Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. CCCXXVIII. February, 1843. Vol. LIII.

Part 1 out of 6

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If any doubt could exist as to the nature of the loss which the
premature death of Dr Arnold has inflicted on the literature of his
country, the perusal of the volume before us must be sufficient to show
how great, how serious, nay, all circumstances taken together, we had
almost said how irreparable, it ought to be considered. Recently placed
in a situation which gave his extraordinary faculties as a teacher still
wider scope than they before possessed, at an age when the vivacity and
energy of a commanding intellect were matured, not chilled, by constant
observation and long experience--gifted with industry to collect, with
sagacity to appreciate, with skill to arrange the materials of
history--master of a vivid and attractive style for their communication
and display--eminent, above all, for a degree of candour and sincerity
which gave additional value to all his other endowments--what but
leisure did Dr Arnold require to qualify him for a place among our most
illustrious authors? Under his auspices, we might not unreasonably have
hoped for works that would have rivalled those of the great continental
writers in depth and variety of research; in which the light of original
and contemporaneous documents would be steadily flung on the still
unexplored portions of our history; and that Oxford would have balanced
the fame of Schloesser and Thierry and Sismondi, by the labours of a
writer peculiarly, and, as this volume proves, most affectionately her

The first Lecture in the present volume is full of striking and original
remarks, delivered with a delightful simplicity; which, since genius has
become rare among us, has almost disappeared from the conversation and
writings of Englishmen. Open the pages of Herodotus, or Xenophon, or
Caesar, and how plain, how unpretending are the preambles to their
immortal works--in what exquisite proportion does the edifice arise,
without apparent effort, without ostentatious struggle, without, if the
allusion may be allowed, the sound of the axe or hammer, till "the pile
stands fixed her stately height" before us--the just admiration of
succeeding ages! But our modern _filosofastri_ insist upon stunning us
with the noise of their machinery, and blinding us with the dust of
their operations. They will not allow the smallest portion of their
vulgar labours to escape our notice. They drag us through the chaos of
sand and lime, and stone and bricks, which they have accumulated, hoping
that the magnitude of the preparation may atone for the meanness of the
performance. Very different from this is the style of Dr Arnold. We will
endeavour to exhibit a just idea of his views, so far as they regard the
true character of history, the manner in which it should be studied,
and the events by which his theory is illustrated. To study history as
it should be studied, much more to write history as it should be
written, is a task which may dignify the most splendid abilities, and
occupy the most extended life.

Lucian in one of his admirable treatises, ridicules those who imagine
that any one who chooses may sit down and write history as easily as he
would walk or sleep, or perform any other function of nature,

"Thought, to the man that never thinks, may seem
As natural as when asleep to dream."

From the remarks of this greatest of all satirists, it is manifest that,
in his days, history had been employed, as it has in ours, for the
purposes of slander and adulation. He selects particularly a writer who
compared, in his account of the Persian wars, the Roman emperor to
Achilles, his enemy to Thersites; and if Lucian had lived in the present
day, he would have discovered that the race of such writers was not
extinguished. He might have found ample proofs that the detestable habit
still prevails of interweaving the names of our contemporaries among the
accounts of former centuries, and thus corrupting the history of past
times into a means of abuse and flattery for the present. This is to
degrade history into the worst style of a Treasury pamphlet, or a daily
newspaper. It is a fault almost peculiar to this country.

We are told in one of these works, for instance, that the "tones of Sir
W. Follett's voice are silvery"--a proposition that we do not at all
intend to dispute; nor would it be easy to pronounce any panegyric on
that really great man in which we should not zealously concur; but can
it be necessary to mention this in a history of the eighteenth century?
Or can any thing be more trivial or offensive, or totally without the
shadow of justification, than this forced allusion to the "ignorant
present time," in the midst of what ought to be an unbiassed narrative
of events that affected former generations? We do not know whether the
author of this ingenious allusion borrowed the idea from the
advertisements in which our humbler artists recommend their productions
to vulgar notice; or whether it is the spontaneous growth of his own
happy intellect: but plagiarized or original, and however adapted it may
be to the tone and keeping of his work, its insertion is totally
irreconcilable with the qualities that a man should possess who means to
instruct posterity. When gold is extracted from lead, or silver from
tin, such a writer may become an historian. "Forget," says Lucian, "the
present, look to future ages for your reward; let it be said of you that
you are high-spirited, full of independence, that there is nothing about
you servile or fulsome."

Modern history is now exclusively to be considered. Modern history,
separated from the history of Greece and Rome, and the annals of
barbarous emigration, by the event which above all others has
influenced, and continues still to influence, after so many centuries,
the fate of Europe--the fall of the Western Empire--the boundary line
which separates modern from ancient history, is not ideal and
capricious, but definite and certain. It can neither be advanced nor
carried back. Modern history displays a national life still in
existence. It commences with that period in which the great elements of
separate national existence now in being--race, language, institutions,
and religion--can be traced in simultaneous operation. To the influences
which pervaded the ancient world, another, at first scarcely
perceptible, for a time almost predominant, and even now powerful and
comprehensive, was annexed. In the fourth century of the Christian era,
the Roman world comprised Christianity, Grecian intellect, Roman
jurisprudence--all the ingredients, in short, of modern history, except
the Teutonic element. It is the infusion of this element which has
changed the quality of the compound, and leavened the whole mass with
its peculiarities. To this we owe the middle ages, the law of
inheritance, the spirit of chivalry, and the feudal system, than which
no cause more powerful ever contributed to the miseries of mankind. It
filled Europe not with men but slaves; and the tyranny under which the
people groaned was the more intolerable, as it was wrought into an
artificial method, confirmed by law, established by inveterate custom,
and even supported by religion. In vain did the nations cast their eyes
to Rome, from whom they had a right to claim assistance, or at least
sympathy and consolation. The appeal was useless. The living waters were
tainted in their source. Instead of health they spread abroad
infection--instead of giving nourishment to the poor, they were the
narcotics which drenched in slumber the consciences of the rich.
Wretched forms, ridiculous legends, the insipid rhetoric of the Fathers,
were the substitutes for all generous learning. The nobles enslaved the
body; the hierarchy put its fetters on the soul. The growth of the
public mind was checked and stunted and the misery of Europe was
complete. The sufferer was taught to expect his reward in another world;
their oppressor, if his bequests were liberal, was sure of obtaining
consolation in this, and the kingdom of God was openly offered to the
highest bidder. But to the causes which gave rise to this state of
things, we must trace our origin as a nation.

With the Britons whom Caesar conquered, though they occupied the surface
of our soil, we have, nationally speaking, no concern; but when the
white horse of Hengist, after many a long and desperate struggle,
floated in triumph or in peace from the Tamar to the Tweed, our
existence as a nation, the period to which we may refer the origin of
English habits, language, and institutions, undoubtedly begins. So, when
the Franks established themselves west of the Rhine, the French nation
may be said to have come into being. True, the Saxons yielded to the
discipline and valour of a foreign race; true, the barbarous hordes of
the Elbe and the Saal were not the ancestors, as any one who travels in
the south of France can hardly fail to see, of the majority of the
present nation of the French: but the Normans and Saxons sprang from the
same stock, and the changes worked by Clovis and his warriors were so
vast and durable, (though, in comparison with their conquered vassals,
they were numerically few,) that with the invasion of Hengist in the one
case, and the battle of Poictiers in the other, the modern history of
both countries may not improperly be said to have begun. To the student
of that history, however, one consideration must occur, which imparts to
the objects of his studies an interest emphatically its own. It is this:
he has strong reason to believe that all the elements of society are
before him. It may indeed be true that Providence has reserved some yet
unknown tribe, wandering on the banks of the Amour or of the Amazons, as
the instrument of accomplishing some mighty purpose--humanly speaking,
however, such an event is most improbable. To adopt such an hypothesis,
would be in direct opposition to all the analogies by which, in the
absence of clearer or more precise motives, human infirmity must be
guided. The map of the world is spread out before us; there are no
regions which we speak of in the terms of doubt and ignorance that the
wisest Romans applied to the countries beyond the Vistula and the Rhine,
when in Lord Bacon's words "the world was altogether home-bred." When
Cicero jested with Trebatius on the little importance of a Roman jurist
among hordes of Celtic barbarians, he little thought that from that
despised country would arise a nation, before the blaze of whose
conquests the splendour of Roman Empire would grow pale; a nation which
would carry the art of government and the enjoyment of freedom to a
perfection, the idea of which, had it been presented to the illustrious
orator, stored as his mind was with all the lore of Grecian sages, and
with whatever knowledge the history of his own country could supply,
would have been consigned by him, with the glorious visions of his own
Academy, to the shady spaces of an ideal world. Had he, while bewailing
the loss of that freedom which he would not survive, disfigured as it
was by popular tumult and patrician insolence--had he been told that a
figure far more faultless was one day to arise amid the unknown forests
and marshes of Britain, and to be protected by the rude hands of her
barbarous inhabitants till it reached the full maturity of immortal
loveliness--the eloquence of Cicero himself would have been silenced,
and, whatever might have been the exultation of the philosopher, the
pride of the Roman would have died within him. But we can anticipate no
similar revolution. The nations by which the world is inhabited are
known to us; the regions which they occupy are limited; there are no
fresh combinations to count upon, no reserves upon which we can
depend;--there is every reason to suppose that, in the great conflict
with physical and moral evil, which it is the destiny of man to wage,
the last battalion is in the field.

The course to be adopted by the student of modern history is pointed out
in the following pages; and the remarks of Dr Arnold on this subject are
distinguished by a degree of good sense and discrimination which it is
difficult to overrate. Vast indeed is the difference between ancient and
modern annals, as far as relates to the demand upon the student's time
and attention. Instead of sailing upon a narrow channel, the shores of
which are hardly ever beyond his view, he launches out upon an ocean of
immeasurable extent, through which the greatest skill and most assiduous
labour are hardly sufficient to conduct him--

"Ipse diem noctemque negat discernere coelo,
Nec meminisse viae, media Palinurus in unda."

Instead of a few great writers, the student is beset on all sides by
writers of different sort and degree, from the light memorialist to the
great historian; instead of two countries, two hemispheres are
candidates for his attention; and history assumes a variety of garbs,
many of which were strangers to her during the earlier period of her
existence. To the careful study of many periods of history, not
extending over any very wide portion of time, the labour of a tolerably
long life would be inadequate. The unpublished Despatches of Cardinal
Granvelle at Besancon, amount to sixty volumes. The archives of Venice
(a mine, by the way, scarcely opened) fill a large apartment. For
printed works it may be enough to mention the Benedictine editions and
Munatoris Annals, historians of the dark and middle ages, relating to
two countries only, and two periods. All history, therefore, however
insatiable may be the intellectual _boulimia_ that devours him, can
never be a proper object of curiosity to any man. It is natural enough
that the first effect produced by this discovery on the mind of the
youthful student should be surprise and mortification; nor is it before
the conviction that his researches, to be valuable, must be limited,
forces itself upon him, that he concentrates to some particular period,
and perhaps to some exclusive object, the powers of his undivided
attention. When he has thus put an end to his desultory enquiries, and
selected the portion of history which it is his purpose to explore, his
first object should be to avail himself of the information which other
travellers in the same regions have been enabled to collect. Their
mistakes will teach him caution; their wanderings will serve to keep him
in the right path. Weak and feeble as he may be, compared with the first
adventurers who have visited the mighty maze before him, yet he has not
their difficulties to encounter, nor their perils to apprehend. The clue
is in his hands which may lead him through the labyrinth in which it has
been the lot of so many master-spirits to wander--

"And find no end, in boundless mazes lost."

