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seem to enter the dominion of an entirely new law. Perhaps it is that we have not yet arrived at the point from which our theory started. Perhaps we are going back to the original process of the forma. tion out of chaos of the monarchy with which I have assumed the series of dif ferent forms of government to begin. There is no time so deeply interesting as the Middle Ages. We greedily read everything that even for a moment really illuminates their tantalizing twilight. But we feel that we are in an altogether different world from the one around us. Indeed our very interest in the Middle Ages comes in a great measure from their complete want of connection with the present. We feel far more at home when we read of Rome and Greece in the days of their highest civilization, and we have far more affinity with that period. I do not then think it wrong to assume that the historic
It is, indeed, from its assistance to us in this respect that the study of history derives its chief use and its chief interest. One of the lessons which this study teaches us with the greatest distinctness is, that different forms of government have a tendency to follow one another in a particular order. The rule is, of course, subject to many exceptions. A State may be conquered by some other power in the middle of its career, and cease to have a separate being, or some abnormal action may take place within its own limits. As a rule, however, a monarchy is succeeded by an oligarchy; an oligarchy, after a or less prolonged struggle, by a democracy; and a democracy by the dominion of an autocrat. I may remark, in passing, that the chief difference between the king who begins the series, and the despot who ends it, is that the king leans more or less upon the nobles who are destined in the course of nature to sup-laws which prevailed in those days are plant him, and the despot upon the people whose power he has appropriated. I have said that there are exceptions to the rule. But they are often only so in appearance. A king is sometimes overthrown by a democracy; but it is in general only for a short time, and either he or his heir is pretty sure to be restored to the throne. An oligarchy is sometimes apparently subjugated by an autocrat, but it is by the autocrat placing himself at the head of the people under the pretence of liberating them, and in most cases the rudiments of an intervening democracy, however im perfect and transitory, may be discovered by a careful eye.
Any person who wishes to verify what I have stated will find a boundless field for observation among the Greek cities of antiquity, and, excepting as regards a monarchy, the Italian cities of the Middle Ages. But the most perfect example of the whole sequence is presented to us by the greatest State that ever existed. It may be seen in the history of Rome from the time of Tarquin to that of Augustus.
What militates against the theory that I have laid down is that there is nothing to confirm it in the development of the larger States of Europe during the Middle Ages. In tracing this development we
more likely to prevail now than those which governed the actions of our barbarous ancestors, all the more as I see the civilized States of Italy even during the Middle Ages subject to the same historic laws as ancient Greece and Rome. I will then put aside the Middle Ages in the inquiry which I am about to prosecute. There is a generally recognized landmark where the Middle Ages are by common consent supposed to end, and modern history to begin. I refer to the time of the discovery of America, the Reformation, and the revival of classical learning. I will take this as my starting-point.
I began this article with reference to our own country, and I now return to it. Let us consider at what period in the history of a nation we have arrived, and whether our history up to the present moment adapts itself to my theory.
Starting from the beginning of the sixteenth century, we may say, speaking roughly, that we have run the usual course: first through monarchy not only nominal, but real; then through aristocratic government, tempered indeed, both from above and from below, but sufficiently marked not to remove us from the common type, and latterly further and further into democracy, till, if it is not
yet altogether our form of government, it may say that during the whole period be promises to be so in a short time. Such tween the Revolution of 1688 and the first has been our course till now, and every Reform Bill, the government was, on the change that has taken place hitherto ap- whole, in the hands of the upper classes. pears to me to have been inevitable. I It was they who had to be conciliated by will not enter into an argument as to what William the Third, and who occasionally is the best form of government. In my thwarted him. It was they who ruled opinion a democracy, if it can only last, under Anne. It was they who were bribed and if law and order can be maintained by Walpole; and in the middle of the under it, has at least as much to recom- century they were led by a few great fammend it as anything else. But whether ilies whose quarrels and coalitions constiwe like it or not is a matter of small im-tute the political history of that epoch. portance. It has come upon us in the Even the monarchical reaction at the end course of nature, and nothing could have of the century may perhaps be considprevented it. Looking back through the ered as an insurrection, under the auspices last three centuries, we see no point where of the king, of the mass of the upper the stream could have been dammed, or classes against these few great families. where any attempt to dam it was otherwise than productive of evil. On the other hand, any effort on the part of our rulers to hasten the course of events produced a temporary reaction. If the power of the monarch was prematurely put an end to in the time of Charles the First, the result was after a few