, who murdered Lord William
Russell in 1840. In the course of the trial Courvoisier informed his
advocate, Phillips, that he was guilty of the murder, but at the same
time directed Phillips to continue to defend him to the last extremity.
As there was overwhelming evidence that the murder must have been
committed by some one who slept in the house, the only possible defence
was that an equal amount of suspicion attached to the housemaid and cook
who were its other occupants. On the first day of the trial, before he
knew the guilt of his client from his own lips, Phillips had
cross-examined the housemaid, who first discovered the murder, with
great severity and with the evident object of throwing suspicion upon
her. What course ought he now to pursue? It happened that an eminent
judge was sitting on the bench with the judge who was to try the case,
and Phillips took this judge into his confidence, stated privately to
him the facts that had arisen, and asked for his advice. The judge
declared that Phillips was bound to continue to defend the prisoner,
whose case would have been hopeless if his own counsel abandoned him,
and in defending him he was bound to use all fair arguments arising out
of the evidence. The speech of Phillips was a masterpiece of eloquence
under circumstances of extraordinary difficulty. Much of it was devoted
to impugning the veracity of the witnesses for the prosecution. He
solemnly declared that it was not his business to say who committed the
murder, and that he had no desire to throw any imputation on the other
servants in the house, and he abstained scrupulously from giving any
personal opinion on the matter; but the drift of his argument was that
Courvoisier was the victim of a conspiracy, the police having concealed
compromising articles among his clothes, and that there was no clear
circumstance distinguishing the suspicion against him from that against
the other servants.[39]

The conduct of Phillips in this case has, I believe, been justified by
the preponderance of professional opinion, though when the facts were
known public opinion outside the profession generally condemned it. Some
lawyers have pushed the duty of defence to a point which has aroused
much protest even in their own profession. 'The Advocate,' said Lord
Brougham in his great speech before the House of Lords in defence of
Queen Caroline, 'by the sacred duty which he owes his client, knows in
the discharge of that office but one person in the world--that client
and none other. To save that client by all expedient means, to protect
that client at all hazards and costs to all others, and among others to
himself, is the highest and most unquestioned of his duties; and he must
not regard the alarm, the suffering, the torment, the destruction which
he may bring upon any other. Nay, separating even the duties of a
patriot from those of an advocate, and casting them, if need be, to the
wind, he must go on, reckless of consequences, if his fate it should
unhappily be to involve his country in confusion for his client's

This doctrine has been emphatically repudiated by some eminent English
lawyers, but both in practice and theory the profession have differed
widely in different courts, times and countries. How far, for example,
is it permissible in cross-examination to browbeat or confuse an honest
but timid and unskilful witness; to attempt to discredit the evidence of
a witness on a plain matter of fact about which he had no interest in
concealment by exhuming against him some moral scandal of early youth
which was totally unconnected with the subject of the trial; or, by
pursuing such a line of cross-examination, to keep out of the
witness-box material witnesses who are conscious that their past lives
are not beyond reproach? How far is it right or permissible to press
legal technicalities as opposed to substantial justice? Probably most
lawyers, if they are perfectly candid, will agree that these things are
in some measure inevitable in their profession, and that the real
question is one of degree, and therefore not susceptible of positive
definition. There is a kind of mind that grows so enamoured with the
subtleties and technicalities of the law that it delights in the
unexpected and unintended results to which they may lead. I have heard
an English judge say of another long deceased that he had through this
feeling a positive pleasure in injustice, and one lawyer, not of this
country, once confessed to me the amusement he derived from breaking the
convictions of criminals in his state by discovering technical flaws in
their indictments. There is a class of mind that delights in such cases
as that of the legal document which was invalidated because the letters
A.D. were put before the date instead of the formula 'in the year of Our
Lord,' or that of a swindler who was suffered to escape with his booty
because, in the writ that was issued for his arrest, by a copyist's
error the word 'sheriff' was written instead of 'sheriffs,' or that of a
lady who was deprived of an estate of £14,000 a year because by a mere
mistake of the conveyancer one material word was omitted from the will,
although the clearest possible evidence was offered showing the wishes
of the testator.[40] Such lawyers argue that in will cases 'the true
question is not what the testator intended to do, but what is the
meaning of the words of the will,' and that the balance of advantages is
in favour of a strict adherence to the construction of the sentence and
the technicalities of the law, even though in particular cases it may
lead to grave injustice.

It must indeed be acknowledged that up to a period extending far into
the nineteenth century those lawyers who adopted the most technical view
of their profession were acting fully in accordance with its spirit.
Few, if any, departments of English legislation and administration were
till near the middle of this century so scandalously bad as those
connected with the administration of the civil and the criminal law, and
especially with the Court of Chancery. The whole field was covered with
a network of obscure, intricate, archaic technicalities; useless except
for the purpose of piling up costs, procrastinating decisions, placing
the simplest legal processes wholly beyond the competence of any but
trained experts, giving endless facilities for fraud and for the evasion
or defeat of justice, turning a law case into a game in which chance and
skill had often vastly greater influence than substantial merits. Lord
Brougham probably in no degree exaggerated when he described great
portions of the English law as 'a two-edged sword in the hands of craft
and of oppression,' and a great authority on chancery law declared in
1839 that 'no man, as things now stand, can enter into a chancery suit
with any reasonable hope of being alive at its termination if he has a
determined adversary.'[41]

The moral difficulties of administering such a system were very great,
and in many cases English juries, in dealing with it, adopted a rough
and ready code of morals of their own. Though they had sworn to decide
every case according to the law as it was stated to them, and according
to the evidence that was laid before them, they frequently refused to
follow legal technicalities which would lead to substantial injustice,
and they still more frequently refused to bring in verdicts according to
evidence when by doing so they would consign a prisoner to a savage,
excessive, or unjust punishment. Some of the worst abuses of the English
law were mitigated by the perjuries of juries who refused to put them in

The great legal reforms of the past half-century have removed most of
these abuses, and have at the same time introduced a wider and juster
spirit into the practical administration of the law. Yet even now
different judges sometimes differ widely in the importance they attach
to substantial justice and to legal technicalities; and even now one of
the advantages of trial by jury is that it brings the masculine common
sense and the unsophisticated sense of justice of unprofessional men
into fields that would otherwise be often distorted by ingenious
subtleties. It is, however, far less in the position of the judge than
in the position of an advocate that the most difficult moral questions
of the legal profession arise. The difference between an unscrupulous
advocate and an advocate who is governed by a high sense of honour and
morality is very manifest, but at best there must be many things in the
profession from which a very sensitive conscience would recoil, and
things must be said and done which can hardly be justified except on the
ground that the existence of this profession and the prescribed methods
of its action are in the long run indispensable to the honest
administration of justice.

The same method of reasoning applies to other great departments of
life. In politics it is especially needed. In free countries party
government is the best if not the only way of conducting public affairs,
but it is impossible to conduct it without a large amount of moral
compromise; without a frequent surrender of private judgment and will. A
good man will choose his party through disinterested motives, and with a
firm and honest conviction that it represents the cast of policy most
beneficial to the country. He will on grave occasions assert his
independence of party, but in the large majority of cases he must act
with his party even if they are pursuing courses in some degree contrary
to his own judgment.

Every one who is actively engaged in politics--every one especially who
is a member of the House of Commons--must soon learn that if the
absolute independence of individual judgment were pushed to its extreme,
political anarchy would ensue. The complete concurrence of a large
number of independent judgments in a complicated measure is impossible.
If party government is to be carried on, there must be, both in the
Cabinet and in Parliament, perpetual compromise. The first condition of
its success is that the Government should have a stable, permanent,
disciplined support behind it, and in order that this should be attained
the individual member must in most cases vote with his party. Sometimes
he must support a measure which he knows to be bad, because its
rejection would involve a change of government which he believes would
be a still greater evil than its acceptance, and in order to prevent
this evil he may have to vote a direct negative to some resolution
containing a statement which he believes to be true. At the same time,
if he is an honest man, he will not be a mere slave of party. Sometimes
a question arises which he considers so supremely important that he will
break away from his party and endeavour at all hazards to carry or to
defeat it. Much more frequently he will either abstain from voting, or
will vote against the Government on a particular question, but only when
he knows that by taking this course he is simply making a protest which
will produce no serious political complication. On most great measures
there is a dissentient minority in the Government party, and it often
exercises a most useful influence in representing independent opinion,
and bringing into the measure modifications and compromises which allay
opposition, gratify minorities, and soften differences. But the action
of that party will be governed by many motives other than a simple
consideration of the merits of the case. It is not sufficient to say
that they must vote for every resolution which they believe to be true,
for every bill or clause of a bill which they believe to be right, and
must vote against every bill or clause or resolution about which they
form an opposite judgment. Sometimes they will try in private to prevent
the introduction of a measure, but when it is introduced they will feel
it their duty either positively to support it or at least to abstain
from protesting against it. Sometimes they will either vote against it
or abstain from voting at all, but only when the majority is so large
that it is sure to be carried. Sometimes their conduct will be the
result of a bargain--they will vote for one portion of a bill of which
they disapprove because they have obtained from the Government a
concession on another which they think more important. The nature of
their opposition will depend largely upon the strength or weakness of
the Government, upon the size of the majority, upon the degree in which
a change of ministry would affect the general policy of the country,
upon the probability of the measure they object to being finally
extinguished, or returning in another year either in an improved or in a
more dangerous form. Questions of proportion and degree and ulterior
consequences will continually sway them. Measures are often opposed, not
on their own intrinsic merits, but on account of precedents they might
establish; of other measures which might grow out of them or be
justified by them.

Not unfrequently it happens that a section of the dominant party is
profoundly discontented with the policy of the Government on some
question which they deem of great importance. They find themselves
incapable of offering any direct and successful opposition, but their
discontent will show itself on some other Government measure on which
votes are more evenly divided. Possibly they may oppose that measure.
More probably they will fail to attend regularly at the divisions, or
will exercise their independent judgments on its clauses in a manner
they would not have done if their party allegiance had been unshaken.
And this conduct is not mere revenge. It is a method of putting pressure
on the Government in order to obtain concessions on matters which they
deem of paramount importance. In the same way they will seek to gain
supporters by political alliances. Few things in parliamentary
government are more dangerous or more apt to lead to corruption than
the bargains which the Americans call log-rolling; but it is inevitable
that a member who has received from a colleague, or perhaps from an
opponent, assistance on a question which he believes to be of the
highest importance, will be disposed to return that assistance in some
case in which his own feelings and opinions are not strongly enlisted.

Then, too, we have to consider the great place which obstruction plays
in parliamentary government. It constantly happens that a measure to
which scarcely any one objects is debated at inordinate length for no
other reason than to prevent a measure which is much objected to from
being discussed. Measures may be opposed by hostile votes, but they are
often much more efficaciously opposed by calculated delays, by
multiplied amendments or speeches, by some of the many devices that can
be employed to clog the legislative machine. There are large classes of
measures on which governments or parliaments think it desirable to give
no opinion, or at least no immediate opinion, though they cannot prevent
their introduction, and many methods are employed with the real, though
not avowed and ostensible object of preventing a vote or even a
ministerial declaration upon them. Sometimes Parliament is quite ready
to acknowledge the abstract justice of a proposal, but does not think it
ripe for legislation. In such cases the second reading of the bill will
probably be accepted, but, to the indignation and astonishment of its
supporters outside the House, it will be obstructed, delayed or defeated
in committee with the acquiescence, or connivance, or even actual
assistance of some of those who had voted for it. Some measures in the
eyes of some members involve questions of principle so sacred that they
will admit of no compromise of expediency, but most measures are deemed
open to compromise and are accepted, rejected, or modified under some of
the many motives I have described.

All this curious and indispensable mechanism of party government is
compatible with a high and genuine sense of public duty, and unless such
a sense at the last resort dominates over all other considerations,
political life will inevitably decline. At the same time it is obvious
that many things have to be done from which a very rigid and austere
nature would recoil. To support a Government when he believes it to be
wrong, or to oppose a measure which he believes to be right; to connive
at evasions which are mere pretexts, and at delays which rest upon
grounds that are not openly avowed,--is sometimes, and indeed not
unfrequently, a parliamentary duty. A member of Parliament must often
feel himself in the position of a private in an army, or a player in a
game, or an advocate in a law case. On many questions each party
represents and defends the special interests of some particular classes
in the country. When there are two plausible alternative courses to be
pursued which divide public opinion, the Opposition is almost bound by
its position to enforce the merits of the course opposed to that adopted
by the Government. In theory nothing could seem more absurd than a
system of government in which, as it has been said, the ablest men in
Parliament are divided into two classes, one side being charged with the
duty of carrying on the government and the other with that of
obstructing and opposing them in their task, and in which, on a vast
multitude of unconnected questions, these two great bodies of very
competent men, with the same facts and arguments before them, habitually
go into opposite lobbies. In practice, however, parliamentary government
by great parties, in countries where it is fully understood and
practised, is found to be admirably efficacious in representing every
variety of political opinion; in securing a constant supervision and
criticism of men and measures; and in forming a safety valve through
which the dangerous humours of society can expand without evil to the

This, however, is only accomplished by constant compromises which are
seldom successfully carried out without a long national experience.
Party must exist. It must be maintained as an essential condition of
good government, but it must be subordinated to the public interests,
and in the public interests it must be in many cases suspended. There
are subjects which cannot be introduced without the gravest danger into
the arena of party controversy. Indian politics are a conspicuous
example, and, although foreign policy cannot be kept wholly outside it,
the dangers connected with its party treatment are extremely great. Many
measures of a different kind are conducted with the concurrence of the
two front benches. A cordial union on large classes of questions between
the heads of the rival parties is one of the first conditions of
successful parliamentary government. The Opposition leader must have a
voice in the conduct of business, on the questions that should be
brought forward, and on the questions that it is for the public interest
to keep back. He is the official leader of systematic, organised
opposition to the Government, yet he is on a large number of questions
their most powerful ally. He must frequently have confidential relations
with them, and one of his most useful functions is to prevent sections
of his party from endeavouring to snatch party advantages by courses
which might endanger public interests. If the country is to be well
governed there must be a large amount of continuity in its policy;
certain conditions and principles of administration must be inflexibly
maintained, and in great national emergencies all parties must unite.

In questions which lie at the heart of party politics, also some amount
of compromise is usually effected. Debate not only elicits opinions but
also suggests alternatives and compromises, and very few measures are
carried by a majority which do not bear clear traces of the action of
the minority. The line is constantly deflected now on one side and now
on the other, and (usually without much regard to logical consistency)
various and opposing sentiments are in some measure gratified. If the
lines of party are drawn with an inflexible rigidity; and if the
majority insist on the full exercise of their powers, parliamentary
government may become a despotism as crushing as the worst autocracy--a
despotism which is perhaps even more dangerous as the sense of
responsibility is diminished by being divided. If, on the other hand,
the latitude conceded to individual opinion is excessive, Parliament
inevitably breaks into groups, and parliamentary government loses much
of its virtue. When coalitions of minorities can at any time overthrow a
ministry, the whole force of Government is lost. The temptation to
corrupt bargains with particular sections is enormously increased, and
the declining control of the two front benches will be speedily followed
by a diminished sense of responsibility, and by the increased influence
of violent, eccentric, exaggerated opinions. It is of the utmost moment
that the policy of an Opposition should be guided by its most important
men, and especially by men who have had the experience and the
responsibility of office, and who know that they may have that
responsibility again. But the healthy latitude of individual opinion and
expression in a party is like most of those things we are now
considering, a question of degree, and not susceptible of clear and
sharp definition.

Other questions of a somewhat different nature, but involving grave
moral considerations, arise out of the relations between a member and
his constituents. In the days when small boroughs were openly bought in
the market, this was sometimes defended on the ground of the complete
independence of judgment which it gave to the purchasing member. Romilly
and Henry Flood are said to have both purchased their seats with the
express object of securing such independence. In the political
philosophy of Burke, no doctrine is more emphatically enforced than that
a member of Parliament is a representative but not a delegate; that he
owes to his constituents not only his time and his services, but also
the exercise of his independent and unfettered judgment; that, while
reflecting the general cast of their politics, he must never suffer
himself to be reduced to a mere mouthpiece, or accept binding
instructions prescribing on each particular measure the course he may
pursue; that after his election he must consider himself a member of an
Imperial Parliament rather than the representative of a particular
locality, and must subordinate local and special interests to the wider
and more general interests of the whole nation.

The conditions of modern political life have greatly narrowed this
liberty of judgment. In most constituencies a member can only enter
Parliament fettered by many pledges relating to specific measures, and
in every turn of policy sections of his constituents will attempt to
dictate his course of action. Certain large and general pledges
naturally and properly precede his election. He is chosen as a supporter
or opponent of the Government; he avows himself an adherent of certain
broad lines of policy, and he also represents in a special degree the
interests and the distinctive type of opinion of the class or industry
which is dominant in his constituency. But even at the time of election
he often finds that on some particular question in which his electors
are much interested he differs from them, though they consent, in spite
of it, to elect him; and, in the course of a long Parliament, others are
very apt unexpectedly to arise. Political changes take place which bring
into the foreground matters which at the time of the election seemed
very remote, or produce new questions, or give rise to unforeseen party
combinations, developments, and tendencies. It will often happen that on
these occasions a member will think differently from the majority of his
electors, and he must meet the question how far he must sacrifice his
judgment to theirs, and how far he may use the influence which their
votes have given him to act in opposition to their wishes and perhaps
even to their interests. Burke, for example, found himself in this
position when, being member for Bristol, he considered it his duty to
support the concession of Free-trade to Ireland, although his
constituents had, or thought they had, a strong interest in commercial
restrictions and monopoly. In our own day it has happened that members
representing manufacturing districts of Lancashire have found themselves
unexpectedly called upon to vote upon some measure for crippling or
extending rival manufactures in India; for opening new markets by some
very dubious aggression in a distant land; or for limiting the child
labour employed in the local manufacture; and these members have often
believed that the right course was a course which was exceedingly
repugnant to great sections of their electors.

Sometimes, too, a member is elected on purely secular issues, but in the
course of the Parliament one of those fierce, sudden storms of religious
sentiment, to which England is occasionally liable, sweeps over the
land, and he finds himself wholly out of sympathy with a great portion
of his constituency. In other cases the party which he entered
Parliament to support, pursues, on some grave question, a line of policy
which he believes to be seriously wrong, and he goes into partial or
even complete and bitter opposition. Differences of this kind have
frequently arisen when there is no question of any interested motive
having influenced the member. Sometimes in such cases he has resigned
his seat and gone to his electors for re-election. In other cases he
remains in Parliament till the next election. Each case, however, must
be left to individual judgment, and no clear, definite, unwavering moral
line can be drawn. The member will consider the magnitude of the
disputed question, both in his own eyes and in the eyes of those whom he
represents; its permanent or transitory character, the amount and
importance of the majority opposed to his views, the length of time that
is likely to elapse before a dissolution will bring him face to face
with his constituents. In matters which he does not consider very urgent
or important, he will probably sacrifice his own judgment to that of his
electors, at least so far as to abstain from voting or from pressing his
own views. In graver matters it is his duty boldly to face unpopularity,
or perhaps even take the extreme step of resigning his seat.

The cases in which a member of Parliament finds it his duty to support a
measure which he believes to be positively bad, on the ground that
greater evils would follow its rejection, are happily not very numerous.
He can extricate himself from many moral difficulties by sometimes
abstaining from voting or from the expression of his real opinions, and
most measures are of a composite character in which good and evil
elements combine, and may in some degree be separated. In such measures
it is often possible to accept the general principle while opposing
particular details, and there is considerable scope for compromise and
modification. But the cases in which a member of Parliament is compelled
to vote for measures about which he has no real knowledge or conviction
are very many. Crowds of measures of a highly complex and technical
character, affecting departments of life with which he has had no
experience, relating to the multitudinous industries, interests and
conditions of a great people, are brought before him at very short
notice; and no intellect, however powerful, no industry, however great,
can master them. It is utterly impossible that mere extemporised
knowledge, the listening to a short debate, the brief study which a
member of Parliament can give to a new subject, can place him on a real
level of competence with those who can bring to it a lifelong knowledge
or experience.

A member of Parliament will soon find that he must select a class of
subjects which he can himself master, while on many others he must vote
blindly with his party. The two or three capital measures in a session
are debated with such a fulness that both the House and the country
become thoroughly competent to judge them, and in those cases the
preponderance of argument will have great weight. A powerful ministry
and a strongly organised party may carry such a measure in spite of it,
but they will be obliged to accept amendments and modifications, and if
they persist in their policy their position both in the House and in the
country will sooner or later be inevitably changed. But a large number
of measures have a more restricted interest, and are far less widely
understood. The House of Commons is rich in expert knowledge, and few
subjects are brought before it which some of its members do not
thoroughly understand; but in a vast number of cases the majority who
decide the question are obliged to do so on the most superficial
knowledge. Very often it is physically impossible for a member to obtain
the knowledge he requires. The most important and detailed investigation
has taken place in a committee upstairs to which he did not belong, or
he is detained elsewhere on important parliamentary business while the
debate is going on. Even when this is not the case, scarcely any one
has the physical or mental power which would enable him to sit
intelligently through all the debates. Every member of Parliament is
familiar with the scene, when, after a debate, carried on before nearly
empty benches, the division bell rings, and the members stream in to
decide the issue. There is a moment of uncertainty. The questions 'Which
side are we?' 'What is it about?' may be heard again and again. Then the
Speaker rises, and with one magical sentence clears the situation. It is
the sentence in which he announces that the tellers for the Ayes or
Noes, as the case may be, are the Government whips. It is not argument,
it is not eloquence, it is this single sentence which in countless cases
determines the result and moulds the legislation of the country. Many
members, it is true, are not present in the division lobby, but they are
usually paired--that is to say, they have taken their sides before the
discussion began; perhaps without even knowing what subject is to be
discussed, perhaps for all the many foreseen and unforeseen questions
that may arise during long periods of the session.

It is a strange process, and to a new member who has been endeavouring
through his life to weigh arguments and evidence with scrupulous care,
and treat the formation and expression of opinions as a matter of
serious duty, it is at first very painful. He finds that he is required
again and again to give an effective voice in the great council of the
nation, on questions of grave importance, with a levity of conviction
upon which he would not act in the most trivial affairs of private life.
No doctor would prescribe for the slightest malady; no lawyer would
advise in the easiest case; no wise man would act in the simplest
transactions of private business, or would even give an opinion to his
neighbour at a dinner party without more knowledge of the subject than
that on which a member of Parliament is often obliged to vote. But he
soon finds that for good or evil this system is absolutely indispensable
to the working of the machine. If no one voted except on matters he
really understood and cared for, four-fifths of the questions that are
determined by the House of Commons would be determined by mere fractions
of its members, and in that case parliamentary government under the
party system would be impossible. The stable, disciplined majorities
without which it can never be efficiently conducted would be at an end.
Those who refuse to accept the conditions of parliamentary life should
abstain from entering into it.

It is obvious that the one justification of this system is to be found
in the belief that parliamentary government, as it is worked in England,
is on the whole a good thing, and that this is the indispensable
condition of its existence. Probably also with most men it strengthens
the disposition to support the Government on matters which they do not
understand and in which grave party issues are not involved. They know
that these minor questions have at least been carefully examined on
their merits by responsible men, and with the assistance of the best
available expert knowledge.

This fact goes far to reconcile us to the tendency to give governments
an almost complete monopoly in the initiation of legislation which is so
evident in modern parliamentary life. Much useful legislation in the
past has been due to private and independent members, but the chance of
bills introduced by such members ever becoming law is steadily
diminishing. This is not due to any recognised constitutional change,
but to the constantly increasing pressure of government business on the
time of the House, and especially to what is called the twelve o'clock
rule, terminating debates at midnight.

It is a rule which is manifestly wise, for it limits on ordinary
occasions the hours of parliamentary work to a period within the
strength of an average man. Parliamentary government has many dubious
aspects, but it never appears worse than in the cases which may still
sometimes be seen when a Government thinks fit to force through an
important measure by all-night sittings, and when a weary and irritated
House which has been sitting since three or four in the afternoon is
called upon at a corresponding hour of the early morning to pronounce
upon grave and difficult questions of principle, and to deal with the
serious interests of large classes. The utter and most natural
incapacity of the House at such an hour for sustained argument; its
anxiety that each successive amendment should be despatched in five
minutes; the readiness with which in that tired, feverish atmosphere,
surprises and coalitions may be effected and solutions accepted, to
which the House in its normal state would scarcely have listened, must
be evident to every observer. Scenes of this kind are among the greatest
scandals of Parliament, and the rule which makes them impossible except
in the closing weeks of the Session has been one of the greatest
improvements in modern parliamentary work. But its drawback is that it
has greatly limited the possibility of private member legislation. It is
in late and rapid sittings that most measures of this kind passed
through their final stages, and since the twelve o'clock rule has been
adopted a much smaller number of bills introduced by private members
find their way to the statute book.


[35] O'Brien, _The Lawyer_, pp. 169, 170.

[36] _Dictionnaire de Cas de Conscience_, Art. 'Avocat;' Migne,
_Encyclopédie Théologique_, i. serie, tome xviii.

[37] _Revue de Droit International_, xxi. 615.

[38] See Sir James Stephen's _General View of the Criminal Law of
England_, pp. 167, 168.

[39] Phillips's defence of his own conduct will be found in a pamphlet
called 'Correspondence of S. Warren and C. Phillips relating to the
Courvoisier trial.' It has often been said that Phillips had asserted in
his speech his full belief in the innocence of his client, but this is
disproved by the statement of C. J. Tindal, who tried the case, and of
Baron Parke, who sat on the bench. C. J. Denman also pronounced
Phillips's speech to be unexceptionable. An able and interesting article
on this case by Mr. Atlay will be found in the _Cornhill Magazine_, May,

[40] See these cases in Warren's _Social and Professional Duties of an
Attorney_, pp. 128-133, 195, 196.

[41] See the admirable article by Lord Justice Bowen on 'The
Administration of the Law' in Ward's _Reign of Queen Victoria_, vol. i.


It is obvious from the considerations that have been adduced in the last
chapter that the moral limitations and conditions under which an
ordinary member of Parliament is compelled to work are far from ideal.
An upright man will try conscientiously, under these conditions, to do
his best for the cause of honesty and for the benefit of his country,
but he cannot essentially alter them, and they present many temptations
and tend in many ways to blur the outlines separating good from evil. He
will find himself practically pledged to support his party in measures
which he has never seen and in policies that are not yet developed; to
vote in some cases contrary to his genuine belief and in many cases
without real knowledge; to act throughout his political career on many
motives other than a reasoned conviction of the substantial merits of
the question at issue.

I have dwelt on the difficult questions which arise when the wishes of
his constituents are at variance with his own genuine opinions. Another
and a wider question is how far he is bound to make what he considers
the interests of the nation his guiding light, and how far he should
subordinate what he believes to be their interests to their prejudices
and wishes. One of the first lessons that every active politician has to
learn is that he is a trustee bound to act for men whose opinions,
aims, desires and ideals are often very different from his own. No man
who holds the position of member of Parliament should divest himself of
this consideration, though it applies to different classes of members in
different degrees. A private member should not forget it, but at the
same time, being elected primarily and specially to represent one
particular element in the national life, he will concentrate his
attention more exclusively on a narrow circle, though he has at the same
time more latitude of expressing unpopular opinions and pushing unripe
and unpopular causes than a member who is taking a large and official
part in the government of the nation. The opposition front bench
occupies a somewhat different position. They are the special and
organised representatives of a particular party and its ideas, but the
fact that they may be called upon at any time to undertake the
government of the nation as a whole, and that even while in opposition
they take a great part in moulding its general policy, imposes on them
limitations and restrictions from which a mere private member is in a
great degree exempt. When a party comes into power its position is again
slightly altered. Its leaders are certainly not detached from the party
policy they had advocated in opposition. One of the main objects of
party is to incorporate certain political opinions and the interests of
certain sections of the community in an organised body which will be a
steady and permanent force in politics. It is by this means that
political opinions are most likely to triumph; that class interests are
most effectually protected. But a Government cannot govern merely in the
interests of a party. It is a trustee for the whole nation, and one of
its first duties is to ascertain and respect as far as possible the
wishes as well as the interests of all sections.

Concrete examples may perhaps show more clearly than abstract statements
the kind of difficulties that I am describing. Take, for example, the
large class of proposals for limiting the sale of strong drink by such
methods as local veto or Sunday closing of public-houses. One class of
politicians take up the position of uncompromising opponents of the
drink trade. They argue that strong drink is beyond all question in
England the chief source of the misery, the vice, the degradation of the
poor; that it not only directly ruins tens of thousands, body and soul,
but also brings a mass of wretchedness that it is difficult to overrate
on their innocent families; that the drunkard's craving for drink often
reproduces itself as an hereditary disease in his children; and that a
legislator can have no higher object and no plainer duty than by all
available means to put down the chief obstacle to the moral and material
well-being of the people. The principle of compulsion, as they truly
say, is more and more pervading all departments of industry. It is idle
to contend that the State which, while prohibiting other forms of Sunday
trading, gives a special privilege to the most pernicious of all, has
not the right to limit or to withdraw it, and the legislature which
levies vast sums upon the whole community for the maintenance of the
police as well as for poor-houses, prisons and criminal administration,
ought surely, in the interests of the whole community, to do all that is
in its power to suppress the main cause of pauperism, disorder and

Another class of politicians approach the question from a wholly
different point of view. They emphatically object to imposing upon
grown-up men a system of moral restriction which is very properly
imposed upon children. They contend that adult men who have assumed all
the duties and responsibilities of life, and have even a voice in the
government of the country, should regulate their own conduct, as far as
they do not directly interfere with their neighbours, without legal
restraint, bearing themselves the consequences of their mistakes or
excesses. This, they say, is the first principle of freedom, the first
condition in the formation of strong and manly characters. A poor man,
who desires on his Sunday excursion to obtain moderate refreshment such
as he likes for himself or his family, and who goes to the
public-house--probably in most cases to meet his friends and discuss the
village gossip over a glass of beer--is in no degree interfering with
the liberty of his neighbours. He is doing nothing that is wrong;
nothing that he has not a perfect right to do. No one denies the rich
man access to his club on Sunday, and it should be remembered that the
poor man has neither the private cellars nor the comfortable and roomy
homes of the rich, and has infinitely fewer opportunities of recreation.
Because some men abuse this right and are unable to drink alcohol in
moderation, are all men to be prevented from drinking it at all, or at
least from drinking it on Sunday? Because two men agree not to drink it,
have they a right to impose the same obligation on an unwilling third?
Have those who never enter a public-house, and by their position in life
never need to enter it, a right, if they are in a majority, to close
its doors against those who use it? On such grounds these politicians
look with extreme disfavour on all this restrictive legislation as
unjust, partial and inconsistent with freedom.

Very few, however, would carry either set of arguments to their full
logical consequences. Not many men who have had any practical experience
in the management of men would advocate a complete suppression of the
drink trade, and still fewer would put it on the basis of complete free
trade, altogether exempt from special legislative restriction. To
responsible politicians the course to be pursued will depend mainly on
fluctuating conditions of public opinion. Restrictions will be imposed,
but only when and as far as they are supported by a genuine public
opinion. It must not be a mere majority, but a large majority; a steady
majority; a genuine majority representing a real and earnest desire, and
especially in the classes who are most directly affected; not a mere
factitious majority such as is often created by skilful organisation and
agitation; by the enthusiasm of the few confronting the indifference of
the many. In free and democratic States one of the most necessary but
also one of the most difficult arts of statesmanship is that of testing
public opinion, discriminating between what is real, growing and
permanent and what is transient, artificial and declining. As a French
writer has said, 'The great art in politics consists not in hearing
those who speak, but in hearing those who are silent.' On such questions
as those I have mentioned we may find the same statesman without any
real inconsistency supporting the same measures in one part of the
kingdom and opposing them in another; supporting them at one time
because public opinion runs strongly in their favour; opposing them at
another because that public opinion has grown weak.

One of the worst moral evils that grow up in democratic countries is the
excessive tendency to time-serving and popularity hunting, and the
danger is all the greater because in a certain sense both of these
things are a necessity and even a duty. Their moral quality depends
mainly on their motive. The question to be asked is whether a politician
is acting from personal or merely party objects or from honourable
public ones. Every statesman must form in his own mind a conception
whether a prevailing tendency is favourable or opposed to the real
interests of the country. It will depend upon this judgment whether he
will endeavour to accelerate or retard it; whether he will yield slowly
or readily to its pressure, and there are cases in which, at all hazards
of popularity and influence, he should inexorably oppose it. But in the
long run, under free governments, political systems and measures must be
adjusted to the wishes of the various sections of the people, and this
adjustment is the great work of statesmanship. In judging a proposed
measure a statesman must continually ask himself whether the country is
ripe for it--whether its introduction, however desirable it might be,
would not be premature, as public opinion is not yet prepared for
it?--whether, even though it be a bad measure, it is not on the whole
better to vote for it, as the nation manifestly desires it?

The same kind of reasoning applies to the difficult question of
education, and especially of religious education. Every one who is
interested in the subject has his own conviction about the kind of
education which is in itself the best for the people, and also the best
for the Government to undertake. He may prefer that the State should
confine itself to purely secular education, leaving all religious
teaching to voluntary agencies; or he may approve of the kind of
undenominational religious teaching of the English School Board; or he
may be a strong partisan of one of the many forms of distinctly
accentuated denominational education. But when he comes to act as a
responsible legislator, he should feel that the question is not merely
what _he_ considers the best, but also what the parents of the children
most desire. It is true that the authority of parents is not absolutely
recognised. The conviction that certain things are essential to the
children, and to the well-being and vigour of the State, and the
conviction that parents are often by no means the best judges of this,
make legislators, on some important subjects, override the wishes of the
parents. The severe restrictions imposed on child labour; the
measure--unhappily now greatly relaxed--providing for children's
vaccination; and the legislation protecting children from ill treatment
by their parents, are illustrations, and the most extensive and
far-reaching of all exceptions is education. After much misgiving, both
parties in the State have arrived at the conclusion that it is essential
to the future of the children, and essential also to the maintenance of
the relative position of England in the great competition of nations,
that at least the rudiments of education should be made universal, and
they are also convinced that this is one of the truths which perfectly
ignorant parents are least competent to understand. Hence the system
which of late years has so rapidly extended of compulsory education.

Many nations have gone further, and have claimed for the State the right
of prescribing absolutely the kind of education that should be
permitted, or at least the kind of education which shall be exclusively
supported by State funds. In England this is not the case. A great
variety of forms of education corresponding to the wishes and opinions
of different classes of parents receive assistance from the State,
subject to the conditions of submitting to certain tests of educational
efficiency, and to a conscience clause protecting minorities from
interference with their faith.

A case which once caused much moral heart-burning among good men was the
endowment, by the State, of Maynooth College, which is absolutely under
the control of the Roman Catholic priesthood, and intended to educate
their Divinity students in the Roman Catholic faith. The endowment dated
from the period of the old Irish Protestant Parliament; and when, on the
Disestablishment of the Irish Church, it came to an end, it was replaced
by a large capital grant from the Irish Church Fund, and it is upon the
interest of that grant that the College is still supported. This grant
was denounced by many excellent men on the ground that the State was
Protestant; that it had a definite religious belief upon which it was
bound in conscience to act; and that it was a sinful apostasy to endow
out of the public purse the teaching of what all Protestants believe to
be superstition, and what many Protestants believe to be idolatrous and
soul-destroying error. The strength of this kind of feeling in England
is shown by the extreme difficulty there has been in persuading public
opinion to acquiesce in any form of that concurrent endowment of
religions which exists so widely and works so well upon the Continent.