But it is time to hear Dr Arnold:--

"To proceed, therefore, with our supposed student's course of
reading. Keeping the general history which he has been reading
as his text, and getting from it the skeleton, in a manner, of
the future figure, he must now break forth excursively to the
right and left, collecting richness and fulness of knowledge
from the most various sources. For example, we will suppose
that where his popular historian has mentioned that an alliance
was concluded between two powers, or a treaty of peace agreed
upon, he first of all resolves to consult the actual documents
themselves, as they are to be found in some one of the great
collections of European treaties, or, if they are connected
with English history, in Rymer's _Foedera_. By comparing the
actual treaty with his historian's report of its provisions, we
get, in the first place, a critical process of some value,
inasmuch as the historian's accuracy is at once tested: but
there are other purposes answered besides. An historian's
report of a treaty is almost always an abridgement of it; minor
articles will probably be omitted, and the rest condensed, and
stripped of all their formal language. But our object now being
to reproduce to ourselves so far as it is possible, the very
life of the period which we are studying, minute particulars
help us to do this; nay, the very formal enumeration of titles,
and the specification of towns and districts in their legal
style, help to realize the time to us, if it be only from their
very particularity. Every common history records the substance
of the treaty of Troyes, May 1420, by which the succession to
the crown of France was given to Henry V. But the treaty in
itself, or the English version of it which Henry sent over to
England to be proclaimed there, gives a far more lively
impression of the triumphant state of the great conqueror, and
the utter weakness of the poor French king, Charles VI., in the
ostentatious care taken to provide for the recognition of his
formal title during his lifetime, while all real power is ceded
to Henry, and provision is made for the perpetual union
hereafter of the two kingdoms under his sole government.

"I have named treaties as the first class of official
instruments to be consulted, because the mention of them occurs
unavoidably in every history. Another class of documents,
certainly of no less importance, yet much less frequently
referred to by popular historians, consists of statutes,
ordinances, proclamations, acts, or by whatever various names
the laws of each particular period happen to be designated.
_That the Statute Book has not been more habitually referred to
by writers on English history_, has always seemed to me a
matter of surprise. Legislation has not perhaps been so busy in
every country as it has been with us; yet every where, and in
every period, it has done something. Evils, real or supposed,
have always existed, which the supreme power in the nation has
endeavoured to remove by the provisions of law. And under the
name of laws I would include the acts of councils, which form
an important part of the history of European nations during
many centuries; provincial councils, as you are aware, having
been held very frequently, and their enactments relating to
local and particular evils, so that they illustrate history in
a very lively manner. Now, in these and all the other laws of
any given period, we find in the first place, from their
particularity, a great additional help towards becoming
familiar with the times in which they were passed; we learn the
names of various officers, courts, and processes; and these,
when understood, (and I suppose always the habit of reading
nothing without taking pains to understand it,) help us, from
their very number, to realize the state of things then
existing; a lively notion of any object depending on our
clearly seeing some of its parts, and the more we people it, so
to speak, with distinct images, the more it comes to resemble
the crowded world around us. But in addition to this benefit,
which I am disposed to rate in itself very highly, every thing
of the nature of law has a peculiar interest and value,
_because it is the expression of the deliberate mind of the
supreme government of society_; and as history, as commonly
written, records so much of the passionate and unreflecting
part of human nature, we are bound in fairness to acquaint
ourselves with its calmer and better part also."

The inner life of a nation will be determined by its end, that end being
the security of its highest happiness, or, as it is "conceived and
expressed more piously, a setting forth of God's glory by doing his
appointed work." The history of a nation's internal life is the history
of its institutions and its laws. Here, then, it is that we shall find
the noblest lessons of history; here it is that we must look for the
causes, direct and indirect, which have modified the characters, and
decided the fate of nations. To this imperishable possession it is that
the philosopher appeals for the corroboration of his theory, as it is to
it also that the statesman ought to look for the regulation of his
practice. Religion, property, science, commerce, literature, whatever
can civilize and instruct rude mankind, whatever can embellish life in
its more advanced condition, even till it exhibit the wonders of which
it is now the theatre, may be referred to this subject, and are
comprised under this denomination. The importance of history has been
the theme of many a pen, but we question whether it has ever been more
beautifully described than in the following passage:--

"Enough has been said, I think, to show that history contains
no mean treasures; that, as being the biography of a nation, it
partakes of the richness and variety of those elements which
make up a nation's life. Whatever there is of greatness in the
final cause of all human thought and action, God's glory and
man's perfection, that is the measure of the greatness of
history. Whatever there is of variety and intense interest in
human nature, in its elevation, whether proud as by nature, or
sanctified as by God's grace; in its suffering, whether blessed
or unblessed, a martyrdom or a judgment; in its strange
reverses, in its varied adventures, in its yet more varied
powers, its courage and its patience, its genius and its
wisdom, its justice and its love, that also is the measure of
the interest and variety of history. The treasures indeed are
ample, but we may more reasonably fear whether we may have
strength and skill to win them."

In passing we may observe, after Dr Arnold, that the most important
bearing of a particular institution upon the character of a nation is
not always limited to the effect which is most obvious; few who have
watched the proceedings in our courts of justice can doubt that, in
civil cases, the interference of a jury is often an obstacle, and
sometimes an insurmountable obstacle, to the attainment of justice. Dr
Arnold's remarks on this subject are entitled to great attention:--

"The effect," he says, "of any particular arrangement of the
judicial power, is seen directly in the greater or less purity
with which justice is administered; but there is a further
effect, and one of the highest importance, in its furnishing to
a greater or less portion of the nation one of the best means
of moral and intellectual culture--the opportunity, namely, of
exercising the functions of a judge. I mean, that to accustom a
number of persons to the intellectual exercise of attending to,
and weighing, and comparing evidence, and to the moral exercise
of being placed in a high and responsible situation, invested
with one of God's own attributes, that of judgment, and having
to determine with authority between truth and falsehood, right
and wrong, is to furnish them with very high means of moral and
intellectual culture--in other words, it is providing them with
one of the highest kinds of education. And thus a judicial
constitution may secure a pure administration of justice, and
yet fail as an engine of national cultivation, where it is
vested in the hands of a small body of professional men, like
the old French parliament. While, on the other hand, it may
communicate the judicial office very widely, as by our system
of juries, and thus may educate, if I may so speak, a very
large portion of the nation, but yet may not succeed in
obtaining the greatest certainty of just legal decisions. I do
not mean that our jury system does not succeed, but it is
conceivable that it should not. So, in the same way, different
arrangements of the executive and legislative powers should be
always regarded in this twofold aspect--as effecting their
direct objects, good government and good legislation; and as
educating the nation more or less extensively, by affording to
a greater or less number of persons practical lessons in
governing and legislating."

History is an account of the common purpose pursued by some one of the
great families of the human race. It is the biography of a nation; as
the history of a particular sect, or a particular body of men, describes
the particular end which the sect or body was instituted to pursue, so
history, in its more comprehensive sense, describes the paramount object
which the first and sovereign society--the society to which all others
are necessarily subordinate--endeavours to attain. According to Dr
Arnold, a nation's life is twofold, external and internal. Its external
life consists principally in wars. "Here history has been sufficiently
busy. The wars of the human race have been recorded when every thing
else has perished."

Mere antiquarianism, Dr Arnold justly observes, is calculated to
contract and enfeeble the understanding. It is a pedantic love of
detail, with an indifference to the result, for which alone it can be
considered valuable. It is the mistake, into which men are perpetually
falling, of the means for the end. There are people to whom the
tragedies of Sophocles are less precious than the Scholiast on
Lycophron, and who prize the speeches of Demosthenes chiefly because
they may fling light on the dress of an Athenian citizen. The same
tendency discovers itself in other pursuits. Oxen are fattened into
plethoras to encourage agriculture, and men of station dress like
grooms, and bet like blacklegs, to keep up the breed of horses. It is
true that such evils will happen when agriculture is encouraged, and a
valuable breed of horses cherished; but they are the consequences, not
the cause of such a state of things. So the disciples of the old
philosophers drank hemlock to acquire pallid countenances--but they are
as far from obtaining the wisdom of their masters by this adventitious
resemblance, as the antiquarian is from the historian. To write well
about the past, we must have a vigorous and lively perception of the
present. This, says Dr Arnold, is the merit of Mitford. It is certainly
the only one he possesses; a person more totally unqualified for writing
history at all--to say nothing of the history of Greece--it is difficult
for us, aided as our imagination may be by the works of our modern
writers, to conceive. But Raleigh, whom he quotes afterwards, is indeed
a striking instance of that combination of actual experience with
speculative knowledge which all should aim at, but which it seldom
happens that one man in a generation is fortunate enough to obtain.

From the sixteenth century, the writers of history begin to assume a
different character from that of their predecessors. During the middle
ages, the elements of society were fewer and less diversified. Before
that time the people were nothing. Popes, emperors, kings, nobles,
bishops, knights, are the only materials about which the writer of
history cared to know or enquire. Perhaps some exception to this rule
might be found in the historians of the free towns of Italy; but they
are few and insignificant. After that period, not only did the classes
of society increase, but every class was modified by more varieties of
individual life. Even within the last century, the science of political
economy has given a new colouring to the thoughts and actions of large
communities, as the different opinions held by its votaries have
multiplied them into distinct and various classes. Modern historians,
therefore, may be divided into two classes; the one describing a state
of society in which the elements are few; the other the times in which
they were more numerous. As a specimen of the first order, he selects
Bede. Bede was born in 674, fifty years after the flight of Mahomet from
Mecca. He died in 755, two or three years after the victory of Charles
Martel over the Saracens. His ecclesiastical history, in five books,
describes the period from Augustine's arrival in Kent, 597.

Dr Arnold's dissertation on Bede involves him in the discussion of a
question on which much skill and ability have been exercised. We allude
to the question of miracles. "The question," says he, "in Bede takes
this form--What credit is to be attached to the frequent stories of
miracles or wonders which occur in his narrative?" He seizes at once
upon the difficulty, without compromise or evasion. He makes a
distinction between a wonder and a miracle: "to say that all recorded
wonders are false, from those recorded by Herodotus to the latest
reports of animal magnetism, would be a boldness of assertion wholly
unjustifiable." At the same time he thinks the character of Bede, added
to the religious difficulty, may incline us to limit miracles to the
earliest times of Christianity, and refuse our belief to all which are
reported by the historians of subsequent centuries. He then proceeds to
consider the questions which suggest themselves when we read Matthew
Paris, or still more, any of the French, German, or Italian historians
of the same period:--

"The thirteenth century contains in it, at its beginning, the
most splendid period of the Papacy, the time of Innocent the
Third; its end coincides with that great struggle between
Boniface the Eighth and Philip the Fair, which marks the first
stage of its decline. It contains the reign of Frederick the
Second, and his long contest with the popes in Italy; the
foundation of the orders of friars, Dominican and Franciscan;
the last period of the crusades, and the age of the greatest
glory of the schoolmen. Thus, full of matters of interest as it
is, it will yet be found that all its interest is more or less
connected with two great questions concerning the church;
namely, the power of the priesthood in matters of government
and in matters of faith; the merits of the contest between the
Papacy and the kings of Europe; the nature and character of
that influence over men's minds which affected the whole
philosophy of the period, the whole intellectual condition of
the Christian world."--P. 138.

