Especially is this true in respect of the household. The house is the servants' "home," and for the time being as truly as it is the home of their employers: in a "home" that they learn to hate faithful service is impossible. Minute rules, or an attempt to detail any, would be out of place: one great general principle may, however, be safely enforced-mentally reverse the relative positions; conceive yourself as being the employé or the servant, and he or she as being the master or mistress; and further conceive yourself being acted towards by them as you are acting towards them, and ask yourself, Should you deem it kind, becoming, or just? If your conduct will bear that test, and still stand approved to your judgment, you can have no higher sanction. All questions between the right "egoism" and the proper "altruism" are obviated in the Saviour's golden rule "As ye would that others should do unto you, do ye even so unto them!" He alone approximates to true moral manhood who endeavours to regulate his daily and hourly life in accordance with the spirit of this Divine command. To this end, the all-important and also most difficult quality to acquire, is constant self-control. Without it, men and women are slaves to their passions, caprices, and transient states of feeling; and alas for the fate of those who are the servants of slaves!

It is manifestly the duty of every householder to feel an interest in the concerns of the municipality and nation in which he dwells. Only pernicious results could ensue, if municipal and political affairs were left to the control of those who might have pecuniary or other self-regarding interests in the management of public matters. The moral character of the men who lead public opinion will be determined, to a very large extent, by that of those who constitute the public. Such as are the units of any society, such and no other will be the aggregate. The total amount of intelligence, patriotism, and morality which may be brought to bear on public questions will be fairly represented in those who are allowed to occupy the most prominent positions. Hence, it must be deplored if any considerable section of those who adopt high standards of moral excellence, and who seek to cultivate their intelligence above the average of men, should stand aloof from municipal or political affairs. They thereby only relinquish most important functions to men of a lower type than themselves: they connive by their inactivity in the retention of abuses which, were they active, they might succeed in mitigating, or even in removing.

It is, consequently, the social duty of every man to endeavour to form for himself clear and rational convictions on all public questions; and, with "the courage of his opinions," to essay to give effect to them by every lawful means. Without expressing any opinion as to the intrinsic merits or demerits of the ballot, its now universal adoption in public elections places within the reach of the least free, or the most timid, the opportunity of giving a silent and unavowed vote on any question of representation. To this extent the duty of every citizen is clear.

The careful student of public questions, however, may easily grow to feel that it is his duty, not only to express his own opinions, but to seek to influence the opinions of others. Conversation, public speech, or the pen, are means which lie more or less nearly within the reach of every man who has this object in view. It would be far better for our country, or for any country, if every one of its citizens had formed an intelligent opinion on every public question. Mr. Carlyle may deprecate as he chooses the increasing "talkee talkee" which characterizes our age; far worse were the times, however, when almost every one was mute, for the sufficient reason that they had no thoughts at all that they wished, or felt able, to express.

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" is the veriest rubbish which was ever written. Far more "dangerous" is no knowledge, with either the blind submission or the mere brute obstinacy which total ignorance must ever involve. A little knowledge helps to more knowledge, and much knowledge teaches us to avoid dangers: to deprecate the "little knowledge" is to deter any student from beginning to learn. We must "taste" before ever we can be induced to "drink deep of the Pierian spring." Just as absurd is the maxim, "Speech is silvern, but silence is golden." They who quote it have to break silence to attempt to prove its truth; have, that is, to violate the spirit of their own maxim in order to commend it! The value of speech depends on what is said. Mr. Carlyle's more than forty volumes of writings form a bulky refutation of the maxim he seems never tired of citing. A better educated and more thoughtful body of hearers will compel the production of abler and more competent speakers. "A man with one eye is a king among blind men." rubbish that is spoken and that is written is rendered endurable only because of the ignorance of those who listen and of those who read. The demand for both speakers and writers will go on increasing: the quality of the supply will be determined to a large extent by the


quality of the demand. In proportion, then, as the aggregate of the citizens become more intelligent and more thoughtful, will the policy of governments become more sagacious and more fruitful of good.

Especially is it the present duty of all citizens to form intelligent convictions on public questions, in view of the immense importance of the subjects looming in the immediate distance. The great questions of the future will not be whether this or that public man shall lead the Legislature, or be the first adviser of the Crown; or whether this or that class of citizens shall exercise the right of voting for members of Parliament; or whether this or that particular class of constituency shall exert a preponderating influence in the elective chamber; or in what proportion the revenue of the country should be raised from direct and what from indirect taxation, or other such matters which have hitherto agitated the people and separated political parties. It is easy to see that the questions of the future will reach far more deeply than any which relate merely to forms of government. No one form of government is in itself better than any other. That form is best for the time which best suits the people among whom it exists. Forms of government, like all other social organizations, are ever in a state of flux. Were they stable and permanent, the people would outgrow them. All questions relating solely to forms of government are but questions as to the shape of the machinery by which the government shall be carried on. What is far more important is the governmental work which the machinery may turn out; or, in other words, what fundamental principles shall underlie the policy of any government !