Many, again, who have no objection to the policy of assisting by State
subsidies the theological education of the priests are of opinion that
it is extremely injurious both to the State and to the young that the
secular education--and especially the higher secular education--of the
Irish Catholic population should be placed under their complete control,
and that, through their influence, the Irish Catholics should be
strictly separated during the period of their education from their
fellow-countrymen of other religions. No belief, in my own opinion, is
better founded than this. If, however, those who hold it find that there
is a great body of Catholic parents who persistently desire this control
and separation; who will not be satisfied with any removal of
disabilities and sectarian influence in systems of common education; who
object to all mixed and undenominational education on the ground that
their priests have condemned it, and that they are bound in conscience
to follow the orders of their priests, and who are in consequence
withholding from their children the education they would otherwise have
given them, such men will in my opinion be quite justified in modifying
their policy. As a matter of expediency they will argue that it is
better that these Catholics should receive an indifferent university
education than none at all; and that it is exceedingly desirable that
what is felt to be a grievance by many honest, upright and loyal men
should be removed. As a matter of principle, they contend that in a
country where higher education is largely and variously endowed from
public sources, it is a real grievance that there should be one large
body of the people who can derive little or no benefit from those
endowments. It is no sufficient answer to say that the objection of the
Catholic parents is in most cases not spontaneous, but is due to the
orders of their priests, since we are dealing with men who believe it to
be a matter of conscience on such questions to obey their priests. Nor
is it, I think, sufficient to argue--as very many enlightened men will
do--that everything that could be in the smallest degree repugnant to
the faith of a Catholic has been eliminated from the education which is
imposed on them in existing universities; that every post of honour,
emolument and power has been thrown open to them; that for generations
they gladly followed the courses of Dublin University, and are even now
permitted by their ecclesiastics to follow those of Oxford and
Cambridge; that, the nation having adopted the broad principle of
unsectarian education open to all, no single sect has a right to
exceptional treatment, though every sect has an undoubted right to set
up at its own expense such education as it pleases. The answer is that
the objection of a certain class of Roman Catholics in Ireland is not to
any abuses that may take place under the system of mixed and
undenominational education, but to the system itself, and that the
particular type of education of which alone one considerable class of
taxpayers can conscientiously avail themselves has only been set up by
voluntary effort, and is only inadequately and indirectly endowed by
the State.[42] Slowly and very reluctantly governments in England
have come to recognise the fact that the trend of Catholic opinion
in Ireland is as clearly in the direction of denominationalism as
the trend of Nonconformist English opinion is in the direction of
undenominationalism, and that it is impossible to carry on the education
of a priest-ridden Catholic people on the same lines as a Protestant
one. Primary education has become almost absolutely denominational, and,
directly or indirectly, a crowd of endowments are given to exclusively
Catholic institutions. On such grounds, many who entertain the strongest
antipathy to the priestly control of higher education are prepared to
advocate an increased endowment of some university or college which is
distinctly sacerdotal, while strenuously upholding side by side with it
the undenominational institutions which they believe to be incomparably
better, and which are at present resorted to not only by all
Protestants, but also by a not inconsiderable body of Irish Catholics.

Many of my readers will probably come to an opposite conclusion on this
very difficult question. The object of what I have written is simply to
show the process by which a politician may conscientiously advocate the
establishment and endowment of a thing which he believes to be
intrinsically bad. It is said to have been a saying of Sir Robert
Inglis--an excellent representative of an old school of extreme but most
conscientious Toryism--that 'he would never vote one penny of public
money for any purpose which he did not think right and good.' The
impossibility of carrying out such a principle must be obvious to any
one who has truly grasped the nature of representative government and
the duty of a member of Parliament to act as a trustee for all classes
in the community. In the exercise of this function every conscientious
member is obliged continually to vote money for purposes which he
dislikes. In the particular instance I have just given, the process of
reasoning I have described is purely disinterested, but of course it is
not by such a process of pure reasoning that such a question will be
determined. English and Scotch members will have to consider the effects
of their vote on their own constituencies, where there are generally
large sections of electors with very little knowledge of the special
circumstances of Irish education, but very strong feelings about the
Roman Catholic Church. Statesmen will have to consider the ulterior and
various ways in which their policy may affect the whole social and
political condition of Ireland, while the overwhelming majority of the
Irish members are elected by small farmers and agricultural labourers
who could never avail themselves of University education, and who on all
matters relating to education act blindly at the dictation of their

Inconsistency is no necessary condemnation of a politician, and parties
as well as individual statesmen have abundantly shown it. It would lead
me too far in a book in which the moral difficulties of politics form
only one subdivision, to enter into the history of English parties; but
those who will do so will easily convince themselves that there is
hardly a principle of political action that has not in party history
been abandoned, and that not unfrequently parties have come to advocate
at one period of their history the very measures which at another period
they most strenuously resisted. Changed circumstances, the growth or
decline of intellectual tendencies, party strategy, individual
influence, have all contributed to these mutations, and most of them
have been due to very blended motives of patriotism and self-interest.

In judging the moral quality of the changes of party leaders, the
element of time will usually be of capital importance. Violent and
sudden reversals of policy are never effected by a party without a great
loss of moral weight; though there are circumstances under which they
have been imperatively required. No one will now dispute the integrity
of the motives that induced the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel
to carry Catholic Emancipation in 1829, when the Clare election had
brought Ireland to the verge of revolution; and the conduct of Sir
Robert Peel in carrying the repeal of the Corn Laws was certainly not
due to any motive either of personal or party ambition, though it may be
urged with force that at a time when he was still the leader of the
Protectionist party his mind had been manifestly moving in the direction
of Free trade, and that the Irish famine, though not a mere pretext, was
not wholly the cause of the surrender. In each of these cases a ministry
pledged to resist a particular measure introduced and carried it, and
did so without any appeal to the electors. The justification was that
the measure in their eyes had become absolutely necessary to the public
welfare, and that the condition of politics made it impossible for them
either to carry it by a dissolution or to resign the task into other
hands. Had Sir Robert Peel either resigned office or dissolved
Parliament after the Clare election in 1828, it is highly probable that
the measure of Catholic Emancipation could not have been carried, and
its postponement, in his belief, would have thrown Ireland into a
dangerous rebellion. Few greater misfortunes have befallen party
government than the failure of the Whigs to form a ministry in 1845. Had
they done so the abolition of the Corn Laws would have been carried by
statesmen who were in some measure supported by the Free-trade party,
and not by statesmen who had obtained their power as the special
representatives of the agricultural interests.

Another case which in a party point of view was more successful, but
which should in my opinion be much more severely judged, was the Reform
Bill of 1867. The Conservative party, under the guidance of Mr.
Disraeli, defeated Mr. Gladstone's Reform Bill mainly on the ground that
it was an excessive step in the direction of Democracy. The victory
placed them in office, and they then declared that, as the question had
been raised, they must deal with it themselves. They introduced a bill
carrying the suffrage to a much lower point than that which the late
Government had proposed, but they surrounded it with a number of
provisions securing additional representation for particular classes and
interests which would have materially modified its democratic

But for these safeguarding provisions the party would certainly not have
tolerated the introduction of such a measure, yet in the face of
opposition their leader dropped them one by one as of no capital
importance, and, by a leadership which was a masterpiece of unscrupulous
adroitness, succeeded in inducing his party to carry a measure far more
democratic than that which they had a few months before denounced and
defeated. It was argued that the question must be settled; that it must
be placed on a permanent and lasting basis; that it must no longer be
suffered to be a weapon in the hands of the Whigs, and that the Tory
Reform Bill, though it was acknowledged to be a 'leap in the dark,' had
at least the result of 'dishing the Whigs.' There is little doubt that
it was in accordance with the genuine convictions of Disraeli. He
belonged to a school of politics of which Bolingbroke, Carteret and
Shelburne, and, in some periods of his career, Chatham, were earlier
representatives who had no real sympathy with the preponderance of the
aristocratic element in the old Tory party, who had a decided
disposition to appeal frankly to democratic support, and who believed
that a strong executive resting on a broad democratic basis was the true
future of Toryism. He anticipated to a remarkable degree the school of
political thought which has triumphed in our own day, though he did not
live to witness its triumph. At the same time it cannot be denied that
the Reform Bill of 1867 in the form in which it was ultimately carried
was as far as possible from the wishes and policy of his party in the
beginning of the session, and as inconsistent as any policy could be
with their language and conduct in the session that preceded it.

A parliamentary government chosen on the party system is, as we have
seen, at once the trustee of the whole nation, bound as such to make the
welfare of the whole its supreme end, and also the special
representative of particular classes, the special guardian of their
interests, aims, wishes, and principles. The two points of view are not
the same, and grave difficulties, both ethical and political, have often
to be encountered in endeavouring to harmonise them. It is, of course,
not true that a party object is merely a matter of place or power, and
naturally a different thing from a patriotic object. The very meaning of
party is that public men consider certain principles of government,
certain lines of policy, the protection and development of particular
interests, of capital importance to the nation, and they are therefore
on purely public grounds fully justified in making it a main object to
place the government of the country in the hands of their party. The
importance, however, of maintaining a particular party in power varies
greatly. In many, probably in most, periods of English history a change
of government means no violent or far-reaching alteration in policy. It
means only that one set of tendencies in legislation will for a time be
somewhat relaxed, and another set somewhat intensified; that the
interests of one class will be somewhat more and those of another class
somewhat less attended to; that the rate of progress or change will be
slightly accelerated or retarded. Sometimes it means even less than
this. Opinions on the two front benches are so nearly assimilated that
a change of government principally means the removal for a time from
office of ministers who have made some isolated administrative blunders
or incurred some individual unpopularity quite apart from their party
politics. It means that ministers who are jaded and somewhat worn out by
several years' continuous work, and of whom the country had grown tired,
are replaced by men who can bring fresher minds and energies to the
task; that patronage in all its branches having for some years gone
mainly to one party, the other party are now to have their turn. There
are periods when the country is well satisfied with the general policy
of a government but not with the men who carry it on. Ministers of
excellent principles prove inefficient, tactless, or unfortunate, or
quarrels and jealousies arise among them, or difficult negotiations are
going on with foreign nations which can be best brought to a successful
termination if they are placed in the hands of fresh men, unpledged and
unentangled by their past. The country wants a change of government but
not a change of policy, and under such circumstances the task of a
victorious opposition is much less to march in new directions than to
mark time, to carry on the affairs of the nation on the same lines, but
with greater administrative skill. In such periods the importance of
party objects is much diminished and a policy which is intended merely
to keep a party in power should be severely condemned.

Sometimes, however, it happens that a party has committed itself to a
particular measure which its opponents believe to be in a high degree
dangerous or even ruinous to the country. In that case it becomes a
matter of supreme importance to keep this party out of office, or, if
they are in office, to keep them in a position of permanent debility
till this dangerous project is abandoned. Under such circumstances
statesmen are justified in carrying party objects and purely party
legislation much further than in other periods. To strengthen their own
party; to gain for it the largest amount of popularity; to win the
support of different factions of the House of Commons, become a great
public object; and, in order to carry it out, sacrifices of policy and
in some degree of principle, the acceptance of measures which the party
had once opposed, and the adjournment or abandonment of measures to
which it had been pledged, which would once have been very properly
condemned, become justifiable. The supreme interest of the State is the
end and the justification of their policy, and alliances are formed
which under less pressing circumstances would have been impossible, and
which, once established, sometimes profoundly change the permanent
character of party politics. Here, as in nearly all political matters,
an attention to proportion and degree, the sacrifice of the less for the
attainment of the greater, mark the path both of wisdom and of duty.

The temptations of party politicians are of many kinds and vary greatly
with different stages of political development. The worst is the
temptation to war. War undertaken without necessity, or at least without
serious justification, is, according to all sound ethics, the gravest of
crimes, and among its causes motives of the kind I have indicated may be
often detected. Many wars have been begun or have been prolonged in
order to consolidate a dynasty or a party; in order to give it
popularity or at least to save it from unpopularity; in order to divert
the minds of men from internal questions which had become dangerous or
embarrassing, or to efface the memory of past quarrels, mistakes or
crimes.[43] Experience unfortunately shows only too clearly how easily
the combative passions of nations can be aroused and how much popularity
may be gained by a successful war. Even in this case, it is true, war
usually impoverishes the country that wages it, but there are large
classes to whom it is by no means a calamity. The high level of
agricultural prices; the brilliant careers opened to the military and
naval professions; the many special industries which are immediately
stimulated; the rise in the rate of interest; the opportunities of
wealth that spring from violent fluctuations on the Stock Exchange; even
the increased attractiveness of the newspapers,--all tend to give
particular classes an interest in its continuance. Sometimes it is
closely connected with party sympathies. During the French wars of Anne,
the facts that Marlborough was a Whig, and that the Elector of Hanover,
who was the hope of the Whig party, was in favour of the war,
contributed very materially to retard the peace. A state of great
internal disquietude is often a temptation to war, not because it leads
to it directly, but because rulers find a foreign war the best means of
turning dangerous and disturbing energies into new channels, and at the
same time of strengthening the military and authoritative elements in
the community. The successful transformation of the anarchy of the great
French Revolution into a career of conquest is a typical example.

In aristocratic governments such as existed in England during the
eighteenth century, temptations to corruption were especially strong. To
build up a vast system of parliamentary influence by rotten boroughs,
and, by systematically bestowing honours on those who could control
them, to win the support of great corporations and professions by
furthering their interests and abstaining from all efforts to reform
them, was a chief part of the statecraft of the time. Class privileges
in many forms were created, extended and maintained, and in some
countries--though much less in England than on the Continent--the burden
of taxation was most inequitably distributed, falling mainly on the

In democratic governments the temptations are of a different kind.
Popularity is there the chief source of power, and the supreme tribunal
consists of numbers counted by the head. The well-being of the great
mass of the people is the true end of politics, but it does not
necessarily follow that the opinion of the least instructed majority is
the best guide to obtaining it. In dwelling upon the temptations of
politicians under such a system I do not now refer merely to the
unscrupulous agitator or demagogue who seeks power, notoriety or
popularity by exciting class envies and animosities, by setting the poor
against the rich and preaching the gospel of public plunder; nor would
I dilate upon the methods so largely employed in the United States of
accumulating, by skilfully devised electoral machinery, great masses of
voting power drawn from the most ignorant voters, and making use of them
for purposes of corruption. I would dwell rather on the bias which
almost inevitably obliges the party leader to measure legislation mainly
by its immediate popularity, and its consequent success in adding to his
voting strength. In some countries this tendency shows itself in lavish
expenditure on public works which provide employment for great masses of
workmen and give a great immediate popularity in a constituency, leaving
to posterity a heavy burden of accumulated debt. Much of the financial
embarrassment of Europe is due to this source, and in most countries
extravagance in government expenditure is more popular than economy.
Sometimes it shows itself in a legislation which regards only proximate
or immediate effects, and wholly neglects those which are distant and
obscure. A far-sighted policy sacrificing the present to a distant
future becomes more difficult; measures involving new principles, but
meeting present embarrassments or securing immediate popularity, are
started with little consideration for the precedents they are
establishing and for the more extensive changes that may follow in their
train. The conditions of labour are altered for the benefit of the
existing workmen, perhaps at the cost of diverting capital from some
great form of industry, making it impossible to resist foreign
competition, and thus in the long run restricting employment and
seriously injuring the very class who were to have been benefited.

When one party has introduced a measure of this kind the other is under
the strongest temptation to outbid it, and under the stress of
competition and through the fear of being distanced in the race of
popularity both parties often end by going much further than either had
originally intended. When the rights of the few are opposed to the
interests of the many there is a constant tendency to prefer the latter.
It may be that the few are those who have built up an industry; who have
borne all the risk and cost, who have by far the largest interest in its
success. The mere fact that they are the few determines the bias of the
legislators. There is a constant disposition to tamper with even clearly
defined and guaranteed rights if by doing so some large class of voters
can be conciliated.

Parliamentary life has many merits, but it has a manifest tendency to
encourage short views. The immediate party interest becomes so absorbing
that men find it difficult to look greatly beyond it. The desire of a
skilful debater to use the topics that will most influence the audience
before him, or the desire of a party leader to pursue the course most
likely to be successful in an immediately impending contest, will often
override all other considerations, and the whole tendency of
parliamentary life is to concentrate attention on landmarks which are
not very distant, thinking little of what is beyond.

One great cause of the inconsistency of parties lies in the absolute
necessity of assimilating legislation. Many, for example, are of opinion
that the existing tendency to introduce government regulations and
interferences into all departments is at least greatly exaggerated, and
that it would be far better if a larger sphere were left to individual
action and free contract. But if large departments of industry have been
brought under the system of regulation, it is practically impossible to
leave analogous industries under a different system, and the men who
most dislike the tendency are often themselves obliged to extend it.
They cannot resist the contention that certain legislative protections
or other special favours have been granted to one class of workmen, and
that there is no real ground for distinguishing their case from that of
others. The dominant tendency will thus naturally extend itself, and
every considerable legislative movement carries others irresistibly in
its train.

The pressure of this consideration is most painfully felt in the case of
legislation which appears not simply inexpedient and unwise, but
distinctly dishonest. In legislation relating to contracts there is a
clear ethical distinction to be drawn. It is fully within the moral
right of legislators to regulate the conditions of future contracts. It
is a very different thing to break existing contracts, or to take the
still more extreme step of altering their conditions to the benefit of
one party without the assent of the other, leaving that other party
bound by their restrictions.

In the American Constitution there is a special clause making it
impossible for any State to pass any law violating contracts. In
England, unfortunately, no such provision exists. The most glaring and
undoubted instance of this kind is to be found in the Irish land
legislation which was begun by the Ministry of Mr. Gladstone, but which
has been largely extended by the party that originally most strenuously
opposed it. Much may no doubt be said to palliate it: agricultural
depression; the excessive demand for land; the fact that improvements
were in Ireland usually made by the tenants (who, however, were
perfectly aware of the conditions under which they made them, and whose
rents were proportionately lower); the prevalence in some parts of
Ireland of land customs unsanctioned by law; the existence of a great
revolutionary movement which had brought the country into a condition of
disgraceful anarchy. But when all this has been admitted, it remains
indisputable to every clear and honest mind that English law has taken
away without compensation unquestionably legal property and broken
unquestionably legal contracts. A landlord placed a tenant on his farm
on a yearly tenancy, but if he desired to exercise his plain legal right
of resuming it at the termination of the year, he was compelled to pay a
compensation 'for disturbance,' which might amount to seven times the
yearly rent. A landlord let his land to a farmer for a longer period
under a clear written contract bearing the government stamp, and this
contract defined the rent to be paid, the conditions under which the
farm was to be held, and the number of years during which it was to be
alienated from its owner. The fundamental clause of the lease distinctly
stipulated that at the end of the assigned term the tenant must hand
back that farm to the owner from whom he received it. The law has
interposed, and determined that the rent which this farmer had
undertaken to pay shall be reduced by a government tribunal without the
assent of the owner, and without giving the owner the option of
dissolving the contract and seeking a new tenant. It has gone further,
and provided that at the termination of the lease the tenant shall not
hand back the land to the owner according to the terms of his contract,
but shall remain for all future time the occupier, subject only to a
rent fixed and periodically revised, irrespective of the wishes of the
landlord, by an independent tribunal. Vast masses of property in Ireland
had been sold under the Incumbered Estates Act by a government tribunal
acting as the representative of the Imperial Parliament, and each
purchaser obtained from this tribunal a parliamentary title making him
absolute owner of the soil and of every building upon it, subject only
to the existing tenancies in the schedule. No accounts of the earlier
history of the property were handed to him, for except under the terms
of the leases which had not yet expired he had no liability for anything
in the past. The title he received was deemed so indefeasible that in
one memorable case, where by mistake a portion of the property of one
man had been included in the sale of the property of another man, the
Court of Appeal decided that the injustice could not be remedied, as it
was impossible, except in the case of intentional fraud, to go behind
parliamentary titles.[44] In cases in which the land was let at low
rents, and in cases where tenants held under leases which would soon
expire, the facility of raising the rents was constantly specified by
the authority of the Court as an inducement to purchasers.

What has become of this parliamentary title? Improvements, if they had
been made, or were presumed to have been made by tenants anterior to the
sale, have ceased to be the property of the purchaser, and he has at the
same time been deprived of some of the plainest and most inseparable
rights of property. He has lost the power of disposing of his farms in
the open market, of regulating the terms and conditions on which he lets
them, of removing a tenant whom he considers unsuitable, of taking the
land back into his own hands when the specified term of a tenancy had
expired, of availing himself of the enhanced value which a war or a
period of great prosperity, or some other exceptional circumstance, may
have given to his property. He has become a simple rent-charger on the
land which by inheritance or purchase was incontestably his own, and the
amount of his rent-charge is settled and periodically revised by a
tribunal in which he has no voice, and which has been given an absolute
power over his estate. He bought or inherited an exclusive right. The
law has turned it into a dual ownership. A tenant right which, when he
obtained his property, was wholly unknown to the law, and was only
generally recognised by custom in one province, has been carved out of
it. The tenant who happened to be in occupation when the law was passed
can, without the consent of the owner, sell to another the right of
occupying the farm at the existing rent. In numerous cases this tenant
right is more valuable than the fee simple of the farm. In many cases a
farmer who had eagerly begged to be a tenant at a specified rent has
afterwards gone into the land court and had that rent reduced, and has
then proceeded to sell the tenant right for a sum much more than
equivalent to the difference between the two rents. In many cases this
has happened where there could be no possible question of improvements
by the tenant. The tenant right of the smaller farms has steadily risen
in proportion as the rent has been reduced. In many cases, no doubt, the
excessive price of tenant right may be attributed to the land hunger or
passion for land speculation so common in Ireland, or to some
exceptional cause inducing a farmer to give an extravagant price for the
tenant right of a particular farm. But although in such instances the
price of tenant right is a deceptive test, the movement, when it is a
general one, is a clear proof that the reduction of rent did not
represent an equivalent decline in the marketable value of the land, but
was simply a gratuitous transfer, by the State, of property from one
person to another. Having in the first place turned the exclusive
ownership of the landlord into a simple partnership, the tribunal
proceeded, in defiance of all equity, to throw the whole burden of the
agricultural depression on one of the two partners. The law did, it is
true, reserve to the landlord the right of pre-emption, or in other
words the right of purchasing the tenant right when it was for sale, at
a price to be determined by the Court, and thus becoming once more the
absolute owner of his farm. The sum specified by the Court was usually
about sixteen years' purchase of the judicial rent. By the payment of
this large sum he may regain the property which a few years ago was
incontestably his own, which was held by him under the most secure title
known to English law, and which was taken from him, not by any process
of honest purchase, but by an act of simple legislative confiscation.

Whatever palliations of expediency may be alleged, the true nature of
this legislation cannot reasonably be questioned, and it has established
a precedent which is certain to grow. The point, however, on which I
would especially dwell is that the very party which most strongly
opposed it, and which most clearly exposed its gross and essential
dishonesty, have found themselves, or believed themselves to be, bound
not only to accept it but to extend it. They have contended that, as a
matter of practical politics, it is impossible to grant such privileges
to one class of agricultural tenants and to withhold it from others. The
chief pretext for this legislation in its first stages was that it was
for the benefit of very poor tenants who were incapable of making their
own bargains, and that the fixity of tenure which the law gave to yearly
tenants as long as they paid their rents had been very generally
voluntarily given them by good landlords. But the measure was soon
extended by a Unionist government to the leaseholders, who are the
largest and most independent class of farmers, and who held their land
for a definite time and under a distinct written contract. It is in
truth much more the shrewder and wealthier farmers than the poor and
helpless ones that this legislation has chiefly benefited.

Instances of this kind, in which strong expediency or an absolute
political necessity is in apparent conflict with elementary principles
of right and wrong, are among the most difficult with which a politician
has to deal. He must govern the country and preserve it in a condition
of tolerable order, and he sometimes persuades himself that without a
capitulation to anarchy, without attacks on property and violations of
contract, this is impossible. Whether the necessity is as absolute or
the expediency as rightly calculated as he supposed, may indeed be open
to much question, but there can be no doubt that most of the English
statesmen who carried the Irish agrarian legislation sincerely believed
it, and some of them imagined that they were giving a security and
finality to the property which was left, that would indemnify the
plundered landlords. Perhaps, under such circumstances, the most that
can be said is that wise legislators will endeavour, by encouraging
purchase on a large scale, gradually to restore the absolute ownership
and the validity of contract which have been destroyed, and at the same
time to compensate indirectly--if they cannot do it directly--the former
owners for that portion of their losses which is not due to merely
economical causes, but to acts of the legislature that were plainly

There are other temptations of a different kind with which party leaders
have to deal. One of the most serious is the tendency to force questions
for which there is no genuine desire, in order to restore the unity or
the zeal of a divided or dispirited party. As all politicians know, the
desire for an attractive programme and a popular election cry is one of
the strongest in politics, and, as they also know well, there is such a
thing as manufactured public opinion and artificially stimulated
agitation. Questions are raised and pushed, not because they are for the
advantage of the country, but simply for the purposes of party. The
leaders have often little or no power of resistance. The pressure of
their followers, or of a section of their followers, becomes
irresistible; ill-considered hopes are held out; rash pledges are
extorted, and the party as a whole is committed. Much premature and
mischievous legislation may be traced to such causes.

Another very difficult question is the manner in which governments
should deal with the acts of public servants which are intended for the
public service, but which in some of their parts are morally
indefensible. Very few of the great acquisitions of nations have been
made by means that were absolutely blameless, and in a great empire
which has to deal with uncivilised or semi-civilised populations acts of
violence are certain to be not infrequent. Neither in our judgments of
history nor in our judgments of contemporaries is it possible to apply
the full stringency of private morals to the cases of men acting in
posts of great responsibility and danger amid the storms of revolution,
or panic, or civil war. With the vast interests confided to their care,
and the terrible dangers that surround them, measures must often be
taken which cannot be wholly or at least legally justified. On the other
hand, men in such circumstances are only too ready to accept the
principle of Macchiavelli and of Napoleon, and to treat politics as if
they had absolutely no connection with morals.

Cases of this kind must be considered separately and with a careful
examination of the motives of the actor and of the magnitude of the
dangers he had to encounter. Allowances must be made for the moral
atmosphere in which he moved, and his career must be considered as a
whole, and not only in its peccant parts. In the trial of Warren
Hastings, and in the judgments which historians have passed on the
lives of the other great adventurers who have built up the Empire,
questions of this kind continually arise.

In our own day also they have been very frequent. The _Coup d'état_ of
the 2nd of December, 1851, is an extreme example. Louis Napoleon had
sworn to observe and to defend the Constitution of the French Republic,
which had been established in 1848, and that Constitution, among other
articles, pronounced the persons of the representatives of the people to
be inviolable; declared every act of the President which dissolved the
Assembly or prorogued it, or in any way trammelled it in the exercise of
its functions, to be high treason, and guaranteed the fullest liberty of
writing and discussion. 'The oath which I have just taken,' said the
President, addressing the Assembly, 'commands my future conduct. My duty
is clear; I will fulfil it as a man of honour. I shall regard as enemies
of the country all those who endeavour to change by illegal means what
all France has established.' In more than one subsequent speech he
reiterated the same sentiments and endeavoured to persuade the country
that under no possible circumstances would he break his oath or violate
his conscience, or overstep the limits of his constitutional powers.

What he did is well known. Before daybreak on December 2, some of the
most eminent statesmen in France, including eighteen members of the
Chamber, were, by his orders, arrested in their beds and sent to prison,
and many of them afterwards to exile. The Chamber was occupied by
soldiers, and its members, who assembled in another place, were marched
to prison. The High Court of Justice was dissolved by force. Martial
law was proclaimed. Orders were given that all who resisted the
usurpation in the streets were at once, and without trial, to be shot.
All liberty of the press, all liberty of public meeting or discussion,
were absolutely destroyed. About one hundred newspapers were suppressed
and great numbers of their editors transported to Cayenne. Nothing was
allowed to be published without Government authority. In order to
deceive the people as to the amount of support behind the President, a
'Consultative Commission' was announced and the names were placarded in
Paris. Fully half the persons whose names were placed on this list
refused to serve, but in spite of their protests their names were kept
there in order that they might appear to have approved of what was
done.[45] Orders were issued immediately after the _Coup d'état_ that
every public functionary who did not instantly give in writing his
adhesion to the new Government should be dismissed. The Préfets were
given the right to arrest in their departments whoever they pleased. By
an _ex post facto_ decree, issued on December 8, the Executive were
enabled without trial to send to Cayenne, or to the penal settlements in
Africa, any persons who had in any past time belonged to a 'secret
society,' and this order placed all the numerous members of political
clubs at the mercy of the Government. Parliament, when it was suffered
to reassemble, was so organised and shackled that every vestige of free
discussion for many years disappeared, and a despotism of almost
Asiatic severity was established in France.

It may be fully conceded that the tragedy of December 4, when for more
than a quarter of an hour some 3,000 French soldiers deliberately fired
volley after volley without return upon the unoffending spectators on
the Boulevards, broke into the houses and killed multitudes, not only of
men but of women and children, till the Boulevards, in the words of an
English eye-witness, were 'at some points a perfect shambles,' and the
blood lay in pools round the trees that fringed them, was not ordered by
the President, though it remained absolutely unpunished and uncensured
by him. There is conflicting evidence on this point, but it is probable
that some stray shots had been fired from the houses, and it is certain
that a wild and sanguinary panic had fallen upon the soldiers. It is
possible too, and not improbable, that the stories so generally believed
in Paris that large batches of prisoners, who had been arrested, were
brought out of prison in the dead hours of the night and deliberately
shot by bodies of soldiers, may have been exaggerated or untrue. Maupas,
who was Préfet of Police, and who must have known the truth, positively
denied it; but the question what credence should be attached to a man of
his antecedents who boasted that he had been from the first a leading
agent in the whole conspiracy may be reasonably asked.[46] Evidence of
these things, as has been truly said, could scarcely be obtained, for
the press was absolutely gagged and all possibility of investigation was
prevented. For the number of those who were transported or forcibly
expelled within the few weeks after December 2, we may perhaps rely upon
the historian and panegyrist of the Empire. He computes them at the
enormous number of 26,500.[47] After the Plébiscite new measures of
proscription were taken, and, according to Émile Ollivier, one of the
most enthusiastic and skilful eulogists of the _Coup d'état_, in the
first months of 1852 there were from 15,000 to 20,000 political
prisoners in the French prisons.[48] It was by such means that Louis
Napoleon attained the empire which had been the dream of his life.

Like many, however, of the great crimes of history, this was not without
its palliations, and a more detailed investigation will show that those
palliations were not inconsiderable. Napoleon had been elected to the
presidency by 5,434,226 votes out of 7,317,344 which were given, and
with his name, his antecedents, and his well-known aspirations, this
overwhelming majority clearly showed what were the real wishes of the
people. His power rested on universal suffrage; it was independent of
the Chamber. It gave him the direction of the army, though he could not
command it in person, and from the very beginning he assumed an
independent and almost regal position. In the first review that took
place after his election he was greeted by the soldiers with cries of
'Vive Napoléon! Vive l'Empereur!' It was soon proved that the
Constitution of 1848 was exceedingly unworkable. In the words of Lord
Palmerston: 'There were two great powers, each deriving its existence
from the same source, almost sure to disagree, but with no umpire to
decide between them, and neither able by any legal means to get rid of
the other.' The President could not dissolve the Chamber, but he could
impose upon it any ministry he chose. He was himself elected for only
four years, and he could not be re-elected, while by a most fatuous
provision the powers of the President and the Chamber were to expire in
1852 at the same time, leaving France without a government and exposed
to the gravest danger of anarchy.

The Legislative Assembly, which was elected in May, 1849, was, it is
true, far from being a revolutionary one. It contained a minority of
desperate Socialists, it was broken into many factions, and like most
democratic French Chambers it showed much weakness and inconsistency;
but the vast majority of its members were Conservatives who had no kind
of sympathy with revolution, and its conduct towards the President, if
fairly judged, was on the whole very moderate. He soon treated it with
contempt, and it was quite evident that there was no national enthusiasm
behind it. The Socialist party was growing rapidly in the great towns;
in June, 1849, there was an abortive Socialist insurrection in Paris,
and a somewhat more formidable one at Lyons. They were easily put down,
but the Socialists captured a great part of the representation of Paris,
and they succeeded in producing a wild panic throughout the country. It
led to several reactionary measures, the most important being a law
which by imposing new conditions of residence very considerably limited
the suffrage. This law was presented to the Chamber by the Ministers of
the President and with his assent, though he subsequently demanded the
reestablishment of universal suffrage, and made a decree effecting this
one of the chief justifications of his _Coup d'état_. The restrictive
law was carried through the Chamber on May 31, 1850, by an immense
majority, but it was denounced with great eloquence by some of its
leading members, and it added seriously to the unpopularity of the
Assembly, and greatly lowered its authority in contending with a
President whose authority rested on direct universal suffrage. More than
once he exercised his power of dismissing and appointing ministries
absolutely irrespective of its votes and wishes, and in each case in
order to fill all posts of power with creatures of his own. The
newspapers supporting him continually inveighed against the Chamber, and
dwelt upon the danger of anarchy to which France would be exposed in
1852 and upon the absolute necessity of 'a Saviour of Society.' In
repeated journeys through France, and in more than one military review,
the President gave the occasion of demonstrations in which the cries of
'Vive l'Empereur!' were often heard, and which were manifestly intended
to strengthen him in his conflict with the Chamber.

The man from whom he had most to fear was Changarnier, who since the
close of 1848 had been commander of the troops in Paris, and whose name,
though far less popular than that of Napoleon, had much weight with the
army. He was a man with strong leanings to authority, and was much
courted by the monarchical parties, but was for some time in decided
sympathy with Napoleon, from whom, however, in spite of large offers
that had been made him, he gradually diverged. He issued peremptory
orders to the troops under his command, forbidding all party cries at
reviews. He declared in the Chamber that these cries had been 'not only
encouraged but provoked,' and when the intention of the President to
prolong his presidency became apparent, he assured Odilon Barrot that he
was prepared, if ordered by the minister and authorised by the President
of the Chamber, to anticipate the _Coup d'état_ by seizing and
imprisoning Louis Napoleon.[49] The President succeeded in removing him
from his command, and in placing a creature of his own at the head of
the Paris troops; but though Changarnier acquiesced without resistance
in his dismissal, he remained an important member of the Assembly; he
openly declared that his sword was at its service, and if an armed
conflict broke out it was tolerably certain that he would be its
representative. The President had an official salary of 48,000
_l_.--nearly five times as much as the President of the United States.
The Chamber refused to increase it, though they consented by a very
small majority, and at the request of Changarnier, to pay his debts.

The demand for a revision of the Constitution, making it possible for
the President to be re-elected, was rising rapidly through the country,
and there can be but little doubt that this was generally looked forward
to as the only peaceful solution, and that it represented the real wish
of the great majority of the people. Petitions in favour of it, bearing
an enormous number of signatures, were presented to the Chamber, and the
overwhelming majority of the Conseils Généraux of which the Deputies
generally formed part voted for revision. The President did not so much
petition for it as demand it. In a message he sent to the Chamber, he
declared that if they did not vote Revision the people would, in 1852,
solemnly manifest their wishes. In a speech at Dijon, June 1, 1851, he
declared that France from end to end demanded it; that he would follow
the wishes of the nation, and that France would not perish in his hands.
In the same speech he accused the Chamber of never seconding his wishes
to ameliorate the lot of the people. He at the same time lost no
opportunity of showing that his special sympathy and trust lay with the
army, and he singled out with marked favour the colonels of the
regiments which had shown themselves at the reviews most prominent in
demonstrations in his favour.[50] The meaning of all this was hardly
doubtful. Changarnier took up the gauntlet, and at a time when the
question of Revision was before the Chamber he declared that no soldier
would ever be induced to move against the law and the Assembly, and he
called upon the Deputies to deliberate in peace.

The Revision was voted in the Chamber by 446 votes to 278, but a
majority of three-fourths was required for a constitutional change, and
this majority was not obtained, and in the disintegrated condition of
French parties it seemed scarcely likely to be obtained. The Chamber
was soon after prorogued for about two months, leaving the situation
unchanged, and the tension and panic were extreme. Out of eighty-five
Conseils Généraux in France, eighty passed votes in favour of Revision,
three abstained, two only opposed.

