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THE NATIONAL ACME. --THE SCHOOLS OF STATESMEN
AND THE AGE OF ORATORY.
With different pace, after various fashions, and with fortune still more various, the nations of the world traverse the course of national development. He who describes a course of this kind can never, in a world of imperfection, hope to find an example of what he describes complete in all its parts. The course sketched out is what disciples of Aristotle would call the vTeRéyera of nations, or that which they are capable of attaining. Each stage of society has a special aptitude for attaining a special development. We find to what this aptitude leads by observing among the various instances which history has recorded to what each instance tends, and that which the most fully developed has attained we called the εντελέχεια, or perfect development of that stage. The perfect development of the successive stages forms the perfect development of national life.
It were a great and noble enterprise to determine the power and influence of statesmen in aiding the nations that they govern to attain the perfect development for which they are adapted. In the general government of the world, the great and comprehensive movements take place at the command of a high and inscrutable power, which yet leaves to man to regulate the details of those movements, and, after a humble fashion, to co-operate in promoting them. The laws of physical science, when
put in action, as they may be by man, act in a manner beyond the control of our species ; but to decide whether, in particular instances, they shall, or shall not, be put into action, is one of man's noblest prerogatives. And so I believe, and the reader has now had presented to his attention some reasons for that belief, that though the great and general course of national progress is decreed by Him who created the beings by whose union and society nations are formed, yet that it is in the power of those beings to determine not only whether their several nations shall enter upon that course of progress, but also it is given to them to rule the pace and the manner in which that course is traversed. Nations cannot go off the rails upon which the command of a Divine power requires them to proceed ; but to their statesmen, in some measure at least, it is committed to determine how they shall run upon these rails.
The idea of national progress is the passage through a series of phases marked by distinct and obvious characteristics. It were difficult to imagine, that those who
. are at the head of the progressing nation, and conduct it through a phase, or from one phase to another, should not take their complexion from the climate in which they steer. The phases are distinguished by the different forms of social order which are therein respectively established. Those who are at the head of the nation have belonging to them characteristics attributable to the social order in which they act. Hence arise what I call the schools of statesmen. It may be true that there is a general character pervading all persons who at any time assume to guide their nations; but the distinctions in the schools of statesmen are determined by the point in the national progress at which such school assumes to rule. And I, therefore, seek to portray here the schools of statesmanship previously to, and preceding the national acme, and to lay down that the national acme is the age of oratory.
After the conquest, or pseudo-conquest, which gives the first start to national progress, the dominant race takes upon itself the whole duty of governing. Its position is that of an invading army. In the little states of Greece, and in ancient Rome, the invaders, or those who, by prior occupation of the soil, and subsequent admittance of an inferior race, held the place of conquerors, lived together in towns as they would in a camp. Each, perhaps, inhabited a fortified castle; but these castles all lay near together, and the subjects were distinguished as those who lived outside the town, which, in fact, consisted only of these feudal residences. Whereas, in modern nations, the invaders rather settled on separate domains, living in castles far distant from each other, surrounded by retainers, whose fidelity was secured by the lord giving them his protection against the incursions of neighbouring lords.
So great a difference in the mode of life produced a difference in the character of the governors. When the leaders were gathered together in a town, or collection of seignorial houses, the necessity of an organisation led to the legislative achievements of Lycurgus, Solon, Romulus, and the many other half-mythical persons who devised laws, according to which those who had fought side by side might live in peaceful dominion over the territories and the subjects they had acquired.
The barons of the middle ages, instead of living in a common society in towns, which were in fact armed camps, settled themselves in isolated castles. In many cases this produced a state of anarchy and disorganisation, cach baron being sovereign in his own territory.
In many parts of Germany these independent baronies never coalesced, and in France centuries passed before they did so. The little potentates reigned over their prinipalities according to the impulses of their nature and the endurance of their subjects. Like most great landlords who live on their estates, they would rather partake
the happiness and merriment of their dependants than be saddened by the spectacle of their distress. So long as these barons remain in a state of sovereign independence their management of their dominions bears but a very remote relation to what is understood by statesmanship Their combination alone produces nations, and gives rise to statesmanship : for the collected barons in their assembly have need of the same organisation as the Greek warriors in their camp town, and meet to choose a head, and settle laws for the government of themselves and their subjects.
This primitive distinction in the social arrangements of the ancient and modern aristocracy accounts for the difference between the ancient and modern schools of aristocratic statesmanship. The ancients collected together, as it were, in a camp, although their tent-castles might be grand and fortified, were firmly impressed, above all things, with their duty to the state, which was little else than a military brotherhood, established for their common protection, and requiring obedience to the discipline of the legislator. For if we examine what interests were the chief care of the earlier legislators of Greece, more especially of the Spartan, we shall find that their solicitude was directed to the maintenance of the aristocratic dominion possessed by the lords of the town over the dispersed inhabitants of the country, or those subject retainers whom they kept about their persons. To preserve their dominion, a discipline was established, more openly military and camp-like in Sparta than in other places, but still everywhere requiring, in the name of duty to the state, considerable sacrifices from the individual aristocrats.
The aristocrats of modern Europe proceeded on a different principle. Accustomed, after a rude fashion, to legislate for their own territories individually, they met in pompous assembly to legislate for these territories collectively. Their legislation, equally with that of the ancients, was directed to the preservation of the power of the nobles; but the nobles, strong in the affections and fears of their several subjects, were less united to each other, and indeed had less reason for this union than the aristocrats of ancient Greece; and the consequence of this is, that their statesmanship regarded the individual much more than the state, and, being the result rather of conflicting contentions of independent potentates, than of the thoughtful care of one or two wise men deputed to legislate for the whole nation, the laws of the old aristocracies of Europe have a less systematic and scientific character than those of the ancient aristocratic legislators; and though some great monarchs of the middle ages, representing in their persons the unity of the nation, and enforcing that unity by the establishment, or rather the collection of laws which should bind the whole of the constituent baronies together, have achieved a legislative reputation, like Edward the Confessor ; yet the modern aristocracies had not that glory of central and scientific legislation which surrounds the memory of Solon, Lycurgus, Minos, Romulus, and Numa ; and perhaps these considerations on the difference of the social condition of the ancient and modern aristocrats may explain the difference of their statesmanship.
One characteristic belongs always to the statesmanship of aristocracy : whether the aristocrats reside in towns or in isolated castles, and whether they start with a simple code of laws collected by a wise monarch, or with a medley of laws thrown up as the froth of the turbulent and contentious commingling of antagonistic interests, their legislation aims principally at maintaining the good order of the state, the maintenance of the established distinctions, and discourages all the elements of change. Nowhere was this characteristic more conspicuous than in Sparta, where the legislator provided both against the establishment of a monarchy-—which is often a great means of advancing the national progress—and against