The pretensions and corruptions of the Church are undoubtedly the chief
object to which, at this period, the attention of the reader must be
attracted. "Is the church system of Innocent III. in faith or government
the system of the New Testament?" Is the difference between them
inconsiderable, such as may be accounted for by the natural progress of
society, or does the rent extend to the foundation? "The first century,"
says Dr Arnold, "is to determine our judgment of the second and of all
subsequent centuries. It will not do to assume that the judgment must be
interpreted by the very practices and opinions, the merits of which it
has to try." As a specimen of the chroniclers, he selects Philip de
Comines, almost the last great writer of his class. In him is
exemplified one of the peculiar distinctions of attaching to modern
history the importance of attending to genealogies.

"For instance, Comines records the marriage of Mary, duchess
of Burgundy, daughter and sole heiress of Charles the Bold,
with Maximilian, archduke of Austria. This marriage, conveying
all the dominions of Burgundy to Maximilian and his heirs,
established a great independent sovereign on the frontiers of
France, giving to him on the north, not only the present
kingdoms of Holland and Belgium, but large portions of what is
now French territory, the old provinces of Artois and French
Flanders, French Hainault and French Luxemburg; while on the
east it gave him Franche Comte, thus yielding him a footing
within the Jura, on the very banks of the Saone. Thence ensued
in after ages, when the Spanish branch of the house of Austria
had inherited this part of its dominions--the long contests
which deluged the Netherlands with blood, the campaigns of King
William and Luxembourg, the nine years of efforts, no less
skilful than valiant, in which Marlborough broke his way
through the fortresses of the iron frontier. Again, when Spain
became in a manner French by the accession of the House of
Bourbon, the Netherlands reverted once more to Austria itself;
and from thence the powers of Europe advanced, almost in our
own days, to assail France as a republic; and on this ground,
on the plains of Fleurus, was won the first of those great
victories which, for nearly twenty years, carried the French
standards triumphantly over Europe. Thus the marriage recorded
by Comines has been working busily down to our very own times:
it is only since the settlement of 1814, and that more recent
one of 1830, that the Netherlands have ceased to be effected by
the union of Charles the Bold's daughter with Maximilian of
Austria"--P. 148.

Again, in order to understand the contest which Philip de Comines
records between a Frenchman and a Spaniard for the crown of Naples, we
must go back to the dark and bloody page in the annals of the thirteenth
century, which relates the extinction of the last heir of the great
Swabian race of Hohenstauffen by Charles of Anjou, the fit and
unrelenting instrument of Papal hatred--the dreadful expiation of that
great crime by the Sicilian Vespers, the establishment of the House of
Anjou in Sicily, the crimes and misfortunes of Queen Joanna, the new
contest occasioned by her adoption--all these events must be known to
him who would understand the expedition of Charles VIII. The following
passage is an admirable description of the reasons which lend to the
pages of Philip de Comines a deep and melancholy interest:--

"The Memoirs of Philip de Comines terminate about twenty years
before the Reformation, six years after the first voyage of
Columbus. They relate, then, to a tranquil period immediately
preceding a period of extraordinary movement; to the last stage
of an old state of things, now on the point of passing away.
Such periods, the lull before the burst of the hurricane, the
almost oppressive stillness which announces the eruption, or,
to use Campbell's beautiful image--

'The torrent's smoothness ere it dash below,'--

are always, I think, full of a very deep interest. But it is
not from the mere force of contrast with the times that follow,
nor yet from the solemnity which all things wear when their
dissolution is fast approaching--the interest has yet another
source; our knowledge, namely, that in that tranquil period lay
the germs of the great changes following, taking their shape
for good or for evil, and sometimes irreversibly, while all
wore an outside of unconsciousness. We, enlightened by
experience, are impatient of this deadly slumber; we wish in
vain that the age could have been awakened to a sense of its
condition, and taught the infinite preciousness of the passing
hour. And as, when a man has been cut off by sudden death, we
are curious to know whether his previous words or behaviour
indicated any sense of his coming fate, so we examine the
records of a state of things just expiring, anxious to observe
whether, in any point, there may be discerned an anticipation
of the great future, or whether all was blindness and
insensibility. In this respect, Comines' Memoirs are striking
from their perfect unconsciousness: the knell of the middle
ages had been already sounded, yet Comines has no other notions
than such as they had tended to foster; he describes their
events, their characters, their relations, as if they were to
continue for centuries. His remarks are such as the simplest
form of human affairs gives birth to; he laments the
instability of earthly fortune, as Homer notes our common
mortality, or in the tone of that beautiful dialogue between
Solon and Croesus, when the philosopher assured the king, that
to be rich was not necessarily to be happy. But, resembling
Herodotus in his simple morality, he is utterly unlike him in
another point; for whilst Herodotus speaks freely and honestly
of all men, without respect of persons, Philip de Comines
praises his master Louis the Eleventh as one of the best of
princes, although he witnessed not only the crimes of his life,
but the miserable fears and suspicions of his latter end, and
has even faithfully recorded them. In this respect Philip de
Comines is in no respect superior to Froissart, with whom the
crimes committed by his knights and great lords never interfere
with his general eulogies of them: the habit of deference and
respect was too strong to be broken, and the facts which he
himself relates to their discredit, appear to have produced on
his mind no impression."

We now enter upon a period which may be called the modern part of modern
history, the more complicated period, in contradistinction to the more
simple state of things which, up to this moment, has occupied the
student's attention. It is impossible to read, without deep regret, the
passage in which Dr Arnold speaks of his intention--"if life and health
be spared him, to enter into minute details; selecting some one country
as the principal subject of his enquiries, and illustrating the lessons
of history for the most part from its particular experience."

He proceeds, however, to the performance of the task immediately before
him. After stating that the great object, the [Greek: teleiotaton
telos], of history is that which most nearly touches the inner life of
civilized man, he pauses for a while at the threshold before he enters
into the sanctuary, and undoubtedly some external knowledge is requisite
before we penetrate into its recesses: we want some dwelling-place, as
it were, for the mind, some local habitation in which our ideas may be
arranged, some topics that may be firmly grasped by the memory, and on
which the understanding may confidently rest; and thus it is that
geography, even with a view to other purposes, must engross, in the
first instance, a considerable share of our attention. The sense in
which Dr Arnold understands a knowledge of geography, is explained in
the following luminous and instructive commentary:--

"I said that geography held out one hand to geology and
physiology, while she held out the other to history. In fact,
geology and physiology themselves are closely connected with
history. For instance, what lies at the bottom of that question
which is now being discussed every where, the question of the
corn-laws, but the geological fact that England is more richly
supplied with coal-mines than any other country in the world?
what has given a peculiar interest to our relations with China,
but the physiological fact, that the tea-plant, which is become
so necessary to our daily life, has been cultivated with equal
success in no other climate or country? what is it which
threatens the permanence of the union between the northern and
southern states of the American confederacy, but the
physiological fact, that the soil and climate of the southern
states render them essentially agricultural, while those of the
northern states, combined with their geographical advantages as
to sea-ports, dispose them no less naturally to be
manufacturing and commercial? The whole character of a nation
may be influenced by its geology and physical geography. But
for the sake of its mere beauty and liveliness, if there were
no other consideration, it would be worth our while to acquire
this richer view of geography. Conceive only the difference
between a ground-plan and a picture. The mere plan geography of
Italy gives us its shape, as I have observed, and the position
of its towns; to these it may add a semicircle of mountains
round the northern boundary to represent the Alps, and another
long line stretching down the middle of the country to
represent the Apennines. But let us carry on this a little
further, and give life and meaning and harmony to what is at
present at once lifeless and confused. Observe, in the first
place, how the Apennine line, beginning from the southern
extremity of the Alps, runs across Italy to the very edge of
the Adriatic, and thus separates naturally the Italy proper of
the Romans, from Cisalpine Gaul. Observe again, how the Alps,
after running north and south, where they divide Italy from
France, turn then away to the eastward, running almost parallel
to the Apennines, till they too touch the head of the Adriatic,
on the confines of Istria. Thus between these two lines of
mountains there is enclosed one great basin or plain; enclosed
on three sides by mountains, open only on the east to the sea.
Observe how widely it spreads itself out, and then see how well
it is watered. One great river flows through it in its whole
extent, and this is fed by streams almost unnumbered,
descending towards it on either side, from the Alps on the one
side, and from the Apennines on the other. Who can wonder that
this large and rich and well-watered plain should be filled
with flourishing cities, or that it should have been contended
for so often by successive invaders? Then descending into Italy
proper, we find the complexity of its geography quite in
accordance with its manifold political division. It is not one
simple central ridge of mountains, leaving a broad belt of
level country on either side between it and the sea, nor yet
is it a chain rising immediately from the sea on one side, like
the Andes in South America, and leaving room, therefore, on the
other side for wide plains of table-land, and rivers with a
sufficient length of course to become at last great and
navigable. It is a back-bone thickly set with spines of unequal
length, some of them running out at regular distances parallel
to each other, but others twisted so strangely that they often
run for a long way parallel to the back-bone, or main ridge,
and interlace with one another in a maze almost inextricable.
And, as if to complete the disorder, in those spots where the
spines of the Apennines, being twisted round, run parallel to
the sea and to their own central chain, and thus leave an
interval of plain between their bases and the Mediterranean,
volcanic agency has broken up the space thus left with other
and distinct groups of hills of its own creation, as in the
case of Vesuvius, and of the Alban hills near Rome. Speaking
generally then, Italy is made up of an infinite multitude of
valleys pent in between high and steep hills, each forming a
country to itself, and cut off by natural barriers from the
others. Its several parts are isolated by nature, and no art of
man can thoroughly unite them. Even the various provinces of
the same kingdom are strangers to each other; the Abruzzi are
like an unknown world to the inhabitants of Naples, insomuch,
that when two Neapolitan naturalists, not ten years since, made
an excursion to visit the Majella, one of the highest of the
central Apennines, they found there many medicinal plants
growing in the greatest profusion, which the Neapolitans were
regularly in the habit of importing from other countries, as no
one suspected their existence within their own kingdom. Hence
arises the romantic character of Italian scenery: the constant
combination of a mountain outline and all the wild features of
a mountain country, with the rich vegetation of a southern
climate in the valleys. Hence too the rudeness, the pastoral
simplicity, and the occasional robber habits, to be found in
the population; so that to this day you may travel in many
places for miles together in the plains and valleys without
passing through a single town or village; for the towns still
cluster on the mountain sides, the houses nestling together on
some scanty ledge, with cliffs rising above them and sinking
down abruptly below them, the very 'congesta manu praeruptis
oppida saxis' of Virgil's description, which he even then
called 'antique walls,' because they had been the strongholds
of the primaeval inhabitants of the country, and which are still
inhabited after a lapse of so many centuries, nothing of the
stir and movement of other parts of Europe having penetrated
into these lonely valleys, and tempted the people to quit their
mountain fastnesses for a more accessible dwelling in the

"I have been led on further than I intended, but I wished to
give an example of what I meant by a real and lively knowledge
of geography, which brings the whole character of a country
before our eyes, and enables us to understand its influence
upon the social and political condition of its inhabitants. And
this knowledge, as I said before, is very important to enable
us to follow clearly the external revolutions of different
nations, which we want to comprehend before we penetrate to
what has been passing within."