The President had now fully resolved upon a _Coup d'état_, and before
the Chamber reassembled a new ministry was constituted, St.-Arnaud being
at the head of the army, and Maupas at the head of the police. His first
step was to summon the Chamber to repeal the law of May 31 which
abolished universal suffrage. The Chamber, after much hesitation,
refused, but only by two votes. The belief that the question could only
be solved by force was becoming universal, and the bolder spirits in the
Chamber clearly saw that if no new measure was taken they were likely to
be helpless before the military party. By a decree of 1848 the President
of the Chamber had a right, if necessary, to call for troops for its
protection independently of the Minister of War, and a motion was now
made that he should be able to select a general to whom he might
delegate this power. Such a measure, dividing the military command and
enabling the Chamber to have its own general and its own army, might
have proved very efficacious, but it would probably have involved France
in civil war, and the President was resolved that, if the Chamber voted
it, the _Coup d'état_ should immediately take place. The vote was taken
on November 17, 1851. St.-Arnaud, as Minister of War, opposed the
measure on constitutional grounds, dilating on the danger of a divided
military command, but during the discussion Maupas and Magnan were in
the gallery of the Chamber, waiting to give orders to St.-Arnaud to call
out the troops and to surround and dissolve the Chamber if the
proposition was carried.

It was, however, rejected by a majority of 108, and a few troubled days
of conspiracy and panic still remained before the blow was struck. The
state of the public securities and the testimony of the best judges of
all parties showed the genuineness of the alarm. It was not true, as the
President stated in the proclamation issued when the _Coup d'état_ was
accomplished, that the Chamber had become a mere nest of conspiracies,
and there was a strange audacity in his assertion that he made the _Coup
d'état_ for the purpose of maintaining the Republic against monarchical
plots; but it was quite true that the conviction was general that force
had become inevitable; that the chief doubt was whether the first blow
would be struck by Napoleon or Changarnier, and that while the evident
desire of the majority of the people was to re-elect Napoleon, there was
a design among some members of the Chamber to seize him by force and to
elect in his place some member of the House of Orleans.[51] On December
2 the curtain fell, and Napoleon accompanied his _Coup d'état_ by a
decree dissolving the Chamber, restoring by his own authority universal
suffrage, abolishing the law of May 31, establishing a state of siege,
and calling on the French people to judge his action by their vote.

It was certainly not an appeal upon which great confidence could be
placed. Immediately after the _Coup d'état_, the army, which was wholly
on his side, voted separately and openly in order that France might
clearly know that the armed forces were with the President and might be
able to predict the consequences of a verdict unfavourable to his
pretensions. When, nearly three weeks later, the civilian Plébiscite
took place, martial law was in force. Public meetings of every kind were
forbidden. No newspaper hostile to the new authority was permitted. No
electioneering paper or placard could be circulated which had not been
sanctioned by Government officials. The terrible decree that all who had
ever belonged to a secret society might be sent to die in the fevers of
Africa was interpreted in the widest sense, and every political society
or organisation was included in it. All the functionaries of a highly
centralised country were turned into ardent electioneering agents, and
the question was so put that the voters had no alternative except for or
against the President, a negative vote leaving the country with no
government and an almost certain prospect of anarchy and civil war.
Under these circumstances 7,500,000 votes were given for the President
and 500,000 against him.

But after all deductions have been made there can be no real doubt that
the majority of Frenchmen acquiesced in the new _régime_. The terror of
Socialism was abroad, and it brought with it an ardent desire for strong
government. The probabilities of a period of sanguinary anarchy were so
great that multitudes were glad to be secured from it at almost any
cost. Parliamentarism was profoundly discredited. The peasant
proprietary had never cared for it, and the bourgeois class, among whom
it had once been popular, were now thoroughly scared. Nothing in the
contemporary accounts of the period is more striking than the
indifference, the almost amused cynicism, or the sense of relief with
which the great mass of Frenchmen seem to have witnessed the destruction
of their Constitution and the gross insults inflicted upon a Chamber
which included so many of the most illustrious of their countrymen.

We can hardly have a better authority on this point than Tocqueville. No
one felt more profoundly or more bitterly the iniquity of what had been
done; but he was under no illusion about the sentiments of the people.
The Constitution, he says, was thoroughly unpopular. 'Louis Napoleon had
the merit or the luck to discover what few suspected--the latent
Bonapartism of the nation.... The memory of the Emperor, vague and
undefined, but therefore the more imposing, still dwelt like an heroic
legend in the imaginations of the people.' All the educated, in the
opinion of Tocqueville, condemned and repudiated the _Coup d'état_.
'Thirty-seven years of liberty have made a free press and free
parliamentary discussion necessary to us.' But the bulk of the nation
was not with them. The new Government, he predicted, 'will last until it
is unpopular with the mass of the people. At present the disapprobation
is confined to the educated classes.' 'The reaction against democracy
and even against liberty is irresistible.'[52]

There is no doubt some exaggeration on both sides of this statement.
The appalling magnitude of the deportations and imprisonments by the new
Government seems to show that the hatred went deeper than Tocqueville
supposed, and on the other hand it can hardly be said that the educated
classes wholly repudiated what had been done when we remember that the
French Funds at once rose from 91 to 102, that nearly all branches of
French commerce made a similar spring,[53] that some twenty generals
were actively engaged in the conspiracy, and that the great body of the
priests were delighted at its success. The truth seems to be that the
property of France saw in the success of the _Coup d'état_ an escape
from a great danger, while two powerful professions, the army and the
Church, were strongly in favour of the President. Over the army the name
of Napoleon exercised a magical influence, and the expedition to Rome
and the probability that the new government would be under clerical
guidance were, in the eyes of the Church party, quite sufficient to
justify what had been done.

Nothing, indeed, in this strange history is more significant than the
attitude assumed by the special leaders and representatives of the
Church which teaches that 'it were better for the sun and moon to drop
from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all of the many millions
upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal
affliction goes, than that one soul ... should commit one venial sin,
should tell one wilful untruth.'[54]

Three illustrious churchmen--Lacordaire, Ravignan and Dupanloup--to
their immortal honour refused to give any approbation to the _Coup
d'état_ or to express any confidence in its author. But the latest
panegyrist of the Empire boasts that they were almost alone in their
profession. By the advice of the Papal Nuncio and of the leading French
bishops, the clergy lost no time in presenting their felicitations.
Veuillot, who more than any other man represented and influenced the
vast majority of the French priesthood, wrote on what had been done with
undisguised and unqualified exultation and delight. Even Montalembert
rallied to the Government on the morrow of the _Coup d'état_. He
described Louis Napoleon as a Prince 'who had shown a more efficacious
and intelligent devotion to religious interests than any of those who
had governed France during sixty years;' and it was universally admitted
that the great body of the clergy, with Archbishop Sibour at their head,
were in this critical moment ardent supporters of the new
government.[55] Kinglake, in a page of immortal beauty, has described
the scene when, thirty days after the _Coup d'état_, Louis Napoleon
appeared in Notre Dame to receive, amid all the pomp that Catholic
ceremonial could give, the solemn blessing of the Church, and to listen
to the Te Deum thanking the Almighty for what had been accomplished. The
time came, it is true, when the policy of the priests was changed, for
they found that Louis Napoleon was more liberal and less clerical than
they imagined; but in estimating the feelings with which French
Liberals judge the Church, its attitude towards the perjury and violence
of December 2 should never be forgotten.

To those who judge the political ethics of the Roman Catholic Church not
from the deceptive pages of such writers as Newman, but from an
examination of its actual conduct in the different periods of its
history, it will appear in no degree inconsistent. It is but another
instance added to many of the manner in which it regards all acts which
appear conducive to its interests. It was the same spirit that led a
Pope to offer public thanks for the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and to
order Vasari to paint the murder of Coligny on the walls of the Vatican
among the triumphs of the Church. No Christian sovereign of modern times
has left a worse memory behind him than Ferdinand II. of Naples, who
received the Pope when he fled to Gaëta in 1848. He was the sovereign
whose government was described by Gladstone as 'a negation of God.' He
not only destroyed the Constitution he had sworn to observe, but threw
into a loathsome dungeon the Liberal ministers who had trusted him. But
in the eyes of the Pope his services to the Church far outweighed all
defects, and the monument erected to this 'most pious prince' may be
seen in one of the chapels of St. Peter's. Every visitor to Paris may
see the fresco in the Madeleine in which Napoleon I. appears seated
triumphant on the clouds and surrounded by an admiring priesthood, the
most prominent and glorified figure in a picture representing the
history of French Christianity, with Christ above, blessing the work.

It is indeed a most significant fact that in Catholic countries the
highest moral level in public life is now rarely to be found among those
who specially represent the spirit and teaching of their Church, and
much more frequently among men who are unconnected with it, and often
with all dogmatic theology. How seldom has the distinctively Catholic
press seriously censured unjust wars, unscrupulous alliances, violations
of constitutional obligations, unprovoked aggressions, great outbursts
of intolerance and fanaticism! It is, indeed, not too much to say that
some of the worst moral perversions of modern times have been supported
and stimulated by a great body of genuinely Catholic opinion both in the
priesthood and in the press. The anti-Semite movement, the shameful
indifference to justice shown in France in the Dreyfus case, and the
countless frauds, outrages and oppressions that accompanied the
domination of the Irish Land League are recent and conspicuous examples.

Among secular-minded laymen the _Coup d'état_ of Louis Napoleon was, as
I have said, differently judged. Few things in French history are more
honourable than the determination with which so many men who were the
very flower of the French nation refused to take the oath or give their
adhesion to the new Government. Great statesmen and a few distinguished
soldiers, with a splendid past behind them and with the prospect of an
illustrious career before them; men of genius who in their professorial
chairs had been the centres of the intellectual life of France;
functionaries who had by laborious and persevering industry climbed the
steps of their profession and depended for their livelihood on its
emoluments, accepted poverty, exile and the long eclipse of the most
honourable ambitions rather than take an oath which seemed to justify
the usurpation. At the same time, some statesmen of unquestionable
honour did not wholly and in all its parts condemn it. Lord Palmerston
was conspicuous among them. Without expressing approval of all that had
been done, he always maintained that the condition of France was such
that a violent subversion of an unworkable Constitution and the
establishment of a strong government had become absolutely necessary;
that the _Coup d'état_ saved France from the gravest and most imminent
danger of anarchy and civil war, and that this fact was its
justification. If it had not been for the acts of ferocious tyranny
which immediately followed it, his opinion would have been more largely

It is probable that the moral character of _Coups d'état_ may in the
future not unfrequently come into discussion in Europe, as it has often
done in South America. As the best observers are more and more
perceiving, parliamentary government worked upon party lines is by no
means an easy thing, and it seldom attains perfection without long
experience and without qualities of mind and character which are very
unequally distributed among the nations of the world. It requires a
spirit of compromise, patience and moderation; the kind of mind which
can distinguish the solid, the practical and the well meaning, from the
brilliant, the plausible and the ambitious, which cares more for useful
results and for the conciliation of many interests and opinions than for
any rigid uniformity and consistency of principle; which, while
pursuing personal ambitions and party aims, can subordinate them on
great occasions to public interests. It needs a combination of
independence and discipline which is not common, and where it does not
exist parliaments speedily degenerate either into an assemblage of
puppets in the hands of party leaders or into disintegrated,
demoralised, insubordinate groups. Some of the foremost nations of the
world--nations distinguished for noble and brilliant intellect; for
splendid heroism; for great achievements in peace and war--have in this
form of government conspicuously failed. In England it has grown with
our growth and strengthened with our strength. We have practised it in
many phases. Its traditions have taken deep root and are in full harmony
with the national character. But in the present century this kind of
government has been adopted by many nations which are wholly unfit for
it, and they have usually adopted it in the most difficult of all
forms--that of an uncontrolled democracy resting upon universal
suffrage. It is becoming very evident that in many countries such
assemblies are wholly incompetent to take the foremost place in
government, but they are so fenced round by oaths and other
constitutional forms that nothing short of violence can take from them a
power which they are never likely voluntarily to relinquish. In such
countries democracy tends much less naturally to the parliamentary
system than to some form of dictatorship, to some despotism resting on
and justified by a plébiscite. It is probable that many transitions in
this direction will take place. They will seldom be carried out through
purely public motives or without perjury and violence. But public
opinion will judge each case on its own merits, and where it can be
shown that its results are beneficial and that large sections of the
people have desired it, such an act will not be severely condemned.

Cases of conflicting ethical judgments of another kind may be easily
cited. One of the best known was that of Governor Eyre at the time of
the Jamaica insurrection of 1865. In this case there was no question of
personal interest or ambition. The Governor was a man of stainless
honour, who in a moment of extreme difficulty and danger had rendered a
great service to his country. By his prompt and courageous action a
negro insurrection was quickly suppressed, which, if it had been allowed
to extend, must have brought untold horrors upon Jamaica. But the
martial law which he had proclaimed was certainly continued longer than
was necessary, it was exercised with excessive severity, and those who
were tried under it were not merely men who had been taken in arms. One
conspicuous civilian agitator, who had contributed greatly to stimulate
the insurrection, and had been, in the opinion of the Governor, its
'chief cause and origin,' but who, like most men of his kind, had merely
incited others without taking any direct part himself, was arrested in a
part of the island in which martial law was not proclaimed, and was
tried and hanged by orders of a military tribunal in a way which the
best legal authorities in England pronounced wholly unwarranted by law.
If this act had been considered apart from the general conditions of the
island it would have deserved severe punishment. If the services of the
Governor had been considered apart from this act they would have
deserved high honours from the Crown. In Jamaica the Governor was fully
supported by the Legislative Council and the Assembly, but at home
public opinion was fiercely divided, and the fact that the chief
literary and scientific men in England took sides on the question added
greatly to its interest. Carlyle took a leading part in the defence of
Governor Eyre. John Stuart Mill was the chairman of a committee who
regarded him as a simple criminal, and who for more than two years
pursued him with a persistent vindictiveness. As might have been
expected the one side dwelt solely on his services and the other side on
his misdeeds. Governor Eyre received no reward for the great service he
had rendered, and he was involved by his enemies in a ruinous legal
expenditure, which, however, was subsequently paid by the Government;
but those who desired to bring him to trial for murder were baffled, for
the Old Bailey Grand Jury threw out the bill. Public opinion, I think,
on the whole, approved of what they had done. Most moderate men had come
to the conclusion that Governor Eyre was a brave and honourable man who
had rendered great services to the State and had saved countless lives,
but who, through no unworthy motive and in a time of extreme danger and
panic, had committed a serious mistake which had been very amply

The more recent events connected with the Jameson raid into the
Transvaal may also be cited. Of the raid itself there is little to be
said. It was, in truth, one of the most discreditable as well as
mischievous events in recent colonial history, and its character was
entirely unrelieved by any gleam either of heroism or of skill. Those
who took a direct part in it were duly tried and duly punished. A
section of English society adopted on this question a disgraceful
attitude, but it must at least be said in palliation that they had been
grossly deceived, one of the chief and usually most trustworthy organs
of opinion having been made use of as an organ of the conspirators.

A more difficult question arose in the case of the statesman who had
prepared and organized the expedition against the Transvaal. It is
certain that the actual raid had taken place without his knowledge or
consent, though when it was brought to his knowledge he abstained from
taking any step to stop it. It may be conceded also that there were real
grievances to be complained of. By a strange irony of fate some of the
largest gold mines of the world had fallen to the possession of perhaps
the only people who did not desire them; of a race of hunters and
farmers intensely hostile to modern ideas, who had twice abandoned their
homes and made long journeys into distant lands in search of solitude
and space and of a home where they could live their primitive, pastoral
lives, undisturbed by any foreign element. These men now found their
country the centre of a vast stream of foreign immigration, and of that
most undesirable kind of immigration which gold mines invariably
promote. Their laws were very backward, but the part which was most
oppressive was that connected with the gold-mining industry which was
almost entirely in the hands of the immigrants, and it was this which
made it a main object to overthrow their government. The trail of
finance runs over the whole story, but it may be acknowledged that,
although Mr. Rhodes had made an enormous fortune by mining speculations,
and although he was largely interested as a financier in overturning the
system of government at Johannesburg, he was not a man likely to be
actuated by mere love of money, and that political ambition closely
connected with the opening and the civilisation of Africa largely
actuated him. Whether the motives of his co-conspirators were of the
same kind may be open to question. What, however, he did has been very
clearly established. When holding the highly confidential position of
Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, and being at the same time a Privy
Councillor of the Queen, he engaged in a conspiracy for the overthrow of
the government of a neighbouring and friendly State. In order to carry
out this design he deceived the High Commissioner whose Prime Minister
he was. He deceived his own colleagues in the Ministry. He collected
under false pretences a force which was intended to co-operate with an
insurrection in Johannesburg. Being a Director of the Chartered Company
he made use of that position, without the knowledge of his colleagues,
to further the conspiracy. He took an active and secret part in
smuggling great quantities of arms into the Transvaal, which were
intended to be used in the rebellion; and at a time when his organs in
the press were representing Johannesburg as seething with spontaneous
indignation against an oppressive government, he, with another
millionaire, was secretly expending many thousands of pounds in that
town in stimulating and subsidising the rising. He was also directly
connected with the shabbiest incident in the whole affair, the
concoction of a letter from the Johannesburg conspirators absurdly
representing English women and children at Johannesburg as in danger of
being shot down by the Boers, and urging the British to come at once to
save them. It was a letter drawn up with the sanction of Mr. Rhodes many
weeks before the raid, and before any disturbance had arisen, and kept
in reserve to be dated and used in the last moment for the purpose of
inducing the young soldiers in South Africa to join in the raid, and of
subsequently justifying their conduct before the War Office, and also
for the purpose of being published in the English press at the same time
as the first news of the raid, in order to work upon English public
opinion and persuade the English people that the raid, though
technically wrong, was morally justifiable.[56]

Mr. Rhodes is a man of great genius and influence, and in the past he
has rendered great services to the Empire. At the same time no
reasonable judge can question that in these transactions he was more
blamable than those who were actually punished by the law for taking
part in the raid--far more blamable than those young officers who were,
in truth, the most severely punished, and who had been induced to take
part in it under a false representation of the wishes of the Government
at home, and a grossly false representation of the state of things at
Johannesburg. The failure of the raid, and his undoubted complicity
with its design, obliged Mr. Rhodes to resign the post of Prime Minister
and his directorship of the Chartered Company, and, for a time at least,
eclipsed his influence in Africa; but the question confronted the
Ministers whether these resignations alone constituted a sufficient
punishment for what he had done.

The question was indeed one of great difficulty. The Government, in my
opinion, were right in not attempting a prosecution which, in the face
of the fact that the actual raid had certainly been undertaken without
the knowledge of Mr. Rhodes, and that the evidence against him was
chiefly drawn from his own voluntary admissions before the committee of
inquiry, would inevitably have proved abortive. They were, perhaps,
right in not taking from him the dignity of Privy Councillor, which had
been bestowed on him as a reward for great services in the past, and
which had never in the present reign been taken from anyone on whom it
had been bestowed. They were right also, I believe, in urging that after
a long and elaborate inquiry into the circumstances of the raid, and
after a report in which Mr. Rhodes's conduct had been fully examined and
severely censured, it was most important for the peace and good
government of South Africa that the matter should as soon as possible be
allowed to drop, and the raid and the party animosities it had aroused
to subside. But what can be thought of the language of a Minister who
volunteered to assure the House of Commons that in all the transactions
I have described, Mr. Rhodes, though he had made 'a gigantic mistake,' a
mistake perhaps as great as a statesman could make, had done nothing
affecting his personal honour?[57]

The foregoing examples will serve to illustrate the kind of difficulty
which every statesman has to encounter in dealing with political
misdeeds, and the impossibility of treating them by the clearly defined
lines and standards that are applicable to the morals of a private life.
Whatever conclusions men may arrive at in the seclusion of their
studies, when they take part in active political life they will find it
necessary to make large allowances for motives, tendencies, past
services, pressing dangers, overwhelming expediencies, opposing
interests. Every statesman who is worthy of the name has a strong
predisposition to support the public servants who are under him when he
knows that they have acted with a sincere desire to benefit the Empire.
This is, indeed, a characteristic of all really great statesmen, and it
gives a confidence and energy to the public service which in times of
difficulty and danger are of supreme importance. In such times a
mistaken decision is usually a less evil than timid, vacillating, or
procrastinated action, and a wise Minister will go far to defend his
subordinates if they have acted promptly and with substantial justice in
the way they believed to be best, even though they may have made
considerable mistakes, and though the results of their action may have
proved unfortunate.

But of all forms of prestige, moral prestige is the most valuable, and
no statesman should forget that one of the chief elements of British
power is the moral weight that is behind it. It is the conviction that
British policy is essentially honourable and straightforward, that the
word and honour of its statesmen and diplomatists may be implicitly
trusted, and that intrigues and deceptions are wholly alien to their
nature. The statesman must steer his way between rival fanaticisms--the
fanaticism of those who pardon everything if it is crowned by success
and conduces to the greatness of the Empire, and who act as if weak
Powers and savage nations had no moral rights; and the fanaticism of
those who always seem to have a leaning against their own country, and
who imagine that in times of war, anarchy, or rebellion, and in dealings
with savage or half-savage military populations, it is possible to act
with the same respect for the technicalities of law, and the same
invariably high standard of moral scrupulousness, as in a peaceful age
and a highly civilised country. In the affairs of private life the
distinction between right and wrong is usually very clear, but it is not
so in public affairs. Even the moral aspects of political acts can
seldom be rightly estimated without the exercise of a large, judicial,
and comprehensive judgment, and the spirit which should actuate a
statesman should be rather that of a high-minded and honourable man of
the world than that of a theologian, or a lawyer, or an abstract

In some respects the standard of political morality has undoubtedly
risen in modern times; but it is by no means certain that in
international politics this is the case. A true history of the wars of
the last half of the nineteenth century may well lead us to doubt it,
and recent disclosures have shown us that in the most terrible of
them--the Franco-German War of 1870--the blame must be much more equally
divided than we had been accustomed to believe. Very few massacres in
history have been more gigantic or more clearly traced to the action of
a government than those perpetrated by Turkish soldiers in our
generation, and few signs of the low level of public feeling in
Christendom are more impressive than the general indifference with which
these massacres were contemplated in most countries. It was made evident
that a Power which retains its military strength, and which is therefore
sought as an ally and feared as an enemy, may do things with impunity,
and even with very little censure, which in the case of a weak nation
would produce a swift retribution. Among the minor episodes of
nineteenth-century history the historian will not forget how soon after
the savage Armenian massacres the sovereign of one of the greatest and
most civilised of Christian nations hastened to Constantinople to clasp
the hand which was so deeply dyed with Christian blood, and then,
having, as he thought, sufficiently strengthened his popularity and
influence in that quarter, proceeded to the Mount of Olives, where, amid
scenes that are consecrated by the most sacred of all memories, and most
fitted to humble the pride of power and dispel the dreams of ambition,
he proclaimed himself with melodramatic piety the champion and the
patron of the Christian faith! How many instances may be culled from
very modern history of the deliberate falsehood of statesmen; of
distinct treaty engagements and obligations simply set aside because
they were inconvenient to one Power, and could be repudiated with
impunity; of weak nations annexed or plundered without a semblance of
real provocation! The safety of the weak in the presence of the strong
is the best test of international morality. Can it be said that, if
measured by this test, the public morality of our time ranks very high?
No one can fail to notice with what levity the causes of war with
barbarous or semi-civilised nations are scrutinised if only those wars
are crowned with success; how strongly the present commercial policy of
Europe is stimulating the passion for aggression; how warmly that policy
is in all great nations supported by public opinion and by the Press.

The questions of morality arising out of these things are many and
complicated, and they cannot be disposed of by short and simple formulæ.
How far is a statesman who sees, or thinks he sees, some crushing danger
from an aggressive foreign Power impending over his country, justified
in anticipating that danger, and at a convenient moment and without any
immediate provocation forcing on a war? How far is it his right or his
duty to sacrifice the lives of his people through humanitarian motives,
for the redress of some flagrant wrong with which he is under no treaty
obligation to interfere? How far, if several Powers agree to guarantee
the integrity of a small Power, is one Power bound at great risk to
interfere in isolation if its co-partners refuse to do so or are even
accomplices in a policy of plunder? How far, if the aggression of other
Powers places his nation at a commercial or other disadvantage in the
competition of nations, may a statesman take measures which, under
other circumstances, would be plainly unjustifiable, to guard against
such disadvantage? With what degrees of punctiliousness, at what cost of
treasure and of life, ought a nation to resent insults directed against
its dignity, its subjects and its flag? What is the meaning and what are
the limits of national egotism and national unselfishness? There is such
a thing as the comity of nations, and even apart from treaty obligations
no great nation can pursue a policy of complete isolation, disregarding
crimes and aggressions beyond its border. On the other hand, the primary
duty of every statesman is to his own country. His task is to secure for
many millions of the human race the highest possible amount of peace and
prosperity, and a selfishness is at least not a narrow one which, while
abstaining from injuring others, restricts itself to promoting the
happiness of a vast section of the human race. Sacrifices and dangers
which a good man would think it his clear duty to accept if they fell on
himself alone wear another aspect if he is acting as trustee for a great
nation and for the interests of generations who are yet unborn. Nothing
is more calamitous than the divorce of politics from morals, but in
practical politics public and private morals will never absolutely
correspond. The public opinion of the nation will inevitably inspire and
control its statesmen. It creates in all countries an ethical code which
with greater or less perfection marks out for them the path of duty, and
though a great statesman may do something to raise its level, he can
never wholly escape its influence. In different nations it is higher or
lower--in truthfulness and sincerity of diplomacy the variations are
very great--but it will never be the exact code on which men act in
private life. It is certainly widely different from the Sermon on the

There is one belief, half unconscious, half avowed, which in our
generation is passing widely over the world and is practically accepted
in a very large measure by the English-speaking nations. It is that to
reclaim savage tribes to civilisation, and to place the outlying
dominions of civilised countries which are anarchical or grossly
misgoverned in the hands of rulers who govern wisely and uprightly, are
sufficient justification for aggression and conquest. Many who, as a
general rule, would severely censure an unjust and unprovoked war,
carried on for the purpose of annexation by a strong Power against a
weak one, will excuse or scarcely condemn such a war if it is directed
against a country which has shown itself incapable of good government.
To place the world in the hands of those who can best govern it is
looked upon as a supreme end. Wars are not really undertaken for this
end. The philanthropy of nations when it takes the form of war and
conquest is seldom or never unmixed with selfishness, though strong
gusts of humanitarian enthusiasm often give an impulse, a pretext, or a
support to the calculated actions of statesmen. But when wars, however
selfish and unprovoked, contribute to enlarge the boundaries of
civilisation, to stimulate real progress, to put an end to savage
customs, to oppression or to anarchy, they are now very indulgently
judged even in the many cases in which the inhabitants of the conquered
Power do not desire the change and resist it strenuously in the field.

In domestic as in foreign politics the maintenance of a high moral
standard in statesmanship is impossible unless the public opinion of the
country is in harmony with it. Moral declension in a nation is very
swiftly followed by a corresponding decadence among its public men, and
it will indeed be generally found that the standard of public men is apt
to be somewhat lower than that of the better section of the public
outside. They are exposed to very special temptations, some of which I
have already indicated.

The constant habit of regarding questions with a view to party
advantage, to proximate issues, to immediate popularity, which is
inseparable from parliamentary government, can hardly fail to give some
ply to the most honest intellect. Most questions have to be treated more
or less in the way of compromise; and alliances and coalitions not very
conducive to a severe standard of political morals are frequent. In
England the leading men of the opposing parties have happily usually
been able to respect one another. The same standard of honour will be
found on both sides of the House, but every parliament contains its
notorious agitators, intriguers and self-seekers, men who have been
connected with acts which may or may not have been brought within the
reach of the criminal law, but have at least been sufficient to stamp
their character in the eyes of honest men. Such men cannot be neglected
in party combinations. Political leaders must co-operate with them in
the daily intercourse and business of parliamentary life--must sometimes
ask them favours--must treat them with deference and respect. Men who on
some subjects and at some times have acted with glaring profligacy, on
others act with judgment, moderation and even patriotism, and become
useful supporters or formidable opponents. Combinations are in this way
formed which are in no degree wrong, but which tend to dull the edge of
moral perception and imperceptibly to lower the standard of moral
judgment. In the swift changes of the party kaleidoscope the bygone is
soon forgotten. The enemy of yesterday is the ally of to-day; the
services of the present soon obscure the misdeeds of the past; and men
insensibly grow very tolerant not only of diversities of opinion, but
also of gross aberrations of conduct. The constant watchfulness of
external opinion is very necessary to keep up a high standard of
political morality.

Public opinion, it is true, is by no means impeccable. The tendency to
believe that crimes cease to be crimes when they have a political
object, and that a popular vote can absolve the worst crimes, is only
too common; there are few political misdeeds which wealth, rank, genius
or success will not induce large sections of English society to pardon,
and nations even in their best moments will not judge acts which are
greatly for their own advantage with the severity of judgment that they
would apply to similar acts of other nations. But when all this is
admitted, it still remains true that there is a large body of public
opinion in England which carries into all politics a sound moral sense
and which places a just and righteous policy higher than any mere party
interest. It is on the power and pressure of this opinion that the high
character of English government must ultimately depend.


[42] This sentence may appear obscure to English readers. The
explanation is, that by an ingenious arrangement, devised by Lord
Beaconsfield, the professors of the Jesuit College in Stephen's Green
are nearly all made Fellows of the Royal University, those of the Arts
Faculty receiving 400_l._ a year, and three Medical Fellows 150_l._
each. By this device the Catholic college has in reality a State
endowment to the amount of between 6,000_l._ and 7,000_l._ a year. This
fact considerably reduces the grievance.

[43] See e.g. the death-bed counsels of Henry IV. to his son:--

                          'Therefore, my Harry,
     Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
     With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,
     May waste the memory of the former days.'
                         _Henry IV_. Part II. Act IV. Sc. 4.

[44] Lord Lanesborough _v._ Reilly.

[45] See Tocqueville's _Memoirs_ (English trans.), ii. 189, Letter to
the _Times_.

[46] See Maupas, _Mémoires sur le Second Empire_, i. 511, 512. It is
said that, contrary to the orders of St.-Arnaud, the soldiers, instead
of immediately shooting all persons in the street who were found with
arms or constructing or defending a barricade, made many prisoners, and
it is not clear what became of them. Granier de Cassagnac, however,
altogether denies the executions on the Champ de Mars (ii. 433).

[47] Granier de Cassagnac, ii. 438.

[48] _L'Empire Libéral_, ii. 526.

[49] _Mémoires d'Odilon Barrot_, iv. 59-61.

[50] _Mémoires d'Odilon Barrot_, iv. 56, 57.

[51] See Lord Palmerston's statements on this subject in Ashley's _Life
of Palmerston_, ii. 200-211. Tocqueville, however, utterly denies that
the majority of the Assembly had any sympathy with these views
(Tocqueville's _Memoirs_ (Eng. trans.), ii. 177). Maupas, in his
_Mémoires_, gives a very detailed account of the conspiracy on the
Bonapartist side. It appears that the 'homme de confiance' of
Changarnier was in his pay.

[52] Tocqueville's _Memoirs_, ii.

[53] Ashley's _Life of Palmerston_, ii. 208.

[54] Newman.

[55] See Ollivier, _L'Empire Libéral_, i. 510-512.

[56] _Second Report of the Select Committee on British South Africa_
(July, 1897).

[57] _Parliamentary Debates_, July 26, 1897, 1169, 1170.


The necessities for moral compromise I have traced in the army, in the
law, and in the fields of politics may be found in another form not less
conspicuously in the Church. The members, and still more the ministers,
of an ancient Church bound to formularies and creeds that were drawn up
in long bygone centuries, are continually met by the difficulties of
reconciling these forms with the changed conditions of human knowledge,
and there are periods when the pressure of these difficulties is felt
with more than common force. Such, for example, were the periods of the
Renaissance and the Reformation, when changes in the intellectual
condition of Europe produced a widespread conviction of the vast amount
of imposture and delusion which had received the sanction of a Church
that claimed to be infallible, the result being in some countries a
silent evanescence of all religious belief among the educated class,
even including a large number of the leaders of the Church, and in other
countries a great outburst of religious zeal aiming at the restoration
of Christianity to its primitive form and a repudiation of the
accretions of superstition that had gathered around it. The Copernican
theory proving that our world is not, as was long believed, the centre
of the universe, but a single planet moving with many others around a
central sun, and the discovery, by the instrumentality of the
telescope, of the infinitesimally small place which our globe occupies
in the universe, altered men's measure of probability and affected
widely, though indirectly, their theological beliefs.

A similar change was gradually produced by the Newtonian discovery that
the whole system of the universe was pervaded by one great law, and by
the steady growth of scientific knowledge, proving that vast numbers of
phenomena which were once attributed to isolated and capricious acts of
spiritual intervention were regulated by invariable, inexorable,
all-pervasive law. Many of the formularies by which we still express our
religious beliefs date from periods when comets and eclipses were
believed to have been sent to portend calamity; when every great
meteorological change was attributed to some isolated spiritual agency;
when witchcraft and diabolical possession, supernatural diseases, and
supernatural cures were deemed indubitable facts: and when accounts of
contemporary miracles, Divine or Satanic, carried with them no sense of
strangeness or improbability. It is scarcely surprising that these
formularies sometimes seem incongruous with an age when the scientific
spirit has introduced very different conceptions of the government of
the universe, and when the miraculous, if it is not absolutely
discredited, is, at least in the eyes of most educated men, relegated to
a distant past.

The present century has seen some powerful reactions towards older
religious beliefs, but it has also been to an unusual extent fertile in
the kind of changes that most deeply affect them. Not many years have
passed since the whole drama of the world's history was believed to
have been comprised in the framework of 'Paradise Lost' and 'Paradise
Regained.' Man appeared in the universe a faultless being in a faultless
world, but he soon fell from his first estate, and his fall entailed
world-wide consequences. It introduced into our globe sin, death,
suffering, disease, imperfection and decay; all the mischievous and
ferocious instincts and tendencies of man and beast; all the
multitudinous forms of struggle, terror, anxiety and grief; all that
makes life bitter to any living being, and, even as the Fathers were
accustomed to say, the briars and weeds and sterility of the earth.
Paradise Regained was believed to be indissolubly connected with
Paradise Lost. The one was the explanation of the other. The one
introduced the disease, the other provided the remedy.

It is idle to deny that the main outlines of this picture have been
wholly changed. First came the discovery that the existence of our globe
stretches far beyond the period once assigned to the Creation, and that
for countless ages before the time when Adam was believed to have lost
Paradise, death had been its most familiar fact and its inexorable law;
that the animals who inhabited it preyed upon and devoured each other as
at present, their claws and teeth being specially adapted for that
purpose. Even their half-digested remains have been preserved in fossil.

'Death,' wrote a Pagan philosopher, in sharp contrast to the teaching of
the Church, 'is a law and not a punishment,' and geology has fully
justified his assertion.

Then came decisive evidence showing that for many thousands of years
before his supposed origin man had lived and died upon our globe--a
being, as far as can be judged from the remains that have been
preserved, not superior but greatly inferior to ourselves, whose almost
only art was the manufacture of rude instruments for killing, who
appears in structure and in life to have approximated closely to the
lowest existing forms of savage life.

Then came the Darwinian theory maintaining that the whole history of the
living world is a history of slow and continuous evolution, chiefly by
means of incessant strife, from lower to higher forms; that man himself
had in this way gradually emerged from the humblest forms of the animal
world; that most of the moral deflections which were attributed to the
apple in Eden are the remains and traditions of the earlier and lower
stages of his existence. The theory of continuous ascent from a lower to
a higher stage took the place of the theory of the Fall as the
explanation of human history. It is a doctrine which is certainly not
without hope for the human race. It gives no explanation of the ultimate
origin of things, and it is in no degree inconsistent with the belief
either in a Divine and Creative origin or in a settled and Providential
plan. But it is as far as possible removed from the conception of human
history and human nature which Christendom during eighteen centuries
accepted as fundamental truth.

