Page images

of conduct is always natural: there are certain persons who do not, as it would seem cannot, feel all that others feel; who have, so to say, no ear for much of religion : who are in some sort out of its reach. “It is impossible," says a late divine of the Church of England, “not to observe that innumerable persons (may we not say the majority of mankind ?) who have a belief in God and immortality ; have, nevertheless, scarcely any consciousness of the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. They seem to live aloof from them in the world of business or of pleasure, the common life of all men,' not without a sense of right, and a rule of truth and honesty, yet insensible” to much which we need not name. “They have never in their whole lives experienced the love of God, the sense of sin, or the need of forgiveness. Often they are remarkable for the purity of their morals; many of them have strong and disinrerested attachments and quick human sympathies, sometimes a stoical feeling of uprightness, or a peculiar sensitiveness to dishonour. It would be a mistake to say that they are without religion. They join in its public acts; they are offended at profaneness or impiety; they are thankful for the blessings of life, and do not rebel against its misfortunes. Such men meet us at every step. They are those whom we know and associate with ; honest in their dealings, respectable in their lives, decent in their conversation. The Scripture speaks to us of two classes, represented by the church and the world, the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats, the friends and enemies of God. We cannot say in which of these two divisions we should find a place for them.” They believe always a kind of "natural religion.” Now these are what we may call, in the language of the past, Liberals. Those who can remember, or who will re-read our delineation of the Whig character, may observe its conformity. There is the same purity and delicacy, the same tranquil sense; an equal want of imagination, of impulsive enthusiasm, of shrinking fear. You need not speak like the above writer of “peculiar doctrines," the phenomenon is no speciality of a particular creed. Glance over the whole of history, as the classical world stood beside the Jewish; as Horace beside St. Paul; like the heavy ark and the buoyant waves, so are men in contrast with one another. You cannot imagine a classical Isaiah; you cannot fancy a Whig St. Dominic ; there is no such thing as a Liberal Augustine. The deep sea of mysticism lies opposed to some natures ; in some moods it is a sublime wonder; in others an “impious ocean,"—they will never put forth on it at any time.

All this is intelligible, and in a manner beautiful as a

character; but it is not equally excellent as a creed. A certain class of Liberal divines have endeavoured to petrify into a theory a flowing and placid disposition. In some respects Sydney Smith is one of these; his sermons are the least excellent of his writings; of course they are sensible and wellintentioned, but they have the defect of his school. With misdirected energy, these divines have laboured after a plain religion ; they have forgotten that a quiet and definite mind is confined to a placid and definite world; that religion has its essence in awe, its charm in infinity, its sanction in dread; that its dominion is an inexplicable dominion; that mystery is its power. There is a reluctance in all such writers; they creep away from the unintelligible parts of the subject; they always seem to have something behind; not to like to bring out what they know to be at hand. They are in their nature apologists; and, as George the Third said, “ I did not know the Bible needed an apology.” As well might the thunder be ashamed to roll, as religion hesitate to be too awful for mankind. The invective of Lucretius is truer than the placid patronage of the divine. Let us admire Liberals in life, but let us keep no terms with Paleyans in speculation.

And so we must draw to a conclusion. We have in some sort given a description of, with one great exception, the most remarkable men connected at its origin with the Edinburgh Review. And that exception is a man of too fitful, defective, and strange greatness to be spoken of now. Henry Brougham must be left to after-times. Indeed he would have marred the unity of our article. He was connected with the Whigs, but he never was one. His impulsive ardour is the opposite of their coolness; his irregular, discursive intellect contrasts with their quiet and perfecting mind. Of those whom we have spoken, let us say, that if none of them attained to the highest rank of abstract intellect; if the disposition of none of them was ardent or glowing enough to hurry them forward to the extreme point of daring greatness; if only one can be said to have a lasting place in real literature, it is clear that they vanquished a slavish cohort; that they upheld the name of freemen in a time of bondsmen; that they applied themselves to that which was real, and accomplished much which was very difficult; that the very critics who question their inimitable excellence, will yet admire their just and scarcely imitable example.


Reports of the Commissioners for the Restoration of the Standard

of Weight and Measure, 1841 and 1854. Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Decimal

Coinage. 1853. Decimal Association. Debate in the House of Commons on

Decimal Coinage, June 12, 1855; with Remarks on the

Speech of the Hon. Member for Kidderminster. Publications of the Decimal Association (various), 1854 and

1855. Journal of the Society of Arts, August 10, 1855. List of Books

and Pamphlets on the Decimal Coinage Question. (About 100 Publications in 1853, 1854, 1855.)