This introductory discussion is followed by a rapid sketch of the
different struggles for power and independence in Europe during the
three last centuries. The general tendency of this period has been to
consolidate severed nations into great kingdoms; but this tendency has
been checked when the growth of any single power has become excessive,
by the combined efforts of other European nations. Spain, France,
England, and Austria, all in their turns have excited the jealousy of
their neighbours, and have been attacked by their confederate strength.
But in 1793 the peace of Europe was assailed by an enemy still more
dangerous and energetic--still more destructive--we doubt whether in the
English language a more vivid description is to be found of the evil,
its progress, and its termination, than Dr Arnold has given in the
following passage:--

"Ten years afterwards there broke out by far the most alarming
danger of universal dominion, which had ever threatened Europe.
The most military people in Europe became engaged in a war for
their very existence. Invasion on the frontiers, civil war and
all imaginable horrors raging within, the ordinary relations of
life went to wreck, and every Frenchman became a soldier. It
was a multitude numerous as the hosts of Persia, but animated
by the courage and skill and energy of the old Romans. One
thing alone was wanting, that which Pyrrhus said the Romans
wanted, to enable them to conquer the world--a general and a
ruler like himself. There was wanted a master hand to restore
and maintain peace at home, and to concentrate and direct the
immense military resources of France against her foreign
enemies. And such an one appeared in Napoleon. Pacifying La
Vendee, receiving back the emigrants, restoring the church,
remodelling the law, personally absolute, yet carefully
preserving and maintaining all the great points which the
nation had won at the Revolution, Napoleon united in himself,
not only the power, but the whole will of France; and that
power and will were guided by a genius for war such as Europe
had never seen since Caesar. The effect was absolutely magical.
In November 1799, he was made First Consul; he found France
humbled by defeats, his Italian conquests lost, his allies
invaded, his own frontier threatened. He took the field in May
1800, and in June the whole fortune of the war was changed, and
Austria driven out of Lombardy by the victory of Marengo. Still
the flood of the tide rose higher and higher, and every
successive wave of its advance swept away a kingdom. Earthly
state has never reached a prouder pinnacle than when Napoleon,
in June 1812, gathered his army at Dresden--that mighty host,
unequalled in all time, of 450,000, not men merely, but
effective soldiers, and there received the homage of subject
kings. And now, what was the principal adversary of this
tremendous power? by whom was it checked, and resisted, and put
down? By none, and by nothing, but the direct and manifest
interposition of God. I know of no language so well fitted to
describe that victorious advance to Moscow, and the utter
humiliation of the retreat, as the language of the prophet with
respect to the advance and subsequent destruction of the host
of Sennacherib. 'When they arose early in the morning, behold
they were all dead corpses,' applies almost literally to that
memorable night of frost, in which twenty thousand horses
perished, and the strength of the French army was utterly
broken. Human instruments, no doubt, were employed in the
remainder of the work; nor would I deny to Germany and to
Prussia the glories of the year 1813, nor to England the honour
of her victories in Spain, or of the crowning victory of
Waterloo. But at the distance of thirty years, those who lived
in the time of danger and remember its magnitude, and now
calmly review what there was in human strength to avert it,
must acknowledge, I think, beyond all controversy, that the
deliverance of Europe from the dominion of Napoleon was
effected neither by Russia, nor by Germany, nor by England, but
by the hand of God alone."

The question, whether some races of men possess an inherent superiority
over others, is mooted by Dr Arnold, in his dissertation on military
science. Without laying down any universal rule, it may be stated that
such a superiority can be predicated of no European nation. Frederick
the Great defeated the French at Rosbach, as easily as Napoleon overcame
the Prussians at Jena. If Marlborough was uniformly successful, William
III. was always beaten by Luxembourg, and the Duke of Cumberland by
D'Etrees and Saxe. It seems, therefore, a fair inference, that no
civilized European nation possesses over its neighbours that degree of
superiority which greater genius in the general, or greater discipline
in the troops of its antagonists, will not be sufficient to counteract.
The defeat of the Vendeans in France, by the soldiers of the garrison of
Mentz; and the admirable conduct of our own Sepoys under British
generals, are, no doubt, strong instances to show the prodigious
importance of systematic discipline. Still, we cannot quite coincide
with Dr Arnold's opinion on this subject. We are quite ready to
admit--who, indeed, for a moment would deny?--in military as well as in
all other subjects, the value of professional attainments and long
experience. We cannot, however, consider them superior to those great
qualities of our nature which discipline may regulate and embellish, but
which it can never destroy or supersede. As every man is bound to form
his own opinion on religious matters, though he may not be a priest,
every man is obliged to defend his country when invaded, though he may
not be a soldier. Nor can the miseries which such a state of things
involves, furnish any argument against its necessity. All war must be
attended with misfortunes, which freeze the blood and make the soul sick
in their contemplation; but these very misfortunes deter those who wield
the reins of empire from appealing wantonly to its determination. The
resistance of Saragossa was not the less glorious, it does not the less
fire the heart of every reader with a holy and passionate enthusiasm,
because it was not conducted according to the strict forms of military
tactics, because citizens and even women participated in its fame. The
inextinguishable hatred of the Spanish nation for its oppressor--which
wore down the French armies, which no severities, no violence, no
defeat, could subdue--will be, as long as time shall last, a terrible
lesson to ambitious conquerors. They will learn that there is in the
fury of an insulted nation a danger which the most exquisite military
combinations cannot remove, which the most perfectly served artillery
cannot sweep away, before which all the bayonets, and gunpowder, and
lines of fortification in the world are useless--and compared with which
the science of the commander is pedantry, and strategy but a word. They
will discover that something more than mechanical power, however
great--something more than the skill of the practised officer, or the
instinct of well-trained soldiers, are requisite for success--where
every plain is a Marathon, and every valley a Thermopylae.

Would to God that the same reproach urged against the Spanish
nation--that they defended their native soil irregularly--that they
fought like freemen rather than like soldiers--that they transgressed
the rules of war by defending one side of a street while the artillery
of the enemy, with its thousand mouths, was pouring death upon them from
the other--that they struggled too long, that they surrendered too late,
that they died too readily, could have been applied to Poland--one
fearful instance of success would have been wanting to encourage the
designs of despotism!

Some of the rights of war are next considered--that of sacking a town
taken by assault, and of blockading a town defended, not by the
inhabitants, but by a military garrison--are next examined;--in both
these cases the penalty falls upon the innocent. The Homeric description
of a town taken by assault, is still applicable to modern warfare:--

[Greek: andras men kteinoysi, polin de te pyr amathynei
tekna de t' alloi agoysi, bathyzonoys te gynaikas.]

The unhappy fate of Genoa is thus beautifully related--

"Some of you, I doubt not, remember Genoa; you have seen that
queenly city with its streets of palaces, rising tier above
tier from the water, girdling with the long lines of its bright
white houses the vast sweep of its harbour, the mouth of which
is marked by a huge natural mole of rock, crowned by its
magnificent lighthouse tower. You remember how its white houses
rose out of a mass of fig and olive and orange trees, the glory
of its old patrician luxury. You may have observed the
mountains, behind the town, spotted at intervals by small
circular low towers; one of which is distinctly conspicuous
where the ridge of the hills rises to its summit, and hides
from view all the country behind it. Those towers are the forts
of the famous lines, which, curiously resembling in shape the
later Syracusan walls enclosing Epipalae, converge inland from
the eastern and western extremities of the city, looking
down--the western line on the valley of the Polcevera, the
eastern, on that of the Bisagno--till they meet, as I have
said, on the summit of the mountains, where the hills cease to
rise from the sea, and become more or less of a table land,
running off towards the interior, at the distance, as well as I
remember, of between two and three miles from the outside of
the city. Thus a very large open space is enclosed within the
lines, and Genoa is capable therefore of becoming a vast
intrenched camp, holding not so much a garrison as an army. In
the autumn of 1799, the Austrians had driven the French out of
Lombardy and Piedmont; their last victory of Fossano or Genola
had won the fortress of Coni or Cunco, close under the Alps,
and at the very extremity of the plain of the Po; the French
clung to Italy only by their hold of the Riviera of Genoa--the
narrow strip of coast between the Apennines and the sea, which
extends from the frontiers of France almost to the mouth of the
Arno. Hither the remains of the French force were collected,
commanded by General Massena; and the point of chief importance
to his defence was the city of Genoa. Napoleon had just
returned from Egypt, and was become First Consul; but he could
not be expected to take the field till the following spring,
and till then Massena was hopeless of relief from
without--every thing was to depend on his own pertinacity. The
strength of his army made it impossible to force it in such a
position as Genoa; but its very numbers, added to the
population of a great city, held out to the enemy a hope of
reducing it by famine; and as Genoa derives most of its
supplies by sea, Lord Keith, the British naval
commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, lent the assistance of
his naval force to the Austrians; and, by the vigilance of his
cruizers, the whole coasting trade right and left along the
Riviera, was effectually cut off. It is not at once that the
inhabitants of a great city, accustomed to the daily sight of
well-stored shops and an abundant market, begin to realize the
idea of scarcity; or that the wealthy classes of society, who
have never known any other state than one of abundance and
luxury, begin seriously to conceive of famine. But the shops
were emptied; and the storehouses began to be drawn upon; and
no fresh supply, or hope of supply, appeared.

"Winter passed away and spring returned, so early and so
beautiful on that garden-like coast, sheltered as it is from
the north winds by its belts of mountains, and open to the full
rays of the southern sun. Spring returned and clothed the
hill-sides within the lines with its fresh verdure. But that
verdure was no longer the mere delight of the careless eye of
luxury, refreshing the citizens by its liveliness and softness,
when they rode or walked up thither from the city to enjoy the
surpassing beauty of the prospect. The green hill-sides were
now visited for a very different object; ladies of the highest
rank might be seen cutting up every plant which it was possible
to turn to food, and bearing home the common weeds of our
road-sides as a most precious treasure. The French general
pitied the distresses of the people; but the lives and strength
of his garrison seemed to him more important than the lives of
the Genoese, and such provisions as remained were reserved, in
the first place, for the French army. Scarcity became utter
want, and want became famine. In the most gorgeous palaces of
that gorgeous city, no less than in the humblest tenements of
its humblest poor, death was busy; not the momentary death of
battle or massacre, nor the speedy death of pestilence, but the
lingering and most miserable death of famine. Infants died
before their parents' eyes, husbands and wives lay down to
expire together. A man whom I saw at Genoa in 1825, told me,
that his father and two of his brothers had been starved to
death in this fatal siege. So it went on, till in the month of
June, when Napoleon had already descended from the Alps into
the plain of Lombardy, the misery became unendurable, and
Massena surrendered. But before he did so, twenty thousand
innocent persons, old and young, women and children, had died
by the most horrible of deaths which humanity can endure. Other
horrors which occurred besides during this blockade, I pass
over; the agonizing death of twenty thousand innocent and
helpless persons requires nothing to be added to it.

"Now, is it right that such a tragedy as this should take
place, and that the laws of war should be supposed to justify
the authors of it? Conceive having been an officer in Lord
Keith's squadron at that time, and being employed in stopping
the food which was being brought for the relief of such misery.
For the thing was done deliberately; the helplessness of the
Genoese was known; their distress was known; it was known that
they could not force Massena to surrender; it was known that
they were dying daily by hundreds, yet week after week, and
month after month, did the British ships of war keep their iron
watch along all the coast; no vessel nor boat laden with any
article of provision could escape their vigilance. One cannot
but be thankful that Nelson was spared from commanding at this
horrible blockade of Genoa.