With these things have come influences of another kind. Comparative
Mythology has accumulated a vast amount of evidence, showing how myths
and miracles are the natural product of certain stages of human
history, of certain primitive misconceptions of the course of nature;
how legends essentially of the same kind, though with some varieties of
detail, have sprung up in many different quarters, and how they have
migrated and interacted on each other. Biblical criticism has at the
same time decomposed and analysed the Jewish writings, assigning to them
dates and degrees of authority very different from those recognised by
the Church. It has certainly not impaired their significance as records
of successive developments of religious and moral progress, nor has it
diminished their value as expressions of the loftiest and most enduring
religious sentiments of mankind; but in the eyes of a great section of
the educated world it has deprived them of the authoritative and
infallible character that was once attributed to them. At the same time
historical criticism has brought with it severer standards of proof,
more efficient means of distinguishing the historical from the fabulous.
It has traced the phases and variations of religions, and the influences
that governed them, with a fulness of knowledge and an independence of
judgment unknown in the past, and it has led its votaries to regard in
these matters a sceptical and hesitating spirit as a virtue, and
credulity and easiness of belief as a vice.

This is not a book of theology, and I have no intention of dilating on
these things. It must, however, be manifest to all who are acquainted
with contemporary thought how largely these influences have displaced
theological beliefs among great numbers of educated men; how many things
that were once widely believed have become absolutely incredible; how
many that were once supposed to rest on the plane of certainty have now
sunk to the lower plane of mere probability or perhaps possibility. From
the time of Galileo downwards, these changes have been denounced as
incompatible with the whole structure of Christian belief. No less an
apologist than Bishop Berkeley declared that the belief that the date of
the existence of the world was approximately that which could be deduced
from the book of Genesis was one of the fundamental beliefs which could
not be given up.[58] When the traveller Brydone published his travels in
Sicily in 1773, conjecturing, from the deposits of lava, that the world
must be much older than the Mosaic cosmogony admitted, his work was
denounced as subverting the foundations of the Christian faith. The same
charges were brought against the earlier geologists, and in our own day
against the early supporters of the Darwinian theory; and many now
living can remember the outbursts of indignation against those who first
introduced the principles of German criticism into English thought, and
who impugned the historical character and the assumed authorship of the

It is not surprising or unreasonable that it should have been so, for it
is impossible to deny that these changes have profoundly altered large
portions of the beliefs that were once regarded as essential. One main
object of a religion was believed to have been to furnish what may be
called a theory of the universe--to explain its origin, its destiny, and
the strange contradictions and imperfections it presents. The Jewish
theory was a very clear and definite one, but it is certainly not that
of modern science.

Yet few things are more remarkable than the facility with which these
successive changes have gradually found their places within the
Established Church, and how little that Church has been shaken by this
fact. Even the Darwinian theory, though it has not yet passed into the
circle of fully established truth, is in its main lines constantly
mentioned with approbation by the clergy of the Church. The theory of
evolution largely pervades their teaching. The doctrine that the Bible
was never intended to teach science or scientific facts, and also the
main facts and conclusions of modern Biblical criticism, have been
largely accepted among the most educated clergy. Very few of them would
now deny the antiquity of the world, the antiquity of man, or the
antiquity of death, or would maintain that the Mosaic cosmogony was a
true and literal account of the origin of the globe and of man, or would
very strenuously argue either for the Mosaic authorship or the
infallibility of the Pentateuch.

And while changes of this kind have been going on in one direction,
another great movement has been taking place in an opposite one. The
Church of England was essentially a Protestant Church; though, being
constructed more than most other Churches under political influences, by
successive stages of progress, and with a view to including large and
varying sections of opinion in its fold, it retained, more than other
Churches, formularies and tenets derived from the Church it superseded.
The earnest Protestant and Puritan party which dominated in Scotland
and in the Continental Reformation, and which refused all compromise
with Rome, had not become powerful in English public opinion till some
time after the framework of the Church was established. The spirit of
compromise and conservatism which already characterised the English
people; the great part which kings and lawyers played in the formation
of the Church; their desire to maintain in England a single body,
comprising men who had broken away from the Papacy but who had in other
respects no great objection to Roman Catholic forms and doctrines, and
also men seriously imbued with the strong Protestant feeling of Germany
and Switzerland; the strange ductility of belief and conduct that
induced the great majority of the English clergy to retain their
preferments and avoid persecution during the successive changes of Henry
VIII., Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, all assisted in forming a Church
of a very composite character. Two distinct theories found their place
within it. According to one school it was simply the pre-Reformation
Church purified from certain abuses that had gathered around it,
organically united with it through a divinely appointed episcopacy,
resting on an authoritative and ecclesiastical basis, and forming one of
the three great branches of the Catholic Church. According to the other
school it was one of several Protestant Churches, retaining indeed such
portions of the old ecclesiastical organisation as might be justified
from Scripture, but not regarding them as among the essentials of
Christianity; agreeing with other Protestant bodies in what was
fundamental, and differing from them mainly on points which were
non-essential; accepting cordially the principle that 'the Bible and
the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants,' and at the same time
separated by the gravest and most vital differences from what they
deemed the great apostasy of Rome.

It was argued on the one hand that in its ecclesiastical and legal
organisation the Church in England was identical with the Church in the
reign of Henry VII.; that there had been no breach of continuity; that
bishops, and often the same bishops, sat in the same sees before and
after the Reformation; that the great majority of the parochial clergy
were unchanged, holding their endowments by the same titles and tenures,
subject to the same courts, and meeting in Convocation in the same
manner as their predecessors; that the old Catholic services were merely
translated and revised, and that although Roman usurpations which had
never been completely acquiesced in had been decisively rejected, and
although many superstitious novelties had been removed, the Church of
England was still the Church of St. Augustine; that it had never, even
in the darkest period, lost its distinct existence, and that
supernatural graces and sacerdotal powers denied to all schismatics had
descended to it through the Episcopacy in an unbroken stream. On the
other hand it was argued that the essential of a true Church lay in the
accordance of its doctrines with the language of Scripture and not in
the methods of Church government, and that whatever might be the case in
a legal point of view, the theory of the unity of the Church before and
after the Reformation was in a theological sense a delusion. The Church
under Henry VII. was emphatically a theocracy or ecclesiastical
monarchy, the Pope, as the supposed successor of the supposed prince of
the Apostles, being the very keystone of the spiritual arch. Under Henry
VIII. and Elizabeth the Church of England had become a kind of
aristocracy of bishops, governed very really as well as theoretically by
the Crown, totally cut off from what called itself the Chair of Peter,
and placed under completely new relations with the Catholic Church of
Christendom. In this space of time Anglican Christianity had discarded
not only the Papacy but also great part of what for centuries before the
change had been deemed vitally and incontestably necessary both in its
theology and in its devotions. Though much of the old organisation and
many of the old formularies had been retained, its articles, its
homilies, the constant teaching of its founders, breathed a spirit of
unquestionable Protestantism. The Church which remained attached to
Rome, and which held the same doctrines, practised the same devotions,
and performed the same ceremonies as the English Church under Henry
VII., professed to be infallible, and it utterly repudiated all
connection with the new Church of England, and regarded it as nothing
more than a Protestant schism; while the Church of England in her
authorised formularies branded some of the central beliefs and devotions
of the Roman Church as blasphemous, idolatrous, superstitious and
deceitful, and was long accustomed to regard that Church as the Church
of Antichrist; the Harlot of the Apocalypse, drunk with the blood of the
Saints. Each Church during long periods and to the full measure of its
powers suppressed or persecuted the other.

In the eyes of the Erastian and also in the eyes of the Puritan the
theory of the spiritual unity of these two bodies, and the various
sacerdotal consequences that were inferred from it, seemed incredible,
nor did the first generation of our reformers shrink from communion,
sympathy and co-operation with the non-episcopal Protestants of the
Continent. Although they laid great stress on patristic authority, and
consented--chiefly through political motives--to leave in the
Prayer-book many things derived from the older Church, yet the High
Church theory of Anglicanism is much more the product of the
seventeenth-century divines than of the reformers, just as Roman
Catholicism is much more akin to the later fathers than to primitive
Christianity. No one could doubt on what side were the sympathies and
what were the opinions of Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Jewell and Hooper,
and what spirit pervades the articles and the homilies. A Church which
does not claim to be infallible; which owes its special form chiefly to
the sagacity of statesmen; in which the supreme tribunal, deciding what
doctrines may be taught by the clergy, is a secular law court; in which
the bands of conformity are so loose that the tendencies and sentiments
of the nation give the complexion to the Church, appears in the eyes of
men of these schools to have no possible right to claim or share the
authority of the Church of Rome. It rests on another basis. It must be
justified on other grounds.

These two distinct schools, however, have subsisted in the Church. Each
of them can find some support in the Prayer-book, and the old orthodox
High Church school which was chiefly elaborated and which chiefly
flourished under the Stuarts, has produced a great part of the most
learned theology of Christendom, and had in its early days little or no
tendency to Rome. It was exclusive and repellent on the side of
Nonconformity, and it placed Church authority very high; but the immense
majority of its members were intensely loyal to the Anglican Church, and
lived and died contentedly within its pale. There were, however, always
in that Church men of another kind whose true ideal lay beyond its
border. Falkland, in a remarkable speech, delivered in 1640, speaks of
them with much bitterness. 'Some,' he says, 'have so industriously
laboured to deduce themselves from Rome that they have given great
suspicion that in gratitude they desire to return thither, or at least
to meet it half way. Some have evidently laboured to bring in an English
though not a Roman Popery; I mean not only the outside and dress of it,
but equally absolute.... Nay, common fame is more than ordinarily false
if none of them have found a way to reconcile the opinions of Rome to
the preferments of England, and be so absolutely, directly and cordially
Papists that it is all that 1,500_l._ a year can do to keep them from
confessing it.'[59]

No wide secession to Rome, however, followed the development of this
seventeenth-century school, though it played a large part in the
nonjuror schism, and with the decay of that schism and under the
latitudinarian tendencies of the eighteenth century it greatly dwindled.
Since, however, the Tractarian movement, which carried so many leaders
of the English Church to Rome, men of Roman sympathies and Roman ideals
have multiplied within the Church to an extraordinary degree. They have
not only carried their theological pretensions in the direction of Rome
much further than the nonjurors; they have also in many cases so
transformed the old and simple Anglican service by vestments and
candles, and banners and incense, and genuflexions and whispered
prayers, that a stranger might well imagine that he was in a Roman
Catholic church. They have put forward sacerdotal pretensions little, if
at all, inferior to those of Rome. The whole tendency of their
devotional literature and thought flows in the Roman channel, and even
in the most insignificant matters of ceremony and dress they are
accustomed to pay the greater Church the homage of constant imitation.

It would be unjust to deny that there are some real differences. The
absolute authority and infallibility of the Pope are sincerely
repudiated as an usurpation, the ritualist theory only conceding to him
a primacy among bishops. The discipline and submission to ecclesiastical
authority also, which so eminently distinguish the Roman Church, are
wholly wanting in many of its Anglican imitators, and at the same time
the English sense of truth has proved sufficient to save the party from
the tolerance and propagation of false miracles and of grossly
superstitious practices so common in Roman Catholic countries. In this
last respect, however, it is probable that English and American Roman
Catholics are almost equally distinguished from Catholics in the
Southern States of Europe and of America. Still, when all this is
admitted, it can hardly be denied that there has grown up in a great
section of the English Church a sympathy with Rome and an antipathy to
Protestantism and to Protestant types of thought and character utterly
alien to the spirit of the Reformers and to the doctrinal formularies of
the Church of England.

It is not very easy to form a just estimate of the extent and depth of
this movement. There are wide variations in the High Church party; the
extreme men are not the most numerous and certainly very far from the
ablest, and many influences other than convinced belief have tended to
strengthen the party. It has been, indeed, unlike the Tractarian party
which preceded it, remarkably destitute of literary or theological
ability, and has added singularly little to the large and noble
theological literature of the English Church. The mere charm of novelty,
which is always especially powerful in the field of religion, draws many
to the ritualistic channel, and thousands who care very little for
ritualistic doctrines are attracted by the music, the pageantry, the
pictorial beauty of the ritualistic services. Æsthetic tastes have of
late years greatly increased in England, and the closing of places of
amusement on Sunday probably strengthens the craving for more attractive
services. The extreme High Church party has chiefly fostered and chiefly
benefited by this desire, but it has extended much more widely. It has
touched even puritanical and non-episcopal bodies, and it is sometimes
combined with extremely latitudinarian opinions. There is, indeed, a
type of mind which finds in such services a happy anodyne for
half-suppressed doubt. Petitions which in their poignant humiliation and
profound emotion no longer correspond to the genuine feelings of the
worshipper, seem attenuated and transformed when they are intoned, and
creeds which when plainly read shock the understanding and the
conscience are readily accepted as parts of a musical performance.
Scepticism as well as belief sometimes fills churches. Large classes who
have no wish to cut themselves off from religious services have lost all
interest in the theological distinctions which once were deemed
supremely important and all strong belief in great parts of dogmatic
systems, and such men naturally prefer services which by music and
ornament gratify their tastes and exercise a soothing or stimulating
influence over the imagination.

The extreme High Church party has, however, other elements of
attraction. Much of its power is due to the new springs of real
spiritual life and the new forms of real usefulness and charity that
grew out of its highly developed sacerdotal system and out of the
semi-monastic confraternities which at once foster and encourage and
organise an active zeal. The power of the party in acting not only on
the cultivated classes but also on the poor is very manifest, and it has
done much to give the Church of England a democratic character which in
past generations it did not possess, and which in the conditions of
modern life is supremely important. The multiplication not only of
religious services but of communicants, and the great increase in the
interest taken in Church life in quarters where the Ritualist party
prevail, cannot reasonably be questioned. Its highly ornate services
draw many into the churches who never entered them before, and they are
often combined with a familiar and at the same time impassioned style of
preaching, something like that of a Franciscan friar or a Methodist
preacher, which is excellently fitted to act upon the ignorant. If its
clergy have been distinguished for their insubordination to their
bishops, if they have displayed in no dubious manner a keen desire to
aggrandise their own position and authority, it is also but just to add
that they have been prominent for the zeal and self-sacrifice with which
they have multiplied services, created confraternities, and penetrated
into the worst and most obscure haunts of poverty and vice.

The result, however, of all this is that the conflicting tendencies
which have always been present in the Church have been greatly deepened.
There are to be found within it men whose opinions can hardly be
distinguished from simple Deism or Unitarianism, and men who abjure the
name of Protestant and are only divided by the thinnest of partitions
from the Roman Church. And this diversity exists in a Church which is
held together by articles and formularies of the sixteenth century.

It might, perhaps, _a priori_ have been imagined that a Church with so
much diversity of opinion and of spirit was an enfeebled and
disintegrated Church, but no candid man will attribute such a character
to the Church of England. All the signs of corporate vitality are
abundantly displayed, and it is impossible to deny that it is playing an
active, powerful, and most useful part in English life. Looking at it
first of all from the intellectual side, it is plain how large a
proportion of the best intellect of the country is contented, not only
to live within it, but to take an active part in its ministrations.
Compare the amount of higher literature which proceeds from clergymen of
the Established Church with the amount which proceeds from the vastly
greater body of Catholic priests scattered over the world; compare the
place which the English clergy, or laymen deeply imbued with the
teaching of the Church, hold in English literature with the place which
Catholic priests, or sincere Catholic laymen, hold in the literature of
France,--and the contrast will appear sufficiently evident. There is
hardly a branch of serious English literature in which Anglican clergy
are not conspicuous. There is nothing in a false and superstitious creed
incompatible with some forms of literature. It may easily ally itself
with the genius of a poet or with great beauty of style either hortatory
or narrative. But in the Church of England literary achievement is
certainly not restricted to these forms. In the fields of physical
science, in the fields of moral philosophy, metaphysics, social and even
political philosophy, and perhaps still more in the fields of history,
its clergy have won places in the foremost rank. It is notorious that a
large proportion of the most serious criticism, of the best periodical
writing in England, is the work of Anglican clergymen. No one, in
enumerating the leading historians of the present century, would omit
such names as Milman, Thirlwall and Merivale, in the generation which
has just passed away, or Creighton and Stubbs among contemporaries, and
these are only eminent examples of a kind of literature to which the
Church has very largely contributed. Their histories are not specially
conspicuous for beauty of style, and not only conspicuous for their
profound learning; they are marked to an eminent degree by judgment,
criticism, impartiality, a desire for truth, a skill in separating the
proved from the false or the merely probable. Compare them with the
chief histories that have been written by Catholic priests. In past ages
some of the greatest works of patient, lifelong industry in all literary
history were due to the Catholic priesthood, and especially to members
of the monastic orders; even in modern times they have produced some
works of great learning, of great dialectic skill, and of great beauty
of style; but with scarcely an exception these works bear upon them the
stamp of an advocate and are written for the purpose of proving a point,
concealing or explaining away the faults on one side, and bringing into
disproportioned relief those of the other. No one would look in them for
a candid estimate of the merits of an opponent or for a full statement
of a hostile case. Döllinger, who would probably once have been cited as
the greatest historian the Catholic priesthood had produced in the
nineteenth century, died under the anathema of his Church; and how large
a proportion of the best writing in modern English Catholicism has come
from writers who have been brought up in Protestant universities and who
have learnt their skill in the Anglican Church!

It is at least one great test of a living Church that the best intellect
of the country can enter into its ministry, that it contains men who in
nearly all branches of literature are looked upon by lay scholars with
respect or admiration. It is said that the number of young men of
ability who take orders is diminishing, and that this is due, not merely
to the agricultural depression which has made the Church much less
desirable as a profession, and indeed in many cases almost impossible
for those who have not some private fortune; not merely to the
competitive examination system, which has opened out vast and attractive
fields of ambition to the ablest laymen,--but also to the wide
divergence of men of the best intellect from the doctrines of the
Church, and the conviction that they cannot honestly subscribe its
articles and recite its formularies. But although this is, I believe,
true, it is also true that there is no other Church which has shown
itself so capable of attracting and retaining the services of men of
general learning, criticism and ability. One of the most important
features of the English ecclesiastical system has been the education of
those who are intended for the Church, in common with other students in
the great national universities. Other systems of education may produce
a clergy of greater professional learning and more intense and exclusive
zeal, but no other system of education is so efficacious in maintaining
a general harmony of thought and tendency between the Church and the
average educated opinion of the nation.

Take another test. Compare the _Guardian_, which represents better than
any other paper the opinions of moderate Churchmen, with the papers
which are most read by the French priesthood and have most influence on
their opinions. Certainly few English journalists have equalled in
ability Louis Veuillot, and few papers have exercised so great an
influence over the clergy of the Church as the _Univers_ at the time
when he directed it; but no one who read those savagely scurrilous and
intolerant pages, burning with an impotent hatred of all the progressive
and liberal tendencies of the time, shrinking from no misrepresentation
of fact and from no apology for crime if it was in the interest of the
Church, could fail to perceive how utterly out of harmony it was with
the best lay thought of France. English religious journalism has
sometimes, though in a very mitigated degree, exhibited some of these
characteristics, but no one who reads the _Guardian_, which I suppose
appeals to a larger clerical public than any other paper, can fail to
realise the contrast. It is not merely that it is habitually written in
the style and temper of a gentleman, but that it reflects most clearly
in its criticism, its impartiality, its tone of thought, the best
intellectual influences of the time. Men may agree or differ about its
politics or its theology, but no one who reads it can fail to admit that
it is thoroughly in touch with cultivated lay opinion, and it is in fact
a favourite paper of many who care only for its secular aspects.

The intellectual ability, however, included among the ministers of a
Church, though one test, is by no means a decisive and infallible one of
its religious life. During the period of the Renaissance, when genuine
belief in the Catholic Church had sunk to nearly its lowest point, most
men of literary tastes and talents were either members of the priesthood
or of the monastic orders. This was not due to any fervour of belief,
but simply to the fact that the Church at that time furnished almost the
only sphere in which a literary life could be pursued with comfort,
without molestation, and with some adequate reward. Much of the literary
ability found in the English Church is unquestionably due to the
attraction it offers and the facilities it gives to those who simply
wish for a studious life. The abolition of many clerical sinecures, and
the greatly increased activity of clerical duty imposed by contemporary
opinion, have no doubt rendered the profession less desirable from this
point of view; but even now there is no other profession outside the
universities which lends itself so readily to a literary life, and a
great proportion of the most eminent thinkers and writers in the Church
of England are eminent in fields that have little or no connection with

Other tests of a flourishing Church are needed, but they can easily be
found. Political power is one test, though it is a very coarse and very
deceptive one. Perhaps it is not too much to say that the most
superstitious creeds are often those which exercise the greatest
political influence, for they are those in which the priesthood acquires
the most absolute authority. Nor does the decline of superstition among
the educated classes always bring with it a corresponding decline in
ecclesiastical influence. There have been instances, both in Pagan and
Christian times, of a sceptical and highly educated ruling class
supporting and allying themselves with a superstitious Church as the
best means of governing or moralising the masses. Such Churches, by
their skilful organisation, by their ascendency over individual rulers,
or by their political alliances, have long exercised an enormous
influence, and in a democratic age the preponderance of political power
is steadily passing from the most educated classes. At the same time, in
a highly civilised and perfectly free country, in which all laws of
religious disqualification and coercion have disappeared, and all
questions of religion are submitted to perpetual discussion, the
political power which the Church of England retains at least proves that
she has a vast weight of genuine and earnest opinion behind her. No
politician will deny the strength with which the united or greatly
preponderating influence of the Church can support or oppose a party. It
has been said by a cynical observer that the three things outside their
own families that average Englishmen value the most are rank, money, and
the Church of England, and certainly no good observer will form a low
estimate of the strength or earnestness of the Church feeling in every
section of the English people.

Still less can it be denied that the Church retains in a high degree its
educational influence. For a long period national education was almost
wholly in its hands, and, since all disqualifications and most
privileges have been abolished, it still exercises a part in English
education which excites the alarm of some and the admiration of others.
It has thrown itself heartily into the new political conditions, and the
vast number of voluntary schools established under clerical influence,
and the immense sums that are annually raised for clerical purposes,
show beyond all doubt the amount of support and enthusiasm behind it. In
every branch of higher education its clergy are conspicuous, and their
influence in training the nation is not confined to the pulpit, the
university, or the school. No candid observer of English life will
doubt the immense effect of the parochial system in sustaining the moral
level both of principle and practice, and the multitude, activity, and
value of the philanthropic and moralising agencies which are wholly or
largely due to the Anglican Church.

Nor can it be reasonably doubted that the Church has been very
efficacious in promoting that spiritual life which, whatever opinion men
may form of its origin and meaning, is at least one of the great
realities of human nature. The power of a religion is not to be solely
or mainly judged by its corporate action; by the institutions it
creates; by the part which it plays in the government of the world. It
is to be found much more in its action on the individual soul, and
especially in those times and circumstances when man is most isolated
from society. It is in furnishing the ideals and motives of individual
life; in guiding and purifying the emotions; in promoting habits of
thought and feeling that rise above the things of earth; in the comfort
it can give in age, sorrow, disappointment and bereavement; in the
seasons of sickness, weakness, declining faculties, and approaching
death, that its power is most felt. No one creed or Church has the
monopoly of this power, though each has often tried to identify it with
something peculiar to itself. It maybe found in the Catholic and in the
Quaker, in the High Anglican who attributes it to his sacramental
system, and in the Evangelical in whose eyes that system holds only a
very subordinate place. All that need here be said is that no one who
studies the devotional literature of the English Church, or who has
watched the lives of its more devout members, will doubt that this life
can largely exist and flourish within its pale.

The attitude which men who have been born within that Church, but who
have come to dissent from large portions of its theology, should bear to
this great instrument of good, is certainly not less perplexing than the
questions we have been considering in the preceding chapters. The most
difficult position is, of course, that of those who are its actual
ministers and who have subscribed its formularies. Each man so situated
must judge in the light of his own conscience. There is a great
difference between the case of men who accept such a position in the
Church though they differ fundamentally from its tenets, and the case of
men who, having engaged in its service, find their old convictions
modified or shaken, perhaps very gradually, by the advance of science or
by more matured thought and study. The stringency of the old form of
subscription has been much mitigated by an Act of 1865 which substituted
a general declaration that the subscriber believed in the doctrine of
the Church as a whole, for a declaration that he believed 'all and
everything' in the Articles and the Prayer-book. The Church of England
does not profess to be an infallible Church; it does profess to be a
National Church representing and including great bodies of more or less
divergent opinion, and the whole tendency of legal decisions since the
Gorham case has been to enlarge the circle of permissible opinion. The
possibility of the National Church remaining in touch with the more
instructed and intellectual portions of the community depends mainly on
the latitude of opinion that is accorded to its clergy, and on their
power of welcoming and adopting new knowledge, and it may reasonably be
maintained that few greater calamities can befall a nation than the
severance of its higher intelligence from religious influences.

It should be remembered, too, that on the latitudinarian side the
changes that take place in the teaching of the Church consist much less
in the open repudiation of old doctrines than in their silent
evanescence. They drop out of the exhortations of the pulpit. The
relative importance of different portions of the religious teaching is
changed. Dogma sinks into the background. Narratives which are no longer
seriously believed become texts for moral disquisitions. The
introspective habits and the stress laid on purely ecclesiastical duties
which once preponderated disappear. The teaching of the pulpit tends
rather to the formation of active, useful and unselfish lives; to a
clearer insight into the great masses of remediable suffering and need
that still exist in the world; to the duty of carrying into all the
walks of secular life a nobler and more unselfish spirit; to a habit of
judging men and Churches mainly by their fruits and very little by their
beliefs. The disintegration or decadence of old religious beliefs which
had long been closely associated with moral teaching always brings with
it grave moral dangers, but those dangers are greatly diminished when
the change of belief is effected by a gradual transition, without any
violent convulsion or disruption severing men from their old religious
observances. Such a transition has silently taken place in England
among great numbers of educated men, and in some measure under the
influence of the clergy. Nor has it, I think, weakened the Church. The
standard of duty among such men has not sunk, but has in most
departments perceptibly risen: their zeal has not diminished, though it
flows rather in philanthropic than in purely ecclesiastical channels.
The conviction that the special dogmas which divided other Protestant
bodies from the Establishment rested on no substantial basis and have no
real importance tells in favour of the larger and the more liberal
Church, and the comprehensiveness which allows highly accentuated
sacerdotalism and latitudinarianism in the same Church is in the eyes of
many of them rather an element of strength than of weakness.

Few men have watched the religious tendencies of the time with a keener
eye than Cardinal Newman, and no man hated with a more intense hatred
the latitudinarian tendencies which he witnessed. His judgment of their
effect on the Establishment is very remarkable. In a letter to his
friend Isaac Williams he says: 'Everything I hear makes me fear that
latitudinarian opinions are spreading furiously in the Church of
England. I grieve deeply at it. The Anglican Church has been a most
useful breakwater against Scepticism. The time might come when you, as
well as I, might expect that it would be said above, "Why cumbereth it
the ground?" but at present it upholds far more truth in England than
any other form of religion would, and than the Catholic Roman Church
could. But what I fear is that it is _tending_ to a powerful
Establishment teaching direct error, and more powerful than it has ever
been; thrice powerful because it does teach error.'[60]

It is, however, of course, evident that the latitude of opinion which
may be reasonably claimed by the clergy of a Church encumbered with many
articles and doctrinal formularies is not unlimited, and each man must
for himself draw the line. The fact, too, that the Church is an
Established Church imposes some special obligations on its ministers. It
is their first duty to celebrate public worship in such a form that all
members of the Church of England may be able to join in it. Whatever
interpretations may be placed upon the ceremonies of the Church, those
ceremonies, at least, should be substantially the same. A stranger who
enters a church which he has never before seen should be able to feel
that he is certain of finding public worship intelligibly and decently
performed, as in past generations it has been celebrated in all sections
of the Established Church. It has, in my opinion, been a gross scandal,
following a gross neglect of duty, that this primary obligation has been
defied, and that services are held in English churches which would have
been almost unrecognisable by the churchmen of a former generation, and
which are manifest attempts to turn the English public worship into an
imitation of the Romish Mass. Men have a perfect right, within the
widest limits, to perform what religious services and to preach what
religious doctrines they please, but they have not a right to do so in
an Established Church.

The censorship of opinions is another thing, and in the conditions of
English life it has never been very effectively maintained. The latitude
of opinion granted in an Established Church is, and ought to be, very
great, but it is, I think, obvious that on some topics a greater degree
of reticence of expression should be observed by a clergyman addressing
a miscellaneous audience from the pulpit of an Established Church than
need be required of him in private life or even in his published books.

The attitude of laymen whose opinions have come to diverge widely from
the Church formularies is less perplexing, and except in as far as the
recent revival of sacerdotal pretensions has produced a reaction, there
has, if I mistake not, of late years been a decided tendency in the best
and most cultivated lay opinion of this kind to look with increasing
favour on the Established Church. The complete abolition of the
religious and political disqualifications which once placed its
maintenance in antagonism with the interests of large sections of the
people; the abolition of the indelibility of orders which excluded
clergymen who changed their views from all other means of livelihood;
the greater elasticity of opinion permitted within its pale; and the
elimination from the statute-book of nearly all penalties and
restrictions resting solely upon ecclesiastical grounds,--have all
tended to diminish with such men the objections to the Church. It is a
Church which does not injure those who are external to it, or interfere
with those who are mere nominal adherents. It is more and more looked
upon as a machine of well-organised beneficence, discharging efficiently
and without corruption functions of supreme utility, and constituting
one of the main sources of spiritual and moral life in the community.
None of the modern influences of society can be said to have superseded
it. Modern experience has furnished much evidence of the insufficiency
of mere intellectual education if it is unaccompanied by the education
of character, and it is on this side that modern education is most
defective. While it undoubtedly makes men far more keenly sensible than
in the past to the vast inequalities of human lots, the habit of
constantly holding out material prizes as its immediate objects, and the
disappearance of those coercive methods of education which once
disciplined the will, make it perhaps less efficient as an instrument of
moral amelioration.

Some habits of thought also, that have grown rapidly among educated men,
have tended powerfully in the same direction. The sharp contrasts
between true and false in matters of theology have been considerably
attenuated. The point of view has changed. It is believed that in the
history of the world gross and material conceptions of religion have
been not only natural, but indispensable, and that it is only by a
gradual process of intellectual evolution that the masses of men become
prepared for higher and purer conceptions. Superstition and illusion
play no small part in holding together the great fabric of society.
'Every falsehood,' it has been said, 'is reduced to a certain
malleability by an alloy of truth,' and, on the other hand, truths of
the utmost moment are, in certain stages of the world's history, only
operative when they are clothed with a vesture of superstition. The
Divine Spirit filters down to the human heart through a gross and
material medium. And what is true of different stages of human history
is not less true of different contemporary strata of knowledge and
intelligence. In spite of democratic declamation about the equality of
man, it is more and more felt that the same kind of teaching is not good
for everyone. Truth, when undiluted, is too strong a medicine for many
minds. Some things which a highly cultivated intellect would probably
discard, and discard without danger, are essential to the moral being of
multitudes. There is in all great religious systems something that is
transitory and something that is eternal. Theological interpretations of
the phenomena of outward nature which surround and influence us, and
mythological narratives which have been handed down to us from a remote,
uncritical and superstitious past, may be transformed or discredited;
but there are elements in religion which have their roots much less in
the reason of man than in his sorrows and his affections, and are the
expression of wants, moral appetites and aspirations which are an
essential, indestructible part of his nature.

No one, I think, can doubt that this way of thinking, whether it be
right or wrong, has very widely spread through educated Europe, and it
is a habit of thought which commonly strengthens with age. Young men
discuss religious questions simply as questions of truth or falsehood.
In later life they more frequently accept their creed as a working
hypothesis of life; as a consolation in innumerable calamities; as the
one supposition under which life is not a melancholy anti-climax; as
the indispensable sanction of moral obligation; as the gratification and
reflection of needs, instincts and longings which are planted in the
deepest recesses of human nature; as one of the chief pillars on which
society rests. The proselytising, the aggressive, the critical spirit
diminishes. Very often they deliberately turn away their thoughts from
questions which appear to them to lead only to endless controversy or to
mere negative conclusions, and base their moral life on some strong
unselfish interest for the benefit of their kind. In active, useful and
unselfish work they find the best refuge from the perplexities of belief
and the best field for the cultivation of their moral nature, and work
done for the benefit of others seldom fails to react powerfully on their
own happiness. Nor is it always those who have most completely abandoned
dogmatic systems who are the least sensible to the moral beauty which
has grown up around them. The music of the village church, which sounds
so harsh and commonplace to the worshipper within, sometimes fills with
tears the eyes of the stranger who sits without, listening among the

It is difficult to say how far the partial truce which has now fallen in
England over the great antagonisms of belief is likely to be permanent.
No one who knows the world can be insensible to the fact that a large
and growing proportion of those who habitually attend our religious
services have come to diverge very widely, though in many different
degrees, from the beliefs which are expressed or implied in the
formularies they use. Custom, fashion, the charm of old associations,
the cravings of their own moral or spiritual nature, a desire to
support a useful system of moral training, to set a good example to
their children, their household, or their neighbours, keep them in their
old place when the beliefs which they profess with their lips have in a
great measure ebbed away. I do not undertake to blame or to judge them.
Individual conscience and character and particular circumstances have,
in these matters, a decisive voice. But there are times when the
difference between professed belief and real belief is too great for
endurance, and when insincerity and half-belief affect seriously the
moral character of a nation. 'The deepest, nay, the only theme of the
world's history, to which all others are subordinate,' said Goethe, 'is
the conflict of faith and unbelief. The epochs in which faith, in
whatever form it may be, prevails, are the marked epochs in human
history, full of heart-stirring memories and of substantial gains for
all after times. The epochs in which unbelief, in whatever form it may
be, prevails, even when for the moment they put on the semblance of
glory and success, inevitably sink into insignificance in the eyes of
posterity, which will not waste its thoughts on things barren and

Many of my readers have probably felt the force of such considerations
and the moral problems which they suggest, and there have been perhaps
moments when they have asked themselves the question of the poet--

     Tell me, my soul, what is thy creed?
     Is it a faith or only a need?

They will reflect, however, that a need, if it be universally felt when
human nature is in its highest and purest state, furnishes some basis
of belief, and also that no man can venture to assign limits to the
transformations which religion may undergo without losing its essence or
its power. Even in the field of morals these have been very great,
though universal custom makes us insensible to the extent to which we
have diverged from a literal observance of Evangelical precepts. We
should hardly write over the Savings Bank, 'Take no thought for the
morrow, for the morrow will take thought for itself,' or over the Bank
of England, 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,' 'How
hardly shall a rich man enter into the Kingdom of God,' or over the
Foreign Office, or the Law Court, or the prison, 'Resist not evil,' 'He
that smiteth thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also,' 'He
that taketh away thy coat let him have thy cloak also.' Can it be said
that the whole force and meaning of such words are represented by an
industrial society in which the formation of habits of constant
providence with the object of averting poverty or increasing comfort is
deemed one of the first of duties and a main element and measure of
social progress; in which the indiscriminate charity which encourages
mendicancy and discourages habits of forethought and thrift is far more
seriously condemned than an industrial system based on the keenest, the
most deadly, and often the most malevolent competition; in which wealth
is universally sought, and universally esteemed a good and not an evil,
provided only it is honestly obtained and wisely and generously used; in
which, although wanton aggression and a violent and quarrelsome temper
are no doubt condemned, it is esteemed the duty of every good citizen
to protect his rights whenever they are unjustly infringed; in which war
and the preparation for war kindle the most passionate enthusiasm and
absorb a vast proportion of the energies of Christendom, and in which no
Government could remain a week in power if it did not promptly resent
the smallest insult to the national flag?