T seems pretty well settled that we are to have a decimal

coinage. Nobody now resists the principle, or denies the alleged advantages. One particular plan has, from the very commencement, commanded all but unanimous assent. Two Royal Commissions, a Committee and finally a vote of the House, have decided strongly in favour of it: and a powerful association, supported by more than two hundred Members of Parliament, by the Bank of England, and by private bankers and merchants, has been organized for its promotion. Discussions at the Society of Arts, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institute of Actuaries, and the British Association, terminated to the satisfaction of its advocates. All but one of those who offered evidence to the Committee of the House of Commons were on the same side,-men of science, men of accounts, large merchants, small shopkeepers. The exception was Mr. Headlam, M.P., and his opposition was entirely based on his own belief that the proposed plan required more change than any Government would dare to make. Nevertheless, his name appears in the Decimal Association; and, we believe, on the principle that their plan is a very good one, if—as he would say—the country will venture on it. This unanimity of evidence has been attributed to the management of the Committee itself, by some few opponents.


But we know that in one case, and probably in more, the Committee requested a gentleman of eminence in political and statistical science, who was opposed to their views, to come forward, and the request was not attended to.

On all these grounds, Lord Palmerston (July 9) announced his intention of appointing a new commission, not to decide on the mode of carrying the vote of the Commons into effect, but to examine into the whole subject. It is understood that the commission will consist of Lord Monteagle, Lord Overstone, and Mr. Hubbard, late Governor of the Bank. We make every allowance for this cautious determination. The change involves some interference, Lord Palmerston does not know how little, with the habits of the lower orders: and his step in advance was urged upon him, by the Decimal Associa. tion, at a moment when the supineness of the Cabinet with regard to the proceedings of private Members had very recently produced startling effects. The mob, on a Sunday, got hold of the maxim of Horace, Si vis me flere dolendum est primum ipsi tibi, and—in spite of the police, who thought that Horace was not a Sunday book—they construed it into such plain English that the House understood it. No wonder that the Prime Minister chose to be supported by one commission more. It might be worth a reform bill if the Cabinet should become quick to remember that the House is elected by the sovereign people, and not by the shilling and sixpenny people.

All the sovereign people who have advocated the plan proposed by the Committee, declare and maintain that this plan is by far the best for the sixpenny people; and the shopkeepers, who know the sixpenny people, assent. This is the question. If the two must be placed in opposition, let the convenience of the fare yield to that of the driver. In this discussion a coin is but a coin, be its value what it may; and the man of two sixpences is of more importance than the man of one sovereign.

We have never joined any party on this subject; but a party has joined us. Long before any discussion arose, we were in favour of the system which we now hope to see adopted, as combining advantages for all ranks of the community. We advocated it at a time when we heard an official of the Government declare that no such plan could be carried until the Cabinet was composed of men of science. We are not come to that yet: in fact there is reason to believe that when the Commons passed their resolution, the science of the Cabinet stood at less than its ordinary stint of school arithmetic.

By a decimal reckoning we mean one in which, in every case, ten of a sort make one of the next sort; as in 10 mils make a cent, 10 cents make a florin, 10 florins make a pound : so that the carriage of arithmetical processes is always in tens, hundreds, &c. For common people, and usual transactions, we have nothing to do with decimal fractions. No one will learn from this article how mathematicians write decimal fractions, or what they do with them. Some of our opponents have talked grand nonsense about decimals; and, perhaps, some of our advocates have talked too much grand sense. No wonder frightened souls should think that grim science means to send them back to school. No such thing is intended. Simplification is the object, and when the first embarassment of the change is over, which we do not believe will last three days, that simplification will be fully achieved. To most persons, money arithmetic consists in adding sums of money together. We put side by side two corresponding questions, one in each system, and we write the processes of both in detail. On the change from one system to the other, and the methods of meeting such difficulties as it presents, we shall afterwards speak at length. Present System.

Proposed System £ s. d.

£ f. 1 17 83

1 8 6 2 j1 91

8 4 19 11

4 9 9

C. m. 8

9 6

9 951

9 4 7 1 Add the farthings, 6, or 1 d. Add 6, 9, 6, mils, 21, 2c. Im. Add 1, 11, 9, 8, pence, 29, 2s. 5d. Add 2, 9, 8, 8, cents, 27, 2f. 7c. Add 2,19,11,17, shillings, 49, £29s. Add 2, 9, 5, 8, florins, 24, 21. 4f. Add 2, 4, 2, 1, pounds, £9. Add 2, 4, 2, 1, pounds, £9.

Reader ! if 10 pebbles were a parcel, 10 parcels a basket, 10 baskets a sack, and 10 sacks a load, should you know, without calculation, that 67,234 pebbles would be 6 loads, 7 baskets, 2 sacks, 3 parcels, and 4 odd pebbles? If yes, it is well, and you have a pretty notion of decimals ; if no, you need not be ashamed, for you have comrades among the great people who manage the nation. Again, if 10 pebbles made a packet, 10 packets a pack, 10 packs a heap, and 10 heaps a store, do you see that this is the very same system, differing only in names of collections ? If you do, you see more than our Chancellor of the Exchequer, the chief of our financial arithmetic. The right honourable gentleman, after stating that there are differences of opinion, proceeds to give “ some of the plans ” which have come under his observation. One is the tenpenny plan, others are as follows First, 10 farthings or mils one cent, 10 cents one dime, 10 dimes one prime. Secondly, 10 farthings

« PreviousContinue »