"Now, on which side the law of nations should throw the guilt
of most atrocious murder, is of little comparative consequence,
or whether it should attach it to both sides equally; but that
the deliberate starving to death of twenty thousand helpless
persons should be regarded as a crime in one or both of the
parties concerned in it, seems to me self-evident. The simplest
course would seem to be, that all non-combatants should be
allowed to go out of a blockaded town, and that the general who
should refuse to let them pass, should be regarded in the same
light as one who were to murder his prisoners, or who were to
be in the habit of butchering women and children. For it is not
true that war only looks to the speediest and most effectual
way of attaining its object; so that, as the letting the
inhabitants go out would enable the garrison to maintain the
town longer, the laws of war authorize the keeping them in and
starving them. Poisoning wells might be a still quicker method
of reducing a place; but do the laws of war therefore sanction
it? I shall not be supposed for a moment to be placing the
guilt of the individuals concerned in the two cases which I am
going to compare, on an equal footing; it would be most unjust
to do so--for in the one case they acted, as they supposed,
according to a law which made what they did their duty. But,
take the cases themselves, and examine them in all their
circumstances; the degree of suffering inflicted--the innocence
and helplessness of the sufferers--the interests at stake--and
the possibility of otherwise securing them; and if any man can
defend the lawfulness in the abstract of the starvation of the
inhabitants of Genoa, I will engage also to establish the
lawfulness of the massacres of September."

We rejoice to find that the great authority of Colonel W. Napier--an
authority of which posterity will know the value--is arrayed on the side
of those who think that war, the best school, as after all it must often
be, of some of our noblest virtues, need not be always the cause of
such atrocities.

This enquiry shows us how the centre of external movement in Europe has
varied; but it is not merely to the territorial struggle that our
attention should be confined--mighty principles, Christian truth, civil
freedom, were often partially at issue on one side, or on the other, in
the different contests which the gold and steel of Europe were set in
motion to determine; hence the necessity of considering not only the
moral power, but the economical and military strength of the respective
countries. It requires no mean share of political wisdom to mitigate an
encounter with the financial difficulties by which every contest is
beset. The evils of the political and social state of France were
brought to a head by the dilapidation of its revenues, and occasioned,
not the Revolution itself, but the disorders by which it was
accompanied. And more than half of our national revenue is appropriated
to the payment of our own debt; in other words, every acre of land,
besides the support of its owner and the actual demands of the State, is
encumbered with the support of two or three persons who represent the
creditors of the nation; and every man who would have laboured twelve
hours, had no national debt existed, is now obliged to toil sixteen for
the same remuneration: such a state of things may be necessary, but it
certainly requires investigation.

Other parts of the law of nations, the maritime law especially, require
improvement. Superficial men are apt to overlook the transcendent
importance of error on these subjects by which desolation may be spread
from one quarter of the globe to the other. As no man can bear long the
unanimous disapprobation of his fellows, no nation can long set at
defiance the voice of a civilized world. But we return to history in
military operations. A good map is essential to this study. For
instance, to understand the wars of Frederick the Great, it is not
enough to know that he was defeated at Kolin, Hochkirchen, and
Cunersdorf--that he was victorious at Rosbach, Lowositz, Zorndorf, and
Prague--that he was opposed by Daun, and Laudohn, and Soltikoff--we must
also comprehend the situation of the Prussian dominions with regard to
those of the allies--the importance of Saxony as covering Prussia on the
side of Austria--the importance of Silesia as running into the Austrian
frontier, and flanking a large part of Bohemia, should also be
considered--this will alone enable us to account for Frederick's attack
on Saxony, and his pertinacity in keeping possession of Silesia; nor
should it be forgotten, that the military positions of one generation
are not always those of the next, and that the military history of one
period will be almost unintelligible, if judged according to the roads
and fortresses of another. For instance, St Dizier in Champagne, which
arrested Charles the Fifth's invading army, is now perfectly
untenable--Turin, so celebrated for the sieges it has sustained, is an
open town, while Alexandria is the great Piedmontese fortress. The
addition of Paris to the list of French strongholds, is, if really
intended, a greater change than any that has been enumerated. This
discussion leads to an allusion to mountain warfare, which has been
termed the poetry of the military art, and of which the struggle in
Switzerland in 1799, when the eastern part of that country was turned
into a vast citadel, defended by the French against Suwaroff, is a most
remarkable instance, as well as the most recent. The history by General
Mathieu Dumas of the campaign in 1799 and 1800, is referred to as
containing a good account and explanation of this branch of military

The internal history of Europe during the three hundred and forty years
which have elapsed since the middle ages, is the subject now proposed
for our consideration. To the question--What was the external object of
Europe during any part of this period? the answer is obvious, that it
was engaged in resisting the aggression of Spain, or France, or Austria.
But if we carry our view to the moral world, do we find any principle
equally obvious, and a solution as satisfactory? By no means. We may,
indeed, say, with apparent precision, that during the earliest part of
this epoch, Europe was divided between the champions and antagonists of
religion, as, during its latter portion, it was between the enemies and
supporters of political reformation. But a deeper analysis will show us
that these names were but the badges of ideas, always complex, sometimes
contradictory--the war-cry of contending parties, by whom the reality
was now forgotten, or to whom, compared with other purposes, it was
altogether subordinate.

Take, for instance, the exercise of political power. Is a state free in
proportion to the number of its subjects who are admitted to rank among
its citizens, or to the degree in which its recognised citizens are
invested with political authority? In the latter point of view, the
government of Athens was the freest the world has ever seen. In the
former it was a most exclusive and jealous oligarchy. "For a city to be
well governed," says Aristotle in his Politics, "those who share in its
government must be free from the care of providing for their own
support. This," he adds, "is an admitted truth."

Again, the attentive reader can hardly fail to see that, in the struggle
between Pompey and Caesar, Caesar represented the popular as Pompey did
the aristocratical party, and that Pompey's triumph would have been
attended, as Cicero clearly saw, by the domination of an aristocracy in
the shape most oppressive and intolerable. The government of Rome, after
several desperate struggles, had degenerated into the most corrupt
oligarchy, in which all the eloquence of Cicero was unable to kindle the
faintest gleam of public virtue. Owing to the success of Caesar, the
civilized world exchanged the dominion of several tyrants for that of
one, and the opposition to his design was the resistance of the few to
the many.

Or we may take another view of the subject. By freedom do we mean the
absence of all restraint in private life, the non-interference by the
state in the details of ordinary intercourse? According to such a view,
the old government of Venice and the present government of Austria,
where debauchery is more than tolerated, would be freer than the Puritan
commonwealths in North America, where dramatic representations were
prohibited as impious, and death was the legal punishment of

These are specimens of the difficulties by which we are beset, when we
endeavour to obtain an exact and faithful image from the troubled medium
through which human affairs are reflected to us. Dr Arnold dwells on
this point with his usual felicity of language and illustration.

"This inattention to altered circumstances, which would make us
be Guelfs in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, because
the Guelf cause had been right in the eleventh or twelfth, is a
fault of most universal application in all political questions,
and is often most seriously mischievous. It is deeply seated in
human nature, being, in fact, no other than an exemplification
of the force of habit. It is like the case of a settler,
landing in a country overrun with wood and undrained, and
visited therefore by excessive falls of rain. The evil of wet,
and damp, and closeness, is besetting him on every side; he
clears away the woods, and he drains his land, and he, by doing
so, mends both his climate and his own condition. Encouraged by
his success, he perseveres in his system; clearing a country is
with him synonymous with making it fertile and habitable; and
he levels, or rather sets fire to, his forests without mercy.
Meanwhile, the tide is turned without his observing it; he has
already cleared enough, and every additional clearance is a
mischief; damp and wet are no longer the evil most to be
dreaded, but excessive drought. The rains do not fall in
sufficient quantity; the springs become low, the rivers become
less and less fitted for navigation. Yet habit blinds him for a
long while to the real state of the case; and he continues to
encourage a coming mischief in his dread of one that is become
obsolete. We have been long making progress on our present
tack; yet if we do not go about now, we shall run ashore.
Consider the popular feeling at this moment against capital
punishment; what is it but continuing to burn the woods, when
the country actually wants shade and moisture? Year after year,
men talked of the severity of the penal code, and struggled
against it in vain. The feeling became stronger and stronger,
and at last effected all, and more than all, which it had at
first vainly demanded; yet still, from mere habit, it pursues
its course, no longer to the restraining of legal cruelty, but
to the injury of innocence and the encouragement of crime, and
encouraging that worse evil--a sympathy with wickedness justly
punished rather than with the law, whether of God or man,
unjustly violated. So men have continued to cry out against the
power of the Crown after the Crown had been shackled hand and
foot; and to express the greatest dread of popular violence
long after that violence was exhausted, and the anti-popular
party was not only rallied, but had turned the tide of battle,
and was victoriously pressing upon its enemy."

The view which Dr Arnold gives of the parties in England during the
sixteenth century--that great epoch of English genius--is remarkable for
its candour and moderation. He considers the distinctions which then
prevailed in England as political rather than religious, "inasmuch as
they disputed about points of church government, without any reference
to a supposed priesthood; and because even those who maintained that one
or another form was to be preferred, because it was of divine
appointment, were influenced in their interpretation of the doubtful
language of the Scriptures by their own strong persuasion of what that
language could not but mean to say."

And he then concludes by the unanswerable remark, that in England,
according to the theory of the constitution during the sixteenth
century, church and state were one. The proofs of this proposition are
innumerable--not merely the act by which the supremacy was conferred on
Henry VIII.--not merely the powers, almost unlimited, in matters
ecclesiastical, delegated to the king's vicegerent, that vicegerent
being a layman--not merely the communion established by the sole
authority of Edward VI.--without the least participation in it by any
bishop or clergyman; but the still more conclusive argument furnished by
the fact, that no point in the doctrine, discipline, or ritual of our
church, was established except by the power of Parliament, and the power
of Parliament alone--nay, more, that they were established in direct
defiance of the implacable opposition of the bishops, by whom, being
then Roman Catholics, the English Church, on the accession of Elizabeth,
was represented--to which the omission of the names of the Lords
Spiritual in the Act of Uniformity, which is said to be enacted by the
"Queen's Highness," with the assent of the Lords and Commons in
Parliament assembled, is a testimony, at once unanswerable and
unprecedented. We have dwelt with the more anxiety on this part of Dr
Arnold's work, as it furnishes a complete answer to the absurd opinions
concerning the English Church, which it has been of late the object of a
few bigots, unconsciously acting as the tools of artful and ambitious
men, to propagate, and which would lead, by a direct and logical
process, to the complete overthrow of Protestant faith and worship.
Such, then, being the state of things "recognized on all hands, church
government was no light matter, but one which essentially involved in it
the government of the state; and the disputing the Queen's supremacy,
was equivalent to depriving her of one of the most important portions of
her sovereignty, and committing half of the government of the nation to
other hands."