It is a question of a different kind whether the sacerdotal spirit which
has of late years so largely spread in the English Church can extend
without producing a violent disruption. To cut the tap roots of
priestcraft was one of the main aims and objects of the Reformation,
and, for reasons I have already stated, I do not believe that the party
which would re-establish it has by any means the strength that has been
attributed to it. It is true that the Broad Church party, though it
reflects faithfully the views of large numbers of educated laymen, has
never exercised an influence in active Church life at all proportionate
to the eminence of its leading representatives. It is true also that the
Evangelical party has in a very remarkable degree lost its old place in
the Anglican pulpit and in religious literature, though its tenets still
form the staple of the preaching of the Salvation Army and of most other
street preachers who exercise a real and widespread influence over the
poor. But the middle and lower sections of English society are, I
believe, at bottom, profoundly hostile to priestcraft; and although the
dread of Popery has diminished, they are very far from being ready to
acquiesce in any attempt to restore the dominion which their fathers

In one respect, indeed, sacerdotalism in the Anglican Church is a worse
thing than in the Roman Church, for it is undisciplined and unregulated.
The history of the Church abundantly shows the dangers that have sprung
from the Confessional, though the Roman Catholic will maintain that its
habitually restraining and moralising influence greatly outweighs these
occasional abuses. But in the Roman Church the practice of confession is
carried on under the most severe ecclesiastical supervision and
discipline. Confession can only be made to a celibate priest of mature
age, who is bound to secrecy by the most solemn oath; who, except in
cases of grave illness, confesses only in an open church; and who has
gone through a long course of careful education specially and skilfully
designed to fit him for the duty. None of these conditions are observed
in Anglican Confession.

In other respects, indeed, the sacerdotal spirit is never likely to be
quite the same as in the Roman Church. A married clergy, who have mixed
in all the lay influences of an English university, and who still take
part in the pursuits, studies, social intercourse and amusements of
laymen, are not likely to form a separate caste or to constitute a very
formidable priesthood. It is perhaps a little difficult to treat their
pretensions with becoming gravity, and the atmosphere of unlimited
discussion which envelops Englishmen through their whole lives has
effectually destroyed the danger of coercive and restrictive laws
directed against opinion. Moral coercion and the tendency to interfere
by law on moral grounds with the habits of men, even when those habits
in no degree interfere with others, have increased. It is one of the
marked tendencies of Anglo-Saxon democracy, and it is very far from
being peculiar to, or even specially prominent in, any one Church. But
the desire to repress the expression of opinions by force, which for so
many centuries marked with blood and fire the power of mediæval
sacerdotalism, is wholly alien to modern English nature. Amid all the
fanaticisms, exaggerations, and superstitions of belief, this kind of
coercion, at least, is never likely to be formidable, nor do I believe
that in the most extreme section of the sacerdotal clergy there is any
desire for it. There has been one significant contrast between the
history of Catholicism and Anglicanism in the present century. In the
Catholic Church the Ultramontane element has steadily dominated,
restricting liberty of opinion, and important tenets which were once
undefined by the Church, and on which sincere Catholics had some
latitude of opinion, have been brought under the iron yoke. This is no
doubt largely due to the growth of scepticism and indifference, which
have made the great body of educated laymen hostile or indifferent to
the Church, and have thrown its management mainly into the hands of the
priesthood and the more bigoted, ignorant and narrow-minded laymen. But
in the Anglican Church educated laymen are much less alienated from
Church life, and a tribunal which is mainly lay exercises the supreme
authority. As a consequence of these conditions, although the sacerdotal
element has greatly increased, the latitude of opinion within the Church
has steadily grown.

At the same time, it is difficult to believe that serious dangers do not
await the Church if the unprotestantising influences that have spread
within it continue to extend. It is not likely that the nation will
continue to give its support to the Church if that Church in its main
tendencies cuts itself off from the Reformation. The conversions to
Catholicism in England, though probably much exaggerated, have been very
numerous, and it is certainly not surprising that it should be so. If
the Church of Rome permitted Protestantism to be constantly taught in
her pulpits, and Protestant types of worship and character to be
habitually held up to admiration, there can be little doubt that many of
her worshippers would be shaken. If the Church of England becomes in
general what it already is in some of its churches, it is not likely
that English public opinion will permanently acquiesce in its privileged
position in the State. If it ceases to be a Protestant Church, it will
not long remain an established one, and its disestablishment would
probably be followed by a disruption in which opinions would be more
sharply defined, and the latitude of belief and the spirit of compromise
that now characterise our English religious life might be seriously


[58] _Alciphron_, 6th Dialogue.

[59] Nalsons's _Collections_, i. 769, February 9, 1640.

[60] _Autobiography of Isaac Williams_, p. 132. This letter was written
in 1863.



Of all the tasks which are set before man in life, the education and
management of his character is the most important, and, in order that it
should be successfully pursued, it is necessary that he should make a
calm and careful survey of his own tendencies, unblinded either by the
self-deception which conceals errors and magnifies excellences, or by
the indiscriminate pessimism which refuses to recognise his powers for
good. He must avoid the fatalism which would persuade him that he has no
power over his nature, and he must also clearly recognise that this
power is not unlimited. Man is like a card-player who receives from
Nature his cards--his disposition, his circumstances, the strength or
weakness of his will, of his mind, and of his body. The game of life is
one of blended chance and skill. The best player will be defeated if he
has hopelessly bad cards, but in the long run the skill of the player
will not fail to tell. The power of man over his character bears much
resemblance to his power over his body. Men come into the world with
bodies very unequal in their health and strength; with hereditary
dispositions to disease; with organs varying greatly in their normal
condition. At the same time a temperate or intemperate life, skilful or
unskilful regimen, physical exercises well adapted to strengthen the
weaker parts, physical apathy, vicious indulgence, misdirected or
excessive effort, will all in their different ways alter his bodily
condition and increase or diminish his chances of disease and premature
death. The power of will over character is, however, stronger, or, at
least, wider than its power over the body. There are organs which lie
wholly beyond its influence; there are diseases over which it can
exercise no possible influence, but there is no part of our moral
constitution which we cannot in some degree influence or modify.

It has often seemed to me that diversities of taste throw much light on
the basis of character. Why is it that the same dish gives one man keen
pleasure and to another is loathsome and repulsive? To this simple
question no real answer can be given. It is a fact of our nature that
one fruit, or meat, or drink will give pleasure to one palate and none
whatever to another. At the same time, while the original and natural
difference is undoubted, there are many differences which are wholly or
largely due to particular and often transitory causes. Dishes have an
attraction or the reverse because they are associated with old
recollections or habits. Habit will make a Frenchman like his melon with
salt, while an Englishman prefers it with sugar. An old association of
ideas will make an Englishman shrink from eating a frog or a snail,
though he would probably like each if he ate it without knowing it, and
he could easily learn to do so. The kind of cookery which one age or one
nation generally likes, another age or another nation finds distasteful.
The eye often governs the taste, and a dish which, when seen, excites
intense repulsion, would have no such repulsion to a blind man. Every
one who has moved much about the world, and especially in uncivilised
countries, will get rid of many old antipathies, will lose the
fastidiousness of his taste, and will acquire new and genuine tastes.
The original innate difference is not wholly destroyed, but it is
profoundly and variously modified.

These changes of taste are very analogous to what takes place in our
moral dispositions. They are for the most part in themselves simply
external to morals, though there is at least one conspicuous exception.
Many--it is to be hoped most--men might spend their lives with full
access to intoxicating liquors without even the temptation of getting
drunk. Apart from all considerations of religion, morals, social,
physical, or intellectual consequences, they abstain from doing so
simply as a matter of taste. With other men the pleasure of excessive
drinking is such that it requires an heroic effort of the will to resist
it. There are men who not only are so constituted that it is their
greatest pleasure, but who are even born with a craving for drink. In no
form is the terrible fact of heredity more clearly or more tragically
displayed. Many, too, who had originally no such craving gradually
acquire it: sometimes by mere social influence, which makes excessive
drinking the habit of their circle; more frequently through depression
or sorrow, which gives men a longing for some keen pleasure in which
they can forget themselves; or through the jaded habit of mind and body
which excessive work produces, or through the dreary, colourless,
joyless surroundings of sordid poverty. Drink and the sensual pleasures,
if viciously indulged, produce (doubtless through physical causes) an
intense craving for their gratification. This, however, is not the case
with all our pleasures. Many are keenly enjoyed when present, yet not
seriously missed when absent. Sometimes, too, the effect of
over-indulgence is to vitiate and deaden the palate, so that what was
once pleasing ceases altogether to be an object of desire. This, too,
has its analogue in other things. We have a familiar example in the
excessive novel-reader, who begins with a kind of mental intoxication,
and who ends with such a weariness that he finds it a serious effort to
read the books which were once his strongest temptation.

Tastes of the palate also naturally change with age and with the
accompanying changes of the body. The schoolboy who bitterly repines
because the smallness of his allowance restricts his power of buying
tarts and sweetmeats will probably grow into a man who, with many
shillings in his pocket, daily passes the confectioner's shop without
the smallest desire to enter it.

It is evident that there is a close analogy between these things and
that collection of likes and dislikes, moral and intellectual, which
forms the primal base of character, and which mainly determines the
complexion of our lives. As Marcus Aurelius said: 'Who can change the
desires of man?' That which gives the strongest habitual pleasure,
whether it be innate or acquired, will in the great majority of cases
ultimately dominate. Certain things will always be intensely
pleasurable, and certain other things indifferent or repellent, and this
magnetism is the true basis of character, and with the majority of men
it mainly determines conduct. By the associations of youth and by other
causes these natural likings and dislikings may be somewhat modified,
but even in youth our power is very limited, and in later life it is
much less. No real believer in free-will will hold that man is an
absolute slave to his desires. No man who knows the world will deny that
with average man the strongest passion or desire will prevail--happy
when that desire is not a vice.

Passions weaken, but habits strengthen, with age, and it is the great
task of youth to set the current of habit and to form the tastes which
are most productive of happiness in life. Here, as in most other things,
opposite exaggerations are to be avoided. There is such a thing as
looking forward too rigidly and too exclusively to the future--to a
future that may never arrive. This is the great fault of the
over-educationist, who makes early life a burden and a toil, and also of
those who try to impose on youth the tastes and pleasures of the man.
Youth has its own pleasures, which will always give it most enjoyment,
and a happy youth is in itself an end. It is the time when the power of
enjoyment is most keen, and it is often accompanied by such extreme
sensitiveness that the sufferings of the child for what seem the most
trivial causes probably at least equal in acuteness, though not in
durability, the sufferings of a man. Many a parent standing by the
coffin of his child has felt with bitterness how much of the measure of
enjoyment that short life might have known has been cut off by an
injudicious education. And even if adult life is attained, the evils of
an unhappy childhood are seldom wholly compensated. The pleasures of
retrospect are among the most real we possess, and it is around our
childish days that our fondest associations naturally cluster. An early
over-strain of our powers often leaves behind it lasting distortion or
weakness, and a sad childhood introduces into the character elements of
morbidness and bitterness that will not disappear.

The first great rule in judging of pleasures is that so well expressed
by Seneca: 'Sic præsentibus utaris voluptatibus ut futuris non
noceas'--so to use present pleasures as not to impair future ones.
Drunkenness, sensuality, gambling, habitual extravagance and
self-indulgence, if they become the pleasures of youth, will almost
infallibly lead to the ruin of a life. Pleasures that are in themselves
innocent lose their power of pleasing if they become the sole or main
object of pursuit.

In starting in life we are apt to attach a disproportionate value to
tastes, pleasures, and ideals that can only be even approximately
satisfied in youth, health, and strength. We have, I think, an example
of this in the immense place which athletic games and out-of-door sports
have taken in modern English life. They are certainly not things to be
condemned. They have the direct effect of giving a large amount of
intense and innocent pleasure, and they have indirect effects which are
still more important. In so far as they raise the level of physical
strength and health, and dispel the morbidness of temperament which is
so apt to accompany a sedentary life and a diseased or inert frame, they
contribute powerfully to lasting happiness. They play a considerable
part in the formation of friendships which is one of the best fruits of
the period between boyhood and mature manhood. Some of them give lessons
of courage, perseverance, energy, self-restraint, and cheerful
acquiescence in disappointment and defeat that are of no small value in
the formation of character, and when they are not associated with
gambling they have often the inestimable advantage of turning young men
away from vicious pleasures. At the same time it can hardly be doubted
that they hold an exaggerated prominence in the lives of young
Englishmen of the present generation. It is not too much to say that
among large sections of the students at our Universities, and at a time
when intellectual ambition ought to be most strong and when the
acquisition of knowledge is most important, proficiency in cricket or
boating or football is more prized than any intellectual achievement. I
have heard a good judge, who had long been associated with English
University life, express his opinion that during the last forty or fifty
years the relative intellectual position of the upper and middle classes
in England has been materially changed, owing to the disproportioned
place which outdoor amusements have assumed in the lives of the former.
It is the impression of very competent judges that a genuine love,
reverence and enthusiasm for intellectual things is less common among
the young men of the present day than it was in the days of their
fathers. The predominance of the critical spirit which chills
enthusiasm, and still more the cram system which teaches young men to
look on the prizes that are to be won by competitive examinations as the
supreme end of knowledge, no doubt largely account for this, but much
is also due to the extravagant glorification of athletic games.

If we compare the class of pleasures I have described with the taste for
reading and kindred intellectual pleasures, the superiority of the
latter is very manifest. To most young men, it is true, a game will
probably give at least as much pleasure as a book. Nor must we measure
the pleasure of reading altogether by the language of the genuine
scholar. It is not every one who could say, like Gibbon, that he would
not exchange his love of reading for all the wealth of the Indies. Very
many would agree with him; but Gibbon was a man with an intense natural
love of knowledge, and the weak health of his early life intensified
this predominant passion. But while the tastes which require physical
strength decline or pass with age, that for reading steadily grows. It
is illimitable in the vistas of pleasure it opens; it is one of the most
easily satisfied, one of the cheapest, one of the least dependent on
age, seasons, and the varying conditions of life. It cheers the invalid
through years of weakness and confinement; illuminates the dreary hours
of the sleepless night; stores the mind with pleasant thoughts, banishes
ennui, fills up the unoccupied interstices and enforced leisures of an
active life; makes men for a time at least forget their anxieties and
sorrows, and if it is judiciously managed it is one of the most powerful
means of training character and disciplining and elevating thought. It
is eminently a pleasure which is not only good in itself but enhances
many others. By extending the range of our knowledge, by enlarging our
powers of sympathy and appreciation, it adds incalculably to the
pleasures of society, to the pleasures of travel, to the pleasures of
art, to the interest we take in the vast variety of events which form
the great world-drama around us.

To acquire this taste in early youth is one of the best fruits of
education, and it is especially useful when the taste for reading
becomes a taste for knowledge, and when it is accompanied by some
specialisation and concentration and by some exercise of the powers of
observation. 'Many tastes and one hobby' is no bad ideal to be aimed at.
The boy who learns to collect and classify fossils, or flowers, or
insects, who has acquired a love for chemical experiments, who has begun
to form a taste for some particular kind or department of knowledge, has
laid the foundation of much happiness in life.

In the selection of pleasures and the cultivation of tastes much wisdom
is shown in choosing in such a way that each should form a complement to
the others; that different pleasures should not clash, but rather cover
different areas and seasons of life; that each should tend to correct
faults or deficiencies of character which the others may possibly
produce. The young man who starts in life with keen literary tastes and
also with a keen love of out-of-door sports, and who possesses the means
of gratifying each, has perhaps provided himself with as many elements
of happiness as mere amusements can ever furnish. One set of pleasures,
however, often kills the capacity for enjoying others, and some which in
themselves are absolutely innocent, by blunting the enjoyment of better
things, exercise an injurious influence on character. Habitual
novel-reading, for example, often destroys the taste for serious
literature, and few things tend so much to impair a sound literary
perception and to vulgarise the character as the habit of constantly
saturating the mind with inferior literature, even when that literature
is in no degree immoral. Sometimes an opposite evil may be produced.
Excessive fastidiousness greatly limits our enjoyments, and the
inestimable gift of extreme concentration is often dearly bought. The
well-known confession of Darwin that his intense addiction to science
had destroyed his power of enjoying even the noblest imaginative
literature represents a danger to which many men who have achieved much
in the higher and severer forms of scientific thought are subject. Such
men are usually by their original temperament, and become still more by
acquired habit, men of strong, narrow, concentrated natures, whose
thoughts, like a deep and rapid stream confined in a restricted channel,
flow with resistless energy in one direction. It is by the sacrifice of
versatility that they do so much, and the result is amply sufficient to
justify it. But it is a real sacrifice, depriving them of many forms
both of capacity and of enjoyment.

The same pleasures act differently on different characters, especially
on the differences of character that accompany difference of sex. I have
myself no doubt that the movement which in modern times has so widely
opened to women amusements that were once almost wholly reserved for men
has been on the whole a good one. It has produced a higher level of
health, stronger nerves, and less morbid characters, and it has given
keen and innocent enjoyment to many who from their circumstances and
surroundings once found their lives very dreary and insipid. Yet most
good observers will agree that amusements which have no kind of evil
effect on men often in some degree impair the graces or characters of
women, and that it is not quite with impunity that one sex tries to live
the life of the other. Some pleasures, too, exercise a much larger
influence than others on the general habits of life. It is not too much
to say that the invention of the bicycle, bringing with it an immense
increase of outdoor life, of active exercise, and of independent habits,
has revolutionised the course of many lives. Some amusements which may
in themselves be but little valued are wisely cultivated as helping men
to move more easily in different spheres of society, or as providing a
resource for old age. Talleyrand was not wholly wrong in his reproach to
a man who had never learned to play whist: 'What an unhappy old age you
are preparing for yourself!'

I have already mentioned the differences that may be found in different
countries and ages, in the relative importance attached to external
circumstances and to dispositions of mind as means of happiness, and the
tendency in the more progressive nations to seek their happiness mainly
in improved circumstances. Another great line of distinction is between
education that acts specially upon the desires, and that which acts
specially upon the will. The great perfection of modern systems of
education is chiefly of the former kind. Its object is to make knowledge
and virtue attractive, and therefore an object of desire. It does so
partly by presenting them in the most alluring forms, partly by
connecting them as closely as possible with rewards. The great principle
of modern moral education is to multiply innocent and beneficent
interests, tastes, and ambitions. It is to make the path of virtue the
natural, the easy, the pleasing one; to form a social atmosphere
favourable to its development, making duty and interest as far as
possible coincident. Vicious pleasures are combated by the
multiplication of healthy ones, and by a clearer insight into the
consequences of each. An idle or inert character is stimulated by
holding up worthy objects of interest and ambition, and it is the aim
alike of the teacher and the legislator to make the grooves and channels
of life such as tend naturally and easily towards good. But the
education of the will--the power of breasting the current of the desires
and doing for long periods what is distasteful and painful--is much less
cultivated than in some periods of the past.

Many things contribute to this. The rush and hurry of modern existence
and the incalculable multitude and variety of fleeting impressions that
in the great centres of civilisation pass over the mind are very
unfavourable to concentration, and perhaps still more to the direct
cultivation of mental states. Amusements, and the appetite for
amusements, have greatly extended. Life has become more full. The long
leisures, the introspective habits, the _vita contemplativa_ so
conspicuous in the old Catholic discipline, grow very rare. Thoughts and
interests are more thrown on the external; and the comfort, the luxury,
the softness, the humanity of modern life, and especially of modern
education, make men less inclined to face the disagreeable and endure
the painful.

The starting-point of education is thus silently changing. Perhaps the
extent of the change is best shown by the old Catholic ascetic training.
Its supreme object was to discipline and strengthen the will: to
accustom men habitually to repudiate the pleasurable and accept the
painful; to mortify the most natural tastes and affections; to narrow
and weaken the empire of the desires; to make men wholly independent of
outward circumstances; to preach self-renunciation as itself an end.

Men will always differ about the merits of this system. In my own
opinion it is difficult to believe that in the period of Catholic
ascendency the moral standard was, on the whole and in its broad lines,
higher than our own. The repression of the sensual instincts was the
central fact in ascetic morals; but, even tested by this test, it is at
least very doubtful whether it did not fail. The withdrawal from secular
society of the best men did much to restrict the influences for good,
and the habit of aiming at an unnatural ideal was not favourable to
common, everyday, domestic virtue. The history of sacerdotal and
monastic celibacy abundantly shows how much vice that might easily have
been avoided grew out of the adoption of an unnatural standard, and how
often it led in those who had attained it to grave distortions of
character. Affections and impulses which were denied their healthy and
natural vent either became wholly atrophied or took other and morbid
forms, and the hard, cruel, self-righteous fanatic, equally ready to
endure or to inflict suffering, was a not unnatural result. But
whatever may have been its failures and its exaggerations, Catholic
asceticism was at least a great school for disciplining and
strengthening the will, and the strength and discipline of the will form
one of the first elements of virtue and of happiness.

In the grave and noble type of character which prevailed in English and
American life during the seventeenth century, the strength of will was
conspicuously apparent. Life was harder, simpler, more serious, and less
desultory than at present, and strong convictions shaped and fortified
the character. 'It was an age,' says a great American writer, 'when what
we call talent had far less consideration than now, but the massive
materials which produce stability and dignity of character a great deal
more. The people possessed by hereditary right the quality of reverence,
which, in their descendants, if it survive at all, exists in smaller
proportion and with a vastly diminished force in the selection and
estimate of public men. The change may be for good or ill, and is
partly, perhaps, for both. In that old day the English settler on these
rude shores, having left king, nobles, and all degrees of awful rank
behind, while still the faculty and necessity of reverence were strong
in him, bestowed it on the white hair and venerable brow of age; on
long-tried integrity; on solid wisdom and sad-coloured experience; on
endowments of that grave and weighty order which give the idea of
permanence and come under the general definition of respectability.
These primitive statesmen, therefore,--Bradstreet, Endicott, Dudley,
Bellingham, and their compeers,--who were elevated to power by the
early choice of the people, seem to have been not often brilliant, but
distinguished by a ponderous sobriety rather than activity of intellect.
They had fortitude and self-reliance, and in time of difficulty or peril
stood up for the welfare of the State like a line of cliffs against a
tempestuous tide.'[61]

The power of the will, however, even when it exists in great strength,
is often curiously capricious. History is full of examples of men who in
great trials and emergencies have acted with admirable and persevering
heroism, yet who readily succumbed to private vices or passions. The
will is not the same as the desires, but the connection between them is
very close. A love for a distant end; a dominating ambition or passion,
will call forth long perseverance in wholly distasteful work in men
whose will in other fields of life is lamentably feeble. Every one who
has embarked with real earnestness in some extended literary enterprise
which as a whole represents the genuine bent of his talent and character
will be struck with his exceptional power of traversing perseveringly
long sections of this enterprise for which he has no natural aptitude
and in which he takes no pleasure. Military courage is with most men
chiefly a matter of temperament and impulse, but there have been
conspicuous instances of great soldiers and sailors who have frankly
acknowledged that they never lost in battle an intense constitutional
shrinking from danger, though by the force of a strong will they never
suffered this timidity to govern or to weaken them. With men of very
vivid imagination there is a natural tendency to timidity as they
realise more than ordinary men danger and suffering. On the other hand
it has often been noticed how calmly the callous, semi-torpid
temperament that characterises many of the worst criminals enables them
to meet death upon the gallows.

In courage itself, too, there are many varieties. The courage of the
soldier and the courage of the martyr are not the same, and it by no
means follows that either would possess that of the other. Not a few men
who are capable of leading a forlorn hope, and who never shrink from the
bayonet and the cannon, have shown themselves incapable of bearing the
burden of responsibility, enduring long-continued suspense, taking
decisions which might expose them to censure or unpopularity. The active
courage that encounters and delights in danger is often found in men who
show no courage in bearing suffering, misfortune, or disease. In passive
courage the woman often excels the man as much as in active courage the
man exceeds the woman. Even in active courage familiarity does much;
sympathy and enthusiasm play great and often very various parts, and
curious anomalies may be found. The Teutonic and the Latin races are
probably equally distinguished for their military courage, but there is
a clear difference between them in the nature of that courage and in the
circumstances or conditions under which it is usually most splendidly
displayed. The danger incurred by the gladiator was far greater than
that which was encountered by the soldier, but Tacitus[62] mentions
that when some of the bravest gladiators were employed in the Roman
army they were found wholly inefficient, as they were much less capable
than the ordinary soldiers of military courage.

The circumstances of life are the great school for forming and
strengthening the will, and in the excessive competition and struggle of
modern industrialism this school is not wanting. But in ethical and
educational systems the value of its cultivation is often insufficiently
felt. Yet nothing which is learned in youth is so really valuable as the
power and the habit of self-restraint, of self-sacrifice, of energetic,
continuous and concentrated effort. In the best of us evil tendencies
are always strong and the path of duty is often distasteful. With the
most favourable wind and tide the bark will never arrive at the harbour
if it has ceased to obey the rudder. A weak nature which is naturally
kindly, affectionate and pure, which floats through life under the
impulse of the feelings, with no real power of self-restraint, is indeed
not without its charm, and in a well-organised society, with good
surroundings and few temptations, it may attain a high degree of beauty;
but its besetting failings will steadily grow; without fortitude,
perseverance and principle, it has no recuperative energy, and it will
often end in a moral catastrophe which natures in other respects much
less happily compounded would easily avoid. Nothing can permanently
secure our moral being in the absence of a restraining will basing
itself upon a strong sense of the difference between right and wrong,
upon the firm groundwork of principle and honour.

Experience abundantly shows how powerfully the steady action of such a
will can operate upon innate defects, converting the constitutional
idler into the indefatigably industrious, checking, limiting and
sometimes almost destroying constitutional irritability and vicious
passions. The natural power of the will in different men differs
greatly, but there is no part of our nature which is more strengthened
by exercise or more weakened by disuse. The minor faults of character it
can usually correct; but when a character is once formed, and when its
tendencies are essentially vicious, radical cure or even considerable
amelioration is very rare. Sometimes the strong influence of religion
effects it. Sometimes it is effected by an illness, a great misfortune,
or the total change of associations that follows emigration. Marriage
perhaps more frequently than any other ordinary agency in early life
transforms or deeply modifies the character, for it puts an end to
powerful temptations and brings with it a profound change of habits and
motives, associations and desires. But we have all of us encountered in
life depraved natures in which vicious self-indulgence had attained such
a strength, and the recuperating and moralising elements were so fatally
weak, that we clearly perceive the disease to be incurable, and that it
is hardly possible that any change of circumstances could even seriously
mitigate it. In what proportion this is the fault or the calamity of the
patient no human judgment can accurately tell.

Few things are sadder than to observe how frequently the inheritance of
great wealth or even of easy competence proves the utter and speedy ruin
of a young man, except when the administration of a large property, or
the necessity of carrying on a great business, or some other propitious
circumstance provides him with a clearly defined sphere of work. The
majority of men will gladly discard distasteful work which their
circumstances do not require; and in the absence of steady work, and in
the possession of all the means of gratification, temptations assume an
overwhelming strength, and the springs of moral life are fatally
impaired. It can hardly be doubted that the average longevity in this
small class is far less than in that of common men, and that even when
natural capacity is considerable it is more rarely displayed. To a man
with a real desire for work such circumstances are indeed of inestimable
value, giving him the leisure and the opportunities of applying himself
without distraction and from early manhood to the kind of work that is
most suited to him. Sometimes this takes place, but much more frequently
vicious tastes or a simply idle or purposeless life are the result.
Sometimes, indeed, a large amount of desultory and unregulated energy
remains, but the serious labour of concentration is shunned and no real
result is attained. The stream is there, but it turns no mill.

Most men escape this danger through the circumstances of life which make
serious and steady work necessary to their livelihood, and in the
majority of cases the kind of work is so clearly marked out that they
have little choice. When some choice exists, the rule which I have
already laid down should not be forgotten. Men should choose their work
not only according to their talents and their opportunities, but also,
as far as possible, according to their characters. They should select
the kinds which are most fitted to bring their best qualities into
exercise, or should at least avoid those which have a special tendency
to develop or encourage their dominant defects. On the whole it will be
found that men's characters are much more deeply influenced by their
pursuits than by their opinions.

The choice of work is one of the great agencies for the management of
character in youth. The choice of friends is another. In the words of
Burke, 'The law of opinion ... is the strongest principle in the
composition of the frame of the human mind, and more of the happiness
and unhappiness of man reside in that inward principle than in all
external circumstances put together.'[63] This is true of the great
public opinion of an age or country which envelops us like an
atmosphere, and by its silent pressure steadily and almost insensibly
shapes or influences the whole texture of our lives. It is still more
true of the smaller circle of our intimacies which will do more than
almost any other thing to make the path of virtue easy or difficult. How
large a proportion of the incentives to a noble ambition, or of the
first temptations to evil, may be traced to an early friendship, and it
is often in the little circle that gathers round a college table that
the measure of life is first taken, and ideals and enthusiasms are
formed which give a colour to all succeeding years. To admire strongly
and to admire wisely is, indeed, one of the best means of moral

Very much, however, of the management of character can only be
accomplished by the individual himself acting in complete isolation upon
his own nature and in the chamber of his own mind. The discipline of
thought; the establishment of an ascendency of the will over our courses
of thinking; the power of casting away morbid trains of reflection and
turning resolutely to other subjects or aspects of life; the power of
concentrating the mind vigorously on a serious subject and pursuing
continuous trains of thought,--form perhaps the best fruits of judicious
self-education. Its importance, indeed, is manifold. In the higher walks
of intellect this power of mental concentration is of supreme value.
Newton is said to have ascribed mainly to an unusual amount of it his
achievements in philosophy, and it is probable that the same might be
said by most other great thinkers. In the pursuit of happiness hardly
anything in external circumstances is so really valuable as the power of
casting off worry, turning in times of sorrow to healthy work, taking
habitually the brighter view of things. It is in such exercises of will
that we chiefly realise the truth of the lines of Tennyson:

     Oh, well for him whose will is strong,
     He suffers, but he will not suffer long.

In moral culture it is not less important to acquire the power of
discarding the demoralising thoughts and imaginations that haunt so
many, and meeting temptation by calling up purer, higher and restraining
thoughts. The faculty we possess of alternating and intensifying our own
motives by bringing certain thoughts, or images, or subjects into the
foreground and throwing others into the background, is one of our chief
means of moral progress. The cultivation of this power is a far wiser
thing than the cultivation of that introspective habit of mind which is
perpetually occupied with self-analysis or self-examination, and which
is constantly and remorsefully dwelling upon past faults or upon the
morbid elements in our nature. In the morals which are called minor,
though they affect deeply the happiness of mankind, the importance of
the government of thought is not less apparent. The secret of good or
bad temper is our habitual tendency to dwell upon or to fly from the
irritating and the inevitable. Content or discontent, amiability or the
reverse, depend mainly upon the disposition of our minds to turn
specially to the good or to the evil sides of our own lot, to the merits
or to the defects of those about us. A power of turning our thoughts
from a given subject, though not the sole element in self-control, is at
least one of its most important ingredients.

This power of the will over the thoughts is one in which men differ
enormously. Thus--to take the most familiar instance--the capacity for
worry, with all the exaggerations and distortions of sentiment it
implies, is very evidently a constitutional thing, and where it exists
to a high degree neither reason nor will can effectually cure it. Such a
man may have the clearest possible intellectual perception of its
uselessness and its folly. Yet it will often banish sleep from his
pillow, follow him with an habitual depression in all the walks of life,
and make his measure of happiness much less than that of others who with
far less propitious circumstances are endued by nature with the gift of
lightly throwing off the past and looking forward with a sanguine and
cheerful spirit to the future. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the
different degrees of suffering the same trouble will produce in
different men, and it is probable that the happiness of a life depends
much less on the amount of pleasurable or painful things that are
encountered, than upon the turn of thought which dwells chiefly on one
or on the other. It is very evident that buoyancy of temperament is not
a thing that increases with civilisation or education. It is mainly
physical. It is greatly influenced by climate and by health, and where
no very clear explanation of this kind can be given it is a thing in
which different nations differ greatly. Few good observers will deny
that persistent and concentrated will is more common in Great Britain
than in Ireland, but that the gift of a buoyant temperament is more
common among Irishmen than among Englishmen. Yet it co-exists in the
national character with a strong vein of very genuine melancholy, and it
is often accompanied by keen sensitiveness to suffering. This
combination is a very common one. Every one who has often stood by a
deathbed knows how frequently it will be found that the mourner who is
utterly prostrated by grief, and whose tears flow in torrents, casts off
her grief much more completely and much sooner than one whose tears
refuse to flow and who never for a moment loses her self-command.

But though natural temperament enables one man to do without effort what
another man with the utmost effort fails to accomplish, there are some
available remedies that can palliate the disease. Society, travel and
other amusements can do something, and such words as 'diversion' and
'distraction' embalm the truth that the chief virtue of many pleasures
is to divert or distract our minds from painful thoughts. Pascal
considered this a sign of the misery and the baseness of our nature, and
he describes as a deplorable spectacle a man who rose from his bed
weighed down with anxiety and grave sorrow, and who could for a time
forget it all in the passionate excitement of the chase. But, in truth,
the possession of such a power--weak and transient though it be--is one
of the great alleviations of the lot of man. Religion, with its powerful
motives and its wide range of consolatory and soothing thoughts and
images, has much power in this sphere when it does not take a morbid
form and intensify instead of alleviating sorrow; and the steady
exercise of the will gives us some real and increasing, though
imperfect, control over the current of our feelings as well as of our

Often the power of dreaming comes to our aid. When we cannot turn from
some painfully pressing thought to serious thinking of another kind, we
can give the reins to our imaginations and soon lose ourselves in ideal
scenes. There are men who live so habitually in a world of imagination
that it becomes to them a second life, and their strongest temptations
and their keenest pleasures belong to it. To them 'common life seems
tapestried with dreams.' Not unfrequently they derive a pleasure from
imagined or remembered enjoyments which the realities themselves would
fail to give. They select in imagination certain aspects or portions,
throw others into the shade, intensify or attenuate impressions,
transform and beautify the reality of things. The power of filling their
existence with happy day-dreams is their most precious luxury. They feel
the full force of the pathetic lines of an Irish poet:[64]

     Sweet thoughts, bright dreams my comfort be,
       I have no joy beside;
     Oh, throng around and be to me
       Power, country, fame and bride.

To train this side of our nature is no small part of the management of
character. There is a great sphere of happiness and misery which is
almost or altogether unconnected with surrounding circumstances, and
depends upon the thoughts, images, hopes and fears on which our minds
are chiefly concentrated. The exercise of this form of imagination has
often a great influence, both intellectually and morally. In childhood,
as every teacher knows, it is often a distracting influence, and with
men also it is sometimes an obstacle to concentrated reasoning and
observation, turning the mind away from sober and difficult thought; but
there is a kind of dreaming which is eminently conducive to productive
thought. It enables a man to place himself so completely in other
conditions of thought and life that the ideas connected with those
conditions rise spontaneously in the mind. A true and vivid realisation
of characters and circumstances unlike his own is acquired. The mere
fact of placing himself in other circumstances and investing himself
with imaginary powers and functions sometimes suggests possible remedies
for great human ills, and gives clearer views of the proportions,
difficulties and conditions of governments and societies. Much discovery
in science has been due to this power of the imagination to realise
conditions that are unseen, and the habit or faculty of living other
lives than our own is scarcely less valuable to the historian, and even
to the statesman, than to the poet or the novelist or the dramatist. It
gives the magic touch which changes mere lifeless knowledge into

Its effect upon character also is great and various. No one can fail to
recognise the depraving influence of a corrupt imagination; and the
corruption may spring, not only from suggestions from without, but from
those which rise spontaneously in our minds. Nor is even the imagination
which is wholly pure absolutely without its dangers. It is a well-known
law of our nature that an excessive indulgence in emotion that does not
end in action tends rather to deaden than to stimulate the moral nerve.
It has been often noticed that the exaggerated sentimentality which
sheds passionate tears over the fictitious sorrows of a novel or a play
is no certain sign of a benevolent and unselfish nature, and is quite
compatible with much indifference to real sorrows and much indisposition
to make efforts for their alleviation. It is, however, no less true, as
Dugald Stewart says, that the apparent coldness and selfishness of men
are often simply due to a want of that kind of imagination which enables
us to realise sufferings with which we have never been brought into
direct contact, and that once this power of realisation is acquired, the
coldness is speedily dispelled. Nor can it be doubted that in the
management of thought, the dream power often plays a most important part
in alleviating human suffering; illuminating cheerless and gloomy lives,
and breaking the chain of evil or distressing thoughts.