The great political discussions of the future will involve such fundamental questions of principles. Their parallels in history are to be found not in debated Reform bills, but in the abolition of Slavery, a great principle affecting the relation of different races in the same country; and in the repeal of the Corn Laws, a great principle affecting the relations of commerce. The questions will refer to the relations of local to national affairs-whether centralization or distribution of power shall prevail; to all great matters of co-operative industrywhether governmental management or private enterprise shall rule; to the relations of nations-whether war or arbitration shall decide international disputes; to the pecuniary and educational equality of the two sexes-how far married women shall be separately possessed of their individual or joint property, and be separately responsible for their individual or joint debts; and also how far all the avenues of industry shall be thrown open to female competition; to the land of

the country, which is unlike all other property in so far as it cannot be augmented in quantity-whether its possession shall be allowed to remain in the hands of a few, or belong to the whole people; to the producing resources of the nation-what shall be the solution of the present and growing struggle between capital and labour; to the fundamental polity of the realm-whether the overwhelming influence now accorded to hereditary rank, and thus indirectly to the landed interest as represented by the House of Lords, shall be allowed to continue; to the ecclesiastical polity, the relation between churches-whether the pre-eminence among sects shall be retained to the denomination the members of which differ in almost every respect except in their adherence to the three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons; to the relation between the competent and pauper classes—whether the arbitrary local distinctions of parishes and unions shall be preserved, or the system of a common poor rate for the whole country should be substituted; to the relations of health-how universal sanitary precautions may best be enforced; and, in short, the right line of demarcation between the authority of the government over the governed, and the liberties of the subject against the government. Such are some of the great questions now pressing upon the attention of the most thoughtful, who, however, only anticipate by a few years what will at no distant date form the common topics of violent debate among the people.

It is obvious that all will not become political philosophers; but it is manifest, that in proportion as the people generally attain to clearly defined and intellectual convictions on such questions, the more satisfactory, and the more likely to be enduring, will be the decisions embodied in legislation. Mr. Herbert Spencer has conclusively shown that there is no more reason for supposing that future advances in civilization will retain the present lines of dominant principles, than, as a fact, present civilization has retained the lines and principles of previous and superseded civilization. It is reasonable to suppose that the civilization of the future will at least effect as many changes on the present societary models, as present civilization has changed the models of feudalism, or of the Northern vikings and their predatory followers, or of Greece and Rome. Although "Sociology" as a science is as yet only in its infancy, it is pregnant with the most serious and ever-startling conclusions. If for no other reason, then, because of the gravity and importance of the great questions which will agitate the future political thinking of the people, it is the duty of all heads of households to take an active interest in the affairs of State, and, according


to their ability and opportunities, to strive to impress their individual convictions on society at large. In a free state, such as ours, the governed are in reality the governors; they help to make laws as well as obey them; those who choose only to obey renounce the more important of their possible functions. The power which now makes and unmakes governments, which seats and unseats legislators, which determines international polity, as well as decides all questions of domestic application, is "Public Opinion ;" and this is no more than the aggregate convictions of the nation. To the creation and maintenance of a sound, intelligent, and potent public opinion, every man can, and ought, to contribute his quotum. He neglects his civil duty who abjures, either from ignorance, indifference, or disgust, his responsibilities in this respect.

The ideal man is one who, as a human being, endeavours to maintain a good conscience before God; who seeks to acknowledge, love, honour, reverence, and obey God in all things; who ever strives to cultivate, enrich, and develop his intelligence and sympathies; who, in domestic life, purely and intensely loves his wife, to whom he is true in deed and word and thenght, to educate his children in all good and wise things by constant example as well as precept; who toils cheerfully and industriously for those dependent upon him; who is a generous friend, a kindly host, an intelligent guest; who is faithful and upright in all his dealings, enterprising in business; to whom his word is his bond, ever mindful of the truth; who is ready to bear his part of the burden of philanthropic, municipal, or national business; not eager for honours, but willing to work for all good social objects; who, as a cultured citizen, will stoop to no meanness for gaining personal or public ends, and ever attempts to exercise a wholesome and high-toned influence on those with whom he comes in contact. His religious, intellectual, domestic, social, moral, and civil duties well done, he as a Christian man, husband, father, friend, citizen, will acquire a nobly completed CHARACTER; he will fix into self-chosen, self-appropriated, and durable forms the good impressions of his infancy, childhood, and youth, elsewhere entitled "Remains ;" amply fulfil the promise of his youth, and realize that true manhood which is "the noblest work of God." Such a man need not seek honours or influence. Accustoming himself to clearly thinking out his own thoughts, being ever impatient of mere vagueness of idea, "an idea that there is an idea," never condescending to repeat a phrase till he has examined its meaning and recognises it to be what he means, striving to be at once accurate and

« VorigeDoorgaan »