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characteristics, their relations with foreign powers, their laws and customs, and an infinitude of other simple ideas, too vast to be enumerated here, some explanation is adumbrated of that phrase which, by denoting as a whole the condition of a national system, is intended to imply that for a knowledge of it we must necessarily know the condition of every constituent part.

The principle of a necessary relation between the form of government and the circumstances and habits of the society in which it is established, dismisses as vain and fruitless the abstract dissertations about the comparative excellence of any ideal government, in which it was so much the habit of the last age to indulge. With Pope we may say:

“ For forms of government let fools contest,

Whiche'er is best administer'd is best :"


if by “best administered” we understand not merely that in which the dominant order exercises its superiority and its power most for the general good, but also that which is best suited to the exigencies of the state. go-cart and a merlin-chair are excellent things for the infantine and the senile respectively, but it would be manifestly absurd to assert that the go-cart is the instrument most suited for the locomotive powers of man. But it is just as absurd to discuss the question whether monarchy or democracy is the best form of government for every community, in every stage of its existence, and under all circumstances. There is no model institution, no infallible panacea, whether Benthamite or not, for sick nations. A true Englishman believes constitutional monarchy to be the best government, and long may he think so; but the cosmopolitan politician must admit that each form has been found good and necessary in its turn, and the government must be changed when the national climate changes. As the husbandman reaps most when he sows what suits the climate and the soil, so nations reap a



larger harvest of happiness when they adapt their government to the necessities of the age.

If these positions are true, it follows that a limit is placed on the power of the legislator. I cannot discuss that limit any more than I can discuss the bounds of the free will of man : but it is evident that the legislator is subject to the same restrictions as those imposed on his fellow men in their every action, for universally human will consists only in the power to decide this alternative;Shall we, or shall we not, in reference to this particular matter, put into operation any, and which, of those laws of nature, which by the constitution of things are appropriate to act upon it. M. Quetelet's * “disturbing force of mankind” is nothing but the exercise of this power of removing the subject-matter out of the region of one law into that of another. Man has the capacity of disturbing the operations of a law, but he has only the option of some few ways of disturbing them, viz. of calling into action some of the other laws which are framed so as to be competent to act upon the subject. Till, therefore, we know all the laws of nature, it is impossible to know the limits or extent of human power. But it is manifest, that in proportion as the laws become more known, man will know better how to effect his ends, and his power will, therefore, practically increase. Yet so long as men remain constituted as we are, never can the legislator or any other human being violate without disaster the laws of nature.

Machiavel perceived this great truth, that no state could be wholesome unless its constitution was in harmony with its social adjustments; but his specific for preserving this harmony is one which would destroy

kind of progress. Instead of altering the dependent

every kind of

* Sur l'Homme, p. 22, 899:

† Lord Bacon said, “Knowledge and human power are synonymous, since the ignorance of the cause frustrates the effect."-Nov. Org. i. $ 3.

to suit the independent variable, he would have retraced the variation in both. He recommended that the state should be constantly renovated, or brought back to that primæval condition in which its constitution naturally arose.* This was more dangerous than the Spartan rule. Lycurgus desired to preserve intact the social characteristics on which a military aristocracy can alone rest with firmness ; rightly anticipating that the constitution would then need no change. By stopping the change of all national character he prevented the necessity for changing the form of government. The Jewish plan was that of Machiavel, for there trade and improvidence were allowed to bring about their natural changes unchecked for half a century together ; but at the end of every period of fifty years, God, according to their theory, resumed the whole soil, and granted it back again to the same families and in the same portions as at the first distribution. The struggles of a feudal aristocracy to wrest back whatever constitutional power a king may have drawn from them, exemplify the same principle of action, so long as the constitutional power attempted to be retaken by the aristocrats is proportionate with their substantive power in the state. The true plan is to adapt the constitution to the social conditions. In our future chapters we shall trace these social conditions, their nature, their successions, their durations; and as we trace them we shall point out the forms of government which are appropriate to them.

* Discors, lib. iii. c. 1. † Milman's History of the Jews, i. 178.



" As through a torch-race, where, from hand to hand,

The flying youths transmit their shining brand-
From frame to frame the unextinguish'd soul
Rapidly passes, till it reach the goal.” — MOORE.


Words are like coins in twenty different ways, as twenty different essayists have remarked, yet we may perhaps add to the long list one more point of similarity. When a coin is much in circulation, who examines whether the mintmaster was true to the standard and the weight ? Every one else passes their pieces without testing them ; we shall be safe in doing likewise. When a word is repeated in every number of every newspaper, who scruples to use it himself on every hack occasion ?

hack occasion ? Other persons do not know and weigh the full meaning and intent of this word — they pass it from mouth to mouth without examination. Why need we be more accurate than our neighbours ?

Progress" is the word, par excellence, which every one uses and nobody examines. It exchanges for many ideas. In one place it means railways and telegraphs; in another it means free trade ; in leading articles it is better sewerage ; in cabinets it is revolution ; on the hustings it is democracy ; in the lecture-room it is a novelty of science; in the vestry it is abolition of vested interests ; in the drawing-room it is a new knick-nack; in one nation it is liberty of the press ; in another it is increased centralisation. With servants, progress is a new name for insolence; with masters, it means a reduction of wages. In England


further on



is synonymous with the spirit of the nineteenth century; on the Continent it is looked upon as the distinctive characteristic of Anglo-Saxon civilisation. Some, like the fly on the axle-wheel, admire progress as something of their own making; others, content to be where they are, fear an unknown movement. The Liberal embraces it as the essence of his policy. The Conservative scorns it as an idea invented to delude the millions. The philosopher opens his turret casement and says, “ Do you knapa din

is the Nethe hear the daws chattering, Progress! Progress ! Who

we may kinal taught it them ?”

But in the chamber of the recluse, in the halls of analysing wisdom certainty dwells not, and the wrangling within is perhaps no better than the chattering without. Whoever would examine this current phrase comes upon one of those smouldering contests, which exist through all ages, at one time almost extinct, at another blazing out in great fury, about the nature and direction of human gress ; a contest, I need hardly say, resting in a great measure on ambiguity of expression for what contest does not? One good man and true will tell you that, for his part, he cannot help believing that the human kind has been advancing apparently towards perfection ever since history was first written. He repeats, in no spirit of vainglory, but from sober credence, the boast of Sthenelus. His only difficulty is to tell where to begin in enumerating the points in which we excel our remote ancestors. fall ill, a doctor attends us who has fifty times more medical knowledge than Galen and Hippocrates. If we look at the facilities for travelling, we may perceive a series of improvements, from the great military roads of the Romans -vast benefits in their day—to the fast coaches of twenty years ago, and the still faster trains which are at this moment flying in every direction. Nothing that we wear or handle has not been improved and rendered more accessible to all classes during the last century. And in the more important question of religion, the meanest and most

If we

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