The immense place which the literature of fiction holds in the world
shows how widely some measure of it is diffused, and how large an amount
of time and talent is devoted to its cultivation. It is probable,
however, that it is really stronger in the earlier and uncultivated than
in the later stages of humanity, as it is more vivid in childhood and in
youth than in mature life. 'A child,' as an American writer[65] has well
said, 'can afford to sleep without dreaming; he has plenty of dreams
without sleep.' The childhood of the world is also eminently an age of
dreams. There are stages of civilisation in which the dream world blends
so closely with the world of realities, in which the imagination so
habitually and so spontaneously transfigures or distorts, that men
become almost incapable of distinguishing between the real and the
fictitious. This is the true age of myths and legends; and there are
strata in contemporary society in which something of the same conditions
is reproduced. 'To those who do not read or write much,' says an acute
observer, 'even in our days, dreams are much more real than to those who
are continually exercising the imagination.... Since I have been
occupied with literature my dreams have lost all vividness and are less
real than the shadows of the trees; they do not deceive me even in my
sleep. At every hour of the day I am accustomed to call up figures at
will before my eyes, which stand out well defined and coloured to the
very hue of their faces.... The less literary a people the more they
believe in dreams; the disappearance of superstition is not due to the
cultivation of reason or the spread of knowledge, but purely to the
mechanical effect of reading, which so perpetually puts figures and
aërial shapes before the mental gaze that in time those that occur
naturally are thought no more of than those conjured into existence by a
book. It is in far-away country places, where people read very little,
that they see phantoms and consult the oracles of fate. Their dreams are

The last point I would notice in the management of character is the
importance of what may be called moral safety-valves. One of the most
fatal mistakes in education is the attempt which is so often made by the
educator to impose his own habits and tastes on natures that are
essentially different. It is common for men of lymphatic temperaments,
of studious, saintly, and retiring tastes, to endeavor to force a
high-spirited young man starting in life into their own mould--to
prescribe for him the cast of tastes and pursuits they find most suited
for themselves, forgetting that such an ideal can never satisfy a wholly
different nature, and that in aiming at it a kind of excellence which
might easily have been attained is missed. This is one of the evils
that very frequently arise when the education of boys after an early age
is left in the hands of women. It is the true explanation of the fact,
which has so often been noticed, that children of clergymen, or at least
children educated on a rigidly austere, puritanical system, so often go
conspicuously to the bad. Such an education, imposed on a nature that is
unfit for it, generally begins by producing hypocrisy, and not
unfrequently ends by a violent reaction into vice. There is no greater
mistake in education than to associate virtue in early youth with gloomy
colours and constant restrictions, and few people do more mischief in
the world than those who are perpetually inventing crimes. In circles
where smoking, or field sports, or going to the play, or reading novels,
or indulging in any boisterous games or in the most harmless Sunday
amusements, are treated as if they were grave moral offences, young men
constantly grow up who end by looking on grave moral offences as not
worse than these things. They lose all sense of proportion and
perspective in morals, and those who are always straining at gnats are
often peculiarly apt to swallow camels. It is quite right that men who
have formed for themselves an ideal of life of the kind that I have
described should steadily pursue it, but it is another thing to impose
it upon others, and to prescribe it as of general application. By
teaching as absolutely wrong things that are in reality only culpable in
their abuse or their excess, they destroy the habit of moderate and
restrained enjoyment, and a period of absolute prohibition is often
followed by a period of unrestrained license.

The truth is there are elements in human nature which many moralists
might wish to be absent, as they are very easily turned in the direction
of vice, but which at the same time are inherent in our being, and, if
rightly understood, are essential elements of human progress. The love
of excitement and adventure; the fierce combative instinct that delights
in danger, in struggle, and even in destruction; the restless ambition
that seeks with an insatiable longing to better its position and to
climb heights that are yet unscaled; the craving for some enjoyment
which not merely gives pleasure but carries with it a thrill of
passion,--all this lies deep in human nature and plays a great part in
that struggle for existence, in that harsh and painful process of
evolution by which civilisation is formed, faculty stimulated to its
full development, and human progress secured. In the education of the
individual, as in the education of the race, the true policy in dealing
with these things is to find for them a healthy, useful, or at least
harmless sphere of action. In the chemistry of character they may ally
themselves with the most heroic as well as with the worst parts of our
nature, and the same passion for excitement which in one man will take
the form of ruinous vice, in another may lead to brilliant enterprise,
while in a third it may be turned with no great difficulty into channels
which are very innocent.

Take, for example, the case to which I have already referred, of a
perfectly commonplace boy who, on coming of age, finds himself with a
competence that saves him from the necessity of work; and who has no
ambition, literary or artistic taste, love of work, interest in
politics, religious or philanthropic earnestness, or special talent.
What will become of him? In probably the majority of cases ruin,
disease, and an early death lie before him. He seeks only for amusement
and excitement, and three fatal temptations await him--drink, gambling,
and women. If he falls under the dominion of these, or even of one of
them, he almost infallibly wrecks either his fortune or his
constitution, or both. It is perfectly useless to set before him high
motives or ideals, or to incite him to lines of life for which he has no
aptitude and which can give him no pleasure. What, then, can save him?
Most frequently a happy marriage; but even if he is fortunate enough to
attain this, it will probably only be after several years, and in those
years a fatal bias is likely to be given to his life which can never be
recovered. Yet experience shows that in cases of this kind a keen love
of sport can often do much. With his gun and with his hunter he finds an
interest, an excitement, an employment which may not be particularly
noble, but which is at least sufficiently absorbing, and is not
injurious either to his morals, his health, or his fortune. It is no
small gain if, in the competition of pleasures, country pleasures take
the place of those town pleasures which, in such cases as I have
described, usually mean pleasures of vice.

Nor is it by any means only in such cases that field sports prove a
great moral safety-valve, scattering morbid tastes and giving harmless
and healthy vent to turns of character or feeling which might very
easily be converted into vice. Among the influences that form the
character of the upper classes of Englishmen they have a great part,
and in spite of the exaggerations and extravagances that often accompany
them, few good observers will doubt that they have an influence for
good. However much of the Philistine element there may be in the upper
classes in England, however manifest may be their limitations and their
defects, there can be little doubt that on the whole the conditions of
English life have in this sphere proved successful. There are few better
working types within the reach of commonplace men than that of an
English gentleman with his conventional tastes, standard of honour,
religion, sympathies, ideals, opinions and instincts. He is not likely
to be either a saint or a philosopher, but he is tolerably sure to be
both an honourable and a useful man, with a fair measure of good sense
and moderation, and with some disposition towards public duties. A crowd
of out-of-door amusements and interests do much to dispel his peccant
humours and to save him from the stagnation and the sensuality that have
beset many foreign aristocracies. County business stimulates his
activity, mitigates his class prejudices, and forms his judgment: and
his standard of honour will keep him substantially right amid much
fluctuation of opinions.

The reader, from his own experience of individual characters, will
supply other illustrations of the lines of thought I am enforcing. Some
temptations that beset us must be steadily faced and subdued. Others are
best met by flight--by avoiding the thoughts or scenes that call them
into activity; while other elements of character which we might wish to
be away are often better treated in the way of marriage--that is by a
judicious regulation and harmless application--than in the way of
asceticism or attempted suppression. It is possible for men--if not in
educating themselves, at least in educating others--to pitch their
standard and their ideal too high. What they have to do is to recognise
their own qualities and the qualities of those whom they influence as
they are, and endeavour to use these usually very imperfect materials to
the best advantage for the formation of useful, honourable and happy
lives. According to the doctrine of this book, man comes into the world
with a free will. But his free will, though a real thing, acts in a
narrower circle and with more numerous limitations than he usually
imagines. He can, however, do much so to dispose, regulate and modify
the circumstances of his life as to diminish both his sufferings and his
temptations, and to secure for himself the external conditions of a
happy and upright life, and he can do something by judicious and
persevering self-culture to improve those conditions of character on
which, more than on any external circumstances, both happiness and
virtue depend.


[61] Hawthorne's _Scarlet Letter_, ch. xxii.

[62] _Hist._ ii. 35.

[63] Speech on the Impeachment of Warren Hastings.

[64] Davis.

[65] Cable.

[66] Jefferies, _Field and Hedgerow_, p. 242.



I do not think that I can better introduce the few pages which I propose
to write on the relations of money to happiness and to character than by
a pregnant passage from one of the essays[67] of Sir Henry Taylor. 'So
manifold are the bearings of money upon the lives and characters of
mankind, that an insight which should search out the life of a man in
his pecuniary relations would penetrate into almost every cranny of his
nature. He who knows like St. Paul both how to spare and how to abound
has a great knowledge; for if we take account of all the virtues with
which money is mixed up--honesty, justice, generosity, charity,
frugality, forethought, self-sacrifice, and of their correlative vices,
it is a knowledge which goes near to cover the length and breadth of
humanity, and a right measure in getting, saving, spending, giving,
taking, lending, borrowing and bequeathing would almost argue a perfect

There are few subjects on which the contrast between the professed and
the real beliefs of men is greater than in the estimate of money. More
than any other single thing it is the object and usually the lifelong
object of human effort, and any accession of wealth is hailed by the
immense majority of mankind as an unquestionable blessing. Yet if we
were to take literally much of the teaching we have all heard we should
conclude that money, beyond what is required for the necessaries of
life, is far more a danger than a good; that it is the pre-eminent
source of evil and temptation; that one of the first duties of man is to
emancipate himself from the love of it, which can only mean from any
strong desire for its increase.

In this, as in so many other things, the question is largely one of
degree. No one who knows what is meant by the abject poverty to which a
great proportion of the human race is condemned will doubt that at least
such an amount of money as raises them from this condition is one of the
greatest of human blessings. Extreme poverty means a lifelong struggle
for the bare means of living; it means a life spent in wretched hovels,
with insufficient food, clothes and firing, in enforced and absolute
ignorance; an existence almost purely animal, with nearly all the higher
faculties of man undeveloped. There is a far greater real difference in
the material elements of happiness between the condition of such men and
that of a moderately prosperous artizan in a civilised country than
there is between the latter and the millionaire.

Money, again, at least to such an amount as enables men to be in some
considerable degree masters of their own course in life, is also on the
whole a great good. In this second degree it has less influence on
happiness than health, and probably than character and domestic
relations, but its influence is at least very great. Money is a good
thing because it can be transformed into many other things. It gives
the power of education which in itself does much to regulate the
character and opens out countless tastes and spheres of enjoyment. It
saves its possessor from the fear of a destitute old age and of the
destitution of those he may leave behind, which is the harrowing care of
multitudes who cannot be reckoned among the very poor. It enables him to
intermit labour in times of sickness and sorrow and old age, and in
those extremes of heat and cold during which active labour is little
less than physical pain. It gives him and it gives those he loves
increased chances of life and increased hope of recovery in sickness.
Few of the pains of penury are more acute than those of a poor man who
sees his wife or children withering away through disease, and who knows
or believes that better food or medical attendance, or a surgical
operation, or a change of climate, might have saved them. Money, too,
even when it does not dispense with work, at least gives a choice of
work and longer intervals of leisure. For the very poor this choice
hardly exists, or exists only within very narrow limits, and from want
of culture or want of leisure some of their most marked natural
aptitudes are never called into exercise. With the comparatively rich
this is not the case. Money enables them to select the course of life
which is congenial to their tastes and most suited to their natural
talents, or, if their strongest taste cannot become their work, money at
least gives them some leisure to cultivate it. The command of leisure,
when it is fruitful leisure spent in congenial work, is to many,
perhaps, the greatest boon it can bestow. 'Riches,' said Charles Lamb,
'are chiefly good because they give us Time.' 'All one's time to
oneself! for which alone I rankle with envy at the rich. Books are good
and pictures are good, and money to buy them is therefore good--but to
buy time--in other words, life!'

To some men money is chiefly valuable because it makes it possible for
them not to think of money. Except in the daily regulation of ordinary
life, it enables them to put aside cares which are to them both
harassing and distasteful, and to concentrate their thoughts and
energies on other objects. An assured competence also, however moderate,
gives men the priceless blessing of independence. There are walks of
life, there are fields of ambition, there are classes of employments in
which between inadequate remuneration and the pressure of want on the
one side, and the facilities and temptations to illicit gain on the
other, it is extremely difficult for a poor man to walk straight.
Illicit gain does not merely mean gain that brings a man within the
range of the criminal law. Many of its forms escape legal and perhaps
social censure, and may be even sanctioned by custom. A competence,
whether small or large, is no sure preservative against that appetite
for gain which becomes one of the most powerful and insatiable of
passions. But it at least diminishes temptation. It takes away the
pressure of want under which so many natures that were once
substantially honest have broken down.

In the expenditure of money there is usually a great deal of the
conventional, the factitious, the purely ostentatious, but we are here
dealing with the most serious realities of life. There are few or no
elements of happiness and character more important than those I have
indicated, and a small competence conduces powerfully to them. Let no
man therefore despise it, for if wisely used it is one of the most real
blessings of life. It is of course only within the reach of a small
minority, but the number might easily be much larger than it is. Often
when it is inherited in early youth it is scattered in one or two years
of gambling and dissipation, followed by a lifetime of regret. In other
cases it crumbles away in a generation, for it is made an excuse for a
life of idleness, and when children multiply or misfortunes arrive, what
was once a competence becomes nothing more than bare necessity. In a
still larger number of cases many of its advantages are lost because men
at once adopt a scale of living fully equal to their income. A man who
with one house would be a wealthy man, finds life with two houses a
constant struggle. A set of habits is acquired, a scale or standard of
luxury is adopted, which at once sweeps away the margin of superfluity.
Riches or poverty depend not merely on the amount of our possessions,
but quite as much on the regulation of our desires, and the full
advantages of competence are only felt when men begin by settling their
scheme of life on a scale materially within their income. When the great
lines of expenditure are thus wisely and frugally established, they can
command a wide latitude and much ease in dealing with the smaller ones.

It is of course true that the power of a man thus to regulate his
expenditure is by no means absolute. The position in society in which a
man is born brings with it certain conventionalities and obligations
that cannot be discarded. A great nobleman who has inherited a vast
estate and a conspicuous social position will, through no fault of his
own, find himself involved in constant difficulties and struggles on an
income a tenth part of which would suffice to give a simple private
gentleman every reasonable enjoyment in life. A poor clergyman who is
obliged to keep up the position of a gentleman is in reality a much
poorer man than a prosperous artizan, even though his actual income may
be somewhat larger. But within the bounds which the conventionalities of
society imperatively prescribe many scales of expenditure are possible,
and the wise regulation of these is one of the chief forms of practical

It may be observed, however, that not only men but nations differ widely
in this respect, and the difference is not merely that between prudence
and folly, between forethought and passion, but is also in a large
degree a difference of tastes and ideals. In general it will be found
that in Continental nations a man of independent fortune will place his
expenditure more below his means than in England, and a man who has
pursued some lucrative employment will sooner be satisfied with the
competence he has acquired and will gladly exchange his work for a life
of leisure. The English character prefers a higher rate of expenditure
and work continued to the end.

It is probable that, so far as happiness depends on money, the happiest
lot--though it is certainly not that which is most envied--is that of a
man who possesses a realised fortune sufficient to save him from serious
money cares about the present and the future, but who at the same time
can only keep up the position in society he has chosen for himself, and
provide as he desires for his children, by adding to it a professional
income. Work is necessary both to happiness and to character, and
experience shows that it most frequently attains its full concentration
and continuity when it is professional, or, in other words,
money-making. Men work in traces as they will seldom work at liberty.
The compulsory character, the steady habits, the constant emulation of
professional life mould and strengthen the will, and probably the
happiest lot is when this kind of work exists, but without the anxiety
of those who depend solely on it.

It is also a good thing when wealth tends to increase with age. 'Old
age,' it has been said, 'is a very expensive thing.' If the taste for
pleasure diminishes, the necessity for comfort increases. Men become
more dependent and more fastidious, and hardships that are indifferent
to youth become acutely painful. Beside this, money cares are apt to
weigh with an especial heaviness upon the old. Avarice, as has been
often observed, is eminently an old-age vice, and in natures that are in
no degree avaricious it will be found that real money anxieties are more
felt and have a greater haunting power in age than in youth. There is
then the sense of impotence which makes men feel that their earning
power has gone. On the other hand youth, and especially early married
life spent under the pressure of narrow circumstances, will often be
looked back upon as both the happiest and the most fruitful period of
life. It is the best discipline of character. It is under such
circumstances that men acquire habits of hard and steady work,
frugality, order, forethought, punctuality, and simplicity of tastes.
They acquire sympathies and realisations they would never have known in
more prosperous circumstances. They learn to take keen pleasure in
little things, and to value rightly both money and time. If wealth and
luxury afterwards come in overflowing measure, these lessons will not be
wholly lost.

The value of money as an element of happiness diminishes rapidly in
proportion to its amount. In the case of the humbler fortunes, each
accession brings with it a large increase of pleasure and comfort, and
probably a very considerable addition to real happiness. In the case of
rich men this is not the case, and of colossal fortunes only a very
small fraction can be truly said to minister to the personal enjoyment
of the owner. The disproportion in the world between pleasure and cost
is indeed almost ludicrous. The two or three shillings that gave us our
first Shakespeare would go but a small way towards providing one of the
perhaps untasted dishes on the dessert table. The choicest masterpieces
of the human mind--the works of human genius that through the long
course of centuries have done most to ennoble, console, brighten, and
direct the lives of men, might all be purchased--I do not say by the
cost of a lady's necklace, but by that of one or two of the little
stones of which it is composed. Compare the relish with which the tired
pedestrian eats his bread and cheese with the appetites with which men
sit down to some stately banquet; compare the level of spirits at the
village dance with that of the great city ball whose lavish splendour
fills the society papers with admiration; compare the charm of
conversation in the college common room with the weary faces that may be
often seen around the millionaire's dinner table,--and we may gain a
good lesson of the vanity of riches. The transition from want to comfort
brings with it keen enjoyment and much lasting happiness. The transition
from mere comfort to luxury brings incomparably less and costs
incomparably more. Let a man of enormous wealth analyse his life from
day to day and try to estimate what are the things or hours that have
afforded him real and vivid pleasure. In many cases he will probably say
that he has found it in his work--in others in the hour spent with his
cigar, his newspaper, or his book, or in his game of cricket, or in the
excitement of the hunting-field, or in his conversation with an old
friend, or in hearing his daughters sing, or in welcoming his son on his
return from school. Let him look round the splendid adornments of his
home and ask how many of these things have ever given him a pleasure at
all proportionate to their cost. Probably in many cases, if he deals
honestly with himself, he would confess that his armchair and his
bookshelves are almost the only exceptions.

Steam, the printing press, the spread of education, and the great
multiplication of public libraries, museums, picture galleries and
exhibitions have brought the chief pleasures of life in a much larger
degree than in any previous age within the reach of what are called the
working classes, while in the conditions of modern life nearly all the
great sources of real enjoyment that money can give are open to a man
who possesses a competent but not extraordinary fortune and some
leisure. Intellectual tastes he may gratify to the full. Books, at all
events in the great centres of civilisation, are accessible far in
excess of his powers of reading. The pleasures of the theatre, the
pleasures of society, the pleasures of music in most of its forms, the
pleasures of travel with all its variety of interests, and many of the
pleasures of sport, are abundantly at his disposal. The possession of
the highest works of art has no doubt become more and more a monopoly of
the very rich, but picture galleries and exhibitions and the facilities
of travel have diffused the knowledge and enjoyment of art over a vastly
wider area than in the past. The power of reproducing works of art has
been immensely increased and cheapened, and in one form at least the
highest art has been brought within the reach of a man of very moderate
means. Photography can reproduce a drawing with such absolute perfection
that he may cover his walls with works of Michael Angelo and Leonardo da
Vinci that are indistinguishable from the originals. The standard of
comfort in mere material things is now so high in well-to-do households
that to a healthy nature the millionaire can add little to it. Perhaps
among the pleasures of wealth that which has the strongest influence is
a country place, especially when it brings with it old remembrances, and
associations that appeal powerfully to the affections and the
imagination. More than any other inanimate thing it throws its tendrils
round the human heart and becomes the object of a deep and lasting
affection. But even here it will be probably found that this pleasure is
more felt by the owner of one country place than by the great
proprietor whose life is spent alternately in several--by the owner of a
place of moderate dimensions than by the owner of those vast parks which
can only be managed at great expense and trouble and by much delegated
supervision, and which are usually thrown open with such liberality to
the public that they probably give more real pleasure to others than to
their owners.

Among the special pleasures of the enormously rich the collecting
passion is conspicuous, and of course a very rich man can carry it into
departments which men of moderate fortune can hardly touch. In the rare
case when the collector is a man of strong and genuine artistic taste
the possession of works of beauty is a thing of enduring pleasure, but
in general the mere love of collecting, though it often becomes a
passion almost amounting to a mania, bears very little proportion to
pecuniary value. The intelligent collector of fossils has as much
pleasure as the collector of gems--probably indeed more, as the former
pursuit brings with it a much greater variety of interest, and usually
depends much more on the personal exertions of the collector. It is
pleasant, in looking over a geological collection, to think that every
stone we see has given a pleasure. A collector of Caxtons, a collector
of large printed or illustrated editions, a collector of first editions
of famous books, a collector of those editions that are so much prized
because an author has made in them some blunder which he afterwards
corrected; a collector of those unique books which have survived as
rarities because no one thought it worth while to reprint them or
because they are distinguished by some obsolete absurdity, will
probably not derive more pleasure, though he will spend vastly more
money, than the mere literary man who, being interested in some
particular period or topic, loves to hunt up in old bookshops the
obscure and forgotten literature relating to it. Much the same thing may
be said of other tastes. The gratification of a strong taste or hobby
will always give pleasure, and it makes little difference whether it is
an expensive or an inexpensive one.

The pleasures of acquisition, the pleasures of possession, and the
pleasures of ostentation, are no doubt real things, though they act in
very different degrees on different natures, and some of them much more
on one sex than on the other. In general, however, they tend to grow
passive and inert. A state of luxury and splendour is little appreciated
by those who are born to it, though much if it follows a period of
struggle and penury. Yet even then the circumstances and surroundings of
life soon become a second nature. Men become so habituated to them that
they are accepted almost mechanically and cease to give positive
pleasure, though a deprivation of them gives positive pain. The love of
power, the love of society, and--what is not quite the same thing--the
love of social influence, are, however, much stronger and more enduring,
and great wealth is largely valued because it helps to give them, though
it does not give them invariably, and though there are other things that
give them in an equal or greater degree. To many very rich men some form
of field sports is probably the greatest pleasure that money affords. It
at least gives a genuine thrill of unmistakable enjoyment.

Few of the special pleasures of the millionaire can be said to be
purely selfish, for few are concentrated altogether on himself. His
great park is usually open to the public. His pictures are lent for
exhibition or exhibited in his house. If he keeps a pack of hounds
others hunt with it. If he preserves game to an enormous extent he
invites many to shoot it, and at his great entertainments it will often
be found that no one derives less pleasure than the weary host.

At the same time no thinking man can fail to be struck with the great
waste of the means of enjoyment in a society in which such gigantic sums
are spent in mere conventional ostentation which gives little or no
pleasure; in which the best London houses are those which are the
longest untenanted; in which some of the most enchanting gardens and
parks are only seen by their owners for a few weeks in the year.

Hamerton, in his Essay on Bohemianism, has very truly shown that the
rationale of a great deal of this is simply the attempt of men to obtain
from social intercourse the largest amount of positive pleasure or
amusement it can give by discarding the forms, the costly
conventionalities, the social restrictions that encumber and limit it.
One of the worst tendencies of a very wealthy society is that by the
mere competition of ostentation the standard of conventional expense is
raised, and the intercourse of men limited by the introduction of a
number of new and costly luxuries which either give no pleasure or give
pleasure that bears no kind of proportion to their cost. Examples may
sometimes be seen of a very rich man who imagines that he can obtain
from life real enjoyment in proportion to his wealth and who uses it
for purely selfish purposes. We may find this in the almost insane
extravagance of vulgar ostentation by which the parvenu millionaire
tries to gratify his vanity and dazzle his neighbours; in the wild round
of prodigal dissipation and vice by which so many young men who have
inherited enormous fortunes have wrecked their constitutions and found a
speedy path to an unhonoured grave. They sought from money what money
cannot give, and learned too late that in pursuing shadows they missed
the substance that was within their reach.

To the intelligent millionaire, however, and especially to those who are
brought up to great possessions, wealth is looked on in a wholly
different light. It is a possession and a trust carrying with it many
duties as well as many interests and accompanied by a great burden of
responsibility. Mere pleasure-hunting plays but a small and wholly
subsidiary part in such lives, and they are usually filled with much
useful work. This man, for example, is a banker on a colossal scale.
Follow his life, and you will find that for four days in the week he is
engaged in his office as steadily, as unremittingly as any clerk in his
establishment. He has made himself master not only of the details of his
own gigantic business but of the whole great subject of finance in all
its international relations. He is a power in many lands. He is
consulted in every crisis of finance. He is an important influence in a
crowd of enterprises, most of them useful as well as lucrative, some of
them distinctively philanthropic. Saturday and Sunday he spends at his
country place, usually entertaining a number of guests. One other day
during the hunting season he regularly devotes to his favourite sport.
His holiday is the usual holiday of a professional man, with rather a
tendency to abridge than to lengthen it, as the natural bent of his
thoughts is so strongly to his work that time soon begins to hang
heavily when he is away from it.

Another man is an ardent philanthropist, and his philanthropy probably
blends with much religious fervour, and he becomes in consequence a
leader in the religious world. Such a life cannot fail to be abundantly
filled. Religious meetings, committees, the various interests of the
many institutions with which he is connected, the conflicting and
competing claims of different religious societies, fully occupy his time
and thoughts, sometimes to the great neglect of his private affairs.

Another man is of a different type. Shy, retiring, hating publicity, and
not much interested in politics, he is a gigantic landowner, and the
work of his life is concentrated on the development of his own estate.
He knows the circumstances of every village, almost of every farm. It is
his pride that no labourer on his estate is badly housed, that no part
of it is slovenly or mismanaged or poverty-stricken. He endows churches
and hospitals, he erects public buildings, encourages every local
industry, makes in times of distress much larger remissions of rent than
would be possible for a poorer man, superintends personally the many
interests on his property, knows accurately the balance of receipts and
expenditure, takes a great interest in sanitation, in new improvements
and experiments in agriculture, in all the multifarious matters that
affect the prosperity of his numerous tenantry. He subscribes liberally
to great national undertakings, as he considers it one of the duties of
his position, but his heart is not in such things, and the well-being of
his own vast estate and of those who live upon it is the aim and the
work of his life. For a few weeks of the year he exercises the splendid
and lavish hospitality which is expected from a man in his position, and
he is always very glad when those weeks are over. He has, however, his
own expensive hobby, which gives him real pleasure--his yacht, his
picture gallery, his museum, his collection of wild animals, his
hothouses or his racing establishment. One or more of these form the
real amusement of his active and useful life.

A more common type in England is that of the active politician. Great
wealth and especially great landed property bring men easily into
Parliament, and, if united with industry and some measure of ability,
into official life, and public life thus becomes a profession and in
many cases a very laborious one. There are few better examples of a
well-filled life and of the skilful management and economy of time than
are to be found in the lives of some great noblemen who take a leading
part in politics and preside over important Government departments
without suffering their gigantic estates to fall into mismanagement, or
neglecting the many social duties and local interests connected with
them. Most of their success is indeed due to the wise use of money in
economising time by trustworthy and efficient delegation. Yet the
superintending brain, the skilful choice, the personal control cannot
be dispensed with. In a life so fully occupied the few weeks of pleasure
which may be spent on a Scotch moor or in a Continental watering-place
will surely not be condemned.

The economy of time and the elasticity of brain and character such lives
develop are, however, probably exceeded by another class. Nothing is
more remarkable in the social life of the present generation than the
high pressure under which a large number of ladies in great positions
habitually live. It strikes every Continental observer, for there is
nothing approaching it in any other European country, and it certainly
far exceeds anything that existed in England in former generations.
Pleasure-seeking, combined, however, on a large scale with
pleasure-giving, holds a much more prominent place in these lives than
in those I have just described. With not a few women, indeed, of wealth
and position, it is the all-in-all of life, and in general it is
probable that women obtain more pleasure from most forms of society than
men, though it is also true that they bear a much larger share of its
burdens. There are, however, in this class, many who combine with
society a truly surprising number and variety of serious interests. Not
only the management of a great house, not only the superintendence of
schools and charities and local enterprises connected with a great
estate, but also a crowd of philanthropic, artistic, political, and
sometimes literary interests fill their lives. Few lives, indeed, in any
station are more full, more intense, more constantly and variously
occupied. Public life, which in most foreign countries is wholly outside
the sphere of women, is eagerly followed. Public speaking, which in the
memory of many now living was almost unknown among women of any station
in English society, has become the most ordinary accomplishment. Their
object is to put into life from youth to old age as much as life can
give, and they go far to attain their end. A wonderful nimbleness and
flexibility of intellect capable of turning swiftly from subject to
subject has been developed, and keeps them in touch with a very wide
range both of interests and pleasures.

There are no doubt grave drawbacks to all this. Many will say that this
external activity must be at the sacrifice of the duties of domestic
life, but on this subject there is, I think, at least much exaggeration.
Education has now assumed such forms and attained such a standard that
usually for many hours in the day the education of the young in a
wealthy family is in the hands of accomplished specialists, and I do not
think that the most occupied lives are those in which the cares of a
home are most neglected. How far, however, this intense and constant
strain is compatible with physical well-being is a graver question, and
many have feared that it must bequeath weakened constitutions to the
coming generation. Nor is a life of incessant excitement in other
respects beneficial. In both intellectual and moral hygiene the best
life is that which follows nature and alternates periods of great
activity with periods of rest. Retirement, quiet, steady reading, and
the silent thought which matures character and deepens impressions are
things that seem almost disappearing from many English lives. But lives
such as I have described are certainly not useless, undeveloped, or
wholly selfish, and they in a large degree fulfil that great law of
happiness, that it should be sought for rather in interests than in

I have already referred to the class who value money chiefly because it
enables them to dismiss money thoughts and cares from their minds. On
the whole, this end is probably more frequently attained by men of
moderate but competent fortunes than by the very rich. This is at least
the case when they are sufficiently rich to invest their money in
securities which are liable to no serious risk or fluctuation. A
gigantic fortune is seldom of such a nature that it does not bring with
it great cares of administration and require much thought and many
decisions. There is, however, one important exception. When there are
many children the task of providing for their future falls much more
lightly on the very rich than on those of medium fortune.

There is a class, however, who are the exact opposite of these and who
make the simple acquisition of money the chief interest and pleasure of
their lives. Money-making in some form is the main occupation of the
great majority of men, but it is usually as a means to an end. It is to
acquire the means of livelihood, or the means of maintaining or
improving a social position, or the means of providing as they think fit
for the children who are to succeed them. Sometimes, however, with the
very rich and without any ulterior object, money-making for its own sake
becomes the absorbing interest. They can pursue it with great advantage;
for, as has been often said, nothing makes money like money, and the
possession of an immense capital gives innumerable facilities for
increasing it. The collecting passion takes this form. They come to care
more for money than for anything money can purchase, though less for
money than for the interest and the excitement of getting it.
Speculative enterprise, with its fluctuations, uncertainties and
surprises, becomes their strongest interest and their greatest

When it is honestly conducted there is no real reason why it should be
condemned. On these conditions a life so spent is, I think, usually
useful to the world, for it generally encourages works that are of real
value. All that can be truly said is that it brings with it grave
temptations and is very apt to lower a man's moral being. Speculation
easily becomes a form of gambling so fierce in its excitement that, when
carried on incessantly and on a great scale, it kills all capacity for
higher and tranquil pleasures, strengthens incalculably the temptations
to unscrupulous gain, disturbs the whole balance of character, and often
even shortens life. With others the love of accumulation has a strange
power of materialising, narrowing and hardening. Habits of
meanness--sometimes taking curious and inconsistent forms, and applying
only to particular things or departments of life--steal insensibly over
them, and the love of money assumes something of the character of mania.
Temptations connected with money are indeed among the most insidious and
among the most powerful to which we are exposed. They have probably a
wider empire than drink, and, unlike the temptations that spring from
animal passion, they strengthen rather than diminish with age. In no
respect is it more necessary for a man to keep watch over his own
character, taking care that the unselfish element does not diminish, and
correcting the love of acquisition by generosity of expenditure.

It is probable that the highest form of charity, involving real and
serious self-denial, is much more common among the poor, and even the
very poor, than among the rich. I think most persons who have had much
practical acquaintance with the dealings of the poor with one another
will confirm this. It is certainly far less common among those who are
at the opposite pole of fortune. They have not had the same discipline,
or indeed the same possibility of self-sacrifice, or the same means of
realising the pains of poverty, and there is another reason which tends
not unnaturally to check their benevolence. A man with the reputation of
great wealth soon finds himself beleaguered by countless forms of
mendicancy and imposture. He comes to feel that there is a general
conspiracy to plunder him, and he is naturally thrown into an attitude
of suspicion and self-defence. Often, though he may give largely and
generously, he will do so under the veil of strict anonymity, in order
to avoid a reputation for generosity which will bring down upon him
perpetual solicitations. If he is an intellectual man he will probably
generalise from his own experience. He will be deeply impressed with the
enormous evils that have sprung from ill-judged charity, and with the
superiority even from a philanthropic point of view of a productive
expenditure of money.

And in truth it is difficult to overrate the evil effects of injudicious
charities in discouraging thrift, industry, foresight and self-respect.
They take many forms; some of them extremely obvious, while others can
only be rightly judged by a careful consideration of remote
consequences. There are the idle tourists who break down, in a once
unsophisticated district, that sense of self-respect which is one of the
most valuable lessons that early education can give, by flinging pence
to be scrambled for among the children, or who teach the poor the fatal
lesson that mendicancy or something hardly distinguishable from
mendicancy will bring greater gain than honest and continuous work.
There is the impulsive, uninquiring charity that makes the trade of the
skilful begging-letter writer a lucrative profession, and makes men and
women who are rich, benevolent and weak, the habitual prey of greedy
impostors. There is the old-established charity for ministering to
simple poverty which draws to its centre all the pauperism of the
neighbouring districts, depresses wages, and impoverishes the very
district or class it was intended to benefit. There are charities which
not only largely diminish the sufferings that are the natural
consequence and punishment of vice; but even make the lot of the
criminal and the vicious a better one than that of the hard-working
poor. There are overlapping charities dealing with the same department,
but kept up with lavish waste through the rivalry of different religious
denominations, or in the interests of the officials connected with them;
belated or superannuated charities formed to deal with circumstances or
sufferings that have in a large degree passed away--useless, or almost
useless, charities established to carry out some silly fad or to gratify
some silly vanity; sectarian charities intended to further ends which,
in the eyes of all but the members of one sect, are not only useless but
mischievous; charities that encourage thriftless marriages, or make it
easy for men to neglect obvious duties, or keep a semi-pauper population
stationary in employments and on a soil where they can never prosper, or
in other ways handicap, impede or divert the natural and healthy course
of industry. Illustrations of all these evils will occur to every
careful student of the subject. Unintelligent, thoughtless, purely
impulsive charity, and charity which is inspired by some other motive
than a real desire to relieve suffering, will constantly go wrong, but
every intelligent man can find without difficulty vast fields on which
the largest generosity may be expended with abundant fruit.

Hospitals and kindred institutions for alleviating great unavoidable
calamities, and giving the sick poor something of the same chances of
recovery as the rich, for the most part fall under this head. Money will
seldom be wasted which is spent in promoting kinds of knowledge,
enterprise or research that bring no certain remuneration proportioned
to their value; in assisting poor young men of ability and industry to
develop their special talents; in encouraging in their many different
forms thrift, self-help and co-operation; in alleviating the inevitable
suffering that follows some great catastrophe on land or sea, or great
transitions of industry, or great fluctuations and depressions in class
prosperity; in giving the means of healthy recreation or ennobling
pleasures to the denizens of a crowded town. The vast sphere of
education opens endless fields for generous expenditure, and every
religious man will find objects which, in the opinion not only of men of
his own persuasion, but also of many others, are transcendently
important. Nor is it a right principle that charity should be denied to
all calamities which are in some degree due to the fault of the
sufferer, or which might have been averted by exceptional forethought or
self-denial. Some economists write as if a far higher standard of will
and morals should be expected among the poor and the uneducated than can
be found among the rich. Good sense and right feeling will here easily
draw the line, abstaining from charities that have a real influence in
encouraging improvidence or vice, yet making due allowance for the
normal weaknesses of our nature.