At the accession of Henry VIII., the most profound tranquillity
prevailed over England. The last embers of those factions by which,
during his father's reign, the peace of the nation had been disturbed
rather than endangered, were quenched by the vigilance and severity of
that able monarch; during the wars of the Roses, the noblest blood in
England had been poured out on the field or on the scaffold, and the
wealth of the most opulent proprietors had been drained by confiscation.
The parties of York and Lancaster were no more--the Episcopal and
Puritan factions were not yet in being--every day diminished the
influence of the nobles--the strength of the Commons was in its
infancy--the Crown alone remained, strong in its own prerogative,
stronger still in the want of all competitors. Crime after crime was
committed by the savage tyrant who inherited it; he was
ostentatious--the treasures of the nation were lavished at his feet; he
was vindictive--the blood of the wise, the noble, and the beautiful, was
shed, like water, to gratify his resentment; he was rapacious--the
accumulations of ancient piety were surrendered to glut his avarice; he
was arbitrary--and his proclamations were made equivalent to acts of
Parliament; he was fickle--and the religion of the nation was changed to
gratify his lust. To all this the English people submitted, as to some
divine infliction, in silence and consternation--the purses, lives,
liberties, and consciences of his people were, for a time, at his
disposal. During the times of his son and his eldest daughter, the
general aspect of affairs was the same. But, though the hurricane of
royal caprice and bigotry swept over the land, seemingly without
resistance, the sublime truths which were the daily subject of
controversy, and the solid studies with which the age was conversant,
penetrated into every corner of the land, and were incorporated with the
very being of the nation. Then, as the mist of doubt and persecution
which had covered Mary's throne cleared away, the intellect of England,
in all its health, and vigour, and symmetry, stood revealed in the men
and women of the Elizabethan age:--

"To say," observes Dr Arnold, "that the Puritans were wanting
in humility because they did not acquiesce in the state of
things which they found around them, is a mere extravagance,
arising out of a total misapprehension of the nature of
humility, and of the merits of the feeling of veneration. All
earnestness and depth of character is incompatible with such a
notion of humility. A man deeply penetrated with some great
truth, and compelled, as it were, to obey it, cannot listen to
every one who may be indifferent to it, or opposed to it. There
is a voice to which he already owes obedience, which he serves
with the humblest devotion, which he worships with the most
intense veneration. It is not that such feelings are dead in
him, but that he has bestowed them on one object, and they are
claimed for another. To which they are most due is a question
of justice; he may be wrong in his decision, and his worship
may be idolatrous; but so also may be the worship which his
opponents call upon him to render. If, indeed, it can be shown
that a man admires and reverences nothing, he may be justly
taxed with want of humility; but this is at variance with the
very notion of an earnest character; for its earnestness
consists in its devotion to some one object, as opposed to a
proud or contemptuous indifference. But if it be meant that
reverence in itself is good, so that the more objects of
veneration we have the better is our character, this is to
confound the essential difference between veneration and love.
The excellence of love is its universality; we are told that
even the highest object of all cannot be loved if inferior
objects are hated."

Opinions, in the meanwhile, not very favourable to established authority
in the state, and marked by a rooted antipathy to ecclesiastical
pretensions, were rapidly gaining proselytes in the nation, and even at
the court. But the prudence and spirit of Elizabeth, and, still more,
the great veneration and esteem for that magnanimous princess, which
were for many years the ruling principle--we might almost say, the
darling passion--of Englishmen, enabled her to keep at bay the dangerous
animosities which her miserable successor had neither dexterity to
conciliate nor vigour to subdue. In his time the cravings, moral and
intellectual, of the English nation discovered themselves in forms not
to be mistaken--some more, some less formidable to established
government; but all announcing that the time was come when concession to
them was inevitable. No matter whether it was the Puritan who complained
of the rags of popery, or the judge who questioned the prerogative of
the sovereign, or the patriot who bewailed the profligate expenditure of
James's polluted court, or the pamphleteer whom one of our dramatists
has described so admirably, or the hoarse murmur of the crowd execrating
the pusillanimous murder of Raleigh--whosesoever the voice might be,
whatever shape it might assume, petition, controversy, remonstrance,
address, impeachment, libel, menace, insurrection, the language it spoke
was uniform and unequivocal; it demanded for the people a share in the
administration of their government, civil and ecclesiastical--it
expressed their determination to make the House of Commons a reality.

The observations that follow are fraught with the most profound wisdom,
and afford an admirable exemplification of the manner in which history
should be read by those who wish to find in it something more than a
mere register of facts and anecdotes:--

"Under these circumstances there were now working together in
the same party many principles which, as we have seen, are
sometimes perfectly distinct. For instance the popular
principle, that the influence of many should not be overborne
by that of one, was working side by side with the principle of
movement, or the desire of carrying on the work of the
Reformation to the furthest possible point, and not only the
desire of completing the Reformation, but that of shaking off
the manifold evils of the existing state of things, both
political and moral. Yet it is remarkable that the spirit of
intellectual movement stood as it were hesitating which party
it ought to join: and as the contest went on, it seemed rather
to incline to that party which was most opposed to the
political movement. This is a point in the state of English
party in the seventeenth century which is well worth noticing,
and we must endeavour to comprehend it.

"We might think, _a priori_, that the spirit of political, and
that of intellectual, and that of religious movement, would go
on together, each favouring and encouraging the other. But the
Spirit of intellectual movement differs from the other two in
this, that it is comparatively one with which the mass of
mankind have little sympathy. Political benefits all men can
appreciate; and all good men, and a great many more than we
might well dare to call good, can appreciate also the value,
not of all, but of some religious truth which to them may seem
all: the way to obtain God's favour and to worship Him aright,
is a thing which great bodies of men can value, and be moved to
the most determined efforts if they fancy that they are
hindered from attaining to it. But intellectual movement in
itself is a thing which few care for. Political truth may be
dear to them, so far as it effects their common well-being; and
religious truth so far as they may think it their duty to learn
it; but truth abstractedly, and because it is truth, which is
the object, I suppose, of the pure intellect, is to the mass of
mankind a thing indifferent. Thus the workings of the intellect
come even to be regarded with suspicion as unsettling: we have
got, we say, what we want, and we are well contented with it;
why should we be kept in perpetual restlessness, because you
are searching after some new truths which, when found, will
compel us to derange the state of our minds in order to make
room for them. Thus the democracy of Athens was afraid of and
hated Socrates; and the poet who satirized Cleon, knew that
Cleon's partizans, no less than his own aristocratical friends,
would sympathize with his satire when directed against the
philosophers. But if this hold in political matters, much more
does it hold religiously. The two great parties of the
Christian world have each their own standard of truth, by which
they try all things: Scripture on the one hand, the voice of
the church on the other. To both, therefore, the pure
intellectual movement is not only unwelcome, but they dislike
it. It will question what they will not allow to be questioned;
it may arrive at conclusions which they would regard as
impious. And, therefore, in an age of religious movement
particularly, the spirit of intellectual movement soon finds
itself proscribed rather than countenanced."

In the extract which follows, the pure and tender morality of the
sentiment vies with the atmosphere of fine writing that invests it. The
passage is one which Plato might have envied, and which we should
imagine the most hardened and successful of our modern apostates cannot
read without some feeling like contrition and remorse. Fortunate indeed
were the youth trained to virtue by such a monitor, and still more
fortunate the country where such a duty was confided to such a man:--

"I have tried to analyze the popular party: I must now
endeavour to do the same with the party opposed to it. Of
course an anti-popular party varies exceedingly at different
times; when it is in the ascendant, its vilest elements are
sure to be uppermost: fair and moderate,--just men, wise men,
noble-minded men,--then refuse to take part with it. But when
it is humbled, and the opposite side begins to imitate its
practices, then again many of the best and noblest spirits
return to it, and share its defeat though they abhorred its
victory. We must distinguish, therefore, very widely, between
the anti-popular party in 1640, before the Long Parliament met,
and the same party a few years, or even a few months,
afterwards. Now, taking the best specimens of this party in its
best state, we can scarcely admire them too highly. A man who
leaves the popular cause when it is triumphant, and joins the
party opposed to it, without really changing his principles and
becoming a renegade, is one of the noblest characters in
history. He may not have the clearest judgment, or the firmest
wisdom; he may have been mistaken, but, as far as he is
concerned personally, we cannot but admire him. But such a man
changes his party not to conquer but to die. He does not allow
the caresses of his new friends to make him forget that he is a
sojourner with them, and not a citizen: his old friends may
have used him ill, they may be dealing unjustly and cruelly:
still their faults, though they may have driven him into exile,
cannot banish from his mind the consciousness that with them is
his true home: that their cause is habitually just and
habitually the weaker, although now bewildered and led astray
by an unwonted gleam of success. He protests so strongly
against their evil that he chooses to die by their hands rather
than in their company; but die he must, for there is no place
left on earth where his sympathies can breathe freely; he is
obliged to leave the country of his affections, and life
elsewhere is intolerable. This man is no renegade, no apostate,
but the purest of martyrs: for what testimony to truth can be
so pure as that which is given uncheered by any sympathy; given
not against friends, amidst unpitying or half-rejoicing
enemies. And such a martyr was Falkland!

"Others who fall off from a popular party in its triumph, are
of a different character; ambitious men, who think that they
become necessary to their opponents and who crave the glory of
being able to undo their own work as easily as they had done
it: passionate men, who, quarrelling with their old associates
on some personal question, join the adversary in search of
revenge; vain men, who think their place unequal to their
merits, and hope to gain a higher on the opposite side: timid
men, who are frightened as it were at the noise of their own
guns, and the stir of actual battle--who had liked to dally
with popular principles in the parade service of debating or
writing in quiet times, but who shrink alarmed when both sides
are become thoroughly in earnest: and again, quiet and honest
men, who never having fully comprehended the general principles
at issue, and judging only by what they see before them, are
shocked at the violence of their party, and think that the
opposite party is now become innocent and just, because it is
now suffering wrong rather than doing it. Lastly, men who
rightly understand that good government is the result of
popular and anti-popular principles blended together, rather
than of the mere ascendancy of either; whose aim, therefore, is
to prevent either from going too far, and to throw their weight
into the lighter scale: wise men and most useful, up to the
moment when the two parties are engaged in actual civil war,
and the question is--which shall conquer? For no man can
pretend to limit the success of a party, when the sword is the
arbitrator: he who wins in that game does not win by halves:
and therefore the only question then is, which party is on the
whole the best, or rather perhaps the least evil; for as one
must crush the other, it is at least desirable that the party
so crushed should be the worse."

Dr Arnold--rightly, we hope--assumes, that in lectures addressed to
Englishmen and Protestants, it is unnecessary to vindicate the
principles of the Revolution; it would, indeed, be an affront to any
class of educated Protestant freemen, to argue that our present
constitution was better than a feudal monarchy, or the religion of
Tillotson superior to that of Laud--in his own words, "whether the
doctrine and discipline of our Protestant Church of England, be not
better and truer than that of Rome." He therefore supposes the
Revolution complete, the Bill of Rights and the Toleration Act already
passed, the authority of King William recognized in England and in
Scotland, while in Ireland the party of King James was still
predominant. He then bids us consider the character and object of the
parties by which Great Britain was then divided; on the side of the
Revolution were enlisted the great families of our aristocracy, and the
bulk of the middle classes. The faction of James included the great mass
of country gentlemen, the lower orders, and, (after the first dread of a
Roman Catholic hierarchy had passed away,) except in a very few
instances, the parochial and teaching clergy; civil and religious
liberty was the motto of one party--hereditary right and passive
obedience, of the other. As the Revolution had been bloodless, it might
have been supposed that its reward would have been secure, and that our
great deliverer would have been allowed to pursue his schemes for the
liberty of Europe, if not without opposition, at least without
hostility. But the old Royalist party had been surprised and confounded,
not broken or altogether overcome. They rallied--some from pure, others
from selfish and sordid motives--under the banner to which they had been
so long accustomed; and, though ultimately baffled, they were able to
place in jeopardy, and in some measure to fling away the advantages
which the blood and treasure of England had been prodigally lavished to

The conquest of Ireland was followed by that terrible code against the
Catholics, the last remnant of which is now obliterated from our
statute-book. It is singular that this savage proscription should have
been the work of the party at whose head stood the champion of
toleration. The account which Mr Burke has given of it, and for the
accuracy of which he appeals to Bishop Burnet, does not entirely
coincide with the view taken by Dr Arnold. Mr Burke says--

"A party in this nation, enemies to the system of the
Revolution, were in opposition to the government of King
William. They knew that our glorious deliverer was an enemy to
all persecution. They knew that he came to free us from slavery
and Popery, out of a country where a third of the people are
contented Catholics, under a Protestant government. He came,
with a part of his army composed of those very Catholics, to
overset the power of a Popish prince. Such is the effect of a
tolerating spirit, and so much is liberty served in every way,
and by all persons, by a manly adherence to its own principles.
Whilst freedom is true to itself, every thing becomes subject
to it, and its very adversaries are an instrument in its hands.

