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vators of small properties of their own, their position would be unspeakably more honourable to themselves, and more serviceable to the state. They would constitute a fine middle class of independent yeomanry, separating between the large proprietors and the mere tenants at will, in place of leaving the counties of England to be everywhere occupied with lord and vassal.
We know that our English economists, influenced as they have been for the most part by the ascendant temper of this country, have generally deprecated the sort of change which we are bold enough to recommend. Indeed, every kind of mischief has been predicated of it. Production, it is said, would, in such case, be Iess, embellishment less, our whole civilization less. Such also has been the tone of a journal, whose sayings on this subject, as on many others, have often been allowed to carry with them an undue measure of authority.* According to the predictions of such oracles, France should, by this time, have been totally ruined by the laws passed at the time of the Revolution in favour of a greater subdivision of property, whereas it has been constantly deriving an increase of wealth, and, what is infinitely more valuable than money, a new measure of intelligence, virtue, and patriotism from that change.
The practice of pointing to Ireland as an illustration of the condition to which English agriculture would be reduced if the law of primogeniture were abolished, is most disingenuous. Ireland is rather an illustration of the miseries which that law must always entail on a people where its evils are not mitigated by prosperity in manufactures and commerce. In Ireland, it is not the moderate division of lands amidst a large number of substantial freeholders that we see, but a parcelling out of the surface of the country among a wretched tenantry - 80 wretched that the greater part of them should never have been required to pay rent otherwise than in kine.
The arable land at present in France is little more than it was in 1789; but such is the better culture which has been attendant on a greater subdivision of the soil, that the surface which afforded only a scanty subsistence to twenty-five millions before the Revolution, now sustains thirty-three millions in comfort and abundance. In Switzerland, Tuscany, and Flanders, where this greater division of territory most obtains, we find agriculture in the highest, the most garden-like condition. Is it not natural that it should be so ? Will not a man labour on his own land as he would not on the land of another? Is there not enough in this one advantage to counterbalance every disadvan
* Edinburgh Review.
tage incident to such an arrangement? The proprietor, in this case, may not always be a man of capital, but his labour as a cultivator, and his feeling as a patriot, are alike augmented by the consciousness that the space about him is his own. On the Continent, the law of primogeniture is little known, and our homespun theories in its favour are very rudely shaken when brought into contact with the statistics supplied by countries where that law has been abandoned. In those countries, and chiefly from this cause, the middle classes are multiplying much more rapidly than with us. Hence, little as we may suspect it, those nations are becoming much more ripe than ourselves for the possession of popular institutions. Nearly all the great statesmen, moreover, in those lands, concur in regarding the tendency in our affairs to perpetuate this extravagant wealth in a few families, to prevent the increase of small proprietors, and to augment the dependent and ignorant masses of our people, as a course of things which must necessarily carry the elements of destruction along with it. In a free and prosperous country, a landed aristocracy and a money aristocracy will be sure to arise. What we desire is, that nothing should be done to facilitate or perpetuate such aggregations of wealth in few hands as we see encouraged both by law and usage in this country.
The statesman, then, especially needed in the times on which we are entering, is a man who will know how to demean himself without any sign of favouritism towards the different religious parties in this great empire—who will be prepared to advocate the removal of taxation from commodities to property—who will be bold enough to maintain that the rich should be taxed in
proportion to their means in common with the poor—who will not hesitate to set forth the great inequalities between those classes as our especial danger-who will be resolute to encourage every measure which may tend to give a healthy occupancy to the space between the few who possess much and the many who possess nothing, by augmenting the middle class, both of agricultarists and traders, to the greatest degree practicable; and who will look to this progress of greater equality in our social relations as a people, as preparatory to a greater equality with regard to all civil rights.
Is Lord John Russell a statesman of this order? We should be glad if we could speak of our hope in this respect as stronger than our fear. The knowledge of our readers, and the events which are at hand, will reveal the rest.
His lordship may do real service to his country, without taking exactly the ground to which we have pointed. But the man needed by the exigencies of our affairs, is the man who can rise fully to that
level. We shall see what will be indicated when his lordship shall introduce, in the next session, his promised question in regard to the condition of the labouring classes. For ourselves, we say, once for all, that we do not mean to forget, that, in regard to men, and to all human affairs, our choice can never have respect to the perfect, but must always lie between the more or less imperfect. We do not mean, therefore, to separate ourselves from the best coadjutors we can obtain, because they do not happen to rise fully to our standard. We remember to have heard the late Lord Holland express himself, some seven years since, concerning the irritable feeling which was then beginning to show itself between the Melbourne ministry and the dissenters, in the following terms:- It is certain,' said his lordship, speaking to a nonconformist, that we can do nothing without you, • and it is no less certain that you can do nothing without us; 6 and if we have not good sense and good feeling enough to • avoid quarrelling, the enemy will profit by our disagreements,
and we shall both go to the wall. Need we say that this witness was true ?