In all these ways the very rich can find ample opportunities for useful
benevolence. It is the prerogative of great wealth that it can often
cure what others can only palliate, and can establish permanent sources
of good which will continue long after the donors have passed away. In
dealing with individual cases of distress, rich men who have neither the
time nor the inclination to investigate the special circumstances will
do well to rely largely on the recommendation of others. If they choose
trustworthy, competent and sensible advisers with as much judgment as
they commonly show in the management of their private affairs, they are
not likely to go astray. There never was a period when a larger amount
of intelligent and disinterested labour was employed in careful and
detailed examination of the circumstances and needs of the poor. The
parish clergyman, the district visitor, the agents of the Charity
Organization Society which annually selects its special cases of
well-ascertained need, will abundantly furnish them with the knowledge
they require.

The advantage or disadvantage of the presence in a country of a large
class of men possessing fortunes far exceeding anything that can really
administer to their enjoyment is a question which has greatly divided
both political economists and moralists. The former were long accustomed
to maintain somewhat exclusively that laws and institutions should be
established with the object of furthering the greatest possible
accumulation of wealth, and that a system of unrestricted competition,
coupled with equal laws, giving each man the most complete security in
the possession and disposal of his property, was the best means of
attaining this end. They urged with great truth that, although under
such a system the inequalities of fortune will be enormous, most of the
wealth of the very rich will inevitably be distributed in the form of
wages, purchases, and industrial enterprises through the community at
large, and that, other things being equal, the richest country will on
the whole be the happiest. They clearly saw the complete delusion of the
common assertions that the more millionaires there are in a country the
more paupers will multiply, and that society is dividing between the
enormously rich and the abjectly poor. The great industrial communities,
in which there are the largest number of very wealthy men, are also the
centres in which we find the most prosperous middle class, and the
highest and most progressive rates of wages and standards of comfort
among the poor. Great corruption in many forms no doubt exists in them,
but it can scarcely be maintained with confidence that the standard of
integrity is on the whole lower in these than in other countries, and
they at least escape what in many poor countries is one of the most
fruitful causes of corruption in all branches of administration--the
inadequate pay of the servants of the Crown. The path of liberty in the
eyes of economists of this school is the path of wisdom, and they were
profoundly distrustful of all legislative attempts to restrict or
interfere with the course of industrial progress.

In our own generation a somewhat different tendency has manifestly
strengthened. It has been said that past political economists paid too
much attention to the accumulation and too little to the distribution of
wealth. Men have become more sensible to the high level of happiness and
moral well-being that has been attained in some of the smaller and
somewhat stagnant countries of Europe, where wealth is more generally
attained by thrift and steady industry than by great industrial or
commercial enterprise, in which there are few large fortunes but little
acute poverty, a low standard of luxury, but a high standard of real
comfort. The enormous evils that have grown up in wealthy countries, in
the form of company-mongering, excessive competition, extravagant and
often vicious luxury, and dishonest administration of public funds, are
more and more felt, and it is only too true that in these countries
there are large and influential circles of society in which all
considerations of character, intellect, or manners seem lost in an
intense thirst for wealth and for the things that it can give.
Sometimes we find vast fortunes in countries where there is but little
enterprise and a very low standard of comfort among the people, and
where this is the case it is usually due to unequal laws or corrupt
administration. In the free, democratic, and industrial communities
great fluctuations and disparities of wealth are inevitable, and some of
the most colossal fortunes have, no doubt, been made by the evil methods
I have described. They are, however, only a minority, and not a very
large one. Like all the great successes of life, abnormal accumulation
of wealth is usually due to the combination in different proportions of
ability, character, and chance, and is not tainted with dishonesty. On
the whole, the question that should be asked is not what a man has, but
how he obtained it and how he uses it. When wealth is honestly acquired
and wisely and generously used, the more rich men there are in a country
the better.

There has probably never been a period in the history of the world when
the conditions of industry, assisted by the great gold discoveries in
several parts of the globe, were so favourable to the formation of
enormous fortunes as at present, and when the race of millionaires was
so large. The majority belong to the English-speaking race; probably
most of their gigantic fortunes have been rapidly accumulated, and bring
with them none of the necessary, hereditary, and clearly defined
obligations of a great landowner, while a considerable proportion of
them have fallen to the lot of men who, through their education or early
habits, have not many cultivated or naturally expensive tastes. In
England many of the new millionaires become great landowners and set up
great establishments. In America, where country tastes are less marked
and where the difficulties of domestic service are very great, this is
less common. In both countries the number of men with immense fortunes,
absolutely at their own disposal, has enormously increased, and the
character of their expenditure has become a matter of real national

Much of it, no doubt, goes in simple luxury and ostentation, or in mere
speculation, or in restoring old and dilapidated fortunes through the
marriages of rank with money which are so characteristic of our time;
but much also is devoted to charitable or philanthropic purposes. In
this, as in most things, motives are often very blended. To men of such
fortunes, such expenditure, even on a large scale, means no real
self-sacrifice, and the inducements to it are not always of the highest
kind. To some men it is a matter of ambition--a legitimate and useful
ambition--to obtain the enduring and honourable fame which attaches to
the founder of a great philanthropic or educational establishment.
Others find that, in England at least, large philanthropic expenditure
is one of the easiest and shortest paths to social success, bringing men
and women of low extraction and bad manners into close and frequent
connection with the recognised leaders of society; while others again
have discovered that it is the quickest way of effacing the stigma which
still in some degree attaches to wealth which has been acquired by
dishonourable or dubious means. Fashion, social ambition, and social
rivalries are by no means unknown in the fields of charity. There are
many, however, in whose philanthropy the element of self has no place,
and whose sole desire is to expend their money in forms that can be of
most real and permanent benefit to others.

Such men have great power, and, if their philanthropic expenditure is
wisely guided, it may be of incalculable benefit. I have already
indicated many of the channels in which it may safely flow, but one or
two additional hints on the subject may not be useless. Perhaps as a
general rule these men will find that they can act most wisely by
strengthening and enlarging old charities which are really good, rather
than by founding new ones. Competition is the soul of industry, but
certainly not of charity, and there is in England a deplorable waste of
money and machinery through the excessive multiplication of institutions
intended for the same objects. The kind of ambition to which I have just
referred tends to make men prefer new charities which can be identified
with their names; the paid officials connected with charities have
become a large and powerful profession, and their influence is naturally
used in the same direction; the many different religious bodies in the
country often refuse to combine, and each desires to have its own
institutions; and there are fashions in charity which, while they
greatly stimulate generosity, have too often the effect of diverting it
from the older and more unobtrusive forms. On the other hand, one of the
most important facts in our present economical condition is that an
extraordinary and almost unparalleled development of industrial
prosperity has been accompanied by extreme and long-continued
agricultural depression and by a great fall in the rate of interest.
Wealth in many forms is accumulating with wonderful rapidity, and the
increased rate of wages is diffusing prosperity among the working
classes; but those who depend directly or indirectly on agricultural
rents or on interest of money invested in trust securities have been
suffering severely, and they comprise some of the most useful,
blameless, and meritorious classes in the community. The same causes
that have injured them have fallen with crushing severity on
old-established institutions which usually derive their income largely
or entirely from the rent of land or from money invested in the public
funds. The bitter cry of distress that is rising from the hospitals and
many other ancient charities, from the universities, from the clergy of
the Established Church, abundantly proves it.

The preference, however, to be given to old charities rather than to new
ones is subject to very many exceptions. It does not apply to new
countries or to the many cases in which changes and developments of
industry have planted vast agglomerations of population in districts
which were once but thinly populated, and therefore but little provided
with charitable or educational institutions. Nor does it apply to the
many cases in which the circumstances of modern life have called into
existence new forms of charity, new wants, new dangers and evils to be
combated, new departments of knowledge to be cultivated. One of the
greatest difficulties of the older universities is that of providing,
out of their shrinking endowments, for the teaching of branches of
science and knowledge which have only come into existence, or at least
into prominence, long after these universities were established, and
some of which require not only trained teachers but costly apparatus
and laboratories. Increasing international competition and enlarged
scientific knowledge have rendered necessary an amount of technical and
agricultural education never dreamed of by our ancestors; and the rise
of the great provincial towns and the greater intensity of provincial
life and provincial patriotism, as well as the changes that have passed
over the position both of the working and middle classes, have created a
genuine demand for educational establishments of a different type from
the older universities. The higher education of women is essentially a
nineteenth-century work, and it has been carried on without the
assistance of old endowments and with very little help from modern
Parliaments. In the distribution of public funds a class which is wholly
unrepresented in Parliament seldom gets its fair share; and higher
education, like most forms of science, like most of the higher forms of
literature, and like many valuable forms of research, never can be
self-supporting. There are great branches of knowledge which without
established endowments must remain uncultivated, or be cultivated only
by men of considerable private means. Some invaluable curative agencies,
such as convalescent homes in different countries and climates and for
different diseases, have grown up in our own generation, as well as some
of the most fruitful forms of medical research and some of the most
efficacious methods of giving healthy change and brightness to the lives
that are most monotonous and overstrained. Every great revolution in
industry, in population, and even in knowledge, brings with it new and
special wants, and there are cases in which assisted emigration is one
of the best forms of charity.

These are but a few illustrations of the directions in which the large
surplus funds which many of the very rich are prepared to expend on
philanthropic purposes may profitably go. There is a marked and
increasing tendency in our age to meet all the various exigencies of
Society, as they arise, by State aid resting on compulsory taxation. In
countries where the levels of fortune are such that few men have incomes
greatly in excess of their real or factitious wants, this method will
probably be necessary; but many of the wants I have described can be
better met by the old English method of intelligent private generosity,
and in a country in which the number of the very rich is so great and so
increasing, this generosity should not be wanting.


[67] _Notes on Life._



The beautiful saying of Newton, that he felt like a child who had been
picking up a few pebbles on the shore of the great ocean of undiscovered
truth, may well occur to any writer who attempts to say something on the
vast subject of marriage. The infinite variety of circumstances and
characters affects it in infinitely various ways, and all that can here
be done is to collect a few somewhat isolated and miscellaneous remarks
upon it. Yet it is a subject which cannot be omitted in a book like
this. In numerous cases it is the great turning-point of a life, and in
all cases when it takes place it is one of the most important of its
events. Whatever else marriage may do or fail to do, it never leaves a
man unchanged. His intellect, his character, his happiness, his way of
looking on the world, will all be influenced by it. If it does not raise
or strengthen him it will lower or weaken. If it does not deepen
happiness it will impair it. It brings with it duties, interests,
habits, hopes, cares, sorrows, and joys that will penetrate into every
fissure of his nature and modify the whole course of his life.

It is strange to think with how much levity and how little knowledge a
contract which is so indissoluble and at the same time so momentous is
constantly assumed; sometimes under the influence of a blinding passion
and at an age when life is still looked upon as a romance or an idyll;
sometimes as a matter of mere ambition and calculation, through a desire
for wealth or title or position. Men and women rely on the force of
habit and necessity to accommodate themselves to conditions they have
never really understood or realised.

In most cases different motives combine, though in different degrees.
Sometimes an overpowering affection for the person is the strongest
motive and eclipses all others. Sometimes the main motive to marriage is
a desire to be married. It is to obtain a settled household and
position; to be relieved from the 'unchartered freedom' and the 'vague
desires' of a lonely life; to find some object of affection; to acquire
the steady habits and the exemption from household cares which are
essential to a career; to perpetuate a race; perhaps to escape from
family discomforts, or to introduce a new and happy influence into a
family. With these motives a real affection for a particular person is
united, but it is not of such a character as to preclude choice,
judgment, comparison, and a consideration of worldly advantages.

It is a wise saying of Swift that there would be fewer unhappy marriages
in the world if women thought less of making nets and more of making
cages. The qualities that attract, fascinate, and dazzle are often
widely different from those which are essential to a happy marriage.
Sometimes they are distinctly hostile to it. More frequently they
conduce to it, but only in an inferior or subsidiary degree. The turn of
mind and character that makes the accomplished flirt is certainly not
that which promises best for the happiness of a married life; and
distinguished beauty, brilliant talents, and the heroic qualities that
play a great part in the affairs of life, and shine conspicuously in the
social sphere, sink into a minor place among the elements of married
happiness. In marriage the identification of two lives is so complete
that it brings every faculty and gift into play, but in degrees and
proportions very different from public life or casual intercourse and
relations. The most essential are often wanting in a brilliant life, and
are largely developed in lives and characters that rise little, if at
all, above the commonplace. In the words of a very shrewd man of the
world: 'Before marriage the shape, the figure, the complexion carry all
before them; after marriage the mind and character unexpectedly claim
their share, and that the largest, of importance.'[68]

The relation is one of the closest intimacy and confidence, and if the
identity of interest between the two partners is not complete, each has
an almost immeasurable power of injuring the other. A moral basis of
sterling qualities is of capital importance. A true, honest, and
trustworthy nature, capable of self-sacrifice and self-restraint, should
rank in the first line, and after that a kindly, equable, and contented
temper, a power of sympathy, a habit of looking at the better and
brighter side of men and things. Of intellectual qualities, judgment,
tact, and order are perhaps the most valuable. Above almost all things,
men should seek in marriage perfect sanity, and dread everything like
hysteria. Beauty will continue to be a delight, though with much
diminished power, but grace and the charm of manner will retain their
full attraction to the last. They brighten in innumerable ways the
little things of life, and life is mainly made up of little things,
exposed to petty frictions, and requiring small decisions and small
sacrifices. Wide interests and large appreciations are, in the marriage
relation, more important than any great constructive or creative talent,
and the power to soothe, to sympathise, to counsel, and to endure, than
the highest qualities of the hero or the saint. It is by these alone
that the married life attains its full measure of perfection.

     'Tu mihi curarum requies, tu nocte vel atrâ
       Lumen, et in solis tu mihi turba locis.'[69]

But while this is true of all marriages, it is obvious that different
professions and circumstances of life will demand different qualities. A
hard-working labouring man, or a man who, though not labouring with his
hands, is living a life of poverty and struggle, will not seek in
marriage a type of character exactly the same as a man who is born to a
great position, and who has large social and administrative duties to
discharge. The wife of a clergyman immersed in the many interests of a
parish; the wife of a soldier or a merchant, who may have to live in
many lands, with long periods of separation from her husband, and
perhaps amid many hardships; the wife of an active and ambitious
politician; the wife of a busy professional man incessantly occupied
outside his home; the wife of a man whose health or business or habits
keep him constantly in his house, will each need some special qualities.
There are few things in which both men and women naturally differ more
than in the elasticity and adaptiveness of their natures, in their power
of bearing monotony, in the place which habit, routine, and variety hold
in their happiness; and in different kinds of life these things have
very different degrees of importance. Special family circumstances, such
as children by a former marriage, or difficult and delicate relations
with members of the family of one partner, will require the exercise of
special qualities. Such relations, indeed, are often one of the most
searching and severe tests of the sterling qualities of female

Probably, on the whole, the best presumption of a successful choice in
marriage will be found where the wife has not been educated in
circumstances or ideas absolutely dissimilar from those of her married
life. Marriages of different races or colours are rarely happy, and the
same thing is true of marriages between persons of social levels that
are so different as to entail great differences of manners and habits.
Other and minor disparities of circumstances between girl life and
married life will have their effect, but they are less strong and less
invariable. Some of the happiest marriages have been marriages of
emancipation, which removed a girl from uncongenial family surroundings,
and placed her for the first time in an intellectual and moral
atmosphere in which she could freely breathe. At the same time, in the
choice of a wife, the character, circumstances, habits, and tone of the
family in which she has been brought up will always be an important
element. There are qualities of race, there are pedigrees of character,
which it is never prudent to neglect. Franklin quotes with approval the
advice of a wise man to choose a wife 'out of a bunch,' as girls brought
up together improve each other by emulation, learn mutual self-sacrifice
and forbearance, rub off their angularities, and are not suffered to
develop overweening self-conceit. A family where the ruling taste is
vulgar, where the standard of honour is low, where extravagance and
self-indulgence and want of order habitually prevail, creates an
atmosphere which it needs a strong character altogether to escape. There
is also the great question of physical health. A man should seek in
marriage rather to raise than to depress the physical level of his
family, and above all not to introduce into it grave, well-ascertained
hereditary disease. Of all forms of self-sacrifice hardly any is at once
so plainly right and so plainly useful as the celibacy of those who are
tainted with such disease.

There is no subject on which religious teachers have dwelt more than
upon marriage and the relation of the sexes, and it has been continually
urged that the propagation of children is its first end. It is strange,
however, to observe how almost absolutely in the popular ethics of
Christendom such considerations as that which I have last mentioned have
been neglected. If one of the most responsible things that a man can do
is to bring a human being into the world, one of his first and most
obvious duties is to do what he can to secure that it shall come into
the world with a sound body and a sane mind. This is the best
inheritance that parents can leave their children, and it is in a large
degree within their reach. Immature marriage, excessive child-bearing,
marriages of near relations, and, above all, marriages with some grave
hereditary physical or mental disease or some great natural defect, may
bring happiness to the parents, but can scarcely fail to entail a
terrible penalty upon their children. It is clearly recognised that one
of the first duties of parents to their children is to secure them in
early life not only good education, but also, as far as is within their
power, the conditions of a healthy being. But the duty goes back to an
earlier stage, and in marriage the prospects of the unborn should never
be forgotten. This is one of the considerations which in the ethics of
the future is likely to have a wholly different place from any that it
has occupied in the past.

A kindred consideration, little less important and almost equally
neglected in popular teaching, is that it is a moral offence to bring
children into the world with no prospect of being able to provide for
them. It is difficult to exaggerate the extent to which the neglect of
these two duties has tended to the degradation and unhappiness of the

The greatly increased importance which the Darwinian theory has given to
heredity should tend to make men more sensible of the first of these
duties. In marriage there are not only reciprocal duties between the two
partners; there are also, more than in any other act of life, plain
duties to the race. The hereditary nature of insanity and of some forms
of disease is an indisputable truth. The hereditary transmission of
character has not, it is true, as yet acquired this position; and there
is a grave schism on the subject in the Darwinian school. But that it
exists to some extent few close observers will doubt, and it is in a
high degree probable that it is one of the most powerful moulding
influences of life. No more probable explanation has yet been given of
the manner in which human nature has been built up, and of the various
instincts and tastes with which we are born, than the doctrine that
habits and modes of thought and feeling indulged in and produced by
circumstances in former generations have gradually become innate in the
race, and exhibit themselves spontaneously and instinctively and quite
independently of the circumstances that originally produced them.
According to this theory the same process is continually going on. Man
has slowly emerged from a degraded and bestial condition. The pressure
of long-continued circumstances has moulded him into his special type;
but new feelings and habits, or modifications of old feelings and
habits, are constantly passing not only into his life but into his
nature, taking root there, and in some degree at least reproducing
themselves by the force of heredity in the innate disposition of his
offspring. If this be true, it gives a new and terrible importance both
to the duty of self-culture and to the duty of wise selection in
marriage. It means that children are likely to be influenced not only by
what we do and by what we say, but also by what we are, and that the
characters of the parents in different degrees and combinations will
descend even to a remote posterity.

It throws a not less terrible light upon the miscalculations of the
past. On this hypothesis, as Mr. Galton has truly shown, it is scarcely
possible to exaggerate the evil which has been brought upon the world by
the religious glorification of celibacy and by the enormous development
and encouragement of the monastic life. Generation after generation,
century after century, and over the whole wide surface of Christendom,
this conception of religion drew into a sterile celibacy nearly all who
were most gentle, most unselfish, most earnest, studious, and religious,
most susceptible to moral and intellectual enthusiasm, and thus
prevented them from transmitting to posterity the very qualities that
are most needed for the happiness and the moral progress of the race.
Whenever the good and evil resulting from different religious systems
come to be impartially judged, this consideration is likely to weigh
heavily in the scale.[70]

Returning, however, to the narrower sphere of particular marriages, it
may be observed that although full confidence, and, in one sense,
complete identification of interests, are the characteristics of a
perfect marriage, this does not by any means imply that one partner
should be a kind of duplicate of the other. Woman is not a mere weaker
man; and the happiest marriages are often those in which, in tastes,
character, and intellectual qualities, the wife is rather the complement
than the reflection of her husband. In intellectual things this is
constantly shown. The purely practical and prosaic intellect is united
with an intellect strongly tinged with poetry and romance; the man whose
strength is in facts, with the woman whose strength is in ideas; the man
who is wholly absorbed in science or politics or economical or
industrial problems and pursuits, with a woman who possesses the talent
or at least the temperament of an artist or musician. In such cases one
partner brings sympathies or qualities, tastes or appreciations or kinds
of knowledge in which the other is most defective; and by the close and
constant contact of two dissimilar types each is, often insensibly, but
usually very effectually, improved. Men differ greatly in their
requirements of intellectual sympathy. A perfectly commonplace
intellectual surrounding will usually do something to stunt or lower a
fine intelligence, but it by no means follows that each man finds the
best intellectual atmosphere to be that which is most in harmony with
his own special talent.

To many, hard intellectual labour is an eminently isolated thing, and
what they desire most in the family circle is to cast off all thought of
it. I have known two men who were in the first rank of science, intimate
friends, and both of them of very domestic characters. One of them was
accustomed to do nearly all his work in the presence of his wife, and in
the closest possible co-operation with her. The other used to
congratulate himself that none of his family had his own scientific
tastes, and that when he left his work and came into his family circle
he had the rest of finding himself in an atmosphere that was entirely
different. Some men of letters need in their work constant stimulus,
interest, and sympathy. Others desire only to develop their talent
uncontrolled, uninfluenced, and undisturbed, and with an atmosphere of
cheerful quiet around them.

What is true of intellect is also in a large degree true of character.
Two persons living constantly together should have many tastes and
sympathies in common, and their characters will in most cases tend to
assimilate. Yet great disparities of character may subsist in marriage,
not only without evil but often with great advantage. This is especially
the case where each supplies what is most needed in the other. Some
natures require sedatives and others tonics; and it will often be found
in a happy marriage that the union of two dissimilar natures stimulates
the idle and inert, moderates the impetuous, gives generosity to the
parsimonious and order to the extravagant, imparts the spirit of caution
or the spirit of enterprise which is most needed, and corrects, by
contact with a healthy and cheerful nature, the morbid and the

Marriage may also very easily have opposite effects. It is not
unfrequently founded on the sympathy of a common weakness, and when this
is the case it can hardly fail to deepen the defect. On the whole,
women, in some of the most valuable forms of strength--in the power of
endurance and in the power of perseverance--are at least the equals of
men. But weak and tremulous nerves, excessive sensibility, and an
exaggerated share of impulse and emotion, are indissolubly associated
with certain charms, both of manner and character, which are intensely
feminine, and to many men intensely attractive. When a nature of this
kind is wedded to a weak or a desponding man, the result will seldom be
happiness to either party, but with a strong man such marriages are
often very happy. Strength may wed with weakness or with strength, but
weakness should beware of mating itself with weakness. It needs the oak
to support the ivy with impunity, and there are many who find the
constant contact of a happy and cheerful nature the first essential of
their happiness.

As it is not wise or right that either partner in marriage should lose
his or her individuality, so it is right that each should have an
independent sphere of authority. It is assumed, of course, that there is
the perfect trust which should be the first condition of marriage and
also a reasonable judgment. Many marriages have been permanently marred
because the woman has been given no independence in money matters and is
obliged to come for each small thing to her husband. In general the less
the husband meddles in household matters, or the wife in professional
ones, the better. The education of very young children of both sexes,
and of girls of a mature age, will fall almost exclusively to the wife.
The education of the boys when they have emerged from childhood will be
rather governed by the judgment of the man. Many things will be
regulated in common; but the larger interests of the family will usually
fall chiefly to one partner, the smaller and more numerous ones to the

On such matters, however, generalisations have little value, as
exceptions are very numerous. Differences of character, age, experience,
and judgment, and countless special circumstances, will modify the
family type, and it is in discovering these differences that wisdom in
marriage mainly consists. The directions in which married life may
influence character are also very many; but in the large number of cases
in which it brings with it a great weight of household cares and family
interests it will usually be found with both partners, but especially
with the woman, at once to strengthen and to narrow unselfishness. She
will live very little for herself, but very exclusively for her family.
On the intellectual side such marriages usually give a sounder judgment
and a wider knowledge of the world rather than purely intellectual
tastes. It is a good thing when the education which precedes marriage
not only prepares for the duties of the married life, but also furnishes
a fair share of the interests and tastes which that state will probably
tend to weaken. The hard battle of life, and the anxieties and sorrows
that a family seldom fails to bring, will naturally give an increased
depth and seriousness to character. There are, however, natures which,
though they may be tainted by no grave vice, are so incurably frivolous
that even this education will fail to influence them. As Emerson says,
'A fly is as untameable as a hyæna.'

The age that is most suited for marriage is also a matter which will
depend largely on individual circumstances. The ancients, as is well
known, placed it, in the case of the man, far back, and they desired a
great difference of age between the man and the woman. Plato assigned
between thirty and thirty-five, and Aristotle thirty-seven, as the best
age for a man to marry, while they would have the girls married at
eighteen or twenty.[71] In their view, however, marriage was looked
upon very exclusively from the side of the man and of the State. They
looked on it mainly as the means of producing healthy citizens, and it
was in their eyes almost wholly dissociated from the passion of love.
Montaigne, in one of his essays, has expounded this view with the
frankest cynicism.[72] Yet few things are so important in marriage as
that the man should bring into it the freshness and the purity of an
untried nature, and that the early poetry and enthusiasm of life should
at least in some degree blend with the married state. Nor is it
desirable that a relation in which the formation of habits plays so
large a part should be deferred until character has lost its
flexibility, and until habits have been irretrievably hardened.

On the other hand there are invincible arguments against marriages
entered into at an age when neither partner has any real knowledge of
the world and of men. Only too often they involve many illusions and
leave many regrets. Some kinds of knowledge, such as that given by
extended travel, are far more easily acquired before than after
marriage. Usually very early marriages are improvident marriages, made
with no sufficient provision for the children, and often they are
immature marriages, bringing with them grave physical evils. In those
cases in which a great place or position is to be inherited, it is
seldom a good thing that the interval of age between the owner and his
heir should be so small that inheritance will probably be postponed till
the confines of old age.

Marriages entered into in the decline of life stand somewhat apart from
others, and are governed by other motives. What men chiefly seek in them
is a guiding hand to lead them gently down the last descent of life.

On this, as on most subjects connected with marriage, no general or
inflexible rule can be laid down. Moralists have chiefly dilated on the
dangers of deferred marriages; economists on the evils of improvident
marriages. Each man's circumstances and disposition must determine his
course. On the whole, however, in most civilised countries the
prevailing tendencies are in the direction of an increased postponement
of marriage. Among the rich, the higher standard of luxury and
requirements, the comforts of club life, and also, I think, the
diminished place which emotion is taking in life, all lead to this,
while the spread of providence and industrial habits among the poor has
the same tendency.

A female pen is so much more competent than a masculine one for dealing
with marriage from the woman's point of view that I do not attempt to
enter on that field. It is impossible, however, to overlook the marked
tendency of nineteenth-century civilisation to give women, both married
and unmarried, a degree of independence and self-reliance far exceeding
that of the past. The legislation of most civilised countries has
granted them full protection for their property and their earnings,
increased rights of guardianship over their children, a wider access to
professional life, and even a very considerable voice in the management
of public affairs; and these influences have been strengthened by great
improvement in female education, and by a change in the social tone
which has greatly extended their latitude of independent action. For my
own part, I have no doubt that this movement is, on the whole,
beneficial, not only to those who have to fight a lonely battle in life,
but also to those who are in the marriage state. Larger interests, wider
sympathies, a more disciplined judgment, and a greater power of
independence and self-control naturally accompany it; and these things
can never be wholly wasted. They will often be called into active
exercise by the many vicissitudes of the married life. They will,
perhaps, be still more needed when the closest of human ties is severed
by the great Divorce of Death.


[68] _Melbourne Papers_, p. 72.

[69] Tibullus.

[70] Galton's _Hereditary Genius_, pp. 357-8. It may be argued, on the
other side, that the monasteries consigned to celibacy a great
proportion of the weaker physical natures, who would otherwise have left
sickly children behind them. This, and the much greater mortality of
weak infant life, must have strengthened the race in an age when
sanitary science was unknown and when external conditions were very

[71] _Republic_, Book V. _Politics_, Book VII.

[72] _Livre_ III. Ch. 5.



One of the most important lessons that experience teaches is that on the
whole, and in the great majority of cases, success in life depends more
on character than on either intellect or fortune. Many brilliant
exceptions, no doubt, tend to obscure the rule, and some of the
qualities of character that succeed the best may be united with grave
vices or defects; but on the whole the law is one that cannot be
questioned, and it becomes more and more apparent as civilisation
advances. Temperance, industry, integrity, frugality, self-reliance, and
self-restraint are the means by which the great masses of men rise from
penury to comfort, and it is the nations in which these qualities are
most diffused that in the long run are the most prosperous. Chance and
circumstance may do much. A happy climate, a fortunate annexation, a
favourable vicissitude in the course of commerce, may vastly influence
the prosperity of nations; anarchy, agitation, unjust laws, and
fraudulent enterprise may offer many opportunities of individual or even
of class gains; but ultimately it will be found that the nations in
which the solid industrial virtues are most diffused and most respected
pass all others in the race. The moral basis of character was the true
foundation of the greatness of ancient Rome, and when that foundation
was sapped the period of her decadence began. The solid, parsimonious,
and industrious qualities of the French peasantry have given their
country the recuperative force which has enabled its greatness to
survive the countless follies and extravagances of its rulers.

Character, it may be added, is especially pre-eminent in those kinds and
degrees of success that affect the greatest numbers of men and influence
most largely their real happiness--in the success which secures a high
level of material comfort; which makes domestic life stable and happy;
which wins for a man the respect and confidence of his neighbours. If we
have melancholy examples that very different qualities often gain
splendid prizes, it is still true that there are few walks in life in
which a character that inspires complete confidence is not a leading
element of success.

In the paths of ambition that can only be pursued by the few,
intellectual qualities bear a larger part, and there are, of course,
many works of genius that are in their own nature essentially
intellectual. Yet even the most splendid successes of life will often be
found to be due much less to extraordinary intellectual gifts than to an
extraordinary strength and tenacity of will, to the abnormal courage,
perseverance, and work-power that spring from it, or to the tact and
judgment which make men skilful in seizing opportunities, and which, of
all intellectual qualities, are most closely allied with character.

Strength of will and tact are not necessarily, perhaps not generally,
conjoined, and often the first seems somewhat to impair the second. The
strong passion, the intense conviction, the commanding and imperious
nature overriding obstacles and defying opposition, that often goes with
a will of abnormal strength, does not naturally harmonise with the
reticence of expression, the delicacy of touch and management that
characterise a man who possesses in a high degree the gift of tact.
There are circumstances and times when each of these two things is more
important than the other, and the success of each man will mainly depend
upon the suitability of his peculiar gift to the work he has to do. 'The
daring pilot in extremity' is often by no means the best navigator in a
quiet sea; and men who have shown themselves supremely great in moments
of crisis and appalling danger, who have built up mighty nations,
subdued savage tribes, guided the bark of the State with skill and
courage amid the storms of revolution or civil war, and written their
names in indelible letters on the page of history, have sometimes proved
far less successful than men of inferior powers in the art of managing
assemblies, satisfying rival interests or assuaging by judicious
compromise old hatreds and prejudices. We have had at least one
conspicuous example of the difference of these two types in our own day
in the life of the great founder of German Unity.

Sometimes, however, men of great strength of will and purpose possess
also in a high degree the gift of tact; and when this is combined with
soundness of judgment it usually leads to a success in life out of all
proportion to their purely intellectual qualities. In nearly all
administrative posts, in all the many fields of labour where the task of
man is to govern, manage, or influence others, to adjust or harmonise
antagonisms of race or interests or prejudices, to carry through
difficult business without friction and by skilful co-operation, this
combination of gifts is supremely valuable. It is much more valuable
than brilliancy, eloquence, or originality. I remember the comment of a
good judge of men on the administration of a great governor who was
pre-eminently remarkable for this combination. 'He always seemed to gain
his point, yet he never appeared to be in antagonism with anyone.' The
steady pressure of a firm and consistent will was scarcely felt when it
was accompanied by the ready recognition of everything that was good in
the argument of another, and by a charm of manner and of temper which
seldom failed to disarm opposition and win personal affection.

The combination of qualities which, though not absolutely incompatible,
are very usually disconnected, is the secret of many successful lives.
Thus, to take one of the most homely, but one of the most useful and
most pleasing of all qualities--good-nature--it will too often be found
that when it is the marked and leading feature of a character it is
accompanied by some want of firmness, energy, and judgment. Sometimes,
however, this is not the case, and there are then few greater elements
of success. It is curious to observe the subtle, magnetic sympathy by
which men feel whether their neighbour is a harsh or a kind judge of
others, and how generally those who judge harshly are themselves harshly
judged, while those who judge others rather by their merits than by
their defects, and perhaps a little above their merits, win popularity.

No one, indeed, can fail to notice the effect of good-nature in
conciliating opposition, securing attachment, smoothing the various
paths of life, and, it must be added, concealing grave faults. Laxities
of conduct that might well blast the reputation of a man or a woman are
constantly forgotten, or at least forgiven, in those who lead a life of
tactful good-nature, and in the eyes of the world this quality is more
valued than others of far higher and more solid worth. It is not
unusual, for example, to see a lady in society, who is living wholly or
almost wholly for her pleasures, who has no high purpose in life, no
real sense of duty, no capacity for genuine and serious self-sacrifice,
but who at the same time never says an unkind thing of her neighbours,
sets up no severe standard of conduct either for herself or for others,
and by an innate amiability of temperament tries, successfully and
without effort, to make all around her cheerful and happy. She will
probably be more admired, she will almost certainly be more popular,
than her neighbour whose whole life is one of self-denial for the good
of others, who sacrifices to her duties her dearest pleasures, her time,
her money, and her talents, but who through some unhappy turn of temper,
strengthened perhaps by a narrow and austere education, is a harsh and
censorious judge of the frailties of her fellows.

It is also a curious thing to observe how often, when the saving gift of
tact is wanting, the brilliant, the witty, the ambitious, and the
energetic are passed in the race of life by men who in intellectual
qualities are greatly their inferiors. They dazzle, agitate, and in a
measure influence, and they easily win places in the second rank; but
something in the very exercise of their talents continually trammels
them, while judgment, tact, and good-nature, with comparatively little
brilliancy, quietly and unobtrusively take the helm. There is the
excellent talker who, by his talents and his acquirements, is eminently
fitted to delight and to instruct, yet he is so unable to repress some
unseemly jest or some pointed sarcasm or some humorous paradox that he
continually leaves a sting behind him, creates enemies, destroys his
reputation for sobriety of thought, and makes himself impossible in
posts of administration and trust. There is the parliamentary speaker
who, amid shouts of applause, pursues his adversary with scathing
invective or merciless ridicule, and who all the time is accumulating
animosities against himself, shutting the door against combinations that
would be all important to his career, and destroying his chances of
party leadership. There is the advocate who can state his case with
consummate power, but who, by an aggressive manner or a too evident
contempt for his adversary, or by the over-statement of a good cause,
habitually throws the minds of his hearers into an attitude of
opposition. There are the many men who, by ill-timed or too frequent
levity, lose all credit for their serious qualities, or who by
pretentiousness or self-assertion or restless efforts to distinguish
themselves, make themselves universally disliked, or who by their
egotism or their repetitions or their persistence, or their incapacity
of distinguishing essentials from details, or understanding the
dispositions of others, or appreciating times and seasons, make their
wearied and exasperated hearers blind to the most substantial merits. By
faults of tact men of really moderate opinions get the reputation of
extremists; men of substantially kindly natures sow animosities
wherever they go; men of real patriotism are regarded as mere jesters or
party gamblers; men who possess great talents and have rendered great
services to the world sink into inveterate bores and never obtain from
their contemporaries a tithe of the success which is their due. Tact is
not merely shown in saying the right thing at the right time and to the
right people; it is shown quite as much in the many things that are left
unsaid and apparently unnoticed, or are only lightly and evasively

It is certainly not the highest of human endowments, but it is as
certainly one of the most valuable, for it is that which chiefly enables
a man to use his other gifts to advantage, and which most effectually
supplies the place of those that are wanting. It lies on the borderland
of character and intellect. It implies self-restraint, good temper,
quick and kindly sympathy with the feelings of others. It implies also a
perception of the finer shadings of character and expression, the
intellectual gift which enables a man to place himself in touch with
great varieties of disposition, and to catch those more delicate notes
of feeling to which a coarser nature is insensible.