years to increase for a moment the authority of Charles the Second. But when public opinion had definitely decreed that the centre of power must be shifted, nothing could have prevented the change. If the revolution against James the Second had been deferred, it would only have been more complete, and the supreme rule, having once slipped away from the crown, never was and never could have been restored to it. Next followed what I have called the period of aristocratic government. But it is only we who look back to it who call it by that name, and only when we speak rather loosely. Because authority was centred in the House of Commons, men imagined at the time that they lived in a free country, and the oligarchy, whom we now look upon as having pulled the strings, took care to disguise their power by speaking in the name of liberty. There was still a great deal of latent strength in the crown, as George the Third discovered when he began to draw upon it. In times of excitement the people could already make their voices pretty distinctly heard. But after making these admissions in favor of the king on the one hand, and of the people on the other, we
Let us now consider how the aristocratic period came to an end. It was briefly thus. Attention was for a long time diverted from home matters by a desperate and all-absorbing war. Soon after the peace the great families which I have mentioned, who now formed the nucleus of the Whig party, had the happy instinct to ally themselves with the people. The people were beginning to demand the free exercise of the rights which they had always in theory possessed. The impor tance of the alliance between the Whigs and the people in facilitating the transfer of power, in mitigating class bitterness, and in preserving constitutional continuity, cannot be over-estimated. But even if there had been no Whigs, the transfer would have taken place. It would have come a little later, but it would have been attended with greater violence, and we should by this time have been at least as far advanced into democracy as we are.
The Reform Bill of 1832 may be considered, roughly speaking, as the end of our aristocratic period. Is it to be wished that this period had lasted longer?
There is something fascinating at first sight in the government of an enlightened oligarchy like the Spartans of old, the Romans at the time of the second Punic war, or the Venetians of the Middle Ages. The grand tranquillity of their movements, and the lofty atmosphere of patriotism and statesmanship which surrounds them, captivate our fancy. We admire the spectacle of a certain number of ruling
families animated with a high sense of honor, accustomed to the give and take of politics, taught by tradition never to push party feeling to the serious detriment of the country, trained from their earliest years to the conduct of business, and always ready to produce a certain number of men of more than ordinary cultivation. The ministers of state chosen by natural selection from among these families, if there is sufficient competition to keep them in order and to stir them to exertion, are sometimes administrators of a very high degree of merit. But there is one fatal weakness in an oligarchical government. Even supposing that the high sense of honor is maintained, that indolence and luxury do not creep in among the governing class, that the field is wide enough to secure the forthcoming of a sufficient number of able men - - supposing all this, which is to suppose a great deal, nothing compensates for the fatal want of public spirit which this system almost as much as a despotism engenders among the masses. Indeed, the tyranny of an individual is, for some reasons, less hateful than the absolute supremacy of a class. I would consider, then, that in a perfect State an oligarchical government has great merits and great disadvantages. Our oligarchy was far from perfect. There was, in the first place, a constant and easy flow backwards and forwards between the ruling caste and the masses below, and the boundaries were very vaguely defined. In the next place we must remember, what I have before stated, that the power of the aristocracy was indirect and veiled from the public eye. Both the merits and the disadvantages of our oligarchy, if we may call it by that name, were less than in Venice or in Sparta. On the one hand the dominant class were less thoroughly trained, less highly braced for exertion, in less perfect condition for all the duties of public life. On the other hand they were less unpopular with those below them, and there was more public spirit among the main body of the people. It must be confessed that the history of England during our aristocratic government was a glorious one. The chief blot upon it, the disgraceful and disastrous manner in which we parted from our American colonies, may be imputed to the king during the temporary revival of monarchical power. It may be observed, too, that the patriotism, the integrity, the political intelligence, and the public virtue of the class which then governed the country, increased with every year of their ascen
dency. Those who regret these days have much to say for themselves. On the whole I differ from them, but I will con. tent myself with repeating that the change which took place could not have been avoided. According to the form of the Constitution, from the moment that the chief power had been vested in the House of Commons it was vested in the people. The authority of the aristocracy depended upon a restricted and irregular franchise and a grossly and ludicrously unfair distribution of seats. This could not long be maintained when once it was seriously threatened. The middle class, growing daily in wealth and numbers, in energy and intelligence, must, under any circumstances, have before long obtained supremacy. They did so in 1832, and in their turn they have had since to submit to the inevitable, and first to divide, soon probably to transfer, their power.