"The party I speak of (like some amongst us who would disparage
the best friends of their country) resolved to make the King
either violate his principles of toleration, or incur the odium
of protecting Papists. They, therefore, brought in this bill,
and made it purposely wicked and absurd, that it might be
rejected. The then court-party discovering their game, turned
the tables on them, and returned their bill to them stuffed
with still greater absurdities, that its loss might lie upon
its original authors. They, finding their own ball thrown back
to them, kicked it back again to their adversaries. And thus
this act, loaded with the double injustice of two parties,
neither of whom intended to pass what they hoped the other
would be persuaded to reject, went through the legislature,
contrary to the real wish of all parts of it, and of all the
parties that composed it. In this manner these insolent and
profligate factions, as if they were playing with balls and
counters, made a sport of the fortunes and the liberties of
their fellow-creatures. Other acts of persecution have been
acts of malice. This was a subversion of justice from

Whether Dr Arnold's theory be applicable or not to this particular case,
it furnishes but too just a solution of Irish misgovernment in general.
It is, that excessive severity toward conquered rebels, is by no means
inconsistent with the principles of free government, or even with the
triumph of a democracy. The truth of this fact is extorted from us by
all history, and may be accounted for first, by the circumstance, that
large bodies of men are less affected than individuals, by the feelings
of shame and a sense of responsibility; and, secondly, that conduct the
most selfish and oppressive, the mere suspicion of which would be enough
to brand an individual with everlasting infamy, assumes, when adopted by
popular assemblies, the air of statesmanlike wisdom and patriotic
inflexibility. The main cause of the difference with which the lower
orders in France and England regarded the Revolution in their respective
countries, is to be found in the different nature of the evils which
they were intended to remove. The English Revolution was merely
political--the French was social also; the benefits of the Bill of
Rights, great and inestimable as they were, were such as demanded some
knowledge and reflection to appreciate--they did not come home directly
to the business and bosom of the peasant; it was only in rare and great
emergencies that he could become sensible of the rights they gave, or of
the means of oppression they took away: while the time-honoured
dwellings of the Cavendishes and Russells were menaced and assailed,
nothing but the most senseless tyranny could render the cottage
insecure; but the abolition of the seignorial rights in France, free
communication between her provinces, equal taxation, impartial
justice--these were blessings which it required no economist to
illustrate, and no philosopher to explain. Every labourer in France,
whose sweat had flowed for the benefit of others, whose goods had been
seized by the exactors of the Taille and the Gabelle,[1] the fruits of
whose soil had been wasted because he was not allowed to sell them at
the neighbouring market, whose domestic happiness had been polluted, or
whose self-respect had been lowered by injuries and insults, all
retribution for which was hopeless, might well be expected to value
these advantages more than life itself. But when the principles of the
Revolution were triumphant, and the House of Brunswick finally seated on
the throne of this country, it remains to be seen what were, during the
eighteenth century, the fruits of this great and lasting victory. The
answer is a melancholy one. Content with what had been achieved, the
nation seems at once to have abandoned all idea of any further moral or
intellectual progress. In private life the grossest ignorance and
debauchery were written upon our social habits, in the broadest and most
legible characters. In public life, we see chicanery in the law, apathy
in the Church, corruption in Parliament, brutality on the seat of
justice; trade burdened with a great variety of capricious restrictions;
the punishment of death multiplied with the most shocking indifference;
the state of prisons so dreadful, that imprisonment--which might be, and
in those days often was, the lot of the most innocent of mankind--became
in itself a tremendous punishment; the press virtually shackled;
education every where wanted, and no where to be found.

[1] "_Taille and the Gabelle_." Sully thus describes these
fertile sources of crime and misery:--"Taille, source
principale d'abus et de vexations de toute espece, sans sa
repartition et sa perception. Il est bien a souhaiter, mais pas
a esperer, qu'on change un jour en entier le fond de cette
partie des revenus. Je mets la Gabelle de niveau avec la
Taille. Je n'ai jamais rien trouve de si _bizarrement
tyrannique_ que de faire acheter a un particulier, plus de sel
qu'il n'en veut et n'en peut consommer, et de lui defendre
encore de revendre ce qu'il a de trop."

The laws that were passed resemble the edicts of a jealous, selfish, and
even vindictive oligarchy, rather than institutions adopted for the
common welfare, by the representatives of a free people. Turn to any of
the works which describe the manners of the age, from the works of
Richardson or Fielding, to the bitter satire of Churchill and the
melancholy remonstrances of Cowper, and you are struck with the
delineation of a state and manners, and a tone of feeling which, in the
present day, appears scarcely credible. "'Sdeath, madam, do you threaten
me with the law?" says Lovelace to the victim of his calculating and
sordid violence. Throughout the volumes of these great writers, the
features perpetually recur of insolence, corruption, violence, and
debauchery in the one class, and of servility and cunning in the other.
It is impossible for the worst quality of an aristocracy--nominally, to
be sure, subject to the restraint of the law, but practically, almost
wholly exempt from its operation--to be more clearly and more fearfully
represented. The South Sea scheme, the invasion of Scotland, the
disgraceful expeditions on the coast of France; the conduct of Lord
George Sackville at Minden, the miserable attempt on Carthagena, the
loss of Minorca, the convention of Closterseven, the insecurity of the
high-roads, nay, of the public streets in the metropolis itself, all
serve to show the deplorable condition into which the nation was fast
sinking, abroad and at home, when the "Great Commoner" once more aroused
its energies, concentrated its strength, and carried it to a higher
pinnacle of glory than it has ever been the lot even of Great Britain to
attain. Yet this effect was transient--the progress of corruption was
checked, but the disease still lurked in the heart, and tainted the
life-blood of the community. The orgies of Medmenham Abbey, the triumphs
of Wilkes, and the loss of America, bear fatal testimony to the want of
decency and disregard of merit in private as well as public life which
infected Great Britain, polluting the sources of her domestic virtues,
and bringing disgrace upon her arms and councils during the greater part
of the eighteenth century. It is with a masterly review of this period
of our history that Dr Arnold closes his analysis of the three last
centuries. His remaining lecture is dedicated to the examination of
historical evidence--a subject on which it is not our present intention
to offer any commentary.

To trace effects to their causes, is the object of all science; and by
this object, as it is accomplished or incomplete, the progress of any
particular science must be determined. The order of the moral is in
reality as immutable as the laws of the physical world; and human
actions are linked to their consequences by a necessity as inexorable as
that which controls the growth of plants or the motion of the earth,
though the connexion between cause and effect is not equally
discernible. The depression of the nobles and the rise of the commons in
England, after the statutes of alienation, were the result of causes as
infallible in their operation as those which regulate the seasons and
the tides. Repeated experiments have proved beyond dispute, that gold is
heavier than iron. Is the superior value of gold to iron a fact more
questionable? Yet is value a quality purely moral, and absolutely
dependent on the will of man. The events of to-day are bound to those of
yesterday, and those of to-morrow will be bound to those of to-day, no
less certainly than the harvest of the present year springs from the
grain which is the produce of former harvests. When by a severe and
diligent analysis we have ascertained all the ingredients of any
phenomenon, and have separated it from all that is foreign and
adventitious, we know its true nature, and may deduce a general law from
our experiment; for a general law is nothing more than an expression of
the effect produced by the same cause operating under the same
circumstances. In the reign of Louis XV., a Montmorency was convicted of
an atrocious murder. He was punished by a short imprisonment in the
Bastile. His servant and accomplice was, for the same offence at the
same time, broken alive upon the wheel. Is the proposition, that the
angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, more certain than
the ruin of a system under which such a state of things was tolerated?
How, then, does it come to pass, that the same people who cling to one
set of truths reject the other with obstinate incredulity? Cicero shall
account for it:--"Sensus nostros non parens, non nutrix, non poeta, non
scena depravat; animis omnes tendentur insidiae." The discoveries of
physical science, in the present day at least, allow little scope to
prejudice and inclination. Whig and Tory, Radical and Conservative,
agree, that fire will burn and water suffocate; nay, no tractarian, so
far as we know, has ventured to call in question the truths established
by Cuvier and La Place. But every proposition in moral or political
science enlists a host of feelings in zealous support or implacable
hostility; and the same system, according to the creed and
prepossessions of the speaker, is put forward as self-evident, or
stigmatized as chimerical. One set of people throw corn into the river
and burn mills, in order to cheapen bread--another vote that sixteen
shillings are equal to twenty-one, in order to support public
credit--proceedings in no degree more reasonable than a denial that two
and two make four, or using gunpowder instead of water to stop a
conflagration. Again, in physical science, the chain which binds the
cause to its effect is short, simple, and passes through no region of
vapour and obscurity; in moral phenomena, it is long hidden and
intertwined with the links of ten thousand other chains, which ramify
and cross each other in a confusion which it requires no common patience
and sagacity to unravel. Therefore it is that the lessons of history,
dearly as they have been purchased, are forgotten and thrown
away--therefore it is that nations sow in folly and reap in
affliction--that thrones are shaken, and empires convulsed, and commerce
fettered by vexatious restrictions, by those who live in one century,
without enabling their descendants to become wiser or richer in the
next. The death of Charles I. did not prevent the exile of James II.,
and, in spite of the disasters of Charles XII., Napoleon tempted fortune
too often and too long. It is not, then, by the mere knowledge of
separate facts that history can contribute to our improvement or our
happiness; it would then exchange the character of philosophy treated by
examples, for that of sophistry misleading by empiricism. The more
systematic the view of human events which it enables us to gain, the
more nearly does it approach its real office, and entitle itself to the
splendid panegyric of the Roman statesman--"Historia, testis temporum,
lux veritatis, vita memoriae, magistra vitae, nuntia vetustatis."

But while we insist upon the certainty of those truths which a calm
examination of history confirms, and the sure operation of those general
laws by which Providence in its wisdom has ordained that the affairs of
this lower world shall be controlled--let it not be supposed that we for
a moment doubt the truth which Demosthenes took such pains to inculcate
upon his countrymen, that fortune in human affairs is for a time
omnipotent. That fortune, which "erring men call chance," is the name
which finite beings must apply to those secret and unknown causes which
no human sagacity can penetrate or comprehend. What depends upon a few
persons, observes Mr Hume, is to be ascribed to chance; what arises from
a great number, may often be accounted for by known and determinate
causes; and he illustrates this position by the instance of a loaded
die, the bias of which, however it may for a short time escape
detection, will certainly in a great number of instances become
predominant. The issue of a battle may be decided by a sunbeam or a
cloud of dust. Had an heir been born to Charles II. of Spain--had the
youthful son of Monsieur De Bouille not fallen asleep when Louis XVI.
entered Varennes--had Napoleon, on his return from Egypt, been stopped
by an English cruizer--how different would have been the face of Europe.
The _poco di piu_ and _poco di meno_ has, in such contingencies, an
unbounded influence. The trade-winds are steady enough to furnish
grounds for the most accurate calculation; but will any man in our
climate venture to predict from what quarter, on any particular day, the
wind may chance to blow?