It is perhaps in most cases more developed among women than among men,
and it does not necessarily imply any other remarkable gift. It is
sometimes found among both men and women of very small general
intellectual powers; and in numerous cases it serves only to add to the
charm of private life and to secure social success. Where it is united
with real talents it not only enables its possessor to use these talents
to the greatest advantage; it also often leads those about him greatly
to magnify their amount. The presence or absence of this gift is one of
the chief causes why the relative value of different men is often so
differently judged by contemporaries and by posterity; by those who have
come in direct personal contact with them, and by those who judge them
from without, and by the broad results of their lives. Real tact, like
good manners, is or becomes a spontaneous and natural thing. The man of
perfectly refined manners does not consciously and deliberately on each
occasion observe the courtesies and amenities of good society. They have
become to him a second nature, and he observes them as by a kind of
instinct, without thought or effort. In the same way true tact is
something wholly different from the elaborate and artificial attempts to
conciliate and attract which may often be seen, and which usually bring
with them the impression of manoeuvre and insincerity.

Though it may be found in men of very different characters and grades of
intellect, tact has its natural affinities. Seeking beyond all things to
avoid unnecessary friction, and therefore with a strong leaning towards
compromise, it does not generally or naturally go with intense
convictions, with strong enthusiasms, with an ardently impulsive or
emotional temperament. Nor is it commonly found among men of deep and
concentrated genius, intensely absorbed in some special subject. Such
men are often among the most unobservant of the social sides of life,
and very bad judges of character, though there will frequently be found
among them an almost childlike unworldliness and simplicity of nature,
and an essential moderation of temperament which, combined with their
superiority of intellect, gives them a charm peculiarly their own.
Tact, however, has a natural affinity to a calm, equable, and
good-natured temper. It allies itself with a quick sense of opportunity,
proportion, and degree; with the power of distinguishing readily and
truly between the essential and the unimportant; with that soundness of
judgment which not only guides men among the varied events of life, and
in their estimate of those about them, but also enables them to take a
true measure of their own capacities, of the tasks that are most fitted
for them, of the objects of ambition that are and are not within their

Though in its higher degrees it is essentially a natural gift, and is
sometimes conspicuous in perfectly uneducated men, it may be largely
cultivated and improved; and in this respect the education of good
society is especially valuable. Such an education, whatever else it may
do, at least removes many jarring notes from the rhythm of life. It
tends to correct faults of manner, demeanour, or pronunciation which
tell against men to a degree altogether disproportioned to their real
importance, and on which, it is hardly too much to say, the casual
judgments of the world are mainly formed; and it also fosters moral
qualities which are essentially of the nature of tact.

We can hardly have a better picture of a really tactful man than in some
sentences taken from the admirable pages in which Cardinal Newman has
painted the character of the perfect gentleman.

'It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never
inflicts pain.... He carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt
in the minds of those with whom he is cast--all clashing of opinion or
collision of feeling, all restraint or suspicion or gloom or resentment;
his great concern being to make everyone at ease and at home. He has his
eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle
towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect
to whom he is speaking; he guards against unreasonable allusions or
topics that may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and
never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems
to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except
when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort; he has no ears
for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who
interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best. He is never
mean or little in his disputes, never takes an unfair advantage, never
mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates
evil which he dare not say out.... He has too much good sense to be
affronted at insult; he is too busy to remember injuries, and too
indolent to bear malice.... If he engages in controversy of any kind his
disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of
better though less educated minds, who, like blunt weapons, tear and
hack instead of cutting clean.... He may be right or wrong in his
opinion, but he is too clear-headed to be unjust; he is as simple as he
is forcible, and as brief as he is decisive. Nowhere shall we find
greater candour, consideration, indulgence. He throws himself into the
minds of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes. He knows the
weakness of human nature as well as its strength, its province, and its

I have said at the beginning of this chapter that character bears, on
the whole, a larger part in promoting success than any other things, and
that a steady perseverance in the industrial virtues seldom fails to
bring some reward in the directions that are most conducive to human
happiness. At the same time it is only too evident that success in life
is by no means measured by merit, either moral or intellectual. Life is
a great lottery, in which chance and opportunity play an enormous part.
The higher qualities are often less successful than the medium and the
lower ones. They are often most successful when they are blended with
other and inferior elements, and a large share of the great prizes fall
to the unscrupulous, the selfish, and the cunning. Probably, however,
the disparity between merit and success diminishes if we take the larger
averages, and the fortunes of nations correspond with their real worth
much more nearly than the fortunes of individuals. Success, too, is far
from being a synonym for happiness, and while the desire for happiness
is inherent in all human nature, the desire for success--at least beyond
what is needed for obtaining a fair share of the comforts of life--is
much less universal. The force of habit, the desire for a tranquil
domestic life, the love of country and of home, are often, among really
able men, stronger than the impulse of ambition; and a distaste for the
competitions and contentions of life, for the increasing
responsibilities of greatness, and for the envy and jealousies that
seldom fail to follow in its trail, may be found among men who, if they
chose to enter the arena, seem to have every requisite for success. The
strongest man is not always the most ardent climber, and the tranquil
valleys have to many a greater charm than the lofty pinnacles of life.


[73] Newman's _Scope and Nature of University Education_, Discourse IX.



Considering the countless ages that man has lived upon this globe, it
seems a strange thing that he has so little learned to acquiesce in the
normal conditions of humanity. How large a proportion of the melancholy
which is reflected in the poetry of all ages, and which is felt in
different degrees in every human soul, is due not to any special or
peculiar misfortune, but to things that are common to the whole human
race! The inexorable flight of time; the approach of old age and its
infirmities; the shadow of death; the mystery that surrounds our being;
the contrast between the depth of affection and the transitoriness and
uncertainty of life; the spectacle of the broken lives and baffled
aspirations and useless labours and misdirected talents and pernicious
energies and long-continued delusions that fill the path of human
history; the deep sense of vanity and aimlessness that must sometimes
come over us as we contemplate a world in which chance is so often
stronger than wisdom; in which desert and reward are so widely
separated; in which living beings succeed each other in such a vast and
bewildering redundance--eating, killing, suffering, and dying for no
useful discoverable purpose,--all these things belong to the normal lot
or to the inevitable setting of human life. Nor can it be said that
science, which has so largely extended our knowledge of the Universe, or
civilisation, which has so greatly multiplied our comforts and
alleviated our pains, has in any degree diminished the sadness they
bring. It seems, indeed, as if the more man is raised above a purely
animal existence, and his mental and moral powers are developed, the
more this kind of feeling increases.

In few if any periods of the world's history has it been more
perceptible in literature than at present. Physical constitution and
temperament have a vast and a humiliating power of deepening or
lightening it, and the strength or weakness of religious belief largely
affects it, yet the best, the strongest, the most believing, and the
most prosperous cannot wholly escape it. Sometimes it finds its true
expression in the lines of Raleigh:

     Even such is time; which takes in trust
     Our youth, our joys, and all we have!
     And pays us nought but age and dust,
     Which in the dark and silent grave,
     When we have wandered all our ways,
     Shuts up the story of our days;
     And from which grave and earth and dust,
     The Lord shall raise me up, I trust.

Sometimes it takes the tone of a lighter melancholy touched with

     La vie est vaine:
       Un peu d'amour,
     Un peu de haine,
       Et puis--bon jour.

     La vie est brève,
       Un peu d'espoir,
     Un peu de rêve,
       Et puis--bon soir.[74]

There are few sayings which deserve better to be brought continually
before our minds than that of Franklin: 'You value life; then do not
squander time, for time is the stuff of life.' Of all the things that
are bestowed on men, none is more valuable, but none is more unequally
used, and the true measurement of life should be found less in its
duration than in the amount that is put into it. The waste of time is
one of the oldest of commonplaces, but it is one of those which are
never really stale. How much of the precious 'stuff of life' is wasted
by want of punctuality; by want of method involving superfluous and
repeated effort; by want of measure prolonging things that are
pleasurable or profitable in moderation to the point of weariness,
satiety, and extravagance; by want of selection dwelling too much on the
useless or the unimportant; by want of intensity, growing out of a
nature that is listless and apathetic both in work and pleasure. Time
is, in one sense, the most elastic of things. It is one of the commonest
experiences that the busiest men find most of it for exceptional work,
and often a man who, under the strong stimulus of an active professional
life, repines bitterly that he finds so little time for pursuing some
favourite work or study, discovers, to his own surprise, that when
circumstances have placed all his time at his disposal he does less in
this field than in the hard-earned intervals of a crowded life. The art
of wisely using the spare five minutes, the casual vacancies or
intervals of life, is one of the most valuable we can acquire. There are
lives in which the main preoccupation is to get through time. There are
others in which it is to find time for all that has to be got through,
and most men, in different periods of their lives, are acquainted with
both extremes. With some, time is mere duration, a blank, featureless
thing, gliding swiftly and insensibly by. With others every day, and
almost every hour, seems to have its distinctive stamp and character,
for good or ill, in work or pleasure. There are vast differences in this
respect between different ages of history, and between different
generations in the same country, between town and country life, and
between different countries. 'Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle
of Cathay' is profoundly true, and no traveller can fail to be
insensible to the difference in the value of time in a Northern and in a
Southern country. The leisure of some nations seems busier than the work
of others, and few things are more resting to an overwrought and jaded
Anglo-Saxon nature than to pass for a short season into one of those
countries where time seems almost without value.

On the whole there can be little doubt that life in the more civilised
nations has, in our own generation, largely increased. It is not simply
that its average duration is extended. This, in a large degree, is due
to the diminished amount of infant mortality. The improvement is shown
more conclusively in the increased commonness of vigorous and active old
age, in the multitude of new contrivances for economising and therefore
increasing time, in the far greater intensity of life both in the forms
of work and in the forms of pleasure. 'Life at high pressure' is not
without its drawbacks and its evils, but it at least means life which is
largely and fully used.

All intermissions of work, however, even when they do not take the form
of positive pleasure, are not waste of time. Overwork, in all
departments of life, is commonly bad economy, not so much because it
often breaks down health--most of what is attributed to this cause is
probably rather due to anxiety than to work--as because it seldom fails
to impair the quality of work. A great portion of our lives passes in
the unconsciousness of sleep, and perhaps no part is more usefully
spent. It not only brings with it the restoration of our physical
energies, but it also gives a true and healthy tone to our moral nature.
Of all earthly things sleep does the most to place things in their true
proportions, calming excited nerves and dispelling exaggerated cares.
How many suicides have been averted, how many rash enterprises and
decisions have been prevented, how many dangerous quarrels have been
allayed, by the soothing influence of a few hours of steady sleep!
'Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care' is, indeed, in a
careworn world, one of the chief of blessings. Its healing and
restorative power is as much felt in the sicknesses of the mind as in
those of the body, and, in spite of the authority of Solomon, it is
probably a wise thing for men to take the full measure of it, which
undoctored nature demands. The true waste of time of the sluggard is
not in the amount of natural sleep he enjoys, but in the time idly
spent in bed when sleep has ceased, and in misplaced and mistimed sleep,
which is not due to any genuine craving of the body for rest, but simply
to mental sluggishness, to lack of interest and attention.

Some men have claimed for sleep even more than this. 'The night-time of
the body,' an ancient writer has said, 'is the day-time of the soul,'
and some, who do not absolutely hold the old belief that it is in the
dreams of the night that the Divine Spirit most communicates with man,
have, nevertheless, believed that the complete withdrawal of our minds
from those worldly cares which haunt our waking hours and do so much to
materialise and harden our natures is one of the first conditions of a
higher life. 'In proportion,' said Swedenborg, 'as the mind is capable
of being withdrawn from things sensual and corporeal, in the same
proportion it is elevated into things celestial and spiritual.' It has
been noticed that often thoughts and judgments, scattered and entangled
in our evening hours, seem sifted, clarified, and arranged in sleep;
that problems which seemed hopelessly confused when we lay down are at
once and easily solved when we awake, 'as though a reason more perfect
than reason had been at work when we were in our beds.' Something
analogous to this, it has been contended, takes place in our moral
natures. 'A process is going on in us during those hours which is not,
and cannot be, brought so effectually, if at all, at any other time, and
we are spiritually growing, developing, ripening more continuously while
thus shielded from the distracting influences of the phenomenal world
than during the hours in which we are absorbed in them.... Is it not
precisely the function of sleep to give us for a portion of every day in
our lives a respite from worldly influences which, uninterrupted, would
deprive us of the instruction, of the spiritual reinforcements,
necessary to qualify us to turn our waking experiences of the world to
the best account without being overcome by them? It is in these hours
that the plans and ambitions of our external worldly life cease to
interfere with or obstruct the flow of the Divine life into the

Without, however, following this train of thought, it is at least
sufficiently clear that no small portion of the happiness of life
depends upon our sleeping hours. Plato has exhorted men to observe
carefully their dreams as indicating their natural dispositions,
tendencies, and temptations, and--perhaps with more reason--Burton and
Franklin have proposed 'the art of procuring pleasant dreams' as one of
the great, though little recognised, branches of the science of life.
This is, no doubt, mainly a question of diet, exercise, efficient
ventilation, and a wise distribution of hours, but it is also largely
influenced by moral causes.

     Somnia quæ mentes ludunt volitantibus umbris,
     Nec delubra deum, nec ab æthere numina mittunt,
     Sed sibi quisque facit.

To appease the perturbations of the mind, to live a tranquil, upright,
unremorseful life, to cultivate the power of governing by the will the
current of our thoughts, repressing unruly passions, exaggerated
anxieties, and unhealthy desires, is at least one great recipe for
banishing from our pillows those painful dreams that contribute not a
little to the unhappiness of many lives.

An analogous branch of self-culture is that which seeks to provide some
healthy aliment for the waking hours of the night, when time seems so
unnaturally prolonged, and when gloomy thoughts and exaggerated and
distempered views of the trials of life peculiarly prevail. Among the
ways in which education may conduce to the real happiness of man, its
power of supplying pleasant or soothing thoughts for those dreary hours
is not the least, though it is seldom or never noticed in books or
speeches. It is, perhaps, in this respect that the early habit of
committing poetry--and especially religious poetry--to memory is most

In estimating the value of those intermissions of labour which are not
spent in active enjoyment one other consideration may be noted. There
are times when the mind should lie fallow, and all who have lived the
intellectual life with profit have perceived that it is often in those
times that it most regains the elasticity it may have lost and becomes
most prolific in spontaneous thought. Many periods of life which might
at first sight appear to be merely unused time are, in truth, among the
most really valuable.

We have all noticed the curious fact of the extreme apparent
inequalities of time, though it is, in its essence, of all things the
most uniform. Periods of pain or acute discomfort seem unnaturally
long, but this lengthening of time is fortunately not true of all the
melancholy scenes of life, nor is it peculiar to things that are
painful. An invalid life with its almost unbroken monotony, and with the
large measure of torpor that often accompanies it, usually flies very
quickly, and most persons must have observed how the first week of
travel, or of some other great change of habits and pursuits, though
often attended with keen enjoyment, appears disproportionately long.
Routine shortens and variety lengthens time, and it is therefore in the
power of men to do something to regulate its pace. A life with many
landmarks, a life which is much subdivided when those subdivisions are
not of the same kind, and when new and diverse interests, impressions,
and labours follow each other in swift and distinct succession, seems
the most long, and youth, with its keen susceptibility to impressions,
appears to move much more slowly than apathetic old age. How almost
immeasurably long to a young child seems the period from birthday to
birthday! How long to the schoolboy seems the interval between vacation
and vacation! How rapid as we go on in life becomes the awful beat of
each recurring year! When the feeling of novelty has grown rare, and
when interests have lost their edge, time glides by with an
ever-increasing celerity. Campbell has justly noticed as a beneficent
provision of nature that it is in the period of life when enjoyments are
fewest, and infirmities most numerous, that the march of time seems most

     The more we live, more brief appear
       Our life's succeeding stages,
     A day to childhood seems a year,
       And years like passing ages.

       *       *       *       *       *

     When Joys have lost their bloom and breath,
       And life itself is vapid,
     Why as we reach the Falls of death
       Feel we its tide more rapid?

       *       *       *       *       *

     Heaven gives our years of fading strength
       Indemnifying fleetness;
     And those of youth a seeming length
       Proportioned to their sweetness.

The shortness of life is one of the commonplaces of literature. Yet
though we may easily conceive beings with faculties both of mind and
body adapted to a far longer life than ours, it will usually be found,
with our existing powers, that life, if not prematurely shortened, is
long enough. In the case of men who have played a great part in public
affairs, the best work is nearly always done before old age. It is a
remarkable fact that although a Senate, by its very derivation, means an
assembly of old men, and although in the Senate of Rome, which was the
greatest of all, the members sat for life, there was a special law
providing that no Senator, after sixty, should be summoned to attend his
duty.[76] In the past centuries active septuagenarian statesmen were
very rare, and in parliamentary life almost unknown. In our own century
there have been brilliant exceptions, but in most cases it will be
found that the true glory of these statesmen rests on what they had done
before old age, and sometimes the undue prolongation of their active
lives has been a grave misfortune, not only to their own reputations,
but also to the nations they influenced. Often, indeed, while faculties
diminish, self-confidence, even in good men, increases. Moral and
intellectual failings that had been formerly repressed take root and
spread, and it is no small blessing that they have but a short time to
run their course. In the case of men of great capacities the follies of
age are perhaps even more to be feared than the follies of youth. When
men have made a great reputation and acquired a great authority, when
they become the objects of the flattery of nations, and when they can,
with little trouble or thought or study, attract universal attention, a
new set of temptations begins. Their heads are apt to be turned. The
feeling of responsibility grows weaker; the old judgment, caution,
deliberation, self-restraint, and timidity disappear. Obstinacy and
prejudice strengthen, while at the same time the force of the reasoning
will diminishes. Sometimes, through a failing that is partly
intellectual, but partly also moral, they almost wholly lose the power
of realising or recognising new conditions, discoveries and necessities.
They view with jealousy the rise of new reputations and of younger men,
and the well-earned authority of an old man becomes the most formidable
obstacle to improvement. In the field of politics, in the field of
science, and in the field of military organisation, these truths might
be abundantly illustrated. In the case of great but maleficent genius
the shortness of life is a priceless blessing. Few greater curses could
be imagined for the human race than the prolongation for centuries of
the life of Napoleon.

In literature also the same law may be detected. A writer's best
thoughts are usually expressed long before extreme old age, though the
habit and desire of production continue. The time of repetition, of
diluted force, and of weakened judgment--the age when the mind has lost
its flexibility and can no longer assimilate new ideas or keep pace with
the changing modes and tendencies of another generation--often sets in
while physical life is but little enfeebled. In this case, it is true,
the evil is not very great, for Time may be trusted to sift the chaff
from the wheat, and though it may not preserve the one it will
infallibly discard the other. 'While I live,' Victor Hugo said with some
grandiloquence, but also with some justice, 'it is my duty to produce.
It is the duty of the world to select, from what I produce, that which
is worth keeping. The world will discharge its duty. I shall discharge
mine.' At the same time, no one can have failed to observe how much in
our own generation the long silence of Newman in his old age added to
his dignity and his reputation, and the same thing might have been said
of Carlyle if a beneficent fire had destroyed the unrevised manuscripts
which he wrote or dictated when a very old man.

We are here, however, dealing with great labours, and with men who are
filling a great place in the world's strife. The decay of faculty and
will, that impairs power in these cases, is often perceptible long
before there is any real decay in the powers that are needed for
ordinary business or for the full enjoyment of life. But the time comes
when children have grown into maturity, and when it becomes desirable
that a younger generation should take the government of the world,
should inherit its wealth, its power, its dignities, its many means of
influence and enjoyment; and this cannot be fully done till the older
generation is laid to rest. Often, indeed, old age, when it is free from
grave infirmities and from great trials and privations, is the most
honoured, the most tranquil, and perhaps on the whole the happiest
period of life. The struggles, passions, and ambitions of other days
have passed. The mellowing touch of time has allayed animosities,
subdued old asperities of character, given a larger and more tolerant
judgment, cured the morbid sensitiveness that most embitters life. The
old man's mind is stored with the memories of a well-filled and
honourable life. In the long leisures that now fall to his lot he is
often enabled to resume projects which in a crowded professional life he
had been obliged to adjourn; he finds (as Adam Smith has said) that one
of the greatest pleasures in life is reverting in old age to the studies
of youth, and he himself often feels something of the thrill of a second
youth in his sympathy with the children who are around him. It is the
St. Martin's summer, lighting with a pale but beautiful gleam the brief
November day. But the time must come when all the alternatives of life
are sad, and the least sad is a speedy and painless end. When the eye
has ceased to see and the ear to hear, when the mind has failed and all
the friends of youth are gone, and the old man's life becomes a burden
not only to himself but to those about him, it is far better that he
should quit the scene. If a natural clinging to life, or a natural
shrinking from death, prevents him from clearly realising this, it is at
least fully seen by all others.

Nor, indeed, does this love of life in most cases of extreme old age
greatly persist. Few things are sadder than to see the young, or those
in mature life, seeking, according to the current phrase, to find means
of "killing time." But in extreme old age, when the power of work, the
power of reading, the pleasures of society, have gone, this phrase
acquires a new significance. As Madame de Staël has beautifully said,
'On dépose fleur à fleur la couronne de la vie.' An apathy steals over
every faculty, and rest--unbroken rest--becomes the chief desire. I
remember a touching epitaph in a German churchyard: 'I will arise, O
Christ, when Thou callest me; but oh! let me rest awhile, for I am very

After all that can be said, most men are reluctant to look Time in the
face. The close of the year or a birthday is to them merely a time of
revelry, into which they enter in order to turn away from depressing
thought. They shrink from what seems to them the dreary truth, that they
are drifting to a dark abyss. To many the milestones along the path of
life are tombstones, every epoch being mainly associated in their
memories with a death. To some, past time is nothing--a closed chapter
never to be reopened.

     The past is nothing, and at last,
     The future can but be the past.

To others, the thought of the work achieved in the vanished years is the
most real and abiding of their possessions. They can feel the force of
the noble lines of Dryden:

     Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
     But what has been has been, and I have had my hour.

He who would look Time in the face without illusion and without fear
should associate each year as it passes with new developments of his
nature; with duties accomplished, with work performed. To fill the time
allotted to us to the brim with action and with thought is the only way
in which we can learn to watch its passage with equanimity.


[74] Monte-Naken.

[75] See _The Mystery of Sleep_, by John Bigelow.

[76] Seneca, _de Brevitate Vitæ_, cap. XX.



It is easy to conceive circumstances not widely different from those of
actual life that would, if not altogether, at least very largely, take
from death the gloom that commonly surrounds it. If all the members of
the human race died either before two or after seventy; if death was in
all cases the swift and painless thing that it is with many; and if the
old man always left behind him children to perpetuate his name, his
memory, and his thoughts, Death, though it might still seem a sad thing,
would certainly not excite the feelings it now so often produces. Of all
the events that befall us, it is that which owes most of its horror not
to itself, but to its accessories, its associations, and to the
imaginations that cluster around it. 'Death,' indeed, as a great stoical
moralist said, 'is the only evil that can never touch us. When we are,
death is not. When death comes, we are not.'

The composition of treatises of consolation intended to accustom men to
contemplate death without terror was one of the favourite exercises of
the philosophers in the Augustan and in the subsequent periods of Pagan
Rome. The chapter which Cicero has devoted to this subject in his
treatise on old age is a beautiful example of how it appeared to a
virtuous pagan, who believed in a future life which would bring him into
communion with those whom he had loved and lost on earth, but who at the
same time recognised this only as a probability, not a certainty.
"Death," he said, 'is an event either utterly to be disregarded if it
extinguish the soul's existence, or much to be wished if it convey her
to some region where she shall continue to exist for ever. One of these
two consequences must necessarily follow the disunion of soul and body;
there is no other possible alternative. What then have I to fear if
after death I shall either not be miserable or shall certainly be

Vague notions, however, of a dim, twilight, shadowy world where the
ghosts of the dead lived a faint and joyless existence, and whence they
sometimes returned to haunt the living in their dreams, were widely
spread through the popular imaginations, and it was as the extinction of
all superstitious fears that the school of Lucretius and Pliny welcomed
the belief that all things ended with death--'Post mortem nihil est,
ipsaque mors nihil.' Nor is it by any means certain that even in the
school of Plato the thought of another life had a great and operative
influence on minds and characters. Death was chiefly represented as
rest; as the close of a banquet; as the universal law of nature which
befalls all living beings, though the immense majority encounter it at
an earlier period than man. It was thought of simply as
sleep--dreamless, undisturbed sleep--the final release from all the
sorrows, sufferings, anxieties, labours, and longings of life.

                             We are such stuff
     As dreams are made on, and our little life
     Is rounded with a sleep.[77]

                 The best of rest is sleep,
     And that thou oft provok'st; yet grossly fear'st
     Thy death, which is no more.[78]

     To die is landing on some silent shore
     Where billows never break, nor tempests roar.[79]

It is a strange thing to observe to what a height not only of moral
excellence, but also of devotional fervour, men have arisen without any
assistance from the doctrine of a future life. Only the faintest and
most dubious glimmer of such a belief can be traced in the Psalms, in
which countless generations of Christians have found the fullest
expression of their devotional feelings, or in the Meditations of Marcus
Aurelius, which are perhaps the purest product of pagan piety.

As I have already said, I am endeavouring in this book to steer clear of
questions of contested theologies; but it is impossible to avoid
noticing the great changes that have been introduced into the conception
of death by some of the teaching which in different forms has grown up
under the name of Christianity, though much of it may be traced in germ
to earlier periods of human development. Death in itself was made
incomparably more terrible by the notion that it was not a law but a
punishment; that sufferings inconceivably greater than those of Earth
awaited the great masses of the human race beyond the grave; that an
event which was believed to have taken place ages before we were born,
or small frailties such as the best of us cannot escape, were sufficient
to bring men under this condemnation; that the only paths to safety were
to be found in ecclesiastical ceremonies; in the assistance of priests;
in an accurate choice among competing theological doctrines. At the same
time the largest and most powerful of the Churches of Christendom has,
during many centuries, done its utmost to intensify the natural fear of
death by associating it in the imaginations of men with loathsome images
and appalling surroundings. There can be no greater contrast than that
between the Greek tomb with its garlands of flowers, its bright,
youthful and restful imagery, and the mortuary chapels that may often be
found in Catholic countries, with their ghastly pictures of the _saved_
souls writhing in purgatorial flames, while the inscription above and
the moneybox below point out the one means of alleviating their lot.

     Fermati, O Passagiero, mira tormenti.
     Siamo abbandonati dai nostri parenti.
     Di noi abbiate pietà, o voi amici cari.

This is one side of the picture. On the other hand it cannot be
questioned that the strong convictions and impressive ceremonies, even
of the most superstitious faith, have consoled and strengthened
multitudes in their last moments, and in the purer and more enlightened
forms of Christianity death now wears a very different aspect from what
it did in the teaching of mediæval Catholicism, or of some of the sects
that grew out of the Reformation. Human life ending in the weakness of
old age and in the corruption of the tomb will always seem a humiliating
anti-climax, and often a hideous injustice. The belief in the rightful
supremacy of conscience, and in an eternal moral law redressing the many
wrongs and injustices of life, and securing the ultimate triumph of good
over evil; the incapacity of earth and earthly things to satisfy our
cravings and ideals; the instinctive revolt of human nature against the
idea of annihilation, and its capacity for affections and attachments,
which seem by their intensity to transcend the limits of earth and carry
with them in moments of bereavement a persuasion or conviction of
something that endures beyond the grave,--all these things have found in
Christian beliefs a sanction and a satisfaction that men had failed to
find in Socrates or Cicero, or in the vague Pantheism to which
unassisted reason naturally inclines.

Looking, however, on death in its purely human aspects, the mourner
should consider how often in a long illness he wished the dying man
could sleep; how consoling to his mind was the thought of every hour of
peaceful rest; of every hour in which the patient was withdrawn from
consciousness, insensible to suffering, removed for a time from the
miseries of a dying life. He should ask himself whether these intervals
of insensibility were not on the whole the happiest in the
illness--those which he would most have wished to multiply or to
prolong. He should accustom himself, then, to think of death as
sleep--undisturbed sleep--the only sleep from which man never wakes to

You find yourself in the presence of what is a far deeper and more
poignant trial than an old man's death--a young life cut off in its
prime; the eclipse of a sun before the evening has arrived. Accustom
yourself to consider the life that has passed as a whole. A human being
has been called into the world--has lived in it ten, twenty, thirty
years. It seems to you an intolerable instance of the injustice of fate
that he is so early cut off. Estimate, then, that life as a whole, and
ask yourself whether, so judged, it has been a blessing or the reverse.
Count up the years of happiness. Count up the days, or perhaps weeks, of
illness and of pain. Measure the happiness that this short life has
given to some who have passed away; who never lived to see its early
close. Balance the happiness which during its existence it gave to those
who survived, with the poignancy and the duration of pain caused by the
loss. Here, for example, is one who lived perhaps twenty-five years in
health and vigour; whose life during that period was chequered by no
serious misfortune; whose nature, though from time to time clouded by
petty anxieties and cares, was on the whole bright, buoyant, and happy;
who had the capacity of vivid enjoyment and many opportunities of
attaining it; who felt all the thrill of health and friendship and
ecstatic pleasure. Then came a change,--a year or two with a crippled
wing--life, though not abjectly wretched, on the whole a burden, and
then the end. You can easily conceive--you can ardently desire--a better
lot, but judge fairly the lights and shades of what has been. Does not
the happiness on the whole exceed the evil? Can you honestly say that
this life has been a curse and not a blessing?--that it would have been
better if it had never been called out of nothingness?--that it would
have been better if the drama had never been played? It is over now. As
you lay in his last home the object of so much love, ask yourself
whether, even in a mere human point of view, this parenthesis between
two darknesses has not been on the whole productive of more happiness
than pain to him and to those around him.

It was an ancient saying that 'he whom the gods love dies young,' and
more than one legend representing speedy and painless death as the
greatest of blessings has descended to us from pagan antiquity; while
other legends, like that of Tithonus, anticipated the picture which
Swift has so powerfully but so repulsively drawn of the misery of old
age and its infirmities, if death did not come as a release. I have
elsewhere related an old Irish legend embodying this truth. 'In a
certain lake in Munster, it is said, there were two islands; into the
first death could never enter, but age and sickness, and the weariness
of life and the paroxysms of fearful suffering were all known there, and
they did their work till the inhabitants, tired of their immortality,
learned to look upon the opposite island as upon a haven of repose. They
launched their barks upon its gloomy waters; they touched its shore, and
they were at rest.'[80]

No one, however, can confidently say whether an early death is a
misfortune, for no one can really know what calamities would have
befallen the dead man if his life had been prolonged. How often does it
happen that the children of a dead parent do things or suffer things
that would have broken his heart if he had lived to see them! How often
do painful diseases lurk in germ in the body which would have produced
unspeakable misery if an early and perhaps a painless death had not
anticipated their development! How often do mistakes and misfortunes
cloud the evening and mar the beauty of a noble life, or moral
infirmities, unperceived in youth or early manhood, break out before the
day is over! Who is there who has not often said to himself as he looked
back on a completed life, how much happier it would have been had it
ended sooner? 'Give us timely death' is in truth one of the best prayers
that man can pray. Pain, not Death, is the real enemy to be combated,
and in this combat, at least, man can do much. Few men can have lived
long without realising how many things are worse than death, and how
many knots there are in life that Death alone can untie.

Remember, above all, that whatever may lie beyond the tomb, the tomb
itself is nothing to you. The narrow prison-house, the gloomy pomp, the
hideousness of decay, are known to the living and the living alone. By a
too common illusion of the imagination, men picture themselves as
consciously dead,--going through the process of corruption, and aware of
it; imprisoned with the knowledge of the fact in the most hideous of
dungeons. Endeavour earnestly to erase this illusion from your mind, for
it lies at the root of the fear of death, and it is one of the worst
sides of mediæval and of much modern teaching and art that it tends to
strengthen it. Nothing, if we truly realise it, is less real than the
grave. We should be no more concerned with the after fate of our
discarded bodies than with that of the hair which the hair-cutter has
cut off. The sooner they are resolved into their primitive elements the
better. The imagination should never be suffered to dwell upon their

Bacon has justly noticed that while death is often regarded as the
supreme evil, there is no human passion that does not become so powerful
as to lead men to despise it. It is not in the waning days of life, but
in the full strength of youth, that men, through ambition or the mere
love of excitement, fearlessly and joyously encounter its risk.
Encountered in hot blood it is seldom feared, and innumerable accounts
of shipwrecks and other accidents, and many episodes in every war, show
conclusively how calmly honour, duty, and discipline can enable men of
no extraordinary characters, virtues, or attainments, to meet it even
when it comes before them suddenly, as an inevitable fact, and without
any of that excitement which might blind their eyes. If we analyse our
own feelings on the death of those we love, we shall probably find that,
except in cases where life is prematurely shortened and much promise cut
off, pity for the dead person is rarely a marked element. The feelings
which had long been exclusively concentrated on the sufferings of the
dying man take a new course when the moment of death arrives. It is the
sudden blank; the separation from him who is dear to us; the cessation
of the long reciprocity of love and pleasure,--in a word our own
loss,--that affects us then. 'A happy release' is perhaps the phrase
most frequently heard around a death-bed. And as we look back through
the vista of a few years, and have learned to separate death more
clearly from the illness that preceded it, the sense of its essential
peacefulness and naturalness grows upon us. A vanished life comes to be
looked upon as a day that has past, but leaving many memories behind it.

It is, I think, a healthy tendency that is leading men in our own
generation to turn away as much as possible from the signs and the
contemplation of death. The pomp and elaboration of funerals; protracted
mournings surrounding us with the gloom of an ostentatious and
artificial sorrow; above all, the long suspension of those active habits
which nature intended to be the chief medicine of grief, are things
which at least in the English-speaking world are manifestly declining.
We should try to think of those who have passed away as they were at
their best, and not in sickness or in decay. True sorrow needs no
ostentation, and the gloom of death no artificial enhancement. Every
good man, knowing the certainty of death and the uncertainty of its
hour, will make it one of his first duties to provide for those he loves
when he has himself passed away, and to do all in his power to make the
period of bereavement as easy as possible. This is the last service he
can render before the ranks are closed, and his place is taken, and the
days of forgetfulness set in. In careers of riot and of vice the thought
of death may have a salutary restraining influence; but in a useful,
busy, well-ordered life it should have little place. It was not the
Stoics alone who 'bestowed too much cost on death, and by their
preparations made it more fearful.'[81] As Spinoza has taught, 'the
proper study of a wise man is not how to die but how to live,' and as
long as he is discharging this task aright he may leave the end to take
care of itself. The great guiding landmarks of a wise life are indeed
few and simple; to do our duty--to avoid useless sorrow--to acquiesce
patiently in the inevitable.


[77] _The Tempest._

[78] _Measure for Measure._

[79] Garth.

[80] _History of European Morals_, i. p. 203. The legend is related by

[81] Bacon.

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