It is not my business to enter into the transition period of the last fifty years. It will no doubt in the future be considered a very interesting part of our constitutional history, and will probably fall naturally into a chapter by itself between the aristocratic and the democratic periods. We have certainly made progress. Whether up or down, I will leave to be argued by the historians of our two rival schools, the followers of Macaulay and the followers of Carlyle. I have always considered myself one of the former, but on one thing only have I ventured to give a decided opinion, which I once more reiterate: no change that has taken place in our Constitution could, I say, have been prevented. But this, it may be said, is after all only an opinion, and many of my readers may disagree with me. Everybody, however, must admit that we cannot now retrace our steps. In politics what is done cannot be undone. Let us look before us instead of behind, but do not let us look forward too far. Let us, in the brave and wise spirit of our best and ablest statesmen of all generations, try to discover and to meet the dangers that are immediately in front of us, leaving the far future to take care of itself, and having confidence in the destiny of our race.
I do not know that I am not rather breaking this good rule and looking for. ward too far when I allude to some form of Cæsarism as one of the dangers that may possibly threaten us. But we must remember that this is the step which would come next in our history if it continued to follow the ordinary course. I am not alone in my apprehensions. They
have been for some time in the air, and I have seen a great deal about the subject in the newspapers, even since I began to put my thoughts together for the purpose of writing this article. Before it is printed its remarks may have been forestalled, or they may already have been answered. I will however complete it. The worst that can happen to me is that it should be cast aside by the reader as one more of the many fantastic and fanciful productions to which the recent political excitement has given birth. But if anybody should show my apprehensions to be groundless, I shall be thankful.
I have not, I am happy to say, any fears at all of Cæsarism in its worst and commonest shape, that established by an able and unscrupulous general at the head of a victorious army. There has never been much danger of this, and all modern changes in our army, by separating the soldier in a less marked manner than formerly from the citizen, tend to diminish what little danger there was. But there is another kind of Cæsarism, founded not upon arms but upon the affections of the people, which, though far preferable to the first, is not pleasant to contemplate. It would, to my mind, be a great evil that everything requiring sudden and immediate action should depend upon the judg. ment and perhaps even the caprice and temper of a single man. I have great belief in the proverb that in a multitude of councillors there is wisdom. I do not like to feel that everything depends upon a single brain, even in its soundest and healthiest condition, and the possession of unlimited power is apt after a time to turn the strongest head. I do not like, either, to see those who are trusted with political power sytematically shirking thought, abandoning all attempt to grap ple in their own minds with even the simplest questions, not even putting them selves into the hands of those whom they personally know and trust, but confining their political action to voting blindly for whoever will promise to support the favorite of the hour.
The first faint symptom of the approach of this mitigated but still pernicious form of Cæsarism that I can recollect was when Lord Palmerston appealed to the country in 1857. It struck me at the time, and it strikes me still more in looking back, that the manner in which nothing more was then required of a candidate for almost every constituency than to pronounce one magic name was unlike anything I had read of as happening before that in pre
vious elections, it had not been Lord Derby, or Lord John Russell, or even Sir Robert Peel, that had been mentioned, or in earlier days Lord Melbourne, or Lord Grey, or the Duke of Wellington, but the Reform Bill or the Corn Laws, or other matters of public importance. This, however, was at the time attributed to the recent Russian war, and to gratitude on the part of the nation to the old statesman whose disinterestedness and magnanimity had seemed to furnish so strong a contrast to the intrigues and the selfishness around him, who had so fearlessly taken the helm in the very middle of the storm, when so many others seemed to shrink from it, and under whose auspices the good ship had been taken safely into port. Though Lord Palmerston remained in a high position to the end of his life, this exaggerated personal popularity soon passed away, and the spectre of Cæsarism for a time disappeared. Have we not, however, since his death, and particularly since Lord Beaconsfield's Reform Bill, seen very marked signs of its return? Did not party conflict during a few years almost assume the aspect of a duel between two men? There had been nothing like this in previous history. The names of Pitt and Fox may occur to us, but it was only in the House of Commons that political warfare assumed the appearance of personal rivalry between them. In the coun try it was a question not between Pitt and Fox, but between war and peace. Since Lord Beaconsfield has been removed, has not the weakness of the Conservative party been owing more than anything else to the fact that they have no name which they can put forward with the least chance of success against that of Mr. Gladstone? Mr. Gladstone's position in his party and in the country is the object of so much invective, and has been made to point so many morals, that it may seem as if I had been leading up to something of the same sort.