With regard to our own circumstances, as protestant nonconformists, much as we may regret some things existing among us, we see in our prospects, on the whole, much more to awaken hope than to warrant despondency. Sir James Graham's Education Bill has shown that, feeble as we may be in our aggressive movements, when our liberties are assailed we possess a power against which even the strongest government will not be likely to commit itself
. Nor can any man have given attention to the speeches delivered in the last session of parliament, in connexion with the rescinding of those obsolete statutes which imposed so many penalties on catholic recusants; or to the principles avowed in connexion with the passing of the Dissenters' Chapels Bill, without perceiving that maxims of fairness, as regards the manner in which religious parties should be dealt with by governments, are obtaining recognition in high places, in a degree unknown in our history since the times of the Restoration. Even the proposal to endow the catholic priests in Ireland, is one effect of this onward course of right thinking. That proposal rests on the principle, that it is not the business of the civil government to dictate a religion to the people, so much as to legislate in all matters upon those principles of moral fairness, which are anterior even to religion. Any attempt to carry out that proposal would be resisted, we trust, by the whole body of British nonconformists, and by a large portion of conformists also; but the discussions which the agitation of such a scheme would elicit, could not fail of giving a mighty impetus to
just thoughts on such subjects. In all these instances, we discern the care of legislators to act with some just and honourable feeling towards other religions as well as towards the established religion. They are so many indications of a spirit of equality as opposed to a spirit of exclusiveness or monopoly. We see in these facts, that it begins to be dimly apprehended that the business of government is not to show favour to one sect so much as to do justice to all sects. Its next advance may be, to see that it will be best that all sects should be left to do justice to themselves. For the progress of self-sustained religion in England, and the bound which that principle has made of late in Scotland, are doing much to explode many an old argument in favour of a compulsory policy on that subject. Every day, also, is showing how little can be done to secure the purity of religion by creeds, and formularies, and civil statutes; and if many pious episcopalians, who are just now deeply offended with the divided state and declining religion of the established church, could only see in protestant nonconformity a haven of rest, a home for piety, we are constrained to think that many of the best of that class would fly to us as to a refuge, muchas devout men from the same communion have done in former times.
But some man will say, “We desire not such adherents. We wish men to be with us from principle, not from circumstancesto be with us wholly, or not at all. And can it be that the persons who thus express themselves, really mean what they say? You call on men to change their opinions, and refuse to allow any space as due to the process of that change! You determine to receive no man cordially as a nonconformist, who does not become such thoroughly and at one leap, did it never occur to you to inquire whether the man who could leave one set of opinions after that fashion, can be expected to hold with much steadiness to another? Are they not, commonly, persons either of the largest views, or of the most conscientious feeling, who see most reason for hesitancy in regard to very positive opinions on such points—and is there anything in the nature of our dogmatism, or our upbraidings, that can be expected to decide the hesitancy of such minds in our favour? Has it been by adopting a repulsive policy of this order, with regard to every class of the inquiring and the partially enlightened, or by conduct very much the reverse of it, that the one congregational church in England two centuries since, has given place to the several thousand churches in this country, which may now be described by that name? Would that it were always given us to reflect on questions of this nature, before attempting to speak or to write about them. The effect, we think, would be a greater
charity among ourselves—a greater charity towards such as are without; and a course of proceeding altogether much more becoming us as Christians, as members of general society, and as men of education and common sense.
The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic, of Spain. By William H. PRESCOTT. Third Edition, revised, with additions. In three volumes.
HISTORICAL writing requires so many qualities to sustain it in its proper place in literature, to justify the earnest expectation which it awakens in the wise and good, to fulfil adequately its own pretension, that no class of composition needs to be more jealously scanned. Though the ignorant and careless have received the legend and the lay without examination or suspicion, yet has the noble science of noting and developing the true story of man never been suffered to weaken its claim to truth by the indulgence of conjecture, or to corrupt its rectitude by partiality. The attempt may be frequent: in the dark obscurities of party and prejudice, it may succeed: a few dupes may be hoodwinked by the imposture. But any great work of this order, broad in outline, and public in interest,—taking a kingdom for its stage, and an epoch for its period,can shuffle nothing: it must be clear in the righteous motive of its undertaking, in the strict fidelity of its statements, in the triumphant authority of its proofs. Even then, mediocrity cannot be brooked. It is as fatal in productions of this nature as in poetry.
• Si paulum a summo decessit, vergit ad imum.' This is the canon of all ages. It has been inexorably enforced. If it be severe, it is only in its tenderness towards human welfare. The toleration of the doubtful and the mean in such authorship would entail irretrievable mischief. It would be to misplace or extinguish the watch-towers of the world. It would be to slight all example, and to pervert all experience. It would sap the very foundations of morality. Man, whatever his devious errors and his vain imaginations, does reserve one province for truth. He will not that it be invaded. He resents every trespass. He marks it out with fenced boundaries. He calls the enclosureHistory,
We should form an imperfect estimate of literature in this department, were we to confine its merits to simple fidelity. The annalist, with his tables and records, would then deserve the praise we award to the historian. We do not restrict it to the