Therefore, in forming our judgment of human affairs, we must apply a
"Lesbian rule," instead of one that is inflexible. Here it is that the
line is drawn between science, and the wisdom which has for its object
the administration of human affairs. The masters of science explore a
multitude of phenomena to ascertain a single cause; the statesman and
legislator, engaged in pursuits "hardliest reduced to axiom," examine a
multitude of causes to explain a solitary phenomenon. The
investigations, however, to which such questions lead, are singularly
difficult, as they require an accurate analysis of the most complicated
class of facts which can possibly engross our attention, and to the
complete examination of which the faculties of any one man must be
inadequate. The finest specimens of such enquiries which we possess are
the works of Adam Smith and Montesquieu. The latter, indeed, may be
called a great historian. He sought in every quarter for his account of
those fundamental principles which are common to all governments, as
well as of those peculiarities by which they are distinguished one from
another. The analogy which reaches from the first dim gleam of civility
to the last and consummate result of policy and intelligence, from the
law of the Salian Franks to the Code Napoleon, it was reserved for him
to discover and explain. He saw that, though the shape into which the
expression of human thought and will was moulded as the family became a
tribe, and the tribe a nation, might be fantastic and even
monstrous--that the staple from which it unrolled itself must be the
same. Treading in the steps of Vico, he more than realized his master's
project, and in his immortal work (which, with all its faults, is a
magnificent, and as yet unrivalled, trophy of his genius, and will serve
as a landmark to future enquirers when its puny critics are not known
enough to be despised) he has extracted from a chaos of casual
observations, detached hints--from the principles concealed in the
intricate system of Roman jurisprudence, or exposed in the rules which
barely held together the barbarous tribes of Gaul and Germany--from the
manners of the polished Athenian, and from the usages of the wandering
Tartar--from the rudeness of savage life, and the corruptions of refined
society--a digest of luminous and coherent evidence, by which the
condition of man, in the different stages of his social progress, is
exemplified and ascertained. The loss of the History of Louis XI.--a
work which he had projected, and of which he had traced the outline--is
a disappointment which the reader of modern history can never enough

The province of science lies in truths that are universal and immutable;
that of prudence in second causes that are transient and subordinate.
What is universally true is alone necessarily true--the knowledge that
rests in particulars must be accidental. The theorist disdains
experience--the empiric rejects principle. The one is the pedant who
read Hannibal a lecture on the art of war; the other is the carrier who
knows the road between London and York better than Humboldt, but a new
road is prescribed to him and his knowledge becomes useless. This is
the state of mind La Fontaine has described so perfectly in his story of
the "Cierge."

"Un d'eux, voyant la brique au feu endurcie
Vaincre l'effort des ans, il eut la meme envie;
Et nouvel Empedocle, aux flammes condamne
Par sa pure et propre folie,
Il se lanca dedans--ce fut mal raisonne,
Le Cierge ne savait grain de philosophie."

The mere chemist or mathematician will apply his truths improperly; the
man of detail, the mere empiric, will deal skilfully with particulars,
while to all general truths he is insensible. The wise man, the
philosopher in action, will use the one as a stepping-stone to the
other, and acquire a vantage-ground from whence he will command the
realms of practice and experience.

History teems with instances that--although the general course of the
human mind is marked out, and each succeeding phasis in which it
exhibits itself appears inevitable--the human race cannot be considered,
as Vico and Herder were, perhaps, inclined to look upon it, as a mass
without intelligence, traversing its orbit according to laws which it
has no power to modify or control. On such an hypothesis, Wisdom and
Folly, Justice and Injustice, would be the same, followed by the same
consequences and subject to the same destiny--no certain laws
establishing invariable grounds of hope and fear, would keep the actions
of men in a certain course, or direct them to a certain end; the
feelings, faculties, and instincts of man would be useless in a world
where the wise was always as the foolish, the just as the unjust, where
calculation was impossible, and experience of no avail.

Man is no doubt the instrument, but the unconscious instrument, of
Providence; and for the end they propose to themselves, though not for
the result which they attain, nations as well as individuals are
responsible. Otherwise, why should we read or speak of history? it would
be the feverish dream of a distempered imagination, full of incoherent
ravings, a disordered chaos of antagonist illusions--

----"A tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

But on the contrary, it is in history that the lessons of morality are
delivered with most effect. The priest may provoke our suspicion--the
moralist may fail to work in us any practical conviction; but the
lessons of history are not such as vanish in the fumes of unprofitable
speculation, or which it is possible for us to mistrust, or to deride.
Obscure as the dispensations of Providence often are, it sometimes, to
use Lord Bacon's language--"pleases God, for the confutation of such as
are without God in the world, to write them in such text and capital
letters that he who runneth by may read it--that is, mere sensual
persons which hasten by God's judgments, and never tend or fix their
cogitations upon them, are nevertheless in their passage and race urged
to discern it." In all historical writers, philosophical or trivial,
sacred or profane, from the meagre accounts of the monkish chronicler,
no less than from the pages stamped with all the indignant energy of
Tacitus, gleams forth the light which, amid surrounding gloom and
injustice, amid the apparent triumph of evil, discovers the influence of
that power which the heathens personified as Nemesis. Her tread, indeed,
is often noiseless--her form may be long invisible--but the moment at
length arrives when the measure of forbearance is complete; the echoes
of her step vibrate upon the ear, her form bursts upon the eye, and her
victim--be it a savage tyrant, or a selfish oligarchy, or a hypocritical
church, or a corrupt nation--perishes.

"Come quei che va di notte,
Che porta il lume dietro, _e a se non giova,
Ma dopo se fa le persone dotte_."

And as in daily life we rejoice to trace means directed to an end, and
proofs of sagacity and instinct even among the lower tribes of animated
nature, with how much greater delight do we seize the proofs vouchsafed
to us in history of that eternal law, by which the affairs of the
universe are governed? How much more do we rejoice to find that the
order to which physical nature owes its existence and perpetuity, does
not stop at the threshold of national life--that the moral world is not
_fatherless_, and that man, formed to look before and after, is not
abandoned to confusion and insecurity?

Fertile and comprehensive indeed is the domain of history, comprising
the whole region of probabilities within its jurisdiction--all the
various shapes into which man has been cast--all the different scenes in
which he has been called upon to act or suffer; his power and his
weakness, his folly and his wisdom, his virtues in their meridian
height, his vices in the lowest abyss of their degradation, are
displayed before us, in their struggles, vicissitudes, and infinitely
diversified combinations: an inheritance beyond all price--a vast
repository of fruitful and immortal truths. There is nothing so mean or
so dignified; nothing so obscure or so glorious; no question so
abstruse, no problem so subtile, no difficulty so arduous, no situation
so critical, of which we may not demand from history an account and
elucidation. Here we find all that the toil, and virtues, and
sufferings, and genius, and experience, of our species have laboured for
successive generations to accumulate and preserve. The fruit of their
blood, of their labour, of their doubts, and their struggles, is before
us--a treasure that no malignity can corrupt, or violence take away. And
above all, it is here that, when tormented by doubt, or startled by
anomalies, stung by disappointment, or exasperated by injustice, we may
look for consolation and encouragement. As we see the same events, that
to those who witnessed them must have appeared isolated and capricious,
tending to one great end, and accomplishing one specific purpose, we may
learn to infer that those which appear to us most extraordinary, are
alike subservient to a wise and benevolent dispensation. Poetry, the
greatest of all critics has told us, has this advantage over history,
that the lessons which it furnishes are not mixed and confined to
particular cases, but pure and universal. Studied, however, in this
spirit, history, while it improves the reason, may satisfy the heart,
enabling us to await with patience the lesson of the great instructor,
Time, and to employ the mighty elements it places within our reach, to
the only legitimate purpose of all knowledge--"The advancement of God's
glory, and the relief of man's estate."

* * * * *


No. V.


[This noble lyric is perhaps the happiest of all those poems in which
Schiller has blended the classical spirit with the more deep and tender
philosophy which belongs to modern romance. The individuality of the
heroes introduced is carefully preserved. The reader is every where
reminded of Homer; and yet, as a German critic has observed, _there is
an under current of sentiment_ which betrays the thoughtful _Northern_
minstrel. This detracts from the art of the Poem viewed as an imitation,
but constitutes its very charm as an original composition. Its
inspiration rises from a source purely Hellenic, but the streamlets it
receives at once adulterate and enrich, or (to change the metaphor) it
has the costume and the gusto of the Greek, but the toning down of the
colours betrays the German.]

The stately walls of Troy had sunken,
Her towers and temples strew'd the soil;
The sons of Hellas, victory-drunken,
Richly laden with the spoil,
Are on their lofty barks reclin'd
Along the Hellespontine strand;
A gleesome freight the favouring wind
Shall bear to Greece's glorious land;
And gleesome sounds the chaunted strain,
As towards the household altars, now,
Each bark inclines the painted prow--
For Home shall smile again!

And there the Trojan women, weeping,
Sit ranged in many a length'ning row;
Their heedless locks, dishevell'd, sweeping
Adown the wan cheeks worn with woe.
No festive sounds that peal along,
_Their_ mournful dirge can overwhelm;
Through hymns of joy one sorrowing song
Commingled, wails the ruin'd realm.
"Farewell, beloved shores!" it said,
"From home afar behold us torn,
By foreign lords as captives borne--
Ah, happy are the Dead!"

And Calchas, while the altars blaze,
Invokes the high gods to their feast!
On Pallas, mighty or to raise
Or shatter cities, call'd the Priest--
And Him, who wreathes around the land
The girdle of his watery world,
And Zeus, from whose almighty hand
The terror and the bolt are hurl'd.
Success at last awards the crown--
The long and weary war is past;
Time's destined circle ends at last--
And fall'n the Mighty Town!

The Son of Atreus, king of men,
The muster of the hosts survey'd,
How dwindled from the thousands, when
Along Scamander first array'd!
With sorrow and the cloudy thought,
The Great King's stately look grew dim--
Of all the hosts to Ilion brought,
How few to Greece return with him!
Still let the song to gladness call,
For those who yet their home shall greet!--
For them the blooming life is sweet:
Return is not for all!

Nor all who reach their native land
May long the joy of welcome feel--
Beside the household gods may stand
Grim Murther with awaiting steel;
And they who 'scape the foe, may die
Beneath the foul familiar glaive.
Thus He[2] to whose prophetic eye
Her light the wise Minerva gave:--
"Ah! blest whose hearth, to memory true,
The goddess keeps unstain'd and pure--
For woman's guile is deep and sure,
And Falsehood loves the New!"

The Spartan eyes his Helen's charms,
By the best blood of Greece recaptured;
Round that fair form his glowing arms--
(A second bridal)--wreathe enraptured.
"Woe waits the work of evil birth--
Revenge to deeds unblest is given!
For watchful o'er the things of earth,
The eternal Council-Halls of Heaven.
Yes, ill shall ever ill repay--
Jove to the impious hands that stain
The Altar of Man's Hearth, again
The doomer's doom shall weigh!"

"Well they, reserved for joy to day,"
Cried out Oileus' valiant son,
"May laud the favouring gods who sway
Our earth, their easy thrones upon;
Without a choice they mete our doom,
Our woe or welfare Hazard gives--
Patroclus slumbers in the tomb,
And all unharm'd Thersites lives.
While luck and life to every one
Blind Fate dispenses, well may they
Enjoy the life and luck to day


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