Not so. If I did feel impelled to attack him, it would be not that I loved Cæsar less, but Rome more, and it would be with the greatest reluctance; for few people have, in this instance, a greater regard and admiration for Cæsar than I have. But I do not think there is any danger from Mr. Gladstone. If he has been invested with the purple, it is at the end of a long career in the service of the republic. He has reached that point in the life of a statesman which is perhaps the most beautiful of all to contemplate, when, though the faculties are still in full vigor,
ambition has burnt itself out. The habits of a lifetime, and a modest humility of nature which is rarely to be found united with such transcendent abilities, have never allowed him to be unmindful of the opinion of those whom he has gathered round him. Long may he live to enjoy the popularity which he bears with such simple dignity! If I see something to inspire alarm in the exaggerated worship of so large a part of the nation, and in the tremendous power which it might place in the hands of an individual, it is not that I think him likely to make a bad use of it, but because I dislike and distrust the spirit which inspires such worship.
much prefer it when it is directed towards the great men of other days instead of towards any contemporary however eminent. But there is surely a false heroworship, chiefly distinguished from the true by the badness of its choice, and by the excess to which it is carried. The more glittering and superficial beauties of platform eloquence, one-sided passion, even mere scurrilous personality, may some day become terribly prominent among the means by which this pernicious idolatry may be obtained. In short, among the dangers in front of us may be the too great concentration of authority in the hands of one man, which I consider in itself an evil; and the evil may be aggravated by that man being injudiciously selected.
that one of the chief bulwarks of our liberty is the crown. I do not lay much stress upon any actual remnants of its former power with which it is still invested. I allude rather to the indirect effect which it has, and which we may hope that it will continue to have, in draw
It must be remembered that the individual must pass away, but not so the spirit. It is not easy for men to stand alone who have been once accustomed to It remains to consider what safeguards lean upon another for support. The there are against this danger. I will bepower of judging for themselves about gin by repeating the apparent paradox public matters, and of grasping all parts of each question before coming to a decision, is supposed to be engendered among the people by a free government; by philosophers it has been considered one of the chief advantages of a free government that it does this; and people are fitted for a free government according to the degreeing to itself much of the popular enthuin which they possess this power. It is, however, only by long training that this power can be developed, and it is easily lost. Will our present electors retain as much of it as they now have, and will the new electors ever acquire it? The object, I have said, of popular worship must in the course of nature disappear, but the spirit that prompts that worship will remain. If the British public has really been de. bauched, successor after successor will take advantage of the fact.
A man may arise with all Mr. Gladstone's popular talents, but less real ability, far less scrupulous and more ambitious of personal rule, not immediately perhaps, for I am not particularly alluding to any one yet living, but when self-reliance and discrimination and all the qualities that are necessary for forming an independent opinion have gradually disappeared from among the people. Such a man, by taking advantage of the false hero-worship which I conceive to be on the increase, may obtain far more power than can be safely lodged in the hands of any single human being. True heroworship may be a very fine quality, though I always rather distrust it and dread its being carried to an excess; but it should be accompanied by great care and great insight in the choice of a hero, and I very
siasm which would otherwise be accumu lated upon the favorite of the moment. The very strong and deep-seated feeling which there is for the queen and royal family is of unmixed advantage. It is by a most fortunate combination of circum. stances that this feeling has arisen. He reditary association and high personal qualities have combined in producing it. May no short-sighted economy dim the lustre of the institution towards which so much loyalty exists! Let us thoroughly distrust any ambitious man who may seek to weaken its hold upon the affections of the people, and let us feel sure that any aspirant to inordinate authority will make it the first object of his attack.
Side by side with loyalty to the crown as a preservative against the too great power of an individual is the spirit of patriotism. Patriotism may be defined as an earnest desire for the welfare of the community. This is the greatest virtue that a statesman can have, but we want something warmer and more vivid than this to influence the masses in the direction. I have indicated. We may perhaps find it in that patriotism of the good oldfashioned sort which personified England as the ancient Romans personified Rome, and erected her into an object of enthusiastic devotion. This may be called